Sure and Firm in Faith
Radiant Church’s Lead Pastor Keith Welton continues our series on the Book of Hebrews with a sermon entitled, “Sure and Firm in Faith” on Hebrews 6:13-20. Below, you can listen to his sermon, watch our whole service, and use the outline below for a reference.
Missed last week’s sermon from Pastor Welton entitled, “Warning Against Spiritual Sluggishness”? You can listen to it and watch the whole service here.
Today we are going to talk about having confidence in God. Things can affect our confidence or faith in God.
Merriam-Webster defines Faith as allegiance, trust or belief in someone or something. Faith is used in different ways. One person says he has faith in Jesus. Another person says he has faith that he is going to win the Mega Millions this week. Another person says he has faith he can fly and is going to jump off a building. Is there a difference in these beliefs? Is one more correct to believe than the other? Some of these are wishful thinking at best. Some are ludicrous. But could there be a strong basis to believe one of these?
A main branch of philosophy is epistemology. It is the field of study focused on how we know things. It comes from the Greek word meaning “to know.” Some fields like ontology or metaphysics are concerned with what things are. Epistemology focuses on how we know what is. A couple things that epistemology looks at are the methods and the justification of knowledge.
Justification here is used differently than it is often used in the Bible. Justification is the doctrine that our sins are atoned for. Justification in epistemology is concerned with the basis or reason for believing something to be true (epistemic justification). Justified belief! Belief that is warranted.
It gets at the justification of belief. What are the grounds for the belief you have? Sometimes people believe things without having any grounds for their belief. People often look down on Christians because they see their faith as being against reason.
Baron D’Holbach, atheist philosopher of the Enlightenment said, “to be a good Christian it is essential not to have a brain… All good Christians must be in a state of sweet simplicity, predisposing them to believe things that are not in the least bit credible without a second thought.”
We have always had adversaries. It continues today. But I want you to understand so you can debunk this thinking, so that you can be grounded, and so that you will stand strong in your faith.
We are looking at a passage today that deals with the justification of our belief. In other words it is providing grounds for the hope that we have. It is not an abstract faith, but one that is based on God revealing himself in time and history, in which faith is grounded so that it might be an anchor for the soul. We can rest in who God is, what he has done, and what he promises to do.
Over the last few weeks we have seen several chapters that deal predominantly with warning passages. There have been encouragements sprinkled in, but largely warnings. This week and this chapter, the focus changes. After warning them he wants them to be more rooted, more established, more aware of what God has done so that they will have confidence and not be pulled and pushed by false teaching.
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself: 14 “I will most certainly bless you, and I will greatly multiply you.” 15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. 19 We have this hope– like a sure and firm anchor of the soul– that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:13-20 CSB)
1. God Who Promises
This passage begins with a reminder that God made a promise to Abraham. Before getting into the content of that promise, we have to remind ourselves that we have a view of the world in which there is a God. A God who is. A God who speaks. A God who wants a relationship with his people. A God who has a promise. We live in a fallen world, and our relationship has been marred by sin but not severed. And even in the Fall, God did not give up on his people. He made a promise he would redeem people and restore what was lost in the Fall. He promised there, and he continued with his people and made another promise to them to take them further in their restoration.
A promise is a declaration offering to do something
A Promise binds someone to a course of action. If I promise my kids that I will take them to the store I better not break it. I will never hear the end of it. Even more, they could say that I am not truthful. It would be a fault in my character leading to an inability to trust. God is perfect in all of his ways. There is no falsehood in him. He can be trusted.
2. God Swears by Himself
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself“
It is common today that in order to guarantee someone is telling you the truth, you have that person swear on oath to God. In court, people are sworn in by placing their hand on the Bible and swearing to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
Presidents are sworn in. In January 2021, we saw this oath, “I, Joseph Biden, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and to the best of my ability will preserve and protect the constitution of the United States.”
They appeal to an authority greater than themselves, and if they do not do what they have said, they are subject to the punishment of the one in authority.
So what do you do if you are the highest power in the land, in the world, in the universe. What do you do? You swear by yourself. And this is what God did.
God willingly binds himself to his people by making a promise. If he does not follow through then there is fault in him. He is a liar. He will not do that, even more, as he has revealed himself, lying is not possible for him.
Hebrews quotes Genesis 22 here. In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham in asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham has faith to do what God says.
“and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,'” (Genesis 22:16-17 ESV)
God is making an oath to bless Abraham. This also is not the first time God has done this. This passage is similar to what God did years earlier with Abraham.
Abraham was an old man without children and God said he was going to be the father of nations. It was laughable for Abraham and his wife. They didn’t believe God. And so God tells Abraham to bring him a heifer, goat, and ram, each three years old along with a dove and pigeon. God tells Abraham to cut them in halves and place them opposite each other.
Abraham does this. And after he did it birds of prey came trying to eat the sacrifices, and he had to chase them away.
“That night Abraham fell into a deep sleep, he had a dream of a smoking pot pass between the pieces and God said, ‘To your descendants I give this land…'” (Gen 15:18)
Let me explain this scene. This is a covenant-making act. A covenant is a binding agreement. It is a promise. Animals were often sacrificed for covenant making and the person making the promise passes between the pieces. The symbolism is powerful. “If I do not fulfill what I am saying to you then do to me as has been done to these animals.” It’s like when kids make a promise and say cross my heart and hope to die, but it’s really serious.
What is amazing here is Abraham doesn’t pass through the pieces. Abraham sees a smoking pot pass through.
Just like Americans would look at this image and immediately recognize it, readers would have heard this and immediately thought of God leading his people through the desert by a pillar of fire and smoke. God passes through the pieces in order to show Abraham the inviolable commitment he has to what was spoken to Abraham.
