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Hebrews: The Supremacy of Jesus Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:34
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5 Don’t say, “Right…” Hebrews: WARNING! Hebrews 6:4-8 Preached at Pathway 7/30/2017 o Warning Signs: Okay I imagine we have all been in an experience where we are driving down the interstate with our cruise set just as happy as clams when we see a flashing sign say, “Left lane ends ahead in 3.0 miles.” And I don’t need true confessions here but some of us immediately get in the right lane and adjust our speed to the speed of traffic. While others of us think, “I have 3 miles still, let’s pass all these slow pokes.” Then we get down in front of a couple semi’s and we see “Left lane ends in 1.0 mile, merge now” to which some of us are already in the correct lane griping about all the people speeding by in the left lane and others of us think, “Just one more semi to pass.” Then comes quickly the merging cones, maybe you could get around that for a moment but then comes the concrete dividers, this is clearly the point of no return. Such a scene is what is happening in the book of Hebrews, the original hearers are being warned of impeding danger with increasing intensity from “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away,” in Heb 2:1; to “take care lest there be in any of you and evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” in 3:12. Even last week, o Quick Recap: If you recall in our back porch service last week we discussed Heb 5:11-6:3 where the anonymous writer of Hebrews warned or even shamed the church he was writing to about spiritual lethargy or dullness. He is deeply concerned throughout this letter with the perseverance in the faith of the Hebrew church. We don’t know all the details but clearly some folks in the church are being tempted or lured into returning to the Jewish Law as a means of salvation. His shaming for their lack of gospel maturity reaches a fever pitch in today’s verses! It is almost scary for me when I am preparing for a sermon and all the academic juggernauts that I am reading and leaning on to provide clarity on hard passages are saying, “This is one of the hardest passages in the Bible.” So I hope you are prepared today! o Main Point: Do not turn away from Christ and the saving benefits of the gospel, because there is a type of turning that cannot be restored to repentance. o Outline: So the outline is 4 parts today: 1st I will give a quick summary of the 4 primary interpretations of this passage, 2nd we will examine who is being described, 3rd we will examine what is being described, and 4th we will end with some biblical-theological conclusions. Read Hebrews 6:4-12 & Pray 1. Four Primary Views a. Arminian: The Arminian view of this passage is quite simply that the person being described is a Christian and that they lose their salvation or fall away. Where the Arminian view struggles with this passage is that they tend to believe salvation can come and go, come and go whereas this passage seems to describe a permanent loss of salvation. Because of clear teachings in the rest of Scripture I reject this view. Scriptures like John 6:39 where Jesus says, “this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (cf Eph 1:3-14, Rom 8:29-30, 1 Pet 1:4-5) b. Loss of Rewards/Free Grace (Zane Hodges): This is simply put the idea that a person can have cheap grace. They can ask God to save them and then not submit to him as LORD of their life in way. In other words you can live however you want, and still be fine you just lose heavenly rewards. Because of clear teachings in the rest of Scripture and poor interpretation even of this text I reject this view. Scriptures such as Mt 25:31-46 where it is clear that those who did not live a life of service to the LORD will be rejected at the final judgment, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared fro the devil and his angels.” c. Tests of Genuineness: The third view I will mention is what most Christians that hold to a salvation that cannot be taken away hold to. The basic premise is that those who fall away were never genuinely saved in the first place. d. Means of Grace: The final view is a bit more nuanced holding to the idea that Genuine Christians are encouraged to not fall away by the means of such warning passages that speak in hypothetical terms about the loss of salvation. So most all Christians that hold to a generally reformed understanding of the perseverance of the saints, like we do here at Pathway hold to one of these final two views of the warning passages. So with a basic understanding of the views in place lets look at what the text says, 2. Who is being described? (4-5) 5 descriptions given a. Descriptor #1: “who have once been enlightened” (4a) The first descriptor the author of Hebrews uses is someone who “once” was “enlightened”. So there is a time indicator in that this enlightening happened at some point in the past, which seems to be a reference to some kind of experience. The word translated “enlighten” can mean to “light up” as in a room. Or to “illumine” as in the idea of telling someone something they were previous dark about. It is used in similar ways in Eph 1:18, and 3:9 to mean come to an understanding of gospel truth. According to the genuine truth view the word enlightened does not require that they were enlightened to the point of conversion. The argument is that you can be exposed to truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ without being converted. Of course that is true. According to the means of grace view the plain meaning of this word in context is an event that occurred in the life of the person where light was shone in their life and they became illumined which sounds a lot like conversion. In fact post NT usage of this work became near synonymous with conversion in Christian writings. b. Descriptor #2: “who have tasted the heavenly gift” (4b) The second descriptor is of tasting “the heavenly gift”. So what is the gift that comes from heaven? Further what does it mean to taste it? Well the gift from heaven is something God has given which could be Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or salvation. It seems since a specific gift is in mind that the writer it not talking about the blessings God gives to all people. Probably in some way salvation or the gospel is being described. So what does it mean to “taste” of the gospel. Three of the descriptors are effected by the word “taste”, those in the test of genuineness camp describe “taste” as sampling something before you partake