Hebrews 13.7, 17



1.   We are approaching the end of our series of messages on the subject of faith, having focused primarily on the prototype of “the just shall live by faith,” father Abraham.

2.   We saw that Abraham had what I have chosen to call “seeking faith” without actually being justified in the sight of God.  For ten years he had what the Bible properly identifies as faith, yet it was a faith that did not apprehend for him a righteous standing in the sight of God.

3.   We then considered that moment when “he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”[1]  That was the faith by which Abraham was justified, what we usually refer to as getting saved, referred to by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4 and Galatians 3.6.  I call this Abraham’s “saving faith.”

4.   For the rest of his life Abraham exhibited what I would term “staying faith,” which is referred to in Hebrews 11.9-10.  This kind of faith would result in a believer’s behavior that the Reformers would likely describe as “the perseverance of a saint.”

5.   But in the midst of Abraham’s lifetime as a believer with faith, from the time he was saved until his death, there was one standout episode that stood out amidst his life of faith as Mount Everest stands above the rest of the Himalayas and as the Matterhorn stands above the rest of the Alps.  It was that time when God tested his faith by demanding that he offer up his son, his only son, Isaac.[2]

6.   Here is what I want you to consider:  Of the four different kinds of faith, seeking faith, saving faith, staying faith, and what we might call stupendous faith, only the last of these four types of faith is pointed to in God’s Word as a type of faith that produces results which are readily seen by one’s fellow man.

7.   James 2.17-24:

17     Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18     Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19     Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20     But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21     Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22     Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23     And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24     Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.


8.   James makes the assertion that it is only when a man’s faith alters his behavior in a noticeable way that his fellow man will take notice and conclude that man’s relationship with God is real and genuine.  But keep in mind that the faith, itself, can never directly attest to a man’s relationship with God.

9.   This should be understood from the very nature of faith.  Being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, faith is not readily discernible by anyone but God.  Only God knows, in the absolute sense, whether someone has with the heart believed unto righteousness.

10. Others can only surmise, by indirect means, whether one’s real faith is saving faith, or if it is “seeking faith” in the life of someone who is not converted.  And that does not take into consideration whether the faith is genuine faith at all, and not some bogus counterfeit faith.

11. To clarify, a person must have faith to be a Christian.  But it is entirely possible for a person to have real faith and still not be a Christian.  Abraham had faith for ten years before he got saved.  It is also entirely possible for a person to have what seems to be faith, while it is not faith at all, but some unscriptural notion or some ungodly conviction.  Simon the sorcerer, in Acts chapter 8, was just such a fellow, as was Judas Iscariot.

12. It was with respect to these difficult areas of faith that I last spoke on the subject of faith, when I preached about the Baptist pastor’s dilemma.  What is a pastor to do?  A pastor is not authorized to baptize someone who is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, yet he cannot wait so long to baptize that something akin to Abraham’s “stupendous faith” shows itself with some undeniable work as proof that a fellow is saved, such as the willingness to sacrifice Isaac provided.  Such an event occurred in the patriarch’s life some 30 years after his salvation experience.

13. This evening we look on the other side of the equation, considering your perspective instead of mine.  Not only does the Baptist pastor deal with a dilemma, but you do, as well.  And as my dilemma boils down to whether or not I will obey the Word of God, so does your dilemma boil down to whether or not you will obey the Word of God.

14. My text for this evening is Hebrews 12.25-13.17:

25     See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.  For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

26     Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

27     And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28     Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

29     For our God is a consuming fire.

1      Let brotherly love continue.

2      Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

3      Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

4      Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

5      Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

6      So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

7      Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

8      Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

9      Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.  For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

10     We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

11     For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.

12     Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

13     Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

14     For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

15     By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

16     But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

17     Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.


15. We sometimes lose the impact Hebrews 12.25-29 is supposed to have on Hebrews 13.7 and 17 because of the chapter division.  But keep in mind that it was the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ that shook the earth.  As well, keep in mind that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved.  Add to that the fact that our God is a consuming fire, and we have a string of imperatives that are not mere suggestions.

