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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

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  • « From the Foreword... | Main | 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) »

    Resources on Apostasy & Hebrews 6

    Question: I'm just wondering if you have any e books, or articles on the subject of eternal security which is able to strongly refute the extremely difficult passages in Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 which is clearly understandable as I have had some particular issues and opposition from people who hold to the erroneous doctrine of losing salvation of which I oppose. Can you help or advise.


    Response: Thank you for your email. People who erroneously affirm that one can lose their salvation are in danger of denying the gospel and more precisely, denying Jesus Christ. They are in essence, declaring there is something we (not Christ) can do to either attain or maintain our just standing before God. Such a belief completely is contrary to Christ and misapprehends the intent of the gospel. We have a God who saves us freely in Christ, who does not base His salvation or acceptance of his people if they only meet certain conditions or jump through certain hoops.

    The passages in Hebrews, you must remember, are written in the context... a context which declares that Jesus Christ is better than the Sacrifice, the Temple, Moses, and the Levitical Priesthood. These are warnings for people who have heard the gospel against going back to the shadows and signs which merely pointed to Christ (the fulfillment of these signs). A severe warning against embracing the shadows rather than the substance, which is Christ. It is not saying that if you stumble and commit some particular sin in your Christian life that you have lost your salvation. On the contrary, those who think you can lose salvation because they sin are committing the very error these passages warn against because they are trusting in something other than Jesus Christ, like their own ability to keep or maintain their just standing before God with their works or perseverance. God alone "is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 cor 1:28-31)

    I would recommend the following articles and books:

    On Apostasy

    on Perseverance

    An Exposition of Hebrews
    (eBook) Arthur W. Pink

    Assured by God by Burk Parsons

    Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament by Thomas R. Schreiner

    Posted by John on January 18, 2012 12:49 PM

    Comments

    Dear John:

    A very complex and difficult issue, to be sure, and this is not to say I understand matters either. But I would conjecture, that the more serious, and extreme (iyw), warning is actually Hebrews 6. (Although all warnings from scripture are serious.) But you forgot to mention one (!), being Hebrews 12:15

    - Your brother,
    John G. Lewis

    John

    Although I only spoke of the context of Heb 6 in light of the whole thrust of the letter, it should be noted that Hebrews 6:9 says "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation."

    In other words, the things that belong to salvation do not include things things on the apostasy list from verse 4-8 for the same chapter.

    Heb 12:15
    See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

    As you know, in the secret council of God which He revealed later in Rom 9, God loved and chose Jacob but not Esau even before they were born. (see Rom 9:11-12) God passed over Esau and left Esau to his own perverse will. He was bound to the yoke of sin.

    These are general warnings to the church (which has both wheat and tares) and is used by the Holy Spirit as part of God's preserving process. God calls us out from sin and the Holy Spirit uses these imperatives and warnings to work in the hearts of those he loves so they will persevere. The "things that belong to salvation" include God's gift to preserve us for Christ is our sanctification.

    Jesus himself declares this in John 6:37 - "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." i.e. both belief and perseverance are by God's grace in Christ alone.

    Dear Rev. John:

    Thank you for such an excellent response! Something to think about. Concerning the 'theory' of election... perhaps this is best left in the hands of Almighty God; but what is left for us, what is up to us to do, is to fight the battles! Yes, and true enough, we should not forget your first qoute, 6:9.
    Thank you, and talk again,
    Brother John

    Rev John Lewis

    Election is a clear part of God's revelation to us in the Bible. It is spoken of often. If God thought it important enough to reveal it to us He obviously had a purpose in doing so and so it should be taught because it ensures that we are saved by grace alone, that the Holy Spirit is the one who opes our eyes ears and heart to the gospel and not we ourselves. We have nothing to boast in, but CHrist alone even for the very humility to believe the gospel. Otherwise we end up attributing our repentance and faith to our own wisdom, prudence, sound judgment or good sense, instead of Christ.

    See John 6:63-65 & 37

    Dear John:

    I agree. This is a difficult subject for some to handle though; but I concur with your perspective. The great warnings exist as a testament... and to place in line those whom He is calling. Thank you, as always, for your views and ideas! John Owen (as you know) wrote a 7 volume commentary on Hebrews; perhaps the definitive work. I have yet to read it in its totality however.
    Talk again!
    Your Brother in the Faith,
    John L.

    John G Lewis

    That may be so but that did not seem to stop Jesus from talking about it. In Matthew chapter 16:13-17 Jesus asked His disciples the most important question they were ever asked. Jesus asked, "...who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."

