This week Pastor Mark unpacks the BIG IDEA of Hebrews 6:13-20: God’s promise is sure. We’ll see three ways we can respond to this truth that God’s promise is sure: Understand the promise. Trust the promise. Hope in the promise.

Citylight Manayunk | November 12, 2023 from Citylight Church on Vimeo


Sermon Transcript

Years ago at Citylight I met a guy who came up with an investing system. He and a friend came up with some algorithm to make tremendous returns in the stock market. They thought they were really on to something. They did their homework. They back-tested it on the stock market all the way back to the Great Depression. They dipped their toes in with small amounts over a period of time and it all seemed to be going great. Smooth. Up and to the right. It seemed like a sure thing! So then the time came and they pulled the trigger, withdrew their retirement savings and put it into the market and ran it according to the system. You ever hear the term “black swan event?” That’s when something extremely unexpected happens, usually with disastrous consequences. That’s what happened next. They lost it all. It wasn’t a sure thing.

We’re all looking for a sure thing. Whether it’s investments, finances, relationships, love, career, kids, [classic American dream path – get good grades, go to college, etc.], we are all looking for something we can bank on. Something that will carry us through, not just through this season of life that we’re in, but through all of life in a fallen world.

Well today, in our passage in the book of Hebrews, we come across a sure thing. It’s one of the most reassuring passages in the whole book. This Book of Hebrews has definitely been hitting us hard lately with some stark warnings to persevere. To keep going. But today, we find out that the God who calls us to persevere in Christ until the end despite trials and persecution is the same God who has given us a sure thing to help get us there. That sure thing is his promise. God’s promise is sure. And he wants us to KNOW it, so that we can have HOPE.

To set this up, let’s actually go back to the last couple of verses before today’s passage. He wrote: 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb 6:11-12). The writer of Hebrews is telling us to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. And then our passage starts in verse 13.

But it doesn’t say what you might expect. He just told us to imitate people who act with faith and patience, and so you might expect him to focus on an example of that. Someone who does that. And he sort of does, for a hot second, by bringing up Abraham. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. (Heb 6:13-15)

But it’s clear that the point here is not to show how great Abraham was. Instead, it’s to show how great God’s promise is, and especially, how God’s word and God’s oath make it a sure thing. Because after talking about Abraham for a second, he immediately goes right back to talking about how God gave his word, and he gave it with an oath. So the point isn’t Abraham’s sure faith, but God’s sure promise. And so this leads to the big idea today, the thing that God the Holy Spirit wants us to know and cherish through his word: God’s promise is sure. His promise is SURE. In a world where everything can change in the blink of an eye, storms come up, waves rage, God’s promise is like an anchor in the storm. It’s something we can BANK on. It’s a sure thing.

And we’ll see three ways we can respond to this truth that God’s promise is sure. Understand the promise. Trust the promise. Hope in the promise. Let’s start first with understand the promise.

Understand the promise

If the main point is to remind us that the promise is sure, then we have to know what promise we’re talking about, right? We have to understand it. Because there’s actually a specific promise, or set of promises, he’s getting at, and we find it in verse 14: “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”

Now this promise is actually taken straight out of the Old Testament, all the way back in Genesis 22. And guys, I can’t even express how huge this is. Because this is the story of the binding of Isaac. Do you remember this? Way back in Genesis 22 God told Abraham to go and sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac. And so Abraham obeyed and went. But just before he could go through with it, God sent an angel and stopped him. And the angel said “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And then God makes this promise to Abraham, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you. / your seed”

Now, you might be thinking, “OK. Interesting. But WHY is this important? Why is it important to understand it? 2 reasons.

First, this promise is HUGE. It’s actually one of a series of interconnected promises that God makes to Abraham in Genesis chs. 12, 15, 17, and 22. But they all go together, and here’s the thing, this promise is like the BACKBONE of the entire Bible – Old AND New Testaments. It runs through it all and ties the whole thing together. So we need to understand it first because this promise is huge. Remember last week if you were here, and the author was like, “you need solid food. You need to get beyond the basics.” Well, this is one of those things, one of those deeper, weightier things we need to know about.

