We are working on the very sobering subject of apostasy these last couple of episodes. This is a good time to be dealing with this, because in the ST episodes we are currently talking about the doctrine of sin and salvation.
The subject is not pleasant, but it is necessary. We would ask you to take a moment to perhaps write us a short note on if this has been of help, and in what way. Or, what is still a point of struggle or question for you. Do not assume someone else will do it because frankly it doesn’t happen.
We want to get into some key bible passages over the next couple of episodes that have been the source of much angst and worry of so many Christians. These passages are found in the book of Hebrews. They are scary to read and if you are honest with yourself likely they are passages that made you stop and think.
Background to the book of Hebrews is critical to understanding these passages, so we need to spend some time on it.
A unique book that leans heavily upon the Old Testament throughout it. It assumes you know about the entire Levitical system of priesthood, temple, and sacrifice.
The author is unknown, and no amount of insisting will change that fact.
Who the primary recipients are, is a debated subject, but it is also the most important issue to take a stand upon. The author does not overtly tell us who is in view in this book. However the content makes this rather obvious.
However, there is much evidence that it was a treatise (more than a letter) written to Jewish believers.
It is filled with references and allusions to the Old Testament system. The whole foundation upon which chapter 6 is based, implies that they were Jews who had been part of the “washings, etc.” The same with chapter 9:15, where there is a discussion of the Old Covenant.
The author makes a strong point that the Old Covenant is passing away, but that would be pointless discussion if his readers would not be predisposed to want to still be living under it.
The purpose of the book is two-fold. These two points are woven together and need to be remembered together:
The first is the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things, especially those connected to the old covenant.
The second is to exhort and warn the people to not go back to the old ways but to remain faithful to the end in their faith toward Jesus. To say it simply, Do not fall away! Christ is more than sufficient.
Keeping these two points in mind we can now talk about a unique point made in this book---the warning passages.
The warning passages (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:26-31; 12:25-29).
Five of them in total. They are spread throughout the book, so they fall like hammer blows on those who read them.
This gets into some very complex points of biblical theology. It is why these passages trouble people so much, because they are not taught and grounded in sound theology.
- The perseverance of the saints.
- Anthropology and the nature of man’s will.
- The nature of saving faith.
- The entire doctrine of salvation.
- Christology, &c.
If you are going to talk about apostasy there is no way to do it properly without dealing with these passages, and so we will. We hope these will help you all to be all the more convinced of the utter sufficiency Jesus to bring you safely into His presence, AND to stir you up to press onward in your walk of faith.
One point needs to be made here, is that these passages are dense with theology. They can’t just be vaguely referenced to be understood, nor can we give a quick and simple statement about what is meant.
To do that would mean that we just want you to simply trust us that we did our work on the text.
Far too many teachers do that, and it is not helpful to the health of the church. So we are going to work hard with you in these passages.
Having said that, understand that there is still so much more that could be drawn out from the texts, than what we will do in these episodes.
If at all possible, listen to these when you can have your bible open. These are not commuting podcasts. These are “sitting in a straight-backed chair while wide awake and with a pencil in my hand and paper on the table" kind of podcasts.
So with those points in mind, let’s start…..
The Scary Passages
Hebrews 2:1-4 is the first warning in this important book and it sort of prepares us for the harder ones to come.
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."
The “for” in vs 1 tells us that it is connected to what just was written. To summarize chapter 1 would go something like this: “The Son is the better revelation and is higher than the angels.”
With that in mind then the point in vs 1 is that if that is true then we better listen to Him! But why? The “so that” tells us, so we don’t drift away. From what? From what they just heard which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is a key principle that we see played out time and time again.
People who make a strong declaration of faith. Their lives appear to be unique and different. But they do not keep the gospel and its promises central.
When this happens, they begin to drift (there is no such thing as ‘coasting’).
Why is it so bad to drift away?
(Vs 2) God did not wink at the breaking of the Law. Ultimately the whole of Israel’s history proved that out. Even at the writing of this letter they were still in captivity, under God’s judgment. The promise in the Law was very clear, obey and you will be blessed, disobey and you will be cursed.
It is here that he makes an argument from the lesser to the greater.
If angels’, who are lesser than the Son, gave words that were unbreakable. How much greater are the words of the Son?
The angels mediated the Old Covenant. The Son is the mediator of the New Covenant—something the author is going to remind them of later on in the letter.
This was spoken first through the Lord, then those who heard it, then spoke it to the author of Hebrews, and then the author of the Hebrews to his recipients.
So the fact that the apostles went forth with that message and had the signs/wonders/miracles along with it, was, then, further attestation that God was validating the message.
Why does he bring up the miracles and such? [Remember, Moses confirmed that he was from God… and how?... through miracles.]
Here is the point, it is one thing to embrace/believe/hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is another thing to remember it.
The act of believing is not a punctiliar act, but an ongoing act.
This is key to understanding the New Testament, salvation, and faith.
No, we are not saying you can lose your salvation, but we are saying that what it means to be truly saved is much more than merely saying you believe and even looking like you believe.
So, our question to you who listen is simple. Do you set your mind to hear the truth of the greatness of the gospel? And when hearing do you rest in what is said? Are you drifting away because your heart is distracted by other things?
"Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, 8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS'; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.'" Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME." For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief."
Quotes Psalm 95, which is a song of the failure of Israel in the Exodus.
It’s referring to the end of a 40 year wandering, where they were witnessing the work of God (3:9