Hebrews 10:26-39 A Call to Persevering Faith
The author has presented the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now he is calling the Hebrew Christians to remain true and steadfast in their commitment to Christ, and to make a bold public confession of their faith.
Hebrews 10:26-31 The Fourth Warning in Hebrews
He warns them against continuing to sin willfully by rejecting the grace of God that had saved them. It is dangerous to turn away from the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ (new covenant) and return to the sacrifices of the Old Testament (old covenant). Once they do that, there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins. Only a fearful expectation of judgment remains.
He warns them against turning away from Jesus Christ now, after having experienced such amazing grace; for they will be rejecting God’s mercy and grace. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” when we again reject Him.
This warning is different from that given to non-Christians. God continues to offer eternal life to all who will come to Him in Jesus Christ. He does warn non-believers that there will be a final judgment. This warning is also different from the one given to new Christians, who have not yet experienced the depths of the love and grace of God. They are of course warned to not turn back to their old life. But this warning is very harsh, and it is given to those who have been Christians for a long time, who have experienced “great grace,” and who now have turned away from Jesus Christ, to return to a dead religion.
Francis Thompson’s great poem “The Hound of Heaven” gives a wonderful picture of how God continues to reach out with his offer of forgiveness and salvation. (You can find this poem on the internet; better yet, why not purchase a copy for yourself? You will not regret it.)
Hebrews 10:32-39 – Call to Persevere in Faith
The author now changes his tone from harshness to compassion. He reminds them of what their life was like in former days. He identifies with them by once again calling them “brothers and sisters.” He appeals to them to remember, and then to re-commit to Christ on a deeper level. “Remember and re-commit” is one of the great themes of the Bible; you will see it often when you read and meditate on the Psalms. The author is using this theme again now.
But an interesting thing happens. While the author is giving this harsh warning, he at the same time expresses great confidence in them. He reminds them of the days when they first believed. “Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened (saved), you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” (10:32-33) In the early days of their faith, they were filled with compassion on those in prison and even rejoiced when their property was taken away from them, just because they were Christians. He reminded them that the life they had in Christ was their great possession that would remain forever.
Two things they needed: (10:35-36)
- Boldness to enter into the presence of God, to make their home in the secret place of the Most High and to abide in the shelter of Almighty God. (Hebrews 10:19)) Boldness in prayer! Boldness and lack of fear in living out their new life in the world and in witnessing to others about that life.
The Greek word for “confidence,” or “boldness,” is parrhesia. This is a key word that enables us to enter into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:19), and also enables us to live by faith. It is used in relation to God and also to believers. God “opens” Himself to us; He makes known the wonders of His divine nature and work. He confides in us and reveals Himself fully to us.
In relation to us, the word parrhesia – confidence, boldness – means that we can open ourselves completely to God, fearing no shame. We are able to look into our Father’s face without fear. Christ is our Intercessor, and He has opened the door to the Throne Room. He wants us to be with Him where He is. The author of Hebrews is telling us that we need confidence and boldness to go deeper into the presence of God. Once we enter fully into His presence, we will no longer desert Him, or flee from Him.
Once we have this confidence, this parrhesia, all the doors of heaven are opened to us! This is the basis on which we can pray the way the apostle John exhorts us to pray, in 1 John 5:14-15 – And this is the confidence (parrhesia) that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him. (The original meaning of this word parrhesia is that a citizen has freedom of speech; as citizens of the New Jerusalem, God has given us the right to speak to Him about everything!)
- Endurance. Until this time, they had been faithful in doing the will of God. When Christians seek God and obey Him in faith, God will reward them. (Hebrews 11:6) The Hebrew Christians had obeyed; but they had not yet received the reward that was promised. For this, they must have endurance.
[The need to have these two things reminds us that we need to be firmly grounded in the Gospel that we proclaim. A very important book that will help us build up our faith is Grounded in the Gospel, co-authored by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett. (Baker Books, 2010) This book will help you stand firm in your faith and enable you to go forth into maturity.]
An important reminder: “The great sign of faith is not the absence of difficulties or always emotionally feeling God’s presence. It is the dogged determination to hold on to the Lord in the midst of the storm, knowing that the great Maker of promises has not forgotten a single one. And, in Christ, the promises of God are yes and amen.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
(J. D. Walt – seedbed.com)
Hebrews 10:37-39 Confession of Faith
We make a confession of faith when we become Christians, confessing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. And we must continue to confess our faith to God, together with other Christians. Our faith is not hidden; we are confessing that we will follow Jesus Christ alone, and will not turn back. Today many Christians are unaware of the treasury of confessions of faith that have been handed down from generation to generation, and that have given courage and continuity to Christians of all ages. (Refer to Westminster Catechism, Heidelberg Catechism, Catholic catechism, etc.)
The author of Hebrews no longer speaks judgment to these Christians who are greatly tempted to leave their faith in Christ. He actually identifies with them! He is now speaking with them, as brothers and sisters in Christ. He reminds them of the prophet Habakkuk’s cry to the Lord when the mighty Babylonian army stood at Judah’s border, ready to invade. The prophet Habakkuk complains to God and asks him, “How long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear?” (1:2) He takes his stand at his watch post to wait for God’s answer. But God does not promise to remove the Babylonian army or to rescue them from danger. His only answer is, “The righteous shall live by their faith.” (2:4)
Habakkuk understood that God would rescue and save His people, but in God’s timing not man’s. God’s people must respond in faith. The Book of Habakkuk ends with Habakkuk’s powerful statement of faith.
The time for the Hebrew Christians has come when they also must make a confession of faith. God has been merciful and faithful. He does not promise that they will not suffer, just as He did not promise Habakkuk that his people would not suffer. Nevertheless, God is faithful; He does not change. The author now makes this confession with them:
“But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.” (Hebrews 10:39 NRSV)
This is our confession of faith, inherited from all those who have gone before. We do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future! We know that the future, just like the past and present, is in God’s hands. So we act in faith.
God wants us to confess our faith with joy. Perhaps we should add Habakkuk’s confession of faith to our own.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation! God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.”
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)
Our Response to God
Today’s study does not invite questions; rather it demands a confession from each of us. Take time now, in God’s presence to confess Hebrews 10:39. In place of “we,” insert your own name. Speak out loudly as you make this confession. If someone is with you, you can confess together; or you may wish to make this confession to the whole world. (We can do that now through Facebook and Instagram.)
For more joy, try confessing Habakkuk 3:17-19.