|Greek: o de dikaios mou ek pisteos zesetai, (3SFMI) kai ean uposteiletai, (3SAMS) ouk eudokei (3SPAI) e psuche mou en auto
Amplified: But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him. [Hab. 2:3, 4.] (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: And my just man shall live by faith; but if he shrinks back, my soul will not find pleasure in him.” (Westminster Press)
NLT: And a righteous person will live by faith. But I will have no pleasure in anyone who turns away." (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him'. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Now, my righteous person shall live by faith (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and 'the righteous by faith shall live,' and 'if he may draw back, My soul hath no pleasure in him,'
THE FIVE WARNING PASSAGES
|Heb 2:1-4 (notes)|
|Heb 3:7-4:13 (notes)|
|Heb 5:11-6:12 (notes)|
|Heb 10:19-39 (notes)|
|Heb 12:14-29 (notes)|
BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH: o de dikaios mou ek pisteos zesetai (3SFMI) ek pisteos: (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11)
The writer now quotes from Hab 2:4, which is used in 3 NT epistles with a slightly different intended meaning. Warren Wiersbe sums up these differences…
In Hebrews the quote from Habakkuk emphasizes that the not shrinking back even in persecution equates with saving faith and that the person who has been declared righteous by God lives (and survives the coming ordeal) by faith.
Wuest - The writer now quotes the words of Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith,” repeated by Paul in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. This was the divine spark that lit the Reformation when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, found them in his Greek New Testament, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. That is, the justified person is justified by God upon the basis of and in answer to his faith in the Lord Jesus. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Habakkuk 2:4,5 is descriptive of the proud who do not live by faith. It is the proud who are self-sufficient and who fail to realize the necessity of patient endurance and trust in God. The proud Jew will be rejected if he does not exercise faith. He will be judged along with the Gentiles.
Vincent comments on "the just shall live by faith" - In the original prophecy the just man is contrasted with the haughty Chaldean invaders, who are puffed up and not upright. Through his steadfast obedience to God he shall be kept alive in the time of confusion and destruction.
My righteous one - This identifies this person as one who has been declared righteous (just) by faith. John Owen observes that "What is principally meant here is that characteristic of a righteous person that is the opposite of pride and unbelief, which makes people shrink back from God. The righteous one is humble, meek, sincere, submissive to God’s will, waiting to do his wishes. Sincere faith will carry people through all difficulties, hazards, and troubles, to the certain enjoyment of eternal blessedness. (Owen, John: Hebrews)
A W Pink - The first half of this verse is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4, and its pertinency to the admonition which the apostle was pressing upon the Hebrews is not difficult to perceive. The prophet is cited in proof that perseverance is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God. He who has been justified by God, through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his account, lives by faith as the influencing principle of his life. Thus the apostle declared, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20). The one whom God has exonerated from the curse and condemnation of the law, is not him who has merely "believed," but is the man who continues "believing," with all that that word includes, and involves. Let the reader fully note the force of the present perfect "believeth" in John 3:15, 16, 18; 5:24 etc., and contrast the "for a while believed" of Luke 8:13!
The opposite of apostasy is faith, the faith in this verse being a preview of the subsequent chapter (Hebrews 11). It is faith which pleases God (Heb 11:6). The individual who draws back from the knowledge of the gospel and faith will prove his apostasy. Endurance proves (does not earn) one is genuinely saved. Believers are saved from sin by faith, but must continue to live by faith and this is a major theme in Hebrews chapters 11 through 13.
This allusion to Hab 2:4 and the vital relationship between faith and righteousness serves as an introductory preview to Hebrews 11, well known as the "hall of faith". In this this last section of Hebrews 10 and throughout Hebrews 11, the writer's point is that faith alone pleases God (cp Heb 11:6-note). And so here in Hebrews 10:38 by faith equates with "holding on", not shrinking back even in the face of persecution, but instead holding fast in obedience (He 3:6-note, He 3:14-note, He 4:2-note). The individual who shrinks back from the truth of the Gospel is demonstrating their lack of faith which in turn proves their apostasy (their falling away from the truth of the Gospel). As the writer has clearly and repeatedly stated in this epistle, these individuals have heard the truth but they have failed to receive/believe that truth, and thus are left with no hope in this life or the life to come (cp Ep 2:12-note)!
That the righteous shall live by faith was the truth that sparked the Reformation. When Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, had his eyes opened to this great truth, he came to realize that a sinner is justified by God upon the basis of and in answer to his faith in the Lord Jesus.
By - This is the Greek preposition ek which is genitive (expresses possession) in this verse and so serves as a marker of personal possession of faith. In other words, whereas ek normally means out of , in this verse ek means "of" (genitive); i.e., ek means the person lives "as a result of" or "by reason of" or "by means of" faith.
A W Pink - The constant exercise of faith by the saint is… essential… we can only be delivered from the power of indwelling sin, from the temptations of Satan, from an enticing world which seeks to destroy us, by a steady and persistent walking by faith.
In other words as MacArthur writes "the way to become righteous is by faith and the way the righteous should live is by faith."
Spurgeon - The ground of the sinner’s acceptance in the first moment of his faith is the finished work of Christ, and, after fifty years of earnest service, that must still be the sole cause of his acceptance with God, and the only rock upon which his soul must dare to build. The act of simple faith, looking out of self, and looking alone to Christ, is a thing for your penitent tax collector when first he beats his breast (Luke 18:13). It is also for your dying David, when he knows that the covenant is ordered in all things and sure. The righteous man will carry his faith into his ordinary life. He will live by faith. All the actions of his life, such as have in them any decree of moral or spiritual aspect—all of these shall be conspicuously ruled by his confidence in God. Even the lowliest and commonest affairs in which he takes a part shall be subdued and elevated by the dignity of his trust and the fidelity of his adherence. He shall live by faith. Not alone in the study and in the closet, not alone in the assembly of the saints and at the table of fellowship, but in the market and on the exchange, in the shop and the counting-house, in the parlor or the drawing room, at the plough-tail or at the carpenter’s bench, in the senate house or at the judgment hall. The just man, wherever his life is cast, shall carry his faith with him; indeed, his faith shall be in him as part of his life; he shall live there by faith.
Phil Newton commenting on the endurance needed (Heb 10:36) notes that this…
Faith (4102) (pistis [word study] - occurs 243x in 227v = a major NT word!) on one hand means that which evokes trust (thus it means faithfulness, reliability, fidelity, commitment) and on the other hand (as in the present passage) it describes a personal act of belief directed toward a person (in this case God and His Gospel concerning Jesus). It is synonymous with trust and is the personal conviction of the truth of respecting man's relationship to God and divine things.
As faith (pistis) relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith (pistis) relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom (as a result of His work of redemption, the sacrifice of His blood to pay the price for sin) we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way (Acts 4:12, Jn 14:6).
