“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8, NASB).
Recently in the men’s Sunday School class I attend, the lesson was from Hebrews 13. And, this lesson from Hebrews 13 helped me resolve a long-standing theological dilemma I had wrestled with from Romans 6-8.
I love it when that happens! It reinforces the consistency of the Bible and why I read and study all of it over and over again. And why it is so important for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and counsel us when we study God’s word.
Let me explain…
Because God is holy, as the Hebrew writer just previously explained in Hebrews 12:18-24, there are certain standards of conduct by which God’s people must abide. But, we can live according to these standards only by faith in Jesus and His Lordship over our lives.
In the first seven verses of Chapter 13, the Hebrews writer sets forth a number of these standards of conduct for Christians. The writer exhorts us to especially love other Christians, show love and hospitality to all persons, remember those who are persecuted for their faith, respect marriage, trust God to provide for you, and imitate the conduct of godly Christian leaders.
In other words, the Hebrews writer tells us how to live out the faith that he so eloquently defined and explained in Hebrews 11.
We know that faith in the blood of Jesus saves us and delivers us from the power of sin so that we are enabled to conduct ourselves in a way that glorifies God. Our faith in Jesus Christ is a liberating faith and the declaration that He is the same yesterday, today and forever is an emancipation proclamation!
“But, if faith in Jesus is so liberating, if we are set free from the power of sin, then how come it’s so easy to do evil and so hard to do good?” one of the members of the men’s class asked. I have to admit that it was certainly a question I also wanted to ask but was too proud to acknowledge that I was confronted by the same theological predicament!
Then, I remembered that another New Testament writer had asked essentially the same question. The Apostle admitted in Romans 7: “But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:23-24, NASB).
And then I realized that this “evil-easy, good-hard” dilemma is a false dichotomy. Or at least, it’s not really the issue. Having faith in Christ that liberates us from sin doesn’t mean that we know we’re delivered from sin only when good is easy and evil is hard. Because that never happens on this side of eternity!
When we’re saved by the blood of Jesus, we’re not set free from our capability to sin. We’re set free from our inclination to sin. I don’t want to serve sin any longer because I want to serve Jesus. Yes, I’m still capable of sinning, but now I’m inclined to live according to God’s standard of conduct.
So, this emancipating faith in Christ is empowerment to do good, not empowerment not to do evil.
This faith in Jesus Christ that saves us and frees us from sin is really a realignment of the human will by the transformative power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to choose to serve God and do His will and to choose not to sin: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2, NASB).