But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).
At the end of an intense warning in Hebrews chapter ten is the encouragement of verse thirty-nine: his audience will persevere in the faith. They will not shrink back. They will not trample underfoot the Son of God. They will not go on sinning deliberately. Their faith will come to completion.
When you think about this it may seem odd, at first. The author of Hebrews tells his readership that, on the one hand, if they don’t persevere they will face eternal judgment. On the other hand he tells them that they will not face eternal judgment as they will persevere. The natural question might be then: why the warning? Why warn these Christians that if they don’t preserve they will go to hell, if he knows they will persevere?
If we go to chapter twelve of Hebrews we find context to help us answer this question. In that chapter the author says that the Lord disciplines those he loves. And part of that discipline is not only the correction of the rod, but also the formative instruction of the mouth. Included in that formative instruction, as would be the case in the life of any son with a good father, is the need to be warned against dangers. So, when our heavenly Father disciplines us he does so by warning us.
Why the need for warnings? God gives us warnings in his Word to stimulate us to persevere. It’s one of the means, we could say, of God’s work of preserving us.
This should give us a new attitude then about our approach to the warnings of Scripture. If we once thought that warnings were difficult passages to avoid or frightful words for someone else, we can hopefully now see that they are for us, Christians. God’s warnings are for our good, that we might not shrink back but preserve our souls!
But the devotional question is this: “am I committed to allow the full affect of God’s warnings to land on my heart? Will I amend my ways, correct my path, resolve my heart to follow his ways, because there are eternal consequences for those who don’t?” These are appropriate questions we must ask ourselves when we approach the warnings. And let me take it a step further. If we are God’s children, we will ask these questions, because if we belong to God through Jesus Christ we will experience the discipline of the Lord. And we will persevere, in part, because we will respond to the warnings (discipline) of the Word of God.