ADMONISHED TO HOLD FAST
Text: Hebrews 10:23
Psalters: 292, 38, 112, 334
(Reading Sermon by Rev. Daniel Kleyn)
It is good for us, beloved, to know what this text meant for those to whom it was first written. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. They were Jews who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed He was the Messiah, the promised Savior Who had fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. But they were now tempted to abandon their faith in Christ, and to return to the Old Testament. The cause of this was persecution. These Jewish Christians were being reproached and mocked by their fellow Jews. The unbelieving Jews said to them such things as, Why do you believe in Jesus Christ? Why do you follow Him? Why do you turn your backs on the temple and now worship God in a new way, the way prescribed by the man Jesus? Dont you see that He was a failure, as was evident from the fact that His life ended in disaster? Dont you realize that you are deluded and foolish to follow Christ? Thats the way in which they were reproached. And thus they were tempted to abandon faith in Jesus Christ.
That was why they needed to hear the admonition of the text: Hold fast the profession of your faith! Because they were tempted to forsake Christ they had to be told: Do not let go of what you believe and of what you have confessed concerning Him. Do not crumble because of persecution. Stand firmly in the faith that you have confessed concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. And do that without wavering, without swerving one little bit to the right or to the left. Hold fast the profession of your faith!
That applies to us today as well. For we too confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of us have done that publicly in the church some recently, some many, many years ago. We confess that Gods Son, Who came into our flesh, Who suffered and died on the cross, and Who is now risen and exalted to Gods right hand, is our Lord and our Savior. We believe in Him and trust in Him for all of our salvation.
On account of that confession, we are the objects of the hatred of the devil. There is rejoicing in heaven when one makes that confession, but not among Satan and his evil hosts. We can therefore expect ridicule and reproach. We can expect the same kind of persecution that these Jewish Christians faced. Because of that, the Word of God to us is: Hold fast to your confession! Cling to it! Never let it go! Stand firmly in what you believe! Never let anyone or anything lead you to waver from what you have confessed, and continue to confess, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ! We are admonished to hold fast.
That is our theme: ADMONISHED TO HOLD FAST! We consider it under the following points:
I. To What We Must Hold Fast
II. What It Means To Hold Fast
III. How We Hold Fast
I. TO WHAT WE MUST HOLD FAST
The child of God is one who makes confession of his faith. The confession that he makes is a public confession. It is the kind of confession that the apostle Paul speaks of when he writes to Timothy in I Timothy 6:12 saying, Thou hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. It is a public profession of faith.
It is public, first of all, when it is made before the consistory. There one speaks publicly to others concerning what he believes. And then that profession of faith is public when it takes place before the church, before the people of God, before fellow saints in Christ. One stands before the congregation, and one lets the whole congregation know and hear of his confession.
But that public profession of faith is something that also continues in the life of the child of God. You continue confessing Christ. You continue confessing Him before your fellow saints, and before the world. You let others know what you believe. You let others hear your constant confession.
This is something we all must do. The Scriptures make plain that a public profession of faith is something that is required of Gods people. Our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 10 speaks of the fact that those who confess Him before men He will confess before His Father Who is in heaven. But notice those two words that Christ uses: before men. Christ is saying, You must let others hear your confession! You may not be ashamed of what you believe. You may not keep what you believe to yourself. You must speak of it to others!
That is also what Romans 10 teaches. It speaks of the fact that we are to confess with our mouth. We have to say something as the people of God. We have to say something concerning what we believe. And we have to do that, as I Timothy 6 points out, before many witnesses. We may not keep to ourselves what we believe concerning God, and what we believe the Scriptures teach, and what we believe is the truth as taught by the church of which we are members. We may not be silent. We must confess. We have the solemn calling and obligation as the people of God to make a public confession of our faith.
Your confession of faith is not simply letting others know that you believe. Confession of faith means you also let others know what you believe.
That is something that is often forgotten today. It is said by many that it doesnt matter what you believe. But that is not true. The believer must have a knowledge of what he believes. That is true faith. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us that when it states that faith is not only a certain knowledge, but also an assured confidence. By this statement we are taught that faith includes knowledge. Someone who is ignorant of the Word of God and of the truth cannot confess faith properly. One must know what he believes.
Thus, when someone makes a confession of faith he is saying this: I know certain things! I know the Scriptures. I know that the Bible is the Word of God. I know that God gave the Bible to His church and to His people. I know that God speaks to us in the Scriptures. And I also know what the Bible teaches. I know what God says. I know the Word of God. I have knowledge. That knowledge is part of my confession of my faith!
