Warning Passages Ahead

The Book of Hebrews daunts even the most gifted preachers and scholars. For one thing, we don’t know the author. He quotes the Old Testament at length and repeatedly, but his method of interpreting these passages doesn’t always make sense to readers. His arguments about angels, Moses, and the temple require more than cursory understanding of the Hebrew Bible.

And then there are the s0-called warning passages. It might be hard at first to grasp the significance of the priest Melchizedek, but many Christians viscerally understand the practical importance of these warnings. Can I lose my faith? What if I doubt? Fail to overcome sin?

To answer these questions and more, I turned to the acclaimed scholar Peter O’Brien, professor emeritus at Moore College in Sydney, Australia. Many who have studied Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians have benefited from his rich, insightful, and faithful commentaries. He has also written an immensely helpful commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews. He draws on some of that study to help us understand the famous warning passages in their immediate and canonical context.

Some Reformed teachers find it hard to teach the five warning passages of Hebrews (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). How do we reconcile our theology with what appears to many to be the plain meaning of these passages, that believers can lose their faith?

The warnings of Hebrews have presented many challenges to believers throughout Christian history. And the misapplication of them has caused pastoral problems for Christians of all traditions, including the Reformed.

These warnings have troubled earnest Christians by raising doubts about their assurance of salvation, an assurance that is so clearly affirmed, for example, in Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 8:18-39, and in Jesus’s promises for his disciples in John 6:39-40, 44 and John 10:25-30.

Even within Hebrews itself there are powerful words of encouragement and assurance based on God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises to his people (Heb. 2:10; 6:10-20), and so because of the finality of Christ’s sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28; 10:14-18), and his permanent high priesthood by which Jesus is able to save his people completely and eternally since he always lives to intercede for them (7:25; cf. 9:24).

Does Hebrews show us how we might resolve our theological and pastoral difficulties?

A key to addressing the tension between the severe warnings and the seemingly contradictory promises and words of encouragement lies, first, in recognizing the distinction Hebrews makes between “a kind of transitory faith, a form of conversion which, like the seed sown on rocky places [in the parable of the soils, Mark 4], has all the signs of life, but which does not persevere.” [1] Such faith is spurious; by contrast, genuine faith is tied to perseverance.

The conditional sentences of Hebrews 3:6 and 14 fit an evidence-inference category, in which “the observation of a piece of evidence leads the observer to infer a certain logical conclusion.” [2]

We are his [God’s] house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory (Heb. 3:6).

We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold firmly till the end our original conviction (Heb. 3:14).

Accordingly, the author maintains that the listeners’ continuance in faith to the end will demonstrate that they are members of God’s household, not that they will become this in the future (v. 6). Similarly, holding on to their confidence will reveal the reality that they already share in Christ, not simply that they will share in him on the final day (v. 14).

The listeners’ perseverance is the evidence of what has taken place in the past and is an essential ingredient of what it means to be a Christian, a partaker of Christ. So Hebrews “virtually defines true believers as those who hold firmly to the end the confidence they had at first.” [3]

This distinction between genuine and spurious faith is clearly evident elsewhere in Hebrews. This indicates that the author’s “word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22) is addressed to a mixed audience: there are two kinds of soil with dramatically different responses to the frequent showers of God’s blessings (Heb. 6:7-8), two kinds of hearts (Heb. 3:12; Heb. 10:22), and a distinction made between “we” who “have faith and are saved,” and “the one” who belongs “to those who shrink back and are destroyed” (Heb. 10:38-39). Also the author has concerns for certain individuals within the community who may be in particular danger of apostasy (“any one,” “someone”: Heb. 3:12, 13; Heb. 4:1, 11; Heb. 6:11-12; Heb. 10:24, 25, 28; Heb. 12:15-16).

Hebrews is not alone in describing true believers as those who hold their confidence firmly to the end. In other New Testament documents there are warnings against or descriptions of spurious faith (Matt. 7:21-23; John 2:23-25; Col. 1:22-23; 1 John 2:19; cf. 2 Pet. 1:10-11). Our Lord’s parable of the sower (or the soils) makes a similar point (Mark 4:1-29 and parallels). The initial growth of the seed scattered on the rocky ground and among the thorns appears to all observers, except God himself, to promise the best harvest. But it does not bear fruit. It has the signs of life but does not persevere. This spiritual life proves transitory (Carson 2000: 266).

