I was having a discussion with a OSAS believer; and I was using the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 6:4-6 & 10:26-27 to defend my position. He said to me that the book of Hebrews does not apply to us, because it was written to the Hebrews who wanted to go back to sacrificing animals to keep there salvation, thus denying Christ. So I referred him to: Matthew 4:4: It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (That includes the book of Hebrews!)
What is your take on this? Why do OSAS believers want to trash all the biblical warnings to preserve there doctrine?
Love In Christ
Good to hear from you. I hope you are getting closer to finding a Christian fellowship where the truth is taught, but I certainly welcome you back to Ichthys in any case.
The absolute-eternal-security position or "once saved always saved" (OSAS) is one of those false doctrines which is so out of tune with so many scriptures that adherents have to adopt a sort fox-hole mentality in order to defend it: any scripture which seems to contradict their belief is taken to be inapplicable to today or wrongly interpreted because of course this doctrine they hold so dear "has to be correct", and so much so that it drives what they read in the Bible. Once a person stops examining their beliefs and the biblical basis for them, all manner of abuse and falsehood are apt to creep in. The worst thing to do is to elevate any teaching above the scriptures to the point where one no longer keeps testing to see if that teaching is 100% in line with scripture. Now of course resisting this tendency means that a growing believer is going to have make a habit of going to scripture and training him/herself in even basic doctrines and their biblical foundations, but that is actually a very good thing, because our faith should be in God and His Word, not in another person or a denomination or anyone else' formulation of what they think is the truth, no matter how good or noble any of these may be. And any doctrine that is actually true can easily stand up under such scrutiny. The problem with absolute-eternal-security is that it cannot because it is not a biblical doctrine.
As I have no doubt communicated to you before, it is not as if our salvation is teetering on a knife's edge either. That opposite false teaching is equally destructive to faith and is equally repugnant. Believers are secure as long as they are believers, because all believers are saved. However it is possible for a believer to revert to being an unbeliever through loss of faith. It is all about faith. Sin only enters into the mix through the side door. Sin, especially a pattern of gross sinning from which a person is unwilling to turn, is very detrimental to faith. That is because of the way God made us. If we belong to Jesus but insist on doing things which we know are very unpleasing to Him, that pattern of behavior causes an enormous internal stress, and it is possible for a person to stop believing in Jesus to relieve that pressure (i.e., if we continue to harden our hearts in disobedience, eventually we may get to the place where we put our faith and allegiance to Christ entirely to death, no longer being willing to "look Him in the face", so to speak). However, that is not the main way believers revert to being unbelievers. Believers who fall into gross sin more often either repent or, alternatively, being unwilling either to repent or to reject the Lord are taken out of this life through the sin unto death (1Jn.5:16): Jesus is not going to allow a believer to walk around with a horrible witness indefinitely (cf. 1Cor.5; and see the link: in CT 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin Unto Death"). But there are some who "once believed" and who do come to the point of losing that faith:
And he who was sown on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. He has no roots [to his faith], however, but lasts only a short time. So when tribulation or persecution occurs on account of the Word, he is immediately tripped up (skandalizetai; i.e., he apostatizes).
And these [second types] who are sown on the rocky places are similar. Whenever they hear the Word they immediately receive it with joy, although they have no root [of faith] in themselves, but are only temporary [believers]. When tribulation or persecution because of the Word comes [their way], they are immediately tripped up (skandalizontai; i.e., they apostatize).
And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
These three passages give the most common reason for apostasy: negative reaction to "tribulation or persecution" and "testing". Now while sin can and almost certainly is a part of this, it is clear from our Lord's analysis that pressure on faith is what causes apostasy, not sin per se. The most likely candidates for apostasy are "fair weather" Christians whose faith was never "deeply rooted" with the result that they cannot "take the heat" when the going gets rough in the Christian life. They give up on God and abandon Christ because they do not like "the deal" they received.
For this reason, and because there are plenty of much more straightforward passages which teach that salvation is dependent upon continuation of faith, and also because of the complexities involved with the two passages you cite, Hebrews 6:4-6 & 10:26-27, I generally do not include them in my refutations of absolute-eternal-security. It is certainly ridiculous to suggest that Hebrews does not apply to us (!), but it is true that scripture has to be interpreted in its entire context. One of the problems with using these two passages for refutation of the position that misstates our security (at least from my point of view as a Bible teacher) is that they are often taken amiss by genuine believers who sometimes become wrongly convinced that they have lost their salvation through committing some unpardonable sin to mean that such a thing is possible. In fact, as discussed above, if a person still has faith in Jesus Christ, that person is a believer and is still secure: regardless of the state of the relationship (i.e., under divine discipline, suffering from spiritual immaturity, etc.), believers are saved as long as they remain believers (and I am not saying that gross sinfulness is not dangerous since it most certainly is).
Hebrews 6:4-6 is addressed to believers, Jewish believers, who were insisting on continuing in the temple rite; as long as they continued, their repentance was false. The application for us today is that we cannot continue to sin as we please, engage in mere rote "confession" our sin with mental reservations and no genuine intention to give it up, go right back to sinning the same sin immediately, and assume that such confession will do much to arrest our descent: as long as we are actively involved in a pattern of sinful behavior from which we are in truth unwilling to turn (as was the case with the Jewish believers Paul is addressing here), it will be a detriment to our witness and our spiritual lives, it will bring on divine discipline, and, if we persist, it may even bring about the sin unto death (see the previous link). But it will not, in and of itself, bring about the loss of salvation (only abandoning faith will do that). Part of the problem is the way these verses are translated in many of the versions. Here is how I render them:
(4) For, in the case of those who have been enlightened (i.e., have become believers, "light in the Lord": Eph.5:8), and who have experienced the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit (i.e., have been baptized with the Spirit so that He indwells them, and by the Spirit into union with Christ), (5) and who have experienced that the Word of God is good, and [who have experienced] miracles [foreshadowing] the age to come, (6) it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., while they continue in their sin, the particular sin in question here being continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 10:26-27 is likewise often misunderstood. Here is how the KJV renders the passage:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Hebrews 10:26-27 KJV
The translation above certainly makes it sound as if there are some sins which, if ever once committed, result in damnation, even for believers. That is not what the passage says, even in the KJV, but you would probably be amazed to learn how many believers out there have written me in great angst over having committed "the unpardonable sin" who are convinced by this passage (and the way some people use it) that they have "lost their salvation". In many cases, the "sin" is not even something that the average person would consider terribly significant and also often not even a pattern of sinful behavior (and usually something done well in the past but which still evokes guilt). This is a good illustration of why getting to the absolute and precise truth about every aspect of scripture is so important. Here is how I translate these verses:
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].
This passage warns us of the dangers of continuing in a pattern of sin and anticipates the sin unto death for those who refuse to repent. That is the primary force of the passage, although it certainly does not rule out the possibility that the "judgment" and the "fire" might be eternal should the person abandon his/her faith as a result. As I say, that is not the normal pattern. Believers sin because it is tempting. Poorly committed believers abandon their faith in Jesus Christ because they are not willing to endure trouble on His behalf (or are disappointed and blame Him when trouble comes). That is not to say that there is no overlap in the process, but these are the general "rules" of how this works. Loss of faith results in loss of salvation, and that is (or certainly should be) an absolutely terrifying prospect. And so should the sin unto death be as well (i.e., "handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh": 1Cor.5:5; cf. 1Tim.1:20). Bible teachers have to walk a fine line between on the one hand wrongly over-emphasizing our security in Christ (the OSAS position) and on the other hand wrongly over-emphasizing the threat to faith from sin. After all, as Romans 3:23 states, we all sin on a regular basis and the false possibility of achieving sinless perfection is a very dangerous false doctrine that inevitably leads either to hyper-self-righteousness on the one hand or absolute terror on the other (see the links: "The Myth of Sinless Perfection" and "Sin and Spiritual Transformation"). We run into trouble when instead of getting better at fighting against sin day by day we lapse into a pattern of sinning with impunity (or so we may think no one ever "gets away" with anything). Sin degrades our relationship with our Lord, and much deliberate or "willful" sinning does proportionally more damage. Taken to extremes, this can result in loss of salvation, but only in cases where the person chooses to abandon faith the only way to stop being a believer is to stop believing.
In terms of the context of this second passage, Hebrews 10:17-18 explains much about Hebrews 10:26:
Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Hebrews 10:17-18 NIV
The point is that true forgiveness from God obviates the need for additional sacrifice. That is meaning of Hebrews 10:26 "there remains no further sacrifice for sin": since sin has been paid for by Christ's work on the cross, there is no other place to go but Christ for the forgiveness we all need, both at salvation as unbelievers and thereafter as members of His Body. That is good news for those who accept Him, but terrible news for those who turn their backs on Him and go back to the old way of animal sacrifices as if that was still appropriate but in truth there is "no further sacrifice" of this sort which can now possibly be acceptable for forgiveness of the sin being committed by engaging in it! That is the real irony here: animal sacrifice was a means of forgiveness under the Law, but for believers after the cross the ritual act of seeking forgiveness under the Old Covenant was itself a sin under the New Covenant because it said, in effect, that Christ died for nothing.
Here are some of the passages I like to use in regard to OSAS because of their clarity and irrefutable nature:
"But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
(1) I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch [that is] in Me which does not bear fruit (2) He removes, and every branch which does bear fruit He prunes so that it might bear more fruit. (3) You have already been pruned because of the Word I have spoken to you. (4) Stay part of Me, and I will [stay] part of you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains part of the vine, so you too cannot [bear true fruit] unless you stay part of Me. (5) I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NIV
It is through this gospel that you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you otherwise you have believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:2
You were once alienated from God your very thoughts were hostile towards Him and your deeds were evil. Yet God has now made peace with you through the death of Christ in His physical body so that you may stand before Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation [this you will do] if you remain solidly grounded and firmly fixed in the faith, and un-moved from your hope in the gospel . . .
Christ [was faithful] as a Son over His house whose house we are, if indeed we hold fast to the hope [in which we] boast firm until the end.
For we have all become partners of Christ, if we hold fast to our original conviction firmly to the end.
