From Hebrews 1-6
Hebrews contains some strongly worded passages that argue believers can fall away and lose their salvation (Heb 6.4-8; 10.26-31). Consider reading a book by Scot McKnight called ‘A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance‘ for a faithful reading on these passages which argues believers can walk away from the faith and lose their salvation.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
There are many passages used to argue both sides of the debate (e.g. King Saul, Ps 51.11; Jn 10.28; Phil 1.6; 1 Jn 2.19; Gal 5.4; 2 Cor 11.4; Rom 11.17-21; 2 Pet 2.1). Both sides have to deal with passages that seem to support their case, others that oppose it. The latter require some amount of hermeneutical gymnastics (‘fudging’) to overcome.
I’m not going to deal with one of these passages today. Rather today’s passage is about a closely related concept – perseverance.
The letters audience were probably Jewish Christians.
They were struggling in their faith and were tempted to turn away from Christ back to Moses. They were sinning.
3 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.
3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)
5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb 3.1-6).
A repeated theme throughout Hebrews is the comparison between the Old Covenant and the New. The covenant inaugurated by Jesus is superior to that of Moses.
Towards the end of this passage Moses and Jesus are described as residing in God’s house. Moses is a servant in God’s house, but Jesus is a son in God’s house. Sons are more important than servants. Jesus is more important than Moses.
This section finishes with, ‘we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope’ (Heb 3.6).
The verse functions as an exhortation for the audience to persevere in their confidence and hope. It’s designed to encourage them.
Its more important to view this verse in light of what it says rather than what it does not say.
The verse could be used argue if someone falls away and does not persevere they were never really ‘his house’ in the first place. But the author doesn’t explicitly say this. What he says affirms who ‘his house’ is and does not make any statements about those who fall away.
A bit later the author continues;
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb 3:12–14)
The same principles apply. Its more important to view this verse in light of what it says rather than what it does not say.
The verse functions as an exhortation for the audience to persevere in their original confidence.
Again, The verse could be used argue if someone falls away and does not persevere they never really ‘shared in Christ’ in the first place. But the author doesn’t explicitly say this. He says the opposite in Heb 6.4-8; 10.26-31.
This passage has mixed implications for people today. Are we people who hold fast to the end or not? At this point we don’t know.
The author calls us to hold fast to our confidence and hope.
Have a look at how each of the falling away passages end. The author gets his audience to remember their former behaviour.
After Heb 6.1-8 the scripture says,
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb 6.9-12)
The passage that raises the possibility God’s people can fall away and lose their salvation ends ends on a note of encouragement.
Likewise after Heb 10.26-32 the scripture says,
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Heb 10.32-39)
In the same way, consider your life as a believer to this point and continue holding onto the promise of salvation.
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