Through the Book of Hebrews—Exploration and Discussion 6:13-20
The writer is continuing to encourage and appeal to genuine Christians to persevere in our living faith. He assures us by reminding of the “absolute validity of the divine promise” (F.F. Bruce (1979). Let’s explore a few questions:
V. 13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself
What promise did God make to Abraham?
Gen 12:1-3 God said he would make Abram into a great __________, make his _____________ great, …and all peoples on earth will be _______________ through Abram.
Gen 15:4-6; 17:1-9
Is obedience/perseverance required in order to obtain the fulfillment of the promise? Then? Now? Gen 17:1,9. Josh 23:14-16. It appears that God initiates the covenant and we are to live our lives in obedience BY faith.
Greg Johnson in his writings titled: Salvation in the Old Testament said,
What’s so striking about all of this is that God did it all—it’s salvation by grace alone. Certainly Abram responded to this call—which was a major endeavor, leaving his people and traveling through the desert to a far-off land. But God made the choice. God gave the call. God made all the promises. Salvation was from the Lord.
When Abram believed, God saw his faith and credited righteousness to his account, even though Abraham continued to be a sinner (…doubting God’s promise of a son, committing adultery with his servant, lying about his wife—almost causing her to end up in an adulterous relationship with a foreign king, etc). Though faith was required and outward signs were taken very seriously—remember how God came after Moses to kill him when Moses failed to circumcise his sons— still, salvation was by grace through faith, according to God’s calling.
In regards to the Mosaic Law he said,
But even this law was given in the context of an already-established covenantal relationship. God begins, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt…” (Ex 20:2)—and THEN makes his demands. God didn’t claim to belong to any other people on earth, but he had given himself to the family of Abraham, to be their God. The whole Mosaic code needs to be understood in this relational context of covenant grace. Though there were blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience (what we call fatherly discipline), the commandments were not a means of earning salvation. It’s interesting to compare Hebrews 12 and its discussion of God’s loving discipline, which follows his discussion of Old Testament saints who lived by faith (chapter 11). (Online Ref; Johnson)
Why did God swear by Himself? “… since there was no one_____________for him to swear by, he swore by himself…”
In the Talmud (Rabbinic writings)
“Thou has sworn to them by Thy great name: just as Thy great name endures for ever and ever, so Thy oath is established for ever and ever…” (Morris 1981)
v. 14 “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”
Gen 22: 15-18
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[a] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
v. 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
Abraham was confident of God’s promise and waited patiently. He was content to await God’s time for the fulfillment of the promise. Morris (1981) quoting Wescott said, “…the oath in itself implies delay in fulfilling the promise.” It was 25 years after the promise was first given (Gen 12) that Isaac was born. Abraham’s grandchildren were not born for another sixty years (Gen 25) only 15 years before his death. Obviously, the complete fulfillment of the promise could not take place within his lifetime. But enough happened for the writer to say, “Abraham received what was promised.”
Do we have the faith of Abraham today? How are we supposed to wait patiently today? Do we believe that God does not go back on his promises? Is God completely reliable? Do we trust God completely with everything? How do we demonstrate this trust? How do we become mature in faith and allow God to work in his own way and time?
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[b] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
v. 16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.
The use of an oath put an end to all arguments. For a person to swear on oath was considered a legal guarantee. Morris (1981) refers to, “Egyptian legal formula, persistent through hundreds of years…”
v. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.
God did not have to swear an oath. However, he did it to make absolutely clear to his servant that his promise would be fulfilled. With this oath: God is the giver of the promise and then its guarantor. God’s will does not change. He has his purpose and he works it out.
What did God want to make very clear? Who did he want to make this very clear to? Does “heirs” mean you and me too? (Gal 3:7) Are we along with the readers of the letter supposed to consider ourselves among those to whom the oath referred?
v. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.
v. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
Hope is the stabilizing force for genuine believers. Hope forms an anchor for our whole life. It allows us to enter into the very presence of God!
v. 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Imagery of the Day of Atonement when the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place on behalf of the people as representative. Jesus Christ penetrated the veil separating the holy from the most holy place. Jesus was our forerunner—a word that implies that others are to follow.
We too are to be brought into that same sacred area through Christ. The high priest was never a forerunner. Our new high priest according to Melchizedek guarantees to every true believer the privilege of confident access into this most holy place—the very presence of the living God!
How do we enter the most holy place today? Are you confident that when you pray you are in the presence of God? Do you understand why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence? (Heb 4:16).
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1981) Frank Gaebelein (ed) The International Bible Commentary (1979) F. F. Bruce (ed)
New International Version Study Bible (1985) http://gregscouch.homestead.com/files/otsalvation.htm