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Does Hebrews 10:26 Teach Loss of Salvation?

and Arthur Pink and the Greek word diakonos

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Question #1:  Does Hebrews 10:26 means that one can lose his or her salvation in Christ Jesus. Please explain this scripture in terms of apostasy, the unpardonable sin, and loss of salvation. Thank You

Response #1:  Let me start with a suggested translation for this passage and the following verse:

For if we willfully continue in the life of sin after accepting and recognizing the truth [of the gospel], there remains no further sacrifice we can make for our sins, but only a terrible expectation of judgment, and a burning fire, ready to devour those who oppose [His will].
Hebrews 10:26-27

What we have here in the broader context of chapter ten is a heartfelt plea from Paul to his fellow Jewish believers in Judea not to fall back into the now dead temple worship of the past which foreshadowed Christ, but instead to hold fast to the reality of the risen Jesus Christ our Lord. For to continue to look backward, indeed, to continue in rituals which proclaimed a Christ yet to come, and to do so in full knowledge that Christ had already come, was, in effect, to deny Christ.

You ask about the relationship of these verses to apostasy, the unpardonable sin, and loss of salvation, and, it is true, that these are the consequences of willful, vociferous, and chronic denial of Christ - because such behavior weakens, degrades, and, eventually, destroys faith without which there is no salvation.  It is after losing faith entirely that the believer becomes an apostate (for he/she is no longer a believer, no longer having faith).  It is for this sin, i.e., denying Christ, that there is no longer any pardon, or, as Paul puts it here, "there remains no further sacrifice". Christ is the only sacrifice for our sins, but if we reject Christ, if we give ourselves up to sin to the point where we no longer possess faith in Christ (for unchecked sin weakens, erodes, and can eventually destroy faith), then there is no "further sacrifice" whereby we may be saved (because salvation only comes by grace through faith in Christ). This is why, for example, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is said by Christ to be unpardonable (Matt.12:31) - because the Spirit was testifying about Christ, and to blasphemously claim that the witness of the Spirit was a lie was to utterly reject Christ. In a very similar way here, to continue sacrificing animals (who represented the future sacrifice of Christ) was to proclaim, in effect, that Christ had not yet come. Maybe these believers knew better at first, but Paul's point here is that they were compromising on this very important point, sending the wrong message to themselves and others, and putting themselves in grave danger of eventually believing the false message and losing their faith in Christ (since what they were doing was tantamount to a denial of Christ, and, eventually, we all come to believe what we say, and believe what we insist on doing).

This principle of sin eventually quenching faith is true both of the particular sin in context here and of sin in general. For Jesus told us not only to hear what He said but to do what He said (Lk.6:46). Otherwise we resemble the man who built his house on sand, and that shaky house-of-faith built on sand is sure to collapse just as soon as serious pressures arise (like the plant in the parable of the Sower that withers in the sunshine, having no deep root). Apostasy, the unpardonable sin, and loss of salvation, the three subjects you ask about in regard to this verse, all have this in common: they are all the result of loss of faith, and loss of faith is inevitably connected to choosing our will against God's will. That is, it is inevitably related to sin - not occasional sin, for "we all stumble in many things" (Jas.3:2), but to the embracing of a life of sin whose end is death (Rom.6:23). Not that all sin leads to spiritual death, but there is sin, a pattern of giving completely in to sin, which does (1Jn.5:16). And why does complete surrender to sin result in spiritual death, apostasy, the loss of salvation, and the placing of the person beyond pardon (cf. Jas.1:14-15)? Not because of a lack of mercy on God's part (for His mercy is unlimited), but because of the hardening of the heart of the person in question, who has now become unwilling to ever look God in the face again, unwilling to repent, and unwilling to take back his denial of Christ which his actions have proclaimed and to which his heart has eventually responded.

It is important to note that Paul is preaching to the Judean believers here, and that he is very hopeful that they will heed his warning and repent. He is "convinced of better things" about them things which "accompany salvation" (Heb.6:9), even though they have "not yet resisted sin to the point of bloodshed" (i.e., are not committed as they should be to choosing for God over sin: Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1).

It is always a tricky business to judge whether a person or a group is so far removed or in the process of removing themselves from God that they have lost faith (and salvation). But, clearly, there are behavior patterns which should alarm all believers, and any willful, high-handed pattern of sinning, especially when it is being justified as "OK", or "not so bad", is spiritually dangerous in the extreme. There are, however, two things we can say for certain about all this:

1) If we stray far enough from the true path long enough, go far enough in the wrong direction, and oppose God strongly enough, it is possible to endanger our faith and our salvation to the point where we have neither any longer because of our own choices.