A W Pink commenting on Hebrews 10:38 writes that "Patient endurance is a fruit of faith, yet it is only as that vital and root grace is in daily exercise, that the Christian is enabled to stand firm amid the storms of life. Those whom God declares righteous in Christ are to pass their lives here, not in doubt and fear, but in the maintenance of a calm trust in and a joyful obedience to Him. Only as the heart is engaged with God and feeds upon His Word, will the soul be invigorated and fitted to press onwards when everything outward seems to be against him. It is by our faith being drawn out unto things above that we receive the needed strength which causes us to look away from the discouraging and distracting scene around us. As faith lives upon Christ (Jn 6:56, 57), it draws virtue from Him, as the branch derives sap from the root of the vine. Faith makes us resign ourselves and our affairs to Christ’s disposing, cheerfully treading the path of duty and patiently waiting that issue which He will give. Faith is assured that our Head knows far better than we do what is good and best. (The Saving of the Soul. Hebrews 10:35-39)
It is notable that only the book of Romans surpasses the book of Hebrews (see the uses in Hebrews below) in the number of uses of pistis (Romans = 35, Hebrews = 31, out of 243 NT uses) Pistis is translated in the NAS as faith, 238; faithfulness, 3; pledge, 1; proof, 1.
True faith that saves one's soul includes at least three main elements
Respected theologian Louis Berkhof defines genuine faith in essentially the same way noting that it includes an intellectual element (notitia), which is
Faith is relying on what God has done rather than on one’s own efforts. In the Old Testament, faith is rarely mentioned. The word trust is used frequently, and verbs like believe and rely are used to express the right attitude to God. The classic example is Abraham, whose faith was reckoned as righteousness (Ge 15:6). At the heart of the Christian message is the story of the cross: Christ’s dying to bring salvation. Faith is an attitude of trust in which a believer receives God’s good gift of salvation (Acts 16:30,31) and lives in that awareness thereafter (Gal 2:20; cf. Heb 11:1).
J. B. Lightfoot discusses the concept of faith in his commentary on Galatians. He notes that in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the definition of the word for faith "hovers between two meanings: trustfulness, the frame of mind which relies on another; and trustworthiness, the frame of mind which can be relied upon… the senses will at times be so blended together that they can only be separated by some arbitrary distinction. The loss in grammatical precision is often more than compensated by the gain in theological depth… They who have faith in God are steadfast and immovable in the path of duty."
Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort.
Faith is manifest by not believing in spite of evidence but obeying in spite of consequence. John uses the related verb pisteuo to demonstrate the relationship between genuine faith and obedience writing ""He who believes (present tense = continuous) in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)
Charles Swindoll commenting on faith and obedience in John 3:36 concludes that "In 3:36 the one who “believes in the Son has eternal life” as a present possession. But the one who “does not obey the Son shall not see life.” To disbelieve Christ is to disobey Him. And logically, to believe in Christ is to obey Him. As I have noted elsewhere, “This verse clearly indicates that belief is not a matter of passive opinion, but decisive and obedient action.” (quoting J. Carl Laney)… Tragically many people are convinced that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere. This reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown is returning from a disastrous baseball game. The caption read, “174 to nothing! How could we lose when we were so sincere?” The reality is, Charlie Brown, that it takes more than sincerity to win the game of life. Many people are sincere about their beliefs, but they are sincerely wrong!" (Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. Understanding Christian Theology.: Thomas Nelson Publishers) (This book is recommended if you are looking for a very readable, non-compromising work on "systematic theology". Wayne Grudem's work noted above is comparable.)
Subjectively faith is firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness (though rare). Objectively faith is that which is believed (usually designated as "the faith"), doctrine, the received articles of faith. Click separate study of "the faith (pistis)"
True faith is not based on empirical evidence but on divine assurance.
Spurgeon wrote that "Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments."
ILLUSTRATION - When missionary John Paton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that to them. One day while he was in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton's study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton, “It’s so good to rest my whole weight in this chair.” John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it’s true, and we’re to believe it.
Nothing before, nothing behind,
Clearly faith is a key word in Hebrews. Study the 31 uses of pistis in Hebrews in context …
AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM: kai ean huposteiletai (3SAMS) ouk eudokei (3SPAI) e psuche mou en auto: (He 10:26,27; 6:4, 5, 6; Psalms 85:8; Ezekiel 3:20; 18:24; Zephaniah 1:6; Matthew 12:43, 44, 45; 13:21; 2Peter 2:19, 20, 21, 22; 1John 2:19) (Psalms 5:4; 147:11; 149:4; Isaiah 42:1; Malachi 1:10; Matthew 12:18; 1Thessalonians 2:15)
If = 3rd Class Condition: Ean (1437) + subjunctive mood implying uncertainty. The persecution was coming… the question was "Would the hearers hold fast firm to the end?" So again he goes to the familiar OT Scriptures to teach that the person who has been made righteous by God continues to live (and survives -- whether he lives or dies --the coming ordeal) by faith.
Wuest - After stating again the terms of salvation, a personal faith in Messiah as High Priest, the writer warns those among his readers who only made a profession of faith, that if any draw back to the temple sacrifices, renouncing their professed faith in Messiah, his soul shall have no pleasure in that person… The translation should read “If he.” We must keep in mind that this letter is written to the professing Church which is made up of true believers and of unbelievers. Here the writer is thinking of the one who professes to be justified but who has only an intellectual faith, not a heart trust (Acts 8:13, 21). The verb translated “shrinks back” means “to shrink in fear.” The persecution would be that which is feared in this case. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Phil Newton notes that the writer has just emphasized the certainty of Christ's return and that this is truth should motivate all believers…
A W Pink - The practical application of this solemn word to us is, that in order to have a scripturally-grounded assurance of God’s taking pleasure in us, we must continue cleaving closely unto Him.
Shrinks back (Withdraws) (5288) (hupostello from hupo = under, underneath + stello = to set, place; in middle voice = take care against a thing, avoid = 2Co 8:20) is usually found in the middle voice (reflexive; subject initiates action and participates in result/effect thereof) and conveys the sense of withdraw oneself and so to be timid, to cower, to shrink from, to shy away from. In the active voice (only in Gal 2:12) means to draw down and so to consciously withdraw from a position. As noted in the comment appended to Galatians below, hupostello was used in secular Greek to describe strategic military operations.
Vine writes that hupostello "here in (Heb 10:38) the middle voice, suggesting determination in the act, signifies to withdraw from holding the truth. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
In classic Greek hupostello was used to describe a dog tucking (letting down) his tail, a ship's sail that was furled (= to wrap around a stay or mast and fasten by a cord) or drawn down. The lowering of the sail slackens the course. The point in Hebrews is that the one who "lowers his sail and slackens his course" is the one in whom God takes no pleasure!
Rengstorf writes that hupostello…
Hupostello - 4x in 4v - NAS = shrink(2), shrinks back(1), withdraw(1).
Hupostello - 5x in the Septuagint - Exod 23:21; Deut 1:17; Job 13:8; Hab 2:4; Hag 1:10;
Check these parallel NT verses that present a picture of one who "shrinks back":
Mt 13:21. Lk 8:13, 14, 9:62. 1Ti 1:19, 4:1, 5:15, 6:10 2Ti 4:10, 2Pe 2:19, 20, 21,22, 1Jn 2:19.
