There is a word that forms a conspicuous thread through the book of Hebrews – HOPE! The writer insists that believers must be “Anchored In Hope.” His insistence is seen in phrases such as, “hold fast (Hebrews 3:6; 10:23) “show…diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end,” (6:11) “fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us,” (6:18) “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,” (6:19) and, “the bringing in of a better hope.” (7:19) (all emphases mine)
In this article, we shall examine the necessity of persevering HOPE in the life of the believer. We will attempt to empathize with the writer who lays bare his burden to turn his brethren from their impending error toward apostasy, to completely embrace the finished work of Christ as their one and only hope for redemption and eternal life.
Hope is anticipation, (usually with joy), and confident expectations, especially expectations of things not yet seen – things yet future. The apostle expresses this in chapter 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” When one comes to Jesus, he or she comes in response to two things: God’s promise and His oath. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath….” (Hebrews 6:16,17) They come with the expectation that God will accomplish His promises, both here, and in the world to come. God, Who cannot lie, promised. Therefore, we can trust Him to forgive our sins, to make us new creatures when we come to Him, repenting of our sins of unbelief, and accepting the provision He has made for us in Christ. Moreover, He swore by Himself, the infinite God, that His promise would be kept. Now, let us look further at what the Apostle shares with us concerning this vital subject.
First, “This hope,” has a specific and particular basis. It is not based on things from the past, as the Old Testament System to which erring Jews were inclined to revert. Here, we need to recognize that there are always some who look to their own righteousness or goodness for their justification, as well as those who keep calling up in their minds past sins which have been forgiven, covered by the blood of Christ. Although we need to strive to become more and more like Christ, we can never be justified by our own good works or self-righteousness. Our hope must be in Christ and by the grace of God.
Second, hope is a possession of the believer. It is imperative that it not be neglected, but that it be nurtured and undergirded by continual and joyous practice. Obvious ways for nurturing hope are prayer, Bible Study, Christian fellowship, and service. The believer expects justification by grace, through simple faith in the finished work of Christ. And he or she confidently expects and joyfully anticipates the watch care of the Lord, His enablement for service, His assurance of continual fellowship, and an entrance into heaven and eternal life when this earthly life is over.
Third, Hope is an anchor of the soul. The writer first mentions the soul of man in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In this verse, we see that we humans are complex beings. We are soul, spirit, body (joints and marrow) mind, heart – complex creatures to say the least. Moreover, it seems that mankind’s most prized possession is his soul. This is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Moreover, our anchor is sure and steadfast. By the word, sure, the writer emphasizes the certainty and safety that we enjoy when we are anchored in hope. It was to a sense of certainty that the apostle was calling his readers. They needed to be fully convinced of what the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ had accomplished for them, and to feel safe relying on it. The apostle’s target audience needed also to feel the steadfastness, that is, the firmness of the basis of hope in God’s promises. All that he is saying reverts to where their hope began; they had “entered the Presence behind the veil.”
Notice capitalization of the word, Presence. The Presence behind the veil is that of the Holy God. The veil through which they entered was Christ, the Mediator, their forever High Priest. In Hebrews 9:14, the apostle exclaimed, “Christ…through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, (to) cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” In the next chapter, he concludes, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, Heb 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,… (Hebrews 10:20-22) (emphases mine) How beautifully and effectively the apostle makes the case for our safety and security as believers!
The writer of Hebrews affirms how important it is to have one’s soul anchored in hope, which hope keeps us secure, both positionally, and practically. It is imperative that we be confident concerning our position in Christ – forgiven, reconciled to God, new creations, becoming more and more like Christ by the sanctification of the Spirit and the Word. In the true sense of the phrase, ‘it is a matter of life and death. In Him, we are seen in God’s eyes as righteous as He is righteous. We are kept and sustained by His grace and His Spirit.
Pastor, song-writer, Lawrence Chewning, tells of a traumatic year in his life which he and his wife called ‘our year of sorrow.’ That year, Chewning’s father had died and his wife had experienced her third miscarriage. He began to spend a lot of time playing the piano, ‘alone with God.’ Out of those experiences, he wrote a song entitled, “The Anchor Holds,” which has proved a blessing to thousands of troubled souls. It has been my joy to share it on numerous occasions. It has been a favorite of the songs that I have sung during my ministry.
The writer of this Letter (whom I believe to be the apostle, Paul) experienced an almost continuous series of circumstances, an almost overwhelming burden upon his soul due to opposition primarily from his own countrymen. If anyone ever had reason to be discouraged, to lose hope, it was this apostle. But, in Heb 10:39, he affirms his attitude of resolve, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them, that believe to the saving of the soul.”
In my college studies, I recall a poignant comment by theologian, Edward Carnell, that I want to leave with you He said, “With the death of hope, comes the hope for death.” Everybody needs hope! Hope for survival; hope for happiness; hope for victorious living. This is most important where our eternal soul is concerned. We must make sure that our hope is anchored in the all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. As the apostle urged, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10;23)
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