A Difficult Passage
Today's reading features what I would consider to be one of the most difficult and contentious passages in the whole of the Bible. As I mentioned a few days ago, Hebrews contains five "warning passages" which are lumped in groups of verses in different ways. One way that gets to the heart of each warning is this:
1. Hebrews 2:1-4
2. Hebrews 4:12-13
3. Hebrews 6:4-8
4. Hebrews 10:26-31
5. Hebrews 12:25-29
These passages are interesting and important in that Hebrews is a book that is written to Jewish believers, yet this passages are very sharp and exhort them not to forsake salvation. As I said, this passages have evoked many a bitter debate about the nature of salvation between those who believe that it is possible to lose salvation and those (like me) that believe it is not possible to lose true salvation. There are a lot of reasons that I hold the belief that it isn't possible to lose salvation, but in a nutshell I would say this: our salvation is by God's grace alone apart from our works and depends wholly on God for it's beginning and completion. I believe that God is powerful enough to protect and keep those that He calls to salvation. I DO, however, also believe that there are a lot of people out there who think they have salvation and/or appear to have salvation. This would be the point of Jesus' parable of the wheat an and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43). I feel that conceptually and Biblically this is the best way to understand the nature of salvation. Of course that are many that would disagree with me who have good reasons for doing so, but this is a pretty vital issue that Christians (particularly pastors!) need to take a stance on because it's pretty foundational to how one understands many passages of the Bible.
These warning passages in Hebrews, particularly today's, pose a challenge for people who believe what I do. There are many passages that talk about God's power of salvation, but these passages also seem to indicate that it possible to lose it. This is a big issue: Why the warning passages at all? If one can't lose salvation, why even suggest that it's possible?
Thomas Schreiner has done some really good work on this issue, and I'll attach his paper below. It's pretty long and dense, but if you're really interested in this you MUST read it. His basic conclusion is that the warnings are serious, not idle threats: if you were to forsake God as these passages declare, these things would be true of you. BUT - true believers are kept by God's power from doing so. Summary: this are serious threats about what would happen to true believers who commit apostasy, but God prevents that from happening. Does that mean we shouldn't be wary and take this warnings to heart? NO!!!! Of course we should. Now we're entering the area of free will vs. God's sovereignty, and we don't have time to deal wit that here. Suffice to say that no matter what, we must act like we have free will - we can't just sit around waiting for God to bring food and life to us. But that's another topic.
Again, if you're interested, please check out this paper. This is pretty complex topic, but also very important. I definitely lean very heavily toward Schreiner's view because it is very faithful to the meaning of the text, as well as preserving what I think is the Biblical view of the nature of salvation. If you have any questions, hit me up in the comment area.