    It seems that Jesus believes it is critical to remind Peter of this truth as of first importance in Peter's "follow-up". Many in this day and age are reluctant to speak to a new Christian about God's sovereign grace in salvation for fear it is a hard truth. Yet when Peter makes his first confession of Christ, Jesus puts it first in order of importance, before all other truths.

    Difficulty of a matter is not the criteria of whether or not we should speak about it to a new believer.

    Dear John Hendryx:

    I do, again, agree with your general points and perspective. Yet, it is true that some are not pleased with the doctrine of the Elect... And this may be part of the elect themselves! However, even from a theoretical basis, I am not sure we understand matters well enough here. Do we, for instance, know what really happened when the Lord threatened to destroy the nation, after the Golden Calf incident? I politely therefore recommend reserve on this point, and to try to help the faithful, whenever possible, against the wiles of our true enemey, the enemy of man himself, the Devil. Has many names, the Destoyer (I believe), originally Lucifer, but now Satan.

    To summerize, my view is to let man be man, and God be God. I am not at all charterizing a particular position, necessarily; but I view these warnings as very real. Remember, in James, when he criticized a certain type of faith (James 2). But note James 2:19... this is elemental, but albeit not full, *faith*.
    Interesting that these two books of the Bible are placed side by side! I close with a verse from 1 Corintians (This book of Paul's is one of the most elegant introductions to our faith, imo.)
    1 Cor. 16: 13 "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." We can, and should, win battles; but only Almighty God can win the war.

    - Your brother,
    John G. Lewis

    Gentlemen; Dear Sir/Madam:

    There is one last point I wanted to bring up. Hebrews 6, what I consider to be the most important and central warning, is indicative of what is colloquially referred to as a "fall from Grace". But to examine this seriously, as I believe the warning is very real, it is, then, a fall from what? The answer I propose is that it is not a fall from salvation (as we all seem to be agreed here), but it could be a fall from Justification. There are slight differences between the two; they should not be conflated.

    I have said we should let God be God... (etc.) However, he does not treat us, and certainly not members of his family, as robots. By His Grace, he places authority in our hands, and this is why (among other reasons) I have written we should fight against the Devil and his cohort, and try to bring into Kingdom all we can. How much authority, is perhaps not quite clear, though. Another complication, is the state of Justification itself; and again, it is not unquestionable when this has been achieved, or even what it is.

    Anyway; a very serious discussion this week, and a very important one; just some thoughts on the subject, of my own.

    Grace and Peace,
    John G. Lewis

    John G. Lewis

    No one ever claimed the warnings were not real. You have misunderstood if that is what you think. We wholeheartedly affirm that the warnings are meant for and deeply benefit the elect.

    Just as the command to obey the gospel is given to people who would never be able to do so apart from regenerating grace, so the commands and warnings given to believers, will only be helpful if, by grace, they drive us to Christ. They were never meant to be put there to trust in on ourselves or our own efforts. We must in all cases lose all hope in ourselves, and pray for God's grace, for God alone can make our hearts incline to good and enable us to do what He commands.

    Only a biblical understanding of God's electing, regenerating, sanctifying grace in Christ can give us true assurance. God uses the gospel and warnings and imperatives as means of His grace. We are to obey them but can only do so as they drive drive us to despair in ourselves and hope in Christ alone. The whole point I was making in the post. The whole movement which sees these and like passages to mean that some sin will cause God to revoke our sonship, is to deny Christ and the gospel for trusts in our own exertion to attain or maintain our just standing before God.

    Psalm 119:33-40 is a prayer which shows a man who knows that he is unable to obey apart from God's grace.

    "Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.
    34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
    35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.
    36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
    37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word.
    38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared.
    39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good.
    40 How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life."


    John


    We are never told to speculate about "who" is elect because it is among the secret things of God that we cannot pry into, but the fact of election and its usefulness for understanding that we are saved by grace alone is a revealed truth to be taught.

    Dear John Hendryx:

    I don't think we have really any substantive disagreement! Thank you for the discussion... I liked, in particular your (theological) reasoning with the phrase "We are to obey them [the gospel and the warnings] but can only do so as they drive us to despair in ourselves and hope in Christ alone." Just as there is no one action we can do of our own to merit salvation, there is perhaps no one thing we can do to be ruled out from grace, although we should be very careful with the latter, that is, disobedience.

    Continued disobedience to the Lord... is like a blind man walking to the end of a tether: one does not realize he is at the end, until he finally arrives. This does entail prior knowledge of the Lord's commands; I do not at all 'advise' this. On the contrary, we should press on to victory, as Paul writes.

