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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:In Christ we have an Anchor for the Soul
Text:Hebrews 6:19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 46:1,5                                                                                   

Ps 50:7,11                                                                                                      

Reading – Hebrews 6

Ps 110:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Hebrews 6:19

Hy 77:1,2,3

Hy 71:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters, maybe you’ve done some boating at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve been out fishing in your little boat, done some water-skiing or wake-boarding, or even enjoyed the high seas in a big ship. Even if you haven’t, and you’re more of a land-lubber, I think everyone can understand our text, and how it speaks of an anchor. We’ve seen an anchor before, and we know what they’re used for.

And when something isn’t anchored, it doesn’t have stability. It’s being pushed along by the currents, or getting swept up by the incoming tide. This is something we know about from life. When you’re not sure what to do with yourself, you feel adrift. When you’ve been abandoned by others, it’s like you’re floating away and no one’s noticing. When you’re anxious, there’s this sense of being pounded by your circumstances; you’re blown about whatever bad thing is going to happen.

Then there’s the changes of life. Change is constant. People come and go. A time of success is enjoyed, but then there’s a period of struggle. So we wonder where is firm ground? What’s our anchor? It’s been said that, “We are in this world as a ship at sea, in danger of being cast away.”

Yet as believers in our Lord Jesus, we have a great stability. Whatever else changes, whatever is yet to blow in, we have something that’s so secure. Says the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… which enters the Presence behind the veil.” This is our theme,

In Christ we have an anchor for the soul!

  1. it is a sure hope
  2. which is firmly placed


1) a sure hope: Right at the beginning of our text, there’s a word we need to look at carefully. The Holy Spirit says, “This hope we have…” We need to understand what’s meant by that, because hope is a very human thing. “Hope springs eternal,” they say, because most people stubbornly hold onto any possibility of improvement or relief. People always want to look beyond today, to the good things of tomorrow.

But sadly, hope for many people doesn’t amount to much. It’s a hollow wish—it’s a Styrofoam anchor. Because no one ever knows if they’ll actually get what they’re hoping for. The future is unknown. For all kinds of reasons, we may never reach our goal. We really don’t have a sure and stable expectation.

But when the Spirit talks about hope in our text, He means hope of a different kind, a more certain kind. A believer in Christ has hope with weight and substance! Why is that? Because like the Psalmist says so often, “I have put my hope in you, O God.” The child of God looks ahead, and he hopes for all the good things God has promised us. In fact, everything in Scripture that is yet undone, every good thing that is today incomplete, will be brought to a perfect conclusion by God. We trust that it’ll be so. We hope for it.

That sounds good—and beloved, it’s true. But isn’t it possible to lose hope? Can’t a struggling Christian sometimes reach a point where he’s nearly hopeless? I ask that, thinking of what the first readers of this letter were going through.

These Hebrews were Jews who’d grown up with the Old Testament, but who’d come to the Christian faith. They’d left the familiar comforts of Judaism, and committed to faith in Jesus and his gospel—how exciting that must’ve been, to finally know the promised Christ!

Yet there are hints in this letter that the wind was going out of their sails. Listen to what the Spirit says to them in 2:1, “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” After earnestly believing the gospel, the Hebrews were losing their zeal for God’s service, their trust in his name.

A big part of the problem was the hardships they were facing, and particularly the persecution. Apparently, these Christians had been thrown out of some public places—not welcome there anymore. Some had been imprisoned, and had their possessions taken away. While none in the congregation had been killed yet, it might happen soon.

And if you have a hardship that keeps going, and then gets worse, a deep sense of fatigue can begin to set in. You can almost understand how some of them were turning back. Was it really worth it, to follow Christ? Was this the future they had?

Think of how we would do in circumstances like theirs. What would possibly tempt us to give up our hope in Christ? What if we were publicly and repeatedly shamed because we belong to Jesus? What if we couldn’t meet in freedom on Sundays, or send our kids to Christians schools? Or what about seeing our family members imprisoned for the faith? In times like that, would we lose hope? Begin to sink in despair?

It’s hard to say, of course. But we shouldn’t have too positive a view of our own strength. Think about those Hebrews: They were wavering. They need exhortation, even rebuke, so that they don’t forsake faith in Christ.

Even so, God hasn’t given up on them. Listen to 6:11, “We desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” Hear again that keyword hope. They’re called to keep going, holding fast.

And then the Spirit explains why our hope is sure. Our hope is rooted in God’s promise, it’s founded in the Lord himself. For instance, think of his words long ago to the patriarch Abraham. Verse 13: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by himself.” You know that people will often make a promise by appealing to some higher authority: “As God is my witness…” they say.

