Does Hebrews 6 Teach That Christians Can Lose Their Salvation? #124 Perseverance of the Saints #2 #124
[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/14230895/height/360/theme/standard/thumbnail/yes/direction/forward/” width=”100%” height=”360″ scrolling=”no” class=”podcast-class” frameborder=”0″ placement=”top” use_download_link=”” download_link_text=”” primary_content_url=”http://chtbl.com/track/C2GDE1/traffic.libsyn.com/biblemystery/BibleReadingPodcast124.mp3″ theme=”standard” custom_color=”#87a93a” libsyn_item_id=”14230895″ /]Hello friends, and a happy May to you! Today’s Bible readings include Numbers 8, quite a bit shorter than chapter 7, and also Psalms 44, Song of Songs 6 and Hebrews 6. Today is part two of our continuing discussion on the Perseverance of the Saints, and our big question is, does Hebrews 6 indicate that a saved person can become unsaved? Here’s the pertinent section:
4 For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, 6 and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt. 7 For the ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and that produces vegetation useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and at the end will be burned.
That’s a pretty sobering passage, and its not the only one in Hebrews – there are several. In fact, it is one of many ‘warning’ passages in the Bible, where people are warned to not fall away from God. Consider these others:
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. – Colossians 1:21-23
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. – Hebrews 3:12
The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; – 2nd Timothy 2:11-12
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20
These are some sobering passages, to be sure. Hebrews 6 as a whole is also sobering, so let’s go read it, and come back and discuss our big Bible question.
Again – we see and hear a strong warning in Hebrews 6. May nothing I say today take away from that warning in the least. Our main question is this: Does Hebrews 6 demonstrate that a saved person might lose their salvation? I believe the answer to that question is a firm “no,” BUT, I do believe that Hebrews 6 demonstrates that one who appears in every way to be a believer might indeed lose that appearance. I know that is as clear as mud, but I believe we can explain things as we go forward.
Can somebody who is saved by Jesus, somehow or someway become unsaved? I believe the answer to that question is a firm and clear ‘no!’ as demonstrated by these Scriptures:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. – John 10:27-29
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – john 5:24
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. – John 6:37
And 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. – Philippians 1:6
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, – Ephesians 1:13
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:28-31
Hebrews 7:5 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
How do we reconcile all of these passages with the first passages we read – the warning passages? I believe the answer is given to us as something like a clue in Hebrews 6:7-8 “ 7 For the ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and that produces vegetation useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and at the end will be burned.” This passage should remind you of the parable of the Sower that we referred to in episode one of our series on the Perseverance of the Saints, and I believe that the author of Hebrews is indeed referencing that teaching of Jesus. Let’s refresh our memories:
13 Then he said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand all of the parables?14 The sower sows the word.15 Some are like the word sown on the path. When they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them.16 And others are like seed sown on rocky ground. When they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy.17 But they have no root; they are short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately fall away.18 Others are like seed sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word,19 but the worries of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.20 And those like seed sown on good ground hear the word, welcome it, and produce fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what was sown.”
Four different types of soil – four different types of people who the Gospel seed is delivered to. Person/soil #1 hears the Word of God, but immediately loses/forgets/ignores it, according to Jesus. These people are not saved at all. Person/soil #2 is like rocky ground – they hear the Word and respond with joy – but it is a SHALLOW joy without root – it is a surface response that does not go into the soul and mind. Have you ever had a friend eagerly make a commitment to you to do something, and then blissfully blow it off as if the commitment has never happened? This is what is going on here. This is a person who hears the Word and seems to believe and accept it, but they do so in a most shallow way. Because their acceptance is shallow – any sort of trouble or distress that comes along (whether immediately or a long time down the road) the shallow-hearer and responder to the Word of God will immediately fall away. Was this person a saved Christian? NO! But they appeared to be. They looked like somebody who truly believed, because their emotions demonstrated interest, but they were bandwagon fans of Jesus and not committed followers. Hebrews is written as a warning to such shallow-believers – those who have heard the good news and had an emotional response to it, but they are not true-believers.
