Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 18

December 15, 2015 at 7:58 AM 1 comment

hebrews6_4-6Last time, we introduced Hebrews 6:4-6 and we need to finish that up before we move onto Hebrews 10. I want to bring this series to a close soon so that we can focus on the second part to this series with, “Christ, Our Fellowship.” Hopefully, that future series will get us into the nuts and bolts of what it means to be a Christian in our daily experience when fellowship with God in Christ is the most important thing we can do. By the way, let me state without equivocation that I do NOT live it perfectly and I won’t be trying to state or imply that. Anyone who has been reading this blog of mine on a regular basis should know that.

No one lives Christianity perfectly, but we are to shoot for that while here in this life. Often biblical knowledge precedes our ability to live it. You cannot live as a Christian unless you know what that entails.

Since the epiphany that I believe the Lord gave me and became the central theme of a recent article, “Today I Was Reminded I Have a Sin Nature,” from which this series came to be written, it has become increasingly clear to me that no Christian is above falling. No true Christian is above doing what King David, Moses, or Abraham did. Look at Peter as merely one example. He thoroughly believed he would never deny Jesus, but that is exactly what he did, to his own shame (Mark 14:66-72). He came back to Jesus though and that is extremely important to remember, unlike the apostates that the writer of Hebrews deals with in Hebrews 6.

All of this makes Paul’s words – “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” – of Philippians 2:12 that much more apropos. We need to constantly guard ourselves against falling.

There is a difference between falling through sin, recognizing it, confessing it, dealing with the consequences that the sin creates, and moving onward in Jesus and falling away into a situation from which a Christian might not return because of terrible theology. While neither situation is ideal, the latter means something much more than “just” sinning. The Christian who falls away through serious theological error (which is also sin), and fails to return to the Lord has (quite possibly) irrevocably broken off fellowship with God in Christ. In other words, fellowship has stopped. The Hebrews text seems to imply that individual cannot be brought to repentance and may be due to a limitation that God has placed on that situation for His sake and glory.

Let’s look at Hebrews 6:4-6 again.

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.

We started breaking this down in our most recent article previous to this in this series, Part 17. We also noted that the writer of Hebrews essentially provided a list of things that occur within the individual described in these verses before they apostatize. The person has…

  • 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

We noted that this description cannot refer to a person who only professed to know Jesus (was not actually born again). This leaves us with one of two options. Either the person in question had salvation and lost it or had salvation and fell away from truth (apostatized), but remains saved. We stated that it is our understanding (since it seems clear enough that the Bible does not teach that salvation can be lost), that it must refer to a Christian who apostatizes…permanently to the end of their life.

If this is true, we must ask, how a true Christian commits that type of apostasy from which he/she never returns? People have a hard time believing that a true Christian can actually apostatize from Jesus. I know I’ve had a difficult time with that concept.

People prefer to err on the side of caution believing that if a Christian can lose their salvation, it will actually serve as a guard against the Christian falling away. But we need to stop going by how we feel about something and learn what the Bible teaches.

The Prodigal Son completely apostatized from his father in outright sinful living. How many commandments did he break? Yet humility did its work, allowing him to see his error. That, in turn, gave him the opportunity to return to truth through repentance. Not all apostates react like this though or come full circle. It was not until after the Prodigal Son fell away (apostatized), repented, then returned was he able to actually “rest” in the knowledge of how his father loved him.

Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it, (Hebrews 4:1 NET).

The Prodigal Son had not come to the point of resting and abiding in his father’s love. He held only contempt for his father until he had fallen so low that he began to look up and came to his senses. He stopped lying to himself because the truth had become too obvious. Like the Prodigal Son, we can enter into God’s “rest” or not. This is created through embracing truth and a growing sense of fellowship with God. You cannot have fellowship with God unless you first have salvation. Beyond this, our fellowship with God is also predicated on our understanding of God’s truth as revealed in His Word. Be very aware of people who try to teach so-called “truth” apart from God’s Word! It is your obligation to know truth! That is on you, but of course, authentic Christians have the Comforter who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), something professing Christians and the world lacks.

