9 But listen, my friends—we don’t mean to discourage you completely with such talk. We are convinced that you are made for better things, the things of salvation, 10 because God is not unjust or unfair. He won’t overlook the work you have done or the love you have carried to each other in His name while doing His work, as you are still doing.
11 We want you all to continue working until the end so that you’ll realize the certainty that comes with hope 12 and not grow lazy. We want you to walk in the footsteps of the faithful who came before you, from whom you can learn to be steadfast in pursuing the promises of God.
What are the things of salvation? Let’s look at the context surrounding this verse.
• Before: “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.” (v.7)“You are made for better things, the things of salvation…” (v.9)
• After: “The work you have done and the love you have carried.” (v.10)
I think “the things of salvation” here have to do with our crop: our works of love toward others on God’s behalf.
“There are things that are never separated from salvation… The works of love, done for the glory of Christ, or done to his saints for Christ's sake… are evident marks of salvation…No love is to be reckoned as love, but working love; and no works are right works, which flow not from love to Christ. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
“If our Christian experience is worth anything, it will drive the wheels of self-sacrificing duty… If these certain accompaniments are wanting, or are sparse and lacking in radiance in our lives, it is high time that we asked ourselves very seriously what the worth to us is of a salvation that does not produce in us ‘the things that accompany salvation.’ (MacLaren’s Expositions)
We are made for “better things,” the things that accompany salvation. God designed us for holy works of love with God’s help toward others.
When I hear phrases like, “You are perfect just the way you are!” I feel some tension. I I know people are trying to be affirming and nice to others, but that phrase just is not true. I think we all know this. G.K Chesterton once responded to the question from the Times of London, “What is wrong with the world?” with a very simple reply: “I am.”
I’m not an ogre. I believe all people are beautiful in that they bear God’s image. But in a Christian worldview, saying, “You are beautiful” and “but not everything in you is beautiful” is not contradictory. It’s honest. I can say, “You are created in God’s image with honor, worth and dignity” while noting, “but not everything in you is honorable and dignified.” How do I know this? Because I know myself. No matter what state I am in, I have not arrived. I want to be encouraged in my weaknesses, but I don’t want them overlooked. I am made for better things.
In fact, if it actually were the case that I am perfect, I would be really, really discouraged, because I do not experience life as a perfect person. I get depressed and anxious; I can struggle with greed, and judgment, and lust, and pride just like everybody else. I don’t honor people around me like I should. I’m the kind of husband and father and pastor who has to apologize to my family at home and at this church for me being me.
The good news: We are loved by God in whatever state we are in. But that’s not all. We are loved so much that God will also not leave us the way we are. Love desires, wills and works for the betterment of others. Love embraces us where we are, then walks with us where we still need to go. The God who loved us “while we were yet sinners” has made us for better things.
By His grace, we are in an ongoing growing process where we carry love to others in his name, and in which we are becoming increasingly steadfast in faithfully pursuing the promises of God.
* * * * *
13 Remember when God made His promise to Abraham? He had to swear by Himself, there being no one greater: 14 “Surely I will bless you and multiply your descendants.” 15 And after Abraham had endured with patience, he obtained the promise he had hoped for. 16 When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end.
17 In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise. 18 So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath. These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.
19 That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) 20 and back into the place where Jesus, who went ahead on our behalf, has entered since He has become a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
Remember that Jesus is greater than angels, than Abraham, than Moses, than the Sabbath, than Aaron and Melchizadek? Now, God’s promises are greater than any other promise, because they are true and unchangeable. He swears an oath on Himself, for goodness sake, because there is no one higher.
I have heard the claim that we should remind God of his promises and demand that he uphold them. I think this reflects a desire to approach the throne of God boldly, but the way in which it is represented makes me nervous.
• First, this suggests that I am in a position to tell God that he owes me. I’m not. I have no merit on my own that gives weight to my opinion on what God ought to do. Whatever good I do, there is a lot of good I didn’t do.
• Second, God did not forget His promise. He does not need my reminder. He swore the oath on Himself, so there’s probably not anything I can offer to add force to this ☺
This is good news for us. What he offers to us he will not take away. We might need to remind ourselves of God’s promises, but we don’t need to remind God of His promises; we just need to rest in them. He is our faithful High Priest who intercede on behalf of His children so that the eternal penalty of our sins will not damn us.
So, here’s the “story” this passage is telling.
• Doing righteous, loving works in God’s name is the ‘crop’ of Jesus living and moving in us.
• Our reward is the ongoing perfection of our character and the growth of loving actions in response to God and for others.
• In spite or our failures, we can trust a God who swore to Himself by Himself to be a faithful High Priest.
• This hope that God offers is an anchor for our soul.
The Greeks used the anchor to symbolize hope. You can see this imagery on their coins. Christians' tombs in the first century often anchors engraved on them. It was a key Christian symbol during the period of Roman persecution. One reason was that an anchor contained a cross, so they could use the image of the cross as well without it attracting attention. As Michael Card notes:
"The first century symbol wasn't the cross; it was the anchor. If I'm a first century Christian and I'm hiding in the catacombs and three of my best friends have just been thrown to the lions or burned at the stake, or crucified and set ablaze as torches at one of [Emperor] Nero's garden parties, the symbol that most encourages me in my faith is the anchor. When I see it, I'm reminded that Jesus is my anchor."
Things I saw this last week that reminded me of the need for anchors:
• Those we love die
• Marriages struggle
• Poverty overwhelms
• Bankruptcy looms
• Lust undermines purity and integrity
• Depression overwhelms
• Illness eats away at us
• Relationships and friendships struggle
• Politics angers and divides us
• On Veteran’s Day, we are reminded of pain and loss
Jesus offers us the anchor in the midst of all these storms. He is mighty to save. We can be made right with God and find true unity with others because of Jesus. Our soul is safe in Christ no matter how unsteady or unsafe the rest of life feels.
“Anchor of My Soul,” by Josh Garrels