The secret of victory was in their faith and patience (“courageous endurance”). We have met this combination of graces in Hebrews 6:12, 15. It is here that the writer introduced the “text” around which Hebrews is written: “The just shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:38). The quotation is from Habakkuk 2:4, and it is also used in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. Romans emphasizes “the just,” Galatians deals with “shall live,” and Hebrews centers on “by faith.” We are not just saved from our sin by faith; we also must live by faith. This is the theme of Hebrews 11–13.
The believer who lives by faith will “go on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1). But the believer who lives by sight will “draw back unto perdition” (Heb. 10:39). What is “perdition” in this context? The Greek word translated “perdition” is used about twenty times in the New Testament and is translated by different words: “perish” (Acts 8:20), “die” (Acts 25:16), “destruction” (Rom. 9:22), and “waste” (Matt. 26:8). The word can mean eternal judgment, but it need not in every instance. I personally believe that “waste” is the best translation for this word in Hebrews 10:39. A believer who does not walk by faith goes back into the old ways and wastes his life.
“The saving of the soul” is the opposite of “waste.” To walk by faith means to obey God’s Word and live for Jesus Christ. We lose our lives for His sake—but we save them! (see Matt. 16:25–27) In my own pastoral ministry, I have met people who turned their backs on God’s will and (like Israel) spent years “wandering in the wilderness” of waste.
But we can be confident! As we walk by faith, our Great High Priest will guide us and perfect us!