God Does Not Forget His Own
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (6:10)
God knows who are really His and who are faithful. He will not forget His own or their work for Him. Our names are securely in His book of life. Our salvation will not be lost and our rewards will not be forgotten. “Rest easy,” the writer says. “Don’t worry.”
Many Christians today, as throughout history, experience times of doubt and even anguish at the supposed prospect of losing their salvation. When they read or hear a message of judgment, they are shaken and insecure. They do not know what it is to rest in the finished work of Christ and in their positional standing in Him before God.
After Malachi had given his severe warning of judgment, many of the faithful believers apparently were worried that it applied to them. But the Lord calmed their fear. “A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘… I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’ ” (Mal. 3:16–17). In the next chapter, after still another warning to the wicked, God again reassures His own: “But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (4:2). God always knows His faithful; He always knows His own. We should not fear the final judgment. If we are in Christ, we can never be condemned. We should not worry about missing the rapture. If we belong to Christ, He will be sure to take us with Him. The sovereignty of God and His faithfulness secure us.
works are evidence of love
A Christian’s works are not what saved him or what keep him saved, but they are an evidence of his salvation. As James tells us, faith without works is dead—not alive, not real, not genuine. Our faith is demonstrated by our works (James 2:18, 26). God is not so unfair and insensitive that He fails to see the works of love His beloved children perform. He clearly sees the fruit of our righteousness.
Paul told the Thessalonian believers that he knew God had chosen them to be His, to be saved, because of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3–4). They had the fruit of good works to go along with their statement of faith. Love is a product of faith.
love his name
Love for and service to the brethren is an evidence of salvation (cf. John 13:34–35). But an even more significant evidence is love shown toward His name. God knows when our service is truly for His glory by whether or not it is done out of love for His name.
As important as loving fellow Christians is, loving God is immeasurably more important. In fact, without loving God first and foremost, we are not able to love each other as we should. The Jewish Christians being commended here ministered … to the saints first of all out of their love for God’s name. The very reason they could love each other so much and serve each other so well was because they loved God so much. The key to true Christian service is a burning love for the Lord. All Christians ought to be attractive and lovable; but all are not. In this we often do not differ from unbelievers. But our responsibility, our calling, is to love and serve fellow Christians—and also unbelievers—first of all because of God, not because of themselves.
In the introduction of his letter to the Romans, Paul tells them of his gratitude for their faithfulness and of his longing to visit them (Rom. 1:8–10). But he also tells them that the driving force behind his ministry to them is the sake of God’s name and that it is first of all God that he serves (1:5, 9). God’s name stands for all that He is. To love His name is to have a passionate desire for the glory of all that God is. Speaking of some traveling ministers, John says of them, “For they went out for the sake of the Name” (3 John 7). They ministered because of their overwhelming love for the Lord. When Jesus recommissioned Peter, He did not ask him if he loved men and, if so, then to go out and serve them. He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” After each of Peter’s affirmative replies, Jesus commanded him to feed His sheep (John 21:15–17). Our service to Jesus Christ must be based on an overriding love for Him. We can never properly love men, saved or unsaved, lovable or unlovable, until we properly love Christ.
These faithful believers to whom Hebrews was primarily addressed loved the name of the Lord. This was positive proof that their faith was the real thing. They were ministering to each other because they loved their Lord. We hear a great deal about loving and ministering to the Body of Christ, about serving each other in the life of the Body. No emphasis could be more scriptural—if it is in the right perspective. The genuineness and the effectiveness of the ministry we have to one another as saints is directly related to the love we have for Christ. The more we love God, the more we will want to do His will. Our concern should not be for trying to whip up love for people, but for loving God more and more. When our love for Him is right, our love for others will be right.
an unbroken ministry
Keeping God as our focus and first love not only gives us the desire and power to love others and to serve them, but it also sustains us in our love and service. Only God’s love has such staying power. The faithful, loving Hebrews had ministered and were still ministering. Their love issued in an unbroken ministry to the saints. They just kept loving and serving. They could always speak of their fellowship with the Lord and of their Christian service in the present tense.
How Should We Serve?
First of all we serve by ministering our spiritual gifts (cf. Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12:9–11; 1 Pet. 4:10–11). Our frontline of service is through our spiritual gifts. But our spiritual gifts are not given for us to take and use by ourselves, much less for ourselves. They are to be used for God’s glory, in His power and for His name’s sake. Whether our gift is counseling, showing mercy, helping, teaching, preaching, administration, or whatever, it is to be ministered because we love the One who gave it to us.