Hebrews is pointing this out. I am crazy to believe I will win the lottery tonight. But if God has spoken it, then it is smart to believe it.
God makes an oath. He says what he is going to do. You can understand what he has and has not said. Note, he never told Abraham it would be easy, but he did say he would bless him. He said those who bless Abraham will be blessed, and those who curse Abraham will be cursed. It means Abraham will be cursed by others, but God’s blessing will triumph. God’s word will triumph, but it is going to be challenging. He had to chase birds away from the sacrifice and was going to have to chase enemies away from God’s call.
“16 For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath,” (Hebrews 6:16-17)
Commitment of the one who promises. God shows his commitment to what he intends to do in the highest possible manner. It’s like a wedding when the husband and wife say “till death do us part.” It’s a strong commitment.
You can trust someone who puts those terms on it.
How committed is God to what he spoke to Abraham! The rest of the Bible is about the unfolding of this promise, how a childless nomad would become the forefather of the Israelites. But even more it shows why God would send his own Son into the world. Sin reminds and is what kept God’s people from being in relationship with them. Jesus will pay the price. God remains just and truthful. He secures a way for God’s people. Thousands of years later God fulfills his promise in the greatest and most secure way. He makes another covenant with his people. This covenant is in the blood of his Son and results in the eternal salvation of his people.
Think how secure your hope is. We have God’s word from thousands of years ago and we see if it is fulfilled in time. You can’t make this up! It is too ironic.
Character of the one who promises.
The Greek word “ametathetos” means pertaining to that which does not change from one state to another – ‘not changing, unchanging, never to change.’ Immutability. God does not change as people do. Not a fickle promise. Not a “had my finger crossed.”
“18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie,” (Hebrews 6:18)
Competency: he is able to do what he said he would do.
Completion of the Promise
19 We have this hope– like a sure and firm anchor of the soul– that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20)
Thousands of years later, this small tribe of people survived, and a king came from their line. He came to bring salvation to them. God in the flesh. He passed through the temple to the altar and laid down his life so that people could be forgiven. He entered on our behalf. God was committed to fulfilling his promise. He died for us. He took away our sin. How else could it be done? Sin is wrong and evil. We are evil. We are separated from his blessing. Jesus our high priest takes sin and atones for it.
This promise made way before Jesus’ time explains why he comes and what he does.
3. Anchor for the Soul
When someone dies how do you know you have any claim to their possession? Often people leave a last will and testament. You have that paper that says grandpa wanted me to have half his estate. My sister gets none. “Testament,” comes from the Latin word meaning “make a witness.” The Greek word Diatheke. Testament is a covenant. A Promise. We speak of the covenant with Abraham. God fulfilled his promise to Abraham making a covenant with Jesus. This is the new covenant in the New Testament.
Even more, God acts in history and then speaks his word to his people so they might have a clear understanding of what he has done and why, often speaking before he does it, then doing it, and then saying why he did it. We have this in the word of God!
“And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” (John 14:29 ESV)
This small church of Hebrews was probably a lot like our church. It had probably been around a while, not a big gathering of people, some are apathetic, some have been beaten down. He is telling them, “Pay attention, don’t grow sluggish in your faith. Speed towards.” When you see the connection between Abraham having to patiently wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled and the Christian having to patiently endure hardship and suffering in waiting for God.
18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)
“And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.” (Act 27:29 ESV)
An anchor holds the boat in a safe place. When waves and wind are raging the anchor goes down deep, fastens onto the ground, and holds the boat so that while many things pull on it the boat does not move. It is not dragged into danger or peril. Our anchor is in the promises of God. If you know these promises they should comfort you, strengthen you, give you confidence.
He has entered on our behalf. He entered for us. He did what we could not do. He did what only God in the flesh could do.
This serves as an anchor for the soul. Abraham would have his faith tested. He would look at his own body at age 100. He was 75 when left Haran, 86 when took Hagar as a wife, 99 when finally had a son. Many mistakes. Many struggles. Conflicts with people, conflicts with nations, much wrestling with God. In the midst of this he was to rely on the promise of God. We are to do the same.
Asphaltos. literally firm, secure (HE 6.19); figuratively, of a state of knowledge certain, reliable, sure; substantivally to. avsfale,j as what is certain or definite the truth, the facts
Holding on to the Anchor. Applying What God has Done for you.
You don’t need God to do more for you than he has already done.
This cannot be taken from me.
We don’t have faith in faith. We don’t have vague optimism. We have faith in the words God has spoken and the acts he has done to confirm them. We are not crazy to believe. We’re crazy not to believe. Faith then, is trust God will do the things he has said he will do.
God has an unchangeable purpose to bless you in Christ Jesus.
You might experience detachment from your struggles, feeling like you must fill the void in your life. Much of our unrest in life comes from us telling ourselves we are sunk, falling, beyond repair. This tells us otherwise. This tells us God has committed to a path and we are wise to walk with him. This tells us God’s desire is to do us good and nothing can stop it. This tells us all of our hopes center on Jesus.
When you feel condemned and restless, know he has made a way. He has made a promise.
When you feel defeated and worthless, know he made a promise to you. He has made a way.
When you feel lost in this world and as though everything is crashing down upon you blocking you, he has made a way. He has promised.
When life is falling apart, you feel your own body give way, Job cried out: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 ESV). Job was grieving much loss, in deep anguish and confusion. We may see people in difficult times and situations, languishing in their circumstance, but hope they can turn to him. Hope is that they can call on his name. They can find an anchor.
This is your assurance. This is a justified belief. He has communicated in the strongest possible way his intent to save and bless those who are in Christ Jesus.