Has (no) pleasure (2106) (eudokeo from eu = well, good + dokeo = to think) means literally to think well of and so to be well pleased, to take pleasure or delight in (This is the sense in which eudokeo is used in He 10:38). The idea is to find satisfaction in something or someone or to view with approval.
To delight means to take great pleasure, to give keen enjoyment, to provide a high degree of gratification.
In this regard it is notable that five of the first six uses (the Gospels) refer to the Father's taking pleasure in His Son (in Whom He was "well pleased") (cf. Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; cp 2Pe 1:17).
A related sense is to be well pleased with some object and thus to like, prefer or approve of (1Th 3:1, 2Th 2:12). Be content, pleased, delighted (2Co 12:10)
Eudokeo means to consider something as good and thus worthy of choice (Lk 12:32, 1Cor 1:21, Gal 1:15). To be glad to do. To be willing. The sense is to take pleasure in doing, eg, in Lk 12:32 God expressed His pleasure by His willingness to grant His kingdom to His children. In 1Cor 1:21, God was "well pleased" or willing to save those who believe the Gospel.
Thayer adds "as in secular authors, followed by an infinitive, it seems good to one, is one's good pleasure; to think it good, choose, determine, decide"
Strong's summary definition…
1) it seems good to one, is one’s good pleasure.
1a) think it good, choose, determine, decide.
1b) to do willingly.
1c) to be ready to, to prefer, choose rather.
2) to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favorably inclined towards one.
NIDNTT writes that…
The verb eudokeo is a colloquial term from Hellenistic times (attested from the 3rd cent. B.C.). It is thought to be derived from the hypothetical eudokos, formed from eu, good, and dechomai, to accept. In classic Greek it means to be well pleased or content, to consent, approve; in the pass. to be favoured, i.e. prosper; to find favour with…
In the Septuagint (LXX) eudokeo occurs some 60 times. Where there is an underlying Heb. text, it generally trans. rasâh, to take pleasure in, like, enjoy, decide upon, elect, and denotes a passionate and positive volition. The godly man rejoices over the sanctuary (1Chr. 29:3; Ps 101:15)… Yahweh takes pleasure in his people (Ps. 44:3; Ps 149:4), in a pious man (2Sa 22:20), in those who fear him (Ps. 147:11). A man prays that it may please Yahweh to deliver him (Ps 40:13). On the other hand, Yahweh has no pleasure in the calf (i.e. the strength) of a man’s leg (Ps 147:10), nor in anyone who does evil (Mal. 2:17). A penitent mind is more pleasing to Yahweh than a sacrifice (Ps. 51:16, 19; Jer 14:12).
Zodhiates adds that eudokeo "means to think well of something by understanding not only what is right and good, as in dokeo, but stressing the willingness and freedom of an intention or resolve regarding what is good (Lk 12:32; Ro 15:26, 27; 1Co 1:21; Gal 1:15; Col 1:19; 1Th 2:8)
Richards - The same meaning of pleasure regarding one's choice expressed in that person's will or purpose is in the verb (eudokeo), translated "to be pleased" fifteen times in the NIV (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22; 12:32; Ro 15:26, 27; 1Co 1:21; 10:5; Gal 1:15; Col 1:19; Heb 10:6, 8, 38; 2Pe 1:17) out of the twenty-one times it occurs in the NT. Thus, a statement that the churches to which Paul ministered were "pleased" to make a contribution to the poor (Ro 15:26, 27) indicates not only their state of mind but also their determined choice. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
Eudokeo - 21x in 21v - NAS = am well content(1), am well-pleased(5), been pleased(1), chosen gladly(1), good pleasure(1), has… pleasure(1), pleased(2), prefer(1), taken pleasure(1), taken… pleasure(1), thought it best(1), took pleasure(1), well-pleased(4).
Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
Comment: "God had examined, as it were, His beloved Son, who would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of those with whom He was willing to identify Himself. No imperfection could be found in Him, and God was delighted." (MacArthur, J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press)
"What does it mean when the NT reports that God spoke of Jesus as one with whom he was "well pleased" (Mt 3:17)? It means, among other things, that Jesus was fulfilling the messianic role to which God had called him. In contrast, God was not pleased with the sacrifices and offerings of the OT system (Heb 10:6, 8). They could not be established in his purpose as a way to cleanse humanity from sin." (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
Matthew 12:18 "BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES.
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"
Mark 1:11 and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."
Luke 3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."
Luke 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly (YLT = did delight; NET = "has been pleased") to give you the kingdom.
Romans 15:26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
Comment: Here eudokeo means "to be well pleased, to think it good, stresses the willingness and freedom of an intention or resolve as to what is good" (Vine)
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
2 Corinthians 5:8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 12:10-note Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Galatians 1:15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased ("to reveal His Son in me" Gal 1:16))
Colossians 1:19-note For it was the Father's good pleasure (was pleased) for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
1 Thessalonians 2:8-note Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-note Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best (ESV = we were willing, NET, NLT = we decided; ) to be left behind at Athens alone,
2 Thessalonians 2:12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
Hebrews 10:6-note IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.
Hebrews 10:8-note After saying above, "SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them" (which are offered according to the Law),
Comment: Contrast "well pleased" in Mt 3:17 where eudokeo means, among other things, that Jesus was fulfilling the messianic role to which God had called Him. In contrast, God was not pleased with the sacrifices and offerings of the OT system here in (Heb 10:6 and He 10:8) for they could never fulfill his purpose as a way to cleanse humanity from sin.
Hebrews 10:38-note BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.
2Pe 1:17-note For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased "--
Eudokeo - 36x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Gen 24:26, 48; 33:10; Lev 26:34, 41; Judg 11:17; 15:18; 19:10, 25; 20:13; 2 Sam 22:20; 1 Chr 29:3, 23; 2 Chr 10:7; Esth 4:17; Job 14:6; Ps 40:13; 44:3; 49:13; 51:16, 19; 68:16; 77:7; 85:1; 102:14; 119:108; 147:10f; 149:4; Eccl 9:7; Jer 2:19; 14:10, 12; Hab 2:4; Hag 1:8; Mal 2:17
After stating clearly the manner of gaining a righteous standing before God ("justification by faith", "justified by faith", "declared righteous by faith") is by faith in Jesus the Great High Priest, the writer warns those among his readers who had made a mere profession of faith ("lip service"), that if they draw back to the temple sacrifices, renouncing their professed faith in Messiah, God would have no pleasure in that person.
Keep in mind that Hebrews is written to the assembly of those who professed belief in Messiah but that the assembly was composed of both true believers and false believers (unbelievers). In this passage the writer is addressing the one who professes to be justified or righteous in God's sight, but who in fact has only an intellectual faith (head knowledge) and who lacks a heart trust as evidenced by his "work" of shrinking back.
In Acts we encounter Simon whose belief proved to be only a profession but not a genuine possession of new life in Christ…
Summed up in three momentous propositions.
We may boldly enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus. The holiest was the chamber of innermost communion with God. To enter it was to speak with God face to face. And its equivalent for us is the right to make our God our confidant and friend, into whose secret ear we may pour the whole story of sin and sorrow and need. Nor need the memory of recent sin distress us; because the blood of Jesus is the pledge of the forgiveness and acceptance of those who are penitent and believing. We may go continually, and even dwell, where Israel's high priests might tread but once each year.
