Hebrews 10:15-26, Life, Liberty and Pursuit

[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
[16]This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”   [17]Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,  [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)

In our last posts, we have seen that the First Covenant was a two-fold preparation for the New Covenant.

1. with reference to the people – to show them that sinful men and women cannot come into the presence of a holy God on the basis of their own merit or works.  The OT sacrifices were designed to teach the truth of salvation by substitution and sacrifice.  The animal substitute took the place of the Israelite sinner.  The animal was physically perfect, the Israelite spiritually blemished and imperfect.  The animal died, the Israelite lived.

2. with reference to God – the OT period was a time in which God prepared the effectual sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices pointed – the physical body of the Lord Jesus.  His is the only sacrifice which could – and did – take away sins.
As we look at the text for this post, we see three things:

1.  the liberty we have to approach God, vs. 15-21.
2.  the life we are to lead before God, vs. 22-25.
3.  the lesson we must pay attention to about God, v. 26.

1. Liberty, 10:15-21.

Since we’ve already dealt with these at length, we’ll only mention a couple of things.
God’s covenant, vs. 15-18.  This is God’s promise to do a work in His people, v. 16, as well as for them, vs. 17, 18.
Jesus’ person and work, v. 19-21.  This with particular reference to His sacrifice for sin, vs. 19, 20, and His priesthood “over the house of God,” v. 21.  Only by the grace of God and never by human initiative, merit or effort do we ever have an audience with or blessing from God, vs. 19, 20.

2. Life, 10:22-25.

Let us draw near,” v. 22.  Let us use and enjoy that inestimable privilege of coming into God’s presence, a privilege not given to any other people under heaven.  There are, however, certain requirements which come with the exercise of this privilege:
1. “a true heart” – a heart in which God has worked, v. 16.  A heart God has cleansed.  A heart in which God’s word is preeminent.  A heart (and mind) in which God has written His word, according to the promises of the New Covenant.  A heart not taken with the things of this world, but living with eternity in view.
It’s often charged that the view espoused by this blog and those who agree with it, that we are guilty of “antinomianism,” that is, we teach that one can live like they want to, without regard for what God says.  Unfortunately, there are those who live like that as a result of what they call “salvation by grace.”  However, this isn’t what is meant at all.  As we’ve mentioned before, the OT Law was an external code, though it did deal with such things as envy and covetousness, and our relationships with others.  And if you want to include the entire code as expressed in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and not just a few verses in Exodus – may I just say that there is a great deal more “justice” – how we’re to deal with and treat others – in those pages that in most of what passes for it today in our legal system.  But that’s probably another series of posts.
The New Covenant deals with what we are.  The Old Covenant dealt mostly with what Israel did. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant had no provision of “assistance” in obeying it, Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New Covenant says that believers are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10, and we are given the Holy Spirit to make sure there’s some evidence of that.
2. “full assurance of faith.”  This is not the same thing as “assurance of salvation,” the current way of putting things.  The Puritans understood this, as well, that if a person has faith, he is saved.  They were concerned with the “assurance of faith.”  Faith is the means of salvation.  Too often, we think of “being saved” as something else.
For example, a couple from a local church visited us.  The lady in particular was interested in witnessing to us.  My side of the conversation echoed what I post on this blog, that the focus of our being saved isn’t about what we do, but about what the Lord Jesus did for sinners on the Cross.  I appreciate her concern and her effort, but I might as well have been talking to the chair she sat on.  Before they left, she was very concerned about whether or not I had “prayed the prayer.”  Her entire focus was on what I had done, not on the Lord Jesus.  But I suppose that’s to be expected in a culture in which it’s believed that “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

According to the writer, what exactly is “full assurance of faith”?  He lists a couple of things:
1.  our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.  During various OT rituals, “the water of purification” was sprinkled over people and things.  This cleansed them ceremonially, but really did nothing about their sins or their sinfulness.  But the OT also prophesies of a time when God will cleanse Israel of her filthiness and her idols and put a new heart and spirit within her, Ezekiel 36:25, 26.  This will be as a result of the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  Believers enter into this by grace, knowing that our sins were once and forever taken care of on the Cross, and that we ourselves have been “born again.”
2.  our bodies washed with pure water.  In other words, obedience in baptism.  And apparently more is required than just a drop or two of water on an unknowing infant’s forehead: bodies washed with pure water.  The Lord commanded believer’s baptism in Matthew 28:18-20.  The apostles and disciples baptized only believers.  Even in “household” baptisms, it’s evident that the word was first preached and then those who believed were baptized.  There’s a lot of assumption that in some of these households, there must have been infants – and the assumption is that these were baptized along with the rest of the household.  I’ve dealt with all this before in my series on infant baptism – if you’re interested, you can go there:  https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/infant-baptism-a-study-in-three-parts-the-great-commission-and-apostolic-practice/ (This will take you to the first of the three studies.)
We grant that historically, and even in many places today, to be baptized was and is an invitation to persecution and even death.  But our Lord has something to say about those who don’t love their life even to the extent of being willing to die, Mark 8:35; Revelation 12:11.  Hebrews was written to a people for whom the ordinance of baptism was a clear break with everything in their past.
Baptism was never meant simply to be the subject of debate.  It was meant to be the first step of obedience in a believer’s life.  It was the first step in a changed life.

