NOTES on Hebrews
6:13-20 (click here for study)
Hebrews 6:1-12 contains a strong warning to the Hebrew Christians. The author reminds them of the consequences if they do not allow the Holy Spirit to give them a new heart. He reminds them that land that produces thorns and thistles when it receives the rain is cursed, but land that produces useful crops receives the blessing of God. He encourages them to be spiritually diligent, not lazy, and to "imitate" the role modeling of "those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." (v. 12)
God's Promises Are Certain
Now the author reminds these new Jewish Christians that God's promises are absolutely certain. He reminds them that when God spoke to Abraham, promising him that he would receive descendants, land, and a blessing (Gen. 22:16), he promised with an oath, swearing by himself, covenanting that what he said would actually happen.
In ancient Israel there was no system of jurisprudence. Justice was handled by the priests according to the civil laws God had given them. Oaths were necessary in order to ensure that testimony was true instead of false.
God had commanded Israel to make its oaths in his name because no one and no other god was as powerful as he. When a person swore in God's name, his statement was considered truthful and unalterable. If a person swore falsely in God's name, his oath became a curse on him. God is truth and light, and a person could not use His name falsely and survive.
Because God is the greatest power in the universe, he did not have to take an oath to guarantee that his promises would come true. Because oaths were the means of making binding promises in Israel at that time, however, God swore by himself that Abraham would receive descendants, land, and a blessing. He wanted no one to doubt that no matter how much time might pass in the meantime, what He promised would come to pass.
While Israel swore in the name of God every time they wanted to seal a promise, make an agreement, or guarantee that something was true, God only swore by himself three times. He swore to confirm his covenant with Abraham; (Genesis 22:16-18; Psalm 105:9; Luke 1:73). He swore to David that his offspring would reign forever, and this promise included the certainty of Christ's resurrection (Acts 2:29-32, Psalm 89:3f; 132:11f). The third thing God declared by swearing by himself was Christ's unchangeable role as high priest (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17-28).
Each of the three things which God declared with an oath have found fulfillment in Christ. Each of God's sworn promises was a Messianic promise. Jesus has been the Promise of the world since the world began. (Revelation 13:8)
Only God's word is unchangeable. Only God's oaths cannot be broken. Only when we submit ourselves to the power of God do our promises have any hope of being dependable.
Oaths and the New Covenant
When Jesus came he spoke strongly against swearing by anything. "But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this come from the evil one." (Matthew 5:34-37)
When Jesus came and died, all history changed. His death marked the transition between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. "I am the way and the truth and the life," Jesus said. (John 14:6) "No one comes to the Father except through me."
We no longer have to appeal to the truth of God by taking an oath in his name. Now we have Jesus, and we can appeal directly to him. "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true," John says in 1 John 5:20. "And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."
In the New Covenant, when we believe in Jesus and accept him as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit in us. We are in Christ; the Truth lives in us. When we are in Christ, we have wisdom and understanding from God, and we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
If we were to swear by the name of God when we live intimately with him in our hearts, we would be disrespecting God in us. We live with the Truth in us, and when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we speak for God. No longer is God outside of us, a power to which we appeal for the strength of his authority. Rather, he is in us, and we merely have to listen and speak.
When we accept Jesus and are born again, our spirits come alive and enter eternity by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We begin eternal life at that moment. We are in intimate relationship with God himself from that moment. We speak with his authority, power, and love. To take an oath on something outside us would be a statement of disbelief. Our "yes" can be "yes", and our 'No", "No" because we speak with the authority of God.
Twenty-five years passed between the time God promised Moses a son and the day Isaac was born.
God's promises to us are just as certain as was his promise to Abraham. He has broken the power of sin and death. He will bless us and work through us. He will come again and take us to be with him. We will reign with him. Jesus has given us examples of faith and examples of his already-fulfilled promises so we can wait with certainty and patience.
Because we know Jesus fulfilled the promises of old and was born as a human child, we can be certain that he will come back, just as he promised, and take us physically to spend eternity with him.
It's difficult to imagine Jesus physically fulfilling his promises. Because we cannot see him now, because we know him spiritually, it's not hard to think that his promises for an eternity together are spiritual promises without the complication of physical dimensions.
Many of us have suffered terrible things in our bodies. From early childhood some of us have had our bodies hurt, our emotions wounded, and our boundaries violated. Some of us carry terrible memories of pain and shame in our bodies and our souls, and the thought of jettisoning them and coming to life spiritually without physical or emotional baggage seems like ultimate freedom.
Jesus, though, came to save ALL of us. He didn't come just to destroy sin and save our spirits. He came to save and restore our humanity, and that includes our physical, mental, and emotional dimensions as well as our spirits. He didn't come to punish our flesh while saving our spirits. Punishing our flesh is an impulse born of sin and pain.
