A couple of days ago I mentioned that I am preaching on Hebrews 6 this week and would blog some of my thoughts on this controversial passage. Well, I'm pulling a John MacArthur here (which is not to compare myself to him) in that the introduction has taken over the message. If you ever listen to MacArthur preach, his introductions (especially for a new series) will take 75% of the message and then he'll get started on the text for the other 25% and finish next week. For this message, the introduction became 100% of the message. And because it is so long I'll just serialize it over serialize parts of my preaching manuscript over several days.
Oh btw - the usual caveat applies - what you will read here was written to be heard, not read, so it will read a little differently than other posts which are written to be read and not heard.
So, here's part 1.
I’ve been a Christian now for about 26 years and have had the chance to read Hebrews 6 many times, I’ve read about it, heard it preached on and studied many times.
Although I have not always been a Presbyterian or Reformed in my theology I have always been in churches that share the Presbyterian and Reformed conviction that a person who is truly saved cannot lose their salvation.
There are others in the Christian world who believe that a person who is genuinely saved can lose their salvation. Thus, in their minds you might be genuinely saved today and if you die today you will end up in heaven. But, it is also possible that through committing some sin, or maybe some pattern of particularly egregious sins you forfeit your salvation and thus if you died while in that sinful state you would not go to heaven. And in that case, the best thing would have been for you to have died sometime back then, back when you were still in a saved state.
Those who believe you can lose your salvation point to this passage as proof. I’m going to suggest that this passage does not provide proof that you can lose your salvation. I think that the Bible teaches clearly that a person who is truly saved cannot lose their salvation and that, if we read this passage with Biblical lenses, then we will see that this passage does not teach that a true believer can lose their salvation.
When I have
heard this passage preached on by those who believe they cannot lose their
salvation most of the focus has been on what it doesn’t mean, rather than on
what it does mean.
People will often read this passage and go to great lengths to show that it doesn’t mean you can lose your salvation, which it doesn’t, and the effect is to make the readers or hearers wipe the sweat from their brows and say “whew, glad that doesn’t apply to me.” When many people read this passage what they want to hear is that they are in no danger of losing their salvation, so that is all they hear. As I mentioned, they focus on what it doesn't say, and never get around to what it does say.
But I have to tell you that this was not the intention of the original writer. When the original writer put this passage in the letter of Hebrews he wanted his readers to be sweating, not wiping the sweat away from their brows and saying “whew, glad that doesn’t apply to me.”
One of the things we don’t talk about as much as we should is the fact that there are many false professions of faith, there are many counterfeit Christians.
It is true that, if you are truly saved, you cannot lose your salvation, but it is equally true that there are many who think they are saved and who aren’t. This writer, whoever he was, was genuinely concerned about the spiritual condition of those to whom he was writing. He feared that this may have been a church full of counterfeit Christians – who professed faith but did not possess faith.
They showed evidences that maybe they didn’t really get the gospel, although they professed that they did. And he was saying “look folks, I really believe the best about you, I really want to believe that you are true believers in Christ, but you are really making me wonder about this.”
This is a warning passage of Scripture. Warning passages are there for the purpose of calling you to stop and re-examine yourself, not just to skip over lightly assuming it doesn’t apply to you.
II Timothy 3:16-17 says:
That includes this passage of Scripture. We dare not read it and go through some kind of mental or exegetical gymnastics which cause us to say “oh, that doesn’t apply to me.” We need to read it with the sense that yes it does apply to me, and to ask how it applies.