There are plenty more as well (if you have not already done so, please have a look at "The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III"; this will give more links and more passages). For more specifically on the two Hebrews passages, you might also check out these links:
Does Hebrews 10:26 Teach Loss of Salvation?
Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
The way you explain verses is awesome. I continue to learn so much from your work. I thank God I can keep in contact with you, as I grow as a Christian. On the topic of faith or having belief to be saved. From your work; I see that you cut the believer to much slack. I might be wrong! What is believing? After a believer comes to Christ, if he was to willfully continue to sin, can you say that he still has a saving faith or belief? Is there a difference between a head belief and a heart belief. Doesn't the bible say that faith without works is dead. Doesn't ones actions over time prove where his heart lies. "He that practices sin is of the devil." If someone is willfully sinning without repentance doesn't that prove he doesn't have a saving faith. Thus, no longer believes in his heart. Most probably has a head belief, is it a saving belief?
As with the Hebrews; what's the difference between a married believer that's sleeping around with other women or sacrificing animals for the forgiveness of sins? Both sins are showing that the believer is rejecting Christ. You may say that's like living on pins & needles. "Well salvation is not for everyone." Only the person that wants Christ more than the world would be saved. Matthew 7:14; Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. I'm not saying that ever time we sin, we should fear losing our salvation. But if they continuously & willfully sin without genuine repentance I would be questioning their faith or belief. Who does he want more, Christ or the World? Can't have both. Your either with me or against me.
Teaching that God will take your life if you continue to sin, is telling believers that's the quickest way to get to heaven. I thought ever time the bible spoke of death in relation to sin, it was a spiritual death. Am I wrong?
One of the things my pastor used to say was, "even if a believer commits suicide he will go to be with the Lord." Now is that something that our Lord Jesus would say or Satan himself.
What I'm trying to say is; if true saving faith is accompanied by works, and thus you can't separate the two. There not independent of each other. Once your works dry up through continuous willful unrepentant sin. How quick does your faith dry up and follow suit? Paul says, no fornicator, homosexual, ect will enter the kingdom of heaven. I get the feeling your saying, such people that practice such sins can still be saved if they have some faith while they are practicing these sins.
Does that square with the bible?
As 1st John makes clear, we are all here as believers to be perfect ("Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not" 1Jn.3:6 KJV). Of course none of is perfect. Are we then all condemned? This is an important question, because while you and I may correctly estimate that some sins are worse than others, from the standpoint of God's righteousness it is also true that a sin is a sin. Moses sinned. David sinned. Paul sinned. Peter sinned. I am here to tell you that we are not greater than these believers, and that we still sin even if we are valiantly struggling against sin and have been successful in walking in a sanctified way when it come to anything "serious". But once we say "your sins are worse", we have fallen into terrible hypocrisy. And if we realize that and then start to say, "I am not sinning at all", then we are liars. Because it also says in 1st John:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1st John 1:8-10 NIV
Therefore the distinctions I have drawn are important ones. Believers who indulge in any sin are wrong, are likely to be disciplined, and need to repent and confess immediately. Believers who indulge in a pattern of sinning, especially gross sinning, are placing themselves in grave spiritual danger and are risking the sin unto death and/or apostasy. So it is just as wrong to call them unbelievers before they actually apostatize as it is to suggest that they are not doing anything dangerous (because OSAS).
As to the dangers of being too easy, the prospect of being destroyed by the devil and being put to death in a terribly painful way ought to give anyone pause. I have only met a small number of people in my life who were so occupied with the Lord and the next life that an early exit seemed a blessing to them and they were all spiritually advanced and advancing believers (so no worries about mixed messages there). In any case, when it comes to scripture, it "is what it is". I try to let everyone know the dangers and the blessings but am obligated to stick with what scripture actually teaches. In the history of the Church there have been very many false doctrines invented out of "good intentions". No doubt OSAS can trace its philosophical origins to the problem of frantic believers who are convinced they have lost their salvation through committing some unpardonable sin. It's very reassuring too it's just not true. These believers as I say I hear from them all the time have every right to feel assured since only believers are worried about their salvation, but only within the framework of what the Bible actually teaches.
In short, while on the one hand from a positional point of view it is true that all believers are called to be perfect and all believers are called to produce fruit for Jesus Christ, on the other hand from the experiential point of view we all fall short in some ways and many fall short in many ways. Falling short is dangerous whether we do so much or little, but the danger is also relative to our behavior. And it is a very risky business to draw the line where the Bible does not do so. The Bible draws an absolute standard to which we are responsible to adhere: do not sin; it also draws a relative standard which we all must respect: absolute forgiveness on confession of sin. Every believer is wise to strive for the former and not despise or overlook the latter. After all, it's now how we feel about sin that counts. Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil doesn't seem an inherently bad thing: it was just a tree with fruit on it. It was a sin because God said it was a sin. Likewise, absent Christ's sacrifice, a small little white-lie told by a saintly grandmother to spare someone's feelings is just as worthy of condemnation in the lake of fire as the most heinous sin you can imagine and Christ died for them both. God's mercy and God's righteousness are both important principles to keep in mind, and wise Christians "hold onto the one without letting go of the other".
I hope this helps to get to the gist of your questions/observations, but please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in the mercy and the grace of Jesus Christ the Lord who died that we might live,
Today I read Hebrews 10 and 11, and had a question or two about Hebrews 10 specifically, Hebrews 10:26, and then the rest of the chapter. This is the one, as you mentioned before, you get commonly asked about, along with Hebrews 6 in general. If I remember from what you wrote, the "If we continue to deliberately sin" the writer is talking about (is it still Paul writing these letters? Or is this after Paul?), he is not speaking of struggling with sin, right? If I remember right, in this context, 'continue to deliberately sin' actually speaks about continue to not believe after hearing the Good News, right? So basically, the 'falling into the hands of the living God', and the "terrible judgement" is speaking of people who refuse to believe, right? Because "trampling on the blood of Christ" is essentially just not even giving Him the time of day, turning one's back on him, if I'm reading this right.
Granted, before, this is not the conclusion I would have read, but I remember reading this on Ichthys, though it has been some time. I just want to make sure I understand this chapter clearly, that's all. I don't want to make any mistakes about the intent of the second half of this chapter.
Also, I had another question: I'm in the middle (I think the middle?) of Judges for the Old Testament portion of my studies, and...well, I don't know if you get this question a lot or not, but I have to ask: why did the Israelites keep turning away from God? I mean, I won't make any comment about how often this seems to be, since all sin is lawlessness, so we all essentially do evil in the presence of the Lord whenever we sin (it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking 'I'm at least not like the Israelites...', which I have nearly fallen into a couple of times), but I am wondering why it seems to happen as often as it does with Israel, as a whole community. Because there is a difference between an individual doing evil, and a whole community as a whole.
My theory is that it is merely a generational thing. One generation learned to revere and trust in the Lord, but then the next generation, who did not live in the time of crisis as the previous one, have no real examples to go off of, if this makes any sense? Is it really this simple?
I am eager to hear your answer to this!
Hebrews 10:26 is a passage that bothers many Christians so it is important to be clear about what it means and what it doesn't. First, yes, Paul wrote Hebrews, and he wrote it to the Jerusalem church, Jewish Christians who, after some time had gone by, were now lapsing back into their old ways of life, and specifically (and problematically) into participating in the rituals of the temple. But Christ had now come and died for all sin, fulfilling the symbols and the shadows of the Law. So the specific "continuing to sin deliberately" Paul has in mind here is what he had spoken of before, namely, "crucifying the Son of God afresh" (Heb.6:6), and what he mentions again after our context as "trampling the Son of God under foot" (Heb.10:29). Clearly, if we are engaged in some sort of horrible sin, sin that by its very nature denies the work of Christ or denigrates the Person of Christ, we are certainly going to continue to be in grave spiritual danger until we stop. Paul writes these things to get them to stop. He neither says nor implies that they are lost forever because of something they did for which now they cannot be forgiven. Quite the contrary. What does he say just after the first mention of this issue in chapter six?
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation.
Hebrews 6:9 NIV
Paul couldn't make this statement if the Jerusalem believers were irretrievably damned because of what they had done. Indeed, if they were, why write them this letter? Paul is trying to correct their thinking and thus amend their behavior (a hallmark of most of his letters). And how does he end chapter ten?
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Hebrews 10:39 NIV
The difficult passages in Hebrews 6 and 10 apply generally to all believers who are involved in a downward spiral of sin. If we are drawing farther and farther away from God because we are unwilling to stop sinning, unwilling to repent, unwilling to confess our sins, obviously that is a big problem. The solution is to do what Paul tells the Hebrews to do: re-embrace their faith:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Hebrews 10:35-39 NIV
To do so they needed to stop sinning, repent-and-confess and that is the solution to downward spirals of sin today as well. Please note that these verses don't apply to those who in times past had been involved in such a spiral of spiritual decay but have since already stopped their pattern of sinfulness, repented of it, confessed it, and gotten back on the track of spiritual growth. Such individuals may find it salutary to remember what happened in the past so as to avoid doing the same thing again in the future, but falling into excessive guilt about past actions is not spiritually healthy, and not what these passages recommend. Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who were in a state of spiritual disrepair; it is not meant to memorialize past victories or defeats but to initiate a change of behavior now. I think missing that point is at the root of all such misinterpretations, namely, believer who erred then and have reformed, but are torturing themselves with misplaced guilt as if that were the purpose of the epistle (which couldn't be further from the truth).