Much service to one another, of course, has nothing to do with our spiritual gifts but is simply part of every Christian’s responsibility. Every believer’s ministry, for example, involves praying for other believers. We are to “pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Our ministry to one another also involves rebuking sin in a brother, seeking to restore him in love, confessing to one another, forgiving, bearing one another’s burdens, caring for the weaker brother, giving to the needs of the saints, and many other responsibilities. All these things are part of our ministry to one another, and none of them can be generated on its own. All must be generated by the right kind of love for Jesus Christ.
The Christian life boils down to one thing: the measure of our love for the Lord. How preoccupied are we with His name—not with saying it sentimentally in a “spiritual” tone or with vainly repeating it in our conversation and prayer—but with doing His will for the sake of His glory? How lofty and exalted is our view of God and how overwhelming are our concern and genuine love for Him? When we love Him with all our “heart and soul and mind and strength,” we will then be able—and only then be able—to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The saints that are ministered to are simply fellow Christians. All true Christians are hagios, “holy ones,” or saints (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). It goes without saying that we often do not think or act like saints, in the popular sense. But the writer is speaking of our identity in Christ. We are holy ones in our Lord, even when we are unfaithful and act unsaintly. Being a saint has nothing at all to do with one’s degree of spiritual maturity or rank. It refers to any person who is saved, who is set apart by God for Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. Because God sees us as He sees His Son, we are all “holy in His sight.”
The proof that the Hebrews addressed in 6:9–10 were true believers was their loving, faithful, and continuing ministry to fellow believers, fellow saints. The greatest gift our love can give God is that of loving, faithful service to each other, His children. If we love Him, we will serve one another. To say we love God while we have no use for our brothers in Christ is to lie. John, often called the apostle of love, goes into this truth in depth in his first letter. “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.” A few chapters later, he puts the same truth even more strongly: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” In the last chapter he summarizes the truth: “Whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (1 John 2:9; 4:8; 5:1). Loving one another is not an option or an extra; it is bedrock Christian living.
10 The fruits of righteousness which have shown themselves in their lives are the acts of service performed for their fellow-Christians. There is no good reason for restricting God’s “holy people” (“saints”) here to those in Jerusalem because of the similar language in Rom. 15:25; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:1—in those passages it is the context that shows that Jerusalem believers are intended. The “holy people” are as general here as are the “holy brothers” of Heb. 3:1. As for the acts of service referred to here, further details of the circumstances in which they were rendered are given later, in 10:32–34. If the recipients of the letter were resident in Rome, then the behavior for which our author commends them was a precedent for the reputation for Christian charity which the Roman church enjoyed in later times. We may think of Ignatius’s description of that church as “having the presidency of love”; or the words of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his letter to Soter, bishop of Rome (c. a.d. 170): “This has been your custom from the beginning, to do good in manifold ways to all the brothers, and to send contributions to the many churches in every city, in some places relieving the poverty of the needy, and ministering to the brothers in the mines.” The point here, however, is that deeds of kindness done to the people of God are reckoned by God as done to himself, and will surely receive their reward from him.
10 The pastor’s confidence is founded on two of his favorite themes: the faithfulness of God and the corresponding faithfulness due from God’s people. With an emphatic double negative he asserts: “For God is not unjust to forget your work.”6 God’s faithfulness is beyond question, as vv. 13–20 will certify.
Signs of his hearers’ faithfulness provide the second foundation for assurance: their “work” encompasses the full scope of their past faithful conduct (cf. 10:32–34). The pastor becomes more specific with “the love which you demonstrated for his name by having ministered to the saints and by ministering to them” (cf. 13:1–6). Their service to other believers has demonstrated their love for God. They have even risked their own security by supporting those subjected to persecution (10:33–34). The use of both aorist and present participles makes it plain that their past demonstration of love continues into the present. We need not wonder at the pastor’s mention of love for God instead of his favorite themes of faith and obedience.9 Mention of this love (evidenced by their service) allows him to affirm the sincerity of their faith. They lack, however, something necessary for their perseverance in that faith—a firm grasp on the reality of God’s promises for the future and his provision for their attainment. The pastor is intent on supplying this lack.
