The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews1 explains that true faith in God’s Word is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11.1).
We must ask the obvious question concerning all these things that we “hope for” as Christians: from where do they come? They come from the hand of God; they are the things promised by God in the Bible.2
If true faith in the gospel is “the substance”3 of those things hoped for from God, then it must also be true that our faith itself (our belief in the gospel) has come from God.
The author of Hebrews further explains: gospel faith is, itself, “the evidence of things not seen.” Therefore, we must conclude: to have faith in the gospel of Christ is to have the things hoped for, from the hand of God.
What things? All things that pertain to salvation, mediated to us by our Lord and Saviour. These things hoped for but not yet seen are the promised things of God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” which the Bible reveals to every Christian (2 Peter 1.4). And these promises are utterly sure, because God is totally faithful—“For all the promises of God in him [i.e. in Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1.20).
God keeps his promises. What God promises, God bestows. What God has promised to true believers in Christ are all really, truly and certainly theirs. This is salvation, including all that it entails: “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1.3).
If, as per Arminianism, the Lord Jesus Christ hypothetically atoned for the sins the every fallen human being, then it must follow that he did not save all those for whom he died (and this is what Arminians believe). However, many Calvinists who have been brought out of Arminianism suffer a crisis of assurance as we turn from a “saviour” who died for everyone, to a Saviour who saves everyone for whom he died.
Two hammer-blows smash, as it were, against the false assurance of salvation that Arminianism builds on the wrong foundation.
The first of these comes because our assurance previously had a false basis in the false teaching that Christ died for “all the world,” or “all men” head for head. Arminianism teaches us to wrongly conclude, and wrongly hope, “If Christ died for all fallen human beings, then he must have died for me.”
But true Christians are distinguished as those people for whom Christ died—whom Christ redeemed—whom Christ saves. We know this now. We believe this now. So, how can we be sure that Christ died “for me”—if he did not die for all mankind?
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour, but is he my Saviour? Is he really mine, personally, and am I his?
Secondly, the false doctrine of hypothetical universal redemption had made us think that our own faith in Christ is the decisive factor in our personal salvation. For if Christ died for “all mankind” and yet not all mankind are saved, then there must be some other thing that determines whether we are saved or not. And Arminians say this determining factor is provided _by us-—it is our faith; or to put it differently, our decision to believe in Christ is what saved us.
But now, in repenting of this false teaching of hypothetical universal redemption, we have come to see that no part of our assurance of salvation should ever have been founded upon any contribution of our own!
We can only be sure that we are saved if we know we are Christ’s, and he is ours.
The apostle John writes concerning Christ and his people: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.10-13).
Notice John’s careful explanation of what was happening in the souls of some particular people in his day: those who received Christ were the same people (“as many as”) those who truly believed in him. This is a one-to-one (1:1) correlation. And these same people were “born…of God.” This is a one-to-one-to-one (1:1:1) correlation!
These things are still true in Christians today. Believers in Christ receive Christ as their Saviour, and these are those people who have been born again. 1:1:1. Indeed, they believe in Christ because they have been born again.
Real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is, in itself, an evidence that the new birth has happened in a soul. And where this new birth is, is salvation. If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are born again, you are saved. 1:1:1.
You can be sure of this: the Lord Jesus Christ will never turn anyone away, who comes to him for salvation. So, the most important question for us all is, have we come to Christ?
Let us think this through: how can the Lord’s people have assurance of salvation? How can we know we are saved? By these truths:
- The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world through being conceived and born of a virgin (Matthew 1.18-23);
- He did this in order to be the great High Priest of his people before God, their Covenant Representative Head (Hebrews 2.10-17; 5.5-10; 9.11-15);
- In that capacity, Jesus lived an obedient life under the law of God (Hebrews 4.15), actually walking in all the ways of the Lord—he “did no sin” and “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5.21; 1 Peter 2.22);
- And then he made full reconciliation (atonement) to God for the sins of his people by offering up himself as a sacrifice without blemish or spot (Romans 4.25; 5.8; 2 Corinthians 5.21; Hebrews 2.17; 7.27; 1 Peter 1.19);
- That Christ’s crucifixion has provided full reconciliation and complete justification4 by God is evidenced by Christ’s resurrection from the dead (John 11.25; Romans 4.24–25; 1 Peter 3.21);
- The Lord’s people, therefore, “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of [God’s] grace” (Ephesians 1.7; compare Hebrews 9.12);
- Here are three of those riches of God’s grace—three evidences (or, marks) of grace: God gives his elect the new birth; he teaches them concerning their salvation; and he enables them to believe all these things (and more);
- And so they begin living as Christians.
Thus, those people who can affirm with real faith that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, say what they know to be true. They have been taught this truth by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.3; compare 1 Corinthians 2.10-13).
As Christ himself said: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11.25-27).