Jesus has inaugurated a new and living way. The veil of the Temple was rent when Jesus died, to indicate that the way to God was henceforth free to man, without let or hindrance, and without the intervention of a human priest. Priests have tried to block it, and to compel men to pay them toll for Opening it. But their pretensions are false. They have no such power. The way stands open still for every trembling seeker. It is new, because, though myriads have trodden it, it is as fresh as ever for each new priestly foot. It is living, because it is through the living Saviour that we come to God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." Stay here to note that the veil, with its curious workmanship, was a symbol of the body of Christ. "The veil, that is to say, his flesh." We get near to God through the death of that Son of man who, in real human sorrow, hung on the cross for us.
We have a Great priest. We belong to the household of God by faith; but we need a Priest. Priests need a Priest. And such a one we have, who ever liveth to make intercession for us, and to offer our prayers on the golden altar, mingled with the much incense of his own precious merit. These are the three conclusions which recapitulate the positions laid down and proved up to this point.
II. THE THREEFOLD EXHORTATION FOUNDED ON THE PREVIOUS CONCLUSIONS
"Let us draw near" (Heb 10:22).
"Let us hold fast" (Heb 10:23).
"Let us consider one another" (Heb 10:24).
And each of these three exhortations revolves around one of the three words which are so often found in combination in the Epistles-Faith, Hope, and Love (R.V).
Consists of two parts belief, which accepts certain declarations as true; and trust in the person about whom these declarations are made. Neither will do without the other. On the one hand, we cannot trust a person without knowing something about him; on the other hand, our knowledge will not help us unless it leads to trust, any more than it avails the shivering wretch outside the Bank of England to know that the vaults are stored with gold. A mere intellectual faith is not enough. The holding of a creed will not save. We must pass from a belief in words to trust in the Word. By faith we know that Jesus lives, and by faith we also appropriate that life. By faith we know that Jesus made on the cross a propitiation for sin; and by faith we lay our hand reverently on his dear head and confess our sin. Faith is the open hand receiving Christ. Faith is the golden pipe through which his fullness comes to us. Faith is the narrow channel by which the life that pulses in the Redeemer's heart enters our souls. Faith is the attitude we assume when we turn aside from the human to the divine. We ought not to be content with anything less than the full assurance of faith. The prime method of increasing it is in drawing near to God. In olden days the bodies of the priests were bathed in water and sprinkled with blood ere they entered the presence of God. Let us seek the spiritual counterpart of this. Relieved from the pressure of conscious guilt, with hearts as sincere and guileless as the flesh is clean when washed with pure water, let us draw near to God and keel) in fellowship with him; and in that attitude faith will grow exceedingly. It will no longer sit in the dust, but clothe itself in beautiful garments. It will wax from a thread to become a cable. No longer the trembling touch of a woman's hand, it will grasp the pillars of the Temple with a Samson's embrace.
Is more than faith, and has special reference to the unknown future which it realizes, and brings to bear on our daily life. The veil that hides the future parts only as smitten by the prow of our advancing boat; it is natural, therefore, that we should often ask what lies beyond.
Foreboding is the prophet of ill; Hope of good. Foreboding cries, "We shall certainly fall by the hand of; Hope replies, "No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper." Foreboding cries, "Who shall roll away the stone? " Hope sings merrily, "The Lord shall go before us, and make the crooked places straight." Foreboding, born of unbelief, cries, "The people are great and tall, and the cities walled up to heaven"; Hope already portions out the land and chooses its inheritance. But Christian hope is infinitely better and more reliable than that of the worldling. In ordinary hope there is always the element of uncertainty; it may be doomed to disillusion and disappointment; things may not turn out as we expect: and so, being the characteristic of youth, it dies down as the years advance. But Christian hope is based on the promise of God, and therefore it cannot disappoint; nay, it is the anchor of the aged soul, becoming brighter and more enduring as the years pass by, because "he is faithful that promised." But how may we increase our hope, so as never to let it slip, but to hold it fast with unwavering firmness? There is nothing which will sooner strengthen it than to consider his faithfulness whose promises are hope's anchorage. Has he ever failed to fulfill his engagements? Do not the stars return to their appointed place to a hairbreadth of their time? Have not good men given a unanimous testimony to the fidelity of the covenant-keeping God? He has never suffered his faithfulness to fail-and never will. Our hope, therefore, need not falter, but be strong and very courageous.
Comes last. She is queen of all the graces of the inner life. Love is the passion of self-giving. It never stays to ask what it can afford, or what it may expect to receive; but it is ever shedding forth its perfume, breaking its alabaster boxes, and shedding its heart's blood. It will pine to death if it cannot give. It must share its possessions. It is prodigal of costliest service. Such love is in the heart of God, and should also be in us; and we may increase it materially by considering one another, and associating with our fellow-believers. Distance begets coldness and indifference. When we forsake the assembly of our fellow- Christians we are apt to wrap ourselves in the chill mantle of indifference. But when we see others in need, and help them; when we are willing to succor and save; when we discover that there is something attractive in the least lovable; when we feel the glowing sympathy of others-our own love grows by the demands made on it, and by the opportunities of manifestation. Let us seek earnestly these best gifts; and that we may have them and abound, let us invoke the blessed indwelling of the Lord Jesus, whose entrance brings with it the whole train of sweet Christian graces.
III. THE THREEFOLD REMONSTRANCE
Go forward! otherwise penally (Heb. 10:26). If a man unwittingly broke Moses' law, he was forgiven; but if he willfully despised it, he died without mercy. What then can be expected by those who sin willfully, not against the iron obligations of Sinai, but against the gracious words which distill from the lips of the dying Saviour! The heart that can turn from the love and blood-shedding of Calvary, and ignore them, and trample them ruthlessly under foot, is so hard, so hopeless, so defiant of the Holy Spirit as to expose itself to the gravest displeasure of God, and can expect no further offering for its sins. There is no sacrifice for the atonement of the sin of rejecting Calvary.
Go forward! otherwise past efforts nullified (Heb. 10:32). These Hebrew Christians had suffered keenly on their first entrance into the Christian life. The martyrdom of the saintly Stephen; the great havoc wrought in the Church by Saul of Tarsus; the terrible famines that visited Jerusalem, causing widespread destitution. They had become even a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions. But they had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, not shrinking from the ordeal. To go back to Judaism now would annul the advantages which otherwise might have accrued from their bitter experience; would miss the harvest of their tears; would counterwork the respect with which they were being regarded; and would rob them of the reward which the Lord might give to them, if they only endured to the end. "Cast not away your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward."
