Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
God had been kind of laying the hammer down on the Christians to whom the book of Hebrews was written. In the latter part of chapter 5 he had called them out for not growing in knowledge like they should (5:11-6:3), and then he had warned of the apostasy such spiritual laxity would bring (6:4-6), going so far as to say that penitent restoration would be impossible if they didn’t change “since they (would be) crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Pointing out that “land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God,” he also warns that “if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (6:7-8). He definitely wasn’t being subtle about the warning he gave to them, wasn’t he? As my previous two columns which explored most of these verses brought out, there is much Christians today can learn from his admonitions to the early church which can help them become better followers of Jesus Christ.
Yet all was not lost, nor were the Christians whom he was correcting incapable of being pleasing to him. As the Lord inspired the Hebrew writer to then tell them in the above passage, “we feel sure of better things” concerning them in spite of the blunt reprimand they had just received. The “better things” God knew they were capable of were “things that belong to salvation.” In other words, in spite of their faults and mishaps they were still his saved children. The justness and mercy of God is seen here. We will always fall short (Romans 3:23), but God is still willing to forgive and save the Christian who repents and continues to work to serve him according to his Word.
The Hebrew author pointed this out by reminding his readers that “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” It is easy for Christians to focus so much on their sins and shortcomings that they feel like they could never please God nor be profitable for his kingdom in any way. Yet while God does not overlook any improvement we still need to make, he also does not overlook the progress we have made. In spite of our disobedience, our obedience is also evident to him, as is the loving service we give to each other in times of need. God sees and notes it all. What’s even better, Christians who repent of sin have the promise that their sins will be “remembered no more” (Hebrews 8:12)! It can’t get better than that!
Thus, the Hebrew writer encouraged his Christian readers to continue to be diligent “to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” God wanted them to avoid the “sluggishness” he had previously admonished them for having concerning their lack of growth in knowledge. Instead, he wanted their “faith and patience” to grow to the point where they would join the other perseverant followers before them and “inherit the promises” of eternal life. Christians today must do likewise. Christianity is not an extra-curricular religion, something to do as a hobby which one can easily cast aside out of boredom. The religion of Jesus Christ requires diligence. As Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Christians serve a just God who will not fail to take note of our progress while also always exhorting us to push forward and overcome our obstacles and weaknesses. With his help, we can accomplish all he has set out for us to do!