Things That Accompany Salvation
Scripture: Hebrews 5:11 - 6:20
Text: Hebrews 6:9-12
Sermon by Rev. Claude D. DePrine, III
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Bowmanville, Ontario
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 16, No. 11
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Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
In the verses which precede our text, the writer of Hebrews deals with the danger of apostasy from the Christian faith. He describes the character of apostates. He sets forth the nature and severity of their falling away, and likewise describes the impossibility of renewing such through repentance. It should be said that the falling away of which the writer speaks in this chapter does not consist in an occasional falling into actual sin, however gross or aggravated that sin may be. Nor is he speaking here of the renunciation of some of the principles of Christianity, even though these might be of considerable importance. What the writer is speaking of is an open, total, and determined renunciation of all the constituent principles of Christianity, and a return to a false religion, or to determined infidelity and open ungodliness.
The writer of Hebrews is not speaking in this chapter of the possibility of Christians falling from grace. He is dealing with the reality that there are some men who, for a time, have given every appearance of being Christians both in their confession and walk, people who have tasted of the things of salvation and been made knowledgeable of the truth of the Gospel. The writer has been setting forth how near a man may come to a saving interest in Christ only to fall away and renounce what he has professed to believe. Such people crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. It is such people of whom it is said that it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.
Now it is in this context that the writer of Hebrews says in verse nine, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation...” There are three things in verses 9-12 that I would have you consider with me this morning. The first of these has to do with...
(Note: I am assuming that the Apostle Paul is the writer of this book.). Why does the Apostle find it necessary here to preface his remarks by saying, “we are persuaded better things of you?” Well, you see, back in Heb. 5:11-14 Paul had interrupted his own discourse concerning Christ’s priesthood in order to rebuke his readers for their dullness of hearing with respect to the truth of God. It was this dullness of hearing that he recognized to be in some professing Christians the precursor to their apostasy from the Christian faith. And so he has written of that apostasy in order to warn his hearers of the danger of such, and to stir them up to the exercise and practice of those things they had heard and believed concerning the Gospel.
Well, you see, there is always the danger that in warning Christians concerning the truth that some men will fall away from the faith, that there will be some timid Christian souls who will have their assurance of salvation shaken and begin to think of themselves as one of those who may fall away. Furthermore, there is always the danger as well that because God’s servant must bring not only the comfort of God’s Word to the people of God but also the warnings, that they will begin to think that perhaps God’s messenger to them doubts the genuineness of their profession of the Christian faith. The fact is, however, that nothing could be further from the truth. The messenger of the Gospel has the duty of bringing to God’s people the whole counsel of God. And though he may in Christian love harbor the best thoughts concerning the spiritual state of his hearers, he must bring to them the warnings of God’s Word lest any one of them should seem to come short of so great a salvation.
Well, the Apostle here in the opening words of verse nine, is reassuring his readers that he harbors the best spiritual regard of them. He says, “We are persuaded better things of you.” In other words, he is saying, in effect, “We have good reason to believe that while you have grown dull of hearing, there is evidence to persuade us that you are real and genuine in your profession of the Christian faith and that you will persevere in that faith.” It is important to see here that Paul is not attempting to flatter his hearers. It was not the Apostle’s practice to flatter men with his speech (I Thess. 2:5). These words must be seen as words of tender affection poured out of a pastoral heart towards these Hebrew Christians.
Well, that being so, we might ask the question: Why was Paul persuaded better things of his hearers? The answer is found in the fact that he had seen and heard regarding these brethren of “things that accompany salvation.” That is to say, the genuineness of the profession of these Hebrew Christians was verified by the kind of fruit that was visibly demonstrated in the actions of these people. This expression “things that accompany salvation” is just another way of referring to the evidence of one’s Christian profession that naturally flows out of a heart that has been touched by a vital saving relationship to Jesus Christ.
When the Gospel comes with power to a man’s soul, it not only produces in his heart a spiritual change, it not only produces from his lips a confession of the Lord Jesus Christ, it also produces certain tangible evidences in his life of his being a new creature in Christ Jesus. There are to be seen in his life things that accompany salvation, things that go along with it; things that have no other explanation but that God has wrought a work of salvation in this man. (e.g. a lady putting on a new dress and shoes which accompany it, that is shoes which do not clash with the dress, ones that go with it and which are becoming to the outfit.). This is what the Apostle means here by “things that accompany salvation.”
He could not read what was in the hearts of these people. He could not tell simply by listening to their profession of faith whether that profession was genuine or not. He had no way of determining what was in their hearts or whether or not these people were indeed the elect of God. But he could and did see in their walk the kind of things that are true of those who are savingly united to Christ. Let me ask you this morning, can others see in you “things that accompany salvation?” Well, that brings us to ask what these things are that go hand in hand with salvation?
