The Study of Salvation

By James T. Bartsch,

"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:11-12

What Does the Writer Desire for His Readers?

This is the eighth installment of a larger treatise entitled,

Does Hebrews 6:1-8 Teach Us We Can Lose Our Salvation?

by James T. Bartsch


    In this series of articles, we have argued that the audience of the writer of Hebrews consisted of Hebrew Christians who were being tempted to revert to Judaism. If they do so, he affirms that it will be impossible for them to repent of their failure to trust in Christ alone. Moreover, they will be like unproductive land choked out with thorns and thistles, and fit only for burning. I do not believe he was talking about burning in hell. Rather, he was describing what happens to land that is unproductive and choked with thorns and thistles. It is burned, not to ruin it forever, but to make it more productive. But in the process, Christians miss out on ministry they might otherwise have enjoyed, and for which they would have been rewarded in the next life. This purging is described, I believe, in 1 Cor. 3:10-15.

In the section just preceding this one, the writer is convinced of a better end for his readers than being burned. He believes their end will be that which accompanies salvation. He based his conviction on their love for the name of Christ as exhibited in their past and present serving of other Christians.

In this section (Heb. 6:11-12), the writer has a fervent desire for his readers. Let us hear what he has to say.

  • Desiring their Diligence: "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence" (Heb. 6:11)
    • "we desire" is the Present Plural of the verb epithuméō (1937) "(1) generally, of a strong impulse toward something desire, long for (Luke 16:21); in a good sense of natural or commendable desire long for, earnestly desire (Luke 22:15); ..." (excerpted from Friberg). Here, both meanings (1) and (2) apply. The writer of Hebrews, along with those whom he represents – he seems to place himself in the "second generation" of Christians – those who heard from the Apostles (Heb. 2:3-4) – "we" (plural) strongly desire something of the readers, who might be classified in the "third generation" of believers.
    • "that each one of you" – he is concerned that each of his readers, without exception, pursue the course of action concerning which he is about to speak.
    • "show the same diligence" – "show" is the Present Middle Infinitive of the verb endeíknumi (1731) "only middle in the NT; (1) as giving outward proof show, demonstrate (Heb. 6:10) ..." (excerpted from Friberg). The writer was  earnestly desiring that his readers exhibit the same "diligence" – the Accusative of the noun spoudḗ (4710) "(1) haste, speed ... (Luke 1:39); (2) as a quality of genuine commitment zeal, diligence, earnestness (Rom. 12:11);" (excerpted from Friberg). The writer was urging his readers to exhibit the same zeal and earnestness as they had earlier in their Christian lives. There was a time when they were fully committed to the belief that faith in Christ alone gained them eternal salvation, and would grant them full-fledged participation in His Kingdom when He returned. But now, they were on the verge of backing off of faith in Christ alone and adding the sacrifices and keeping of the Law required under Judaism. The writer was urging them to return with great effort to faith in Christ alone!
  • Assurance of Hope: "so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the end," (Heb. 6:11)
    • "so as to realize" – there is no verb here, but only the preposition prós (4314), used here with the Accusative case "(5) to show purpose ... for the purpose of, for the sake of, in order to (John 11:4; Acts 3:10) ... with a view to (Eph. 4:12; 1 Pet. 4:12)" (excerpted from Friberg). The entire verse could be translated as follows: "Moreover, we strongly desire that each one of you might demonstrate the same diligence with a view to the full confidence of the hope until its outcome" (JTB translation with the translation of prós emphasized).
    • "the full assurance" – the Accusative of the noun plērophoría (4136), meaning "full assurance, complete certainty, full confidence" (Friberg). The article is present. Note that this noun is used only 4X in the NT, in Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 6:11; 10:22, always in a positive sense. Good works on behalf of others do not gain us salvation, for salvation is by grace through faith, completely apart from works (Eph. 2:8-10). Good works are the fruit, and never the cause of our salvation. Nevertheless, continued serving of others gives us assurance of our salvation. That was John's point when he wrote, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3). His commandments include loving one's Christian brother (1 John 2:9-11). James, the half-brother of Jesus, made the same point. He wrote that the faith of both Abraham and Rahab was justified or vindicated by their works (James 2:21, 25). The fact that these Hebrew Christians had been helping and were continuing to help their Christian brothers gives the writer assurance of better things for them than will the outcome for returning to Judaism.
