Hebrews 6:9–12 . . .
“Don’t Be Discouraged!”
It was clear in our previous summary that if the "Hebrews" audience didn't make progress in their Christian life, they'd regress to a state in which there'd be such hardness of heart that there'd be no chance of repentance. If this happened, they'd suffer the loss of heavenly rewards they might receive when they stand in front of Christ's judgment seat. But, because the author was confident that this wouldn't be the case with his readers, he exhorted them in today's text to be diligent in their faith and follow the example of Old Testament's saints. He'll later elaborate on the meaning of this confident exhortation in chapter 11, which is famously referred to as "The Hall of Faith."
Having already issued his weak-faith warning in 5:11–14, our author will now express his reassurance and encouragement in vv. 9–12. It'll be a loving, preemptive warning. Though some of his readers deserved this sobering cautionary warning, he didn't see them all in this dangerous hard-of-heart state. He believed that the majority of his readers were truly saved, needing only an exhortation on diligence and patience. Their works of love and support of other believers strongly testified to their genuine faith, which ought to remind us of what James had declared: "Faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26b).
It's wise to remember that "Hebrews" was written to Jewish believers going through struggles and trials. The writer was concerned for the spiritual condition of his audience. Apparently, some of them might have never truly trusted in Christ or understood the seriousness of the issues. And some of these Jewish Christians thought that possibly returning to Judaism would be wise. The writer herein was declaring that Jesus Christ is God's provision. All God's plans for mankind's salvation centered in the person and work of Jesus; there were no options or alternatives.
Confidence of Better Things to Come (6:9)
Starting with v. 9, the author freely and openly declared the good hope he had concerning his Jewish-Christian audience, whom he caringly called "dear friends," that they'd persevere and endure to the end.
9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case — the things that have to do with salvation (6:9).
The author stated that he was sure that his readers would mature and grow into strong Christians who'd go on to receive the many good things that come with knowing and following Christ. He didn't tell them or us what these things were, but we know that they must have been good and valuable gifts, since God himself had provided them.
Basic things accompany salvation that are never separated from salvation, and that will enable eternal salvation. Regarding "the things that have to do with salvation," they include our work, love, and ministering. For believers, their constant practice of ministering to the saints documents the Holy Spirit's active role in producing spiritual fruit in their lives, allowing them to genuinely become born-again. Their lives then demonstrate evidence of their saving faith; the author's point is that the Hebrew who merely professes belief in Jesus is obliged to actively work, love, and minister to fellow believers.
The idea of salvation is that the power of God rescues people from the penalty of sin, which is spiritual death followed by eternal separation from the presence of his glory. Salvation delivers the believer from the power of sin. It carried tremendous meaning in Jesus' day, the most basic being "deliverance," which was applied to national and personal deliverance: The emperor was looked on as a delivering "savior," as was the physician who healed sick people. In short, this salvation wasn't limited to an escape from the penalty of sin, it included the better concepts of safety, deliverance from slavery, and preservation from possible danger or destruction.
The author was sure about Father God's good and valuable gifts because of who God is: He's right and true and won't forget what they've done, leading up to their salvation. The essential elements that accompany salvation are going to be unfolded, beginning in v. 10.
Love (v. 10)
Our author proposed arguments and encouragements to his readers to remain active in their duty. To start with, he introduced God's principle of holy love and charity in them, which had been revealed in their works, which righteous God would never forget.
10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (6:10).
As he'd done in v. 9, the writer of "Hebrews" sought to comfort those reading the letter. In v. 9, it was made clear that the Jewish-Christian readers weren't necessarily doomed to the fate of God's judgment. Their good deeds, done in God's behalf, were obvious and wouldn't be forgotten by him.
The author's stated "love" is the Greek agapē, which describes unconditional, sacrificial love, supremely the love that God is (1 John 4:8, 16), that God shows (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9) and that God enables by his Spirit who's indwelt his children (Galatians 5:22). Biblically, agapē refers to that love which God has made. Clearly, such love can only be borne as spiritual fruit in those saints who are filled with and walk in his Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18; Gal. 5:16, 18, 25). For this reason, the author addressed those who'd believed and had, therefore, received the Holy Spirit who'd given them a "holy power" that enabled them to love and serve people.
