Archive for the ‘Hebrews’ Category

Chapter three of the letter to the Hebrews warns mulitple times against apostasy, or the falling away from the faith. We see phrases like “we are his house if indeed we  hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope,” “take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from  the living God,” and again, “we have come to share in Christ,  if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” The warning could not be any more clear- remain in the faith, for those not in the faith will not enter into Heaven.

There are several Christian denominations that believe apostasy is possible by Christians. After all, if the writer of Hebrews is urging his fellow brethern to remain in the faith, it must be possible for them to leave the faith, right? Or they’ll tackle it from the philosophical aspect: if God gives us the freewill to enter into a relationship with Him through His son, than we must likewise retain the freewill necessary to reject that salvation once it’s ours. Oh, and there’s also many other passages which can be interpreted to mean that one can lose their salvation if they don’t maintain their end of the bargain (faith) all the way through. Make no mistake about it- there is a surprising amount of evidence that seems to indicate that Christians can eventually perish in Hell. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t be such a theological hot potato right now.

However, I don’t believe that Scripture teaches any such thing. Allow me to share with you some reasons why. And please, do know that scholars have been debating this for centuries. Obviously this single blog post isn’t going to be the end-all of all arguments.

1. In my opinion, the Biblical evidence is far stronger that true children of God will remain children of God. For example, 1 John 2:19 teaches that those “leaving the faith” are only doing so to make it clear that they were never of the faith. In Romans eight we see the promise that “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also  justified, and those whom he justified he also  glorified.” If all who are predestined will be glorified, there is no wiggle-room in the text to allow for one who is justified to eventually not be glorifed.

2. Apostasy of the believer doesn’t work in light of God’s sovereign election and predestination. In other words, as God stands outside of time, He’s not going to see someone as elect and then “un-elect” them, which would make the possibility of really being elect a philosophical headache.

3. If the blood of Jesus truly cleanses us from all sins, as taught in 1 John 1:7, this would necessarily indicate that even if wecouldunbelieve, it wouldn’t be counted against us as sin, and therefore we would still be justified in God’s sight.

4. Paul said “I am sure of this, that he who began  a good work in you  will bring it to completion at  the day of Jesus Christ.” The apostasy of a Christian would kinda prove Paul wrong on that one.

 

The list could go on and on, but hopefully I’ve at least demonstrated the existence of argumentation against the total and final apostasy of a child of God. However, that doesn’t really explain why it is that the writer of Hebrews is indeed warning Christians against unbelief. I think that answer is simple, though. Think about this: who else would be warned against a false belief or waning faith other than someone who claimed to be a Christ-follower? Remember how Jesus said in Matthew seven that the majority of people who profess him as Lord will ultimately be in Hell? The reality of false believers could be what prompted whomever wrote this letter to warn the general body of professing Christians to believe until the end, lest they perish. This isn’t to demonstrate that true believers can cease to believe (which would require a revocation of God’s gift of faith -see Eph 2:8-9), but rather to emphasize the importance of faith in the life of the so-called Christian. True believers will endure to the end. Those that do not will not only perish in Hell, but they will also serve to demonstrate that they were never truly saved in the first place.

So take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from  the living God.

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One of the more frustrating aspects of my role as a student pastor is my all-too-often inability to really relate to the problems that are faced by my students. I mean, sure. So I know what it’s like to battle against raging hormones, or to deal with rebellion against my parents. But I don’t know what it’s like to have so much misery trapped inside that I’m tempted to cut myself or inflict some other pain on myself as a release. I’ve never lived in a world where drugs offer me the best solution to my problems. I’ve never battled chronic anxiety, or self-image issues, or a number of the issues that undergird these things. As a result I’m not as empathetic as I’d like to be.

But Jesus is different. Near the end of Hebrews two we learn that Jesus “is able to help those who are being tempted, because he himself has suffered when tempted.” This reality is repeated two chapters later when we see that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

It’s amazing to think that we can never think to ourselves, “God would never understand what I’m going through. He must hate me for my failures.” God does understand. Jesus battled everything we battle. He was tempted in every way that we are. Crazy, ain’t it? I mean, Jesus was tempted to think lustful thoughts. He was tempted to rebel against his Father. He was tempted to be selfish, to be proud, to be unmerciful, to be unloving. He faced every possible temptation that we ourselves fall to, but the difference is that he didn’t stumble. He didn’t sin. So while he is perfectly qualified to help us and to intercede for us, don’t forget that he’s also perfectly qualified to know what we’re going through. He’s been there, done that.

I might not be able to relate to your needs, but Jesus can. I might not be able to help you, but Jesus can. Will you trust him?

The writer of the book of Hebrews sets the tone for the rest of the book as the last nine or so verses of chapter one support his contention that everything is through Jesus, for Jesus, and upheld by Jesus.

In other words, it’s all about Jesus. And if it was always all about Jesus, that means it was never about us.

Never.

Not even your redemption was about you. I mean, think about that one. Paul says in Ephesians three that the Gospel exists for the purpose of showing the angels the wisdom of God. So yes, while God loves us, while Jesus died for us, while the Holy Spirit gives us new life, it’s imperative that we stop focusing on the “me” aspect of life and live with the recognition and understanding that the world resolves around Jesus- not you or me.