Dr. Thomas L. Constable notes the following regarding Hebrews 4:1 (as a precursor to Hebrews 6:4-6):

Some people interpret this verse to mean that the readers should fear that they would not go to heaven if they proved unfaithful. This cannot be the meaning, because God has promised heaven to every believer—regardless of their faithfulness to Him (Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Thess. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:3-6; et al.)! [1]

Connecting this with Hebrews 6:4-8, Constable notes the following:

Christians have interpreted this passage in many different ways. Some believe that those who fall away (v. 6) are believers who lose their salvation.[2] Others hold that those who fall away are people who have professed to be believers but really are not.[3] Still others take the whole situation as hypothetical. They believe that if a Christian could lose his salvation (which cannot occur), it would be impossible for him to be saved again.[4] A fourth view is that only Hebrew Christians, living before the destruction of the temple (A.D. 70), could have committed this sin, whatever it is. The view that I believe harmonizes best with the writer’s emphasis is that those who fall away are believers who turn away from God’s truth and embrace error (i.e., apostates). The majority of scholars view these people as genuine believers.

Constable believes the reference by the writer to the Hebrews regarding tasting the heavenly gift is a reference to actual salvation and he bases this on John 4:10; Rom. 6:23; James 1:17-18 as examples.

Constable also notes that the word “tasted” here is used the same way it was used of Christ who “tasted” death for every believer, (Hebrews 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:1-3). Jesus didn’t “swoon.” He actually and fully died. He tasted the fullness of death in order to be victorious over it for all who believe in Him and His redemptive work. People who “taste” the heavenly gift are truly saved.

The writer of Hebrews is emphasizing the need to guard against falling away from Jesus, clearly noting the possibility. Just as many under the old covenant fell away (often to their deaths in judgement meted out by God), so too did Christians apostatize from faith in Christ during the first century. It is clear that Paul warns that this same occurrence would become prevalent in the very last days leading up to the final seven-year Tribulation period and culminating with the physical return of Jesus as King and Judge.

Falling away from the truth is not a hypothetical possibility, but a tragic reality in too many cases, among believers (cf. Num. 14:27-32; Gen. 25:29-34; Heb. 3:7-19; 10:23-25, 35-39).[5] Christians departed from the faith in the first century (e.g., 2 Tim. 2:17-18), and they also do so today (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1).

Here is just one of Paul’s numerous warnings pointing out how terrible will be the times in which last day Christians live (the time immediately before and including the coming Tribulation):

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, (1 Timothy 4:1)

To “depart from the faith” means to fall away or to apostatize. Paul is talking about actual believers here because he is writing to and about believers (though he might certainly be including professing Christians in the mix). During the last days just prior to the Tribulation and leading up to His physical return, some will fall away from the truth that they originally and fully embraced. They do so through demonic deceit they give heed to, rather than continuing to rely heavily on God and His Word of Truth. I know people who were “on fire” for the Lord and are either nothing now or Buddhists, as one example. IF they were actually Christians, did they lose their salvation? No. Are they apostates? Yes.

What the writer to the Hebrews may be intending to mean here is there are some who fall away who ultimately cannot be restored to something. What is that something? As noted, according to the Hebrews writer, it is repentance. The writer to the Hebrews is saying that there is a possibility that some true Christians may end up – due to terrible theology they embrace – falling away from the truth about Jesus. If they persist in that error, they will actually become hostile to Jesus. Because of this continued hostility, it will become impossible for them to turn to Him in genuine repentance. This actually means that if they could repent, they would receive forgiveness, but since their hostility due to pride keeps them from admitting their error, they will not repent because they can’t. Clearly, they are out of fellowship with Christ since these believers have embraced error. They can come to a point where their consciences become seared and they are incapable of even noting their error.

If we stop to consider it, people who lose faith in Jesus usually lose their faith in Jesus over a period of time. I have books written by people who “know” they were Christians; believe it to the core of their being, but no longer. Some were pastors, Sunday School teachers, Bible college teachers, and the like. They all have stories. They all note a path that led them away from Jesus. Every narrative I’ve ever read highlights the fact that each of those people moved away from their faith in Jesus because of erroneous theology on their part. Many to most of them today are atheists or agnostics. Some have some form of religion but certainly deny its power. It’s nothing more than a new belief system based on higher thinking or “self-actualization.” In the end, what they now believe is a far cry from what they once believed and were willing to die for then.

There are also those who, over time, adopt aberrant theology. They are still in ministry, yet they now believe in “universalism” or something else that the Bible does not teach. Watch as they grow hostile to the basic biblical tenets. They grow to a point where they will actually start to attack Christians for believing the fundamentals of the faith. They become snide, uncaring, unloving (where true Christians are concerned) and seek to embrace those whom they consider to be the cast-offs of society. Their view of “love” is completely skewed so that they end up being unable to preach against the type of sin that Paul and others routinely spoke against. That – to them – is unloving.

As far as I can tell, none of these individuals lost their faith in Jesus overnight. They didn’t go to sleep one night believing in Jesus and His atonement only to wake up the next morning asking, “What was I thinking?! There IS no God!” or “What was I thinking?! Everyone is going to be saved!”