Well, the Apostle tells us in verse ten. It was their work and labor of love in ministering to the saints. This phrase “work and labor of love” is equivalent to “the laborious toilsome work of kindness.” This work of love is either the work which love prompts one to do, or the work which manifests love. And Paul says that the love which prompted these exertions and was manifested in them was love toward the name of God. What did this work consist in? It consisted in their “ministering to the saints.” It was a work of love that involved their supplying the wants and relieving the distresses of their fellow believers. The best commentary on this labor of love is found in Hebrews 10:32-34. (cf. I Thess. 1:4 ff.; 2:13-14).
What persuaded the Apostle that his hearers were true believers and were not in danger of apostasy was not the fact that they could articulate clearly all the principal doctrines of the Christian faith. After all, in this matter Paul had rebuked them for being like babes in need of milk instead of strong meat (Heb. 5:12-14). No, what persuaded him of the genuine nature of their profession was what he and others had seen and heard of these things which accompany salvation. The Apostle’s persuasion of the reality of their profession did not rest on the measure of their knowledge, nor did it rest upon their diligence in attendance upon the means of grace and the outward ordinances of Christ. It rested upon the demonstration of their love towards God witnessed by their acts of concern in showing Christian charity towards their brothers and sisters in Christ in the midst of need and persecution which exposed them as well to the same.
The writer of Hebrews is telling us here that the ground on which he cherished a joyful hope that his readers would not “fall away” and perish, but persevere and be saved is just this:
“God is not unjust, to forget your work and labour of love.” (“unjust” = “unfaithful”). The Apostle’s meaning here is the same as that which our Lord speaks of when He says, “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” These Hebrews Christians were to take hope in the righteousness and justice of God Who will not be a debtor to His people either in time or eternity. (cf. Heb. 10:34).
Now, beloved, isn’t this the very thing we are ever to keep in view in all of our work and labor of love towards one another? It was the scribes and Pharisees who wanted to perform all of their acts of charity and devotion to be seen of men and to be rewarded with the praise of men. But that must not and will not be the end aimed at by the child of God in his actions. It most certainly was not the end aimed at by these Hebrew Christians to whom this book is addressed. All that their labor of love towards the saints had accomplished was to bring upon them persecution from unbelieving Jews.
O how we need to remember this in all of our actions of service and devotion. Our aim must ever be to please God and not man. And if we aim to please God the fruit of that aim will be seen in our ministering to the saints according to their needs without regard to the treatment we may receive from men for so doing. God is not unrighteous to forget that which we have done prompted by His grace, empowered by His Spirit, and performed out of honor for His name. Do you have reason to believe that you possess the things that accompany salvation? Do you know what it is to manifest your love for the God of salvation by the manner in which you minister to the saints? In a world full of selfish individualism and concern, do we possess the things that accompany salvation? Do we know anything of what it means to demonstrate our love to God by the way we minister to the needs one another in the communion of the saints? Well, this brings us in the last place to consider...
Though Paul uses the word “desire” here, the force of his words are such that we must take this to be not wishful thinking, but a sincere admonition. Paul here expresses his desire that each and everyone of his readers should attain to a “full assurance of hope unto the end.” That is, that each and every one of these Hebrew Christians should obtain a full expectation of one day receiving all that God has promised to them that love Him. He is concerned that in spite of all that they might suffer for Christ’s sake, their expectation of blessing and final salvation might remain constant to the end.
Well, how is such a full assurance to be obtained? The Apostle says here that such is obtained in the way of “diligence,” in the way of casting off all “slothfulness.” This full assurance is found in losing oneself in the concern to minister to others out of love towards God. This is the path that has been trodden by other Christians who have gone before. It is the path of “faith” (the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen — the expectation that God will reward us fully at the end of the day with all the glory promised to those that love Him and keep His commandments). It is the path of “patience,” that is, steadfastness in spite of all the conflicts and hardships to be faced in a world of sin. (Note: It was in these two things: faith, and patience, that apostates were unwilling to walk.).
In a real sense, the Apostle ends his reasoning here as he started it back in Heb. 5:11. The word translated as “dull” in Heb. 5:11 is here in Heb. 6:12 rendered as “slothful.” The point is just this: we will not obtain a full assurance of hope unless dullness (slothfulness) of mind, heart, and life is cast off. While it is this dullness (slothfulness) that is the reason why some professors of the Christian faith turn away from the faith in apostasy, it is this same dullness, this same laziness that hinders many Christians from having a full assurance of their interest in what God has promised for those who love Him. The exhortation here is that Christians should be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise.” (cf. Heb. 11).
Beloved, we desperately need to heed the exhortation of the Apostle. It will not do for us to rest upon past attainments in the knowledge of God’s Word. It will not do for us to rest on past or even present attainments of acts of charity and devotion to God and to His people. We must press on with diligence in these things amidst all obstacles and trials in life. And we must do so as we read in Heb. 10:25, “so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
I ask you in closing, are you in possession of the things that accompany salvation? Are you ministering to the saints of God? Are you doing so out of love for the God Who has saved you? Are you imitating the household of faith that has gone before you? Indeed, are you imitating your Saviour in these things? Are you giving diligence in these matters? Are you giving diligence to making your calling and election sure? Then be assured of this, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love which you have showed towards his name.” The day is soon coming when you shall hear from the lips of your Saviour: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Amen!