Indeed, Christ explained this repeatedly (e.g. Matthew 13.10-11,16-17; John 6.37,44-45,64-65). In John 6.44-45 he cites the prophet Isaiah’s words, “They shall be all taught of God” (see Isaiah 54.13).
Therefore we do right to pray with Paul, both for ourselves and for our fellow Christians: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1.17-18).
The Lord’s people are those who are taught the truth concerning the doctrines of the gospel—and they come to believe them, and to repent of all that contradicts them.
They may struggle with the false doctrines of Arminianism (free-willism, decisionism, potential universalism, or whatever else this false gospel may be labelled)—perhaps for many years. But they will be brought out of these errors sooner or later.
The gospel truth will eventually gain an absolute victory in their hearts, so that they will ascribe all the glory to God in their salvation. They too will be brought to know that the whole of their salvation is “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1.6).
Are you there yet, Christian? It is inevitable that you shall be, one day!
You who are called “Calvinists” for your believing in the Biblical doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints—“Be not highminded, but fear” (Romans 11.20).
Paul counsels us all: “Learn…not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4.6-7).
You received everything that pertains to your salvation from the hand of God—everything, including your faith. And you know it! Now you should understand that even your knowing it—even your assurance, at this very moment, is coming from the hand of God too.
You have no reason whatsoever to boast or to be proud or to feel superior: you know that you have contributed nothing toward your salvation, and that in your old life, you only deserved damnation. And all that is good in you now, has come from God above (James 1.17).
You know that you are utterly dependent upon God for all things—material, physical, mental and spiritual. You know that, but for the grace of God having saved you, you would have remained dead in your trespasses and sins, still deserving condemnation to Hell.
Always bear in mind that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4.6). Therefore, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6.8) should be your life—this should be your new nature, now.
Please remember that, Christian friend.
The Epistle to the Hebrews does not begin with the apostle Paul’s usual manner of introduction in his epistles. Therefore, its authorship is open to question. We can point to several things that may indicate that it was indeed Paul who wrote this epistle: e.g. the author was a well-educated Jew and a brilliant theologian; there are some similarities in style; the author was (or had been) in prison and his readers had provided support for him (10.34); he personally knew Timothy (13.23). Also, this epistle has almost always been included with the the epistles of Paul, and many of the early “Church Fathers” affirmed that Paul was the author. However, there are arguments against this. Perhaps the most weighty of these is that Paul was the “apostle to the gentiles” (Romans 11.13)—as though this meant that he wouldn’t or shouldn’t even once have written to his own people, who were always in his heart (see Romans 10.1; 11.1). Some say that Peter, who was titled the apostle to “the circumcision” (Galatians 2.7-9), is a more fitting candidate. And other early Church leaders have also been suggested. All Christians agree that this epistle has been “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3.16) and has a rightful place in the New Testament canon. The Epistle to the Romans, which beyond doubt was written by Paul, causes this argument to vanish into thin air, for we can know that Paul wrote Romans to a mixed congregation of Gentile and Israelite Christians, and he often addresses Jews directly in this epistle—Jews who were now included among the “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (1.7). Paul specifically speaks to them: “Behold, thou art called a Jew” (2.17) in his proofs that fallen human beings, whether Jews or Gentiles, are all under sin, and that those who are saved have faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ (3.22). And he emphasizes to them that the one true God is God for all mankind: “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith” (3.29-30). Paul continues his doctrinal argument, while addressing these Jewish Christians as his blood brothers: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (3.1), and “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law)…” (7.1). And we remember the heart’s desire of this apostle to the Gentiles: “Brethren [fellow Israelite Christians], my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (10.1)—saved by the same Saviour as Gentiles are saved: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…” (10.12-13). And, least their hope for their Jewish family members should wane, he offers this encouragement: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew…” (11.1-2). Then Paul turns to the Gentiles in the congregaton and says of the Jews: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (11.13-14). Paul also expressed his deep concern about new Christians from among the Jews, and how the more mature Israelite Christians and Gentile Christians should not offend them by their not keeping the Jewish dietary laws. These new Christians, who were still weak in the faith, did not yet understand that they could now eat that which was not kosher, and so they were eating only vegetables (chapter 14). Therefore, I have personally not been convinced by the arguments against the apostle Paul being the human author of Hebrews. But I have merely referred to him as “the author,” whoever he was. ↩︎
Several of the Bible’s promises to the Christian are mentioned subsequently in Hebrews 11. There they are exemplified in these several brief biographies of several Old Testament saints. We should consider each one, and examine our own heart to see whether we have the same faith as these old believers. ↩︎
The New Testament Greek word translated “substance” here is ὑπόστασις (hupostasis), meaning a substructure or foundation—something firm and real upon which we can place our confidence (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, number #5287). ↩︎
To be justified (or, declared righteous) by God means to be pardoned by God (as a judicial act) for our sins—instead of being condemned for our sins. God the Father justifies us because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and our sins are imputed to Christ, when he died for us. ↩︎