2) If we stay on the right path, taking pains not to turn to the left or the right, pursuing sanctification (without which no one will see the Lord: Heb.12;14), loving the Lord, living for the Lord, embracing the Word of God, rejecting the world and its priorities, choosing instead for God and His priorities, turning away from sin and evil, and repenting of every slip, then we most definitely will be brought safe into the kingdom of heaven (2Pet.1:11).

In other words, there are clearly two ways to live our lives as Christians. The latter way, shown to us by our Lord, is a safe way and a satisfying way. The former way, the one warned against by Paul here, is a dangerous way and a slippery way. If we take pains to tread the righteous way, we are more secure than we can know in the loving embrace of our God who guides us by His Spirit in the footsteps of His Son. But if we ignore the true way and follow our own way, we risk everything we once claimed was really important to us; we risk our faith; we risk our very salvation. But it is at least worth asking the question why someone who claims that he/she loves Jesus Christ would demonstrate over the course of a lifetime that his/her true love was really anything but the Lord. That is surely a big part of why we remain in this life even after professing our faith - to make it clear to all whether or not we really meant it when we said we loved Jesus.

Please see also the following links:

Hebrews 10:26.

Deliberate Sinning.

Have I Lost my Salvation?

Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.

Sin and Spiritual Transformation.

Sin and Forgiveness.

Recovering from Sin.

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification.

The Sin Problem, Unbelievers, and Hardness of Heart (in BB 4B: Soteriology).

In Your Anger, do not Sin:  Ephesians 4:26 and the Sin Nature.

The Saved and the Unsaved

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B: Hamartiology: the study of sin)

Yours in Him who is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Dr. Bob,

What do you think of Arthur W. Pink?

Response #2:

I made use of Pink's "Gleanings in Genesis" in Seminary many years ago. As a commentator, I found him better than most, but must confess that I find myself almost never using the many commentaries on my shelves. The main reason for this is that most commentaries cycle around well worn paths (many of which are either obvious or incorrect). Deeper investigation of scripture inevitably rests upon linguistic analysis (where the tools are different, few commentaries really being very helpful in this regard), historical and cultural considerations, and intricacies of theology that are seldom addressed except in the most specific systematic treatments. In general, I find Pink good on typology, less so on the details of eschatology. He suffers from a complaint in that regard that is not unique to his day, namely, over-identification of specifics with contemporary political configurations. This is something which, while not entirely avoidable, I have tried (and intend to continue to try) to keep away from as much as possible. One thing that can be said in Pink's favor is that he represents a method (namely, detailed investigation and exposition of scripture) that is to be highly commended, even if one disagrees with some specifics. This is the kind of thing that is hard to come by these days in this sort of depth.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

I have a Greek question for you on the gender of the word diakonos ("deacon"). I thought it was a masculine noun, but in Romans 16:1 it appears to be used of a woman ("deaconess"?). Which is it?

Response #3:

There are, in fact, very many nouns in Greek that admit of both masculine and feminine construction - almost all nouns that refer to people can do so. In fact, even the most common Greek word for "man" may also mean "woman" (anthropos), since it is really the generic word for human being (aner being the word for masculine-gender-man, as gyne is the corresponding feminine-gender-woman).

Greek is really easy to figure out on this score, however, because of the fact that the definite article and adjectives etc. all reflect gender (so that he anthropos = the woman human, while ho anthropos = the man human). Such it is with diakonos. So the proof of the pudding in any given context is not the word diakonos per se (which might be either gender), but rather what it is that modifies it. Incidentally, when in doubt, the "default setting" for such common gender nouns is masculine (as in all collectives: a mixed bag is always masculine in Greek; for feminine gender to apply to a group, the entire group has to be feminine).

There is no question about Romans 16:1, however.  In that verse, the word diakonos does refer to a woman (i.e., a "deaconess").  We know that because it is modified by the participle form -ousan, i.e., the feminine accusative singular form. Translating the word "deaconess" is perfectly fine as long as one understands that the base word in Greek is the same for both men and women (i.e., "deacon" and "deaconess" are identical in Greek with the exception that the supporting words are in the feminine gender in the latter case).

You might also find these links of use:

Deacons and Elders.

Some Questions on Church Polity

Church Polity et al.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing

Hope this helps.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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