So how does Hebrews address the audience with its warnings and encouragements?

In view of Hebrews’s distinction between true and spurious faith, and its definition of genuine believers as those who hold fast their confession of Jesus Christ to the end, we consider that the images describing the audience in the warnings point to an initial work of grace in the lives of the congregation members.

The author knew that the audience had been exposed to the preaching of the gospel and that God had done a mighty work within the congregation (Heb. 2:1-4). It is evident that some had been truly converted and had genuinely appropriated Christ’s saving work for themselves. How many and who they all were, the author does not know exactly. But he addresses the whole congregation on the basis of what he has observed, and urges them to hold firmly to their confession of faith in Christ, their Christian hope without wavering, and their confidence in God (Heb. 3:6, 14; Heb. 4:14; Heb. 6:18; Heb. 10:23).

Significantly, however, even when the author refers to those who commit apostasy he uses the third person plural rather than the second (e.g., “those who have once been enlightened . . . and who have fallen away,” Heb. 6:4-6), and does not explicitly identify them with his listeners. Though some are apparently in great danger he does not assert that they have committed apostasy. The warnings, like the divine promises, are intended to prevent this from happening.

The descriptions of the audience in vv. 4-5 (“those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age”) point to an initial experience of the gospel. The vivid agricultural imagery of Hebrews 6:7-8, which is integral to the warning of vv. 4-6 and clarifies its meaning, stands between the warning and the expression of confidence in vv. 9-12. It depicts two kinds of responses that can be made to the warning, not simply one, and thus fills out and completes the picture by including both those who do not fall away and those who commit apostasy.

The effects of the rain on each piece of land differ dramatically: in the case of one, the presence of fruitful crops at the end time harvest is evidence of those who had a genuine experience of salvation (vv. 7, 9). But the land that has been well watered and nurtured, and produces only “thorns and thistles” shows that it is worthless, and does not stand the test at the final judgment (vv. 6, 8). The faith of those represented was only transitory (cf. Heb. 10:38-39; Heb. 12:25). They were never true believers, whatever signs of life they may have shown initially.

What is the nature of the sin threatening the community?

From a historical perspective, the nature of the sin referred to involves reverting to Judaism. The listeners are apparently in danger of returning to a reliance on the cultic structures of the old covenant in Judaism.

Although the warning passages of Hebrews describe the sin threatening the community in a number of ways, since there are various facets to it, ultimately it is irreversible apostasy from the living God. It is the utter rejection of an entire position and stance that had once been professed.

This sin is Trinitarian in its scope, for it involves a persistent and culpable refusal to obey the voice of the living God who speaks in his Son and warns from heaven (Heb. 1:1-4; Heb. 12:25). It treats Jesus with utter contempt by crucifying him again, subjecting him to public disgrace (Heb. 6:6), and rejecting his new covenant sacrifice by which the work of atonement was completed (Heb. 10:29). And it arrogantly insults God’s gracious Spirit through whom Christ offered himself to God and who applies the definitive forgiveness of sins to believers (Heb. 10:29). The fact that it is willful, persistent, and committed in view of the knowledge of the truth rules out the possibility that it is due to ignorance (Heb. 10:26).

Unlike other sins, offenses, and weaknesses of believers referred to in Hebrews that have been wonderfully atoned for through Jesus’ new covenant sacrifice and high priestly ministry, there is no provision for the sin of apostasy. For those who utterly reject God’s gracious plan of saving people and bringing them to glory “there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).

In the light of this, the special character of the sin of apostasy must be understood clearly and not confused with other sins and weaknesses of Christians, as has often been the case throughout church history. Since this offense constitutes a total renunciation of everything that is distinctively Christian and which the person had previously professed, it is not the sin of the outsider or the one who is on the edge of church life.

Those who are anxious about having committed this sin, and are troubled that God will not receive them into fellowship with his Son because they believe their sin is too great, are urged by Hebrews to come with boldness to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in their time of need (Heb. 2:18; Heb. 4:14-16).

