The previous post in this two-part series began with the problem of spiritual lethargy which led us to the passage in Heb 6:1-12, a passage that is written for the expressed purpose that it would help against spiritually lethargy (v.12).
One might raise the question of how. How does it work? How does this passage about members of the church falling away from the faith help those who experience depressed spirituality? “So you are feeling down. Here, let’s think about everyone your ministry has failed, everyone upon whom your gospel has had no effect.” How was the audience possibly to be benefitted?
For one, it no doubt accurately describes the experience of the Christians to whom the letter is addressed. Like us, they had seen members of the church fall away from the faith, they had wondered what that meant for those people. How were they to understand their friends who once seemed so passionate, so “sold-out” for Christ, but who now seem to want nothing to do with the gospel. Well, says the author of the letter, the problem was not in the gospel but in the lack of sincere faith (see the previous post).
Persistence in the Faith
Secondly, this passage is meant as an encouragement to those who have persisted in the faith. The author of the letter changes his tone in v.9 when he says,
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.
He is saying, “Yes, I know that these people have fallen away from the Christ, but I am writing to you because you are not them.” He knows that his teaching will benefit them because they are the ones who receive it in faith. They do not need to fear the kind of failure that they see in the apostate believers if they are living lives marked by true faith and repentance. As the Psalmist writes, “God knows the way of the righteous,” (Ps 1:6) and they are righteous in Christ. They can have full assurance that they will inherit the promises. God does not grant faith to some and patience to endure to others, but true faith is a faith that comes with patience. One that relies on the Lord for the inheritance he has promised them, the inheritance of King Jesus.
His teaching echoes the teaching of Paul to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This is not because the Christian life is to be timid and fearful, but because Christians can be confident that God is at work in them and that work moves inevitably toward completion (Phil 1:6). Those who are in Christ can press forward in his word, strive for growth, for discipline, for a deep encounter and celebration of God’s glory in the world. They ought not strive as those constantly living under the threat of failure, but as those who are already breathing the fresh air of the new heavens and new earth.