Let us hold fast“, v. 23.  Wait a minute!  Doesn’t this verse contradict v. 22?  How can we have “full assurance” if we have to “hold fast”?  After all, aren’t we just supposed to “let go and let God”?
Not at all.  That heart and life in which God has worked, v. 16, will hold onto God, cf. John 6:66-68.  See also 1 Timothy 6:12.  V. 23 draws our attention to the faithfulness of God.  Our “assurance” is not that we’ll be saved if we’re “faithful to the end.”  Our assurance, based on vs. 16-18, is that if God has worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Jesus Christ and has made His word real and precious to us – our assurance in such a case is that we will be saved because God is faithful.  We couldn’t keep ourselves saved for five minutes!  Hold fast our profession of faith in God, not in ourselves!

Let us consider one another“, vs. 24.  The problem with having to “hold on faithful to the end” is that we’re always thinking about ourselves.  Have we been “good enough”?  Have we “done” enough?  But this verse shows us that we’re not to be “self-centered,” but “saint-centered”.
Vs. 24, 25 give a good description of Christian love.  It’s not a “hands-off, pat-you-on-the back” regardless of how you live or what you believe.  True love cares enough to confront those things which are not in line with Scripture.  In the culture in which we live, this has become vitally important.  Today it’s all about “inter-faith” dialogue and cooperation.  This is simply the fruition of the “ecumenical movement” begun decades ago.  Paul addressed this situation in a church which prided itself on its “tolerance:” Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship [interests-in-common] has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.  How can those who say they believe in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus “cooperate” with those which deny Him or teach that the Cross is a “monstrous falsehood”?

3. Pursuit, v. 26.

 Without wishing to lapse into the heresy that salvation can be lost, let us at the same time strongly emphasize the Biblical teaching that grave responsibilities are entered into by those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are dealing with eternal issues in Christianity, issues which will save or damn men’s souls.  It is never just a matter of opinion: “That’s what you believe,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”  Nor is it simply a matter of opportunity:  “Well, yes, I believe in Jesus, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.”  Christianity is a matter of “orthodoxy,” which is not what the church or scholars or theologians say it is, but what God says it is.  It’s not about this or that “church” or this or that denomination.

And “orthodoxy” contains serious warnings.  There is one in v. 26.

Verse 26 follows v. 25 and shows that “forsaking the assembly” isn’t about an occasional absence from church.  It refers to a habitual and deliberate turning away from the church.  However, this is more than just about church “attendance.”  The warnings in Hebrews are connected and cumulative.  The first warning deals with “drifting” with regard to the Word of God.  Hebrews warns against a casual and complacent attitude toward the truths of Scripture, something which even “churches” are capable of, and guilty of.  Too many are concerned more with personalities or programs than they are with the proclamation of the truths of God Word.  The danger of such “drifting” is that it leads to damnation, as we see here.  We’re not talking about the loss of salvation.  The person or church which develops a “take-it-or-leave-it ” attitude with reference to the teachings of God’s Word gives evidence that they were never His to begin with.

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Hebrews 6:1-8, “Falling Away”

[1]Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [2]of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  [3]And this we will do, if God permits.
[4]For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6]if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (NKJV)

Chapter 6 builds upon 5:12-14.  It doesn’t occur in a vacuum, irrespective of what has gone before, or what will come after.  As we’ve seen, the writer has turned aside for a moment to remind his readers, including us, that “the faith” isn’t merely an exercise in certain historic facts and doctrinal truths, but rather that these facts and truths are intended to have a radical and permanent effect in the hearts and lives of sinful men and women.  They’re intended to bring such folks from cursing to blessing – from slavery to sonship – from being foreigners to being “family”.

The writer has contrasted where they are with where they ought to be; that when they should be “teachers,” that is, reaching out and helping others to understand spiritual truth, they themselves are in need of “teaching.”  They are still “on the bottle,” as it were, still in spiritual infancy.

6:1, “therefore” continues his exhortation and admonition.

An Exhortation, 6:1-3.

