by Burk Parsons
We live in a world of tensions. We are a holy people who have been set apart from the world and yet called to live in the world as a light to the world. We are strangers in a strange land — followers of One who was despised and murdered by those He came to save. We are Christians — trapped in a world of sin and misery, hate and despair. We have been declared sons of the King, yet our King is not of this world. How is it that we are the holy people of God? Are we not sinful human beings just like everyone else? How could it be that we are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, who live before the only just and holy God who is the Creator of all things?
This world is not our home. We are here as the bride of Christ awaiting our Groom who “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,” and who “sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb. 10:12–13).
We are the people of God. For us, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, “made himself nothing” (Phil. 2:7). Who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).
We have been redeemed by God Himself, and, as the apostle Paul writes, we have been “glorified.” Notice that Paul does not say that we will be glorified. Rather, he says, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). God has glorified us — past tense. This is no mere hypothetical statement Paul is making; it is a statement of certainty — certainty that is established by God’s faithful Word. Our redemption is complete in Christ, and we can rest assured knowing there is “therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Why then do we struggle? If we are in Christ, and if Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2), why are we called to persevere? Has Christ not already persevered on our behalf?
Throughout the epistle to the Hebrews, the people of God are called to persevere. The apostle Paul writes, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; Hab. 2:4). We are to live by faith, yet, as the author of Hebrews writes, we are to “strive to enter [God’s] rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). How can these things be? Have we been glorified or must we continue to strive in order that we might be glorified?
Indeed we have been glorified as the Word of God tells us. And, we are called to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23). By faith alone in Christ alone we have been justified. This is the confession of our hope. As Hebrews says, “we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (6:19–20).
Jesus Christ is our Priest, our Mediator, our Redeemer, and our God. By His blood, Christ enables us to persevere, as Hebrews says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). We persevere on account of the perfect, unchanging sacrifice of Christ — because of Him, we are able to serve the living God.
Although we live in a world of tensions, and although our struggle will continue until the Day of Redemption, all tensions are resolved in Jesus Christ. Because of Him we are a holy people, and because of Him we are able to live in the world as a light to the world. We are His people because He chose us to be His people, and we persevere because He has persevered on our behalf. In Him, all tensions are resolved, and in Him our faith is made complete.
It is certainly the case that Hebrews calls the people of God to persevere in the faith. And by God’s grace, He has enabled us to persevere. Nevertheless, if we do not persevere, it is only due to the fact that we were never His to begin with (1 John 2:19). But we who possess genuine faith have been anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20). And because of His anointing, not only are we sons of the King, we are heirs of His kingdom and recipients of a kingdom “that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28).
Although the epistle to the Hebrews prompts us to ask many questions, it always reassures us of the one, true answer — Jesus Christ. For in Him all the promises of God are “yes” and “amen” (1 Cor. 1:20). By Him alone are we justified, and, as He works in us, He enables us to persevere, as Hebrews says, “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).