Let David Guzik's comment on v. 10 encourage and challenge you: "When we are discouraged, we often think God has forgotten all we have done for Him and His people. But God would cease to be God if He forgot such things. God sees and remembers." How many lose sight of the fact that God definitely sees their service? How many serve for the applause and attention of man, and are discouraged when it doesn’t come? Remember this: God will never forget your labor of love to others and to him."
Believers and followers of Jesus: God is mindful of the time, love, patience, and money you've invested as you've worked for him. He never overlooks or fails to remember what you've done for him. If you've worked long hours on his behalf; if you've invested your personal energies into the work of his kingdom; if you've given 100 percent of your heart and soul to your assigned task; or if you've given sacrificially of your finances — God has never forgotten any of these things!
The Greek word misthapodosia suggests that God will be sure to remember it all, and he'll see to it that you're fully reimbursed for everything you spent and did to accomplish the assignment he gave you. He'll make a settlement with you for past expenses that would make anyone rejoice! He'll make sure you receive reparations for any damage you've experienced because of the battles you've fought for him.
God doesn't give only gifts, he also rewards good work (cf. James 1:17). We should recognize gifts and rewards as flipsides of God’s grace. In this sense, the writer recognizes that perfection is impossible without believers’ faithful service to God — by God’s grace — resulting in reward (v. 10). We aren't told the nature of this reward, but in some sense it likely assures the community’s future participation in the kingdom. Hence good work will allow "what you hope for [to be] fully realized," as we'll now see in v. 11.
Hope (v. 11)
The writer wanted his Christian readers to eagerly live for God to the end of their lives, ensuring their hope in Christ. As we continue to relate personally with Jesus, we become more confident of that hope, knowing convincingly that what we hope for will happen one day. Next in our text, we're assured that those who persevere in a diligent discharge of their duty will eventually and fully attain their assurance of hope. Full assurance is a higher degree of hope; it's attainable by great diligence and perseverance to the end.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized (6:11).
That word "want" is a strong word; it represents an intense desire; readers were exhorted to show diligence, zeal, passion "to the very end." The Jewish-Christian audience had become slack, sluggish, slow-moving. The remedy for them (and us) was to have a hope that was strong enough that they'd succeed in their future achievements.
Webster defines "hope" as a "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment." To "hope" (Greek verb epidzo) in Scripture is not the world's definition of "I hope so." Nor is it one that deals with "finger crossing" — it's an absolute certainty of future good; it's very alive and certain, because of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. Life without Christ is a hopeless end, whereas, life in Christ is an endless hope. As a result, biblical "hope" is confident expectancy of a good thing(s).
Finally, we're told that these Christians who'd proven their confident belief in Lord Jesus might have suffered much by following Jesus. But, because they held on to God's promises to the end, they received in full all that God had promised, as we now see in v. 12 related to "imitating others."
Faith and Patience (v. 12)
The idea of imitation relates to Scripture’s teaching of Christian community. Every congregation needs exemplars of "faith and patience," namely our spiritual leaders and teachers. The author proceeds to set before his readers words of caution and counsel on how to attain this full assurance of hope to the end: They shouldn't be sluggish or slothful; they should follow the good examples of those who'd gone before them.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (6:12).
Our definition of "lazy" is this (according to Cambridge Dictionary): not willing to work or use any effort. Compare that with the Greek word nothros used here for "lazy." According to Rick Renner Sparkling Gems from the Greek, "Nothros could be typified by a candle that no longer burns brightly as it once did; now its flame has dwindled to a mere flicker of its original intensity. The candle still gives light, but not the way it once did. Thus, nothros doesn't present the picture of laziness; rather, it speaks of someone who has lost his or her zeal or intense conviction about a matter that once was of great importance. It denotes a person who has become disinterested and whose zeal has been replaced with a middle-of-the-road, take-it-or-leave-it mentality."
