Hebrews 10:32-39 Only time will reveal the authenticity of man’s faith
Remember the former days, the virtues that have brought you thus far and never lose sight of them!… says the author. In the face of growing prosperity among the younger generation of believers, the author reminded them of the importance of perseverance and authentic faith. True faith is revealed by standing in empathy with those suffering. True faith stands the test of time through perseverance in doing God’s will while rejecting temptations and remaining steadfast. A chinese proverb says, “Distance tests a horse’s stamina and time reveals a person’s heart.”
32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
The author reminded the people of the values system and mindset that had brought them from poverty to riches. The context of the great conflict of sufferings could be political or racial. One possible scenario was the expulsion of Jews from Rome by emperor Claudius in AD 49. The Jews faced eviction from their homes and the looting of their possessions. They were also publicly humiliated as a race (public spectacle). Some Christians chose to stand with those mistreated, facing emotional trauma and plundering of their possessions. Those faithful to God were willing to stand with those mistreated even at the risk of losing their property.
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
The next generation of believers was in danger of losing their virtuous instincts that led them thus far. They were reminded of their boldness in standing tall in the face of tribulation, which is the key to their great reward. Therefore, in order for believers to receive what was promised, they must endure and persevere in doing the will of God regardless of circumstances. The blessings of the new covenant can only be obtained by perseverance and not straying from His commission.
37 For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. 38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
This quote is lifted from Habakkuk 2:3-4 when God was about to discipline the Israelites by the hand of Babylon.
He who is coming will come, and will not delay. The author endeavors to encourage believers to persevere in the midst of tribulation being convinced that God’s salvation will not delay. God’s words to Habakkuk were reassuring: the prophecy awaits an appointed time and one must wait for its fulfillment. For those in Judah was about to experience the awesome Babylonian invasion and captivity, this assurance of fulfillment should have been a great comfort. In his quote, the author stressed the messianic significance of this passage in Habakkuk. The day is coming when the King of kings will reign on earth with perfect justice. Believers must continue to do what is right and refrain from evil until Christ comes.
But My righteous one shall live by faith. The people of God (the righteous) shall persevere in living in the truth and do His will. Faith towards God is expressed in persevering obedience to His will regardless of circumstances. The authenticity of one’s faith is tested in the face of multiple challenges. Therefore, the righteous are tested and proven in the crucible of tribulations and those who persevere to the end are true sons of God.
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
If one disobeys God in shrinking back from doing what is right, if he strays from the commission that God has given, God is in no uncertain terms displeased with him. In other words, salvation belongs to those who persevere to the end in doing God’s will. Those who no longer regard Christ as the Lord of their lives are shrinking back from the path of truth and turning to destruction. However, those who continue to live in obedience to God will preserve their soul for internal life.
We must continue to uphold the values that give us success. Most people start to slack on the very values that promoted them the moment they gain some success. One may appear humble when he is just starting out. But as soon as he gets promoted, he looks down on his ex-peers and distant himself from them. As a result, many stop progressing because they abandon the virtues that have been propelling them forward. Therefore, the author said, “But remember the former days…” And again he said, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence…” Prosperity may change a person’s circumstances, but it should never change the virtues that exalted him. Blessings should reinforce our values system and cause us to grow deeper into the virtues of Christ.
True faith involves an expenditure of personal time and resources to help others. I have seen the rich giving away their wealth only after they have lost the strength to enjoy them. I have also seen many believers verbalizing concerns for the poor and earnestly praying for them, but do not invest time to serve them. The author praised his readers for becoming sharers with those who were so treated… and showed sympathy to the prisoners. They inconvenienced themselves and risked the loss of their property just to stand in empathy with those who were suffering. True expressions of faith must involve an expenditure of personal time and resources. James taught regarding faith,
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “ Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:15-18
We cannot be certain of one’s faith unless he displays personal sacrifices and gives away a major part of himself and his resources to help others.
Faith is not a matter of understanding alone but of conviction. Many churchgoers incessantly assure themselves of their salvation through God’s promises but continually fall into doubt. They understand the doctrine of salvation and can rehearse it by memory. They celebrate the grace of God weekly and partake of the Holy Communion. The truth is, they have never been convicted by the Word and the values system of Christ. Christ to them is supposedly a guarantee of freedom from eternal punishment while remaining unchanged in their life of wantonness. Still, many attracted by the prospect of unconditional love and blessings committed themselves to Christ, but quickly stray away after seeing some more attractive options. They suppose they can still repent when judgment looms at their deathbed.
God explicitly said, “My righteous one shall live by faith… if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him…” The authenticity of a man’s faith will be revealed at the end of his life journey. A Chinese proverb says, “Distance tests a horse’s stamina and time reveals a person’s heart.” (路遥知马力，日久见人心). A man’s heart for God will be tested through a series of temptations and tribulations. How can a married couple know the depth of their love and commitment towards each other?… But those who grow ever deeper in love despite diverse temptations and tribulations.
- Are you more gracious and righteous today as compared to yesterday? Are you steadfast in the truth despite the trials and betrayals that others have brought upon you. Are you the same person who is humble and passionate in the things of God as you were years ago?
- Do you find yourself progressing or regressing in the work of the kingdom? Or do you give yourself excuses that you are now in a different phase of life? Our love for God and compassion for others must continue to grow as we mature in the likeness of Christ.
Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me of the virtues that have prospered me. Help me see success and trials as means to grow deeper in the virtues of Christ. Fill me with your Spirit and strengthen me as I devote more time and resources to serve others. Bless me and strengthen the foundations of my finances, my family, and my church. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.