Heb 3:6-19 -- will have to be careful tonight...


#1

I’ve recently started attending a singles’ group at another church (one even farther away from where I live, unfortunately). It’s a good group, on Wednesday night and Sunday morning.

The Wed-night group is currently working its way through the Epistle to the Hebrews. The teacher skipped over these verses last week, so as to have time to deal with them directly tonight. He’s already indicated that they’re “confusing” and tough to understand, since it looks as though they are teaching that believers today may lapse and be punished the way the Hebrews were who rebelled against God in the wilderness, not entering into God’s rest.

One would suppose that, as a largely Arminian church, this wouldn’t be a problem doctrinally; but of course one of the big draws of Calvinism was that it gave assurance that the elect would surely be saved by the persistence of God–so, as long as you are of the elect, great! If not, sucks to be you, but too bad–who are you to answer back to God you sinner etc.

Arminians eventually developed their own version of this doctrine, which is still distinctly Arm vs. Calv, but does try to provide the same kind of assurance of salvation: if you really professed your faith, or if you ever really do, then God will persist in saving you. Otherwise, sucks to be you etc.

In practice, of course, this leads to much the same question of rescension as in Calvinism:

Calv: but, how can I be sure that I am really of the elect? Because if I’m not, then I have absolutely no hope at all! I may be misled by God (um, well more like God just chooses to let me believe whatever I want to believe on the topic without correcting me) because I am one of the non-elect after all. My feelings and beliefs are ultimately of no evidence on this topic: there are several places in the NT where those who thought they were professing and even serving Christ as Lord discover to their shock that Christ is either damning them in the end or at least threatening to if they don’t shape up. (But why threatening with a conditional ‘if’, if God has already decided whom He will and will not save??) It is useless to say that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit–because “Many shall come to Me on that day calling Me ‘Lord, Lord!’ But I shall say to them–!” And we are clearly taught that eventually all shall bow to confess Jesus as Lord, which must include the condemned non-elect as well.

Arm: clearly, we have to be serious about it.

Calv: but those people seemed to think they’re being serious about it!

Arm: once it’s too late.

Calv: no, they come to Him acknowledging Him with the double-deity profession (from the OT) “Lord, Lord”.

Arm: they must have been only hypocrites who didn’t or don’t really believe it.

Calv: like the condemned in the final day don’t really believe it? But scripture says everyone will believe and confess it in the final day!

Arm: they can believe it but still be in rebellion, as James mocks, “So you believe that God is One [AeCHaD, a compound unity of persons, i.e. the Shema declaration], do you? Good for you!–so do the demons believe, and shudder!”

Calv: exactly! You can believe it and still be in rebellion.

Arm: but a true profession of faith will result in works, thus showing its truth.

Calv: like doing miracles and exorcisms only possible by the power and authority of God; testing even apostles for doctrine and enduring hard strokes for Christ’s sake?

Arm: exactly.

Calv: yes; exactly like the Ephesian church in RevJohn, and exactly like those calling Jesus “Lord, Lord”!!–who are nevertheless under judgment of expulsion!

Arm: then… … it must be possible that God will not persist in saving even those who…

Calv: exactly!! But, no, I mean that must be impossible, He must persist, the scriptures testify so.

Arm: but clearly people are hopelessly condemned forever. So He does not in fact persist in all cases.

Calv: no, He only persists for the ones He has chosen. He never even chose the other ones to begin with.

Arm: but there is in fact no way to be assured of being one of the elect!

Calv: but on your own showing there is no assurance by your doctrine either! Even for the currently ‘elect’!

This is going to be a touchy night. :wink:

I want to show them how these things may be resolved, without doing violence to the gist of the text. (Because I know from last week that the tactic is going to be that the author is only warning those who are not already saved but pretending to be, not the ‘really’ saved people, when he warns them using “we” language… uh… opps… i.e. that despite what the text says here, and in chapter 4, much moreso later in Heb, there is in fact no falling away to be worried about.)

But I am not the teacher. And I don’t want to cause problems for him, or for the class.

Any prayers will be welcome. :slight_smile:


#2

:laughing: Yes, that’s a ‘difficult’ passage, alright!

I’ll pray for you, Jason–mostly, I think, that you won’t step on any toes too hard! But perhaps you can get people thinking …
Sonia


#3

Seems to me that the whole ‘hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope until the end’ is another way of saying that we need to be overcomers in this life. Hold fast our trust in God. This goes along with the relational aspect of our salvation, believing God to work out the salvation in one’s life.

The comparasion with Moses is such that the covenantial relationship that the Israelites had with God prior to entering the promised land was contingent upon the belief that God could bring them in, despite the appearance of ‘giants in the land’. We need to heed His voice and not others giving us doubt about our salvation to come.

We must enter His rest. We must boldly come before His grace in time of need. While the provision is of Gods, in opening the door of salvation, it is our responsibility to demonstrate our faith based on His promises.

You might want to annex this lesson with the ongoing theme presented in chapter 4.


