v. 32 [But] “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.”
The writer is now countering the preceding verses. He is reminding the readers of the early days of their Christian experience. After warning them, he now expresses his confidence that they will persevere. Like them, we need to be encouraged to continue in the right way, which is Christ.
For those who have been journeying with the Lord for a while, do you recall those earlier days as a new believer? Most would readily say that despite hardships, and even persecution, testing, rejection because of Jesus, etc., our Lord empowered and the joy experienced kept us persevering.
Does remembering how the Lord kept us and strengthened us through hard times help us persevere?
The key is “receiving the light” to be enlightened means to understand salvation and apply grace to your sinful self and experience forgiveness, and strive to sin no more. If you sin, and you will, grace is not taken away. Grace is God’s good-will and blessing toward mankind given freely because of Jesus Christ. We can’t do anything to earn God’s grace. However, because of salvation “enlightened” God will let you know what needs to change and empower you to do it. The good news is that Jesus died on a cross for our sins: past, present, and future. He was the perfect sacrifice that allows us to experience grace and approach God (once we’ve acknowledged, accepted, and live by faith) with confidence.
Remembering helps us to persevere. What else do genuine Christians need to help them stand their ground in the midst of hardship and suffering?
WE NEED EACHOTHER! TO LIVE OUT OUR CALL TO LOVE AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER! AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY!
The imagery here is one of an athlete (athlesis). The word “contest” refers to an athletic competition. Therefore, as we endure and overcome, it may help to remember that our journey in this life is one of a spiritual athlete and is expected to be strenuous, especially when engaging in Christian service.
v. 33-34 In the midst of insult, public humiliation, the readers endured. They even “stood side by side” with those who were wrongly treated. These Christians were focused on Christ, so even the confiscation of their property did not matter much. Again, remembering the early days of fighting the good fight in the midst of persecution helps to persevere.
However, what about the hum-drum of everyday activities? What about the normal routine of life uninterrupted by persecution or challenges?
The feelings of boredom, loneliness, depression?
Are these experiences the or A “real” test of genuineness of one’s TRANSFORMATION? EVIDENCE OF “IN CHRIST”?
Does the absence of trials and difficulties tend to promote:
1. spiritual drifting (2:1)?
2. moral sluggishness and lethargy (5:11)?
3. the slow imperceptible hardening of attitude (3:13)?
v. 35-36 Whatever we are going through, even the hum-drum of life, or the absence of exciting revivals, dynamic community outreaches that help us “feel good”, or the absence of persecution that helps us to press on, God is telling us through the writer, “do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Moreover, when we have done the will of God, we will receive what he has promised.
What is the will of God? The following are two general biblical truths for every Christian:
1. To strive to be holy, this is only possible through our indwelling God; It is supernatureal, yet we have to co-participate.
2. To love our holy God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to genuinely love others.
What will be our reward and what has God promised for those who come to Him through Jesus Christ?
1. Our reward and promise is the opportunity to spend eternity with God, all the heavenly hosts, and all those who experienced God’s grace through our Lord Jesus.
2. More specific rewards will be determined by God for each transformed person in Christ, which are based on our faithfulness and obedience in this life. I have to ask myself on a regular basis: am I allowing God to work through me to accomplish His will? Remember, works of Christian service are from God (Eph. 2:10).
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:
The Variation in Reward. Salvation and eternal life are the same for all Christians but the rewards given to each varies, dependent upon the faithful labor expended. It is clear from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 that the lord of the servants expected more from the five-talented man than he did from the two-talented or the one-talented individuals. Note that the talents were dispensed according to personal ability to handle them (v. 15). The ones with lesser amounts had lesser responsibility. Paul says that at the judgment of the believer’s works, each will receive a reward according to his or her labor. Matthew 5:12 speaks of great reward in heaven and 2 John 8 speaks of a full reward, both references indicating that the rewards will not all be the same.
v. 37-38 Our Hope: a confident knowledge that Christ will return. How long must we wait before Christ’s return? Not long. “The writer guarantees us with the certainty of prophecy of the soon return of our Lord and the realization of our hope” (Hawthorne 1979).
As we endure, we are called to live through this life by faith. The sentence structure conveys that the person who God makes righteous will live by faith. Our goal is to hold fast to our faith in the midst of testing and temptations and not abandon it.
It is obvious that faith and shrinking back are opposed to each other and have to do with salvation in this context. Therefore, it seems that “And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him,” is a hypothetical that is not possible for those who are truly transformed.
v. 39 Are you of those who do not “shrink back and are destroyed?” The genuinely transformed are those who “believe and are saved.”
Persevere in faith! May God empower you and me as we move forward in faith everyday.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1981) Frank Gaebelein (ed)
NIV Study Bible (1985)
The International Bible Commentary (1979) F. F. Bruce (ed)