A Summary of Hebrews 10:26-31

This post will summarize Hebrews 10:26-31 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of Hebrews 10:26-31.”

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Heb. 10:26-27, NIV)

The author of Hebrews delivers a stern warning in the first two verses of this passage. Three questions are raised. 1) To whom is the warning issued; 2) what is being warned against; and 3) what is the consequence of disobeying the warning?

In answer to the first question, the author is clearly speaking to Christians as evidenced by the fact that he includes himself (“we”) in the warning. Second, the phrase “keep on sinning” should be translated “deliberately sin” (cf. KJV); the particular sin being warned against is apparently apostasy given the immediate context (v. 23) and the immediately following application (v. 35). Some object to the idea that Christians can fall way from their faith, but we must not allow our own theology to decide what a passage means. Finally, the consequence for falling away is divine discipline. Though some see Hell in view, there is simply no basis for making such a claim, as fire is very often a picture of judgment in both the NT and OT.

Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (10:28-29)

To prove his case, the author points back to Num. 15:17-36. Those who sinned deliberately were put to death. Since to reject one’s faith is to knowingly reject Jesus’ sacrifice and thus consider it worthless, the penalty must be more severe than death. While this penalty is not expressly defined, our own experience teaches us there are many things worse than death. Divine discipline in this life as well as a loss of rewards in the next are only two quick examples.

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (10:30-31)

The author concludes with a Scriptural basis for his warning. He sees apostasy as a sin against God Himself which He must avenge. Further, God judges His own people, as He did Israel for so long. God is not a dead God who cannot respond to our sin.

This passage is a very stern warning for every believer. It provides a negative motivation—fear of judgment—for walking the Christian life. Though apostasy is the sin in view, it seems that the principle may well extend to sin generally. To sin against God knowingly because we know we have been forgiven is to invite harsh judgment. Though believers in Christ may be eternally secure, their security is the very thing which calls them to a higher standard. Those who are in Christ must live as He lived.

Your thoughts?

Advertisements

A Summary of Romans 10:9-10

This post will summarize Romans 10:9-10 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of Romans 10:9-10.”

[I]f you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom. 10:9-10, NIV)

Though this verse is commonly quoted when people want to “close the deal” when sharing their faith, there are several reasons to believe that it is not talking about “going to heaven” at all. Its basic message is actually that believers who are under the discipline of God or suffering in the bondage of sin may call out to God through Jesus Christ for their deliverance.

First, this passage is found in Romans 9-11, a unit that is largely focused on Israel and her restoration. The immediate context bears this out, as does the following chapter. Historically, Israel was under the imminent threat of destruction by the Roman Empire (predicted by Jesus in Matt. 24:1-2). Paul’s point was that if they would call upon Jesus Christ whom they had rejected, they would have been delivered from that danger. They did not and Jerusalem fell in AD 70.

Second, the word “salvation” in Romans does not refer to salvation from Hell, but deliverance from a temporal danger, such as God’s wrath. Therefore, it is inappropriate to use this verse in attempt to lead someone to Christ. As it happens, the word for salvation from Hell in Romans is “justification.”

Third, there are two conditions for salvation in this passage: belief and confession. Yet the Bible makes it clear that the sole condition for eternal salvation is faith alone! (See John 3:16, etc.)

Paul’s point is that if the Jews would have believed that God raised Jesus from the dead (which would have resulted in their justification, that is, the salvation of their souls), then, being children of God, they could have turned to Him for deliverance from the coming danger they faced. Someday, Israel will make that confession (at the end of the Tribulation), and all of Israel will be delivered from the persecution they have faced for millennia.

These verses are not relevant only for the Jews, though. If any believer calls upon the name of the Lord (Jesus Christ), then they can be saved—not saved from Hell, for that is already guaranteed—but saved from the discipline that God lays upon His disobedient children. The effects of sin in the Christian life are devastating. Many believers are trapped in bondage. This verse offers more than salvation from Hell. It offers freedom in the here and now! Jesus came to give us not only life, but a free, abundant life. This verse is Paul’s explanation of how we access that freedom.

A Summary of Hebrews 6:4-6

This post will summarize Hebrews 6:4-6 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6.”

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb. 6:4-6)

Contrary to popular belief, this passage does not teach that one may lose their salvation. All theological argument aside, this is proven by one very simple observation: salvation is not mentioned in these verses. The passage does teach that genuine Christians can lose their faith. If we wish to assert that losing one’s faith results in a loss of salvation, he must demonstrate that from other Scripture. The idea is simply not found here.

On the other hand, the passage actually supports “once saved always save.” Note that if the believer falls away (we are taking the references “enlightened,” “tasted” and “shared” as qualifying genuine Christians) that they cannot be brought back to repentance. That is, they cannot be restored to the confession they once held. The issue, then, is not the loss of salvation, but the loss of one’s confession and, by extension, the loss of one’s fellowship with the church.

The author of Hebrews presses his point in 6:6-8 with this illustration:

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (6:7-8)

The Christian under discussion is compared to a crop of farmland. If it is well tended, it is expected to bear fruit, but if it bears weeds instead, the farmer has no choice but to burn the land. The purpose of this burning is not to destroy it, but to allow him to start over. The fire does not, then, represent Hell. It represents God’s discipline (cf. Heb. 12:1-11).

This passage teaches that the consequence of falling away is not Hell but rather God’s discipline in our lives. As the author of this book says in Heb. 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This passage is actually teaching the same thing that Paul said on I Corinthians 5:5, “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Let us, then, strive to hold fast the confession of our faith!

A Summary of James 2:14-26

This post will summarize James 2:14-26 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of James 2:14-26.”

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

James argues that faith alone is not sufficient to save. “Salvation,” however, does not refer to salvation from Hell, but rather deliverance from danger, God’s wrath, etc. For James, it doesn’t matter how much faith you have. If your faith doesn’t lead you to do anything, it is useless (cf. 1:21-22).

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (2:18-19)

Though most people take 2:18-19 as an objector, these verses should be understood a witness who supports James’ position. The first “but” should be rendered “In fact” (cf. John 16:2). The witness’ words do not end after “I have deeds,” as the NIV has it, but include both verses. His point is that one must have deeds to demonstrate faith. Believing the right things is useless if not put into action, because even demons believe the right things.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, “and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (2:20-24)

To further his point, James looks at Abraham as an example that demonstrates that works are necessary for faith to accomplish anything. Abraham was justified when he believed God, but that justification was fulfilled when he demonstrated his faith by offering Isaac as a sacrifice. James’ use of “justification” here is not the same as Paul’s, who used it in a legal sense. James uses it to mean “vindication.” Abraham could be called God’s friend because of his deeds and not just his faith. His faith, in that sense, was vindicated.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (2:25-26)

James concludes with a second OT example. Rahab not only believed the spies’ promise that Jericho would be destroyed; she also helped them escape. Her actions resulted in her life being spared. In this sense, her works saved her.

Properly understood, we may say that James believed in a works-based salvation, as should all Christians. He is not, though, talking about salvation from Hell, but rather salvation from the dangers we face in life. Christians are not to stand by and wait for God to solve all of their problems. They are to act according to the faith that they have and leave the results to Him.