By contrast, apostates defiantly and deliberately reject the Son of God and his salvation, showing neither anxiety nor concern, since they would feel justified in their determined and fixed resolve.

Given Hebrews’s distinction between authentic faith as that which perseveres to the end, and spurious faith that may initially show some signs of life but does not endure, the person who commits apostasy is not an authentic Christian and never was one, whatever their first responses to the gospel may have been. And since genuine faith is tied to perseverance that endures to the end, the believer who perseveres in the race marked out for them, with their eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1, 2), shows that he or she is a member of God’s family and has already been a sharer in Christ.

What are the consequences of committing apostasy?

The consequences of the danger threatening the community to which Hebrews was written have been interpreted in various ways since early times, depending on the nature of the sin that is being described. Those who say this offense falls short of apostasy and is probably some kind of spiritual lethargy that has been manifested in the congregation understand the consequences to be a form of discipline resulting in physical death or the loss of rewards.

But these suggestions do not do justice to the strong language of Hebrews 6:6 or Hebrews 10:26-31. A synthetic examination of the five warning passages shows that the consequences are a “just punishment” (2:2) or no “escape” (v. 3), perishing, missing out on God’s promised rest, the tragic loss of their inheritance (Heb. 4:1, 11), the impossibility of being brought back to repentance (Heb. 6:4, 6), which corresponds to the apostate being like land that is “worthless, under a curse, and destined to be burned” (v. 8).

This punishment is not some restorative or disciplinary process but is associated with the severity of the eschatological judgment that will consume God’s adversaries. The fourth warning describes the irreversible consequences of apostasy in terms of its severity (it is “terrifying” and “a raging fire”) and its finality (it is “inevitable” and “eschatological”). Apostates are cast as God’s enemies (v. 27) who are deserving of “far greater punishment” (v. 29) than what the Mosaic law prescribed for rejection of the old covenant, that is, a punishment more severe than merely physical death. Those who shrink back are destroyed which in this setting of final judgment signifies eternal destruction.

The author of Hebrews has not asserted that his listeners have committed apostasy, though he is obviously concerned that some are in significant danger of falling over this precipice. He has warned the whole congregation of the irreversible consequences of apostasy. His warnings, along with other elements in his exhortatory material, together with his doctrinal expositions that provide the presuppositions for the exhortations, are intended to prevent these disastrous consequences from occurring.

In the light of these warnings what does Hebrews exhort them to do?

The listeners are to “hold firmly” to their confession of Christ (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 10:23), and to respond to God and his promises in persevering faith (Heb. 6:12, 15) rather than in unbelief and apostasy that leads to destruction. They are told that they have need of endurance (Heb. 10:36), and so they are to run with perseverance the race that is set before them, fixing their eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith who endured the cross, and despised its shame in fulfillment of God’s will (Heb. 12:1-2).

What assurances do believers have of their eternal salvation?

The encouragements to the members of the congregation to hold firmly to their confession of faith in Christ and to endure patiently whatever trials they may face, are securely based on God’s faithfulness to fulfill his stunning promises (cf. Heb. 6:12-20). His purpose is to lead his children to glory, and to that end he has made Jesus, the pioneer of their salvation, perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). While the exhortations for them to persevere in the context of trials, persecution, public abuse from opponents, disappointments, and the tendency to lose heart (Heb. 12:5) may seem awesome, even overwhelming, they are not left to their own devices.

Christ’s once-for-all perfect offering of himself is utterly acceptable and efficacious; he has blazed the trail for his people into heaven itself, and won for them an eternal redemption. As the Son who lives forever, his priestly ministry on his people’s behalf is never ending; he is “able to save completely and eternally those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Ultimately, the believer’s security rests not with the believer but with the living God. His final promise in the letter, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” is wonderful assurance indeed. So then, “we may say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, What can mere mortals do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5, 6).

Where would you suggest we turn to learn more about interpreting the warning passages in Hebrews?

D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 247-276.

Herbert W. Bateman, ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007) particularly the section by Buist M. Fanning, “A Classical Reformed View” (172-219).

And for a more technical treatment, C. Adrian Thomas, A Case for Mixed-Audience with Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews (New York: Lang, 2008).

[1] D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 247-276, esp. 267.

