Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Hebrews, Romans, and Revelation are the three best composed books in the New Testament. Of these three, Hebrews is the best as far as composition is concerned. In the first ten chapters of Hebrews we have a clear, thorough, and complete comparison between God’s economy and man’s religion. This man-made religion frustrates God’s people from going on according to His economy. Due to this frustration, the book of Hebrews was written. After presenting a thorough comparison of Judaism with God’s economy, this book charges the Hebrew believers, who were in danger of shrinking back, to live, walk, and go on “by faith” (10:38-39), that is, “not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Then in chapter eleven it continues to define what faith is in a historical way.
Suppose you are driving an automobile and come to an intersection where there are two signs, one indicating that a road is closed and the other indicating that a road is open. Would you drive on the road that has been closed? If you did, you would run the risk of losing your life. It would be much better to drive on the open way. The clear comparison given in the first ten chapters of Hebrews is a sign for our driving, showing which way has been closed and which way is open. Over the old way is a sign—Closed, Terminated. Over the new way is also a sign—Open, Freshly Slain. This contrast is the consummation of these ten chapters. After presenting such a contrast, the writer tells us how to take this open, freshly slain way—it is by the unique way of faith.
Before considering this matter of faith, I would like to say a further word about the gaining of the soul. Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of them who shrink back to ruin, but of them who have faith to the gaining of the soul.” The Bible is the most consistent book. Although it has many aspects and uses different terms, its main point is always consistent. The terms glorification, perfection, and the gaining of the soul all point to one thing. As we have seen, glorification is perfection and perfection is the gaining of the soul. We are Christ’s followers today. If we would follow Him according to God’s economy, we must pay the price. Humanly speaking, in order to follow the Lord we must lose the soulish enjoyments and worldly entertainments. To lose such things is what it means to lose our soul. If we are unwilling to pay the price to lose our soul today, meaning that we do not like to lose any soulish enjoyments or worldly entertainments in this age, we shall not give any opportunity to the law of life to work Christ into us. To lose our soul today means that we give the law of life the opportunity to work Christ into our being. It means that we do not care for shopping, housing, eating, clothing, or any type of entertainment, and that we only care for the working of the law of life within us. We all must say, “I am willing to pay any price that the law of life might have the opportunity to work Christ into every part of my being.” This is what it means to be perfected. This is also for our glorification. Our glorification in the future will be the gaining of our soul. Hence, perfection, glorification, and the gaining of the soul all refer to the same thing.
In 10:39 the writer says that “we are not of them who shrink back to ruin.” Because we have been cleansed with the Lord’s precious blood, regenerated, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are good material for God’s economy, and the law of life is able to work Christ into us. If we are unwilling to pay the price for this and shrink back, we shall be ruined as the good material for God’s economy, as the material in which the law of life can work. If we come forward, we shall remain good material for the law of life to work Christ into our being. Shrinking back ruins the good material by soulish enjoyments, worldly entertainments, and religious activities. The Greek word translated “ruined” is the same word as for destruction. This means that if, as good material for the working of the law of life, you shrink back from God’s economy, you will be completely destroyed as far as being material is concerned. In the past years, I have seen much good material that has been destroyed by shrinking back from God’s up-to-date economy. Although they saw God’s present economy, they were unwilling to pay the price for it. They shrank back and were ruined. We must be careful about this.
To be ruined means that we save our soul today and lose it in the future. It also means that we sell our birthright of glorification, giving up our right to full perfection. Those who lose their soul in the future are those who do not care for their future perfection, glorification, and gaining of their soul. They only care for their soulish enjoyments today. If we are willing to pay the price to lose our soul today, in the future we shall gain our soul and be perfected and glorified. As an encouragement to the Hebrew believers to go on in this matter, at the end of chapter ten the writer said that we are of them “who have faith to the gaining of the soul.” After presenting a thorough comparison of Judaism with God’s economy, the writer charges the Hebrew believers to go on by faith. Immediately after this follows chapter eleven, which covers the unique way of faith.
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