The Peril of Not Enduring in Our Faith
A Reflection on Hebrews 1-6
By Elder Victor Goh
Would you turn back on your faith in order to stay socially accepted in your community?
That was the very question facing the original audience of Hebrews, a primarily Jewish audience who were struggling with their new identity as Christians claiming Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
They were ostracised by the Jewish people. They were no longer allowed to be part of that community. And that created a lot of difficulty for them. They wrestled with, “Should we continue with Christ?”, and possibly thought, “Our lives seemed so much easier and better when we were not following Christ. If we were to just give up on Christ, perhaps we could get our families back and have a better standing in society.”
As a result, they were downplaying the uniqueness of Jesus and trying to show how they could be continually in line with Jewish habits and traditions. They were tempted to turn back to what’s familiar to them. More specifically for them, it was to turn back to the synagogue and to the ordinances of the Old Testament.
Today, we face a similar temptation—to turn back to what is secure, familiar, and rest upon one’s heritage or tradition, rather than walk by faith in a world where faith is generally not well-received.
In the first six chapters of Hebrews, the writer highlights eight signs of things going wrong in the church:
1. They were drifting along instead of rowing against the current of sin
Beginning in Heb 2:1, the author urges the Jewish believers “to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” This indicated that the original readers had started to drift along the current of the world and away from holiness.
2. They were neglecting the great salvation they claimed to have
In addition to that, we see in verse 3 that they were beginning to neglect the greatness of their salvation, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation”. They were not paying much attention to what it means to be a Christian in a real world. They were drifting and neglecting.
3. Their grip on joyful, zealous hope was slipping
In Heb 3:6, they were losing a grip on their confidence about the future. In particular, verse 6b, “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” suggests that they were not holding fast to their confidence and hope.
4. Their hearts were hardening to the truth of God’s Word
Drifting. Neglecting. Letting slip. This is the opposite of an enduring faith over the long haul. The writer then warns them that their drifting and neglecting and slipping could result in them falling away from the living God. He warns them in verse 12, saying, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
5. Their conversation was losing its spiritual urgency
The author then gives them a way to counter that in verse 13: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Today, we see that happening in our conversations about the world. Most of the time, all we talk about is the stock market and our hobbies and problems at home and at work. Like the original readers, we may have lost the urgency of exhortation in our daily conversation.
Sin was starting to deceive them. It had caused them to neglect God’s guidelines, resulting in them drifting and losing hold of joyful vibrant confidence. This is a dangerous situation to be in. The writer says in verse 14, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end”. To finish the race, it is crucial that we hang in there with confidence.
6. Their ears were getting dull
Hebrews 4:1 says that some in the church were in danger of not finishing the race and not getting to heaven. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Some had become so negligent and careless in their spiritual walk that they had no godly fear about what was at stake in their daily lives.
Similarly, we could be just drifting along with our AirPods in our ears feeling secure, while God’s messenger is crying out from the shore that the tsunami-like waves of judgment are approaching.
7. They were becoming weak and sluggish
In Heb 5:11, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” tells us that their spiritual ears had become dull. The Bible was becoming uninteresting. Their desire for the teaching and preaching of God’s Word was fading. The energy to think and ask questions about the most important questions in the world was seeping away.
Spiritual sluggishness and insensitivity had taken over. Things of the world were becoming more exciting and attractive than the Word of God and the greatness of his salvation. How about us? We could be leading busy lifestyles, focusing much on sport, socializing, our relationship, our work, and an insatiable desire to get more money.
8. They were losing their desire to press on to maturity
In Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” suggests that this church had lost its zeal to press on in the Christian life to maturity. The church was beginning to feel that progress to maturity and growth in holiness was optional. It wasn’t really necessary in the Christian life. Hence, they were just drifting along, resting on their past attainments, and all the while becoming dull in hearing, deceived by sin, and hard in heart.
The opposite of all this is enduring faith as a zealous, growing Christian. There are two options for those of us who claim to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. One is to press on toward maturity in knowledge and faith and hope and holiness. The other is to drift slowly into indifference and dullness and eventually destruction.
One of the great errors of this church was that they presumed there was a halfway point where they could stay as professing Christians, not pressing forward and not drifting backward. However, there is no such place. Either we press on toward the inheritance or we drift back toward destruction.
If we apply what the author of Hebrews warned them of and urged them against to ourselves, isn’t the choice obvious?