35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35–39, NKJV)
This passage presents a substantial problem for those who believe the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Christians are urged to have endurance to “receive the promise.” Without a faith that endures, they would cast away their confidence and “draw back to perdition” (destruction). This is a far cry from comforting souls in sin that they cannot lose their salvation. This passage also confounds those who trust in the “faith only” doctrine. It points out the promise of life is not received until after “you have done the will of God.” Faith that saves the soul endures by continuing to do the will of God. Faith endures the struggles of suffering that come with following Jesus (Heb. 10:32-34). Enduring faith gives life (v. 37), it pleases God (v. 38), and it saves the soul (v. 39). “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (Jas. 5:11).
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, NKJV)
Vital teaching is given here on the nature of faith and worship that is “by faith.” First, we learn what is evident from Cain and Abel; not all worship pleases God (Gen. 4:4-5). Why? Because not all worship is “by faith.” Faith results from hearing God’s word and following it (Rom. 10:17). Abel did that, but Cain did not. Like Abel, we must hear and follow God’s word concerning acceptable worship. Otherwise, we follow Cain’s path of worthless, faithless worship. Second, God testified Abel was righteous based on his gifts. God said Abel’s “by faith” worship pleased Him (cf. Heb. 11:6). The question for us is, “Who is bearing witness that our worship is by faith and pleasing to God?” We can rule out our personal feelings. Cain felt his worship was good (see his angry reaction, Gen. 4:5). Acceptable worship is not defined by how a person feels about it, or by how he feels when he offers it. Billions of souls feel their worship pleases God, yet that does not make it so (Prov. 14:12). God’s word testifies that worship in spirit and truth is “by faith” (Jno. 4:23-24). All other worship, by definition, is not by faith. What is God testifying about the gifts we bring Him? Are they “by faith,” or are they faithless?
“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8, NKJV)
Paul posed this challenging question to Herod Agrippa II during his defense before the king (Acts 26:1-29). It is a question that still drives to the heart of faith or faithlessness of each person (the word translated “incredible” means “without faith”). Either God has the power to raise the dead, or He does not. The God who created life and sustains life has the power to resurrect life from the dead. That was Paul’s premise. Paul was imprisoned and under the threat of death from the Jewish rulers for preaching the resurrection of Jesus (through which God fulfilled His promise to the Jewish fathers, Acts 26:6-7). The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead includes 1) The empty tomb (Lk. 24:1-3), 2) Eyewitness accounts of resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:4-8), 3) The bribes and lies of the enemies of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15), and 4) The Old Testament resurrection prophecies and their fulfillment (Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 2:24-31). It is not faithless to believe God raises the dead. He raised Jesus. One day, He will raise all of us, too (1 Cor. 15:20-23). The faithful will be raised to eternal life, and the faithless will be raised to eternal condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). This is our incentive to believe in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jno. 11:25-27).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (2 Thessalonians 1:3–4, NKJV)
The Thessalonians’ faith, love, and patience were worthy of thanksgiving unto God (1 Thess. 1:2-3). Now, Paul and his companions feel obliged (“bound”) to thank God always for them. Just as their faith, love, and patience had been noteworthy, they continued to evoke gratitude in faithful prayers to the Father. 1) Their faith grew exceedingly. Faith is not static. One mark of spiritual development is the increase of our trust in the Lord. Our daily faith and dependence on the Lord are deepened as we obey His word. 2) Their love of everyone was abundant. Their love was superabundant toward each other. Love is an action word, and their love did not exclude anyone; it includes all. So must ours. 3) They patiently endured persecutions and trials. They did not lose heart in the face of troubles from outside forces. They had set their hope on the Lord, who will right every wrong and comfort the faithful on the day of His coming (2 Thess. 1:5-8). Faith, love, and patience influence the churches of God to remain vigilant in the face of trials. These show that our hope is set on God and not on this world.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (1 Thessalonians 1:2–4, NKJV)
Paul, Silas, and Timothy expressed thanks to God for the Thessalonian saints. Their memory and knowledge of the brethren generated thanksgiving. As they remembered the saint’s faithful lives, they perceived their election (selection) by God. They were God’s chosen ones. This is not the Calvinist perversion that says God unalterably decreed damnation or life before times immemorial (The Westminster Confession of Faith, III, 3-4). God’s elect is those who are saved by the gospel plan of redemption (2 Thess. 2:13-14). God chose the plan of redemption; those who choose to follow His plan are His elect (Eph. 1:3-4). The Thessalonians showed their election by their 1) Work of faith. Their faith was alive due to their obedience (Jas. 2:17-20). If God’s election is unconditional, why would their faith affect their election? 2) Labor of love. Love is responsive, not dormant (Jas. 2:14-17; 1 Jno. 3:16-18). Love’s activity demonstrates one belongs to God; something unconditional election ultimately denies. 3) Patience of hope. Enduring faithfulness is a mark of God’s people. Yet, why endure if God’s election has been “unchangeably designed” from eternity? Unconditional election is a false doctrine that denies free will and gives false hope by perpetuating false faith. Beware!
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2–4, NKJV)
Trials are not pleasant. Adversity, difficulty, anxiety, and uncertainty test our faith in moments of trial. Trials will either provoke us to evil or discipline us for good. They do not remove our free will; trials present us with opportunities to choose faith over fear and patience over provocation. How is this possible? By maintaining this faith-perspective before and during trials: “Count it all joy.” Trials prove (test) our faith, exposing our vulnerabilities and strengths. Faith chooses to endure the trial steadfastly. Faith draws strength from the Lord in the hour of trial, instead of wavering in disbelief (Rom. 4:20). God has promised not to fail or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6). And so, firm endurance fortifies and matures our faith, even as trials would overwhelm us. Joy enables us to endure. Joy turns trials into seedbeds from which mature faith grows. As trials come, may we be content to rely on the Lord while rejoicing in His promises and provisions (Jas. 1:5-8).