[2] C. Adrian Thomas, A Case for Mixed-Audience with Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews (New York: Lang, 2008), 184-185. Cf. Carson, “Reflections,” 264, 267; and Buist M. Fanning, “A Classical Reformed View,” in Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, ed. by H. W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 172-219. The majority view, however, understands the conditional sentences in terms of cause and effect.

[3] Carson, ‘Reflections’, 267.

  • Andrew Cowan

    For anyone interested, a PDF of the Carson article mentioned as a helpful place to learn more is available on this website in the D. A. Carson resources page under the Bibliography heading.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    On a pastoral level, a clear point made in Hebrews 3:12-14 is that part of God’s means for perseverance includes His people watching out for one another. Evidently, we can’t sit back and say, “Oh, well, God will keep all His children on the path of obedience.” God’s plan includes fellow believers helping us to stay on the right path.

    We have a God-ordained responsibility to look out for the spiritual well-being of each other. “Be constantly on the watch brothers (and sisters)” (Βλέπετε, ἀδελφοί – Hebrews 3:12). The Church is not to be a place where each one minds only his own business. Cultural idols of individualism and privacy must not rule our fellowship. Loving watchfulness over each other is a distinguishing mark of the true Church. Of course, we’re not to “watch” each other as the pharisees did with Jesus. We’re to “watch out for” each other. There is a big difference.

    The point we learn in Hebrews (which receives far too little emphasis) is that God uses the accountability of Christian fellowship as a means for helping His saved ones persevere. Frankly, this might be the necessary path to renewal for many Churches: A fresh commitment to the role God has for His people to provide reinforcement in the faith for each other. It’s a good question: Is my Church a place of mutual encouragement and mutual accountability? These are the prescriptions of Hebrews 3:12-13 and they are deeply connected to the outcome in Hebrews 3:14.

    Along these lines, you find it interesting to understand why the Amish reject assurance of salvation (http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/why-the-amish-reject-assurance-of-salvation/)

    • http://about.me/davidbartosik david bartosik

      a couple things that stood out to me from your response…..so are you advocating that we do or do not have assurance of salvation? Or simply noting that the amish have a reasonable defense for their belief?

      Second, are you advocating “accountability” groups and if so how does that group operate in your mind? If not-what does it look like in the church to have mutual accountability?

      Love to hear your thoughts—from your response and blog it seems you spend a good amount of time thinking about such issues :)

  • Garry Lay

    Another excellent book on this topic is The Race Set Before Us- A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, IVP

    • http://barrywallace.wordpress.com Barry Wallace

      Garry, doesn’t Schreiner differ somewhat in his interpretation of the warning passages from the approach described here?

      • Garry Lay

        It’s been a couple of years since I read The Race, and there may be some details of difference. I think that the interpretation of Schreiner and Caneday is most reasonable and accurate. The following from memory is my synopsis of their teaching. A. The warning passages are addressed to genuine believers, and therefore must be taken seriously. B. These passages do not predict a certain outcome for those addressed. C. The warnings act like road warning signs – ie. slippery when wet, etc.
        D. Prudent drivers will heed the warnings and arrive at their destination safely. E. The elect are prudent drivers. They appreciate the warnings, take them seriously, heed them and will arrive at their eternal destination safely. The warnings are part of God’s means of preserving his elect.

      • Bruce Russell

        As I understand Caneday and Schreiner the warning passages must be understood covenantally…the Gospel comes to us with promises and warnings, both are indispensable to guiding God’s children to the eternal inheritance of the New Creation. It is a mistake to read some kind of Ordo Salutis into these warnings and try to reason from election. It is also a mistake to move to self examination and ask, “am I elect?” The warnings as well as the promises are designed to function parentally: heed this warnings and obtain the resurrection unto life.

        Parents also give warnings to children for the purpose of guiding them into future happiness.

        Assurance grows dynamically in this process: as we heed God’s promises and warnings, we grow in experience, capability and confidence as children of God.


        • Henry

          I think you’ll find Schreiner/Caneday argue that those spoken of are genuine believers, but that they don’t actually commit the apostasy warned of.

          Conversely, I think O’Brien goes with Carson in thinking that some of those addressed do actually commit the apostasy warned of, but they were not true believers but had a spurious faith like the seed sown on the rock/amidst the thorns.