These believers were to “go on,” to advance, to progress, not “start over.”  True, they weren’t where they were supposed to be, but the answer was not to go back to the beginning, not to “get saved” all over again, not to “rededicate” themselves, but to “go on” from where they were.
In vs. 1a-2, it’s necessary to remember the context of the book – a contrast between the Old and the New:  to show the inability of the Old compared with the efficacy of the New.  Cf. 8:7, 8.
1.  “dead works” – not “sins” – the OT sacrificial and ceremonial system, 4:10.
2.  “faith toward God,” that the Mosaic system is no longer operative, but that God has “provided for Himself a lamb,” (Genesis 22:8).
3.  “baptisms” – washings, Leviticus 15:13 with other OT references either to bathing or washing and being clean.
4.  “laying on of hands” – Leviticus 1:4: identification with OT sacrifices.  The OT Jew, in bringing a sacrifice to the altar, would lay his hand on the head of the animal.  This signified that he himself deserved to die because of his sin, but was able to live because of the death of an innocent substitute.  Thus was pictured salvation by substitution and sacrifice, which was ultimately, finally and completely fulfilled in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus.  In this Christmas season, we might remember that the cradle wasn’t the reason the Lord Jesus came into this world.  He came to die, in order that we through Him might live.

An Explanation, 6:4-6.

Much discussion of these verses centers on whether or not the writer is thinking of “true” Christians.  Without getting into all the various arguments pro and con, it seems to me that verse 6 establishes beyond doubt that the writer is thinking of “true” Christians.  He describes them as having been “renewed unto repentance.”  This is not a description of one who is still “dead in trespasses and sins.”  He also describes them as having been “partakers of the Holy Spirit.”
But what is the writer teaching in these verse?  This is a question of paramount importance.  Some folks never get beyond the first five words of v. 6, “…if they shall fall away,…” and conclude, sometimes quite vehemently, that Christians can indeed lose their salvation, and that “eternal security” is a doctrine from the pit.  I had a Boston Church of Christ elder once tell me that he believed that one could be child of God and still end up in hell.

“If they shall fall away.”  This isn’t to be taken as “when” or “since.”  There is no “if” in the original language.  We might translate the verse like this:

“For [it is] impossible, those once enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and [the] works of power of [the] age to come and [who] fell away, again to renew [them] to repentance, crucifying for themselves [as they do] the Son of God, and exposing [Him] publicly.”

For these people, the “falling away” is as real as any of the other things said about them.  Is the writer thus teaching that it is possible to fall away and lose your salvation??  We don’t think so, primarily of what else is said of these people.  Those groups who believe that you can lose your salvation also believe that you can be “born again” or “saved” again.  I have heard of some who claim to have been saved several times.

However –

If verses 4-6 actually teach that you can lose your salvation, it also teaches something else:

IF YOU CAN LOSE YOUR SALVATION……

YOU CAN NEVER EVER GET IT BACK!!

I can’t put it any more plainly than the writer did; if those truly saved can lose their salvation, then, in the words of vs. 4, 6, it is impossible…to renew them again to repentance (emphasis added).

There are at least two results to the teaching that Hebrews 6:4-6 teaches the loss of salvation.
1.  a superficial view of sin and the innate sinfulness of human nature.  The logical result of this view is “sinless perfection,” for anything less than that opens us up to the danger of losing our salvation.  How much “sin” is “too much”?  After all, it was a minor sin, as we look at such things – the eating of a fruit – that caused Adam and Eve to lose their place in the Garden of Eden and brought into the world all the terrible things that have happened since then.
Even those who believe that they have been “entirely sanctified” recognize that they aren’t perfect, but this is just looked upon as “making mistakes,” hence, sin is minimized and so also in “holiness.”
2.  a superficial view of salvation.  There is no understanding of what salvation is, this being “saved,” then “lost,” then being “saved” again, only to repeat the cycle who knows how many times.
Salvation is a life-changing, nay, it is a life-giving work of the Holy Spirit.  “Being saved” isn’t just the result of some little ritual or ceremony in or of the church, with God passively standing around until we “do our part.”  It is ultimately the work of the Triune God, initiating and completing that work.  True, we must and do believe in order to be saved, but without the working of the Holy Spirit, we have neither the desire nor capability to do so.

One question remains:  why would it be impossible to be “saved” more than once?

It’s impossible to be saved more than once because such a thing would mean that we say, in effect, that the death of Christ was a failure, and that we turn our back on it.  It’s impossible to be saved more than once because God will not permit such an insult to His Son, as the following verses teach.

We have such a superficial view of God in our time.  We pretty much seem to have an idea to the effect that God has to wait on the sidelines of His own creation until we decide to send Him into the game.

