My newly published commentary, Understanding the Book of Hebrews, was a thrill to write. It covers subjects generally obscure to most believers. Here is a portion of commentary on just two verses. The whole of the book will cause you to understand faith in a fresh and liberating way.
Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
When God doesn’t take pleasure in you, you end up in perdition. As long as you believe, God has great pleasure in you. When you draw back from believing God concerning the efficaciousness of his blood, he ceases to have pleasure in you and damns you to perdition. How could he take someone to heaven who despises his birthright and counts the blood wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing?
The text assumes there are two possibilities: either you continue believing until he comes back and your soul is saved, or you draw back from faith and end up in perdition—hell. The overriding theme of the passage is encouragement to persevere in faith. If you surmise this is totally contrary to Calvinism, welcome to the world of plain sense Biblical studies. There is a reason they call it Calvinism or Lutheranism (after two men who profess to have “sinful natures” and no free will) rather than Biblicalism.
Reflections on the doctrine of security of the believer
Many denominations, loosely dubbed Arminian (in contrast to Calvinist), like the Methodist, all Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, Church of the Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventists, Mennonite and Amish, Anabaptist, Churches of Christ, etc. interpret these verses and many others to be a warning to not draw back into sin lest you lose your salvation. Ever since the early church, Christians have been divided on this issue, more often coming down on the side that you are in danger of losing your salvation through sinning. The Bible clearly teaches security of the believer, and it clearly teaches that only those who endure in faith will be saved. It depends on which group of verses you reject and which you cling to as to which side of the issue you are on. But there are clear excesses on both sides.
Confused? Pay attention to the passage. It does not say that a certain level of righteousness must be maintained if one is to keep his salvation. It says one must remain in the faith. None of us will ever persevere in good works sufficient to acquire or maintain our salvation. If any sin of any kind causes us to go into perdition, then all sin would damn us every time. At best, we would be saved then damned many times each day.
The grace of God covers every sin except unbelief. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The Bible teaches security of the believer. It does not teach security of the unbeliever. Properly understood, Bible doctrine espouses that sinners are saved by believing, and those who continue to believe are the same ones who will be saved in the end. The Bible message is that great sinners are saved by a little faith—ever trusting in his finished work while repudiating personal works as of any value to produce or maintain salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5; 11:6).
This passage and many like it may leave less mature Christians feeling very uncomfortable, for when any of us look within to measure our faith we find little. We read The just shall live by faith and we ask ourselves, “Do I live by faith? Do I ever draw back from faith?” We, like the apostles, feel the need to say, “Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:5–6). Apparently the apostles who performed a record amount of miracles, did indeed stumble on this one occasion, and didn’t have faith as large as a single grain of mustard seed—about the size of a flake of course ground black pepper. By that measure, no one has ever had such faith. When is the last time you saw an evangelists do anything like levitate a mountain into the sea, creating a new island on which to build his convention center? We humans are faithless creatures. If having a great measure—or even small measure—of faith is the ticket to heaven, God has wasted his time building mansions. In heaven a Motel 6 with six rooms would have vacancies.
The disciples felt the need to have their faith increased, and so requested, but there was nothing in Jesus’ answer that provided direction to increased faith. In fact in all of Scripture there is no instruction on how to increase faith.
The question remains, if their faith was so small, how were they otherwise so effective in their miracle ministries? This apparent conundrum is due to our misunderstanding of faith. We think of faith as a superpower that one possesses in various quantities, a power within that is waiting to be released. And preachers have contributed to that misunderstanding with their “faith” ministries, faith healings, faith miracles, and especially faith prosperity.
Here is the crux of the matter. Faith is not a static entity that can be possessed; it is fluid and flows in two directions, originating not in the one exercising faith, but in the object of faith. Faith begins in a reality manifested. An event, a fact, a reputable promise, or a word written by a trustworthy source is the birth place of faith. The object of faith is the genesis of faith on a divine or carnal level. God is the author of faith as he reveals himself in a manner that elicits belief.
If a sales person is trying to get a potential customer to believe in a product, he does not think of faith as something the customer must generate. With his presentation of evidence the salesman touts the quality and reliability of the product. Faith begins in an understanding and belief in the product, assuming the customer is convinced he has a need for it. If not then the salesman must tout the quality and reliability of the product while pointing out how the product will meet a need the customer didn’t even know he had. When there is a convergence of perceived need and trust in the product, the third element comes into play—the cost. Many people who feel a need for the product and have faith in it, may turn it down because they do not want to pay the price. Where Jesus Christ and heaven is concerned, the cost of believing is making God paramount in one’s life, a cost many are not willing to pay. But that is a different matter for another time.
Finally, God is not looking for people of great faith; he is looking for people of little to no faith who cannot believe in themselves (their faith) but are willing to believe in him and the reliability of his promises.
God, as salesman of the truth, takes the responsibility to present himself in a way that causes you to know your need of him, believe his promises, and forsaking all others take him only.
If you look at your faith you will look in vain. If you look to him, knowing you have insufficient faith, and you do not consider your faith or the lack thereof, he will receive you as you are, having less faith than a grain of finely ground pepper. He will then call you his own. Then your faith is not in your faith; it is in his faithfulness. Then you have entered the world of Biblical faith—all praise to him and no brag on our part.
The disciples wanted more faith, and Jesus’ answer indicated they were barking up the wrong tree. We relate to God with so little faith that he has to make up the difference with the blood he shed on the cross. It is not the quantity of faith that moves God, it is the heart focus. A tiny amount of faith fixed on the all-sufficient grace of God, will not move a mountain, but it will guarantee us a place on Mt. Calvary where our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus. It is not how much faith we have, it is how much our faithless hearts are dependent upon him.