As to the many generations of Israel who proved unfaithful to the Lord, I suppose I would have to say that if this is the case with the one people chosen out of all other peoples as God's special possession and it is then how much more should we who are gentiles by birth be grateful for our salvation and careful not to emulate the bad examples in Israel but instead cleave to the good ones? This life is all about choice: will we use our time to follow the Lord or not? Our salvation and our eternal rewards depend upon what we choose: God has already chosen to make salvation and spiritual advance available to an immense degree and at an imponderable cost: the death of His Son our dear Lord Jesus. Our part is to respond, and what happens in the eternal life to come depends upon that response. The bad decisions and poor bargains of others seen in the Bible and in daily life only serve to show just what a sharp divide the light of the truth creates.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:34-39 NIV
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello I read your post on Hebrews 6:4-6 and I've heard the same thing from others as far as the Greek goes meaning to continually crucify Christ and that's what causes the impossibility and that's really been a comforting to me but I recently heard a Seminary professor say that the idea of Hebrews 6:6 being temporal based on the present tense is like saying "you cant stop falling away while youre falling away." Or once you have fallen into the water, it is impossible to dry off, so long as you are remaining in the water. He said temporal explanation sounds good at first glance, but it is tautological. Ive also heard other commentators say for the idea of the author saying someone cant repent while they are constantly renouncing and rejecting Christ is both illogical and should not even need to be mentioned because that is simply commonsense. Please help I don't know how to counter such an argument and they've really shaken me up. Some time ago I fell away from the lord very far. I immediately repented, and after that my eyes were open to all my sinfulness then all of a sudden had all these addictions and sinful binds broken and I was so passionate and on fire for Christ I left all my friends started sharing the gospel and bringing others to church. I felt drawn to the lord his word and loved to be around other believers. But now Im being attacked by Hebrews. I departed from the living God, I feel like I did not endure and I know God says if we draw back he will take no pleasure in us I feel like I'm like those who draw back to perdition as Hebrews states, I'm worst then Esau, I despised my birthright I feel like I have committed the unpardonable offence. I really need some answers any insight you can provide would be so greatly appreciated. I Just want Christ sooo bad he his all I want and to be adopted as a child of God nothing else matters but I'm afraid i sinned too far.....
Please any help would be great
Good to make your acquaintance.
First, let me assure you that you are a believer and safe in Jesus Christ, just as long as your faith abides. In Old Testament times, the people of Israel went astray after foreign gods on numerous occasions, and God was always calling them back to Himself, urging them through the prophets of old to repent and return to the One true God. It is difficult to understand why God should have done so if such a return were impossible. As it is, it is always possible to repent and be restored to fellowship. We are told to forgive our brothers and sisters even if they sin against us "70 times 7" (Mk.18:22). Surely our merciful God is more forgiving than He expects us to be. Indeed, His promises of forgiveness and restoration are absolute. The only limitation when it comes to spiritual restoration would be an absence of willingness on the part of those who need restoration.
As to the passage in question, I have written quite a bit about this in the past. Not all of it is posted, but I will give you the links below to what is currently available in case you didn't see all the material at Ichthys as yet.
As to the specifics you ask about, I think the problem is that the naysayers don't have the whole picture. It's not just a question of the temporal nature of the participle (see below); it's a question of what Paul's purpose is in the entire book of Hebrews. Until one understands that he is remonstrating with Jewish believers in Jerusalem for slipping back into the Jewish way of doing things and for continuing in the rites and sacrifices of the Law long after it has become obvious that these have been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there will be much about this book which will be "closed". The phrase that follows in Hebrews 6:6, "crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" (NIV), has to mean something. Furthermore, in the Greek it is actually part of the same sentence as "who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance" (NIV) which means the two ideas are inseparably related in the actual Word of God. For that reason, to consider the first part in isolation from the first part is impossible at least for anyone doing anything like honest exegesis. Since the two parts are interconnected, it must be the case that it is precisely because these individuals are "crucifying Christ afresh" that they cannot be restored. So what does "crucifying Christ afresh" mean? It means to continue sacrificing under the Mosaic Law and saying by one's actions in so doing that Christ has not yet come or that His work on the cross was not effective. That is a horrible sin indeed. But notice that Paul does not actually say that it is impossible even so for these Jewish believers to be restored. And it would be powerfully odd if he did, for why would he say all that to people who were lost forever? Why write to them at all? As it is, what Paul does say just a little later is "we are convinced of better things in your casethe things that have to do with salvation" (Heb.6:9 NIV). This he could not say if the "falling away" because of "crucifying the Son of God afresh" was an "unpardonable sin".
In that context, taking the participle "crucifying" as temporal not only makes good sense but the best sense and the only good sense. Whether one defines the relationship as temporal or causal or conditional, however, the relative time of the participle is established by the basic rules of Greek grammar: it is a present participle, so that it must be taking place at the same time as the main verb (perfect participles have antecedent action as do aorist participles, generally speaking; present participles never do). For this reason, the essential meaning of the first half of the verse is beyond dispute. It means that the action contained in the participle "crucifying" is the problem which prevents restoration. Since neither you nor anyone else can possible be at present sacrificing under the Mosaic Law, it is not possible that your past restoration (or any present or future one) could be hindered under these precise terms. There is, of course, an application here for us today, and one all Christians should take seriously. We cannot expect to be confessing our sins while we are in the process of committing them or when we are in a posture of continuation of sinful activity with no plans to change and expect that sinful activity to be overlooked by the Lord. True repentance from any sin involves turning our backs on that sin and making every effort to stay away from it in the future. Obviously, none of us is perfect, and in recovery from any sort of chronic bad behavior there may be some ups and downs. But that is fundamentally different from continuing to keep oneself in a posture of violating God's commandments and trampling on His grace and expect not to suffer serious spiritual consequences because of lip-service to the principle of confession. That was apparently the case for many of the Jerusalem believers at the time, and it certainly explains how they had thus fallen into all manner of doctrinal error (imagining Jesus to be a mere angel, for example, which heresy Paul devotes the first two chapters of the book to refuting).
As to the "seminary professor's" specific objections, honestly, I don't understand them. Tautology is the often illogical and unnecessary repetition of specious argumentation. Nothing of the sort here. The other argument about "falling into water" seems to me to fundamentally misunderstand what a circumstantial participle is in Greek. And, as I say, this point of view does not, as is typically the case, take the context into consideration not even the context of the same verse.
I am happy to answer any further questions you might have about this important issue or to clarify any of the above as well. I would ask you to have a look at the following links:
Does Hebrews 10:26 Teach Loss of Salvation?
Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?
Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin
Have I Lost my Salvation? (part I)
Have I Lost my Salvation? (part II)
Have I Lost my Salvation? (part III)
Deliberate sinning in Hebrews 10:26
Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.
Sin and Spiritual Transformation.
Sin and Forgiveness.
Recovering from Sin.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, in whom all who have faith in Him are saved.
Bob Thank you so much for responding back so quickly and you've really clarified these verses for me and showed how that tautological argument just doesnt work and provided an excellent comforting rebuttal so thank you. And especially pointing out the old testament God calling his people back to himself continuously after they departed from him and served other gods. I think what I've realized is that Ive really let the devil take my focus off of Christ and I've stopped trusting in the Lord I need to stop looking at my sin and look to Christ who is the author and finisher of my faith. I'm need to be a tree planted by water a man who trust in the lord and you've helped me to realize this so thank you again.
God bless you
You are very welcome.
I draw great encouragement from your good words here.
Keep walking with the Lord. When we are doing so closely, all these sorts of questionings tend to fall by the wayside of their own accord.
Yours in the One we love more than live, Jesus Christ our dear Savior,
Dear Bob, I went back to read your email again and I have a few questions, you said, "And it would be powerfully odd if he did, for why would he say that to people who were lost forever? Why write to them at all? As it is, what Paul does say just a little later is "we are convinced of better things in your casethe things that have to do with salvation" (Heb.6:9 NIV). This he could not say if the "falling away" because of "crucifying the Son of God afresh" was an "unpardonable sin"". When I read it Paul continually says "those, them and we your" as if addressing 2 groups of people. "But "we" are not of "those" who shrink back and our destroyed, but those who have faith..." etc. He does this through out the epistle, He says "For it is impossible in the case of "those" who have been enlightened"... (Heb.6:4ESV) And then he says "but in "your" case"..(Heb.6:9ESV) So as I'm reading this it seems that the people that are being addressed are the ones who have not fallen away, and those in turn are the ones they (the author) feel sure of better things about not the group who has fallen away. Am I reading this right? And what if someone wanted to repent after going back to the temple and wanted Jesus is he not able to come back or will God not draw him to repentance? The word impossible is what really strikes so hard why is it impossible for and for who is it impossible the sinner or the author, pastor, congregation? I'm sorry Bob this passage just keeps tugging at me, and you're the only one who has really given me a detailed explanation so far and understand the bible so I hope I didn't ask you to elaborate too much.
What is "impossible" here is for anyone to be "made new unto repentance", that is, restored to a godly attitude that makes genuine repentance possible . . . "as long as . . . " said person is unwilling to give up the sinful behavior in question (or even acknowledge it as sinful). For the Jerusalem believers who received this letter, the sin in question was the continuation of animal sacrifice which denied (by implication) the cross which is why they are described as "trampling" on the Son of God and regarding His sacrifice as worthless (Heb.10:29), "crucifying Him afresh" and subjecting their Lord to public humiliation thereby (Heb.6:6).
The principle, however, applies to us all. This passage doesn't say that repentance is impossible. How could it? Repentance is something we do (or don't) of our own free will. This passage also certainly doesn't say that God won't accept our repentance; scripture never even suggests that; rather God is eagerly waiting for every prodigal son to return, and the angels rejoice more over the one who does repent and return to the Lord than over the 99 who need no such repentance. What this passage says to be impossible is the initiation of any sort of true repentance without prior rejection of the offense that requires it ("... as long as they continue to [do whatever it is that is the problem]").
It is true that when Paul uses the third person as he does in Hebrews 6:4 it applies to anyone and everyone. The significance of his switch to the first person later in verse nine is that he is encouraging his readers not to continue to fall into the set of people described in verse four but to join him on the side of the angels instead. This is like saying "if the shoe fits . . . but I am confident that in the end it won't fit with you". This doesn't affect the interpretation of the passage in any way. Verses 4-6 still mean what they mean: restoration to fellowship with the Lord is impossible as long as a Christian refuses to acknowledge, confess and give up the sinful behavior responsible for the alienation of their relationship with God. It also doesn't change the interpretation of verses 7-8: there is grave danger for those who persevere in the dark course of refusing to repent and confess their sins. But even though all of this is true, Paul has confidence that his listeners will respond to his appeal, repent of their sin in continuing to engage in behavior that dishonors Christ, confess their sin to the Lord, and stop doing this sort of thing altogether. What this passage most definitely does not even suggest, rightly understood at least, is that there is somehow "no hope" of such repentance, confession, and modification of behavior if that were the case, there would be no point in Paul writing these things to these Christians. Indeed, he is writing this for exactly the opposite reason, namely, to get these Jewish believers to come to their senses and change. So this chapter (and all of the other similar passages in Hebrews) are completely consistent with everything else in scripture where these issues are discussed: sin (of any kind, but especially of such an outrageous nature) is dangerous and can have the most dire repercussions if engaged in with a "high hand" and with no thought of repentance, confession or termination of the offending behavior. The idea that repentance is "impossible" is never found in scripture; to the contrary, scripture is filled with examples of God and those He sends remonstrating with the sinful to do just that (that was the #1 role of the OT prophets, after all).
