THE DOCTRINE WE IGNORE
Heb.10: 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29 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?
30 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.
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Ok, here is where we all need to check our preconceived theologies at the door and open our hearts to the truth of God’s Word. I have seen many exegetical gymnastics applied to these verses and others like them. It seems as if so many believers who strongly say they believe the Bible is literal, become wobbly legged when they enter these kinds of Scriptures. Hebrews chapter six is another such Scriptural neighborhood, but let us just deal with these for now.
Are these Scriptures addressing believers? Look at verse 32 thru 34 and it openly reveals the answer to that question. He is speaking with those who have been illuminated or awakened, and who know that they have an enduring substance in heaven. That could not be more clear. If we cannot agree on that than upon what can we agree? In chapter three the writer identifies those to whom he is writing and says, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…”. Again, very clear. The epistles are written to believers and the church at large.
Unpacking these verses correctly depends largely on who they were addressing. If that is not clearly established than all kinds of interpretive mischief becomes available. Those that adhere to once saved always saved, or eternal security surely are reticent to take these verses on their literal face value. In order to support their doctrine these verses cannot mean what they openly and literally seem to mean. And when you see Scriptures that openly teach that which is against your doctrine then your doctrine must be wrong. I used to be quite adept and conforming these verses into my own theology and doctrinal box.
Now before we go any further let us establish this fact. No one was born again and grafted into God’s family because he or she stopped sinning. Every sinner becomes a child of God by grace through faith alone. No amount of baptisms, no amount of communions, no amount of humanitarian works can even slant redemption in your favor. Christ paid the price in full, and only by faith in Jesus and His redemptive work can a sinner be saved. And since we did not enter into the kingdom of God by giving up any sins, we cannot exit the kingdom of God by sinning.
In the Church at Corinth it seems like some believers were receiving the Lord’s Supper unworthily, and the Scriptures indicate that some were dying prematurely. I mean that is a very serious sin, and yet nowhere does it say they had their salvation taken from them, or as is the evangelical colloquialism, “lost their salvation”. This is not about losing your salvation, but this is about rejecting the Christ. This is about openly denying your faith and denying your Redeemer. If indeed that is what is being taught here, would it not be important? And especially in these last days, would not a warning of this nature be not only appropriate, but even paramount? And just to be clear, this is not about losing and the regaining and losing and regaining your salvation depending upon what kind of week you had. Hebrews chapter six informs us about that kind of nonsense.
Heb.6: 4 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,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 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.
Again, the writer is speaking to those who were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and that can only come through salvation. And who crucifies to themselves the Son of God afresh? Come on, it is those who were enlightened and have tasted the good word of God. So again, when the writer is teaching about forsaking and denying Christ, he is speaking to believers. This must be clearly understood or the entire theme is devoid of meaning and as some suggest only speaks to unbelievers. If that be the case than not only can we not take these passages literally, but when will unbelievers read them and heed? Never.
But this is a very profound warning. The phrase “sin willfully” is interesting since we all sin willfully. But this suggests someone who does not care anymore and begins to live a life with unbridled sin. Now that in and of itself is not apostasy, however when a believer’s life becomes so wild and so filled with transgressions of all kinds then the danger becomes real that the conscience can become so seared that the deceptions spirals down into apostasy, or an eventual rejection of Christ and the faith. I have seen it several times in my life where someone who showed fruit for years eventually walked away and proclaimed that they no longer believed in Christ anymore. That will send chills up your spine.
Think on these words: “trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing…”. Who is sanctified but a believer? This is why sin is so very dangerous since it can lead to outright apostasy, not because of the sin itself, but because the sin deceives, hardens, and leads to a renouncing of one’s faith. Paul teaches on this principle in Romans chapter eleven.
Rom.11: 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Even though this passage deals primarily with Israel and the Gentile church, the principle is quite evident. The faith that believes and follows Christ is not some ticket punch. It is a living, breathing faith which by God’s grace alone can be believed and received. And although I believe personal apostasy is rare, I also believe that ecclesiastical apostasy is rampant. But I also believe personal apsotasy is becoming less rare.
Ti.1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
What can we say about a person who professes Christ and yet lives anything but like a follower? Well that person is either in a backslidden condition or he has never been born again. Of course this verse uses the words abominable and reprobate so I must lean toward the view that they have never known Christ,. But let us not treat this entire subject as if we had it all neatly wrapped in a doctrinal bow. There have been denominations that have begun following Christ and slid into apostasy. The portions in Hebrews seem to indicate that is possible individually as well. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God when you may be without the redemption of Christ. That prospect is not addressed with any frequency today, and in most quarters it is not even alluded to.
But what of the end when we all must face the Creator? He has been so maligned and so made into little caricatures that man no longer even fears God. Eternity? We are so consumed with the temporal that eternity is now just a concept. And because many “orthodox” churches have taught eternal security with such conviction, and even showed contempt for any doctrine that would even question it, that I am afraid there may be many believers who really live spiritually careless lives for so long that they are not only ambivalent toward Christ, but they are actually against Christ by their thoughts and deeds. How can we rest on our doctrinal laurels and give such people an ounce of assurance, not just because of the way they live, but also because of how openly and forcefully the Scriptures indicate the eternal level of danger associated with such a life?
Charles Spurgeon, no tepid Arminian, once told His congregation that is was very dangerous to rely on your original conversion experience. He said we should always be turning from sin to Christ. And I would not only agree with that statement but I would also add that if you believe you had been born again, but if now you have no thirst or hunger for Christ, and if that void has led you further and further into a life of recklessness and wanton sinful practices, then I exhort you strongly to stop and immediately seek God through repentance before it may be too late.
What are we to say about the entertainment people call "church". What about all the different doctrines being spread today that soothe people's fallen consciences and give people divine assurance in this life and the life to come? How can we remain silent when damnable lies are being fed to sheep and goats alike and western believers are observably ambivilent towrd the things of Christ? Can we pin our eternal security phylacteries on our chests or grasp hold onto our election doctrines and thereby show a limited amount of concern that is void of the desperate passion that must accompany such a situation? Or should we give the deepest of concerns for those who have professed Christ but deny Him now in their lives?
Remember this sobering thought. If indeed it is possible to leave the faith you once espoused, by the teaching of the same Scripture it is also impossible to return once you leave. Let that sink in either for you or for someone you may know. And if this post makes me a n heretic, so be it. I have long ago rejected bowing to the doctrinally elite simply because I may elicit their ire. And when Scripture is clear about such a serious subject, and when it is not even dealt with in the church, then man’s ire should be the least of our worries.