    • "of hope" – literally, "of the hope," the Genitive of the noun elpís (1680), Friberg's meaning (3) "as expectation of a divinely provided future (the) hope (Col. 1:27)." The writer uses the article here, "the hope." He is speaking of the specific hope that we as Christians have of a complete salvation from sin and salvation of the body from decay and mortality in the heavenly Mount Zion in New Jerusalem, the future home and capital city of the perfected Church and the redeemed Nation of Israel (Heb. 12:22-24). The Christian has the (specific) hope of a glorious future in taking part in Christ's coming Kingdom. Hope is essential. Without hope, we give up. The writer does not want these Christians to give up. He wants them to keep on trusting in Jesus alone, to keep on serving their Christian brothers, and to retain their hope.
    • "to the end" – "end" is the Genitive Neuter of télos (5056), here, with áchri (891), meaning "to the end, to the last or fully, altogether, depending on the context" (excerpted from Friberg). The writer is specific. His readers needed to, and we need to continue trusting in Christ alone and serving others to the very end of our lives, and beyond that, to attaining the ultimate end or completion of our Christian endeavor, reigning forever with Christ in the Kingdom of God and Christ (Rev. 22:5). Calvinists have, in their acrostic TULIP, a key component, the letter P – the Perseverance of the Saints. The saints (Rom. 1:7; 8:27), the elect (Rom. 8:33) will persevere until the end. That is exceedingly Biblical, and it is what the writer of Hebrews is urging upon his audience. It is hard, hard work being a Biblical Christian. It requires that we persevere to the end of what God has planned for us. That requires diligence and fortitude, lubricated by assurance and hope.
  • Avoiding Sloth: "so that you will not be sluggish," (Heb. 6:12)
    • literally, "in order that you will not become" – "become" is the Aorist Subjunctive of the verb gínomai (1096), here, with the result clause ("in order that"), indicating a potential abrupt transition into a condition or state of being.
    • "sluggish" – the Nominative Plural of the adjective nōthrós (3576), "sluggish, lazy; in the NT used of being slow to understand or respond spiritually" (Friberg). This adjective is used only twice in the NT, both times by this author (Heb. 5:11; 6:12). In the first instance, the author accused his listeners of having become "dull" or "hard" of hearing. The writer does not want his readers to become permanently mired in this state of being sluggish or hard of hearing, but to avoid it at all costs.
  • Following Those who Inherit the Promises: "but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb. 6:12)
    • "but imitators" – the Nominative Plural of the noun mimētḗs (3402), "one who follows another's example imitator, follower" (Friberg).
    • "of those who through faith" – the Genitive of pístis (4102), here, an active belief directed toward the person of Christ "confidence, faith, trust, reliance on (Matt. 9:2);" (adapted from Friberg). The writer of Hebrews uses this trait 32X in his treatise. Only Paul's letter to the Romans uses it more frequently (40X).
    • "and patience" – the Genitive of makrothumía (3115), "a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances patience, long-suffering; (1) as patience under trial endurance, steadfastness (Heb. 6:12)" (excerpted from Friberg); always translated as "patience" by NASB.
    • "inherit" – the Genitive Present Active Participle of the verb klēronoméō (2816), literally, "(are) inheriting," here used "figuratively, as receiving God's salvation, gifts and benefits obtain, gain possession of, receive (Luke 10:25; Heb. 12:17)" (excerpted from Friberg).
    • "the promises" – the Accusative of the noun epangelía (1860) "(1) originally announcement, declaration; in later Greek agreement, promise, assurance (Acts 23:21); predominantly of God's pronouncements that provide assurance of what He intends to do promise (Eph. 6:2); by metonymy thing promised, what was promised (Acts 1:4)" (Friberg). The writer of Hebrews does not specify the content of "the promises" (he uses the article, "the (specific) promises) to which he was referring. But from the content of the NT, we can state a number of incredible benefits that the believer in Christ has been promised: eternal life (John 3:16; 3:36); adoption as sons (Eph. 1:5); redemption (Eph. 1:7); a marvelous inheritance (Eph. 1:11), the seal of which is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 14); the return of Christ for His own (John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18); a glorious eternal city, New Jerusalem, as our future home (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:10; 12:22-24; 13:14; Rev. 21:1-22:5); reigning with Christ for eternity (Rev. 22:5). The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to imitate those who, through faith and patience, inherit all these marvelous promises. The writer of Hebrews uses this word, "promise" or "promises" 14X, more than in any other book of the NT. The book of Galatians contains the second-highest usage, 10X.
  • Summary. The writer of Hebrews desires that his readers exhibit the same diligence in following only Jesus that they had shown in their earlier Christian lives. He wants them to maintain a full assurance of their Christian hope extending to the time when they actually realize the benefits they have been promised. He wants them to forsake the sluggish, hard of hearing demeanor, the tendency he had noticed in them already. Instead he wants them to imitate those who through faith and patience actually inherit all the promises they had been given. That is his desire for them.

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(Scripture quotation taken from the  NASB 1995.)

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Updated February 28, 2022