My friend Paul at university.
What do we make of that? Friends who belong to church, serve in remarkable way, can speak of great Christian experiences. Maybe they’ve even themselves taught the gospel to others. They’ve been involved in ministry and have spoken personally of God’s goodness. Maybe they’ve even helped you in Christian life and been a real example to you – and NOW, they are nowhere spiritually. They don’t call themselves Christians anymore. They feel like they’ve out-grown it. They’ve consigned it to the past.
What do we make of that? What about Christians who fall away?
Well it seems to me there can only really be two answers.
EITHER they weren’t really and truly and genuinely Christians. They called themselves Christians, they went to church, they had experiences, they were involved in things but they weren’t actually converted. And you might think that because – You cannot lose salvation can. Jesus says it in John chapter 10, verse 27:
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. If you actually belong to Christ then Jesus takes responsibility for you, forgives all your sins and takes you to glory no matter what.
On the other hand you might think this and i’ve heard this taught: That such people who fall away were really and truly and genuinely Christians. Hebrews 5 seems to warn that this is possible. They sinned once too often or they backslid in such an outrageous way that, though they once were in Christ’s hands nonetheless they managed to break themselves away from Christ and lose their salvation.
Now, It’s a big issue isn’t it? But i want to say this up front. There are too many texts in Scripture that assure us that if you are a Christian you cannot fall away that this text here in front of us cannot mean that. If someone is a christian they won’t fall away ultimately. They might wander for a bit but they’ll come back. If they do fall away ultimately it doesn’t prove that ‘you can lose your salvation’. It proves that they weren’t really saved.
it’s so important to get this. Because it can do tremendous damage if you think Jesus has done the first bit of saving you – and now it’s up to YOU. Good luck! Hope you don’t blow it. See you at the pearly gates. Maybe.
No - a christian will not fall away - jesus has a hold on you.
So what is this passage saying. To all of us, as Hebrews it’s saying ‘keep going’ for some of us it might be saying ‘get going’ ‘get started’!
in verses 11-14 the writer is addressing some Christians, and they’re a bit slow on the uptake, a bit immature, not really ready for rich and meaty teaching. As I read this – notice how many times it says “you”
v11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
So that’s the Hebrew Christians. And the writer keeps saying “I know what YOU are like, YOU are like this, YOU are baby Christians. it’s frustrating that you’re still baby Christians, but at least you are baby Christians. You have the foundations. And from chapter 6, the writer will speak of the foundations of their Christian faith that they’ve already got. Chapter 6, verse 1:
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
So that was the foundation course that was run for these Christians.
Week 1 – repentance. Week 2 – faith. Week 3 – baptism Week 4 – laying on of hands - commissioning leaders in the new church Week 5 – the resurrection of the dead, Week 6 – eternal judgement. 1st C Alpha course.
Those are the foundations. And the writer is confident that the Christians he’s writing to, have them. He just wishes they’d grow up and mature fon those foundations.
But then from verse 4 he speaks about another group of people. He doesn’t use the word “YOU” again until v9. Instead, in verses 4-8 he starts talking about “THOSE who have once been enlightened.” Verse 6 “if THEY fall away.” And when he gets to verse 9 he makes it clear that verses 4-8 are not about “YOU”, they’re about THEM
9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in YOUR case–things that accompany salvation.
So clearly the things of verses 4-8 do not accompany salvation. And so what we read in verses 4-8 are the non-saving experiences of THOSE who share in church and share in Christian things, but they don’t share in CHRIST.
And in verses 4 and 5 we read about some extraordinary experiences those people have had. They have:
4 … once been enlightened, … have tasted the heavenly gift, …have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 … have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,
These are incredible experiences. They are not foundations. But they are impressive experiences. Think about the situation. Here is a new church that’s gotten off the ground. There’s been a lot of excitement, a lot of spiritual buzz going around the place. And there are those people who will have got caught up in the experiences without ever laying the foundations.
We know from chapter 2v3 that this church was started by the Apostles themselves. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, their message was accompanied by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.
This is typical even today of a frontier mission situation. When the gospel first comes to a place you’ll often find this massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit in miracles and healings. As this church got off the ground, there was a lot of Holy Spirit splashing around – if I can be that irreverent. a lot of experiences. And inevitably a lot of people caught up in them. True Christians who then laid the foundations of actual repentance and faith etc. But also others who just had the experiences.
what were they chapter 6verse 4: Enlightenment. The spiritual lights switch on in a dramatic way. ‘tasting the heavenly gift’, ’sharing in Holy Spirit - his peace and miraculous gifts. these people, Verse 5, taste the goodness of the word of God. And the powers of the coming age.
But the point is, it’s possible to have all these experiences but not have the foundations. It’s possible to share in church in a profound way, but not to share in Christ.