But what IS it? What IS the promise? Let’s read the whole context of Genesis 22 (always a good idea BTW) where God makes this promise and we’ll know.

I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:17-18

(See also Genesis chs. 12, 15, 17. God promises a people, a place, and God’s presence)

If you break down this promise, it comes down to 3 things: God promises a people, a place, and God’s presence. People, place, presence. First, people: “I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven & the sand on the seashore. Second, he promises Abraham and his descendents a place (“possess the gate of his enemies”). Later on, this is called the “promised land.” Third, he promises the universal blessing of his very own presence. God himself will dwell in their midst, and through them, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. And like I said, this promise runs through the entire Bible, all the way through the Book of Revelation.

So that’s the first reason you need to understand this, because it’s HUGE and it runs throughout the entire Bible. Let it affect your mind as you read the Bible.

But there’s more. Because if you’re a follower of Christ, this is not just some random fact of biblical theology. In fact, the second reason to understand this promise, is that this promise is OUR promise.

The author brings up the promise to Abraham right here not because it’s just some random example of a promise that God made and kept, but because this promise is the same promise that you and I have to hold on to. This is it! Notice it says in v. 17, “God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose.” The heirs of the promise – you know who that is? You and me.

If you are a follower of Christ, God has not PROMISED you financial security. He has not PROMISED you perfect health. He has not PROMISED you a long life surrounded by a loving family. But if you have faith in the Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile, God HAS promised to make you part of a great multitude, a great cloud of witnesses, people from every nation, tribe and tongue. He HAS promised to give you a never-ending inheritance in an eternal promised land, a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And he HAS promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you, but will be with you always, even to the end of the age. WOW. What a promise! Let it affect your mind. But let it infect your heart.

God’s promise is sure. And so first, we need to understand the promise. But understanding a promise isn’t much good if it’s not a sure thing, is it? We’ve all had people break promises to us. How do we know that THIS promise is a sure thing? Let’s go on and know why we can trust the promise.

Trust the promise

Let’s read part of the passage again.

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself…. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Do you hear what this is saying? It’s saying, “God really wants us to know that this promise is sure. And to do that, he gave us two things. He not only makes the promise in the first place, but he confirms it with an oath.” Those are the two things. The promise, and the oath.

Let’s let our minds soak in this for a couple of minutes.

Have you ever thought how amazing it is that God makes promises? He totally does not have to do that. He could just… do stuff. And we would be like, “OK.” When I think of other religions that are out there, most don’t have personal gods at all. And those that do, those gods really don’t go around making promises. But our God, the true God, the God of the Bible, puts himself on the line by making promises. Actually no telling us “I will act in such-and-such a way.” It’s an incredible act of divine relatability this is! He doesn’t have to do it. But he does it to show us that He’s the kind of God that actually wants to relate to us as a person, to have a relationship with us. You know what kind of a person makes promises? A father. A dictator doesn’t make promises. He makes threats. A general doesn’t make promises. He issues orders. But our God is a FATHER. A loving, ever-lasting Father, and so he makes promises. So that’s the first thing that’s unchangeable here. God, the unchanging God, makes a promise to us.

But that’s not all, because what totally blows the mind of the author of Hebrews is that God not only makes a promise in the first place, but he makes it with an oath. Now, this is actually kind of funny if you think about it. We don’t deal with oaths a whole lot these days. We don’t generally go around making oaths to one another. Now an oath is a “solemn attestation of the truth of your words,” usually calling upon God as a witness (merriam-webster). In fact, just about the only place we deal with oaths is in the courtroom, right? “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Notice the “so help you God” part. What you’re basically doing there is you are calling on God as a witness that you’re going to tell the truth.

Oath: A solemn attestation of the truth of your words, usually calling on God as a witness.
Perjury: Lying under oath.

And if you DON’T tell the truth when you make an oath, it’s a problem, right? In fact, it’s a crime. It’s called PERJURY. Perjury is when you lie under oath. And it’s a crime. You could be involved in the most minor case. A slip and fall that damaged your pinky and you’re looking for a thousand bucks. Relatively minor. But lie about it on the stand? You just got yourself in trouble. You just committed a crime. Perjury’s a big deal. Oaths are a big deal.