There’s a meme I see on facebook every so often that boldly proclaims, “If it’s not in the word of God, it’s not the will of God.”  It gets a lot of “likes”.  Leaving aside the fact that almost nothing in our modern society is mentioned in the Bible: computers, the internet, cars, fancy church buildings with padded pews and air conditioning, etc, this is not how Scripture views things.  It says that God works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.

Scripture teaches that He superintends and oversees every part of our existence.  That’s hard for some people to accept, but Daniel told a wicked, idolatrous king that even his very breath was in the hand of God, Daniel 5:23, and that God “owned” all his ways.  Then there’s what Joseph told his brothers when the evil of what they had done to him had become known and their father was dead, and the brothers had come to Joseph to beg him not to “get” them:  “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant if for good…,” Genesis 50:20.  These verses don’t mean that God approved or accepted what they did, but simply that they didn’t catch Him off-guard or cause Him to have to go to some imagined “Plan B.”

If I can use a hackneyed phrase:  God “sees the big picture” – which He Himself is painting.  We see only an occasional brush-stroke.  Even our growth in the faith is subject to the will of God, v. 3:  this we will do, if God permit.  But this does not release us from the obligation to be diligent, v. 11, in the things of God.  The writer has much more to say about all this as he goes along.

An Example, vs. 7, 8.

Even in farming, fertile and productive land receives blessing from God, but if it bears thorns, it is rejected…, v. 7.  To “bear” the thorns of unbelief and rejection of Christ means that we, in turn, would be rejected.

There is so much to the Christian life.  This is what the writer to the Hebrews wanted his readers to realize.  I think he would want that for us, too.

“The Kindness of God.” Part 10: “If you continue….”

The previous post looked at verses which teach that a true believer can never lose his salvation.  In this final post, we want to look at a couple of verses which are often used to teach, as a Boston Church of Christ elder once told me, one can be a child of God and still end up in Hell.

In the other post, we saw what might be called the believer’s reassurance.  This post deals with what might be called the believer’s responsibility.  In other words, contrary to what many opponents of eternal security believe it says, and even some who agree with it seem to teach, salvation isn’t just some sort of eternal “fire insurance,” which, once having, a person can put it into a safety deposit box with other papers and forget about it.

No, no, salvation is eternal life,  and life is to be lived.  We have a new grandson and his mom says that he’s big for his age.  Well, he is a chunk, but I joked to her that he didn’t read the same baby-development book.

You see, birth brings up expectations of growth, development and maturing.  So it is with the new birth.  There is to be growth, development and maturing.  We sometimes say that it’s a shame that a baby has to grow up because they’re so cute when they’re little.  We know, however, that we really don’t mean that; it would be a great sorrow if they didn’t grow up.

1.  John 8:30, 31, As He [Jesus] spoke these words, many believed in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, “If you abide in My word, then are you My disciples indeed.”

The KJV translated this verse, “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed.”  This verse is taken to mean that a believer who doesn’t “continue” or “abide” in Christ becomes lost.  However, our Lord didn’t say that one who continues remains a disciple; He said that such a one is a disciple indeed, that is, truly.  Continuation in the faith is not a condition of salvation; it is an evidence of it.

It is here that much of fundamental or contemporary Christianity errs on eternal security.  The Scripture is clear about the certainty of salvation for those who have it, but that is the difficulty.  The Bible nowhere tells us to take “having it” for granted.  In the little saying, “once saved, always saved,” the emphasis is usually on “always saved.”  The Scripture places the emphasis on, “once saved.”

Just because I’ve “believed,” that is, given mental assent to some statement or confession of faith, or gone through some church ritual, or “done something,” whatever the “something” might be, doesn’t mean I’m truly saved.  Remember Nicodemus. There are multitudes in our churches who’ve gone through some ritual or ceremony, or have been manipulated into making a “profession of faith,” but like Nicodemus, need something else.

It’s important to see that the “believers” in v. 31 above wound up trying to kill Jesus before the chapter is over, v. 59!  They didn’t “abide” in His word at all, but rejected it.  There are many who begin in the Word, but some aspect of it offends them, some OT event or some NT teaching, and they turn aside.  It’s not up to us to say that such are lost, but it’s a serious matter to reject the Word, any part of it.

There’s a lot more we could say about this.  Cf. such verses as Acts 2:42; 11:23; 13:43 and 14:22.

