Friday, 2 November 2018
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, Hebrews 6:13
The author will now spend several verses explaining the surety of God’s promises to His people. The word, “For,” is based first on the thought of verse 6:9 which spoke of the surety of the author concerning the “better things” which “accompany salvation” in his audience. It is then secondly based on the completion of that thought which is found in verse 6:12 concerning those who “inherit the promises.” Thus, what will be presented from this verse until the end of the chapter are words confirming that God is trustworthy in accomplishing those things which have been promised. With this understanding, he says, “For when God made a promise to Abraham.”
The author mentions Abraham, of whom he will mention ten times in the epistle. The final two times (verses 11:8 and 11:17) are those which speak of the faith of Abraham. He was given promises, and he looked forward to the fulfillment of them, despite the difficulty of being able to see how what was said to him could be of benefit to him in any immediate sense. In other words, Abraham had to simply trust what the Lord was saying was best, and to act upon that word in faith. But Abraham understood that God is God, and the author, knowing that Abraham possessed that firm knowledge, next says, “because He could swear by no one greater.”
Because God is God, there is none before Him, and there is none greater than Him. He is the Source of all other things. Therefore, unlike man who swears upon something greater than himself in order to confirm an oath, God cannot do this. Instead, “He swore by Himself.”
As God created time, space, and matter, everything about Him simply is. There is no change in God of any kind – such as growth or progression. He is before all things and all things are held together by Him. He is of infinite worth and His word is. In other words, His word is truth in the ultimate sense. At one point in the stream of human history, God chose to speak to one man a promise of blessing that would be to all peoples through his seed. This became known as the Abrahamic covenant.
Like other covenants God has made, they simply are. When the promise is made, it can never change and never be added to or subtracted from. Some of the other covenants which are noted in redemptive history are the Edenic (Eden) Covenant; the Adamic (to Adam) Covenant; the Noahic (to Noah) Covenant; the Mosaic (to Moses) Covenant; the Land (particular to the land and people Israel) Covenant; the Davidic (to David) Covenant; and the New Covenant (which came through Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary).
These often came with conditions – such as obedience on the part of the recipient – but some came unconditionally. However, no matter whether conditional or unconditional, when God speaks, He will fulfill His part of the bargain. It is man who can, and often does, fail to meet his part of the agreement. In the case of the Abrahamic covenant, no conditions were made for man’s obedience. God swore a promise that was unbreakable –
I swear by myself, declares the LORD… Genesis 22:16
The author uses this promise to establish an understanding of God’s nature and to complete the thought which is coming in the rest of the chapter. Though this passage is citing words from Genesis 22, it is built upon the relationship of promise which began in Genesis 12:3, and which was then expanded on in Genesis 15. The interactions between God and Abraham are given to demonstrate the surety of God’s word to His people.
Life application: People often debate the doctrine of eternal salvation, as if it is either an incorrect doctrine, or that there are various situations which will negate it, even if it is “kind of” true. Such discussions fail to consider the nature of God. In understanding that God’s word stands, and that it cannot be voided, the issue resolves itself. If God says that salvation is by grace through faith, and that it is procured by faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9, 10), and that, when that faith is exercised, the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee (Ephesians 1:13, 14), it then becomes impossible that the salvation which is granted could be then be lost. Those who teach that one can lose their salvation do so because they do not understand the nature of God. They believe in a vacillating God who changes His mind, and who makes decisions which are arbitrary and conditional. This is not the God of the Bible. If you struggle with this doctrine, you need to consider God, not your own (or others’) failings. In doing so, you need no longer struggle with it. God has spoken the word of salvation. It is based on faith, and it is eternal.
One thing we can do, even in our weakness, O God, is to trust that your promises are true. Your very nature assures us and reassures us that every word spoken by You will come to fruition. For this, we thank You and praise You, O King of the ages. Amen.