Hebrews 6:11–12 (ESV) — And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The assurance of our salvation, is a topic most believers wrestle with at one time or another during their lifetimes. For some, the wrestling comes to a crisis point and is settled once for all in their hearts and minds. In others, there are seasons of greater assurance and lesser assurance. And when such assurance wanes, it can be excruciating. Hopelessness can set in. And a certain paralysis of soul. The writer to the Hebrews denominates it as being spiritually “sluggish” (Heb. 6:12).
I like that word sluggish in this context, because of its descriptiveness – both in what it says, and in what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say the one lacking assurance is lost because of it, but merely hindered from making faster spiritual progress. Like being mired in mud. The word can mean lazy in some contexts – perhaps most. But it can also mean hard of hearing. It seems to me that is more likely the idea here. First, there is an injunction to be earnest in pursuing our assurance, and then the warning that in not doing so, it can result in this sluggishness. And lastly, an encouragement that by faith and patience, we will inherit the promises of God in full.
If you are exercised about your own assurance of salvation – I’ve got good news. This is something Christians wrestle with. The lost don’t usually care unless the Spirit is drawing them to Christ. It is a good sign. And, your striving to settle that issue is also good. It is not a sign something is wrong – but rather, that something is right. Here, the Writer says “we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” He is commending those who pursue it. He is saying “good for you – keep at it!” This is a worthy pursuit.
What this text also does, is give us two tools in accomplishing that goal. 1. Faith. 2. Patience.
Faith. Faith is – believing that what God has said is true, and then ordering my life accordingly. And when it comes to one’s salvation this is THE absolute essential.
Now our faith can’t be in just anything, it has to be in what God has said. This is why using our feelings to give us assurance of salvation, or examining our actions, or taking someone else’s word for it is never sufficient. One of these may seem to give us assurance for a time, but it soon fades. Feelings change. We sin, and people can be wrong. The only sure thing I can trust is God Himself. So we turn to a passage such as 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” or, John 20:30–31 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
We see there that believing in Jesus’ name, that He is the Son of God, that He died as our substitute sin-bearer and rose again that those who put there trust in Him might have eternal life. And we say: “that’s it! My trust is in Him. He died, so that those who trust Him, have salvation.” And I go no further. I rest my faith is in His person and work. Trusting Him. No one an nothing else. Him. He died. He paid for my sin. He took my punishment. He rose for my justification. He sent His Spirit to sanctify me. He is coming back to receive to Himself all those who look for His appearing. He is my righteousness. I look to the cross and nowhere else. Jesus is the Savior – and I have His salvation by trusting that He saves those who come to Him for forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father through the blood of His cross. And I make my mind stand there and stay there. To use a somewhat vulgar phrase – we bet everything on Him, and hedge our bet with nothing else. End of story. I make it my work – to keep my eyes fixed only on Him. This is how I earnestly pursue my assurance.
But, then, there is patience. Patience with myself, knowing my remaining sinfulness and recognizing I won’t have everything in full reality until He comes. And patience in the intervening years until He does come. This is the endurance that goes along with faith. It is sticking to the one and only hope, and refusing to let my eyes look anywhere else, my ears hear anything else in this regard, or my heart hope in anything else. As Psalm 39:7 says “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” It is not in my performance, my church, my friend’s opinions, the preacher’s persuasiveness, my feelings, my baptism – nothing else but – YOU!
Beloved, assurance can come from but one place – believing God. Every day. Over and over. Running back to His promise to save all those that come to Him and that He turns none away who do come. And as we renew our trust in Him every time it wavers, over time, our assurance grows. Patiently believe. He is the Savior – you do not save yourself. You take Him at His word. And rejoice.