Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.Hebrews 10:32-36
This is one of those tricky parts of Scripture where we must read it in the light of other passages to avoid getting the wrong idea. Taken alone, we could get the idea that ‘staying the course’ of our faith is dependent on our own strength and ability to persevere!
But we also have Jesus’ own assurance: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37). The original Greek of this verse has a double negative translated into English as ‘never’, but, unlike English, the double negative in Greek does not cancel the negative out, but rather intensifies it. So John is reporting Jesus as saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never ever ever drive away.” This is what gives us our CONFIDENT ASSURANCE about our salvation – not OUR ability to hang on to HIM, but HIS power, ability and promise to hang on to US!
Nevertheless, because of the remnant of our fallen nature that is still in us, we run the risk of making two disastrous mistakes: one is to become COMPLACENT about our standing before God and thus to make no effort towards holiness and godly living; and the other is to become discouraged in the face of opposition, weakness and failure and to want to just GIVE UP the Christian life/walk.
The Author of Hebrews was writing to people who, because of how things were going for them in a hostile environment, were running the risk of making the second error (although he also addresses the risk of the first error in Chapter 6:4-8!). Notice that at the end of today’s verses he refers to “what [God] has PROMISED”! We know that, by his very nature/character, God cannot do anything but be unconditionally FAITHFUL to his promises.
The logical tension we struggle with in finding harmony between GOD’s SOVEREIGNTY and MAN’s RESPONSIBILITY is something we are consistently faced with throughout what God has revealed to us in his Word, so we just have to accept the truth of what God says BECAUSE HE says it. Another good example, similar to what we find here in Hebrews, is in Genesis 18:18-19: “Abraham will SURELY BECOME a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have CHOSEN him, SO THAT HE WILL direct his children and his household after him to KEEP the way of the LORD by DOING what is right and just, SO THAT the LORD WILL BRING ABOUT for Abraham what he has PROMISED him.”!