I think that one of the reasons this issue has become such a "hot topic" of late is that the devil would very much like Christians (and everyone else) to think that God's policy is one of damnation for anyone who makes a mistake. If people believed that, unbelievers would have little reason to come to God (no one is sinless) and believers would be more apt to turn away from Him (even after salvation, we all make mistakes). Hopelessness in that case would reign supreme. Further, this false doctrine would seem to justify Satan's point of view: he would seem more justified in opposing God because there would in that case be no real opportunity for coming back to Him. This, of course, is a vicious lie and a complete canard. If the devil and his angels had wanted reconciliation, God would have provided the means. No clearer proof of that truth exists than what Jesus did in dying for the sins of all mankind on the cross: even though only a small percentage of the human race is availing itself of this wonderful grace, Jesus died for every single sin so that every person might be saved in spite of the fact that He knew ahead of time most would throw that sacrifice right back in His face.
But with you there is forgiveness. Therefore you are feared.
Psalm 130:4 NIV
God forgives. What is impossible is not gaining that forgiveness it is as close as our heart in which we repent and our mouth with which we express our confession in asking for it. What is impossible is gaining any sort of spiritual momentum without faith in the mercy of God.
In hopes of your continued spiritual growth in the Lord through attention to the truth of His Word.
Can you go to a website called The Refiner's Fire (http://www.therefinersfire.org/) and go to Frequently Asked Questions - What About Deliberate Sinning? and read this page and please let me know what your thoughts are on this?
I would really appreciate it.
Good to hear from you, my friend. I sincerely hope this email finds you doing better spiritually and growing in the Lord.
As to this website, I have seen it before and could not recommend it. I have never had much patience for gentiles playing at being Jewish (which is what it seems we have here hard to tell since they do not identify themselves nor give their credentials, and that's always a sign to be very wary or, better, click out immediately). Most of what they have here is wrong, misleading, misinformed, or just harmless, unhelpful noise. The page you sent me to is mostly the latter, but there are some things which are disturbingly wrong.
I would be turned off by any purportedly biblical site which made this sort of statement:
If you are a child of YHWH and continuously and deliberately sin, you are hosed!
On top of the obvious problems with putting things this way, the verses they use to support this "statement" do not in fact support it, assuming that "hosed" means loss of salvation. Hebrews 10:26 does not say that. The verse cannot be understood without the context (cf. Heb.10:17-18; 10:39). Reading further we find out that the problem in question is continuing to sacrifice at the temple when these believers should know ("having received the knowledge of the truth") that Christ's sacrifice has eliminated the need for animal sacrifice, so that there is now no animal sacrifice which we can make which will remove this insult against the Person and work of Christ: "there no longer remains any sacrifice applicable to [such] sins". Instead, they will have only God's judgment to look forward to for their continued and continuing defiance of Him. There is certainly application to us all, but what this verse is talking about, very clearly, is the contemporary conduct of these Jewish believers (which Paul is trying to get them to repent of), and not past conduct (which some who read this erroneously fear is somehow now "unpardonable"). For a believer today, this verse does not mean that all hope is lost because of past sins; what it means is that ramped up divine discipline will soon be coming from present sins and may even end in the sin unto death if we refuse to repent and stop doing what we are presently doing wrong.
The other verse, Numbers 15:30, emphasizes a point usually missed by Bible students and teachers alike, and one I often make when talking about the issue of sin: with the exception of the day of Atonement, almost all of the other sacrifices of the Law were directed at sin which was not "deliberate", in other words, unintentional or ignorant. Those are the two basic categories. Once this is realized, the question "who, then, can be saved?!" is appropriate, and only Jesus' answer will do: "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt.19:26 NIV). If anyone, including the (no doubt fine) folks at "The Refiner's Fire", were held to the standard of being "hosed" (to use their term) if they ever committed a sin in the knowledge that they were sinning when they did so, that is, a "deliberate sin", then we would all be duly "hosed". Who has never lied, slandered, been envious or jealous or sinfully angry (just for openers)? Indeed, if even from this point forward in our Christian lives this was the standard, then none of us would have any hope. In fact, of course, we have the Lord Jesus as our Advocate. He died for all of our sins, and we are promised forgiveness for them when we confess them (1Jn.1:9). Sin, especially continuing, gross, pre-meditated, consequential sin is very serious business. Failing to recognize this and entering into a life of such sin and sinfulness with abandon will quickly result in substantial divine discipline and, in the more serious cases where the Christian refuses to repent, the "sin unto death". But what this verse certainly does not say is anything about is the past. Paul, and the Bible, appeal to us where we are now (and encourage us largely to forget about where we have been in the past: Phil.3:13).
As to the bulk of the article itself, to my mind it represents what I dislike most about what passes for "Bible teaching" in the present church-visible. I suppose we do have to give them a nod for actually attempting to teach the Bible (something almost impossible to find in a "church" these days), but the thing I personally dislike the most when it comes to defective Bible teaching even more than being entirely wrong is confusing, indirect, suggestive, incomplete and ambiguous teaching which leaves impressions without going on the record one way or another and creates as a result unnecessary and undirected guilt in those who partake of it. I read this stuff and am still not clear what their position is on some of the more basic aspects of the question. They never define what a "deliberate sin" is, for example, and how that would be different from an "unintentional sin" as they later discuss them. The idea that God makes a distinction when it comes to salvation is absolutely wrong: Jesus died for all sins of all kind for all people; and any sin of any kind by any person would be sufficient for eternal condemnation absent our Savior's sacrifice. Their notion that "grace" does not avail for "intentional sin" would damn us all. By seeming to define "unintentional sin" as "sin", while "deliberate sin" seems to be some top-secret sort of sin of particular sin they personally have not committed, they only provide great confusion, not any sort of help for someone wanting to grow in Christ.
One last point. This site is very typical of "ministries" that use a patina of "knowledge" and "scholarship" (here through extensive use of transliterated Hebrew words) to convince people to accept their authority. Whenever people or ministries make a big display of that sort of thing out of any proportion to its helpfulness, prudent believers should beware. One of the particularly outrageous "ticks" of this site is the notion that there is some Aramaic Bible on which the Greek New Testament is based. Whether these people really believe that or have merely bought into this hybristic deceit which is making the rounds of late (in the form of a modern back-translated pseudo-Aramaic NT), I have no way of knowing. I only know that it's a preposterous and potentially dangerous falsehood.
As to "the question at the end of the response", I didn't find anything at the end. If you mean the question that begins the last section, "what can I do to stop sinning?", I can only note that their responses to this question are contradictory: on the one hand they say "well, you weren't saved in the first place"; but then they say "hope is not lost". Their understanding of "atonement" is completely un-scriptural.
My bottom line in corrective response to the wealth of contradictory statements on this page (some of which are correct, others of which are confused, most of which are outright wrong), is that 1) sin is sin; 2) all sin by believers must be confessed; 3) God forgives all sin of believers when confessed; 4) sin is serious business and the more serious the sin the more serious the potential consequences; 5) no sin is unpardonable or unforgiveable; 6) Christians who want to avoid divine discipline, spiritual meltdown, the sin unto death and apostasy need to move forward in sanctification not backward into a life of sin; 7) once one is moving forward, the best thing is to forget what went on in the past; 8) and for all who are struggling with sin presently, the only R/x is to get serious, take responsibility and stop it: no matter how hard that may seem, there is no percentage in dallying with repetitive sin and sinfulness, and that is all the more true the more serious the sin we are talking about.
I hope this will be of some help. Feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for your input Robert.
"Failing to recognize this and entering into a life of such sin and sinfulness with abandon will quickly result in substantial divine discipline"
Why did I not seem to experience this over a long period of time? This greatly troubles and confuses me.
Also, I think they mean deliberate repetitive sinning without resisting it at all.
To take the last part first, they leave it absolutely ambiguous in my reading. And since Christians who follow them will be arranging their lives on the basis of this information, not giving a clear answer to my mind is almost criminal. Even to take your charitable, expanded definition, what does "without resisting it at all" really mean? How can I know if I resisted a little, a lot, almost not at all, or actually (and damnably) "not at all". If I am plagued by guilt, I may think "not at all" even if (in this incorrect way of thinking about it) I did "try" in some way not to sin. If I am overly confident, I may think I am safe when really in God's eyes what I did was "not resisting at all". In short, there is no way to provide an objective standard about "resisting", and that is a good thing. The only important question is "did you do it or not?". Also, I don't see in their definition where "repetitive" comes into it. If a sin is "deliberate", it is "deliberate", whether done once or many times. Committing murder in cold-blood one time is not nothing and is not only "something" if "repetitive".
On the first part, as I have said before, I scratch my head when you say this. It seems to me that if this email exchange does nothing else it shows that you have gotten yourself into a "fine pickle" in terms of your spiritual situation. You are having chronic trouble with these issues and torturing yourself (unnecessarily in my view) as a result. It seems to me pretty clear that you have been disciplined in this way.
After all, God knows exactly where it hurts. Some Christians might be able to sleep pleasantly in spite of chronic, egregious sinning I am sure that the Lord blesses them all sorts of tangible discipline so that they will feel the pain in their own way. Some may be easily able to ride out physical or material trouble, but will be more susceptible to psychological pain. If I had a child who misbehaved terribly, one who didn't care at all about going to the movies but loved his stamp collection, I wouldn't punish him by telling him he couldn't go to the movies; I would take away that stamp collection.
