************ Sermon on Hebrews 6:9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 10, 2016
"Confident of Better Things"
With the recent death of Nancy Reagan, more than one news article took us on a trip down memory lane. We were reminded of the Reagan presidency. You need to realize things were not going well when Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter as president. The staff of the American Embassy was being held hostage in Iran. The Soviet Union was threatening us at home and abroad. The Arab states were jacking up oil prices. We had a soaring unemployment rate. We had double digit inflation and double digit interest rates. I remember more than one family renewing a one-year mortgage for 22-23% and hoping and praying the interest rate would come down before the year was over.
You know what got Reagan elected. His sunny optimism. His promise that better days are here again. His attitude that we can make America right again. The idea that we can overcome any difficulties.
In tonight's text we see that the author of Hebrews has the same kind of optimism. "We are confident," he says in our text to the Hebrew Christians, "of better things in your case."
This text leaves me with two questions. First, what are the better things Hebrews is talking about? Second, better as compared to what; or, to put it another way, what are the bad things that need improvement? These are the two points we want to look at in reverse order.
I Bad Things that Need Improvement
A The book of Hebrews, if you remember, was written to Jewish Christians in the late A.D. 60s. Persecution was a real problem at that time. And, because of the persecution, some of the Jewish Christians were willing to give up the Gospel and return to the Jewish faith.
The author of Hebrews cannot look into people's hearts. He does not know who will leave Jesus for Moses. So he continually warns His audience against falling away. His fervent wish and prayer is that all remain in the faith, that all remain true to Jesus, that none fall away.
The language he uses for the church only reinforces his concern. Earlier, in chapter 2, we saw that Jesus calls believers His brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11); what a dear, sweet term to use for the congregation! Like Jesus, the author of Hebrews speaks tenderly to the church. He calls them "dear friends" or "dear ones." The language he uses for the church and the warning he gives indicates he loves the people and deeply cares for them.
B Ever since Judas became a disciple of Christ, the Christian community has always included people who claim faith without really possessing it. Most, if not all, churches have members who are not saved even though these members may claim salvation.
Last time we looked at the false believers. We said they were apostate. From all outward appearances, it looked like these members of the Christian community had the light of the gospel, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the Word of God, and experienced the powers of the coming age (cf Heb 6:4-6). And, yet, they fell away. These apostates, says Hebrews, cannot be brought back to repentance and will be judged harshly (Heb 6:6-8).
C The apostasy of these people hurt the entire Jewish Christian community. True members had enjoyed fellowship with them: they prayed together, worshiped together, sang together, broke bread together, served together. "They went out from us," cried John. "But their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 Jn 2:19). Just like that, what seemed like a sweet relationship in the Lord was revealed to be a lie. The apostate could no longer be considered brothers and sisters and dear friends. The relationship was broken. Trust was shattered. Unity was fractured. The members of the church mourned and cried over the apostate because they were in danger of being cursed and burned (Heb 6:8).
But we can say more. Last time I said that apostasy can so easily look like back-sliding. You know what I am talking about. I am talking about those who used to attend worship twice each Sunday, and then once, and then come only once or twice a month, and then even that drops off. I am talking about those who rarely read the Bible and pray anymore. I am talking about those who don't participate anymore in the life of the church. I am talking about those who no longer grow in the faith and in godliness; instead, they are going backwards. All of this is as real in Trinity as it was among the Hebrew Christians.
Apostasy and back-sliding are the bad things Hebrews has in mind. We need to realize, dear friends, that apostasy and back-sliding are always possible. Yet, as Hebrews says in our text, we can be "confident of better things."
II Better Things to Come
A So, what are the better things Hebrews has in mind?
Hebrews does not have in mind the same sorts of things Ronald Reagan had in mind. Reagan's better days included the defeat of the U.S.S.R., the freedom of Eastern Europe, lower oil prices, lower interest rates, higher employment rate, lower inflation rate, and so on.
"Dear friends, we are confident of better things" (Heb 6:9). To this confidence are attached two qualifiers, two conditions. First, Hebrews adds, "in your case" (Heb 6:9). Hebrews is not talking about society at large. Hebrews is not talking about the cities of Jerusalem and Rome. Hebrews is not talking about Greek society and culture. Rather, Hebrews is talking about Christians, Jewish Christians, brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ, friends of the Gospel and of the Lord. After going through the sadness and turmoil of apostasy and back-sliding, the Hebrew Christians can expect better things.
