Christianity 201

October 11, 2016

The Five Warnings of Hebrews

I noticed these in the NIV Study Bible on the weekend. I figured I was not the first, and found this article at the website JesusWalk.com.  The passages are given a general introduction and then there are links to five additional articles.

The Five Warning Passages of Hebrews

Some of the more difficult and troubling aspects of Hebrews are the sometimes sharply worded warnings to the readers in five separate passages.

On a plain reading they seem to imply the possibility that Christian believers can commit apostasy, that is, fall away from Christ and faith. This, however, hits squarely at one of the noisiest and sometimes bitter debates between Christian factions:

  • Calvinists deny that true Christians can commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the final perseverance of the saints.
  • Arminians agree that true Christians can indeed commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the free will of man.

As I. Howard Marshall suggests, advocates of one position or the other tend to base their doctrine “on philosophical and dogmatic grounds.”* The way forward for us is not to carry on the debate, but to sincerely and humbly consider the warnings in Hebrews — in the context they are given — and then try to form tentative conclusions.

We won’t all agree in our conclusions. Fair-minded, Christ-loving, Spirit-filled believers differ on these matters. Instead of trying to bash the other side, we will pursue humility towards one another, humility as we approach the Letter of Hebrews, and humility before God. In that humility and love, we will grow in our faith and exemplify the love we profess in Christ.

For your benefit, I’ll include each of the shorter passages in the NIV translation here so you can compare them. For discussion, see the appropriate lessons in which they are discussed.

1. Hebrews 2:1-4

1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

2. Hebrews 4:12-13*

12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

3. Hebrews 6:4-8

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if 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.

7Land 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. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

4. Hebrews 10:26-31

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How 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? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

5. Hebrews 12:25-29

25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

* I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (Second Edition; Bethany Fellowship, 1969, 1974), p. 26.

Passage Discussed in
1. Hebrews 2:1-4 Lesson 1
2. Hebrews 4:12-13 Lesson 3
3. Hebrews 6:4-8 Lesson 5
4. Hebrews 10:26-31 Lesson 9
5. Hebrews 12:25-29 Lesson 12

The best book I’ve seen that fairly lays out the main views of these warnings and points out the strengths and weaknesses of each position is Herbert W. Bateman IV (ed.), Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Kregel, 2007)


In the NIV Study Bible, the second warning is a broader passage encompassing 3:7 – 4:13 of which I’ve included a few verses below:

Hebrews 3:7-8

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness, …”

September 8, 2014

Knowing Our Place; Knowing God’s Place

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
..” Isaiah 55:8-9

For our devotional thoughts today we return to the blog of First Evangelical Free Church in Sioux City, Iowa, which we visited last year. Pastor Kevin Miller’s reminder here is vital at a time when God is sometimes treated casually in both a church and secular environment. Click the title to read this at source.

Jesus: Like Us and Yet Greater Than Us

This fall, we will be working through the New Testament book of Hebrews. As part of my preparations, I like to take the time to read through an entire book repeatedly both before and in the midst of preaching it. To this end, I was recently reading through Hebrews once more and something caught my eye:

The primary point and purpose of the first several chapters of Hebrews is to establish that Christ is supreme over all. Chapter 1, for example, tells us that He is supreme over the angels. Chapter 3 tells us that Christ is superior to Moses. Later, we see that Christ is superior to Melchizedek (chapters 7-8). In short, it’s as if the bulk of Hebrews spends time exalting Christ over everyone and everything. He is the better High Priest. He is the coming King. We can’t help but be in awe of Him because He is so different than even the best of us.

And then, the turn comes: it’s not just that Christ is different and better than anyone else, it’s that He is different and better and then He dies FOR everyone else.

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)”

The Priest literally atones for all who trust Him – for those who are, if nothing else, are very unworthy of atonement.

Jesus Christ is not like us in so many ways – we dare not simply think of Him as a good teacher or as simply a buddy. And yet, Jesus IS also like us in so many ways – He gets tired, needs to eat, rests, laughs, bleeds, and dies.