In hopes of your peace of mind and spiritual progress to the glory of our dear Lord Jesus,
Your unending patience is appreciated. I do struggle with this. I see your point. Should I not have experienced more intense discipline instead of almost none for years at a time? Wouldn't that be discipline consistent with the scriptures? Why would the Lord allow me to continue to sin with no increasing discipline? Doesn't that mean I was not a son since sons are disciplined and if you're not then you are not one? I would think the Lord would want me to endure severe hardship sooner to bring me back to Him.
You are most welcome. I pray for your victory in this, and subsequent spiritual growth.
I don't know you or the specifics of your situation well enough to render a judgment about that. I do know that scripture is very clear on these points, so I personally have no problem concluding that 1) you are a believer now; so 2) it doesn't matter what your status was yesterday or long years ago; and 3) since God is perfect, and since Hebrews chapter 12 says what it says, you received just exactly the right type, level, and intensity of discipline tailored to you as a person, your circumstances, and the particulars of your transgressions just as we all do.
If I may offer a general observation, it is not uncommon for our Lord to be merciful, and more merciful to the ignorant than to the cognizant (that is a biblical principle: Lk.12:47-48). It also seems to be the case that the Lord is more merciful to the young than the old for this reason (as well as for other obvious reasons having to do with the temptations of youth: cf. Eccl.11:9-10).
If the Lord has treated you with mercy no doubt in the full knowledge that you would be hard enough on yourself I would be grateful for that mercy (and be careful not to find fault with it).
Faith is trust (see the link). Trust the Lord, turning your back on all doubts. He is worthy of your complete trust.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Blessings Robert. Thanks for your reply. Out of curiosity, I know you feel there are no 'bible teaching' churches out there really. We are however told to not forsake the fellowship of believers and to participate in corporate worship. Where do you go?
Also, I am reading through your web pages starting with Theology. Quite excellent. I read through one of your sections on Peter's epistles and your definition of the nature of apostasy. You say it begins with the hardening of the heart then faith is replaced by something else (i.e. sin) which leads to outright apostasy which one can not recover from. Perhaps this is why I am having the trouble I am having now. Perhaps this is why I saw so little discipline ? I seem to fit your description directly.
I am having trouble locating the comments you attribute to me in these studies. It is true that I wrote the Peter series many years ago, but still these things you say don't "ring true" with my understanding of the issue or my regular reading and re-reading of what I have posted. Apostasy is a terrible thing. I'm not sure whether or not or how often people recover from it. It's a moot point when addressing a fellow believer like yourself in any case: whether you stopped believing entirely or came close but never let you faith completely die is irrelevant to your current status as a believer in Jesus Christ. In fact, the only way it possibly could be relevant is if the question plagues you to such a degree that it hinders your present spiritual growth (which seems to be the case).
For one thing, I don't think of "grace" as either some sort of magic "pixie-dust" or some sort of "safe-zone" these are common enough theological errors, but I certainly hope I haven't said anything in any of these studies to lead you to this conclusion. Grace is God's favor (see the link), and He looks with favor upon all of His children, those who trust in His Son for eternal life.
As to past experience, no doubt the fourth group of believers evaluated before Christ's judgment seat, namely, those who have won none of the three crowns for their time here on earth, will be by far the largest. Living in "habitual sin" is not uncommon for believers, sadly enough, nor has it ever been unusual. From my reading of scripture and evaluation of world and church history, most believers since Eden seem to have "bumped along" with a rudimentary faith that is never developed. Some lose it (the faith-plant which dies out in the parable of the Sower); some (perhaps many more) allow the weeds of this life to choke out any production. Your situation is not unique. What is different about you is that you have now become concerned with your spiritual status, with your role in the plan of God, and, I certainly hope, with your eternal rewards. After a Christian has come to his/her senses in this way, some post-mortem of past failures is inevitable and can even be beneficial (when moderation is exercised) in order to avoid falling back into similar patterns in the future. But spiritual growth, progress and production is achieved by actually moving forward, not by ever looking backwards.
It is inconceivable to me that a person who can be benefitted by orthodox Bible teaching, who is clearly leaning on Jesus, and who is concerned about these issues would not be a believer. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? I know that you do.
Peter vehemently denied even knowing Jesus, and he did so three times. After he realized what he had done following the third denial, he caught sight of Jesus looking at him, and then ran away and broke down crying (Lk.22:61-62). Just think what would have happened if Peter had refused to accept God's forgiveness for these sins. No one can argue with the importance of his role in building up the early church; of course he also wrote two wonderful epistles and his name is emblazoned on one of the gates of the New Jerusalem. Is what you have done worse than what Peter did? I think not. It's time to stop torturing yourself and instead accept in faith the mercy, the love, the goodness, the grace and the forgiveness of God.
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 30:18 NIV
Finally, as to churches, this is my ministry, my church, and its doors are open to all who, like yourself, want to build up their relationship with Jesus Christ through the truth of the Word of God. Would that there was an abundance of "brick and mortar" churches where that was possible. I only know of a small handful anywhere where that is even close to being the godly reality. To the contrary, most in my opinion seem to be doing more harm than good (1Cor.11:17; cf. Amos 5:21). Perhaps if there were more churches doing their job there would be less tortured souls like yourself out there being "cast to and fro by every wind and wave of false teaching" (Eph.4:14). That really is the fundamental issue here: the truth. Nothing is more powerful, more needful, or more blessed than the truth of the Word of God. But once you get it, you still have to believe for it to do you any good.
In Jesus Christ in whom we are safe through the grace of God.
I truly hope that you know how much I (and I'm sure any number of other people) appreciate the encouragement that you give.
I did want to follow up and ask you about the post on King Manasseh. Can I ask you what article you posted this on? Also, do you think that contradicts Hebrews 10:26 any or is it just all too complicated and mysterious to know?
Thanks for your good words! The link to the posting you ask about is Believers in the World. There are numerous other links listed there to other similar articles (especially at the end of my response to question #2).
As to Hebrews 10:26, that particular verse has caused many Christians a good deal of unnecessary angst. However, in its literal form it is inapplicable to believers today because the temple no longer stands in Jerusalem so that believers are currently unable to offer sacrifice and thus falsely represent Jesus Christ in the specific way remonstrated against there (there is application to today, of course: no one should expect to be forgiven while in the act of sinning and with no intention of stopping).
The verse divisions in the New Testament are not part of the original text and indeed only go back to the 15th century and their inventor, Robert Estienne (aka Stephanus), who introduced them in his 1551 edition of the Greek NT. The verse divisions are very handy, but they also lead to interpretive myopia at times. Verse 26 cannot be understood or explained out of its context: verse 29 is the "punch line", so to speak, and the intervening verses also make it clear that verse 26 is being directed towards a very particular type of sin, namely, that of effectively denying Jesus Christ through participation in ritual sacrifice. Here is paraphrase of what the paragraph means:
v.26: Now that we have accepted the truth of the gospel by believing in Jesus as God's true sacrifice for our sins, if, in contrast to associating with other Christians as we should (v.25), we instead insist on continuing our association with the unbelievers in Jerusalem and committing the sin of sacrificing-after-the-cross as they are doing, consider that since Jesus has already been sacrificed for us no further sacrifice of the Law can have any effect in removing our sins.
v.27: All that is left is judgment for those who oppose God in this matter of denying Christ and denying the Father's sacrifice of Him by their actions in so doing.
v.28: You should be able to figure this out by considering the Law which Christ has actually fulfilled; for even violators of the Law which was merely a set of shadows anticipating Christ nevertheless were put to death.
v.29: Since even violators of the Law of ritual which spoke of Christ were put to death, how much more do you not think that God will judge those whose violations give offense not to the Law but to the reality, namely, Jesus Christ Himself! For by participating in the blood-ritual which spoke of Him not yet come, you are saying what He actually did is of no effect and no importance to you. When you participate in these sacrifices, therefore, you are trampling Jesus underfoot! You are pronouncing His true blood the death that makes the true, New Covenant effective unclean! You are casting aside the genuine sacrifice by which you were actually redeemed from death and substituting the inferior shadows so as to imply He died for nothing! You are outraging the Holy Spirit who witnessed the truth of the gospel to you when you believed! And you are in danger of falling into apostasy if you keep this up or more likely God's terminal judgment of the sin unto death!
Obviously, I have taken some liberties here the above is a paraphrase rather than a translation but this is what the passage really "means" (cf. the previous context, especially Heb.10:17-18). The passage is all about the Jerusalem believers who were allowing tradition to pry them away from their first love, Jesus Christ, and, since continuation in the sacrifices of the Law were at this point an "anti-gospel" because by definition they taught a Messiah who still needed to come and die for sin, there was no way that these believers could go on doing this with impunity. Either they were going to continue to drift away from the faith until that drifting hit some even more serious rocks and shoals and the shipwreck of faith resulted (i.e., apostasy), or, as Paul graphically warns them, if they did manage to hold onto faith while continuing in these outrageous practices, God was not going to allow such a scandal to go on forever (i.e., the sin unto death would soon result). Either way, this conduct was atrocious and Paul uses the strongest possible language to get them to "quit it" (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death). This is an important point. In verse 25, Paul is clearly talking to believers who still believe, prodding them to "continue to gather together for the purpose of mutual encouragement". So in the very next verse, Hebrews 10:26, these same addressees are certainly not "lost", even though they have been "sinning willfully" and are indeed in serious spiritual trouble (the whole book of Hebrews is designed to correct their spiritual trouble).