This does not mean that when someone confesses faith he knows everything everything there is in the Bible, everything there is to know concerning God, and man, and Christ, and salvation, and creation, and the fall of man, and heaven, and hell, and everything else. One certainly must know the fundamental truths of the Word of God. That is exactly why when someone makes public confession of faith that person comes to the consistory and the consistory questions him concerning his knowledge of the truth. But one doesnt know everything he continues to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
The point is, however, that knowledge is required. Each of us who has confessed faith admitted that when we answered yes to this question: Do you acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments, and in the Articles of the Christian faith, and taught here in this Christian Church, to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation? We acknowledged that what is taught in the Scriptures, and in the confessions, and in this Christian church, is the true and complete doctrine of salvation. How can someone say yes to that question if he does not know what the Scriptures teach, and does not know that what the Confessions say is what the Scriptures teach, and does not know that what the church preaches and teaches is what the Word of God says? One must have knowledge of the Word of God!
This knowledge includes having a knowledge of what is taught in this Christian Church. You all know that there are many, many other churches in the world. There are also many other churches in our country, and in the city in which we live, as well as in neighboring cities and towns. And most people today think that you can be in any church. They will say: It really doesnt matter which one you belong to or attend. All that matters is that you believe in Jesus Christ, and that you attend a church somewhere that believes in Jesus Christ. All the other truths and all the other doctrines of the Word of God are not that important, for many of them are not salvation doctrines, or salvation issues. Besides, we are all going to heaven anyway, so why should it matter what we believe? All you need to do is to believe in Jesus! That is how many think.
But they are seriously wrong. The sincere child of God cannot confess faith just in any church. He cannot confess faith here in this church and then say, But I could just as easily have done it somewhere else. It was simply more convenient to do it here. My family is here, so I suppose this is the best place to do it.
No! The Word of God teaches us, and the Confessions teach us (and especially the Belgic Confession makes that very plain), that we have a calling as Gods people to confess our faith and to be members of the church that is most faithful to the Word of God. We have the calling to join the church that is distinguished by the three marks of a true church the faithful preaching of the Word, the exercise of Christian discipline, and the proper administration of the sacraments. And we must be members of the church that, when it comes to those three marks, has them most faithfully according the Scriptures. Many churches have those three marks, but the question is this, Which church is most faithful with regard to those three things? And that is important because what we believe, our knowledge of the truth of God, is critical with regard to our salvation. For as Christ said, it is the truth that sets us free. It is the truth that saves. It is the truth that gives comfort to the child of God. The lie cannot and will not do that. We need the truth.
So the child of God who makes a confession says this first of all: I know what I believe. He has the knowledge of faith.
But the confessing believer also has the confidence of faith. He does not simply know certain things, but is also sure of those things. Faith is very personal. The child of God, when making confession of faith, does not simply express something that he knows in his head. But he expresses something that is true in his heart. He confesses something that is true for him personally. By his confession of faith he is saying, The truths of the Word of God that I know and believe are truths that apply to me personally. What the Bible says is true of me. What the Bible says concerning God is something that I know personally. I know God as my God and my Father, as the One Who is sovereign over all things for my good. I know that. I experience that. I am sure of that. And when the Word of God says that man is by nature totally depraved, incapable of doing any good, inclined to all evil, I know that thats true of me. Thats what Im like. Thats how I am by nature, a depraved sinner who cannot do any good of myself. Im lost, apart from Christ. Thus, when the Bible says that the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, I say the rest of that verse as well, of whom I am chief. But I also believe and am confident that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to die for me! For me, a sinner. Hes my Lord. Hes my savior. He has paid the price for my sin. And Im certain of those things. I find in those truths therefore, all my comfort, all my peace, all my joy, and all my hope.
So that is what it means that one confesses faith in Christ in this church. It means that you know what the Bible teaches. It means that you know what the confessions teach. It means that you know what the church teaches. And you give your assent to that your agreement. You say, I agree that what is believed and taught here in this Christian church is true, the true word of God. And you also have assurance concerning that, for you say, The Lord Jesus Christ is my Savior, and the truth concerning Him is the source of eternal joy and happiness and peace in my soul!
II. WHAT IT MEANS TO HOLD FAST
The admonition of the text is, Hold fast to that! You are to hold fast to what you profess. You are to keep it in your possession. Be sure, as believers, to take a good hold of that truth of the Word of God, and never depart from it. Never change with regard to it. Do not let go of it. Do not even let go of part of it not even a small part. Keep on believing until your dying day what today you believe and confess to be the truth of the Word of God!