    John, I never meant to imply that you said, thought , or implied that the warnings are really more of a theoretical concern, though some theologians actually do. This area is one of the most delicate, and complex, areas of theology, and pastorship; I'm not quite sure anyone has the complete answer here. But, perhaps, to all those who have strayed, we should, as an elder advised me once, "keep the entirety of the Gospel in mind." Remember Luke 15! But also recollect to call on the Lord while he is near (Isaiah 55:6). My advise is to wait upon the Lord, be obedient, and pray.

    - Your servant,
    John G. Lewis

    "It is not saying that if you stumble and commit some particular sin in your Christian life that you have lost your salvation. On the contrary, those who think you can lose salvation because they sin are committing the very error these passages warn against because they are trusting in something other than Jesus Christ, like their own ability to keep or maintain their just standing before God with their works or perseverance."

    This is just silly. What? Our actions have no consequences? Totally unbiblical.

    God never tries anyone beyond his ability. (It's in the Bible). Let's say a person is in a state of grace (regeneration). God decides to try that person. The person fails. Did grace fail? No. The person did not use the grace that was given to him to resist. (Free will). So what? No consequences? That person loses nothing?

    What if a "little one" should stumble because of this failure? Would it not be better for a millstone to have been tied around the sinner's (regenerated) person's neck? According to your logic, no, because that "little one" was not elected and doomed to hell from all eternity anyway. But, don't worry, you are still elected and going to heaven! What kind of theology is that?

    Your theology is dangerous. Very dangerous. You presume, and damn boldly, that you know who are God's elect, and who aren't!

    Sin has consequences - PERIOD ...and merely believing that you are one of the elect and can with impunity "sin and sin boldly" without penalty is error!

    Ezekiel:36:31

    "Then you shall remember your evil conduct, and that your deeds were not good; you shall loathe yourselves for your sins and abominations."

    Repentance is the sign of forgiveness. True sinners never repent. Yet, somehow, you take this (repentance) as a sign of a lack of faith and condemn what is intended by God? You actually encourage people to not repent and say they are somehow trusting in themselves instead of God? Totally unbiblical. Repentance is error?

    Yeah, you are right and God is wrong. Pfffft.

    The greatest act of faith in the Bible, and praised by Jesus Himself, is the Centurion who said, "I am not worthy."

    Will you now condemn him?

    I guess, what I am trying to get at is, how do you know you are saved? Short answer:you don't.

    Do you think you are saved because "no one can confess Jesus to be the Son of God except by the power of the Holy Spirit?" (it is in the Bible). Yet, did not also the demons do likewise? Did they not recognize Jesus as the Son of God? Yes, they did. (it is in the bible)

    So, to believe that you are somehow saved simply because you recognize Jesus as the Son of God, is ludicrous.

    Do you believe Jesus has the power to save? Of course you do. Is therefore someone saved? No. Satan knows this also (that Jesus can save). Is one saved because he believes that Jesus is God. Nope. That is not a sign. The Devil believes/knows that Jesus is God also.

    What is sin? Is it not turning away from God and toward oneself? Is this not what caused Satan to fall? If one sins, he has turned away from God, even if he is regenerated. What then? No loss to himself? Totally unbiblical. Repent, believe in the Gospel, and turn back to God. Repentance is good (although painful as it may be) and in no way implies a lack of faith in God.

    Yes, one can lose his salvation by turning to himself. Predestination is not your business, it is God's.

    Bob,

    It appears you believe that Jesus did not really purchase eternal life for those he came to save. Instead you appear to think he purchased the opportunity of eternal life (even for believers) -- you therefore are not trusting in Christ alone but partially attribute your repenting, believing and perseverance, to your own wisdom, abilities, humility, sound judgment and good sense.

    No one said there were no consequences to sin, just that Christ cannot lose you. You appear to believe that what Christ did was insufficient to save to the uttermost. Your position is totally unbiblical because God disciplines those who he has adopted into his family, he does not cast them out (John 6:37, 44)

    People are save when the repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ ... but repentance and belief are not to be attributed to our own good sense but to Christ who gives us a new heart to believe and repent. Have you not read in the Bible that God grants repentance (2 Tim 2:24) and that God must give us a new heart if we are to believe and obey (Ezek 36:26; John 6:63-65).

    Give glory to Christ and stop trusting in your own efforts. Anything you have you owe to the grace of Christ, including your good will to believe and persevere. To deny this is to deny that salvation is all of Christ.

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