These people have actually gone full circle. They originally started off in disbelief toward God like all of us and eventually came to a saving knowledge of Jesus that causes them to repent. Through repentance, they receive salvation. However, over time and because of theological error that was introduced to them (which they chose to embrace), they started the process of falling away. Their ardor for Jesus began to cool. Like Eve, they started to question the very things they were taught and believed and found great reasons to reconsider them so that they eventually rejected them.

For many, this was a long slide. For others, it was much shorter, but the end result is the same. As these people continue in that vein of absolute rejection of the truth, God will bring judgment to pass on them (v. 8).

But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned, (Hebrews 6:8; emphasis added).

“Worthless” literally means disapproved (Gr. adokimos). It does not mean totally rejected, but rather failing to gain God’s blessing (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27). It is “in danger of (close to) being cursed,” but is not “cursed” like unbelievers are. “Burned” does not mean burned in hell (cf. 1 Cor. 3:13-15). In ancient times, as well as today, farmers often burned their fields to removed unwanted vegetation, not to destroy the field itself. This is evidently a judgment on a believer that God allows because of his or her apostasy (cf. Isa. 9:18-19; 10:17; John 15:6; Heb. 10:17). The judgment might result in premature death in some cases (cf. 1 John 5:16-17). However, the text does not warrant concluding that this fate will befall every apostate. Some “fields,” once burned, turn out to be more productive in the future, and that might be what God’s judgment would lead to in the case of some apostates (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19-20). The purpose of the burning (chastening) is restoration to fruitfulness (cf. 13:1-9, 18-23). [6]

I also find it fascinating that it would seem easier for a person caught up in rampant sin to come to realize just how wrong he is and repent of it (like the Prodigal Son). In that case, God’s forgiveness cleanses that person from his sinfulness when they come to their senses and see the need to repent. The writer of Hebrews seems to be saying though, that a falling away due to severe doctrinal error is so deceptive, so sneaky, and so seducing that many fail to realize what is happening. Over a period of time, they more fully embrace doctrinal error and move further away from the Truth (Jesus is the Truth, John 14:6). In doing so, they become encased in their intellectual error, that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to come out of that error because they see their error as being based on biblical truth, as opposed to clearly denoted as right or wrong (like adultery, theft, murder, lying, etc.).

You’ll recall I said this was a difficult section of Scripture to comprehend. There is quite a bit in the text which may leave your head reeling. In the end, it makes sense to understand that 1) salvation is eternal, forever, secure, and 2) even believers can fall away and God will judge them for it. If God does not judge them in this life, certainly He will in the next, as they stand before Him at the Bema Seat, a judgment reserved only for believers.

The next section we want to deal with is found in Hebrews 10:26-31 and in some ways, is tied to this section in Hebrews 6. The writer to the Hebrews (in Hebrews 10) reminds his readers of what he says here in chapter 6 and adds to it or explains it differently.

As we get ready to look at the text of Hebrews 10:26-31, I’d like you to consider this question ahead of time:

If God has created a system whereby authentic Christians can fall away from Him, yet retain their salvation, what is your reaction to that and how does it set with you?

 

[1] Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on Hebrews 2015, p. 45
[2]E.g., Westcott, pp. 148-53; Moffatt, pp. 76-82; I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God; and other Arminian writers.
[3]E.g. Bruce, pp. 118-25; P. E. Hughes, pp. 206-24; Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, pp. 298-320; E. Schuyler English, Studies in the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 160-68; Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 107-15; R. K. Hughes, 1:156-57; and The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1315.
[4]E.g., Guthrie, pp. 140-46; Thomas Hewett, The Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 106-11; Thomas, pp. 72-75; Kenneth S. Wuest, “Hebrews Six in the Greek New Testament,” Bibliotheca Sacra 119:473 (January 1962):45-53; Wiersbe, 2:297; and The Ryrie Study Bible: New Testament. King James Version, p. 404.
[5]Lane, p. 141.
[6] Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on Hebrews 2015, p. 67

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , , , .

Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 17 Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 19

1 Comment

  • 1. Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 19 | Study - Grow - Know  |  December 15, 2015 at 1:25 PM

    […] get into Hebrews 10, admittedly, a difficult passage, like the passage from Hebrews 6 that we dealt with previously. At the outset, let me say that I write this not to convince anyone of anything, but to simply ask […]


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,209 other followers

Donate to Study-Grow-Know 501 (3)(c) Non-Profit)

Study-Grow-Know Archives

Blog Stats

  • 723,587 hits

%d bloggers like this: