The idea of pursuing righteousness, of a fruit-producing faith, seems so far beyond our everyday lives in this sin-drenched world. It might seem impossible, and, as we know, impossible tasks cause one to lose hope. In his De Trinitate, a fourth-century treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity, Augustine mentions a principle that all teachers implicitly understand: “the more hope anyone has of coming by such a competence the more ardent is his love for it. You put more passion into your study of a discipline if you do not despair of being able to master it. But if you have no hope at all of acquiring a thing, you are lukewarm in your love for it or you do not love it at all, even though you are quite aware how beautiful it is.” It might seem like this task of maintaining an active faith is impossible, an unattainable goal, but the author of Hebrews holds out to us a number of hope-producing spiritual realities to encourage us on our way. In fact, his desire is not that we be terrified by the warning, but, rather, encouraged by the promise, so that “each one of you …show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end (Heb. 6:11).” He gives us a couple of reasons, not to fear, but to have a steadfast hope:
First of all, some of those who precede us in the faith obtained the promise that they were seeking. These are the ones we are called to imitate. He points us, for example, to Abraham, who “having patiently waited, obtained the promise (Heb. 6:15)”. Those we are called to imitate received the promise. If they obtained the promise, then, if we are not sluggish, if we do not turn away, so will we (consider how those in Hebrews 11 “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one [Heb. 11:15-16]”).
Secondly, they obtained the promise, not so much because they had any “staying power”—not because they successfully made it to the end of the final round—but, rather, for two key reasons:
- Because of who made the promise. God gave the promise, and “he guaranteed it with an oath (Heb. 6:17)”. This, for the author of Hebrews, gives us courage to stand fast, to hold on, to not look back or turn away (Heb. 6:18). The One who made the promise is, Himself, unchanging. He is immutable, impassible, eternal, and His will is unchanging. If God said that he is holding an inheritance for us, then we will receive that inheritance.
- Because of how the promise was made. God “swore by himself” because “he had no one greater by whom to swear” (Heb. 6:13). That God made the promise, is itself sufficient to have hope. But that’s not all, He made an oath, and swore by himself. The author of Hebrews says, “so that by two unchangeable things [the promise and the oath], 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 (Heb. 6:18).”
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:19-20, my italics)” Or, as in the NET Bible, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” We know, then, that we are in Christ and that we will obtain the salvation for which we hope.
This is not a vain hope—like Boston Bruins fans who still hope their team will win the Stanley Cup. Rather, this an absolutely certain hope—it is Jesus Christ himself. He it is who has gone into the inner place behind the veil to offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners whom he saves (Heb. 6:20; 9:11-13, 15, 24-28). He has entered the heavenly holy of holies—the very presence of God, and opened the way for us to enter. “Therefore, brothers”, says the author of Hebrews, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:19-22).”
Jesus Christ is the anchor of our soul—our living hope—beyond the veil.
David Haines, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy
- Pray that we each would live in in light of Christ as our anchor.
- Pray that God would supply the full funding of this year’s Serious Joy Scholarships.
- Pray for a restful and joyful Christmas break for our students and faculty.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The Bethlehem Conference for Pastors at the end of January.
Augustine, The Trinity, bk. X, 1.2, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John E. Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1991/2015), 289.