We Do Not Shrink Back
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb. 10:39).
- Hebrews 10:37–39
Though the author of Hebrews knew that apostasy was possible for some in his original audience, he was also confident that some, if not all of them, would persevere. Their former sufferings and love for one another were evidences of authentic faith (vv. 32–34). Under new hardships, they just needed to remember their need of an endurance based on the confidence found in Christ alone (vv. 35–36).
The original audience of this epistle thought they could go back to the old covenant and remain faithful to God at the same time. However, this reflected an immature understanding of God’s Word. The progressive nature of God’s revelation demands that all of God’s children look at their covenant status in light of His complete revelation. God has said that in these last days He has brought the old covenant to fulfillment in the person of Christ. If the original audience wanted to be truly faithful to God’s revelation and to the example of the old covenant saints, then they had to hold on to Christ until the consummation of His kingdom.
This idea is discussed in more detail in chapter 11. Today’s passage introduces it by offering a quote from Habakkuk 2:3–4. This quote was appropriate to their situation since the Israelites of Habakkuk’s day were facing persecution from Babylon. The author of Hebrews is telling his audience that just as the faithful Israelites had to endure trials and exile before their promised restoration, so too will they have to face it. Only this time living by faith means holding on to Christ whom they have experienced, not going back to the old covenant.
Despite his harsh warnings, the author is confident that his audience will persevere. For he tells them in Hebrews 10:39 that they are not of those who will abandon Christ and be destroyed but will, by faith, preserve their souls. This confidence is only possible because he knew that God would keep His elect safe and because he believed that there were still some with true faith in his audience.
At the end of many warnings and exhortations, the author of Hebrews tells us that we are of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Such assurance encourages us to persevere despite all obstacles. If you are lacking assurance, look in your heart to see if you have any love for Christ at all and ask the Lord to increase your assurance.
Passages for Further Study
- Pss. 23; 61; 116
- Rom. 1:16–17
- 1 Thess. 5:23–24
- Philem. 21
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