          At this time I think I side with O’Brien/Carson.

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  • Mike

    Thank you very much, Collin, for this excellent interview. It is tremendously helpful in my context of pastoral ministry as we are in the midst of a two-part lesson on perseverance in my Sunday School class. I plan to point people to this post today in my blog and have copies for students on Sunday. Again, thanks!

    • http://about.me/davidbartosik david bartosik

      totally agree! great exposition and look forward to having it as a resource in the future

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  • racheal

    I am one of those extremely depressed by the warning passages. I am convinced that I committed the sin of apostasy and that God is rejecting me forever. I did repent of this sin, although probably not in the right way because I still feel unforgiven. God is refusing to grant me the grace of true repentance. I seek and desire Jesus more than life. I have been extremely depressed about God’s rejection of me and the passage in Hebrews 6. I am like Esau now, crying to get sweet fellowship back from Jesus, but he says it is too late to come back.

    • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

      One of the sure signs that you have not committed the unpardonable sin is the fact that you are concerned that you have. Whatever else one wishes to say about such a sin it at least involves a serious hardening of one’s heart toward the person and ministry of Jesus. Clearly (based on your words) this is not what you are conveying. Don’t miss the far-reaching promise made by Jesus before mentioning a sin that would not be pardoned. He said, “I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31). Reflect on the words of I John 3:20 “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” I encourage you to objectify what it is that makes you feel as you do. Some say we need to forgive ourselves. I prefer to say, “We must refuse to hold against ourselves the sins God has forgiven.” I John 1:9 offers two options: Believe that when you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you or question God’s promise and character and refuse to believe you’ve been forgiven. I’ve written a few things about guilt that might benefit you: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/five-resources-for-guilt-and-forgiveness/

    • Pam

      Racheal, what is the sin of apostasy? Now, are you saying that apostasy and the unforgivable sin, which is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Mark3:22-29, are the same thing?
      True born from above believers cannot apostasize. How could they? They are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross.
      In Heb.4:11,our work to avoid falling away(if it were possible) is to rest. If a true believer could apostasize then you would be saying that Christ was ineffective. That is why Heb.6:6 is a hypothetical…If it were possible. Paul is saying it is not possible because then Christ’s work would have been ineffective. You cannot be a believer and then not be one. Paul was trying to explain to them that there is no other way of salvation, and that it works.He was telling the Jews that to add elements of Judaism to Christ’s finished work would never work for salvation because it would be combining Law and Grace. Paul went on to tell them that he was confident that, because they were believers ,that that would not happen to them. God wouldn’t let it.
      People who apostasize are mere professors not possessors.
      How would God remove His seal of the Holy Spirit? Would He say,oops made a mistake. This one didn’t take.
      Makes perfect sense doesn’t it.
      So the work we are to do is rest.
      Your heart sounds repentant and it would be if you are a true believer. Keep your eyes on the sin bearer and rest in God’ work of grace and mercy towards you. You cannot do anything to make God love you more (He loves you in the Beloved) or anything to make Him love you less. His love for you rests in His Son not in your performance. But that, as Paul says, is no reason to sin with abandon.You have been set free to serve God.
      Your conviction is of the Holy Spirit and that is how you know
      you are a child of God.
      Hope this helps.

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  • Roger McKinney

    I really like the exposition of Hebrews, but I have a hard time reconsiling some statements with Reformed theology:

    “Though some are apparently in great danger he does not assert that they have committed apostasy. The warnings, like the divine promises, are intended to prevent this from happening.”

    “The listeners are to “hold firmly” to their confession of Christ (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 10:23), and to respond to God and his promises in persevering faith…”

    According to Reformed theology the individual has no control over whether he believes or not. So why does Paul exhort them to “hold firmly”as if the individual has any say in the matter?

    • Pam

      Roger, that’s why it says in that verse that He is faithful. Sometimes we can be weak but He comes thru.
      May I recommend a great website. Go to salvationbygrace.org with Jim McClarty. Click on READ and scroll down to his commentary on Hebrews. All of his tapes in the Listen section are excellent. Best Bible teacher ever. Respected in Reformedn circles.
      Hope this helps.

