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?
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.
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.