True Christians Persevere
New converts to Christianity typically have few doubts. But years of living and learning often soften their confidence.
I have heard Christians say, “I wish I didn’t know so much, it would be easier to believe” as they indulge in an elite, self-congratulating agnosticism. To be sure, all Christians go through times of doubt as their faith grows. A faith that never doubts is perhaps not real, because real faith involves the fallible mind.
We must hold our original confidence firm to the end.
But for Biblically literate “Christians,” with some years of living under their belts, to mouth such consciously self-exculpating phrases for their unbelief is so much bunk! We had no doubts when we met Christ, and we should not have any now. Moreover, we must consciously strive to “hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
I am a convinced Calvinist. I believe true Christians persevere—the perseverance of the “saints.” And I believe what the Scriptures say in Hebrews 3:14: “For we have come to share in Christ [perfect tense: our belief began in the past and continues], if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
If we do not persevere, we are lost, just as the Apostle John has so clearly explained: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
Even a slight lessening of confidence is a warning. We must hold our original confidence firm to the end. Perseverance is not a foregone conclusion. So the author of Hebrews warns us, repeating the words of Psalm 95:7, 8, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (v. 15).
Brothers and sisters, if we hear his voice, we must do something now!
Six Questions to Ask Yourself
The author of the book of Hebrews closes Hebrews 3:7-19 with six questions given in three pairs. The first question of each pair asks the question; the second question answers it.
The questions are definitely phrased to raise soul-searching tensions among his hearers in the struggling church.
Question: “Who were those who heard and yet rebelled?”
Answering question: “Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?”
Point: Everyone who died in the desert had begun in the glorious exodus and its great expectations.
Question: “And with whom was he provoked for forty years?”
Answering question: “Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?”
Point: The men who angered God for forty years were those who did not believe he could provide for them, though they had left Egypt with great hope. This is a warning that high hopes will not suffice—there must be belief.
Question: “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest . . . ?”
Answering question: Was it not “to those who were disobedient?”
Point: Here unbelief leads to action, as it always does.
The three sets of questions present the descent of hardness of heart: from hope to disbelief to disobedience. Thus, the writer concludes: “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (v. 19).
Firm to the End
Have we experienced a spiritual exodus in Christ? Do we claim Christ as our true passover—our lamb without blemish and without spot who gave his life for us? Do we claim a baptism in Christ, the antitype of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1ff.)? Do we claim to spiritually feed on him by faith, as Israel was fed by manna from Heaven and water from the rock (1 Corinthians 10:3ff.)? Do we claim to look for a heavenly rest, the ultimate spiritual counterpart of the Promised Land?
If so, we will persevere in faith and obedience, “holdi[ng] our original confidence firm to the end.”
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Corinthians 10:1–6)
This article is adapted from Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul by R. Kent Hughes.