      • Roger McKinney

        McClarty wrote in the commentary on Chapter 4 of Hebrews: “You have to admire the way Bible writers were not afraid to juxtapose God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s utter responsibility in the same passage. Things that seem contradictory to us are no problem to God. For instance, right on the heels of this great declaration of God’s unchanging, predetermined plan, in a few verses we will be instructed to “labor” to enter into this rest. The author, in essence, says, “Work hard to enter the place of ceasing from work…although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

        I don’t find the irrationality convincing. In standard logic, A cannot be non-A. Opposites cannot be the same thing. He is asking us to believe that God is irrational. God knows that man cannot respond and has no choice in the matter, but he still holds him responsible for his actions as if he could respond and had a choice.

        I realize that a lot of people think faith is irrational. I disagree. God said “come let us reason together.” God invented reason. He is the essence of reason. As Paul wrote in Romans 1 we use reason to understand something about God from the universe and from our own conscience. Of course we can’t understand everything about God because our minds are limited, but what we can understand should not be irrational.

      • Roger McKinney

        And the irrationality that McClarty attributes to God is even less convincing when one considers that a perfectly rational explanation exists, one that the Church has held for millenia: man can respond to God’s call and does have a choice in the matter.

  • Roger McKinney

    McClarty: “Later, however, God dangled the promise again when David was inspired to write – “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95:7) So, if the promise of rest still existed during the Davidic reign, then that first faithless generation had not sealed the door of opportunity shut.”

    McClarty wrote “that first faithless generation had not sealed the door of opportunity shut.” But McClarty knows that no man can seal the door. Man is not able to do anything. Either God does it or it doesn’t get done according to Reformed theology.

    Like Peter O’Brien, McCarty slips between Arminian and Reformed theology as if he were absent minded. Most of the time they write as if mankind has full of its actions and real choice. But once in a while they slip in a reminder that it’s only false appearances.

  • Roger McKinney

    McCarty: “That means that there is still a standing promise of Christ available for us, today, to lay hold of.”

    No. No one can “lay hold of it” because no one is able or has the desire. We are like cold stones, according to Reformed theology. Stones can’t lay hold of anything. Only God can bring the dead stone to life. The stone can do nothing. Reformed theologians have a hard time remaining consistent with Reformed theology.

    • Pam

      Roger, God’s elect WILL heed the warnings. Aside from that, the Book of Hebrews was written to Hebrews. Their history with God was guided by covenants. For almost 2000 years they had done things a certain way. If they didn’t heed the warnings now to leave the elements of Judaism behind, there would be no hope for them. The writer was telling them of the better way thru Christ. The writer didn’t know who the elect in the listeners were. Only God knows that. He takes them back to their history and reminds them what happened when you disobey God, a God that you are in covenant with.Even back then, though, only the elect did what God had decreed. He tells them things have changed. And now a new and better way exists that promises eternal life and it was not by works. Can you imagine how hesitant they were? I am a former Roman Catholic and when God regenerated me and brought me to life from the dead, it took me a while to understand and leave those elements behind.I was afraid. I had trusted in that for 40 years. But the elect DO leave those things behind. God made sure of that when He wrote their names in the Lambs Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. God does not make mistakes nor does He depend on the decisions of men.His decrees were made before we even hit the planet. The Word tells you that. You can’t will to be saved or work for it. It is a gift from God. By grace are you saved, thru faith, which is a gift.
      You cannot take Scriptures out of context and build your theology on it.
      Scripture itself is a warning. After God brings you to life, He begins the conversion process thru His Word. God gave me the faith to believe that Word. Because I was one of the elect, I believed. And that belief is proof that I was elect.
      Jim McClarty does not describe himself as reformed. I said that some reformed respect his site. You may want to email him about what he said. He is very gracious and will respond. As a matter of fact, I think that would be a really good idea.
      As you can tell, I am no theologian, and I humbly appreciate the opportunity to discuss these wonderful Truths of God.
      Thanks for your input. It really made me think.

