Reference: Hebrews 10:19 to 12:3
Having established Jesus’s superiority over the laws and proving that He is our High Priest in heaven, the author calls his listeners to hold on to their faith. Citing the faith on display in the actions of the forefathers, the author challenges their audience to let faith lead them in their walks with Christ.
The author proceeds to lay down several challenges before their readers. The first challenge is to draw near God with a sincere heart (Hebrews 10:22). The early church had been through its ups and downs but at this juncture, it was experiencing a mass exodus. An exodus of people away from the truth and towards the traditions of the past. The author wants these men and women to hold on unswervingly to the hope they professed and spur one another towards that common goal.
In order to achieve this, the second challenge that the author lays down is to not give up meeting one another in the form of fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). The first two challenges are remarkably similar to Jesus’s two “greatest commandments”, loving God and loving our brethren. Corporate worship does have its benefits. We get to see people face similar situations and see how God led them out of their problems. Worshipping God in a corporate setting will help us encourage each other during the ebb and flow of our spiritual journey. The author calls us to spur each other towards love and good deeds.
However, nowadays people are abstaining from in-person meetings and are abandoning their fellowships. One reason could be the explosion of online churches after the COVID-enforced lockdowns throughout the world. This has given people the convenience to worship God in their living room, kitchen and even from their bedrooms.
Another reason for the changing tide is that fellowship has become just another activity that one does with their family, and it is not attributed to building a relationship with God. Since people are not experiencing the real benefits of fellowship and are satisfied with experiencing only superficial ones, they are content with building relationships with other church members rather than connecting with God.
People are trying to unite with God through one another and are thus dependent on the crowds around them. However, the crowds have their own agenda, and it is keeping people from coming closer to God. Seeing all these problems with fellowship and the convenience of Church at home, people are slowly moving away from corporate worship.
Today, organic food is very difficult to source and even if a brand promises the purity of its ingredients there is a high probability of adulteration in everything we consume. Even after knowing this fact, we do not give up eating altogether and are getting by with whatever is available in our local grocery store. But when it comes to our fellowship, we expect the purest variety and when we do not find it, we abandon it altogether. We feel we don’t need fellowship like we need food and thus our different standards. We make concessions for other things in our lives that are not perfect but don’t extend the same leniency to our fellowships.
During our school days, we prepared for our exams on our own but in topics where we struggled, we sought help from our teachers or study groups. If it were the reverse where we depended heavily on our study group, we would have never learnt anything. Similar to our spiritual walks, we need to put in the work to understand God’s will for our life. Without having an understanding about God or His will for our lives, if we simply join a fellowship, we will be lost completely.
The third ask from the author was for their audience to challenge themselves from not deliberately sinning even after receiving the knowledge of the truth (Hebrews 10:26). Since there was no sacrifice left for those who are rejecting God’s greatest Sacrifice, His Son who replaced us on the cross. And the last challenge is not really a challenge but a trip down memory lane. The author wants the church of Jesus to seek inspiration from their own past experiences and the experience of those around them which will help them preserve their faith through the next phase of their spiritual journeys.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.Hebrews 10:32 (NIV)
We can draw inspiration from our past failures and successes. Our past experiences give us encouragement to not go back. When we are experiencing the disbelief of people, we have to remember that once we were like that and God’s grace lifted us up then. There is a big difference between data and information. Are we going blindly by the data before us or discerning the right information that can have highly varied outcomes. With the right context, remembering God’s mercy sees us through our problems but having nostalgia derived from incorrectly remembering the sequence of events can have a negative impact on us.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.Hebrews 10:36 (NIV)
Applicability matters a lot when we look at the experiences of other people around us. We need to take inspiration from people of God rather than people of the world and that too after applying it to our current situation.
Living by Faith
In the next section, the author proceeds to list examples of faith in action. Starting from the very universe that obeyed its Master’s voice during its creation to the founding forefathers of Israel, leaders and prophets, ruthless judges and just kings, all exhibited the faith that they had in God and thus furthered His agenda.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)
When God interrogated Cain on his brother’s whereabouts, He said that Abel’s blood was crying out to Him (Genesis 4:10). Abel still speaks because of his innocence and his faith in God that made him bring a rightful offering before the alter of the Lord. Because of the promise of eternal life and because of his faith he still speaks today even though he was killed at the hands of his brother Cain.
Abraham spent his life as a nomad, living out of tents. His faith was in a promised land that he had not seen. He left his family and his hometown in search of this promised land without even giving it a second thought. He and his wife Sarah did not even have kids but still, he had faith in God who was going to make him the father of an entire nation.
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.Hebrews 11:11-12 (NIV)
Sarah on the other hand did not share in the faith of Abraham. She actually laughed at God when He came to meet them at their tent and deliver the news of her womb being opened. Even after being questioned by God, she vehemently lies and continues to dwell in her unbelief. Only after she conceived did she believe in God and put her faith in Him. Abrahams’s faith could have only inspired Sarah, but she had to make the Journey to find God in her life on her own.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.Hebrews 11:13 (NIV)
Faith Made Perfect
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.Hebrews 11:39-40 (NIV)
When the forefathers put their faith in God, they were expecting something which they did not see during their lifetime. On the other hand, we are marching forward looking back at Christ’s sacrifice on the cross more than two thousand years ago. It is because of what Jesus did in our lives, that their faith is made perfect through us.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:3 (NIV)
Whenever we go through our trials and tribulations, remember that even Jesus had the greatest of opposition when the creator of the world was tortured by the world He formed. We have to consider Jesus as a human during His time on earth for us to truly appreciate the extent of HIs suffering. We can take a look at the faith of the forefathers but only learn from Christ’s time on earth. Unlike the forefathers, Jesus did not focus on those that were opposing Him but kept His focus only on His Father and the accomplishment of His will. When we are struggling with the problems of this world, we have to focus on God and His kingdom, and His Joy should drive us in achieving the goals that He has set out for us.
- 1. What is the need for fellowship? What are some of the reasons why people are giving up meeting together in today’s context?
- 2. Is it beneficial to seek inspiration from the past?
- 3. How does Abel speak even after his death?
- 4. How did Sarah exhibit her faith?
- 5. How is the author making this assumption about Abraham?
- 6. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:39-40 (NIV) How do we make the forefathers perfect?
- 7. What does the author want us to learn from Jesus?