And if such people invest in the experience but have none of the reality then they will have ultimately fruitless Christian lives.
That’s what verses 7-8 are all about:
7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
These people were living under a shower of God’s blessings, day after day, but they didn’t have the reality. And while-ever they lacked the reality they weren’t just staying neutral, they are actually producing thorns and thistles. They’re actually moving further away from God. Because to live under the blessings of God in his church but not to actually give your heart to Jesus isdangerous. It hardens you. And the chilling fact of verse 4 is that if you carry on and carry on and carry on taking the gifts but rejecting the giver, there comes a point of no return, no going back. You wander from Jesus and you say ‘i’ve done that.. doesn’t work, i’m not gonna give that a go again.’
So what about those who fall away? These very verses are the best argument anyone’s got for saying you can lose your salvation. And these verses ain’t saying that. Those who fall away were not truly converted in the first place. You can’t lose your salvation.
If you could, then you’d likely spend all your time worried about yourself wouldn’t you?
I might sin too much in the future, I might make a hash of the Christian life, I might drift away and I will lose my salvation. You’d think, ‘Jesus has laid hold of me, but I’ve got to make sure I’m good or else I can undo everything Jesus has done.’ But I mean, it’s absurd isn’t it, to think that little old me can undo the mighty salvation of Jesus? but if I entertain that thought I’m going to get so anxious, I’m going to stop looking to Jesus and start looking to my own performance and make sure I’m good enough to finish what Christ began.
Will i sin and fall away? that will be my constant question.
But if we get our thinking straight we will still have to face the warnings of this passage. But these warnings will make us ask a different question: Not ‘will i sin?’ but “Am I Christ’s?”
Do I, RIGHT NOW, belong to Jesus? If I do, I’m eternally secure. But do I belong to Jesus? Not just, have I had good experiences or Christian affiliations in the past. RIGHT NOW, do I belong to Jesus? Am I Christ’s? It would be dreadful to share in church and not share in Christ, so do I share in Christ? That’s our question.
In John 10, in the passage where Jesus says “No-one can snatch you out of my hand”, He says “I am the Good Shepherd… I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Do you have a relationship of knowing with Jesus? You know Him, He knows you.
Don’t worry about whether you’ll sin or not. You’ll sin alright. Ask yourself, Am I Christ’s?
And the way you’ll get an answer will not be by staring at your belly-button waiting for a good feeling.
Instead Verse 10, keep working and loving, helping God’s people. Verse 11 there’s an assurance that comes from persevering in cheerful, loving Christian service. But v13 is the major way of answering the question Am I Christ’s? LOOK to God’s promise. LOOK to God’s promise and you’ll know.
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. 16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.
Just briefly let me explain that. God promises you eternal life. You ask, How do I know He’ll come through? Answer: Because He has sworn by Himself. We do stupid things like “Swear on our grandmother’s grave” because we think of something so holy, we wouldn’t dare lie if we swore on grannies grave. Well there’s nothing more holy than God. So He swears by Himself, because He’s the ultimate. And when you’re dealing with an Ultimate Thing then when you look to it you KNOW it’s true.
Just like.. You know that the
The Sun is bright
Honey is sweet.
So God is trustworthy and will do what He’s promised. Look to His promise and and you’ll see not only the THING promised but also the TRUSTWORTHINESS of that promise.
How? verses 19 and 20 show us that God not only promises eternal life, he makes good the promise. God the Father sends God the Son to be our Priest and to bring us back to Himself. He not only promises our eternal life – He goes out and achieves it for us.
19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
God the Son became God our Brother. And as our Brother He became our Priest.
Tempted in EVERY way yet without sin. The perfect sacrifice. He rose from death, to sit down at God’s right hand. He bears you on His heart.
Keep looking to Him who is the embodiment of the promise. see HOW gracious He is. HOW loving He is. How He has gone to the very depths of the cross to win you. And as you look to Jesus you start to see Him, not just as THE Priest. But as Your Priest. He’s gone into the presence of God. He is the Anchor and you are tied to Him. You are His and He is yours. And ifyou belong to Jesus then NOTHING can go wrong with your salvation!
simply look to Jesus and you see everything you need to see about your salvation. It’s taken care of. If you look to yourself, if you look to other religious practices, if you look to your own abilities to get to God you are cut loose from the Anchor. Look to Jesus – He not only PROMISES your standing before God, He IS your standing before God. Look to Him and you’ll find assurance. Look to Him and you’ll find that fruitfulness in Christian living growing organically.
Before the throne of God above, I have a strong, a perfect plea. A great High Priest whose name is love, Who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is written on His hands, My name is hidden in His heart. I know that while in heaven He stands, no power can force me to depart.