#4

Yep, I was thinking exactly that. Don’t know if I can point that out, but I’ll try. (Worst case is that we get to the beginning of chapter 4 next week, at which time I’ll point out the connections. :mrgreen: )

Thanks Son and Dondi. :slight_smile: About to leave to go to the class…


#5

How’d it go, Jason? My church is teaching through Hebrews right now too, so it’s been on my mind. It seems to me that the focal point of the book is about ‘not falling away’. It is written to people who were tempted to return to the Jewish practices, and the author argues that Christ is the fulfillment of all those things, and greater than them. To go back to seeking God by those ways is to deny Christ.

Sonia


#6

Thanks for the reminder, Sonia!

I thought it went pretty well, all things considered. The teacher did a good job presenting various options, and there were good comments scattered all throughout the class all night.

Toward the end I managed to put forth the main point I was after for the night: that there’s a difference between being saved from sin and being saved from punishment. The teacher had made some prep along this line himself, by talking of the difference between sanctification and justification. But he also finally (as I expected) tried to present it as the Hebraist author talking to (and about) people who ‘weren’t really Christian yet’. I had to point out that this just doesn’t fit the language of the text, even though (I was the only one who pointed this out) the author does sometimes distinguish between “we” and “you”. Still, at the end of the day, the author is clearly incorporating his warning for all his audience whom (the teacher agreed) he is addressing as being believers.

I was only briefly able to mention one of the couple of interesting and relevant common mistranslations in the text; which I’ll have to write up a report on later. (Very busy today at ‘work’ work.) I didn’t have time to talk much about why the correction of the translation was so important, so I doubt anyone got much out of that. But we’ll be surely getting into chapter 4 soon, where those mistranslations continue to be relevant. So I’ll have more opportunities.

Rom 11 was mentioned as an example of ‘conditional salvation’, specifically the verse where Paul warns his readers that unless they persevere they too will be “cut off” like disbelieving Israel. I wanted to talk more about that whole context (naturally), but didn’t really get a good chance to. Maybe just as well; it might go too far too fast.

I did notice the teacher set up a comparison that I wanted to make a point on–but then the point to my comparison was kind of undermined by how he set up the comparison! Which was confusing for a moment.

In one column he had verses he had found in his research on this topic, which seem to indicate conditional salvation. In the other column he presented verses for certainty of salvation. (Most of which he got from 1 John, and the other of which was actually a ditto verse from the other column! More on that in a minute…)

After we had gone through the first column, but before we started the second one, I managed to comment that when scripture talks about conditional salvation it’s focusing on our responsibility; but when it talks about certainty of salvation it’s focusing on God’s responsibility.

But then he started having people read off verses in the second column, at which point he realized he had written down a non-existent verse in 2 Cor – there is no verse 59 for that chapter! He decided he had meant to write a ditto from the first column, where 5b from a chapter (I forget which chapter) was supposed to count both ways. But when it was read again… well, frankly to me it didn’t sound like it was being any more especially certain of salvation than before! (And of course, it was still talking about our responsibility, not God’s.) I got the impression from shifting in the class that they had noticed this, too, but no one said anything.

The other three verses, all from 1 John, turned out to follow suit: they all focused on our responsibility after all, and (not incidentally) they seemed just as conditional as the other group! He tried to make them seem otherwise, but really…

I was rather disappointed, and decided not to press the issue. But I kept wondering: how in the world had he thought those verses better exemplified certainty of salvation??

I decided later, as an educated guess, that he hadn’t really gone outside Arminian authors after all. As I previously noted, a sizeable (I’d say a majority) of Arm teachers and scholars do promote a type of certainty of salvation, but they hinge it on whether a person has ‘really’ made a ‘real’ profession of faith or not. This is quite distinctly different (as they and Calv scholars both agree in principle) from God authoritatively choosing to save someone and then God persistently leading them with infallible success to salvation.

That would explain the puzzling principle similarities between his two columns–after all, the other column could have been read the exact same way, i.e. as God persisting in saving people who ‘really’ made a ‘real’ profession of faith, after they’ve done so. (As his inclusion of the same half-verse in both columns also attested to.) It also gelled with him eventually coming down on Heb 3:6-19 being (ostensibly) directed to and/or about people in the author’s congregation who weren’t really real Christians yet. (Despite the teacher literally crossing off ‘non-believer’ and circling ‘believer’ as a conclusion for who is being addressed, early in his presentation.)

Anyway. Gah, I’ve got to get cracking on work today! (A submittal, a quote and drawing, etc.)


#7

I’ve found this really interesting Jason. It has reminded me of my youth (35 years ago to be precise) when after baptism one was allowed to attend the Thursday evening bible study class - the only difference to your class being, it was essentially a monologue by the elders on the Arminian meaning of whichever book of the NT we were studying (Phillipians stands out in my memory - though to be fair I had never even heard of UR then so wouldn’t have dissented anyway).

That’s not to say that I am finding the subject of your class uninteresting :smiley: just that it sent me into a reverie (cue wavy fade and wierd music).