That is what we must do, beloved Hold fast!
Something is implied in that command which we could easily overlook. The fact that we are told here to hold fast to what we believe and confess means that these are things that we already possess. We are not told, Go out and get a hold of it for the very first time. But we are told, Hold fast to it. The clear implication is, You have it. You have it in your possession. Its yours! What the Bible teaches and what the confessions teach and what this Christian church teaches is something that belongs to you. It has been given to you. It is your property. You possess the truth that you confess.
That is true, beloved, because God has given it to us. It is a gift from Him. God, as you know, uses various means to give that gift to the children of the church. He uses parents to do that. He uses the church itself to do that. He uses our Christian schools and godly school teachers to do that. Just consider for a moment how He has used many years of instruction in catechism, many years of instruction in the home, many years of instruction in school, and many years of being in church and hearing the preaching as means to give the gift of the truth to you who are His.
Because of that you can say (as is pointed out in II Timothy 3:15): It is from a child that I have known the Holy Scriptures. Ive learned the Word of God from youth and from childhood on. Ive been taught the Word of God. Ive been taught what the confessions teach. Ive been taught what this church believes and teaches. Through all those means God has brought me to understand that this is what is His Word, His truth. And God has given that to me. It is my possession as a gift from God. He says to me, This is yours! This is your very own!
What God has given is a precious gift. It is so, of course, because it comes from God. That should be enough. The fact that it comes from God should be enough to make us realize its value, so that we cling to it.
But it is also precious because the truth that God gives to us is saving truth. Every part of the Scripture is gospel. Every part of the Bible reveals to us the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work. It is not true, as is sometimes said, that there are only parts of the Bible that are important, and, as regards the other parts of Scripture, that it doesnt matter if you believe them or do not believe them. It is not true, for example, that you can deny creation and still believe in the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ. You cannot. For every part of the Word of God is the truth, and it belongs together as a whole as the revelation to us of God as the God of our salvation in Christ. The truth is, as we mentioned earlier, the truth that sets us free. The truth saves. The truth comforts us concerning our miseries and sins. The truth comforts us concerning the troubles and afflictions of life. The truth gives us hope of a blessed eternal life that is coming. The lie cannot comfort it can only cause despair. The truth alone can give comfort.
When you think of these things, then you realize it is no wonder that God tells us here to hold fast and never let go of that truth. How can we let go of something that comes from God? How can we let go of something that is so precious and so necessary for our salvation? How can we let go of something that is the only thing in all the world that saves and that comforts? If we let go of it, we do that at great cost to ourselves.
So hold fast to this gift from God. Hold fast!
To hold fast to this gift from God implies a number of things.
First of all, if you are going to hold fast to it that means you should never forget what you believe. It ought not be true of us, beloved, that we are ignorant of the Word of God and ignorant of what the Bible teaches. It can sometimes be that way. We forget the things that we have been taught in our youth. We do not know them. We forget what our parents have taught us. We forget what we have learned in school. We forget what we have learned in catechism. We forget what we have learned through the preaching. Soon we no longer know the terminology of the Reformed faith. We dont know what the Scriptures teach concerning certain truths, for we do not give much time to those things. Oh, we did know these things in the past when perhaps we had to know them in catechism because we would be tested on them. But soon after we were tested, we forgot those things. We dont know them anymore.
We also forget because we do not continue to read and study. We have to do that Read! Read the Bible, of course. But read other good Reformed literature, too. Read the Standard Bearer. Read the Beacon Lights. Read other books. Do not be satisfied with just a little understanding and a little knowledge of the truth. And do not say, as we can be tempted to say, I dont have time to read, or, I find it too difficult to understand what I read. Yes, it is difficult. But we have to work at it. Otherwise we are going to forget what we have learned. To hold fast to the profession of our faith means this: Continue to know and to remember what you have been taught!
Holding fast also means continuing to learn. When one makes confession of faith it does not mean that he now knows it all. You cannot say: Im finished with catechism, and Im finished with pre-confession class, so now I dont have to study much anymore. That is not the case. The child of God is always learning and must always be learning. The Scriptures are filled with truth filled with the revelation of God to us in Christ, and filled with the riches of the gospel. You never exhaust them. There are always new things to learn. We know that. You read through the Bible from year to year in your family devotions or your private devotions, but every time you do so you come across something concerning which you would say, Ive never read that before. I never realized the Scriptures said that. Yes, there is always more to learn lots, lots more to learn.
