“Even though we are speaking this way, dearly loved friends, in your case we are confident of things that are better and that pertain to salvation. For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints — and by continuing to serve them.”
— Hebrews 6:9-10
Forgetting is hard. Now, maybe your memory works like mine, and you’re a little skeptical of that statement. After all, I forget things all the time…just ask my wife. I am getting better, though. But that’s not what I mean. It’s hard to forget things that are done to and for you. On the “to” side this can be a challenge since we are better off forgetting some of the things that are done to us. But remembering things done for us can be a great benefit because of the gratitude it develops in our hearts. As much as we struggle with forgetting, God doesn’t forget either. Let’s talk this morning about why that can be a very good thing.
It’s a little hard to imagine what an incredible relief v. 9 would have been to the group of believers sitting around a candlelit room hearing this letter read for the first time. The author had been challenging and a little hard to follow at times. Well, their knowledge of what is for us the Old Testament but was for them simply the Scriptures would likely have been vastly superior to ours, so maybe it wasn’t quite so hard for them to follow as it sometimes is for us. Still, his use of the illustration of Melchizedek alone (which he will finally unpack in detail in chapter 7), had to be something new to them. He wouldn’t have spent so much time investing in it if it hadn’t have been.
But then the reader got to the part about their being too lazy to keep up with him, and they started looking around the room with a mixture of embarrassment and anger. Just as they were getting ready to react, though, he dropped the bomb on them: you should have moved beyond this stuff, and if you haven’t, you’re in danger of walking away from the faith entirely. In fact, if someone were to actually do that, there’d be no going back for them.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room. All the anger was gone, replaced by fear bordering on abject terror. They had all heard Jesus’ warnings about Hell. A loss of salvation meant that was their only possible final destination. They all looked around the room at each other wondering who was closest to that point so they could justify themselves that at least they weren’t as far gone as that other person.
And then v. 9. We don’t think any of this really applies to you. You’re all in good shape. The sigh of relief must have been audible.
But more than the relief of v. 9, I want you to see the reasoning he offers for his confidence in their standing before God in v. 10. Listen to this again: “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints — and by continuing to serve them.”
One of the fears we sometimes bear as followers of Jesus today is likely something they were struggling with as well, especially after the warning in the previous few verses. Can we accidentally cross the line of apostasy? What if we have a bad week and fall headlong into sin for a season? Could we somehow slip up and behave ourselves out of our salvation. I mean, the dire warning he gave was predicated on their not growing like they should have been. Was the line between faithfulness and apostasy really that thin?
Having gotten their attention and left them feeling sufficiently convicted, he shifts gears now to a bit of encouragement. If you’ve started moving in God’s direction, He’s not going to forget that. If you’ve not simply sampled the kingdom goods and walked away, but started living your life as if Jesus were Lord, that’s going to count for something. It’ll count for something because God is just.
Now, this does not at all translate into some kind of an endorsement of a works-based salvation or self-righteousness. God’s being just doesn’t mean He’s somehow giving us something we are owed because of something we’ve done. Take that idea out of your mind entirely and don’t let it come back. Instead, God’s justice here is a reflection of His faithful response to our faithfulness, which is itself merely a grateful response to His own faithfulness to us in Christ.
If you have started living out your confession of His lordship—especially in the context of the body of Christ—He’s going to honor that. To put that another way, once you’re in and living like it, God’s not going to let you go just because you’ve had a bad spell. If He is the God who ran to embrace the prodigal son, He is equally waiting to embrace you with the same fierce love.
If you’ve lived out your faith in the past, but have strayed a bit in the present, get back on it and start living it out again. Not only this, persist in that loving service and show everyone who cares to look that your confession was genuine. God will honor, encourage, and reward your efforts. If you’re worried that you’re getting close to some imaginary line, quit worrying. People who are really getting close (if such a thing is possible in the first place) don’t ask that question anymore. They quit asking it a long time ago. You be faithful where you are and trust that God’s justice in Christ will be more than enough to keep you on solid ground.