Finally, in addition to taking the verse completely out of context so as to warp its meaning entirely, I also think that the way in which the English versions phrase verses 26-27 lends itself to playing on the worst fears of Christians who feel insecure for whatever reason. That is to say, the verses are easily misunderstood as rendered in many versions, especially when read out of context. Here is KJV rendition:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Hebrews 10:26-27 KJV
Often, there is a tendency to concentrate on the "willful sinning" with "no more sacrifice" resulting in "fiery indignation", and the conclusion is: willful sin is not forgiven but results in damnation even though the verse actually says no such thing, even out of context. In context, it will be remembered, the verse is talking about a very specific sin, namely, that of continuation in the Levitical sacrifices by believers after the cross. But even out of context, the "sinning" is really "continuing to sin" (as reflected by most other English versions apart from KJV): the participle is a present participle connoting continued action, not an aorist participle, so that to understand this as meaning "if we ever sin willfully" would be completely wrong. What it actually means is "if we keep on sinning willfully" (i.e., in spite of repeated warnings and discipline etc.), we can't expect forgiveness while we are "in process" but only discipline (not damnation, I hasten to add). Therefore this phrase does not admit of a situation where a believer "makes a single mistake in ignorance or momentary insanity or reckless temerity" and is "lost" as a result. Rather, this phrase applies (as we know for certain especially with the benefit of the context) to someone who is habitually doing something that denies Christ, who has been doing it for a long time, who knew better in the past, knows better now, is receiving special warning not to do it (and no doubt has been disciplined for it) and yet determines to keep on doing it anyway. And, even so, the result is not "termination of salvation". Paul characterizes those who may reject his warning here as "those who are [setting themselves up as God's] opponents" (v.27: Gk: tous enantious), and their end is God's "fiery indignation", a phrase which is likewise often misunderstood: it is best taken to refer to the sin unto death, whereby believers are taken out of this life as in 1Cor.5 for gross misconduct . . . and specifically so that they may not lose their salvation (cf. 1Cor.5:5 NASB: "for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.").
In "worst case analyses" of these verses, then, not only is "willful sinning" wrongly taken to mean a "single error" (whereas it actually means "a repetitive pattern of outrageous behavior over a long period of time continued in spite of repeated warnings from which a believer is unwilling to repent"), and not only is "fiery indignation" wrongly taken to mean "one misstep results in damnation" (whereas it actually means "if you keep it up, you will be disciplined severely in this life, even terminally so"), but, perhaps most misleading of all, "no more sacrifice for sin" is oh so wrongly taken to mean "God will no longer have mercy on you if make this single misstep and there is no way for you to be forgiven so you are damned" and nothing could be farther from the truth! Indeed, there is no justification even detached entirely from the context to come up with such a conclusion (although you will see from the email responses in the links and sub-links above that this is just what some people conclude out of misplaced fear and guilt).
First of all, the only sacrifice for sin is the cross. As Paul said earlier in this same chapter, "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb.10:4 NIV). So "no sacrifice remains" is merely reminding the addressees that Jesus' has already been sacrificed for their sins and they are not going to find any other sacrifice that will do the trick. Therefore by participating in the old sacrifices they are proclaiming the true Sacrifice invalid and could a person make a worse bargain? By doing so, they are only setting themselves up as "opponents of God" by witnessing against His Son through their actions. Nowhere is forgiveness mentioned here because these are believers who have already been forgiven. But by "continuing to sin" through continued blood sacrifice they are "setting themselves up as God's enemies" through "proclaiming Jesus' sacrifice unclean and ineffective", trampling Him underfoot, so to speak, and this is behavior which will surely provoke "fiery indignation" from the Father who is not going to allow those who have embraced His Son for salvation to now dishonor Him repeatedly in such a way at least not indefinitely. In short, this is a call to repent of a particular sinful action, and note that it would be pointless to make this appeal if repentance were no longer possible. Moreover, since those involved in this gross disrespect for the Lord who bought them are being given this gracious chance to mend their ways (i.e., this letter from Paul), this passage actually speaks to the great patience, long-suffering, mercy and love of our Lord who "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Tim.2:4 NIV). If that is true of those Jesus does not "know", how much more is it not true for those He has washed with His blood and made one with Himself through His Holy Spirit?
I hope you will find this rather long-winded explanation of Hebrews 10:26 helpful. I get so many questions about this verse that I no doubt should have laid it out like this in detail long ago. To that end, if you still have questions about it, please do feel free to ask. I would like to make this particular "problem passage" as crystal clear as I possibly can.
Yours in our merciful, gracious and loving Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Somewhere on your site I think I read an explanation of why Hebrews 6:4-6 doesn't teach the impossibility of an apostate returning to God. Am I correct in my recollection? If so, could you supply that link for me?
Also, I've read a couple of your posts today on the topic of restoration of those who fall away. You express the opinion that "where there is life there is hope." You also state that you would not say that it is impossible for a believer who's become an unbeliever to be restored. Since I am so concerned that I allowed my faith to die through the hardening of my heart as a result of my willful sinning, this issue is of utmost importance to me. Based upon my own experience coupled with your many posts describing the process of apostasy, I wonder how someone whose faith has died could be restored because that would need to involve an "un-searing" of the conscience. Would such a process even be possible? I know that it is the Holy Spirit that draws us to the Lord. Would the Lord allow someone who has fallen to the extreme point of death of faith to just start over as if nothing had happened? That doesn't seem probable to me (the end is worse than the beginning...). I get stuck in the Hebrews 6 passage talking about the impossibility of restoring someone to repentance when they've fallen away. Am I reading that out of context? I have tried so many times in the past couple of years to be restored to the Lord, but to no avail. I seem so estranged from Him. I am terribly worried that the Spirit has ceased to strive with me, and will not draw me again. Do you have any advice? It is important to note that even though I may appear from my concern to not be hardened, I feel terribly hardened, unable to be warmed by anything of the Lord's, including reading scripture, prayer, worship, etc. Furthermore, I've been unable to feel any positive emotions at all, such as love, joy, peace. On the website that I mentioned to you about those who say they've lost their salvation, they describe very similar experiences. I am so afraid that I went too far and am now in a state of hopelessness. The account of King Manasseh was an encouragement and I thank you so much for drawing my attention to that post.
Also, assuming arguendo that someone gets to the point of allowing their faith to die, and the result being that the Holy Spirit leaves them, wouldn't that constitute a form of blaspheming the Spirit, making the sin unforgivable and rendering the person without hope? Under the new covenant would the Spirit ever return to former believer? Sorry about the persistence; I'm just very frightened.
It's no problem. I am deeply desirous of seeing you be able to put this unnecessary fear away and instead delight yourself in the love of the Lord and in His deep and abiding love for you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 NIV
Here is the link you asked about:
Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?
The key points for our purposes in our passage are 1) the verse is addressed to believers who are acting in an outrageous fashion, not to those whose faith has died; 2) the specific "error" is that of continuing in the blood sacrifices of the Law as if the cross had never taken place; and 3) the correct translation of the participle here is "as long as they continue to crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame". Restoration means here not a recovery from apostasy but a recovery from spiritual decline, divine disfavor and intensifying discipline. Paul makes it very clear that such a restoration was impossible until these wayward believers repented of their continuing evil practices and came back to the Lord in true repentance. God does not forgive us in the process of sin; God forgives us when we confess and turn away from our sin. But that is something far different from holding an intractable grudge against us for sins long past (1Jn.1:9).
Without question, the Bible is addressed to believers, and these Jewish believers to whom Paul writes had many issues that needed to be corrected (along the lines of the Corinthian church and the two epistles addressed to them which are also largely monitory). If their faith had died, there would have been no need to write them. However, even if one would wish to consider these people who are "doing something wrong now" as having completely fallen away, well, the only reason that makes sense for the Lord to see that they receive this warning is precisely so that they may turn around and come back to Him which means He both wants them to come back and that they can come back.
However one looks at the issue, therefore, the question of whether apostates ever return or not is entirely an academic one because either these sorts of passages are addressed to apostates who could in fact return, or they are addressed to believers who have not become apostates. And to apply that reasoning to the personal level, if an individual is being convicted by such passages, then of necessity they are either a believer who should correct or an apostate who may correct otherwise the Holy Spirit would not bother. Therefore to worry about which camp one falls into is merely a potentially dangerous distraction: what a believer would need to do is repent; what an apostate would need to do is return. If we are walking with Jesus, if we are believers in Him, we are saved, regardless of past history.
Perhaps we cannot say for certain whether the prodigal son represents a believer in dangerous straits or an apostate (though I believe it is the former); we can say unequivocally based upon reading the whole story that what he did in repenting/returning was not only the right thing but precisely the thing that God wanted Him to do and made possible for him to do. The Lord welcomes with open arms in the love of Jesus Christ all who repent and come back wherever they repent and come back from. And why would He not? Jesus died for all.
Yesterday is not important; today is what matters, along with the tomorrow we will have with our dear Lord Jesus if we put aside all worry, fear and the sin which easily besets and run with endurance the race to which we have been called.
On the point of the Spirit's ministry and the sensitivity of the conscience (and pliability of the heart), I have recently written some things on that which I hope you find helpful (please see the link: in BB 4B: "Our New Orientation as Born Again Believers"). Simply put, believers are always becoming either more or less sensitive to the will of God and the ministry of the Spirit. It takes continued learning of the truth of the Word, believing it, and applying it to one's life to increase that sensitivity, and, sadly, it is not at all uncommon for believers to go through periods of hardening after which they have to retrace their steps at the cost of some considerable time and effort (please see the link: in BB 4B: "Hardening of the Heart in 3 Phases" focused on unbelievers but applicable to believers as well).
The Lord I know is a God of immeasurable love. He is ever willing to forgive, eager for all to be saved and to come to a complete acceptance of the truth. He is not trying to destroy us but has as His first purpose to save us. To that end, while we were His enemies, He died in the darkness, facing the continual burning until He had expiated every one of our sins and not only ours but also of those who reject Him (because otherwise none could be saved). To be saved, as I often have occasion to remark, all one needs to do is not say "no" to the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ. If you believe in Him, and I for one am absolutely convinced you do, then you are most assuredly saved, and have every right, every justification, to rejoice in that security of salvation by grace through faith. Indeed, that is what you most definitely should do, and then move on with fulfilling the purpose for which Jesus has called you. That is the best way to build up your confidence so as to be able to fend off all these fiery darts of the evil one with your shield of faith (Eph.6:16).
Your brother in Jesus Christ,
At the risk of being incredibly redundant and persistent: I've read your links and am wondering whether or not the apostate rocky soil from the parable of the sower would be in the position to return based upon your explanation to me of Hebrews 6. (Would you say as long as they are no longer crucifying the Son of God or are they irretrievably lost?) You see, I don't believe that it's the Holy Spirit that is convicting me regarding the verses. Rather, I'm afraid that I am just longing for what I once had, am terrified of what could await and that my heart is so hard. I've prayed countless times for God to soften my hard heart but nothing is happening; it's as if I'm just trying to force myself upon God's mercy and He is not accepting me any longer. I think that's the most unsettling part of all - the complete lack of peace. Do you really think that where there is life there is hope for me? Will He take me back if I am indeed the rocky soil? His Word says no one can come unless He draws them and I'm afraid He's stopped drawing me. Again, I know these are mysterious things I'm looking into and you may not feel that you have a definitive answer, but I appreciate whatever you opinion you can give.