Person/soil #3 is in a similar place. These are people that are busy, or successful, or popular, or lovers of the world. They hear the Word of God and respond to it – it sounds good to them, and they say yes to Jesus in the same way they might say yes to anything that sounds good. They are interested, but busy, and have other priorities. They decide to follow Jesus, but they are already following so many other things, and they will continue to follow new things as well. They make a commitment and appear to be a Christian based on their words, but a close look at their lives show they aren’t really following Jesus, but merely going to church and doing some religious things. They may feed the poor. They may pray when in trouble. They may thank God when they win an award. They may read popular Christian books, and wear cross necklaces and such…but they aren’t followers of Jesus – the thorns of this world (the concerns of the modern age, the desire to be wealthy and successful and many other sorts of desires) effectively choke them out. They care about Jesus and church and stuff like that, but not really any more than they care about other things. This person is not a genuine follower of Jesus, but believes themselves to be, and will identify as a follower of Jesus. However, verses like Luke 9:23 (“Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”) would strike them as the Word of a fanatic, and not the Word of ‘their’ Jesus. Again, the warning passages of Hebrews are written to people like this – they’ve heard the Word and sort of believe, but they are being choked out by every other thing that is important to them. I believe the Hebrews 6 reference to thorns and thistles is a direct reference to this Mark 4 teaching of Jesus which identifies the thorny soil as unsaved soil.
Let’s close with a great challenge from brother Spurgeon:
God save us from a lifeless profession! May we never be like certain trees, of which John Bunyan said, that they were green outside, but inwardly they were so rotten that they were only fit to be tinder for the devil’s fire-starting kit. Many professors are too beautiful appearing not to be false; too obviously saintly outside not to be loathsome within; for there is an over-doing of the grave’s white paint. You feel convinced that there would not be so much whitewashing and repair-work on the outside if there were not so much rottenness inside to be concealed. The smell of roses or of lavender is sweet, but much scent excites much suspicion – what smell are the scents meant to mask? Oh, let us, each one who professes tonight, say to himself, “I was baptised on a profession of my faith, but was I ever baptised into Christ? When the Holy name of the triune God was named on me, did I then enter into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? I have come often to the communion table; but have I communed with Christ there? My name is on the membership-roll, but is it written in heaven? I have said to others I am a Christian, but am I in very deed known unto Christ? Or will He say to me on that day of judgment, ‘I never knew you: depart from me you workers of iniquity’?” (Matthew 7:21-23)
These are solemn questions. Many persons are temporary followers of Christ, and outwardly, as far as the human eye can follow, they appear to be real followers of Christ. I believe in the final perseverance of the saints; but I do not know, nor can any man know, how near a man may approach to the likeness of a saint and yet after all apostatise (fall away.) Nor is any one of us able to say of himself, or of his fellow churchmembers, “We never shall fall away.”
Now, beloved, what was the beginning of our confidence? Well, the beginning of my confidence was, “I am a sinner, Christ is a Savior; and I rest on him to save me.” Long before I began with Christ he had begun with me; but when I began with him it was, like I was a completely bankrupt man who had nothing of his own, and looked to Christ for everything. I know when I first cast my eye to his dear cross and rested in him, I had no value of my own, it was all demerit. I had nothing deserving in me, except that I felt I was hell-deserving: I had not even a shade of virtue that I could confide in. It was all over with me. I had come to an extremity. I could not have found a quarter’s worth of goodness in myself if I had been melted down. I seemed to be all rottenness, a dunghill of corruption, nothing better, but something a great deal worse. I could truly join with Paul at that time, and say that my own goodness was as if it were dung. “Dung” is a strong expression that he used; but I do not suppose he felt it to be strong enough. He says, “I count my goodness and good deeds as worth the same as dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him.”
Well, that is how we began with Christ. We were nothing at all, and Jesus Christ was all in all. Now, brothers, we are not made partakers of Christ unless we hold this fast to the end. Have you got beyond that? Are you something creditable in your own reckoning? I am worried about you. Are you in and of yourself a better person now than you were then? I am afraid for you, friend. Do you remember the place you were in when you found Jesus? you dared not lift your eyes, to heaven, but cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Now in Christ you walk in a far more noble place than that, for you are made to sit with Jesus in the heavenly places. But, I ask you, apart from Christ, have you any different place from that of deep self humiliation? If you believe yourself to be something, apart from Christ, then you have not held the beginning of your confidence fast even until now. Begin to suspect yourself. This is the position to always take, namely that you , “have nothing, but in Christ, possess everything.”
Let your mindset be, “I am the worst of sinners, and yet – Christ died for me! Where else was the beginning of your confidence in salvation? May we not say of it that it was only and wholly, fully and exclusively, in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ?
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began ha good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6