Go forward! the Lord is at hand (Heb. 10:36). Jesus was about to come in the fall of Jerusalem, as lie will come ere long to close the present age; and every sign pointed to the speedy destruction of the Jewish polity by the all-conquering might of Rome. How foolish then would it be to return to that which was on the eve of dissolution: to the Temple that would burn to the ground; to sacrifices soon to cease; to a priesthood to be speedily scattered to the winds! There was only one alternative: not to go back to certain perdition, to the ruin of all the nobler attributes of the soul, to disgrace and disappointment and endless regret; but to go on through evil and good report, through sorrow and anxiety and blood, until the faithful servant should be vindicated by the Lord's approval, and welcomed into the realms of endless blessedness. Are we amongst those who go on to the saving of the soul? Here, as so often, the salvation of the soul is viewed as a process. True, we are in a sense saved when first we turn to the cross and trust the Crucified. But it is only as we keep in the current that streams from the cross, only as we remain in abiding fellowship with the Saviour, only as we submit ourselves habitually to the gracious influences of the divine Spirit, that salvation pervades and heals our whole being. Then the soul may be said to be gained (R.V., marg.), i.e., restored to its original type as conceived in the mind of God before he built the dust of the earth into man, and breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul.
F. B. Meyer. The Way Into the Holiest
Amplified: But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: We are not men to shrink back from things and so to come to disaster, but we are men of a faith which will enable us to possess our souls. (Westminster Press)
KJV: But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
NLT: But we are not like those who turn their backs on God and seal their fate. We have faith that assures our salvation. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Surely we are not going to be men who cower back and are lost, but men who maintain their faith until the salvation of their souls is complete! (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But if he draw back in fear, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But as for us, we are not of the shrinking-back kind who draw back to perdition, but of the believing kind who believe to the end of the saving of the soul. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and we are not of those drawing back to destruction, but of those believing to a preserving of soul.
BUT WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK TO DESTRUCTION: hemeis de ouk esmen (1PPAI) hupostoles eis apoleian: (He 6:6, 7, 8, 9; 1Sa 15:11; Ps 44:18; Pr 1:32; 14:14; Luke 11:26; 1John 5:16; Jude 1:12,13) (He 10:26; John 17:12; 2Thessalonians 2:3; 1Timothy 6:9; 2Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8,11)
But - This marks a stark contrast with those who briefly "flicker" (the "enlightened" ones) but in the end "fizzle out" (like sparklers on July 4th) and make the volitional choice (a catastrophic one) to turn away from and shrink back from Christ.
We - This would have been most encouraging to his readers, for with this pronoun the writer identifies himself with the readers.
Wuest - The pronoun (We - hemeis) in its intensive force is used here, contrasting the writer and possibly those who are associated with him as true believers, with that hypothetical Jew who is in danger of drawing back to the sacrifices. It is, “But as for us, we are not of the shrinking back kind.” The words “of them who draw back” are the translation of one word in the Greek text which is not preceded by the definite article, all of which means that character or nature are stressed. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Are note of those who shrink back - Lit. we are not of shrinking back.
Are (eimi) is the present tense which Vincent notes that "with genitive marks the quality or peculiarity of a person or thing."
Spurgeon - Our old evil nature, though it may have lost some of its strength, yet is capable of wonderful outbursts of power, and the world outside of us is full of grief. We must expect to be tempted in many fresh ways between here and the celestial city. But there is no lulling temptation in them all, for the just shall live by his faith. Empty your quiver, O enemy of souls, but this divine shield shall catch every arrow and quench its fire, and blunt those points, and save and deliver us from them all. I look with admiration upon brothers who have remained faithful to God for sixty or seventy years. It seems to me that the length of the Christian’s life is, in itself, oftentimes a very severe trial. A man might stand at the stake and burn for a few minutes, but hanging up over a slow fire—who can bear that? To do one brave and generous action, this seems simple enough; but to stand on the watchtower day and night, always vigilant; watching, lest the foe surprise us; watching, lest our hearts betray us; watching unto prayer, that we may keep ourselves in the love of God. Oh, this is a work—this is a labor that only grace can help us to perform. But here is the comfort. No length of days can exhaust the believer’s patience or peril his spiritual life, because the just shall live by faith.
Shrink back (5289) (hupostole from hupostello = to draw aside or back, to withdraw, to retreat, to hold back) strictly speaking referred to "lowering of sails, hence lack of steadfastness, shrinking back, giving up." (Friberg) Hupostole figuratively describes a withdrawing or turning back, a timidity, a ceasing to do something, in some instances (as in the present passage), because of adverse circumstances and/or fear of reprisal. The idea is a drawing back, an evasion, an apostasy. Hupostole was used by the Greek writer Plutarch in a good sense to describe a stealthy retreat. Josephus uses it to describe a dissimulation (hiding under a false appearance). Secular writings also use hupostole to describe "holding a body of troops in reserve position." (BDAG) See modern day example of those who do not shrink back (click here). Rengstorf adds that "The only NT instance is in Heb.10:39 (cf. Heb 10:37-note), where, in tension with pistis (faith), it denotes “lack of steadfastness” of “unreliability” (cf. Heb 2:1-note). (TDNT)
Vincent - Drawing back makes for and terminates in (eis) destruction.
Wuest - The “shrinking back” ones are said to be shrinking back to perdition. The word “perdition” (destruction) is the translation of apoleia which means “utter destruction,” and in this context means “the destruction which consists in the loss of eternal life; eternal misery, perdition,” which is the lot of those who would renounce their professed faith in Messiah as High Priest and return to a dependence upon the abrogated sacrifices for salvation. The Word of God is very clear in its statements to the effect that a person once saved can never be lost. Therefore, this person who draws back to perdition must be an unsaved person. The writer informs his readers that he is of the believing kind whose faith is answered with the gift of salvation. (Hebrews Commentary online)
Destruction (waste) (684) (apoleia from apo = marker of separation, away from + olethros = ruin, death but not annihilation <> from ollumi = to destroy) means utter and hopeless loss of all that gives worth to existence. Note that contrary to popular opinion apoleia does not refer to extinction or annihilation or an end of existence, but to total ruin so far as the purpose of existence is concerned.
Apoleia in one sense means the destruction that one causes as the result of disregard for the value of that which is destroyed or "wasted" (see Matthew 26:8, Mark 14:4).
The more common sense of apoleia is as a description of the destruction which one experiences, when man instead of becoming what he might have become by redemption through the blood of Christ (new creature/creation in Christ - 2 Cor 5:17), is ruined ("spiritually bankrupt", in a state of "eternal disrepair") suffering loss of value or usefulness (ultimately usefulness to God - this is sad beyond words and even as I write this note tears well up in my eyes for the plight of these men and women, created in the image of God.) Think of the picture of a once beautiful edifice which has suffered the ravages of time and circumstances and all that one sees is the useless, collapsed, disintegrated remains.
In short, apoleia speaks of the loss of everything that makes human existence worthwhile. The idea is not loss of being, but loss of well-being. And so apoleia describes utter ruin, complete loss and as such fittingly summarizes eternal "destruction" (the second death - see chart below) visited on the ungodly. It is the wasteful end of earthly existence with no chance for a fulfilling future existence. Note however that there is a sense that the ungodly have "wasted" their one life on earth. What a tragic picture irregardless of how much wealth, pleasure or power they might have experienced while they were alive.