I also have a second topic that I've resisted asking you about as it is a bit different, but I do greatly value your opinion, and am somewhat desperate so here goes. Let me preface this by saying that neither I nor my family have charismatic leanings. I am actually PCA (about as non charismatic as it gets) and my family comes from a conservative Baptist background. One family member claims to have heard the audible voice of God when sick, and to have been healed immediately thereafter. However, my tradition would say that God does not work that way these days (I've not raised this with my pastor). And as much as I long to believe this message, I currently view everything through the lens of condemnation, therefore, I struggle with thinking that the experience was a a deception of the enemy in an attempt to deceive me into thinking that I am still in God's graces and therefore bring down more condemnation upon myself by partaking in communion, etc. What is your opinion regarding a manifestation of this nature? Could the enemy pass through the body of a born again believer to counterfeit an experience? Do you know of instances of the Lord revealing Himself this way in this age? Can I get your opinion on this event?
I hope you're not completely exhausted with me, though you must be.
It's always good to hear from you. I am convinced you are saved, but I do know how important it is to have that sense of safety and peace. As mentioned, the process of growth is the only thing that will give this to any Christian in a solid and lasting way. As we learn the truth and commit to believing it, as we pass the tests the Lord brings our way though exercising our faith in His truth, and especially as we begin to serve the Lord out of faith, we likewise begin to be more confident in our spiritual safety (if only because we have moved beyond "basic training" and are now out actually in "spiritual combat"):
Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great
assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
1st Timothy 3:13 NIV
It is important not to confuse the issue here by introducing sin. Fundamental to a correct understanding of these truths is that God does not "cut off" any believer from His Son because of sin. Sin brings discipline; sin damages our relationship with God in a self-inflicted way; and repeated, chronic, arrogant, unrepented of sin can sour and degrade and eventually kill off a person's faith but that is very much an indirect result of our choosing ourselves over Jesus Christ to the point where we no longer care about Him at all rather than doing something that "offends" Him so much He never wants anything to do with us again (which is very much a human reaction, but not at all a divine one).
To put it another way, apostates choose to abandon their faith; God does not take it away. Furthermore, if a person has faith, that person is saved; only those who refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ and accept His sacrifice for eternal life (i.e., unbelievers) are unsaved. John 6:44 does say that the Father draws the elect but we know that He wants all to be saved. What is the distinction? Those who do not want to be drawn, those not willing to be drawn, are not compelled to believe and so be saved. It also says in John 10:28: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand". The only way to "get out of Jesus' hand" once having put faith in Him is to deliberately renounce one's faith, either actively, willfully, and consciously through angry reaction, or passively, negligently, and unconsciously through selfish lack of concern. Either way, to be an apostate, a person who had placed their faith in Jesus has to withdraw that faith to the point of no longer believing.
Since everything you have ever said or written to me resonates as the words of a believer, I have a very difficult time accepting even the possibility that you might no longer be saved. It is incomprehensible to me that a person who is not saved could care as much about salvation as you do and not be saved as soon as the gospel is heard and you know the gospel well.
In the parable of the Sower, the one who falls away is represented as having their plant of faith die for lack of nourishment. Dead plants don't keep putting up shoots (as you are doing); dead plants can't be mistaken for live ones by anyone who takes even a peripheral look; and dead plants no longer turn towards the light: but your faith-plant does keep turning itself to seek out the light. How is that possible if faith were dead?
The ministry of the Spirit is subtle. How we may feel at a particular point is absolutely no true gauge of what the Spirit is doing in our lives. We have to accept that He is in us and working with us by faith, not by our feelings.
Sin is multifarious. How we may feel about any given sin may vary with time and circumstances but that is meaningless. We have to accept the fact through faith that we are forgiven whenever we confess.
Confident from scripture that we have the Spirit, and confident from scripture that we have been forgiven in confessing whatever may be troubling us close at hand or far in the past, we should move forward with our Christian lives in the absolute assurance of the salvation that was ours to have for the asking and remains ours as long as we wish to have it.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17 NIV
But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
1st Thessalonians 5:8 NIV
The mention of salvation twice as a helmet is very significant. This is the last-defense piece of equipment that kept (and still keeps) the most vulnerable and important part of the soldier (viz., his head) safe when all else fails. Like the helmet, when the fight gets hot, we can always shelter under it, and we can always "give it a tap" and remember that we have this final line of defense no matter what happens. And the only way we can ever get into trouble on this score is if we take our helmet off and cast it away. As I look at your situation, that is how I see it. Your helmet of salvation is right there in place where it should be. Reach up and give it a tap.
For anyone in a like situation, I find it very difficult in the analogy above to see how a person could have thrown down their helmet and not know it, or how or why they could or would have done so if they cared even the slightest bit about it. For a soldier to throw down his/her helmet seems crazy, but so does completely abandoning the Lord of one's own free will and so does unbelief in any state. Be that as it may. Maybe someone is worried about that helmet. If so, it must be there because a person who would worry about it wouldn't be able to throw it down and if they had thrown it away they wouldn't be able to be in doubt about it. So reach up and give it a tap. But if it is not there (and how that would even be possible without person knowing they've thrown it away I cannot fathom), and if its loss is missed, then reach down, pick it back up, and put it back on again. For there are only two possibilities. Either the helmet is on or it's off. If it's on, there is no need to put on another. If it's off, then it can be put back on if the desire is there: for God does not ever take away our free will. We are free to exercise our volition as long as we are in this world. In my view, if apostates do not come back it would have to be because they do not want to come back. The one situation of which I am absolutely positive cannot exist from what I read in scripture is a hypothetical apostate who regrets turning away from the Lord and wants to come back to Him but is not allowed to do so. That is not only never ever detailed in scripture as a possibility but it is completely antithetical to everything I have ever learned from the Bible about our loving and merciful Father who wants all to be saved and sacrificed His Son so all could be saved and about our loving and merciful Savior who died so that all could be saved.
So unless you are telling me that 1) you know for a fact that you now do not accept Jesus as your Savior, and also 2) you are no longer willing to do so either, then I cannot agree with your worst-case scenario conclusions.
The evil one is very good at getting us to torment ourselves unnecessarily. Job was a great believer, but under the ultimate pressure of the false judgment of his friends began to have these same sorts of thoughts (alternating in his case with blaming God). It is always dangerous to draw theological conclusions from our circumstances and especially from our feelings. The Christian life is first and foremost a walk of faith wherein we trust what we cannot see and believe what we cannot hear because God has told us it is true. That is the only path I know of which leads to peace but it leads to it directly and unfailingly for all who are willing do venture up it.
As to your second question, I would not say that God never deals with believers in such a way, and I would certainly resist telling another believer what they may or may not have experienced especially if said experience as reported does not run counter to what the Bible actually states or strongly suggests may or may not be able to happen. That does not mean, however, that I waive my natural skepticism regarding the reports of overtly supernatural events. In the history of the Church, the reports of such things unquestionably outnumber any actual events of such a type and to a great degree in my view. So what I always tell people is that we know that our God is a God for whom nothing is impossible (I have no problem with the fact that He can do such things even without such reports), and I have no problem with anyone being encouraged to think or do or say things which square with the Bible as a result of such experiences. Where I have a problem is if 1) the thing reported is clearly something God would not do or say; or if 2) the conclusion drawn is not in accordance with what scripture teaches; or if 3) either the person in question or a third party attempts to use the experience for some purpose that is clearly not legitimate. So I am happy to be agnostic in those instances where a person's faith is built up and no directly illegitimate conclusions are drawn, but I am also ready to point out the problems when such experiences seem to be leading in a negative direction. We live on the cusp of the end times, and in very short order all manner of overtly supernatural things are going to be occurring but many of them at the hand of the evil one who is planning to use just such "experiences" to lead the world astray. Please see the links:
Third party reports I
Third party reports II
Third party reports III
Jesus told us to be wise as serpents in addition to being as harmless as doves, so that it behooves all Christians to believe in God's abilities without at the same time waiving their common sense whatever they may experience (and that goes double for what they have not seen with their own eyes). Given the shortness of the time, it is certainly high time for all of us to "strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees" (Heb.12:12), and get about the business of spiritual preparation. We are sure to need all we can get in very short order.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
I was encouraged by your email to me stating that an apostate who wants to return to the Lord can do so. As I've detailed, I've had no peace since that time of the experiences I detailed. My question for you today is, assuming that my faith died, just exactly how can I return to the Lord? How do I pick up the helmet of salvation and put it back on? I've tried repentance and confession for my awful actions countless times. I've tried "resting in Jesus." Do I need to say a specific prayer? Do I need to "reaccept" Him as my personal Savior? Is that possible? Do you really think that He will return the Holy Spirit to me if, in fact, He's left me? In my free will I can sincerely plead with Him incessantly but without the presence of the Holy Spirit, I would still not be a believer. I miss Him so much that (as you well know) this is all I can think about.
I am glad to hear that you have taken some encouragement from these words. I certainly hope that you are getting closer to resolving these concerns so that you can finally lay aside these unnecessary worries and needless self-affliction and begin to grow in Jesus again to the end of serving Him and earning the eternal rewards He has in mind for you.
First of all, you are certainly not the only believer ever to have had his/her spiritual ups and downs (even David has some very low moments). Some Christians are greatly troubled by their sins, errors and failures; some are not concerned at all. In my view of scripture, a middle position is the correct approach. For on the one hand sin is forgiven with confession: self-torture is not going to make any difference (unless the person feels somehow that they are being forgiven through such efforts which is a form of works not grace). On the other hand merely confessing in a rote ritual without any idea of actually changing one's behavior is nothing but religion (which is also works not grace). The proper approach to recovery from sin is to confess and change but also confess and forget. Anything else can only lead to trouble.