And so the reason I said it’s kind of funny is because God makes this promise to Abraham. And it’s like he’s going on the witness stand. And so he swears an oath. But who’s God going to swear by? So he basically says, “Abraham, I solemnly swear that I’m going to do this and all of this and nothing but this – so help me… me.” Who else can he swear by? There’s no one greater to swear an oath by, so he swears it by himself! That’s wild, right?

But the point that the writer of Hebrews gets from this is, God really wants you to know that this promise is sure. It’s a sure thing. You can bank on it. You see, God doesn’t make the oath for his OWN sake. He doesn’t NEED to. But he does it for us. So that we can know the promise is sure. So that we can TRUST the promise. The promise is enough. The oath is just for us. You don’t need to run an algorithm and back test to see if it’s a sure thing. You don’t need to lawyer up to make sure you get what’s coming to you. You don’t have to call a customer service number or go all scorched earth on social media to make sure you get what was promised to you here. God’s promise is sure. You can TRUST it.

How can we apply this? How can this change the way we live today? Here’s how. Let me tell you a tale of two employees. Employee one works at a company where they have what’s called a “guaranteed pension.” If you’re like under 25, you’re like, “What’s a pension?” A pension is when you work at a company for a really long time, usually decades, and when you retire, they give you a guaranteed income for the rest of your life. Now, imagine you’re employee 1. You know with 100% certainty that you’ve got a guaranteed pension that will last for as long as you need it. How’s that going to make you feel? Pretty secure, right?

Now employee 2, they’ve got a pension too. But suppose it’s not guaranteed. Suppose you know in advance that there’s only like a 50-50 chance you’ll get what’s promised to you. How will THAT make you feel? Pretty different, right?

Friends, we can TRUST God’s promise because he made it with an oath. He wants to let us know 100% that it’s a sure thing. We can TRUST it. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. How do we apply it to us? Here’s how. You’re tempted to give up…. You’re tempted to just stop trying… you’re tempted to go an easier route. God has promised you an eternal people, place, and presence, and it’s a sure thing. Wait patiently for it. But there’s one more thing. Not only can we trust in the promise, because God has sworn with an oath, but we can HOPE in the promise, right now, every day.

Hope in the promise

Let’s read vv. 18-20.

so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

We have a hope set before us. An eternal promise of a heavenly inheritance with no mourning, crying, or pain. And these verses tell us that this hope is actually like an anchor for our souls.

Here’s how anchors work. You’ve got a boat that otherwise would go all over the place. But throw the anchor overboard, and now you’re set. Secure. You’re not going anywhere – not as long as the anchor holds. Hear what one maritime website says about anchors: “Without anchors, ships would be at the mercy of winds and currents, which could cause them to drift off course or into dangerous waters.” (

See also

And in the same way, the hope that we have is like this anchor for our souls.
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood,
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

And this means that our hope is as secure as God’s promises. If you’ve been getting worried lately about all the warning passages, here’s the time to hear the other side of that. Ultimately it’s not your hold on Christ that’s going to keep you. It’s Christ’s hold on you.

In fact, there’s one more thing to see in this passage. And it’s this: Hope has a name. Let’s look at vv. 19-20 again. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, Notice the first part says the hope enters the inner place behind the curtain. This is language about the heavenly temple, which we’ll get into another day. But think about it, how can hope go anywhere? [hold up your hand and wave it around]. Oh, here’s my hope. Ah, look, there it goes! Hope can’t enter anything. But a person can. That’s why v. 20 says that Jesus, just like the hope, has gone into the inner place behind the curtain – into the heavenly holy of holies – as a forerunner on our behalf. Hope has a name, and his name is Jesus. Our anchor is Jesus Christ and the hope we have in him. He will hold us fast. (Read words of the song)

He will hold you fast. I love the words from the song “He Will Hold Me Fast”

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast

I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast


Abraham didn’t withhold his only Son from God, but he didn’t have to go through with it. God too didn’t withhold his only son, but he went through with it. For you. For all who will believe, who will trust in his once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Rom 8:32 Christ died once-for-all so that we can be sure. Purchased with the blood of Christ.

We’re all looking for a sure thing.