Defines an utter & hopeless loss of all that gives worth to existence. It means to perish, but not to he point of extinction. It is associated with a loss of well-being. “Destruction” was commonly used in NT of the everlasting punishment or judgment of unbelievers (cf. Mt 7:13; Ro 9:22; Php 1:28; 3:19; 1Ti 6:9). Judas and the Man of Sin are called “son of perdition” (or "destruction") a Hebrew way (Semitism) of indicating that one is “perdition bound”; Jn 17:12; 2Th 2:3).
The writer expresses confidence that believing readers (“we”) will not be counted among “those” who fall away to destruction. Apostates will draw back from Christ but there are some who are near to believing who can be pulled “out of the fire” (cf. Jude 1:23).
BUT OF THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH TO THE PRESERVING OF THE SOUL: alla pisteos eis peripoiesin psuche: (He 11:1; Mark 16:16; Jn 3:15,16; 5:24; 6:40; 20:31; Acts 16:30,31; Ro 10:9,10; 1Th 5:9; 2Th 2:12, 13, 14; 1Pe 1:5; 1Jn 5:5)
But - Marks the contrast with those who shrink back (apostates).
Spurgeon - What a blessed truth this is! Christian, as you see the danger that lies before you if you did prove to be an apostate, bless that sovereign grace that will not allow you to do so, even as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I am convinced of this same thing, that the one who began a good work in you will finish it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).
Preserving (4047) (peripoiesis from peripoieomai = literally means to make around oneself and then to acquire or purchase) means that which is acquired by purchase with the corresponding idea of preservation of that which is purchased. Here in Hebrews 10:39 the meaning of peripoiesis is that of experiencing of security, keeping safe or preserving.
Clearly keeping safe or preserving is the opposite destruction. In short preserving of the soul is the equivalent of salvation. Paul uses peripoiesis in the context of salvation in Thessalonians writings…
Peripoiesis - 5x in 5v - Ep 1:14; 1Th 5:9; 2Th 2:14; He 10:39; 1Pe 2:9. NAS = gain(1), obtaining(1), possession(2), preserving(1).
Today in the Word - Most people tend to think that great artists and musicians produce their works in relatively quick bursts of creative energy. But the facts suggest otherwise. It is said that Beethoven rewrote each bar of his music at least a dozen times. For his work ""Last Judgment,"" considered one of the twelve master paintings of the ages, Michelangelo produced more than 2 sketches and renderings during the eight years it took him to complete his masterpiece.
It's safe to say that anything of lasting value requires patient commitment even in the face of adversity. That includes the Christian life. First-century believers must have needed that reminder often. Otherwise, we wouldn't have all those great verses in the New Testament urging us to walk faithfully with Christ no matter what the cost.
The Hebrew believers who received this letter were among those early believers who needed this strong word of encouragement. The closing verses of chapter 10 reveal that they were not just a group of weak-willed Christians who were ready to renounce Christ in a heartbeat. They had walked with the Lord long enough to have experienced some pretty intense suffering.
These Christians had suffered public persecution, imprisonment, and loss of personal property in the earlier days of their Christian lives. They even suffered such losses joyfully because they had their eyes on eternal things.
There is a suggestion here that one of the Hebrews' current problems was that they were uncertain regarding Christ's return. They may have been expecting Him to come to relieve them of their suffering; and when that did not happen right away, they began to lose heart.
We know that the earliest generations of believers expected Christ to return in
their lifetime. The Thessalonians became upset when some of their fellow believers began dying and Christ had not returned. Paul had to comfort them and set them straight about the issue (1Th 4:13, 14-note, 1Th 4:15, 16-note, 1Th 4:17, 18-note).
Whatever the reason for their wavering, the Hebrews needed to recall those early days of faithfulness and repeat them. Their confidence in Christ would be ""richly rewarded"" (He 10:35).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY - Today we read about Christians who ""joyfully accepted the confiscation of [their] property"" (He 10:34) for the Lord's sake, and maybe we wonder if the same could be said of us.
We don't know what God may require of us in the days ahead, but we can help prepare ourselves by adopting the attitude that everything we are and have belongs to Christ. So today is a good time to ask yourself, ""Am I holding my possessions in an open hand? If God were to take something I value, would I respond in obedience or in anger?"" (MBI - Today in the Word)
Having given us this exhortation to endure, to hold fast, to keep the faith, the writer then proceeds to illustrate the quality of faith that pleases God in the famous Hebrews "hall of faith" in Hebrews 11. In the next chapter “Let me give you an example of some people who went through difficult things and they endured in the faith.”
J Vernon McGee - You remember the story of the French Huguenots. They were persecuted, and they were betrayed. When France destroyed them, it destroyed the best of French manhood and womanhood. The French Huguenots went into battle, knowing they were facing certain death, and their motto was: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The nation of France has never since been the nation it was before it destroyed these people. We believers today need a motto like the Huguenots. There is a lot of boo-hooing today among Christians. There is a lot of complaining and criticizing. There are a bunch of cry-babies and babies that need to be burped. Oh, my Christian friend, the whole tenor of this marvelous epistle is “Let us go on.” So let us go on for God!
BELIEVING OR DRAWING BACK.
IN the summary we had (Hebrews 10:19-25) of what life in the Holiest means, the last word, after we had been urged to exhort one another, was:
And so much the more as ye see the day drawing nigh.
And then came the warning of the fearful expectation of judgment, and the terror of falling into the hands of the living God. Here the warning closes with once again pointing to the Lord's coming as not far off.
Christian faith lives not only in the unseen present
but also in the future;
more especially in the future of the coming of Him who shall appear a second time to them that wait for Him, Him who is now seated on the throne, expecting till all His enemies be made His footstool. Let our faith so live in the future, that all our life may be in the power of eternity, and of Him in whom eternity has its glory.
The passage quoted is from Habakkuk 2:4, the same that forms the text of the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans. The prophet is told by God, in the midst of the oppression of Israel by the Chaldeans, that the vision will surely come.
Two classes among the people are spoken of.
Of one it is said: His soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him.
Of the other: But the righteous shall live by his faith.
Our writer uses the words to contrast the two classes among the Hebrews (He 10:38).
On the one side, those who are not upright;
On the other, the righteous who live by faith.
The righteous man will in the midst of trouble, and while the vision is delayed, put his trust in God, and live in that trust. He shall live by it too, the God whom He trusts will not fail him but send deliverance.
Our writer introduces the passage of set purpose, to serve as the text of the following chapter. He had in Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4 spoken of unbelief as the great sin through which Israel had perished in the wilderness (He 3:18,19), of faith as the one thing needful if we are to enter into the rest of God.
In Hebrews 6 of the faith by which the fathers inherited the promises (He 6:12).
He had in our chapter, in his summing up of the Epistle, said:
Let us draw nigh in the fulness of faith (He 10:22).
He wishes, after his exposition of what the purpose and the work of Jesus can be to us, to show us the way to a full personal experience and enjoyment of it all, through faith alone. He proposes to do so by proving how all the Old Testament saints had lived and conquered through faith (Hebrews 11), and how it is the one only thing God asks if we are to experience His mighty saving power and the blessedness of His good pleasure. He is going to point out all the variety of circumstances and difficulties in which faith will give us God's help and sure deliverance, as well as all the various tempers and dispositions with which it will be accompanied. For all this he finds a most suggestive text in the words:
My righteous one shall live by faith.