2.  Hebrews 6:1-6, Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do, if God permits.  For it is impossible for those once enlightened, and having tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

We’ve quoted such an extensive portion because most people never get away from four words in v. 6, if they fall away, and conclude, sometimes vehemently, that “eternal security” is a doctrine from the Pit.  Much of the discussion centers around whether or not the writer is thinking of true Christians.  Without going into great detail, let’s just say that the writer refers to those who have been renewed …unto repentance.  This isn’t a description of those who are still dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1.

There is no “if” in the original language.  The verses might be translated something like this:

“For [it is] impossible, those once enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and works of [the] age to come, and fell away, again to renew [them] to repentance, crucifying for themselves the Son of God, and exposing [Him] publicly.”

For these people, the “falling away” is as real as anything said about them.  Does this mean, then, that it’s possible to lose your salvation?

Think very carefully before you answer.

If the text does indeed teach that you can lose your salvation, it also clearly teaches something else.  According to these verses, if it is possible to lose your salvation, it is not possible to get it back!  Read the verses again.  Yet, many claim to have been “saved” several times….  According to the text, that’s not possible.

There are at least two results of the idea that one can lose his salvation.  First, it results in a superficial view of sin and the innate sinfulness of human nature.  The logical result of this is “sinless perfection,” for anything less than this opens us up to losing our salvation.  After all, when it comes to sin, how much is “too much”?  Wasn’t it a little sin, as we would count it, that plunged our entire race into the miserable condition it’s in?

Second, this being saved and lost and saved, again and again, results in an even more superficial view of salvation than the one generally held today, in which salvation is little more than a fire escape from hell, or a key to “health and wealth,” or as a cure-all for the world’s social ills.  Seldom is one’s standing before a holy, righteous and just God even thought about.

Why is it impossible to be saved more than once?  It’s impossible to be saved more than once, according to the writer, because of what it takes to be saved at all!  The only way sinful men and women, and there isn’t any other kind, the only way they can be saved is through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  There is no other way! 

To lose your salvation would bring great dishonor to the Lord Jesus – “exposing [Him] publicly.”  The “effect” of all this on the Lord Jesus is never ever even considered.  It’s all about us, “coming and going,” as it were, at our pleasure.   It’s with good reason that Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame,…  He hung naked on a Roman cross for the salvation of His sheep.  To say that even one of them can lose their salvation is to say that all that dishonor and suffering was for nothing.

Furthermore, according to Hebrews 10:26, if we sin willfully after we receive the knowledge of the truth [if we “fall away”], there remains no longer a sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation….

If it were possible to lose salvation…, there would be no “second chance.”

Well, then, if the writer isn’t teaching loss of salvation, what is he teaching?

Remember, Hebrews 6 isn’t the beginning of the book.  Chapter 6 starts with the word, therefore, and brings us to the conclusion of 5:12-14,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature], that is, those who by reason of use [practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The writer has turned aside for a moment to apply his teaching about the preeminence of Christ to the lives of his readers, in order to remind them that Christianity isn’t just an academic exercise in certain doctrines or historical facts.  These facts and doctrines are intended to have a radical and permanent effect in the hearts and lives of men and women.  These facts and doctrines aren’t an end in themselves, but are meant to bring people from cursing to blessing – from being “foreigners” to being “family” – from being “sinners” to being “saints”.  He contrasts where his readers are with where they ought to be.  Instead of being leaders and teachers, helping others along their Christian walk, and themselves being able to digest the strong meat of the word – things hard to explain, 5:11 – they are still immature, still clinging to first principles.

In chapter 6, the writer encourages his readers to go on to maturity, that is, to advance, make progress.  To do this, they don’t have to go back to the beginning and “start over;” they don’t have to “get saved” again, or to “rededicate” their lives, but to go on from where they are.  They weren’t to lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God.  They weren’t to return to the ceremonial acts of washing of the OT, cf. 9:10, or the laying on of hands, that is, identifying with the OT sacrifices, cf. Leviticus 1:4.  These could never take away sin, could never prepare those who took part in them for the resurrection of the dead, and…eternal judgment.

Could there be another thought here, as well?  Could it be that “falling away” isn’t just committing some overt sin or turning aside into false doctrine?  To be sure, these are to be avoided at all cost, but there may be something else here, something much more serious, if you will, because multitudes of professing Christians are guilty of it, yet it’s never mentioned.

Could it be, from the writer’s view of expected progress and spiritual growth that “falling away” is simply “to stand still”?  To stagnate?  How many there are who have been church members for years, and yet have made no progress in the Christian life at all.  Indeed, they seem to think that having their name on a church roll is enough and they’re on their way to “a better place.”   Yet they never read the Bible, and have no real interest in it’s teachings.  They never pray, or if they do, it’s just some “form” prescribed by their church.  They’re indistinguishable from the world around them.

Would the writer consider this as – “falling away”?  It’s something to think about.

