97. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, why it is called, ’Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who had sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word was not mixed with faith in those who heard it. -Hebrews 3:12-4:2
At first it looks from this text like a person can lose their salvation. But the final verse makes clear that those lost in Israel had never had saving faith in the first place. Jesus Himself indicates that unbelief is the chief sin in John 16:9. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger. The rebellious Israelites had seen exciting, miraculous things happen, but never gave their hearts to God in faith. Your church might have exciting things going on, but unless you are born again you will not see the Kingdom of God. But even amidst this sobering warning to pretenders, there is the knowledge that true believers have become partakers of Christ which will be evidenced by them holding the beginning of their confidence steadfast until the end. Passages like this one are the reason I don’t prefer the wording eternal security. It has often been misunderstood and some immature believers think of it in a more passive sense, saying, “I’m saved so it doesn’t matter what I do.” I prefer the Reformation phrase “Perseverance of the saints.” It breeds a more active sense. It’s not, “I’m saved so it doesn’t matter what I do,” but “I’m saved so everything I do matters!” Everything is now for the God who loved me so much that in His grace He made me alive with Christ when I was dead in my trespasses and sins. Philippians 1:6 reflects this when it says, “HE who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The author of Hebrews knew that this confidence breeds the healthy kind of fear that keeps our eyes fixed upon the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
98. ”Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by which it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but the if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end it is to be burned. But beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” -Hebrews 6:1-12
At first look at the beginning verses of chapter 6, the author of Hebrews seems to be saying here that a person can lose their salvation. That’s why the law of context is so important when reading the Bible. Some speak of the twenty-twenty rule – make sure you understand what the twenty verses before a verse say, and the twenty verses after. Chapter 6 starts with the call for the reader to go deeper in their faith. He wants them to go beyond the elementary things they had experienced to Christian maturity. Amen! That reminds us of Philippians 1:6. Then in verse 3 he says this growth will happen if God permits it! He says this even stronger in Hebrews 12:2, where he says that Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of true faith! God started it! He’ll finish it! Let’s skip over verses 4-8 for a moment. In verse 9 he says, “But beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, things that accompany salvation, though we speak to you in this manner.” Obviously, then, he is stating that whatever is happening in verses 4-8 had to do with those who possessed something other than true salvation. He underscores tis by saying, “though we speak to you in this manner.” In verses 4-8 he had gone right up to the line in describing a person that looked saved but “fell away.” But in verses 9-12 he makes clear he is exhorting them to persevere in their God-given faith and be like those who have gone before and through faith and patience inherited the promises. Which brings us back to verses 4-6. The surrounding context makes it look like he is talking about those who have been around the faith but are not yet believers. We are told that they were enlightened. But John 1:9 says that all men have been since Jesus came into the world. We are told that they tasted the heavenly gift. But John 6:54-58 speaks of going beyond tasting to actually eating. Partakers of the Holy Spirit is a strong phrase that leaves room open for discussion. It is placed between tasting the heavenly gift, and tasting the good word and powers to come. The word repented is also is also strong, but does not here conclusively indicate conversion. When seen in the context of verse 9, he is clearly saying that they have identified themselves with the cause, but the language leaves room to the extent of their commitment. I conclude that in the context he is referring to those who knew everything they needed to know to be saved and had spent considerable time in the presence of believers. They were probably thought of as believers by others around them. Like Judas and Demas, they were numbered among the disciples. But they had never experienced the “better things” of verse 9, the things that accompany salvation. The band U2 had a song that said, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” In the song, Bono sings about how he has experienced Jesus. He has even spoken in tongues. Then in a haunting voice he sings, “but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Such people, as indicated here, go on to live the rest of their life saying, “I tried that Jesus stuff and it hasn’t really worked for me.” Of course some will still insist that this passage says a person can lose their salvation. But if it does, it must be clearly understood from verse 6 that if the person did have salvation and lose it, they will never get it back. The text says it is impossible to renew them again to salvation. I know many people that grew up in churches that teach you can lose your salvation, and none of them took it that way. They were often encouraged to get “re-saved” after being in sin. To me the simpler explanation is that to encourage Christians to grow in their faith and persevere he speaks hypothetically to them in verses 4-6 of those whose walking away shows they had never totally committed to Christ. Those who persevere will experience the “better things” verse 9 speaks of, the things that accompany salvation!
99. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying, who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore, I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of is disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” Bu Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” -John 6:60-69
This is the passage God used with me to give me the full assurance of my salvation. In verses 54-58 Jesus had really pressed His Lordship to all of His “disciples,” or learners. Four times in those verses He says things about “eating His flesh.” Apparently, many of the “disciples” had “tasted” but not eaten. They had seen the Spirit fall on Jesus. Some had been baptized into John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance. They had heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount. But when Jesus talks of Lordship, of eating Him, many of the ones who had before identified themselves as His disciples split. In verse 64 Jesus makes clear that these “disciples” had never really believed. But when they go, He turns to the twelve and asks a question that has also pierced my own heart. He says, “Do you also want to go away?” Simon Peter (good old Simon Peter!) answered for 11 of these guys when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Basically Peter says, “Lord, I’ve got nowhere else to go – you ARE my life now!” There came a time in my life, when in seeking the kind of assurance that John said is possible in I John 5:13, I came to this passage and God gave me assurance of my salvation. You see, I can agree with Peter, and say “I have nowhere else to go! Jesus has become my life, my all! I believe He is the Son of God, God the Son. I have yielded my life to Him who love me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I will follow Him the rest of my days, and I know for certain that I’m going to Heaven when I die! What about you? Can you take or leave Jesus? If Jesus doesn’t matter that much to you, then you can’t be assured of your salvation. But if you can resonate with Peter and Paul and John and I, and confess that Jesus has become your life through the new birth, then you too can, and you should, be assured of your own eternal security based on God’s promises!