But when God speaks to his people, there’s none higher, none truer. He can only swear by himself. Because it’s impossible for God to lie! Every one of God’s covenant promises are firm and established. It’s kind of like the products that you can buy which make the boast on their label, “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed.” You won’t be disappointed. God gives his word, guarantees its truth, and so it says just before our text, “We… have strong consolation, [we] who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (v 18).

The Spirit wants the Hebrews to know—and He wants us to know—that we have a strong consolation, a sure comfort, in every circumstance. Whatever worldly opposition comes against us, whatever earthly change, whatever the hardship that blows in, we have a sure refuge. It’s not in any fleeting thing, but it’s in God himself. And so later on in Hebrews, the author will describe faith in this memorable way: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for” (11:1). We’re sure of it, because it’s been promised by God himself.

“This hope,” our text goes on to say, “we have as an anchor of the soul.” An anchor is a powerful image when we think about all the danger that’s involved in being on the seas. Just remember Jonah, how his boat was threatened by the wind and storm God had sent. The sailors feared for their lives, and threw the cargo into the sea, to try lighten the load and float more safely atop the waves.

Then there’s Paul’s journey to Rome in Acts 27. It’s a thrilling account. His ship is  ravaged by a wicked storm for two weeks straight. When they finally approach land, they drop four anchors—but even that wasn’t enough to save the ship, and it’s broken apart by the waves. Even today, huge oil tankers and massive container ships can be battered terribly in storms, and they can sink. That is the power of the ocean.

Having lived through a storm or two, it’s no wonder that Paul likes to make nautical comparisons. In Ephesians, he says that immature believers are like those tossed back and forth by the waves, blown about by every wind of teaching. In 1 Timothy, he talks about those who’ve shipwrecked their faith. These things are still true. In a real sense, as a church “we are in this world as a ship at sea, in danger of being cast away.”

You don’t need high-tech radar to see the approaching and already present dangers. There’s a gathering storm of hatred toward the church because of our views on things like marriage and sexuality. There’s the disorientation brought on by false teaching, people who deny the truth of the creation accounts or the meaning of the cross. Meanwhile, the devil is constantly raging with his temptations, inviting us to plunge into the flood of evil all around us.

And in this world, we’re often sunk by our own weakness. For there’s our own failing to be diligent in prayer or diligent in the Word. And our circumstances can be so hard that we feel like it’ll never get better. Indeed, at any moment, we can be dashed on the rocks and lost forever. It doesn’t look good for us.

But “we have this hope.” Through God, we can ride out the storms—ride them out, like a ship that is well-secured to the ocean floor. Notice how the Spirit adds a little phrase, describing our anchor: it is “both sure and steadfast.” It won’t waver or wobble. God has given his Word in Christ, and there’s nothing more certain than that. In him is our stability!

What does that say for the stability that we try to create here on earth? We often try to find our own safe place. If I just have enough friends, enough savings, a good position at work, a strong body, a sense of self-confidence—if we have this one thing, and then a little more, we are secure. But it will fade—it’ll never be certain for long. Far more than any security we try to build for ourselves, there is the great faithfulness of our God in Christ. Putting hope in him, we have our anchor, the only anchor, unchanging and unyielding.

Later on in this letter, the Spirit will announce about our Saviour: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). That forms a beautiful link to our text. Christ won’t change, but we can count on him today, like we did yesterday and the day before—and we can count on him forever! Christ has promised never to let the church out of his loving care. He’s always provided. Always enabled. Always forgiven. Always guided.

That gives us confidence, for today, and for tomorrow too. The future doesn’t have to be a scary place, for we’ve seen what God has done for us over all our years. Many things will change, but Christ will not. In Christ we have a sure hope, firmly placed.


2)  which is firmly placed: When you drop an anchor, where does it go? Simple question, right? Anchors are big heavy things: in Roman times made of lead or stone, or made of cast iron today. Anchors back then could be more than seven feet wide. Sometimes they’d even have sharp copper teeth fixed to the ends of them, so they could snag better onto the rocks of the seabed. When you drop that kind of anchor, it’s going to plunge into the water, sink to the bottom, and there hold fast.

But our anchor is different. Our anchor of hope in the Lord doesn’t descend somewhere into the deep, but it goes up. This anchor links us to the LORD God in heaven. Listen: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… which enters the presence behind the veil.”

When he speaks about the veil, the author is referring to something very familiar to his Jewish readers. It’s about the sanctuary where God’s people used to worship the LORD: first at the tabernacle, then the temple.