Hebrews proclaims the Gospel loud and clear: salvation comes from God Himself, through His Son, who is higher and better and more absolutely perfect than anyone else. And yet this very same Savior walks and talks and lives amongst us, both back then and someday coming soon. What a Savior! What a Lord! The exalted King walks amongst and dies on behalf of His people! He rises to new life and promises that for all who trust in Him, they too shall inherit new life in His coming kingdom.

May 27, 2011

River Crossings

I was looking at Milt Rodriguez’ blog today and knew his writing would be a perfect fit here, but it was hard to choose a single post. Milt is the author of four books, and is active in the house church, or simple church, or what he calls organic church movement.  (See Thinking out Loud’s post yesterday on this topic.)  This first appeared at his blog, Christ and His Church under the title, River Crossers.

What is a True Hebrew?

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire.  We are not sure who wrote the letter but we do know that God authored it!  It is kind of strange that the letter was written to Hebrews instead of Israelites.  But as we discover what a true “Hebrew” is, it makes perfect sense.  The word hebrew literally means one who crosses or passes over something.

Abraham

Abraham is the first person referred to as a “hebrew” in the bible.

Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.”    Gen. 14:13

We can see from Abraham’s life that he was one who crossed over.  What did he cross over?  He crossed over the Euphrates river to enter the Canaan land (Gen 15:18).  He left his homeland, Ur of the Chaldeans (ancient Babylonia) to enter into the land God would give his descendants.    Why did God have Abraham enter this Canaan land full of evil tribes and peoples?  It’s because this is the place where He would build His temple, the dwelling place of God on the earth.

Abraham did what God wanted but he was only one man at that time.  God wanted a nation.  He wanted a corporate Man.

The Children of Israel

The nation of Israel crossed two rivers.  First they crossed the Red Sea leaving Egypt.  Then, a generation latter, they crossed the Jordan river to enter the Canaan land.  Here again, God’s goal was to have his people in the Canaan land.  Why? Because He wanted to build His house, His temple in that land.  He wanted a City (Jerusalem) in the land of Canaan in which He would build His very own house that He would dwell in.

Now, even though these things really did happen, they were only shadows and types of the reality that would be fulfilled in the New Testament.  The Reality that is Jesus Christ Himself!

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the ultimate river crosser!  He is the true Hebrew.  He crossed over four rivers.

The River of Human Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”    John 1:14

Jesus crossed over by becoming a man.  He emptied Himself of His godhood and took on the form of a lowly man, a servant (Phil. 2:5-11).  The Greatest became the least.  The Highest became the lowest.  He left all of his “stuff” on the other side so that he could accomplish God’s eternal purpose.

The River of Baptism

Then your Lord crossed over the river Jordan and left behind his divinity so that he could totally be the Son of Man and live a life as a man who had the Father living inside of him.  He learned by the things he suffered and learned how to live by the life of his Father who was indwelling him (Jn. 6:57).

He immediately went into the wilderness after his baptism.  Like Israel of old, he passed over the Red Sea into the wilderness to trust God alone for his provision, direction, and life.

The River of Death

Then, he crossed over another river, the river of death on a cross.  This, as all other rivers, was for the purpose of obtaining God’s purpose.  God wanted a house.  He wanted a dwelling place.  And that dwelling place would be in a particular land which would be in a particular city.  He would tear down all of the shadows so that he could obtain the reality.  He tore down the external, temporary, and visible temple so that the REAL temple would be built out of his own BODY!

God wanted his corporate expression so the Son became a Seed that went into the ground and died so the God would get his corporate expression – the multiplication or increase of his Son into a many-membered Body.  He crossed the river and went behind the veil so God would have his full corporate expression.

The River of Our Flesh

Then, after he was resurrected, ascended, and glorified he crossed another river and entered into the veil of our flesh.  This glorious One came and entered inside of You!  (Col. 1:27).

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

Now the glory of his expression lives inside of each believer.  But how will he get his corporate expression?

By each one of us being willing to cross over rivers, leaving the religious baggage behind, and entering into the Canaan land (who is Christ), learning to enjoy the riches of that land (which are Christ),  so he can build his house there (which is Christ!).

May we all become such river crossers!

~Milt Rodriguez

To learn more about organic church, explore Milt’s blog starting with this article.