  • Daniel

    I needed to hear this. I’ve been reading Hebrews or wanting to read it for months. Getting through the first few chapters was so difficult. I am now doubting huge as to whether I am a christian or not…or if my confession was ever real. I been in this place for several weeks now. I feel like I’m headed down a slippery slope and its getting worse and worse. I look back on this past year and I really feel like I shrunk back…lost my confidence…or any fruit. What does that mean for me? Like I started off great 3 years ago. All for Jesus…but now…I don’t even know what to do now. So confused about the cross and doctrines (eph 4:14)Full of fear and duobt and anxiety. I’m tempted to give up…but no way. I know Jesus is everything. I want Him to be my everything. Honestly…I know I’m not doing good at all in my walk with the Lord but I’m scared thinking that Jesus will say to me depart from me I never knew you. I do want to be found faithful…need perseverance. Well if these warnings were just to spur me on…they did a good job:) So now I’m at peace…but I start thinking its a false peace. Sheesh I’m really going crazy. Definitly a spiritual battle. I’m sorry I’m not trying to sound ridiculus but I need to share this. I miss nearness to the Lord. Life is meaningless apart from Jesus. Nothing. All my springs must come from Him…

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  • Trevor Hunter

    I trained for a number of years under Peter O”Brien and can absolutely assure people such as Daniel and Rachel that Peter writes with a a scholars intellect but a pastors heart. For him all theology is pastoral or it is pointless. I suspect that is also true for the author of Hebrews. The very fact that you are troubled over your standing before God is a clear indication you are not in the category of apostate and unlikely ever to be there. Such people are boastful and certain that they have moved onto better things in leaving Christ and his salvific work . They ooze confidence over their higher position having abandoned their “rudimentary” and “childlike beliefs” ( aka Apostles Creed) .. they know better now!!
    This is not your situation dear brothers and sisters. Satan tempts us in lots of ways but chiefly to turn in upon ourselves to find hope and assurance.. a pointless and futile exercise if your heart and will is anything like mine.. Turn to the cross every day and see again what Jesus has accomplished for you and do it every day. GET YOUR EYES OFF YOURSELF AND ON TO HIM every day and let that be the basis for going forward each day in confidence in Christ. And as for sin and self doubt and anxiety and despair? NAIL IT TO THE CROSS EVERY DAY!!! Hammer it home onto Him and take His righteousness and His love and His peace every day to be your own!!! “Be a sinner and be strong in sin but let your trust in Christ be stronger for through the cross is the victor over sin death and the world ( including your anxieties fears and self doubts!!). ” ( M Luther with adaption)

  • http://www.redeemchristianity.org Redeem Christianity

    The passages in Hebrews are absolute warnings against falling away and thus risking loosing our salvation. What need would there be to warn those who have not yet truly been saved?

    Also, there are many other passages throughout the new testament which talks about being graphed into the tree, then being removed and cast into the fire. How can you possibly say someone who is graphed into the actual and literal body of Christ isn’t ‘truly’ saved? That makes no sense.

    No one can take our salvation from us, but we can absolutely choose to reject it, although I believe this is a simple or short process.

  • Henry

    What need would there be to warn those who have not yet truly been saved?

    The passages are not warning those who know they have not been truly saved, they are warning those who think they have truly been saved, whether they are correct in thinking so or not.

    How can you possibly say someone who is graphed into the actual and literal body of Christ isn’t ‘truly’ saved?

    I don’t think anyone is saying that. The words ‘actual’ and ‘literal’ are not used in the passage in question.

    People like Piper and Carson have talked/written before about those whose faith is like the seed sown on rocky ground, who ‘receive the word with joy’ and appear to be part of the body of Christ but in actual fact have no root and thus fall away – they were always unregenerate and the impact the gospel had on them proved to only be skin deep.

    The NT writers frequently address the churches as ‘believers’ and ‘saints’ even though in reality some of them may have only a spurious faith. The point is that the NT writers regularly speak with respect to outward profession, since no man can know if a person is truly elect until the last day.

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  • Mark K

    Even though I’m thoroughly Calvinistic in my soteriology I think Schreiner and Caneday in their “The Race Set Before Us” do the best job exegeting the five warning passages from a Calvinistic perspective.

  • Bruce Russell

    Mark K: I think that’s because Caneday and Schreiner understand the unconditional and conditional aspects of the New Covenant better than most Calvinists. –Bruce

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