How Might I Know I Am Saved?1
We looked in the previous article at the confidence expressed by the author of Hebrews regarding the salvation of those to whom he is writing. He referred to them as the “beloved” of God. But how does he know they are beloved and saved? Where does this confidence come from? How can he be so sure? Continue reading . . .
We looked in the previous article at the confidence expressed by the author of Hebrews regarding the salvation of those to whom he is writing. He referred to them as the “beloved” of God. But how does he know they are beloved and saved? Where does this confidence come from? How can he be so sure?
The answer is found in Hebrews 6:10, one of the most important texts in this letter: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” This is such an important text that we need to slow down and unpack it line upon line. Let me direct your attention to several crucial truths here.
First, our author has confidence in their spiritual condition because of the love these people have for God’s name. God is supreme and central in their affections. Their first and foundational passion is that God would be glorified. To love God’s name is to love it when he is affirmed and he is extolled and his beauty and honor are seen by all. To love God’s name is to rejoice when all the attention turns to him and all the credit for everything good goes to him. This is our author’s way of saying that these people are God-entranced, God-besotted, and God-absorbed. They are determined that God be preeminent in all things, no exceptions allowed.
Second, it would be unjust of God to overlook this devotion to the glory and supremacy of his name. Don’t get confused by this word “unjust.” He doesn’t mean it would be “unjust” in the sense that we do God a favor by serving his people, putting him in our debt so that he is in some sense obligated in turn to pay us back by remembering and making much of what we’ve done.
No! Never! It is not the worth of our work but the worth of God’s name that stirs him never to forget. When our primary motivation in all we do is to honor God’s name, it becomes for him a matter of justice or righteousness to take note of it. Why, you ask? Why would it not instead be a display of unimaginable egotism and self-centeredness for God to be so concerned about his own name? If you and I were obsessed with the fame of our name we would justifiably be charged with arrogance and pride and egotism. So how does God escape the same accusation?
The answer is: he’s God! Let me put it this way. The essence of righteousness and goodness is that a person be devoted to whatever is the best and purest and most beautiful and most worthy thing in the universe. And what might that “thing” be? God, of course! God is himself the best and purest and most glorious and most worthy being in all the world. Therefore, if God is himself going to be righteous he must, of necessity, be committed above all else to the glory and praise of his own name. For God not to love and honor his own name above all else would be for him to commit idolatry. God must love God preeminently. It is only just and right that he do so, because he is God. It would be unjust and wrong for us to love and honor our own names above all else because we aren’t God. That is why it is a matter of “justice” or “righteousness” for God to take note of those who love his name.
Third, precisely how did their love for God’s name manifest itself? How might we know whether or not we really love God and adore his name and are committed to his glory? The answer is given in v. 10. It is seen in the “work” that we do “in serving the saints.” Now, several things must be said about this remarkable statement.
(1) Our enemy, the Devil, wants us to think that we have here an “either/or” proposition. Either we love God and are wholly devoted to him, or we love people and are wholly devoted to them. And sadly that is how it often is seen in many churches.
Some churches are so utterly vertical in their orientation, so entirely God-centered, that they ignore the needs of hurting people. They justify their casual oversight of hurting souls by saying: “Well, our sole and exclusive calling in life is to magnify God and to love him. We are so enthralled with God that we don’t have time to bother with mere humans.”
Other churches tend to the opposite extreme. Their focus is entirely horizontal. As far as they are concerned, serving the needs of people is the only thing that matters. For them, loving God is loving other people. The primary call of the church, so they say, is humanitarian in its focus.
Some, then, feed and clothe the poor and find housing for the homeless and assume that this is identical to loving God. Others worship God and extol God and pray and preach the Word and assume that a concern for people would distract them from what is of greatest importance.
And both groups are wrong. When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, he responded by saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 27:37). But he didn’t stop there. He proceeded to mention the second great commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 27:39).
The point is, don’t allow your devotion to God to collapse into serving people. And don’t allow your love for people to cloud or supersede your devotion to God. We must hallow God’s name and help God’s people. We must savor God’s glory and serve God’s saints (John Piper).
(2) We serve God’s people for the sake of God’s name, not the other way around. God’s name is first and foremost in our hearts, and one of the primary ways in which people will know that we love God and in turn honor and praise him is when they see us show compassion toward the broken and helpless. Our desire is for Bridgeway to be a church where all of our people serve all of our people. We want to be a church of compassion and love for one another. And we also want to be a God-centered church, a church where the name of God as revealed in Jesus is exalted and extolled above all else. And you can’t have one of these without the other!
Every time you love our children by serving in the nursery, God remembers! He will not overlook the love you have for him as seen in your love for his little ones! Every time you speak a word of encouragement to someone who is discouraged, God remembers! Every time you take a meal to someone who can’t provide for himself, God remembers! Every time you clean the house of someone who is physically unable to do so, God remembers! God sees all that you do for others for the sake of his name, and he remembers! He will not “overlook” your prayers for one another or your words of affirmation or your sacrificial giving to one another.
(3) The third observation I want to make concerning this passage is what it tells us about how we can have confidence that we really know God in a saving way. Note carefully that these people didn’t simply work hard and love other Christians in the past. They “still do” (v. 10b)! Their love for God’s people wasn’t a one-off act of compassion. It wasn’t a momentary or passing commitment. They have persevered in this loving and sacrificial service. This was their habit, their custom, their daily routine. This confirms what we see repeatedly in Hebrews: the evidence of genuine saving faith in Christ is perseverance and endurance in holiness of life and in bearing by God’s grace the fruit of the Spirit.
(4) I fear that some of you are trying to serve and love the saints out of something other than a devotion to God’s name and glory. You feel some humanitarian impulse. You are moved in pity for people who hurt. And that’s ok, as far as it goes. But your devotion to the welfare of other people must flow out of devotion to God, or you will eventually burn out. Service for others must come out of the abundant overflow of your satisfaction with God. We must start from a foundation of love for God and satisfaction in God and fascination with God and, from that, love and serve his people.
To be continued . . .