The book of Hebrews has several passages urging believers to persevere so they can obtain the full assurance of their salvation. The passage is on Hebrews 10:19-31 can be seen like a crescendo leasing the believers into an understanding of the essential key to their perseverance in Christian life – Faith. This perseverance can be seen in the believer’s practical “assembling together” and in their deep commitment to “suffer along” with other believers.
The Christian Assembly
Jesus has opened up to us a new and living way into the Most Holy Place through his death. This message should awake us to draw near to God with full assurance that only faith can bring. However the Christian will experience hardships, persecutions and even his own lethargy to continue this walk of faith. This is where the Christian’s assembling together (episynagōgēn) will be another way to spur oneself into deeper faith. While the Christian experiences salvation in a very deep personal individualistic way by putting his faith in Jesus Christ, there is an aspect of Christian fellowship that is also key to motivating each other into this deeper faith. Persecution and shame experience by believers due to their association with each other should not cause them to abandon this key support system to keep them growing.
The passage in Hebrews 10:26-31 is one of the five warnings about apostasy in Hebrews (2:1–4; 3:7 – 4:13; 6:4–8; 10:26–31; 12:25–29). Each of these warnings are also followed by an encouragement that the author thinks the audience are not “those who shrink back” but need to be aware of the judgement they are being redeemed from. The saving grace of God through Jesus Christ does not downplay in any way the consequence of sin and its deadly judgement from God.
In one sense, the author is building the same message that Habakkuk paints in his short poetic book about the judgement of God. The judgement of God is severe against sin and disobedience especially for those who know the truth and decide to ignore it or find a work around to justify themselves. All the author expect is for the Christian to persevere through faith along while doing the will of God. This is not a matter of work “harder” but holding on and NOT throwing away one’s confidence in God.
Just shall live by Faith
The passage “Just shall live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom 1:17, Gal. 3:11 and here in Heb 10:38) from Habakkuk 2. The passage in Habakkuk 2 is a revelation from God, after Habakkuk wearily prays about God’s puzzling revelation about this plan to judge the kingdom of Judah using a nation that is even more evil than themselves (Babylon).
For the New Testament observers, the passage highlights the undeniable judgement that will come upon Israelite’s (Jews) and the Babylonians (Gentiles)- preserving only those who “live by faith.” St. Paul uses this verse in his epistles to demonstrate that our salvation, or really our justification, is by faith apart from works. However, the Hebrews author has a subtle variance as he/she is talking about our own ongoing sanctification and growth is by faith alone.
The Christian endures trails in his life not by knowledge, wisdom, skill, experience, inheritance or even hard work but entirely by faith – just like how he was saved. This is the walk of faith as stated in Col. 2:6 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.” But how do you define Faith and what does it actually look like, Hebrews 11 comfortable picks up that topic with terse definition and a list of practitioner’s examples of such faith.