Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
Today our congregational scripture reading is the closing verses of Hebrews chapter 10. In verses 32-39, there is encouragement for Christians to bear up under the trials and persecutions of their faith, and to remember the promise of God that when Christ comes all the cares of this life will be over. The writer asks these Christians to look back to the time they received Christ, when their hearts were opened to the gospel and they were enlightened to the glorious truth of salvation. There was a purpose in their commitment to Christ which was the promise of eternal life and a heavenly reward. Contrary to the type of gospel that is preached today, these Christians were not given an easy path to follow, but rather were plunged into terrible persecution. Economic pressure was also very real, but despite these hardships they had remained faithful and had gladly sacrificed their material goods for the increase of the gospel.
It is in these trying times that the real faith of a person is discovered. Those whose hearts have been truly changed will persevere even in the hardest of times. They keep their eye on the promise and realize this life is only a temporary assignment. They look with earnest expectation for the coming of Christ, the promised one, without giving up hope. They continue to live by faith knowing that God is always faithful to His promise.
The opposite of this is the person that professes faith in Christ yet his profession is not strong enough to anchor him to Christ. Instead, at signs of trouble, he withdraws his commitment and falls back into the world. According to scripture, this type of person is a superficial believer; he comes to Christianity for immediate benefits which consistently fall outside the categories of the ways God promises to bless us. This type of follower is of the worst sort and will not only fail to be saved in the end, but also comes under the sorest punishment of God. In verse 29, this is the person that treads under his feet the precious blood of Christ. He does not count the blood of Christ that sanctifies worth the time, effort, and trouble. Once he has heard the truth and rejected it, he betrays Christ to which Jesus replies, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). The writer of Hebrews says of him, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).
This article may seem like a poor subject for a Sunday morning bulletin. It is not the usual fare most people hear in their church. They would rather sing happy songs and think good thoughts never considering that at least occasionally we need some fear of God put into our hearts. The writer of Hebrews does this. He leads with some fear, but then finally concludes with, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (10:39). There is horrible danger in false commitment; but a real one trumps the temporariness of our troubles. It keeps us looking for Christ, the one who saves us forever!
Pastor V. Mark Smith