That means a great deal more than what many think, the sinner shall be counted righteous by faith; more, too, than the righteous shall have eternal life by faith.
It means, the righteous shall live,
his whole life shall be, by faith.
This is just the lesson we need. The righteous who lives by faith is contrasted with him who draws back, of whom God says: My soul shall have no pleasure in Him.
The one cause of backsliding is
the want of faith in the unseen,
a yielding of the heart to the visible,
and, in the battle against it,
a trusting in our own strength and not in Christ.
We see here again that there is no other alternative---either believing or drawing back. In the Christian life nothing will avail to keep us from backsliding but the fulness of faith--always and in everything to live the life of faith. It is only when faith gives itself up entirely to Christ for Him to do all in us, to keep us standing too, and when faith so dominates our life that every moment and every engagement shall all be under its influence, that we can hope to be safe from drawing back.
If I am to be sure of salvation,
if I am to be strong against every temptation,
if I am to live daily as one in whom God's soul has pleasure,
I must see to one thing--to be a man of faith.
Let us prepare ourselves for the wonderful chapter that is coming, and all its blessed teaching, by looking back on what has been set before us of Christ and His redemption as the object of our faith. He is the Priest forever (He 5:6, He 6:20, He 7:17, He 7:21, He 7:24), the Priest of God's oath (He 7:20, 21), able to save completely (He 7:25)--shall we not throw our whole being wide open to Him in trust? '
We have Him, a Priest-King upon the throne, the Minister of the sanctuary He has opened for us, and where He presides, to bring us in---oh, shall we not be strong in faith, giving glory to God?
We have Him, the Mediator of the new covenant (He 8:6, He 9:15, He 12:24), who with one sacrifice hath perfected Himself and us for evermore (He 10:12), and whose work it is to write and put God's law within us as the power of a living obedience (He 8:10, He 10:16),--again, I say, shall we not believe, and allow this mighty Saviour to do His perfect work in us?
We have entered the Holiest of All, we have in faith claimed God's presence, and the life of abiding continually in it as our portion, and we have the great Priest over the house of God to make it all true and sure to us (He 10:21); surely it needs no words to urge us to make faith, faith alone, the faith of the heart, the unceasing sacrifice we bring our God. So may we too say,
We are not of them that draw back,
but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
1. The only cure for all the coldness and backsliding in the Church is "the preaching of faith." Holiness by faith, standing by faith, being kept by the power of God through faith, having Christ dwell in our heart by faith,--this must be the daily food of the Christian. A preaching that insists upon salvation by faith chiefly as pardon and acceptance must produce feeble Christians. The fulness of faith is indispensable to the full Christian life.
2. Believing or drawing back--there is no other alternative. Look back over the warning of which these words form the conclusion, and let us fear at the terrible possibility for ourselves and others. And look forward to the coming chapter, with the one prayer that our whole life may be in the fulness of faith, in the very presence and power of God.
Andrew Murray. The Holiest of All
How To Own Ourselves
THE writer uses a somewhat uncommon word in this clause (peripoiesis), which is not altogether adequately represented by the translation ‘saving.’ Its true force will be apparent by comparing one or two of the few instances in which it occurs in the New Testament. For example, it is twice employed in the Epistles to the Thessalonians; in one case being rendered, ‘God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain’ (or, more correctly, to the obtaining of) ‘salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ’; and in another, ‘called to the obtaining of glory through Jesus Christ.’ It is employed twice besides in two other places of Scripture, and in both of these it means ‘possession.’ So that, though practically equivalent to the idea of salvation, there is a very beautiful shade of difference which is well worth noticing.
The thought of the text is substantially this—those who believe win their souls; they acquire them for their “possession. We talk colloquially about ‘people that cannot call their souls their own.’ That is a very true description of all men who are not lords of themselves through faith in Jesus Christ. ‘They who believe to the gaining of their own souls’ is the meaning of the writer here.
And I almost think that we may trace in this peculiar expression an allusion, somewhat veiled but real, to similar words of our Lord’s. For He said, when, like the writer in the present context, He was encouraging His disciples to steadfastness in the face of difficulties and persecutions,’ In your patience’—in your persistent adherence to Me, whatever might draw you away,—‘ye shall win’—not merely possess, as our Bible has it, and not a commandment, but a promise—‘in your patience ye shall win your souls.’ Whether that allusion be sustainable or no matters comparatively little; it is the significant and beautiful thought which underlies the word to which I wish to turn, and to present you with some illustrations of it.
I. First, Then, If We Lose Ourselves We Win Ourselves.
All men admit in theory that a self-centred life is a blunder. Jesus Christ has all moralists and all thoughtful men wholly with Him when He says,’ He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life shall find it.’ There is no such way of filling a soul with enlargement and blessedness and of evolving new powers and capacities as self-oblivion for some great cause, for some great love, for some great enthusiasm. Many a woman has found herself when she held her child in her arms, and in the self-oblivion which comes from maternal affections and cares has sprung into a loftier new life. Many a heart, of husband and wife, can set its seal to this truth, that the blessedness of love is that it decentralises the soul, and substitutes another aim for the wretched and narrow one that is involved in self-seeking. And even if we do not refer to these sacred heights of maternal or of wedded love, there are many other noble counterpoises to the degrading influence of self-absorption, which all men recognise and some men practise. Whoever has once tasted the joy and rapture of flinging himself into some great enthusiasm, and has known how much fuller life is when so inspired than in its ordinary forms, needs no words to convince him that the secret of blessedness, elevation, and power, if it is to be put into one great word, must be put into this one, ‘self-oblivion.’
But whilst all these counterpoises to the love of self are, in their measure and degree, great and noble and blessed, not one of them, nor all of them put together, will so break the fetters from off a prisoned soul and let it out into the large place of utter and glad self-oblivion as the course which our text enjoins upon us when it says: If you wish to forget yourselves, to abandon and lose yourselves, fling yourselves into Christ’s arms, and by faith yield your whole being, will, trust, purposes, aims, everything—yield them all to Him; and when you can say, ‘We are not our own,’ then first will you belong to yourselves and have won your own souls.
There is nothing except that absolute departure from all reliance upon our own poor powers, and from all making of ourselves our centre and aim in life, which gives us true possession of ourselves. Nothing else is comparable to the talismanic power of trust in Jesus Christ. When thus we lose ourselves in Him we find ourselves, and find Him in ourselves.
I believe that, at bottom, a life must either spin round on its own axis, self-centred and self-moved, or else it must be drawn by the mass and weight and mystical attractiveness of the great central sun, and swept clean out of its own little path to become a satellite round Him. Then only will it move in music and beauty, and flash back the lustre of an unfading light. Self or God, one or other will be the centre of every human life.
