How "thin" is your skin?1
Hebrews 4:4-8 is surely one of the more controversial and complex passages in the NT. Contrary to what some may think, the aim of the author is not to cause those who are truly saved to be fearful that they aren’t. Its aim is to cause those who are not truly saved but think they are to repent. Continue reading . . .
Hebrews 4:4-8 is surely one of the more controversial and complex passages in the NT. Contrary to what some may think, the aim of the author is not to cause those who are truly saved to be fearful that they aren’t. Its aim is to cause those who are not truly saved but think they are to repent. There are a lot of people who are truly and eternally saved who live in fear that they aren’t. And there are probably even more people who are not truly and eternally saved who live in the false belief that they are. Hebrews 6:4-8 is written to the latter group. So again, Hebrews 6:4-8 is not designed to undermine the confident hope and assurance of salvation in those who have truly been born again. It is rather designed to warn and sound an alarm to those who haven’t been born again but presumptuously think they have.
The author of Hebrews knows that the sort of language he used and the warning he issued about such people might create undue anxiety in the hearts of those he is confident really know Christ. So he says this in v. 9 – “Though we speak in this way [that is, in the way just stated in vv. 4-8], yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation.”
Clearly he believed that most to whom he is writing this letter were born again. “We feel sure,” he writes, “that you are truly saved.” As if to reinforce his confidence in them, he refers to them as “beloved,” the only place in the entire letter where this term appears. In other words, they are “beloved” not only by God but also by him.
That word “beloved” is important, so let me briefly say something about it. Curt Flood, an excellent center-fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixties, like Jackie Robinson, was one of the first African-American men to succeed in the big leagues. He endured unbelievable racist hatred. The names he was called are simply unrepeatable. At one point, Flood said: “I’m happy God made my skin black. I only wish he hadn’t made it so thin.” This was Flood’s way of saying that such vile treatment was deeply painful. He was unable to ignore or anesthetize his heart to the verbal venom that came his way. And I can certainly understand why.
I cite this example of Curt Flood only to remind Christians that, regardless of our ethnicity, irrespective of any and all physical features we may bear, Christians ought not to be thin-skinned. We, dear friend, are “beloved” of God! Among countless other truths, this means that we are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, redeemed by the Son of God, reconciled to God, adopted into the family of God, and indwelt by the Spirit of God!
There is, therefore, absolutely no reason why we should feel threatened or vulnerable or insecure. No matter what anyone says to you, about you, or does in an attempt to destroy you, you are beloved of God! We should be the least self-defensive people in the world. Say what you will about me: God loves me! Criticize me if you wish: God loves me! I will not take offense at anything: God loves me!
May the Spirit of God help us to meditate and reflect deeply on what it means to be among those “beloved” of God!