Lazy learners ignore possible role models in their own community — those whose "faith and patience" forge the faith of those who "inherit what has been promised" by God. They'll go it alone in the wilderness, without complete understanding of Christ, without the help of God’s sanctifying grace, without the guidance and support of a faith-filled community. They're the most at risk of spiritual failure, and they're targeted by our caring author’s exhortation to go on to perfection.
Accordingly, v. 12a could be interpreted this way: "Quit being slothful — quit acting like someone who has lost his or her enthusiasm and excitement and has now sunk into a state of being slow, boring, monotonous, sluggish, dull, and uninterested. . ." Eugene Peterson's The Message interprets v. 12a as "Don't drag your feet." It makes good sense to do as follows: Don't let another day pass without repenting of your slothfulness, while stirring up your inner desire to fulfill all that God has called you to do. Shift back into high gear, and go after God's best for all you're worth!
Following v. 12a's focus on not becoming lazy, v. 12b tells us that we're to "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." The word "imitate" is taken from the Greek word mimetes. Other words that are derived from mimetes are "mimic" and "mime." However, the best translation is actually the word "actor." Therefore, the command to "imitate" isn't referring to a casual type of following; rather, it implies an intentional study of the deeds, words, actions, and thoughts of another person, in an attempt to fully understand that person, then actively replicate his or her attributes in one's own life. Such a commitment to act, mimic, or replicate a respected leader is the result of true discipleship. Therefore, you could actually translate v. 12b as such: "But skillfully and convincingly act like those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." And, The Message translates v. 12b accordingly: "Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them."
Even though the spiritually apathetic were warned herein, the author expressed confidence that his readers knew that (1) heaven was at stake and (2) they were motivated to press on to the end. But recognizing the fragile nature of their "faith and patience," he assured them that God’s unbroken promises, which chart their journey into salvation’s future, are secured with a solemn "promise."
Today's text contains the three cardinal Christian virtues that are often referred to as The Divine Triad: love (v. 10), hope (v. 11), and faith (v. 10). Because those who are genuinely saved will continue to grow in all three areas, these make good yardsticks by which to measure your life. Daily, are you living by faith in God’s promises? If you are, you'll not only be familiar with God’s promises, you'll find yourself praying those promises back to God, declaring faithfully all that he's promised in his Holy Word.
Faith, hope and love are very important in the lives of Christians. These three qualities always last (1 Corinthians 13:13) and make Christians strong. Are you also growing daily in hope? Biblical "hope" is a certainty that hasn't yet been realized. People who hope in God are heartened and stimulated by the promise of Jesus’ coming again to earth and that the future will be glorious for all who love God and are called by him, according to his purpose.
There's a close relationship between faith and hope. We see "faith" in our actions when we trust God; we see "hope" in our attitude when we have confidence in him. Thankfully, the strength and success of "faith" and "hope" in our lives depend on God’s promises. Because of our hope and faith, we can be patient as we wait for God’s help. We may have many troubles, but we know that God won't disappoint us. The Bible gives many examples of people who'd trusted God in this manner. Our "Hebrews" author gives a long list in chpt. 11 of biblical exemplars whose faith in God is embodied in their faithful lives. We must learn to behave as those people had behaved. Like them, we're to wait for God to act powerfully in our behalf.
Are you growing in "love" every day? Do you love God more and more, reading, appreciating, and cherishing his Word? Do you love his people, no matter the difficulty? Do you similarly love your immediate and extended family members? Do you love the lost enough to give them your money, time, and conversation, enabling them to hear and learn the good news that Christ came into this world to save sinners?
None of these spiritual growths appears automatically. You must cultivate them daily through your spiritual disciplines. Love, hope, and faith accompany one's genuine salvation.
- Q. 1 Daily, are you living by faith in God’s promises?
- Q. 2 Are you growing in hope? . . . Are you growing in love?
- Q. 3 Can you detect any spiritual neutrality in your life? If so, what will you do about it, and when?