It is well to be touched with lofty enthusiasms; it is well to conquer self in the eager pursuit of some great thought or large subject of study; it is well to conquer self in the sweetness of domestic love; but through all these there may run a perverting and polluting reference to myself. Affection may become but a subtle prolongation of myself, and study and thought may likewise be tainted, and even in the enthusiasm for a great cause there may mingle much of self-regard; and on the whole there is nothing that will sweep out, and keep out, the seven devils of selfishness except to yield yourselves to God, drawn by His mercies, and say, ‘I am not my own; I am bought with a price.’ Then, and only then, will you belong to yourselves.
II. Secondly If We Will Take Christ For Our Lord We Shall Be Lords Of Our Own Souls.
I have said that self-surrender is self-possession. It is equally true that self-control is self-possession; and it is as true about this application of my text as it was about the former, that Christianity only says more emphatically what moralists say, and suggests and supplies a more efficient means of accomplishing the end which they all recognise as good. For everybody knows that the man who is a slave to his own passions, lusts, or desire is not his own master. And everybody knows that the man who is the sport of circumstance, and yields to every temptation that comes sweeping round him, as bamboos bend before every blast; or the man who is guided by fashion, conventionality, custom, and the influence of the men amongst whom he lives, and whom he calls ‘the world,’ is not his own master. He ‘dare not call his soul his own.’
What do we mean by being self-possessed, except this, that we can so rule our more fluctuating and sensitive parts as that, notwithstanding appeals made to them by external circumstances, they do not necessarily yield to these? He possesses himself who, in the face of antagonism, can do what is right; who, in the face of temptation, will not do what is wrong; who can dare to be in the right with one or two; and who is not moulded by circumstances, howsoever they may influence him, but reacts upon them as a hammer, and is not as an anvil. And this superiority over the parts of my nature which are meant to be kept down, and this assertion of independent power in the face of circumstances, and this freedom from the dominion of cliques and parties and organs of opinion and loud voices round us, this is best secured in its fulness and completeness by the path which my text suggests.
Trust in Jesus Christ, and let Him be your Commander-in-chief, and you have won your souls. Let Him dominate them, and you can dominate them. If you will give your wills into His hands, He will give them back to you and make you able to subdue your passions and desires. Put the reins into Christ’s hands and say, ‘Here, O Lord, guide Thou the horses and the chariot, for I cannot coerce them, but Thou canst.’ Then He will come and bring a new ally in the field, and cast a new weight into the scale, and you will no longer be the slave of the servile and inferior parts of your nature; nor be kicked about, the football of circumstances; nor be the echo of some other body’s views, but you will have a voice of your own, and a will of your own, and a soul of your own, because you have given them to Christ, and He will help you to control them. Such a man—and I verily believe, from the bottom of my heart, such a man only—in the fullest sense, is,
‘Free from slavish bands,
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.’
What does some little rajah, on the edge of our great Indian Empire, do when troubled with rebels whom he cannot subdue? He goes and makes himself a feudatory of the great central power at Calcutta, and then down comes a regiment or two, and makes very short work of the rebellion that the little kinglet could do nothing with. If you go to Christ and say to Him, ‘Dear Lord, I take my crown from my head and lay it at Thy feet. Come Thou to help me to rule this anarchic realm of my own soul,’ you will win yourself.
III. Thirdly, If We Have Faith In Christ We Acquire A Better Self.
The thing that most thoughtful men and women feel, after they have gone a little way into life, is not so much that they want to possess themselves, as that they want to get rid of themselves—of all the failures and shame and disappointment and futility of their lives. That desire may be accomplished. We cannot strip ourselves of ourselves by any effort. The bitter old past keeps living on, and leaves with us seeds of weakness and memories that sometimes corrupt, and always enfeeble: memories that seem to limit the possibilities of the future in a tragic fashion. Ah, brethren! we can get rid of ourselves; and, instead of continuing the poor, sin-laden, feeble creatures that we are, we can have pouring into our souls the gift most real—though people nowadays, in their shallow religion, call it mystical—of a new impulse and a new life. The old individuality will remain, but new tastes, new aspirations, aversions, hopes, and capacities to realise them may all be ours, so that ‘if any man be in Christ he is a new creature’; and in barter for the old garment he receives the robe of righteousness. You can lose yourselves, in a very deep and earnest sense, if, trusting in Jesus Christ, you open the door of the heart to the influx of that new life which is His best gift. Faith wins a better self, and we may each experience, in all its fulness and blessedness, the paradox of the apostle when he said, ‘I live’ now, at last, in triumphant possession of this better life: ‘I live’ now—I only existed before—‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ And with Christ in me I first find myself.
IV. Lastly, If By Faith We Win Our Souls Here, We Save Them From Destruction Hereafter.
I have said that the word of my text is substantially equivalent to the more frequent and common expression ‘salvation’; though with a shade of difference, which I have been trying to bring out. And this substantial equivalence is more obvious if you will note that the text is the second member of an antithesis of which the first is, ‘we are not of them which draw back into perdition.’
So, then, the writer sets up, as exact opposites of one another, these two ideas—perdition or destruction on the one hand, and the saving or winning of the soul on the other. Therefore, whilst we must give due weight to the considerations which I have already been suggesting, we shall not grasp the whole of the writer’s meaning unless we admit also the thought of the future. And that the same blending of the two ideas, of possession and salvation in the more usual sense of the word, was implied in the Lord’s saying, of which I have suggested there may be an echo here, is plain if you observe that the version in St. Luke gives the text which I have already quoted: ‘In your patience ye shall win your souls’; and that of St. Matthew, in the same connection, gives, instead, the saying, ‘he that endureth ’—which corresponds with patience—‘he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.’
So, then, brethren, you cannot be said to have won your souls if you are only keeping them for destruction, and such destruction is clearly laid down here as the fate of those who turn away from Jesus Christ.
Now, it seems to me that no fair interpretation can eject from that word ‘perdition,’ or ‘destruction,’ an element of awe and terror. However you may interpret the ruin, it is ruin utter of which it speaks. And I am very much afraid that in this generation eager discussions about the duration of punishment, and the final condition of those who die impenitent, have had a disastrous influence on a great many minds and consciences in reference to this whole subject, by making it rather a subject of controversy than a solemn truth to be pondered. However the controversies be settled, there is terror enough left in that word to make us all bethink ourselves.
I lay it on your hearts, dear friends—it is no business of mine to say much about it, but I lay it on your hearts and on my own; and I beseech you to ponder it. Do not mix it up with wholly independent questions as to what is to become of people who never heard about Jesus Christ. ‘The Judge of all the earth will do right.’ What this verse says applies to people that have heard about Him—that is, to you and me—and to people that do not accept Him—and that is some of us; and about them it says that they ‘draw back unto perdition.’
Now, remember, the alternative applies to each of us. It is a case of ‘either—or’ in regard to us all. If we have taken Christ for our Saviour, and, as I said, put the reins into His hands and given ourselves to Him by love and submission and confidence, then we own our souls, because we have given them to Him to keep, ‘and He is able to keep that which is committed to Him against that day.’
But I am bound to tell you, in the plainest words I can command, that if you have not thus surrendered yourself to Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, His intercession, His quickening Spirit, then I know not where you are to find one foothold of hope that upon you there will not come down the overwhelming fate that is darkly portrayed in that one solemn word.
Oh, brethren! let us all ponder the question,
‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?’