6:10 / God remembers the readers’ laudable performance in the past and is ready to sustain them in the midst of present difficulty. Later in the epistle (10:32–36) the author details some of that past performance and exhorts the readers to remember it themselves. As then, so now, God is on their side and will sustain them. Their good deeds in the past continue (to help them) in the present, and this itself bodes well for the future. niv omits the opening logical connective “for.” His people is literally “the saints,” a technical expression for Christians used in this sense elsewhere in the epistle only in 13:24.
6:10. What had the readers of Hebrews done to make the writer confident that they were believers? The readers’ works and God’s justice convinced him that his friends had given a demonstration of divine grace.
First, he mentioned the work of the readers. They had labored in Jesus’ name. Their works included concern for others, righteous living, and other Christian virtues. Hebrews 10:32–36 points out additional details of righteous living.
Second, he pointed out the love of the readers. They had ministered to other Christians in the past. They continued to follow this ministry. We see a past and a present participation in their ministry.
Third, he cited the justice of God. In the face of such overwhelming moral evidence, it seemed inconceivable to the writer that God would overlook the works and the love which were evident products of divine grace.
We should be careful not to see this verse as offering support for any doctrine of salvation by works. God had no obligation to the readers, nor did they have any claim on him. Their works were the normal fruit which we should expect from believers. We would expect that God would look with favor upon the evidence of transformed lives which they put out.
In 1979, Vladimir Bojev, a tough, hard-drinking Russian unbeliever, barged into a Baptist service in Russia and blustered, “I’m going to destroy you all. You are just religious fanatics.” To his surprise a beautiful young lady suggested that the believers gather around him and pray for him. Bojev said, “The next thing I knew, I was the center of a prayer circle. I had never before known such love.” The Baptists invited him back, and Vladimir returned to meet with the Baptists daily for two months. He received Christ, married the young lady, and became pastor of a Baptist church in Lipetsk, four hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow. Vladimir said, “Their love won me to Christ and I was converted.” Transformed lives convince others that our Christianity is genuine. Transformed lives attract others to Jesus.
6:10. The author knew that God is not unjust. His readers would not be forsaken. God would remember their work and the love they had shown Him in their helping other believers. The author’s words were a skilled touch on the hearts of his fellow Christians. In speaking of them, he reminded his readers of what they had done for their fellow Christians and were still doing. He thus encouraged them to keep it up while assuring them that God was conscious of all their aid and available to help them in any needed way.
10. For God is not unrighteous, &c. These words signify as much as though he had said, that from good beginnings he hoped for a good end.
But here a difficulty arises, because he seems to say that God is bound by the services of men: “I am persuaded,” he says, “as to your salvation, because God cannot forget your works.” He seems thus to build salvation on works, and to make God a debtor to them. And the sophists, who oppose the merits of works to the grace of God, make much of this sentence, “God is not unrighteous.” For they hence conclude that it would be unjust for him not to render for works the reward of eternal salvation. To this I briefly reply,—that the Apostle does not here speak avowedly of the cause of our salvation, and that therefore no opinion can be formed from this passage as to the merits of works, nor can it be hence determined what is due to works. The Scripture shews everywhere that there is no other fountain of salvation but the gratuitous mercy of God: and that God everywhere promises reward to works, this depends on that gratuitous promise, by which he adopts us as his children, and reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins. Reward then is reserved for works, not through merit, but through the free bounty of God alone; and yet even this free reward of works does not take place, except we be first received into favour through the kind mediation of Christ.
We hence conclude, that God does not pay us a debt, but performs what he has of himself freely promised, and thus performs it, inasmuch as he pardons us and our works; nay, he looks not so much on our works as on his own grace in our works. It is on this account that he forgets not our works, because he recognises himself and the work of his Spirit in them. And this is to be righteous, as the Apostle says, for he cannot deny himself. This passage, then, corresponds with that saying of Paul, “He who has begun in you a good work will perfect it.” (Phil. 1:6.) For what can God find in us to induce him to love us, except what he has first conferred on us? In short, the sophists are mistaken in imagining a mutual relation between God’s righteousness and the merits of our works, since God on the contrary so regards himself and his own gifts, that he carries on to the end what of his own good-will he has begun in us, without any inducement from anything we do; nay, God is righteous in recompensing works, because he is true and faithful: and he has made himself a debtor to us, not by receiving anything from us; but as Augustine says, by freely promising all things.