16. Allow me to focus on only two of these imperatives, the ones having most directly to do with your dilemma concerning faith:

7      Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.


17     Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.


17. These are two directives, commanding believers to yield to the instruction, guidance, and oversight of their pastors.  If you will notice verses 5 and 6, “he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  Yet, I maintain that fear of what man shall do to you is precisely why so many professing Christians will not follow the direction of their pastors.

18. Folks, in the first place, God has promised to take care of you, so that you need have no fear of what man will do to you.  In the second place, these directives should be followed simply because it is God’s will.  In the time left, let me give you five additional reasons why your dilemma should be resolved in favor of yielding to pastoral oversight in matters of this invisible thing called faith:



1B.    Please understand that ignorance is not a lack of intelligence, but rather the inadequate acquisition of necessary information.  When it comes to matters of faith, it is the rare individual, indeed, who is schooled enough to overcome this significant matter of ignorance.

2B.    It was a problem when the epistle to the Hebrews was written, and it is a problem in our day.  Turn to Hebrews 5.11-14:

11     Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

12     For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13     For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14     But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


3B.    I submit that most people simply do not know their Bibles well enough to deal with the pertinent facts related to matters of faith; who is and who is not saved, what is and what is not genuine faith, and how to detect when someone’s faith is counterfeit.  Few church members have the skills to exercise proper discernment in these matters.

4B.    Thus, in addition to you having nothing to fear from me presiding over such matters in your life, and you being directed to respond to my oversight with regard to such matters in your life, you simply do not know enough about the subject to responsibly take matters into your own hands with regard to your faith, whether it is “seeking faith” or “saving faith,” or whether it is faith of any kind at all.



1B.    Suppose you did have all the facts.  Suppose you had read all the books, presuming there were books on this subject available to you.  We know that if you do not have the facts at your disposal that you are immature.  Hebrews 5.13 establishes that as fact.  But you can have all the facts and still be immature.  Spiritual maturity is not a matter of information only.

2B.    John and James, the sons of Zebedee, had a great deal of information.  Yet they still wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritans for rejecting their message, Luke 9.54.  Little wonder, then, that decades later, as the only remaining apostle of Jesus Christ, John would write these words:

12     I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.

13     I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.  I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.  I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

14     I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.  I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.


3B.    The allusion, of course, is to different levels of maturity, not just different amounts of Bible fact at one’s disposal.  Thus, maturity is a matter of information plus experience plus practice, not information alone.

4B.    The spiritual maturity of your pastor weighs very heavily on this matter of discernment and matters of faith.  Not just the amount of information at one’s disposal, but the experience one has in dealing with these issues.  Most people who resist a pastor’s oversight in matters of faith are people who have experience with a single person’s faith . . . their own.

5B.    This is hardly enough experience in so important an area as faith, and the salvation of a person’s eternal and undying soul.  As doctor’s do not perform surgery on themselves, and dentists do not do root canals on their own teeth, and attorneys do not represent themselves in court, so even the most spiritual believer would be foolhardy to trust himself in such matters.



1B.    A person can be profoundly spiritual and yet ignorant of many aspects of Scriptural truth.  A person can be profoundly spiritual and yet immature in his Christian life, prone to the errors of the spiritually young.  But say a person is well informed about Bible matters and quite mature in the faith; he is still carnal when he will not adhere to the Biblical mandate concerning his pastor’s oversight and this matter of faith.

2B.    Though the specific issue was different with the Corinthians, Paul’s comments in First Corinthians 3.1-2 give us insight into the behavior of those who may be informed, who may be somewhat mature, but who are suffering through a period of carnality:

1      And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

2      I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.


3B.    What characteristics can be observed in those Christians who are carnal?  First, they are quite unteachable.  So much so that Paul had to deal with them as if they were babes in Christ.  This led Paul to alter what they could be fed from God’s Word, from good meat to milk to suit their inability to digest a hearty course of spiritual fare.

