Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 17
I want to get into Hebrews 10, but before we actually do that, it’s probably better to deal with Hebrews 6 first. Of course, a good deal of Hebrews is a treatise that compares and contrasts the Mosaic Law (the old covenant), with the perfection of Jesus and His perfect fulfillment of that Law on our behalf (the new covenant), ending in His substitutionary death and resurrection (because death could not hold Him (cf. Acts 2:24).
We would do well to read, study, and analyze all of Hebrews because it provides a tremendously solid foundation for understanding the differences between the old and new covenants. Seeing these differences helps us flesh out the facts of our legal standing before God in Christ and our fellowship (or not) with Him. They are not the same thing as we have stated and reiterated throughout this series so far. Without salvation, there can be no fellowship with God in Christ. But having salvation also does not automatically mean fellowship exists since that part of the equation is dependent largely upon our personal and determined interaction with God in Christ through His Word and obedience that should follow His revealed will through His Word.
Once we receive salvation, our newly righteous (and legal) standing automatically kicks in. God oversees and takes care of that for us and on our behalf. However, as we’ve repeatedly tried to emphasize, our fellowship with God in Christ is only available to us, but is not automatic. It is something that is potentially ours, but needs our effort in order to appropriate to our lives.
The first five chapters of Hebrews deal with some of the meat of God’s redemptive plan. Chapter 1 focuses on the fact that God has spoken in these final days through God the Son and proves that Jesus is superior to angels. We see angels as extremely powerful beings (and they are), but even so, they pale in comparison to Jesus in spite of the fact that the old covenant largely came through angels as intermediaries. Christ is far superior and all angels (even fallen ones) would agree.
Hebrews 2 highlights the dangers of falling away and let’s not forget that this epistle has been called “Hebrews” by commentators great and small because the writer was writing to Jewish individuals (Hebrews). This is why so much time is spent dealing with the facts of the Mosaic Law as compared with the overarching greatness and perfection (a better covenant) of Jesus. Hebrews 2 also deals with the fact that Jesus has been given a place of authority over all things. There is nothing over which He does not exercise authority. In that way, He is also far superior to the old covenant.
In Hebrews 3, we learn how much in every way Jesus is superior to Moses. We learn that Moses, while faithful in all things given to him by God, was still a servant (as are we), in God’s House and over some of God’s affairs. However, Jesus was not only faithful in all things given to Him by God the Father, but he was so not as a servant primarily, but as a Son. As God the Son, Jesus faithfully served His Father, every day, moment-by-moment. Hebrews 3 also again warns readers about hardening the heart so that rebellion or falling away occurs. This is a recurring theme throughout Hebrews.
Hebrews 4 explains and reminds readers of God’s promised rest by pointing out just how often the Israelites under the old covenant failed to enter into God’s rest. An entire generation was destroyed in the wilderness wanderings of 40 years. In other places, 3,000 more were judged to death and others judged to death elsewhere. Ultimately, all of it occurred because of the people’s hearts, which were far from God. Though they were “saved” from Egypt, they failed to enter into His rest because of their own falling away.
Toward the end of Hebrews 4, the writer once again highlights Jesus and the far-reaching supremacy of His position as High Priest. This argument continues in the beginning of chapter 5 by highlighting the fact that Jesus is a Priest forever just like Melchizedek (which we know very little about). Beginning with Hebrews 5:11, the writer again warns about the need to move onto maturity in Christ. How? By learning to avoid falling away! Moving toward Christ in maturity means moving away from the possibility of falling away.
He then moves onto Hebrews 6 which tells us exactly what falling away can mean and why we should avoid it. The first few verses of Hebrews 6 highlights the fact what he considered to be “elementary instructions” (NET), or foundational. They are:
- repentance from dead works and faith in God
- teaching about baptisms
- laying on of hands
- resurrection of the dead, and
- eternal judgment
While these are important areas of consideration to be sure, they don’t need to be discussed repeatedly as a person first learns them. Yes, there is a first time to learn these truths, but the writer is saying, “Great! Learn it and let’s move, because we need to get to the more expansive, all-encompassing aspects of what it means to be a solid, strong, mature Christian in Jesus! Let’s go!”
Let’s take a look at what the writer to the Hebrews says next, which is clearly very important to him (and should be to us as well). Here is Hebrews 6:4-6.
4 For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, 6 and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt.
Admittedly, there is some difficult language here. Let me tell you how I have previously seen this passage and maybe you can relate.
In the past, I have read this passage and understood it to mean that someone who “dabbled” in Christianity, someone who had a few insights into the truth of the cross, but never actually received salvation, ultimately chose to leave without ever having received true salvation. I saw these people as professing Christians, but not authentic Christians. They had a bit of an inkling, which God used to draw them to Him for actual salvation, but they never really stepped over that line. They were still on the outside looking in.