of it fully. Which is a possible understanding of the text, but the means of grace camp would point to Hebrews 2:9 the only other use of the word in the book where Jesus is said to “taste death for everyone.” Clearly the author does not have in mind a simple sampling there, but a fullness of experience. c. Descriptor #3: “and have shared in the Holy Spirit” (4c) The third descriptor is probably the most difficult one for the test of genuineness view. Because in the NT, sharing in the Holy Spirit is a sign of God’s work in a person. Though people can clearly appear to have Spirit and not have the Spirit in them, however that does not seem to be what the writer of Hebrews has in mind here. d. Descriptor #4: “have tasted the goodness of the word of God” (5a) Not only have they tasted the heavenly gift but they “have tasted the goodness of the word of God.” To which the test of genuineness camp would say all kinds of people have experienced some of the benefits of living according to God’s Word for a season, but that does not mean they have made the Word of God their singular guide. They have just tasted them. e. Descriptor #5: “tasted…the powers of the age to come” (5b) The word tasted in v. modifies both of the descriptors in that verse. So not only have they tasted for the Word but they have tasted of “the power of the age to come.” Clearly this is a reference to the coming kingdom of God or the new creation. But again the test of genuineness view would press the idea of tasting something without fully experiencing it. Of course this specific one would be hard to distinguish how that experience could be much different for a true versus false convert. Maybe experiencing as a true son and heir? f. Conclusions: Generally speaking systematic theologians tend to press this passage toward the test of genuineness view, where New Testament studies guys tend to be more prepared to hold the words in tension because the overwhelming view is that is speaking of true Christians. Which is why three of the four primary views hold to that position. Nevertheless reasonable arguments can be made to make this passage fit with the test of genuineness position. The best of these is a 75-page essay by Wayne Grudem that I can send you a link to if you are interested. I have wavered back and forth on this for years, but I tend to agree with Tom Schreiner that the writer is describing a true believer and that the warnings are a means God uses to preserve his genuine followers. So now with an understanding of the 4 views and the 5 descriptors describing I believe a true Christian, now 3. What is being described? (4-8) a. A Dire Warning: If we read the sentence now with our understanding of the previous descriptors in place then add the final descriptor here is how it reads. “It is impossible for a genuine follower of Christ who has fallen away to be restored again to repentance, because they would be crucifying Jesus again and holding him contempt.” b. Impossible (4) The word impossible does not mean mostly impossible it really means impossible, just like down in 6:18 when we are told it “is impossible for God to lie.” c. So what does Falling away mean? (6) Let us be fundamentally clear here, this is not simply a season of backsliding. Nor is it doubting our salvation or the reality of God. This falling away is a picture of someone who knows all the superior benefits of following Jesus Christ. And with a hardened heart and demeanor says, “I don’t care, I reject the blood of Jesus shed for me. I want another God.” This does not even mean someone who in a moment of passion says something like that and then turns back to the LORD. The idea here is someone who turns away from Christ and never turns back. In other words when a person is no longer repentant for their sins. Now according to the test of genuineness view which I will admit is theologically easier this person was never saved and simply participated tangentially in the benefits of the covenant community without ever be converted. In the view I hold this verse and others like it are the very means by which God preserves the true believers. The best metaphor I can give you is another one in regards to salvation. Some people would argue that because we believe God must sovereignly give us new hearts before we can repent and believe that our repentance and belief are not genuine or real because they are a result of God’s work. I would argue they are the means God uses to save us and are necessary. Just like I would argue Christians hearing and rightly responding to the warning passages are means that God uses to preserve us to the end. d. The land that bears fruit receives blessing (7-8) So the writer uses an illustration from agriculture that is similar to Jesus’ parable of the soils in Mt 13. The point is rather simple the land that bears fruit will enter into the blessing of the LORD while the unfruitful land will be cursed by God. Try to pull some things together, 4. Biblical Theological Implications/Applications a. All of this is written in the context of a pastor exhorting a people he loves to cling to Christ, because he senses them drifting. b. The writer of Hebrews does not believe the church has fallen away as we will see in our very next passage and the general tenor of the letter. c. Regardless of your view of how to understand the warning passage, this is a Dire Warning for you to cling to Christ alone for salvation! There is only hope in the fact that Jesus died in your place, you must repent and trust in him alone! d. The New Testament is very clear that all whom have placed faith in Jesus will persevere until the end, because our salvation is based on the eternal election of God, the complete sacrifice of Jesus, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit. (1 Pet 1:3-5, John 6, Romans 8, Eph 1) e. Therefore no genuine believer in Christ will ever fall away. f. That does not mean believers can live flippantly toward the things of God and presume upon his grace. Unrepentant and hardened sin toward God is an indication that something is wrong in your relationship. g. You cannot be finally fallen if you desire to repent of your sin. That is exactly what the Lord’s Table is each week. A time for us to check our hearts and repent of sins we have committed while we trust afresh in the saving work of Jesus Christ! Lord’s Supper Celebration (1 Pe 1:3–5) "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, "to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, "who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Benediction (Rom 8:31-32)
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