Patterns of Growth
“So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).
- Hebrews 6:11–12
Hebrews 6:4–8 tells us that apostasy is a real danger under the new covenant. But we have also seen that apostasy is not something that happens to members of the new covenant with saving faith. Rather, when a professing believer falls away permanently, we can be sure that he was a covenant member who never possessed saving faith.
This raises a question for those who remain faithful to Christ. How can we be sure that we have true faith? The author knew this question would be raised and so he tells us to pursue earnestly the full assurance of hope (v. 11). When we do this, love and good works flow from our pursuit of Christ thereby evidencing our regeneration and confirming that God will not overlook us (vv. 9–10).
Love for Christ and His saints demonstrates that we are true Christians. Good works are also an evidence (6:10). This agrees with the rest of the New Testament, which tells us that our faith is genuine only if good works are produced as a result.
In both love and good works, we are to show earnestness in order to have the full assurance of salvation (6:10–11). Far from being a secondary concern of the Christian life, the assurance demonstrated by love and good works must be something that we diligently and eagerly pursue.
When we pursue assurance through love and good works, we will not be sluggish but “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:12). This reference is to the old covenant saints who persevered in faith, works, and love throughout their lives. They inherited the promises when God called them to Himself by faith, and they were conformed to God gradually throughout their lives. None of them possessed perfect faith. For example, Abraham erred by producing a son through Hagar, not believing that Sarah would conceive. Nevertheless, he learned from his sin and grew in faith. He believed God and worked out his salvation, even to the point of sacrificing Isaac, the promised son.
The examples of the old covenant saints show us that good works and love will be manifested throughout our lives. We are justified by faith alone because of Christ alone. And by God’s grace, faith is followed by good works. Indeed, we are assured because of Christ, knowing that we are being conformed to His image throughout our lives (Rom. 8.29).
Some in the original audience of the book of Hebrews wanted to return to the old covenant. In order to avert this, the author exhorts them to imitate the faith of the old covenant saints. This faith was not in the efficacy of the old covenant, but rather in God Himself (Heb. 11). Read Hebrews 11, and thank God for so many examples of faith.
Passages for Further Study
- Gen. 22 2
- Chron. 33:1–20
- Eph. 4:11–16
- Heb. 10:24