There is a second qualifier: "things that accompany salvation" (Heb 6:9). "Dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation." Earlier, Hebrews listed a number of things that accompany salvation: being enlightened by the gospel, tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of the Word of God, and experiencing the powers of the coming age (cf Heb 6:4-6). However, to all outward appearances, those who were apostate shared in all of these gifts too. So, Hebrews has something else in mind.
What is wrong with the list of things I just mentioned? What is missing or lacking in this list of things that accompany salvation? It is all so subjective, so man-centered, based on what we feel and see and do. Because we are sinners, this is building our confidence on a house of cards, on shifting sand. Instead of looking at you and me and our experience, our confidence of better things needs to be built on the rock that is Christ. Which is precisely what we see Hebrews doing.
B So, what does Hebrews have in mind? "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" (Heb 6:10).
Why can we be confident of better things? Hebrews states it negatively: God will not forget; God will not forget your work and your love. Hebrews could also have stated it positively: God will remember; God will remember your work and your love. We can be confident of better things because God does not forget, because God remembers. God forgets nothing. God remembers everything. He knows and He sees our work and our love.
Man is not like that. Over time, we tend to forget the good that people do for us. And, over time, even dear friends can forget the good we have done for them.
But God remembers your work. We are talking about work for the Lord, for the church, for the kingdom, for the Gospel. God remembers that you faithfully prepared Sunday School lessons week after week and year after year. God remembers that you showed up every week for choir practice. God remembers that you served as a Cadet or GEMS counselor and as a youth leader. God remembers that you served on the board of CVC, Love INC, Sierra Village, Bethany, TKRL, and so on. God remembers that you visited the prisoner every week and led Bible Study and corrected the answers that were sent to Cross Roads Bible Institute. God remembers that you held church office. God remembers that you went on a mission trip to Mexico. God remembers that you helped out with VBS or TASC. God remembers that you served on a committee of the church or school. God remembers that you helped out in the nursery or sound-room. This list is not complete because, unlike God, I am sure I have overlooked all sorts of work. But God remembers. God doesn't forget.
And, God remembers your love. According to Hebrews, when we help God's people we are showing love to God. God remembers when you help a brother or sister with funeral expenses. God remembers when you provide someone a place to stay. God remembers when you give meals to the sick and mourning. God remembers when you visit the sick and the shut-in. God remembers when you help someone with Christian School tuition. God remembers when you help someone move. God remembers. God doesn't forget.
Not that any of this work or love will save you. Not that any of this work or love can help to save you. Because even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
Yet, out of grace, God promises to reward our work and our love (Mt 5:12; Heb 11:6; 2 Tim 4:7-8). When we faithfully work for the church and kingdom and Gospel, when we show love to God by loving each other, we are storing up treasures for ourselves in heaven (Mt 6:20) -- treasures that are ours to enjoy when we come into the presence of God.
Do you see why Hebrews can be confident of better things? Instead of apostasy that results in judgment and fire, instead of back-sliding and barely escaping the flames (cf 1 Cor 3:15), we end up with God's commendation. He says to us, "Well done my good and faithful servant."
C "We are confident of better things" (Heb 6:9). Above all, I hope you see our confidence is in God, His faithfulness, His love, and the salvation and grace He gives us in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of God in Christ that we persevere instead of slide into apostasy. It is because of God in Christ that we persevere instead of back-slide. It is because of God in Christ that we are able to do our work for the church and kingdom and Gospel. It is because of God in Christ that we are able to love God by loving one another.
It is because of God in Christ that we can be confident of better things.
Does this mean we just sit back and let it happen? It is true that it is God Who "carries us along" to maturity (Heb 6:1, 3). And, it is true that it is only God Who gives the growth (1 Cor 3:7). Yet, it is also true that the believer must do his or her part. Our work and our love demands diligent effort (Heb 6:11–12). We are warned not to be lazy (Heb. 6:12). We are told to apply ourselves to the spiritual resources God has given us. We have the promises from God. We should exercise faith and patience and claim these promises for ourselves! So, I say to you, keep on working, keep on loving. And have this assurance: the Lord does not forget; the Lord remembers.
It is so sad when we see people drifting in the faith. It is sad when people are sluggish in the faith. It is sad when we see no change and no growth. It is sad when we don't see people being excited and enthusiastic about the Lord Jesus. But it is even sadder when people forsake the Lord.
"Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation" (Hb 6:9).
Thanks be to God that we have this confidence of better days and better things.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page