Or perhaps, they once were active in church.  I remember a lady showing me an award for 15 years of perfect Sunday School attendance.  Make no mistake.  That’s quite an accomplishment – 780 consecutive Sundays.  But now, she hadn’t been to church in several years.

Oh, it’s a dangerous thing to be a “once were” professor of faith in Christ, “once were” active and interested in the things of God, but now….  Can it be said that such persons have “continued,” that they have “persevered”?  Are they saved?  Are they lost?  Only God knows for sure.  There’s only been one Human Being Who infallibly and truly knows what is in man, John 2:25.

At the same time, remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to another immature group of believers: examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith, 2 Corinthians 13:5.  None of this pumping them up to feel good about themselves, as is the modern habit of some; Paul told them to examine themselves to see whether they were saved or not.  To yet another church, which had turned aside from his teaching, he wrote that he was afraid for them, and that he had doubts about them, Galatians 4:11, 20.

Perhaps there are some who will say, “Oh, now you’re teaching salvation by works,” and, for them, that will be the end of it.  However, remember that the inspired Apostle wrote, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love, Galatians 5:6 (emphasis added).

This is how faith is manifested, not just in some “profession,” but in working, that is, being obedient to the Word, cf. Hebrews 11.  Here is how faith is motivated, not just in some ritual, or of necessity, or of “habit,” but through love   Not in drudgery, as in a task grudgingly performed, or in dread, because God will “get me” if I don’t do such and such, but things done in delight and devotion, because we’ve seen and experienced something of the greatness and goodness of God.  See also James 1:17, 20, 26.  “Dead” faith doesn’t come from the living God.

The Lord Jesus Himself described love toward Himself as being obedient to His Word, John 14:21, 23-24,  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me….  If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word….  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” 

Read these words very carefully.  They are serious, indeed.  The only way faith is made evident, and the only way one can have Scriptural assurance of salvation, is through loving and willing obedience to the Word of God.  This isn’t “perfection,” it’s “perseverance.”

Some say that our Lord meant that we are to live only by the words of the Gospels, as if the other books somehow “don’t count.”  However, all the NT is His Word, not just its first four books.

Make no mistake about it.  Sinners are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who He is and what He did for sinners.  However, there are different “kinds” of faith.  There is an “historical” faith, content with the bare facts of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord.  Then there is a “doctrinal” faith, which simply agrees with or repeats the beliefs of a particular church or denomination, whether those beliefs are Scriptural or not.  There is a “natural” faith, the kind often talked about in fundamentalist circles, which believes the car will start when you turn the key in the ignition.  There is even a “devilish” faith, James 1:19.  None of these is “saving” faith, which comes from God, and not from ourselves, Ephesians 2:8-10.

There are those who disagree with the assessment of the last paragraph.  They will argue that “faith” is “faith” – there is only one kind of faith.  I cannot agree.  I don’t believe that “saving faith,” and, say, “devilish faith” are the same “kind” of faith.

The Scripture teaches that no one who is truly saved can ever be lost, but in response to the question, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” even our Lord answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able,” Luke 13:23, 24.
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Conclusion.

Considering all that could be said, not only of this doctrine, but of all of them, this series has been a very narrow and incomplete look at them.   I hope at the very least that it has given you something to think about.  Still, the main thing isn’t, “What do you think of these doctrines?” though I do hope you agree with them.  The main thing is, “What do you think of the Lord Jesus?”

Questions

1.  In John 8:30, 31, what does our Lord say about true believers?

2.  Is “perseverance” a condition of salvation?

3.  What happened to the “believers” in John 8?

4.  What does Hebrews 6:1-6 teach about “losing salvation?”

5.  Is it possible to be “saved” multiple times?

6.  Why, or why not?

7.  What is an important consideration in salvation?

8.  What does Hebrews 10:26 say about being “saved again?”

9.  What does the writer of Hebrews expect of his readers?

10. What are the manifestation of and the motivation for faith?

11. What is “perseverance”?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 9: “…they shall never perish.”

V.  The Certainty of Grace.

In this post, we’ve arrived at a another hotly-contested doctrine;  eternal security.  it’s known by various other names:  “once saved, always saved” (OSAS), “the preservation of the saints,” “the perseverance of the saints.”  Some who hold this last view believe that the saints will persevere.  Others who hold this view do not believe in eternal security, but  believe that the saints must persevere, and that a saint can be lost and saved…again, …and again, …and again….  There is a lot of confusion about this doctrine, and both sides look to the Scriptures to verify their beliefs.

So, are the saints “preserved,” or do they have to “persevere”?  What does the Scripture say?