When Jesus saves us, he brings our spirits from death to life. At the moment we believe we receive the Holy Spirit, and our spirits enter eternity. When we die, those now-living spirits remain with Jesus, secure and comforted in his love. Our bodies, though, perish in the ground. When Jesus comes back to take us to be with him, he resurrects us and gives us new, glorified, physical bodies without those memories of shame. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he appeared in a resurrection body such as those we will have. (I Thess. 4:14-16)
Our redemption is absolutely sure, and it is a complete redemption. By his grace Jesus saves and changes both our spirits and our bodies, and he will restore us, complete and holy, to himself.
Hope Anchored Behind the Curtain
God made his promises to Abraham and to his children with an oath. He swore by himself that the Seed-Jesus-would come. God's promises and his oaths are unchangeable, and he promised with an oath so all those who live by faith throughout the history of the world, from Abraham on, would be certain that God's promises of salvation and security are absolutely reliable.
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf." (v. 19-20)
The hope that anchors our souls is the hope of eternal life which was promised to us before the beginning of time. (Titus 1:2) Our hope is freedom from the law and justification by faith alone. (Gal. 3:19-25). This hope is the reality that the Old Covenant law has been set aside for an even better hope-Christ's death-by which we can now draw near to God ourselves. (Hebrews 7:18-19) It is a certainty in what we don't see. (Heb. 11:1)
Our hope is the grace of God in which we now stand. (Romans 5:2) Our great hope is that the law is powerless; Christ's sin offering fully accomplished the righteous requirements of the law. (Romans 4:2)
Finally, our hope is that we will be eternally with Christ, that when we leave these mortal bodies we will be present with the Lord, (2 Cor. 5:1-10) and that we will finally be physically resurrected to spend eternity with Him. (1 Thess. 4:14-16)
This hope which defines our lives is anchored in Jesus who is and has been in the presence of God ever since he returned to heaven after his resurrection. We do not have to wonder whether or not Jesus' sacrifice has "worked". He is now in the presence of God, and he is presenting himself as our righteousness.
Jesus, our God but also human, entered the presence of God the Father through the torn curtain-his own body (Hebrews 10:20). By his death and shed blood, Jesus has removed the barrier between humanity and God. Because of Jesus we, too, can stand in the presence of God. We can call him Father because Jesus has given us his righteousness and has paid the price for our sins.
Our hope is anchored firmly in the living Christ who represents us to God and intercedes for us. Through Jesus we are also in the presence of God. Because of Jesus we are one with God through the Holy Spirit living in us.
Because Jesus is a high priest in the order of Melchizedek, his sacrifice does not have to be repeated. Just as he is eternal, his sacrifice will last for eternity. Because he died and came to life, we will never die.
God asks us to believe him. He asks us to entrust our hearts and lives to him. God formed us before we were born, and he has plans for each of our lives, "plans to prosper [us] and not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)
God is asking us to give up our plans and our security and to follow him-wherever that may lead. He asks us to trust him to be all we need. Not until we surrender everything we most treasure to Jesus can he fill our lives with meaning.
Often Jesus gives us back the things we've surrendered to him, but in a new way. When we finally surrender our jobs, our children, our marriages, our health, our possessions to him, his peace can fill those places in our lives at last. We discover that those things we gave to Jesus were already his, and by acknowledging his sovereignty over them, we can relax and not worry or manipulate them any more. We discover that Jesus has always wanted to take care of those things for us, to make them meaningful, to give us grace through them.
As long as we retain control, however, we fret and worry, and those things we think we can't give up are continual sources of anxiety. When we finally give them to Jesus, they become sources of joy and revelations of grace.
Sometimes surrendering what we love to Jesus means that he's finally free to release us from bondage to it. Sometimes what we think we love is a substitute for an identity in Jesus. When Jesus does remove an icon from us, it's because that thing has defined us and kept us from being what God wants us to be. When Jesus takes a dream from our lives, he always gives us Himself in its place. Love fills the place of grief, and even though we experience loss and pain, Jesus stabilizes us and gives us meaning.
God wants to do a new thing in our lives. When he makes us new creations, he gives us new work. Sometimes that new work is in the context of our existing circumstances. Sometimes he changes our circumstances in order to glorify himself through us.
God is continually at work, changing our hearts and recreating us into the people he planned for us to be. As he brings us more and more into awareness of reality, he asks us to be patient. His work in us is long-term, and he asks us to rest in him and enjoy the revelations of his love as he slowly molds us and redeems our past.
God's promises are sure. You can trust them because the One who made them will never change.
Act in faith. Give Him what you love about yourself. Give him what you fear about yourself. Give him the thing or person you most fear losing. Experience the deep love of Jesus in those places you submit to him.
He will never leave you. He will never fail you.
He will never stop filling your life with love.
All contents copyright (c) 1999-2001 Graphics
Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised January 12, 2001.