Friday, July 6, 2012

If We Sin Wilfully

The Book of Hebrews was written specifically to warn Christians against apostasy.  The writer does this by showing Christ’s superiority over all other person's, events, or “isms”.  

The message of the book is abundantly clear, and yet Bible scholars who insist on unconditional eternal security argue away the straightforward message of the book.  The Book of Hebrews is a treatise, its main purpose is to argue against the doctrine of unconditional eternal security.  In this book, there are many warnings against apostasy.  In fact, Hebrews has so much to say about it that it would be impossible to use all of the arguments in what is to be a decent sized post. 

To believe Wuest's following paragraph is to deny the truth presented by the Scriptures.  The Epistle to the Hebrews is unique among the New Testament books in that the entire book is concerned with a situation that obtained in the first century, which does not exist today.…the application of this basic interpretation, must apply only to the first century conditions in this case there can be no secondary application for today.

In opposition to this opinion, Jerome Smith writes the following.  To suggest, as many contemporary expositors do, that the warnings against apostasy in the book of Hebrews were addressed only to Jewish Christians who were in danger of forsaking Christianity and falling back into Judaism, and therefore cannot apply to believers today, is at best a shaky assumption, and at worst is taking away from the Word of God by wrongly rendering its warnings inapplicable to present day believers.

In this respect, it can also be pointed out that the canon of Scriptures was not decided on until the fourth century.  Why would the Church fathers have included the letter to the Hebrews, in the canon, if it were intended for first century Christians only?! 

Another suggestion that many contemporary expositors make is that the people written to were associates of the Christians, but that they had never been born again.  Therefore, the warnings against apostasy are to non-believers only.  If the book is read carefully, and without forcing one’s own theological viewpoints into the words given, that theory is easily shown to be false!

It is agreed that the Book of Hebrews has much to say about apostasy.  What is not agreed on, is, were the recipients Christians or non-Christians.  If that question were answered, the whole issue of unconditional eternal security could finally be put to a permanent rest.  

If one reads the Book of Hebrews, without making it say all kinds of things, that are not written there, it becomes obvious that the book of Hebrews was written to a mixture of young and mature Christians.  Obviously, then the debate should be settled in favour of and not in favour of unconditional eternal security. However, not every Bible student is willing to let the Bible speak for itself if what the Bible says does not agree with his or her theories.

Matthew Henry’s stance on the book of Hebrews is this: The design of this epistle was to persuade and press the believing Hebrews to a constant adherence to the Christian faith, and perseverance in it.

Let us look at a few verses in Hebrews to try to show that the readers, to whom this book was written, were actually Christians, not just professed Christians.  If it can be shown that they were real Christians, then the theory of unconditional eternal security has no validity in the book of Hebrews, or indeed, in the Bible’s teachings.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. 3:1 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. 3:1 NRSV 

It is obvious that the writer thought of his readers as being his brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, the argument is made that he meant fellow Jews and not born again believers.  It is difficult to maintain the argument that he meant brothers in the flesh, (Jews) for the writer knew that the Israelites, as a nation were not holy.  Also by using the words, our high priest, he confines the statement to born again believers.

Mr Smith denounces the theory that Christians cannot “fall away”.  He writes, The Scripture frequently warns against the possibility of apostasy as a very real danger. Logically, only real believers can apostatize, unbelievers cannot. These warnings in Hebrews must not be explained away as applicable only to Hebrew Christians who were at that time in danger of falling back into Judaism, if only because the same warnings are given with equal urgency to the Gentile Christians to whom Paul wrote in his several epistles.

For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins: But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. Heb 10:26-27 

How much more blatant could the writer have been? He pointedly says if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth we have no more hope for another sacrifice for sins!

But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 10:39 

About this verse, Wuest writes, The Word of God is very clear in its statements to the effect that a person once saved can never be lost. Therefore, this person who draws back to perdition must be an unsaved person. 

Perhaps, if he had read the verse immediately preceding this one he would have realised his error.  In the Greek text, it flows like this, but the just man of me by faith will live, and if he withdraws, is not well pleased the soul of me in him.  But we are not of withdrawal to destruction.   In the NIV that same verse reads like this, But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him, But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed. The writer of the book says nothing about pretending to follow Christ.  Obviously, according to these words, those who have lived by faith can be destroyed if they shrink back.

It seems, therefore, that there really are no valid arguments in the Scriptures that substantiate the theory of unconditional eternal security.  Mr Thiessen, in his book of theology, devotes 7 pages to the topic of ‘perseverance’.  Perseverance is another way of saying eternal security.  In those seven pages, he makes only scant reference to those verses that contradict his theory with words such as, if and but.  He would rather just ignore those Scripture verses that do not suit his taste. 

Let Mr Jerome Smith close the topic.  We need to exercise care in formulating our doctrinal systems that we do not wrest Scripture by arbitrarily denying even the possibility of what so many texts repeatedly warn against.