In this post, we’ll look at some verses which teach saints can never be lost.

1.  John 10:22-31, Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do you keep us in doubt?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I told you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.”

This records our Lord’s own words.  Every facet of the doctrine is touched on in this excerpt from His teaching.  Note carefully what Jesus said about His audience, His sheep, His Father and Himself, and His Father.

a.  His audience, vs. 25, 26.

He goes straight to the root of the problem:  the Jews in His audience refused to listen to Him because they were not His sheep.  He had already said this to others who were questioning Him: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God,” John 8:47.  Cf. 8:39, 43.  Scripture plainly teaches that there are some who are “sheep,” and there are some who are not.

b.  His sheep, vs. 27-29.

1).  they hear, in contrast to those to whom the Lord was talking.
2).  He knows them, not just “about” them.  Remember the duet mentioned earlier, how Jesus died for us without knowing our names.  To the contrary, Jesus said He knows His sheep, all of them, each one of them.  They are His and He knows them individually and personally.
c).  they follow Him, “for they know His voice, yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers,” John 10:3, 4.  I was out with a group of young people one evening.  We had built a bonfire.  Some distance away, there was a group of young men, pretty much under the influence and acting like it.  In the darkness, one of them looked remarkably like one of the young men in our group.  Someone remarked on this, but his fiancee immediately replied that she didn’t have any trouble telling them apart!
She had spent a lot of time with him.  She knew him!  Ah, what a lesson there is for us.  There are many voices in the darkness of this world talking about Jesus.  How well do we distinguish between the false and the true?  Do we know Him?   His sheep follow HIM, not just some preacher or “personality”.

c.  Himself, v. 28.

1).  “I give them eternal life.”  There is some discussion about the significance of the word, “eternal.”  Some believe that, well, yes, the life is eternal, but its possession can be lost.  Our Lord refutes this in His next statement.
2).  “They shall never perish.”  How could He have said it any more clearly?  Yet He continues:
3).  “Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Some have said to me, “Yes, but they can jump” (!)  This would merely show that the one “jumping” wasn’t a sheep, after all.  The verbs in vs. 27, 28 are present tense:  hearing, knowing, following, giving.  Salvation isn’t something that happened to us 30 years ago, and then nothing since.  Salvation, though indeed coming to us at a point in time, is a present reality.  It wasn’t just something which happened to us then; it is happening to us now.  But the Lord continues.

d.  The Father, v. 29.

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  We are pointed back to eternity, where the Father chose us and gave us to Christ to redeem.  I can’t think of a stronger way for the Lord to have put it than the statement that His sheep will never perish, either by their own hand, by the hand of others, or by the hand of the Father.  But He’s not done!

e.  The Father and Himself, v. 30.

“I and the Father are one,” that is, they are one in purpose and will.  It has nothing to do with the Son supposedly saying that He is really the Father, as some take it.  No. No.  He’s saying that He and the Father are united in their determination to save the sheep!  Indeed, Jesus pictured this unity when He prayed that “they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…,” John 17:21.
There are depths here into which no mere mortal can venture, but what the Lord is saying in effect is that only if the Trinity can be separated may one of the sheep be separated from Christ’s flock and be lost.  And His sheep don’t switch back and forth between being sheep and being goats!

2.  Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified.

We’ve already looked at length at the idea that God merely chose those whom He foresaw would choose Him.  In these verses in Romans, Paul wrote of the completeness of the divine will.  It began with our election in eternity past, Ephesians 1:4.  It will end with our glorification, which is yet future.  John put it like this, Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.
This “golden chain of redemption” stretches from eternity past to eternity future.  No link is weak.  No link will be missing.  No link can be broken.  Those foreknown by means of the purpose and predestination of God will be called, justified and glorified.
According to our text above, we are yet to be, and will be, conformed to the image of His Son.  “Not yet…but shall be.”

3.  Ephesians 1:13, 14, In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

In these posts, we’ve seen the divine unity and participation in the work of salvation.  It began in eternity past with the Father’s choosing sinners to be saved (again, who would otherwise be lost). It continued with the Son at Calvary, redeeming those chosen by the Father and given to the Son before the events of Genesis 1.  It continues with the Holy Spirit regenerating and calling these elect and redeemed sinners to repentance and faith, and “sealing” them until the entire process is complete.  The Holy Spirit “guarantees” our ultimate possession of our “inheritance.”  The KJV has it that the Spirit is the earnest, the “down payment” of our inheritance.  We don’t have it all now, by any means.  And we won’t get it all in this life, either.  The work has begun, to be sure, but it will take the ages to come, Ephesians 2:7, to show us the riches of that inheritance.

4.  Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:13, For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He Who calls you is faithful, Who will also do it.