This was the actual place of meeting, and it was set in the centre of a number of carefully distinct areas or courts. The point of it was separation—holiness. The temple was sacred space, set apart for the worship of God. Not just anyone could go from one court into the next, and then into the tent of meeting. Even within the temple, there was separation, with the Holy Place at the front, and the Most Holy Place beyond—accessible only to the high priest.

The two rooms of the tabernacle or temple were divided by a curtain, called a “veil” in our text. For there behind the veil was the focal point of all the worship: the ark of the covenant, representing the very throne of the holy God. Atoning blood would be brought before the LORD, and once a year it would be sprinkled on the cover of the ark. This was the only way to attain the forgiveness of sinful people: God in his justice receiving life for sin.

Why does all this matter? Because in a symbolic way Jesus has gone through the veil! As a man He entered the sacred place of God’s presence. He came before the LORD, and He presented a sacrifice of blood—his own blood—which was the offering to make peace between God and sinners.

We know how that reconciliation was dramatically shown at that moment Jesus died. As his life ended, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. The tearing of the curtain meant that finally the immense distance between polluted sinners and a holy God was overcome. Now through faith in Christ, we have access. Through him, you can go directly into the presence of God!

Beloved, that’s where our anchor is—in God’s presence, “behind the veil.” Not buried in the depths, but placed firmly in the very heights of heaven. Our anchor is securely and forever lodged in the throne room of God, for Christ is linking us to the Father by an indestructible bond. Christ has joined us to God with a chain that can never be snapped or broken.

First and foremost, this means we have the complete forgiveness of all our sins. And how we need this! We’re a sinful people. We’re plagued by our weakness. Half the time we’re living in a spirit of mutiny against the Lord.

But He doesn’t cast us overboard into the depths like He’d be justified in doing. Instead, like the prophet Micah tells us, God hurls our sins into the deepest part of the sea. He casts our wickedness to a place no one can find them again. When we truly repent from our sins and we confess them, they’re forgiven by God in Christ, and they’re truly gone. So we can live with God in joy and peace.

And having this sure peace means we can approach God in prayer, with a firm assurance. We’re allowed to go to him—He wants us to go him! Listen to how the Spirit exhorts us later in Hebrews, “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living away that He opened for us through the curtain… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:19-22).

Christ opened the way for us through the curtain—"through the veil”—and He gives us access to God’s own presence. When we feel adrift in life’s circumstances, this anchors us—this gives us solid ground. To the living God, to our God and Father, we can pray. Feeling alone or guilty or troubled or discouraged, to God we can pray, and with great confidence.

Sometimes you and I live in doubt about God’s promises. Or we act like we doubt him, for we surrender so easily to our fears and worries. We act as if God is going to leave us on our own, like it’s up to us to solve everything.

But we have an anchor! When we’re pounded by trouble and fear, blown about whatever bad thing we think is going to happen, we can hold fast in him. We’re not at the mercy of the weather, or the devil, or at the mercy of the government. But we’re anchored to heaven! Like the old hymn goes, “In every high and stormy gale/ My anchor holds, within the veil.”

There’s still a fierce tugging and straining. The waves haven’t gone away, nor has the wind stopped pushing. But we’re safe. Our confidence in God doesn’t need to budge or sway. Every day anew, we can ask boldly for his abounding grace. Ask for wisdom. Ask for strength. Ask for mercy. Ask for comfort. And we know that for Christ’s sake, He will answer. For the anchor holds!

In Christ, we have access to all the riches and power of heaven itself. He sends us his Holy Spirit. He gives us his Word. Christ is in heaven, even offering prayers for our sake. Yes, this same letter says that Jesus lives to intercede for us. Which means that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for us today. He will pray for you tomorrow. He will pray for you each and every day of the months and years that lie ahead. He’ll always bring our needs before the Father, for we’re anchored to heaven itself! And there the anchor holds!

That’s why our hope is sure. And that’s why our future is bright. Christ went into God’s presence ahead of us, our “forerunner,” the next verse says (v 20). Jesus went through the veil first, so that his people can follow. It’s only through holding onto Christ that we can safely come to harbour, when the struggle is completed, the voyage done, and we are home at last in the glorious presence of God himself.

So what about you, brothers and sisters? How’s your hold on the anchor? Today are you linked to the Lord, sure and steadfast? Are you joined to Christ with strong links of faith and love? Or are you drifting, pushed along by the power of sin and the pressures of this world? Are you sinking in your guilt, being overwhelmed by fears? You don’t need to be, for you have an anchor, “sure and steadfast.”

May God help us to see how vain it is to depend on anything or anyone but Christ—everything else is shifting sands. Don’t try to fasten onto this world’s shifting sands. But let Christ give you a better hope. Ask his Spirit to strengthen your connection to him. For in Christ alone you have an anchor for the soul, now and always!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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