4B.    Oh, how deceptive people’s thinking is in this regard.  The carnal person thinks to be important what is relatively unimportant to God, and thinks to be unimportant what is important to God.  As well, the carnal person asserts rights not granted to a servant of God, while a spiritual person seeks to submit to divinely instituted authority wherever it can be found.

5B.    This ends up with a carnal person thinking that those who quickly submit to pastoral oversight are just mindless robots who can’t think for themselves, while the opposite is true.  It is the person who resists obeying God’s Word who is in the wrong, who is behaving foolishly, who is doing himself harm, and whose thinking is skewed.  The spiritual person realizes that the Lord Jesus Christ speaks through God’s Word and that if Jesus truly is Lord of his life he will immediately obey the directives of Scripture without fear or hesitation.



1B.    There are some who presume to be spiritually equipped to exercise discernment in matters pertaining to faith.  But if that be the case, by whom were they taught and trained?  Ephesians 4.11-12 tells us how such training, such equipping, such preparing is supposed to be accomplished:

11     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12     For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:


2B.    Let us assume that a believer is well informed, as a result of personal study of God’s Word and much reading.  Let us further assume, for the sake of discussion, that he is both mature and spiritual.  That still leaves unresolved his equipping for the task of discernment in matters of faith.  Who trained him?  How was he taught? 

3B.    The fact of the matter is that he was not trained.  No one taught him.  Thus, the believer must yield to God’s plan for addressing matters of discerning faith, which is to yield to the ministry of his pastor, who is the one held responsible for his soul’s welfare by God, Hebrews 13.17.



1B.    The call of God is much denigrated these days, but I am convinced that God calls men to the ministry and gives them grace to do what they could not otherwise do, using abilities that they frequently did not previously possess.

2B.    I will not spend the necessary time to establish the call of God to the Gospel ministry.  That is not the purpose of this sermon.  But I will assert my conviction.  I will voice my opinion regarding the sad state of affairs that is related to the pastor’s call to the ministry.

3B.    Over the centuries the Roman Catholic Church has perverted and distorted many doctrines in her unholy quest for ecclesiastical and temporal power.  One of the miscarriages she is guilty of was the usurpation of the priesthood of the believer, whereby a so-called “priest” was interposed as a mediator between God and man, contrary to what God’s Word clearly teaches.[3]

4B.    Of course, our Baptist forbears have always stood against Rome’s perversion.  But when the Reformers rebelled against Rome’s wicked stance, they sometimes went too far as well as sometimes not going far enough in separating from Rome.  It had been better for them to have quit their ecclesiastical associations and joined with the Baptists.  However, history is history, and modern day Protestants have overreacted in their rejection of Rome’s denial of the priesthood of each and every believer by moving from the Roman position of a “priest” being required to mediate between God and a sinner to the present position of no pastoral involvement at all when a sinner is reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

5B.    The Biblical position of a pastor is really quite clear.  No pastor reconciles a sinner to God.  No pastor functions as intermediary between God and man.  No pastor moderates in any way the priesthood of any genuine believer in Jesus Christ.  But the modern day notion that pastors have no appropriate function in guiding a sinner to Christ is not Scriptural, but is a Protestant overreaction to Romanism that has even been adopted by Baptists.

6B.    In fact, it is a pastor’s responsibility to play an active role in guiding sinners to Christ, and as was recognized in the past.  Let me read from two pastors, Charles Spurgeon in England in the later 1800s and F. L. Chapell here in the United States in the early 1900s:

1C.   Rev. F. L. Chapell warned that our churches would fill up with lost people unless pastors occupied their proper role in bringing the lost to Christ:

The dark days that preceded the Great Awakening will come again unless somebody stands firmly and clearly and decidedly by the doctrine of a converted church-membership (F. L. Chapell, The Great Awakening of 1740, Philadelphia, American Baptist Publication Society, 1903, page 133).


2C.   Spurgeon gave good advice to preachers:

If you wish to see results from your sermons you must be accessible to inquirers...you should appoint frequent and regular seasons for seeing all who are seeking after Christ, and you should cordially invite such to come and speak with you (C. H. Spurgeon, “Conversion As Our Aim,” from Lectures to My Students [New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1889], quoted in Encounter With Spurgeon by Helmut Thielicke [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975], pages 60-61).


3C.   Though many pastors claim they do not have the time, or insist that they have adequately trained people to delegate such responsibilities to, notice how Spurgeon, the pastor of a church of more than 5,000 in attendance at each of his two Sunday services, did it:

Candidates for church membership have an interview with one of the (church leaders), some of whom attend the Tabernacle for that purpose every Wednesday evening.  A record is made by the Elder of the result of that interview in what is called the Inquirer’s Book.  If satisfied with the candidate, he gives a card, which qualifies for direct intercourse with Mr. Spurgeon, who devotes a fixed portion of that time to his office.  If Mr. Spurgeon thinks favorably of that individual, the name is announced at a church meeting, and visitors are appointed to make the most careful inquiries into the whole circumstances connected with the application (for membership).  If this investigation is satisfactory, the candidate appears at a church meeting where he is examined by the Pastor, after which he retires, and the visitor gives his report upon the case.  It is then proposed to the Church for his adoption, and if approved, the Pastor gives the right hand of fellowship.  As soon after this as convenient, the candidate is baptized, and on the next first Sabbath in the month ensuing, unites in the Communion Service, having first been recognized before the whole Church by again receiving from the Pastor the right hand of fellowship (“Metropolitan Tabernacle Statistics,” in The Sword and the Trowel, Volume One: Years 1865, 1866, 1867 [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1975], year 1865, page 19).


4C.   “After the Sunday services he often remained at the Tabernacle for another hour while he interviewed enquirers...from seven until half-past eight at night (on Mondays) he would be interviewing enquirers prior to the Monday evening prayer meeting at the Tabernacle. Talking with enquirers he called ‘glorious work’” (Eric W. Hayden, “Spurgeon’s Working Week,” from the jacket of Volumes 62 and 63, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1916-1917 [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1980]).

7B.    Why should pastors involve themselves in such a way, rather than relying upon professing believers to fend for themselves?  Spurgeon’s own words again:

When talking with anxious enquirers, I am often amazed at the ingenuity with which they resist the entrance of faith into their hearts...After I have proved to them the demonstration that it is the most reasonable and fitting thing in the world for them to trust themselves with Christ, they ask, “How is this to be done?” or “How is that to be accomplished?” and they argue, first one way, and then another, all against their own best interests.  Often, I go patiently through the whole process again and again; and even when that has been done, there comes another objection.  I have tracked these people to their holes as diligently as if I had been a fox-hunter, and have tried to unearth them from their hiding-places... (C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 1976], pages 243-244).




1.   Here is your dilemma:  Will you allow your pastor to perform his pastoral ministry in your life and for your benefit, or will you insist on doing it yourself?

2.   You could argue, “He’s just trying to act like a Catholic priest and stand between me and God.”  But that is not true.  No one accused Spurgeon of trying to be a Catholic priest with men’s souls, or F. L. Chapell either.

3.   The real issue concerning the proper exercise of a pastor’s ministry to deal with someone about matters of faith is whether you have faith enough to trust God to work according to His Word.

4.   Our text showed you that you have nothing to fear.  Our text showed that God wants you to cooperate with the efforts of your pastor to make sure you are converted and living right.  And I have reasoned with you using other arguments to bolster what our text has said, even showing you the way things were done in the past.

5.   So, we are back to your dilemma:  To do or not to do what God wants; that is the question.  Will you let me guide you to Christ and then assure myself that you are genuinely converted?  Or not?

[1] Genesis 15.6

[2] Genesis 22.1-14

[3] 1 Timothy 2.5-6

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