The confessing believer is therefore one who continues to study and learn. He does that also through attending Bible study where believers together can learn from the Scriptures. In that way one continues to grow in the knowledge of the things he has confessed.
And then thirdly, to hold fast means, as the text makes very explicit, Dont waver! Dont waver! that has emphasis in the text. To waver means to lean. Someone who wavers is someone who leans this way and then that way. He does not have a good, solid, firm footing or foundation. He is someone who is carried about, as the Scriptures say in Ephesians 4, by every wind of doctrine. New ideas come along and he says, Well, maybe thats true. Maybe thats better than what I have believed and confessed. Maybe Ive been wrong all this time. Maybe the Word of God and the Confessions have been wrong all this time. Someone who wavers is easily deceived. He goes with the flow. He is carried along by friends and their ideas. And the result is he changes. He does not stand fast. He drifts from the truth.
Thats why the Word of God emphasizes here that when it comes to holding fast to the profession of your faith you are to do that without wavering, without changing. Do not change in what you believe. Do not change in how you say the Scriptures apply to the people of God. Do not change by saying, as so many want to say today, The Word of God applied differently then, when it was written, than it does today. The word of God is dated. The admonitions of the New Testament were just for those who lived at the time, not for us. To say that is to be carried away to drift and to waver. Do not do that. Do not lean this way, and then that way, just because everyone else is going in those directions and you want to go along with the crowd. Do not swerve to the right hand or to the left. Hold fast, without wavering one iota from the truth of the Word of God.
That is the command of the text to all the people of God. Do you hear what Christ commands?
III. HOW WE HOLD FAST
To do this is not easy. It never will be.
It is difficult first of all because there is apostasy in our day. Most people are changing. And they consider us to be old fashioned. We are, they say, behind the times. Therefore they will criticize us and put pressure on us to join them. And we are tempted. For who wants to be among the few? Who wants to be among the few who are, for the most part, constantly criticized and ridiculed? It is much easier to say, Yes, they are right. We better start doing what they are saying we ought to be doing. We better start believing what they believe, or at least agree that it doesnt matter what one believes. Because of such persecution, the admonition is a difficult one to heed.
But not only is it difficult, beloved, it is really impossible. We cannot do it. We cannot hold fast the profession of our faith not on our own. We cannot because we are sinful, and we are tempted, and we give in.
That is why it is important to note this statement in the text: He is faithful that promised. That is how we will do it. That is what makes it possible. We will heed Christs command because God is faithful Who has promised.
The text is telling us that God makes promises to His people. And when we speak of the promises of God, we must remember that the promises of God are sure. They are certain. There is no doubt about them. God does not make promises as we do. We make promises, but we often break them. Not God. He is faithful. And that is because He is the unchanging God. This is the truth concerning Him that is expressed in the name Jehovah. He is the I AM. He is the God Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes His mind with regard to the promises He makes. He makes a promise, and even though we make ourselves unworthy of God keeping that promise, still He does. That we are unfaithful does not make a difference with God. He is faithful. When He makes a promise it will happen.
Consider some of the promises of God in Scripture promises that directly relate to the admonition we are given in our text.
Theres the promise God makes in Hebrews 13:5. He has said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. What a blessed promise that is. Here we are in the midst of an evil world, tempted on every side, facing not only temptations, but many trials and a great variety of things that make it hard for us to stand firm in the faith that we have confessed. And what does God say? My people, Im with you. I will never leave you never. And I will never forsake you. I will be there to uphold you. I will be there to give you the strength you need to remain steadfast in your confession. Thats My promise. I will do that I will. What a blessed promise.
Then theres the promise of God in Philippians 1:6. There Gods promise is this: I have begun a good work in you, and I will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Thats another blessed promise. God says: I have begun a work in you. You didnt begin it I did. And having begun it, Im going to continue that work. Im not going to start it and then let you do the rest. But this is My work. Im going to continue that work. Im going to continue it until the day of Christ, that is, until the day that Christ returns to take you as one of His children to be in glory. What a blessed promise. God is saying, I will do it all. I will begin the work. I will continue it. And I will finish it. I will perfect and complete what I have begun. And when God promises that, God will do it. He will.
Therein lies the possibility of our faithfulness to our confession that God is faithful. Believe in Him, therefore. Trust in Him. Seek Him and His help daily. Hold fast the profession of your faith, and do so without wavering. Do that in the assurance of Gods faithfulness. Remember His blessed promises: I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will finish the work that I have begun. And when My work is done, I will bring you to dwell forever in heavenly glory with Me.