Again, we are confusing sin here with the death of faith. If a person is a believer, he/she knows it. If a person is not a believer, he/she knows it. The only people I have ever met who "aren't sure" are Christians who are in a spiritual funk for whatever reason. But if you ask such a person, "what do think about Jesus Christ", they will tell you as you would tell me that He is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world. An apostate whose faith has died and I have met my share of them as well will tell you about that statement that this is what some people believe but that they no longer identify themselves as Christians. Generally speaking, they ran into some spiritual crisis or pressure, blamed God for it, turned completely away from Him as a result; and as a result they have no faith. Mind you, it is not that they "aren't sure", it is that they "don't care". What is the test of apostasy? Whether or not the person in question still cares. Living faith still cares. Dead faith is, well, dead. It no longer cares at all nor is it capable of caring any longer.
Whatever your past sins (or anyone's past sins), we know that Jesus died for them. So they are not an issue anymore in our relationship with Him from the moment we confess them. True, there is divine discipline for sins, but even that is not something we need to feel bad about because 1) it proves we belong to Him (Heb.12:7-8), and 2) it is designed to improve us not destroy us (Heb.12:11). Focusing on past sins is not only discouraged by scripture (Phil.3:13) but is also a sure-fire way to produce just the sort long-standing angst you are suffering through. Have you sinned? Confess it and move on. Have you confessed and turned your back on your sins? Then don't worry about it. Believe me, God is fully capable of disciplining you to the extent and degree that this is necessary and salutary. Your job as a believer is to get up and get moving so as to be valuable to your Lord. That will never happen as long as the past is holding you down like a ball and chain.
My advice to you is to give God the benefit of the doubt. He tells us over and over again that He is a God of love and mercy. What makes you think you are exempt from that love and mercy? He tells us many times that all are important to Him, so important that He sent His Son to die for all? Doesn't that include you? Jesus told us that He did not come to condemn but to save. Why must you assume that in your case He is out to reject you when He has already paid the price to save you?
You are not an apostate. In some cases I suppose it might be difficult to tell, but a person like yourself whose primary concern is your spiritual status we can say for certain that you do accept the truth of the Gospel, and it is that faith and belief that produced the new birth in the first place and can be used to identify it now. Are you concerned about how Jesus feels about you? Unbelievers are not . . . by definition. How you feel is no measure of your salvation. What or how you may have sinned is not a proof of apostasy.
Whether or not you think you have the Spirit also has nothing to do with whether or not you have the Spirit. All believers have the Spirit (Rom.8:9). However, in the history of the Church in my estimation the vast majority of Christians have not realized they have the Spirit because His presence is not something that can be put to some absolute and tangible litmus test. The fact that you are concerned about your salvation, on the other hand, is an indication of the Spirit's presence. But that does a person no good if said person refuses to believe that they are saved as long as they remain a believer, that they have the Spirit as long as they believe in Christ, and that nothing is going to snatch them out of Jesus' hand as long as they still have faith. So it is with all these concerns: the real issue is faith.
How do you know you have been forgiven the sins you have confessed? Only by faith.
How do you know you still have the Spirit? You have to believe it.
How can you be sure you are not an apostate? The faith we exercise to believe we are saved is the proof that we are.
It all comes down to faith. There is no ritual (such as baptism or re-baptism) which can bring a person confidence of salvation because salvation comes through faith, not through any ritual. There is no prayer a person can say that is capable of giving real and meaningful assurance of salvation because salvation comes through faith not through prayer. There is no pronouncement, no act of contrition, no vow, no rite, no organizational membership, no anything at all in heaven or on earth that can produce or solidify salvation because salvation comes through none of these things: salvation comes through faith by the grace of God, faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. And if a person does make the fatal mistake of putting any sort of "weight" on any of these other extraneous factors, then instead of making their salvation more secure they are actually endangering it. That is because to the extent a person relies on anything or anyone else other than Jesus Christ, to that extent the person is seeking to "save themselves" through works", but genuine salvation is "not of yourselves" (Eph.2:8) and "not of works" (Eph.2:9), but is only "by grace . . . through faith".
He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
Matthew 13:31-32 NIV
Faith is difficult at times. But it is what this life is all about. Faith is why we are here. Faith is the exercise of our free-will in believing God instead of the world, instead of the devil, instead of our flesh which through worry and fear and anger and lust tells us all manner of lies. Make no mistake. We choose to believe or not. It is our choice. It is often not easy to believe, but if we do not believe it is our choice to take that easy road of unbelief. And we are able to believe if we choose to believe because we are made in the image of God so as to have the power over our will necessary to believe. That is in fact why we have been given this unique power of free will, namely, so that we may believe, if only we choose to do so. Having started in faith by believing in Jesus Christ for salvation, we continue in this life through many ups and downs by continually facing the question, are we willing to believe what God says is true and act on that belief . . . or are we not?
You do believe that Jesus is the Christ. Are you willing to accept through faith His truth that all such are saved (Acts 16:31)?
You do believe that Jesus died for all sin. Are you willing to accept through faith that the sins you have confessed are forgiven (1Jn.1:9)?
You do believe that Jesus is the Lord. Are you willing to put aside your own agenda and accept His call to produce a good crop for Him in this life (Phil.3:13)?
Faith requires us to accept the truth of things we cannot see (Heb.11:1 ff.), to believe that what we cannot hear with our ears is in fact true. Faith requires us to put the scriptures over what the world screams at us must be "the truth", and walk instead through the tempest and the storm, through the very valley of the shadow of deathly darkness, putting our feet down where the Word tells us to do so even when we cannot see where they will land ahead of time. Faith is not easy, but faith is the only way forward in the Christian life. No one can give you faith because God already has given you the means to exercise it. He has given you free will, the image of God. Believing is often not easy if the history of the world viewed from the spiritual perspective tells us anything it tells us that. How hard it is for human beings to trust God! But they can. If they will. One thing every believer has in common is that at some point they did put their faith in God if only a mustard seed's worth. And that seed sprouted into salvation and the promise of eternal life. Maybe it hasn't grown much since. Maybe it has been ripped by wind and slashed by hail and scorched by heat but if it still survives, then the person is still a believer. And if such a person desires to go on in the Lord, not only can faith continue to survive, but it can thrive no matter what has gone before; it can grow and grow until it finally accomplishes what it was re-born to do: produce a crop for Jesus Christ, whether 30 or 60 or 100-fold. In this there is great satisfaction. In this our Lord is well-pleased. In this there is great reward.
Apostates don't care. Believers do. The question is, will they build on that initial mustard seed of faith, adding faith to faith so as to progress "from faith to faith" (Rom.1:17) in order not only to make their own faith more secure but also to help their brothers and sisters in Jesus do the same?
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:18 NIV
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2nd Corinthians 5:4 NKJV
In hopes of your attaining the peace which is yours for the taking . . . by believing the Word of God.
In Jesus our Lord,
Thank you once again for your patience. You did affirm my impressions about faith being the only thing to exercise and that no extraneous work will do. I only struggle so because for two years now I've attempted to have faith and since that terrible episode, it just seems to be non-existent. I pray constantly for God to give me faith (and peace) as I just can't seem to muster it up on my own. But I suppose you're telling me I must.
I also wanted to verify with regard to the Hebrews passages that trouble me so: Are you absolutely confident that "fiery indignation" refers to temporal discipline and not eternal fire?
Please answer at your convenience.
As to Hebrews 10:27, here once again is the paraphrase I included from earlier:
All that is left is judgment for those who oppose God in this matter of denying Christ and denying the Father's sacrifice of Him by their actions in so doing.
Hebrews 10:27 is hypothetical, applying to unbelievers who follow the logic of what these Jerusalem believers were doing and come into the state of apostasy or the sin unto death, not to believers who take warning and turn away from such false paths. Paul is remonstrating with believers who are acting like unbelievers and reminding them of the fate awaiting unbelievers. The only "fire" believers need fear is the fire which will burn up all our false works and wasted efforts at the judgment seat of Christ if it turns out we have been wasting our time down here by producing "wood, hay and stubble" instead of the true "gold, silver and precious stones" our Lord desires from us (1Cor.3:11-13). And this should be a concern: Paul tells us that our anticipation of this event is "what it means to fear God" (2Cor.5:11). But we who have taken refuge in Jesus Christ (Heb.6:18) have absolutely nothing to fear from the second death (Rev.2:11; 20:6).
So the only way in which Hebrews 10:27 has anything to do with believers is by way of application to those who are similarly in a downward spiral at present (rather than agonizing over failures long past). This verse warns us not to continue in sin to such a degree so as to become God's enemies, with the result that we either are taken out of this life painfully or, even worse, abandon our faith in Christ. This verse encourages us not do even think about doing anything which jeopardizes our faith. Given the consequences, habitual sin and rebellion from God are certainly things we should all avoid and at all costs that is the application for us today.
As to faith, it is one and the same with our will. We decide what to believe. We decide how to "feel about it". It is certainly true that directing the will is something many people, and not just believers, have some trouble with. But we do have the means the image of God to decide and to make choices. Sticking with our decisions and carrying through on them requires imposing our will on our bodies and our emotions, and how successful we are at that has a lot to do with how serious we are about the choices we make.
Faith is like a muscle. For it to grow, it has to be fed (the truth of the Word believed), and it has to be exercised (the truth resident in our hearts by faith applied to life circumstances by faith). No Olympic gold-medalist ever lifted half a ton on the first try, but those who are successful got to be that way through consistency of application and effort over a long period of time. And while few of us have the "right stuff" to be world-class athletes, everyone possesses the essentials necessary to win the Christian "triple crown" through growth, perseverance and service to Jesus Christ in this life. As I have suggested a number of times now, getting on this "right track" is the best way to begin to have peace and confidence, not only in your salvation, but also in your eternal rewards (please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").
(8) "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? (9) And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' (10) In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Luke 15:8-10 NIV
Whether you wandered all the way off (which I strenuously doubt) or merely wandered far away (and believe me when I say that many others have wandered much farther with much less concern about it after the fact), God wanted you back then and He wants to keep you back now. The peace and the joy and the confidence you desire is all waiting for you. All you need to do is to get back up on your feet and start marching again up the high road to Zion through believing and applying the truth of God's Word in the cause of Jesus Christ.
In our dear Lord who bought and paid for us with His blood,