Hebrews 6 Part 2: Holding on

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The next section of Hebrew 6 seems quite harsh and is not easy to understand

For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again?  They were once in Gods light; they tasted heavens gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit.; they knew from experience that God’s word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age.  And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing him to public shame. (v4 -6)

Just as we saw a few days ago the Israelites failed to receive the promised land because they turned away from God, so this too is a warning not to turn away and miss out on the promise of our salvation.

Having read a little more about this, some commentaries say that it is referring to people who probably were not really “saved” in the first place.  After all many have the view that “Once saved, always saved”.  But reading this again  it is quite clear that these people must have been born again as it talks about them experiencing the Holy Spirit and God’s word but then abandoning the faith.

This is interpreted in two phases, phase one is drifting away (we always called it “backsliding”) often this is not intentional.  Circumstances change, people hurt us or family/job responsibilities begin to distract us or there is a lack of sound teaching and nurturing and we are not equipped or helped to deal with these changes and challenges.  These people are to be encouraged to get back on track and keep pressing forward.  We are learning through Hebrews that our salvation is not just dependent on being born again at a certain point of time and that being it, but that is the start of the journey.  We have to press on and get to the finish line.

I’m reminded of the story told by Corrie Ten Boon about when her father talked with her about her ticket for a train journey.  The ticket was likened to being born again.  She was given the ticket just before the start of the journey and carried that ticket, but she then had to get on the train to reach the final destination.  Sometimes this was bumpy, sometimes they would need to change if the train wasn’t going to the correct destination, sometimes the train would have to stop and wait or go through a long dark tunnel, but she had to continue with the journey.  We don’t receive our full salvation until we actually arrive at the end of our journey of faith.  If she had thrown the ticket away or out of the window, decided to get off part way and not get on again or get on the wrong train, she would not have reached her destination.

So is it possible to actually lose our salvation once we have received it? is there a line which must not be crossed from which there is no way back? – the writer seems to think that there is.   1 John 5 v 16 & 17 refers to sin which leads to death which again seems to imply this is possible but this must be pretty extreme. The message in Revelation is of the promise to all who overcome; chapter 3 v 5 talks about names being blotted from the book of life.  If we make a deliberate choice to turn away from God and deny him the way back is very difficult and although I believe that God is loving and forgiving the journey back would not be easy.  The people of Israel were not allowed to enter the promised land, even though they had seen it and tasted of it, they failed to follow through and died in the wilderness.  I’m sure that if they had repented things may have been different, but they didn’t, they continued to be disobedient and unbelieving.

The Hebrews who this letter was written to were believed to be predominantly Jewish Christians.  By the time this letter was written, Christians were being persecuted in Rome, but the Jews apparently were not.  Some it seems were going back to the synagogues because life was too tough as a Christian with their homes being destroyed and they were being put in prison.  By going back to the Synagogues, they were made to deny that Jesus was the Messiah so in that way they were “Crucifying” Him again and rejecting what he had done for them.  How could there be a way back after that? Only with a lot of suffering I would imagine if they were able to find their way back at all.

So we are implored to keep on working, to not be lazy about nurturing our faith and continuing on the journey.  We must look out for others and help prevent them from drifting away.  1 Peter 1 v 10 implores us to make God’s choosing of us a permanent experience and therefore never abandoning the faith.

Another example I read in David Pawson’s “Unlocking the Bible” was of a drowning person being thrown a rope and being pulled back to shore.  The person who threw then the rope (ie Jesus) is the person who saved them, but they had to hold on until they reached the shore.   They did not save them self, they were saved by someone else but they needed to participate in being saved by reaching out and holding on to the rope until they reached the safety of the shore.  They had to do their part, if they let go of the rope before they reached safety then they would drown.  If we let go of Jesus, we risk being overwhelmed by the things of this world.

There follows a short parable about the land drinking in the rain which is similar to Jesus’ parable of good seed falling on good or poor soil.  It shows that the soil which is cultivated and cared for produces good and useful plants but the soil that is neglected just grows weeds and is worthless and in danger of being destroyed. Some of the believers were failing to follow through and grow in the same way that the Israelites professed faith in God but their actions displayed a lack of belief.  We must therefore cultivate our faith and relationship with God so that we grow and produce good fruit.

The writer then continues to encourage the reader to continue in faith, being confident of their salvation as they were demonstrating through good works as an expression of their love for him.

Again we are encouraged to not be lazy but follow the example of those like Joshua and Abraham who were rewarded for their faith and hard work by receiving the promised inheritance even though they had to wait many years they never stopped believing.

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives.  It is safe and sure, and goes through the curtain of the heavenly temple into the inner sanctuary.  On our behalf Jesus has gone in there before us, and has become a high priest for ever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek (v 19-20)

Quotes from the Good News Bible

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