The problem is with the phrase, “tasted the heavenly gift,” followed immediately by the fact that they had apparently, “become partakers of the Holy Spirit,” (emphasis added). There are other references to indicate the person in question is far more than simply a “professing” Christian, and in fact, has experienced a few things that only true or authentic Christians ever get to see or experience.
- been enlightened
- tasted the heavenly gift
- become partakers of the Holy Spirit
- tasted the good word of God
- (tasted) the miracles of the coming age
The above list sure seems to describe true or authentic Christians, doesn’t it? How could a person who is only a “professing” Christian (not truly saved), have “become partakers of the Holy Spirit”? How can that happen? I don’t think it can. This makes some believe that if the writer to the Hebrews is defining authentic Christians, then the only way to understand this is to acknowledge that Christians can in fact, lose their salvation, right? No, I believe there is something else meant here.
Did Jesus set up a corner stand with the banner declaring, “Free Samples of Eternal Life!” and then encouraged people to simply “try” them? If they didn’t like them, they could always reject them, right?
But if a person actually becomes truly born again or born from above (John 3), wherein that person is sealed with the Holy Spirit and made partakers with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3; 4:30), how can that be taken away? How can they legally reject it or actively walk away from it?
It seems as though this and other portions of Scripture we’ve been highlighting point to the fact that the only thing about being a Christian that a Christian can ultimately reject is our fellowship with Jesus, or put another way, we can reject His active Lordship in our lives.
By stating that, I am not stating that so-called Lordship Salvation has merit. I’m simply stating that each and every Christian must come to terms with the fact that we need to submit ourselves to God in Christ daily. This is the daily fellowship aspect of being a Christian that rests with us. But even there, Jesus appears to have made it easier because He says He will help us.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV)
Notice Jesus tells us to do two things:
- take His yoke upon us, and
- learn from Him
The process of making (and keeping) Jesus as Lord is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment learning process. The writer of Hebrews is warning against giving up. He doesn’t want us to grow tired and He basically states that the strongest guard against giving up and growing weary is by studying and learning the more difficult doctrines of Scripture, not simply being content with dabbling with the elementary or foundational aspects of our Christianity.
Jesus wants us to enter into a living, vibrant relationship with Him (to take His yoke or to be partnered with Him). Like any other relationship, this is one of learning and growth, more learning and more growth. Think of important relationships in your life. They don’t happen by accident. Work is involved to keep them going and growing. How much more is work involved in keeping and growing our relationship with Jesus? It is not automatic! It takes time, effort, and desire on our part. God is always willing, always has time, and always applies effort on His part. We are the ones who fall down, get tired, give up, and fall away.
Truly, I understand how some commentators have explained Hebrews 6:4-6, but it never really quite gelled, even though I did my best to make sense out of it. They were trying to argue against the fact that people could lose their salvation. I get that. But the reality is that in their zeal (and mine) to prove that people cannot lose their salvation, they (and I) ended up changing the meaning of God’s Word to something it may not be saying.
The writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians), is speaking to people who already have salvation. He can then only be saying one of two things:
- either salvation can be lost, or
- even authentic Christians can fall away from Jesus
I do not believe that the Bible teaches anywhere that salvation can be lost. Salvation is something that God initiates and is something He relies only upon Himself to make happen for people. Aren’t you glad?! Aren’t you excited to know that salvation – once received – cannot be taken from you? When we receive salvation, it is actually “stored” up as treasure in heaven, the eternal realm!
Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, (Matthew 6:19-21).
People who have authentic salvation (as opposed to those who simply think they have it and are called “professing” Christians), truly have something that is beyond the reach:
That pretty much covers it. Moths cannot get in and eat our salvation away. Rust will not corrupt or destroy it. Thieves (like Satan and his minions or even false prophet/teachers), cannot access it and steal it away from us either. Our salvation is secure in Christ. Jesus has already told us that He will never leave or forsake us. We’ve also dealt with the fact that He will never be faithless to His own promises. Salvation, once secured/received, is rock solid and cannot be moved, shaken, or stolen. It…is…secure in Jesus.
However, our fellowship is not as secure or rock solid. It is somewhat dependent upon us, our desires, our willingness, and our ability to persevere in the face of all manner of trials. This is a good stopping place, but we’ll continue this next time as we delve more deeply into Hebrews 6:4-6. If space permits, we’ll get into Hebrews 10 as well.
Entry filed under: christianity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: christ our righteousness, eternal security, falling away, new covenant, old covenant, salvation.