Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Considerate Sequel to Hebrews, Part 4

Hebrews 10:29-31
[29] Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
[30] For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
[31] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The more one knows, the more one is held accountable for that knowledge. Being saved by grace through faith in Christ is infinitely more valuable and efficacious than animal sacrifice; if the Hebrew Christians reverted to offering animal blood on Jewish altars they were, in essence, trampling the Son of God underfoot and insulting the Spirit of Grace; compare with Ephesians 4:30 and 1st Thessalonians 5:19. It would be worse than offering defiled animals in place of unblemished ones, as it was during Malachi’s day, Malachi 1:6-8. Instead, the Hebrews would revert to offering redundant sacrifice after God finished sacrifice with the offering of His Son; it is a rejection of God’s salvation, an insult to His trustworthy name. God has warned that He will judge His people. Peter writes: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1st Peter 4:17.

There are only two camps concerning one's eternal state: obedience to the gospel (having believed on Christ) or disobedience to the gospel (having never believed on Christ); these are the only criteria that will determine if we stand at the judgment seat, or the Great White Throne: where our works coupled with our knowledge determine the severity of one’s torment. Peter counsels that it is better to suffer for doing what is right than what is wrong, and if we are reproached for being a Christian we shall receive reward, 1st Peter 4:13-14. Note he warns that Christians should not suffer for being a murderer, thief, evildoer or busy-body, 1st Peter 4:15. Failure to obey will result eventually in the Lord’s judgment, or chastening on us. “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world,” 1st Corinthians 11:32. Such judgment is chastening, as God does to all He accepts as sons, Hebrews 12:7. The antidote to the slothful and barren state of these Hebrew Christians might well be the Lord’s chastening; the Holy Spirit informs us that anyone trained by such trials will finally yield the fruitfulness which God seeks out of His children, Hebrews 12:11.

A caution of this magnitude, especially mentioning the act of murder, should easily warrant a warning about losing salvation; yet Peter says nothing of the like in his epistle. We are only warned not to suffer for wrong-doing, because we shall be seated lowly in Heaven; our works will be burned; shame will be ours instead of glory. Note again that the passage the writer quotes states, “The Lord will judge His people,” in verse 30, adding the word “we” in verse 26 to denote twice over that this passage of judgment refers to God's believing children: not to unbelievers. John the Baptist states: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him,” John 3:36. There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, Romans 8:1. You are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in you, Romans 8:9. You receive the Holy Spirit the instant you believe, 2nd Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14. If you possess God's Holy Spirit you are His; if you have not received the Holy Spirit through the new birth you are not His, John 3:5-8; Romans 8:9. The difference is that blessedly simple. Though the writer ends the passage with a dreadful note, it is not without any consolation. David declares, “I am in great distress (over the sin of pride). Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great,” 2nd Samuel 24:14. Though God may inflict stern discipline it is done in both wisdom and love, Hebrews 12:3-11.

Distorting the passage in question warps not only the message the writer was endeavoring to convey but warps our view of God. God's election and foreknowledge are degraded by the notion that finite man could wriggle his way out of God's grasp once we have become a part of the body of Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in the Father; how do we accomplish such a feat? God clearly states no created thing can remove us from Him, Romans 8:39. Unless you are not a created thing you cannot be 'unsaved.' Only God can do that, and He is faithful, as the writer tells us, Hebrews 10:23. God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) according to His own purpose which cannot be frustrated (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 55:11); in fact God promised eternal life by grace through faith in Christ alone before time began, Titus 1:2; 1st Corinthians 2:7. The doctrine of conditional salvation applies these passages to the believer and says that only faithful, obedient Christians will be saved. This teaching belies Scripture which plainly declares that eternal life is an immediate possession; if we are waiting and striving to be saved it can easily be argued that one is not saved, or in constant danger of being 'unsaved' every moment of their life until death. This is no different than saying that you are not saved at all until you have proven worthy of such salvation.

I earnestly implore and challenge anyone who is a proponent of this doctrine: what are you saved from presently? What is the hope and joy of your calling? Is this the rest God wants us to enter into upon knowing Jesus Christ personally? Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:10. Listen to Paul: This only I want to learn from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law (your own self-efforts), or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:8-9, 17) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh (your own self-effort)? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? (2nd Corinthians 13:5; 2nd Peter 1:10). Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:2-5. Dear reader, have you believed in vain? The hope of the godly is Christ, and such hope does not disappoint. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day,” 2nd Timothy 1:12.
To be Continued.

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