Sunday, 24 February 2019
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38
The words here are a citation of the Greek translation of Habakkuk 2:4. The Hebrew reads a bit differently and in inverted order –
“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.”
Paul has cited this same verse twice, in Romans 1:17 & Galatians 3:11. It is his main source for the doctrine of justification by faith alone, apart from works. With that being so, he builds upon the thought in great detail. Using that same verse from Habakkuk now, the author begins with the portion of the verse which deals with the just, saying, “Now the just shall live by faith.”
It is an obvious statement which speaks for itself. The one who is just lives by his faith. What is of most controversy in this verse is the middle clause. The author next says, “But if anyone draws back.” The word “anyone” is inserted, and it is argued that it is inserted incorrectly. The verse reads, “But if draws back.” Further the conjunction, kai, generally means “and,” but it can mean a host of things based on the context. The most obvious rendering, however, is “and.” Therefore, “And if draws back.” The use of “but” instead of “and,” while also inserting the word “anyone” by the translators, is based on a presupposition that it is not speaking of the subject of the first clause, but of a person who fails to come to Christ.
The word rendered “draws back” means just that. It is a person who retreats. With this in mind, the general idea of many scholars is that this is referring to the one in the first clause. He is just, he lives by faith, and he draws back. If so, the author then says, “My soul has no pleasure in him.”
In this, it is argued that one can lose their salvation by retreating from the faith. However, this is problematic for two main reasons. The first is that it would be contrary to other verses which clearly indicate salvation is a one time, for all time, event. Secondly, the next verse will contrast what is said in this verse. That will reveal the full extent of what is seen in these words, particularly the difficult, middle clause.
Life application: Paul’s citations of Habakkuk 2:4 form the principle theme of the Christian life – faith in something beyond oneself. This includes faith that salvation is of the Lord; faith that we cannot be justified by our own works; faith that God will keep His promises; faith that our trials are being experienced for our good; etc. If I say, “I have faith that I can climb this mountain,” then I am placing trust in my own abilities – even though there are unknown aspects of the climb such as weather, snakes, falling off a cliff, and so on.
However, I am still trusting that I have the ability to overcome these, and any other, obstacles that arise. On the other hand, God asks us to put our faith in Him. We are to have faith that He has spoken to humanity and this conversation is recorded in the Bible. This record says we are separated from God who is otherwise unknowable, except as revealed in nature and in Scripture.
The Bible points to Jesus. Jesus is the incarnate Word of God and, therefore, He makes the unknowable understandable. But what we know of Jesus is recorded in the Bible. Therefore we must have faith that the Bible is God’s word to us. As you can see, a great deal of the Christian life involves understanding the process of receiving the Bible, analyzing its context, and being sure of its reliability. Once our faith in the Bible is sound, we can trust that what it says about Jesus is accurate. If it is, then our faith in Him is sound. If our faith in Him is sound, then we have every confidence that our faith in God is sound. And our faith in God tells us that it’s all about Jesus. Have faith in God, as revealed in His word, and thus, have faith in Jesus.
Lord, misdirected faith is of no value at all. Help our faith to be properly directed, and give us wisdom to understand and accept the reliability of the Bible. By having faith in Your word, we can then have faith in what it tells us about Jesus. And what it tells us about Him is glorious! Thank You for our Jesus! Amen.