Thursday, July 20, 2006

Does Hebrews 6 teach that you can lose your salvation?

I got an e-mail from someone recently asking me about eternal securty and Hebrews 6:6. The timing of the e-mail was interesting since I had just taught on Hebrews 6 in our adult Sunday School class the previous Sunday. It was helpful for me to put my thoughts about the passage in writing. Here is what I said:

First, the apostasy spoken of in Hebrews 6 does appear to be irrevocable. They have treated the blessings of salvation with contempt and turned their back on Christ who is their only means of salvation. The illustration in verses 7-8 confirms this view – the thorns and bristles are burned, not given a second chance. The fact of the matter is that these people are described as making a final decision to forever reject Christ with their eyes wide open – they have been enlightened, experienced the good things of God that accompany salvation, and even shared in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They have soaked up the rain but that rain did not produce the blessing of salvation in their lives. So, it is impossible, as the text says, to be renewed to repentance if one falls way in this manner.

That said, it is possible to deny Christ without committing apostasy. Both Judas and Peter denied Christ, but only Judas apostatized. A righteous man will fall and get up again (Prov 24:16). So, if you repent then obviously you have not apostatized.

Eternal security is part of an overall subject that includes the concepts of perseverance and assurance. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that eternal security is true for all those to whom it applies (Rom 8:30 among others). I don’t think you can have assurance of eternal security, though, unless you are preserving in the faith. The point of Hebrews 6 is to encourage the Hebrews to persevere so that they can have assurance.

Hebrews 6:11-12
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

So, does Hebrews 6 teach that one can lose their salvation? Obviously not, since the Bible teaches otherwise in numerous places. It is possible, though, for people to “lose” the salvation they thought they had. For example, Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” The “works of power” in verse 22 correspond to the “powers of the age to come” that the apostates experienced in Hebrews 6:5. Clearly there is a connection between these people.

Having said that, though, I believe that this passage in Hebrews was written to believers. True believers who are currently neglecting God’s word (cf., Heb 2:1-4, 3:12; 5:11-6:3) will heed this warning and see this as a motivation to not be sluggish in their faith and to earnestly endure in their Christian life. I think it is a mistake to think, "I trusted in Christ many years ago and it doesn't matter how I live my life now as I am eternally secure."

6 Comments:

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Hank Osborne said...

Andy,

The Word of God in Revelation 3:5 says, "...I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."

Jesus' referring to removing a name from the book of life tells me that it can be done. Why else would it even be mentioned?

 
At 6:07 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Hank,

This is not an easy passage but the way I currently understand it is that a person's name gets blotted out of the Book of Life if they die without Christ (cf., Rev. 13:8; Ex. 32:33; Ps. 69:28).

 
At 6:28 PM, Blogger BackSlidden said...

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How 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? 30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
Your take on Heb. 6 is a total conundram - In the above passage the writer is pretty clear that these believers are currently genuine believers - read the passages before and after this and you will see that. Its such non sense to say that people that are living actively in sin are either still saved by grace or that they were never saved at all. I'm sure that Judas was genuine when he began to follow Christ - and had Peter continued in his disbelief - he surely would have had the same destiny as Judas.

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Backslidden,

Wouldn't you say that Peter was actively living in sin while he was denying Christ? And how can you say that Judas was genuine when 1 John 2:19 says, "if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."?

Here is Spurgeons take on this passage (and I tend to agree with him):

“If God has put it in, he has put it in for wise reasons and for excellent purposes. Let me show you why. First, O Christian, it is put in to keep thee from falling away. God preserves his children from falling away; but he keeps them by the use of means…There is a deep precipice: what is the best way to keep any one from going down there? Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces. In some old castle there is a deep cellar, where there is a vast amount of fixed air and gas, which would kill anybody who went down. What does the guide say? ‘If you go down you will never come up alive.’ Who thinks of going down? The very fact of the guide telling us what the consequences would be, keeps us from it. Our friend puts away from us a cup of arsenic; he does not want us to drink it, but he says, ‘If you drink it, it will kill you.’ Does he suppose for a moment that we should drink it? No; he tells us the consequences, and he is sure we will not do it. So God says, ‘My child, if you fall over this precipice you will be dashed to pieces.’ What does the child do? He says, ‘Father, keep me; hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.’ It leads the believer to greater dependence on God, to a holy fear and caution, because he knows that if he were to fall away he could not be renewed, and he stands far away from that great gulf, because he knows that if he were to fall into it there would be no salvation for him.”

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Backslidden said...

No, I wouldn't say that Peter was actively living in sin - I think he sinned, made a deliberate willful decision that was wrong, but he didn't make it a habitual lifestyle. Judas did. And if Judas was never genuine then why this:
Matthew 27
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility." 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Why the raw emotion, why kill himself if he was a pawn from the beginning. What if the prodigal had died while he was still away from the father's house?

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Sin produces guilt and despair. For Judas, I can't imagine the weight of sin on his shoulders. I don't see anything in his reaction to his denial that would point to a previous state of salvation.

This is a hard passage to make all of our theological puzzle pieces fit. I am committed to eternal security because I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that throughout the Scriptures. Yet, I also believe that this passage was written primarily to Christians and that it is a real warning. Theologically, I have to say that true believers will heed the warning in Hebrews 6 and right themselves if they have been neglecting God's Word (Heb 2) or cultivating a hard heart of unbelief (Heb 3). Those who don't heed the warning and completely fall way, I would have to say were never saved in the first place. They may have thought they were saved (like the men in Matthew 7) or it may have looked like they were saved (like Judas), but I don't believe that God ever knew them.

Thanks for your comments, though. I appreciate you stopping by.

 

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