These five verses all talk about the workmanship and faithfulness of God.  Most Christians believe that they are only partly God’s workmanship – they must still do “their” part.  Perhaps you’re tired of the emphasis on this, but there are multitudes who, week after week, and month after month, and year after year, sit under ministries where that very thing is taught –

“God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

“God has no hands but our hands.”

“God had plan A for Adam, but when Adam fell, He had to go to plan B.”

“Oops!”

If yours is a “plan B” God, read the verses above again.  “Oops” isn’t in His vocabulary.  His pencils have no erasers.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond “B”.  Although I suppose in this computer age, where things are “updated” every few minutes, it would be “Plan A.712” or something.  Same thing.  God trying to scratch and scramble to stay ahead of His wayward creation.  I can hardly write such blasphemy.  Certainly don’t believe it!

Even though the verses above are in the order of their NT appearance, they could almost be read as two sentences, with the first three together as one.  Try it.  Believers are God’s creation and workmanship.  Paul was certain that what God had begun, He would finish.

To those who are always saying, “Yes, but what about MY will?” there is Philippians 2:13:  God works, “is operative” in us, BOTH TO WILL and TO DO of His good pleasure (emphasis added).  I know that many find that impossible to believe, that God would, or even could, work like that, but that was why Paul was confident:  God is at work, He gets the job done, and He is faithful.

5.  John 3:14-17,  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

To this point, we’ve emphasized what might be called the divine side of salvation, that is, the purpose and work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  But we can’t stop there.  God doesn’t need to be “saved,” we do.  So, what does all this mean to us, in the practical, everyday world in which we live?

John 3 is the classic teaching on this subject, although the rest of the NT says much more about the practical results and evidence of salvation.  The verses we quoted above show the certainty and result of “faith:” eternal life to whoever believes in Him.  This astounded Nicodemus, but it’s wonderful news to us.  There are no barriers, no hindrances, to our being saved that we don’t put up ourselves.  There’s nothing in Scripture to prevent the salvation of the worst sinner who ever lived.  Paul said that of himself.

Don’t be led astray by the words, “should,” and “might.”  They don’t express uncertainty, that is, that the believer should be saved, but might not be, after all.  Or that he should not perish, but that he might, anyway.  No, no, these words express purpose, God’s purpose, that those who believe will not perish, but will have eternal life.  (Once again, I wish WordPress supported underlining words.)

Because of our fallen condition, as well as our finite understanding, it’s sometimes difficult for us to have a complete view of Scriptural teaching.  On the one hand, some concentrate on those verses which speak of our believing, and so they emphasize “free will,” sometimes to the extent of denying or at least minimizing verses like Philippians 2:13.  Some even go so far as to assert that God can’t work in us at all without our permission and cooperation.

On the other hand, some so emphasize sovereignty that they minimize or in effect deny those verses requiring us to believe.  We’ve referred elsewhere to the brother who would only say, “I was caused to believe.”  A more Biblical statement would have been, “I was enabled to believe.”  Even that, though, is capable of being viewed as saying more than it really does.

God does not believe for us.  We must believe, as surely as we must live, though that life must come from and be sustained by God.  God doesn’t live for us.  In the same way, although faith comes from God, it isn’t exercised for us by God.  It isn’t enough simply to have the Savior “revealed” to us, though that is absolutely necessary.  Having thus “seen” Him, we must also “receive” Him, John 1:11, 12.  We believe, and we are saved, as John 3 tells us.

6.  John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides [remains] on him.”

There are several things in this verse.  The believer has everlasting life.  John doesn’t say that he receives life, though that is the common teaching.  He has life.  Faith is an evidence of spiritual life, not it’s entrance.  There are only two spiritual conditions:  life or under the wrath of God.  There is no third, “neutral,” condition.  If there is no faith, there is no life.  There is only the judgment and wrath of God.  We are by nature children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3.  Only in and through the Lord Jesus is there deliverance from sin, which is the cause of God’s wrath on us.  However, in Christ, that life is eternal, not temporary or sporadic.  Not “here today and gone tomorrow.”  It is life…eternal.

Questions

1.  What are the two viewpoints on this doctrine?

2.  What are the five things Jesus says in John 10:22-31?

3.  What assurance do we have that the “foreknown” will be glorified?

4.  What “part” does each member of the Trinity play in our salvation?

5.  Whose work is our salvation?

6.  Is “the work of God” all that is necessary to our salvation?

7.  What part does faith play in our salvation?

8.  Where does faith come from?

9.  Do we actually believe, or is it somehow just “the work of God” in us?

10. Is saving faith passive?

11. What is true of those without faith?