Friday, March 22, 2013

Sin or Sins: Is There a Difference? Part 3

The issue of sin has been dealt with efficiently and perfectly in Jesus Christ. It was done once for all, a phrase repeated for effect throughout Hebrews. Christ stands a Savior of all men, having destroyed the Devil’s works, which at least one of which was an impending fear of death, 1st John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15. The saint of God knows that the Devil’s works are destroyed since in Christ death holds no more fear. The love of God drives out fear of both death and judgment, 1st John 4:18. Jesus is the door through which a saint may walk into the eternal presence of the Father.

Now we briefly address two flawed views of redemption and attempt to answer them biblically to the satisfaction of the reader. These are Falling Away and Calvinism’s bizarre view of predestination, atonement and reprobation.

Falling away is simply defined as a belief that once someone is saved they can forfeit their salvation or have it revoked by living a life of flagrant sin. Let me simply say there is not a single verse in the New Testament that explicitly expresses that if someone lives such a lifestyle they will forfeit eternal life, become lost again, and be consigned to the Lake of Fire. To imply that such a meaning exists in the various passages proponents of this theology tout is to strain our credulity, the context of the verse and the writer’s original intentions. If this theology is true then why is not clearly stated anywhere in Scripture? Listed below are two of the most common passages that are used to “prove” Falling Away is biblical.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak,” Hebrews 6:4-9.

“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. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:26-31.

Here are two pillars in the theology of Falling Away. But what do these passages actually say? First, neither time is it stated that one is condemned or lost, that they will finally arrive in Hell or that God has cast them from His presence forever.  In the phrase “fall away” one inserts the words “from eternal life” via liberal paraphrasing. In fact, this flies in the face of the entire tenor of Hebrews, which speaks at length about abiding fellowship with Jesus Christ and entering His rest as a fellow laborer in the gospel verses rebelling and suffering the disciplinary hand of God for our disobedience. But even that is not proof of being cast away, but proof of our salvation. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons,” Hebrews 12:6-8.

God disciplines His children as He disciplined Israel for their disobedience since they were His covenant people. The deaths of the rebels in the wilderness did not prove that they were unsaved or lost their salvation; it proved that they were God’s people, adopted by the covenant He made with them at Sinai. As such, they were under His care and authority, and He chastened them as He saw fit. The individual state of the soul wasn’t the question the writer was addressing; it was whether or not Israel would by faith obey and enter into God’s rest, or disobey through unbelief and suffer both wont and discipline. To force the text to say otherwise distorts the writer’s message to fit our preconceptions about salvation and how God’s discipline functions.

Hebrews 6:4-9 addresses the man who has fallen from the faith; presumably the writer is addressing the Jewish tendency to revert to Judaism to avoid the stigma of the cross. The animal sacrifices certainly would have been crucifying the Son of God anew since committing them would imply the believer no longer considered Christ’s atonement sufficient payment for their sin. The writer states that the believer, gone into such a state of thinking, is impossible to renew to repentance. This is taken to mean that such believers, having “fallen away,” have fallen out of God’s grasp. No such thing is said. In fact, “nor any...created thing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:39. Chapter 5 speaks to Jewish Christians who had been saints long enough to be teachers but had regressed and were in need of spiritual milk again. The writer wished to press past the elementary Christian teachings to maturity so his audience would continue progressing rather than regressing. Then he issued the staunch warning about barrenness; culminating in verse 9 that he anticipated seeing things in them that accompanied salvation (aka the fruits of the Spirit) rather than the barren field that brought God’s disciplinary flame.

The writer moves on to contrast good land that yields produce beneficial for others against barren land that is near to being cursed and is burned. We learn that our works shall be tried at the judgment seat of Christ, and those which were not done in Christ are in fact burned, 1st Corinthians 3:11-15. The barren land is “near to being cursed” but not actually cursed, as Christ has “become a curse for us,” Galatians 3:13. The same Greek word is used in both verses. We see the fruitful land receiving blessing, and the barren land reaping judgment, for judgment begins in God’s own house, 1st Peter 4:17; Hebrews 10:30. The same principle is described by our Lord in John 15:1-10. We see the context is not in reference to salvation’s retention or loss, but about the believer’s obedience yielding fruitfulness, or unbelief yielding chastisement and barrenness. The apostate, like the prodigal son, lives in spiritual misery.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.