And labour of love, &c. By this he intimates that we are not to spare labour, if we desire to perform our duty towards our neighbours; for they are not only to be helped by money, but also by counsel, by labour, and in various other ways. Great sedulity, then, must be exercised, many troubles must be undergone, and sometimes many dangers must be encountered. Thus let him who would engage in the duties of love, prepare himself for a life of labour.
He mentions in proof of their love, that they had ministered and were still ministering to the saints. We are hence reminded, that we are not to neglect to serve our brethren. By mentioning the saints, he means not that we are debtors to them alone; for our love ought to expand and be manifested towards all mankind; but as the household of faith are especially recommended to us, peculiar attention is to be paid to them; for as love, when moved to do good, has partly a regard to God, and partly to our common nature, the nearer any one is to God, the more worthy he is of being assisted by us. In short, when we acknowledge any one as a child of God, we ought to embrace him with brotherly love.
By saying that they had ministered and were still ministering, he commended their perseverance; which in this particular was very necessary; for there is nothing to which we are more prone than to weariness in well-doing. Hence it is, that though many are found ready enough to help their brethren, yet the virtue of constancy is so rare, that a large portion soon relax as though their warmth had cooled. But what ought constantly to stimulate us is even this one expression used by the Apostle, that the love shewn to the saints is shewn towards the name of the Lord; for he intimates that God holds himself indebted to us for whatever good we do to our neighbours, according to that saying, “What ye have done to one of the least of these, ye have done to me,” (Matt. 25:40;) and there is also another, “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.” (Prov. 19:17.)
10. not unrighteous—not unfaithful to His own gracious promise. Not that we have any inherent right to claim reward; for (1) a servant has no merit, as he only does that which is his bounden duty; (2) our best performances bear no proportion to what we leave undone; (3) all strength comes from God; but God has promised of His own grace to reward the good works of His people (already accepted through faith in Christ); it is His promise, not our merits, which would make it unrighteous were He not to reward His people’s works. God will be no man’s debtor.
your work—your whole Christian life of active obedience.
labour of love—The oldest manuscripts omit “labor of,” which probably crept in from 1 Th 1:3. As “love” occurs here, so “hope,” Heb 6:11, “faith,” Heb 6:12; as in 1 Co 13:13: the Pauline triad. By their love he sharpens their hope and faith.
ye have showed—(Compare Heb 10:32–34).
toward his name—Your acts of love to the saints were done for His name’s sake. The distressed condition of the Palestinian Christians appears from the collection for them. Though receiving bounty from other churches, and therefore not able to minister much by pecuniary help, yet those somewhat better off could minister to the greatest sufferers in their Church in various other ways (compare 2 Ti 1:18). Paul, as elsewhere, gives them the utmost credit for their graces, while delicately hinting the need of perseverance, a lack of which had probably somewhat begun to show itself.
Ver. 10.—For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love (τοῦ κόπου in the Textus Receptus is ill supported, having, perhaps, been interpolated from 1 Thess. 1:3) which ye showed towards his Name, in that ye ministered to the saints, and do minister. It appears that the Hebrew Christians had formerly (some especial occasion being probably referred to) been active in their charity towards fellow-Christians in distress, and that such charity had not ceased. On this is grounded the persuasion that they will be kept steadfast in the faith. Those who had so shown their faith by their works would surely not be allowed to lose it. The very idea of the Divine justice implies that the use of grace, thus evidenced, will be rewarded by continuance of grace. Cf. Phil. 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it (ἐπιτελέσει) until the day of Jesus Christ;” where also there is reference to deeds of charity, shown in the case of the Philippians by their sympathy with the apostle in his bonds, which charity he prays may “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment.” No difficulty need be felt in this reference to God’s justice, as though it involved the doctrine of human merit, de congruo or de condigno, claiming reward as of debt. The simple and obvious view, that God, in virtue of his justice, will be most gracious to those who have used his grace, by no means contravenes the doctrine of all grace being the free gift of his bounty (cf. 1 John 1:9; Rom. 2:6, etc.). Observe, too, as bearing on the idea of this passage, how the will to do the will of God is said by our Lord to be followed by knowledge of the doctrine (John 7:17), and how works of charity are the very tests of the final judgment (Matt. 25:31, etc.).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 153–157). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., pp. 150–151). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
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 Hodges, Z. C. (1985). Hebrews. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 796). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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