“I’m a Christian already,” He stared at me as if I were the only one in the universe who didn’t understand the Bible.
“You’re a Christian?” I said without thinking.
“Don’t you read the Bible? I’m once-saved-always-saved,” he shifted nervously. His friends snickered at him and mostly at me. I stood in the middle of the circle at the end of C-Hall, the main hallway of the school.
“Where does it say that?” I asked.
At church the night before, the pastor had encouraged us to think of the one person who seemed the furthest away from Christ in our high school and to go tell them about Jesus. This guy was known for sleeping around, throwing the wildest parties, and using drugs. He was at the top of the social-food-chain; on the football team, violent, and usually had a pack of popular kids around him in what may have been a tame high school version of “Lord of the flies.” High school was survival of the fittest, and everyone knew I didn’t fit here.
“It’s all over the Bible. I don’t have to worry about sin because I’m saved.” He looked like he was about to bolt for the bathroom but didn’t want to look weak.
“Okay…” I said. Since I didn’t know what else to say, I just said, “Well, Jesus loves you man,” and I walked back to my friends, shrugging my shoulders. We were all shocked that he was “saved.”
Or was he? Well, only God knows that for sure.
It’s strange to me how many times I’ve run into this situation in the Panhandle of Texas. Is it possible to lose your salvation? Does your lifestyle have to coincide with your faith? Can you nod your head at a prayer when you’re 7 and be good forever even if you turn to serve Satan, become an atheist, or just forget about Jesus all together? What if you really meant it when you were 7? Does it still count today?
On the other hand, do you have to work hard to get to heaven? Do you have to make sure you go to church every Sunday, go to Bible studies, and feed the poor to make it to heaven? Both of these ditches seem ridiculous. Everyone on both sides of the theological isle would say both of those extremes are dumb.
So where’s the truth?
Last week in “Part 1”, we took a breeze through the book of Hebrews, specifically targeting key verses of the book that point toward contingency statements. These are “IF” statements that imply two outcomes depending on choices made. “He has reconciled us…IF we continue,” “give earnest heed…lest you drift away,” “we are of Christ’s house…IF we hold fast…to the end.”
This is going to take several posts and we will have to focus on one topic at a time and thoroughly study each one. People automatically bring up practices of covenant to refute the “contingency” statements, as if those hundreds of contingency statements don’t really exist. We’ll get to that soon, I promise. One bite at a time.
We have to finish with Hebrews first. Let’s go back and unpack one of the most troublesome verses in the Bible like I said we would in the last post…the DREADED HEBREWS 10:26!
Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…
“For if we sin willfully…” The Old Testament makes a distinction between intentional and unintentional sin.
He’s referring to Numbers 15:22-31. In Verse 30 it says, “’But the person who does anything presumptuously (on purpose), whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people. 31. Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’
What we learn here is if someone sins “Presumptuously” he will be “cut off from his people” WHY? “Because he has despised the word of the Lord…” Basically, sinning on purpose, repeatedly, defiantly, means that you despise the word of the Lord.
BUT MIKEY, THAT’S THE OLD TESTAMENT!”
Right…BUT the author of Hebrews is making a point to people in the NEW TESTAMENT (and us). What do you think that point is? We need to follow to the end to see what he’s saying.
Speaking about being “cut off,” let’s go to the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 5:2-13 tells how a man in the congregation is having sex with his father’s wife and not even ashamed about it. The church knows about this ordeal and they choose to do nothing about it. Paul blasts them for this. Notice, this sin is an intentional, willful sin; a defiance.
1 Corinthians 5:13 says “But those who are outside, God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.” This language reflects Numbers 15:30 “he shall be cut off from among his people,” binding this same language to the New Testament issue of willful sin. This isn’t the only place that talks about willful sin, however.
Again, this is one who PRACTICES SIN with no regard. This is the kind that it talks about in 1 John chapters 1, 2, and 3. 1 John can be very confusing if you don’t understand how the author is using the word “sin,” in each context. Let’s take a look.
1 John 2:3 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Notice the IF statement. “4. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
The first thing we do when we read passages like this is JUMP TO AN EXTREME. “Oh man I broke a commandment one time! Am I damned!!!???” No. He’s basically saying, lifestyle will demonstrate what we truly believe. What you “think” and what you “believe” may be two different things. There are many things we may “think,” but what we “believe” is what we ACT on.
Once-saved-always-saved proponents jump right to 1 John 1:8 that says “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The thought follows that basically, everyone has sin. No one is more holy than anyone else. If Billy Graham has sin and I have sin, then I must be okay doing whatever I want because everyone has sin.
This brings us comfort because then we aren’t held responsible for WILLFUL disobedience. After all, “no one is perfect,” and we are in a contract with God. It’s irresistible, predetermined, elect, etc.
Using 1 John 1:8 in this way may be a bit misleading, however, because three verses later it says
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
So what the heck is going on here???
After pouring over 1 John for years, I believe there is only one good explanation. Let’s continue.
1 John continues to speak about intentional and unintentional sin. 1Jn 3:6 “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins
(Present tense: keeps on sinning) has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Does this mean that we were never “saved in the first place?” This may be where those folks get this, but you have to take the full context to see the true meaning.
1John 3:7. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices (a lifestyle of) righteousness is righteous… 8. He who sins (lifestyle of sin) is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning (on purpose, continually)… 9. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
Does this mean we literally “can not sin?” If so, I imagine that no one is saved! “10. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does notpractice righteousness is not of God,…”
The context of these verses, “does not sin,” and “cannot sin,” is a PRACTICE of continual sin with no regard or remorse and no intention to change, or repent. Repentance in the Greek is “Metanoia” G3341, which means: “to change one’s mind; to reconsider.”
Someone who is “Born of God,” as it says in 1st John, does not practice sin. This does not mean that one who is “born of God” never commits a sin, or that it is “impossible” (in a literal 21 century sense) to commit a sin, but that it is not the PRACTICE of his life. If it is taken too literally, not taking into account the use of figurative language (which is used to drive home a point) then none of us are born of God. The only way this text makes sense in the “full council of the Word of God,” or “interpreting Scripture with Scripture” is that “sin” in this context, means “continual, defiant, rebellion.”
This is a harrowing reminder that perhaps sin and its effects are much more destructive than we believe here in the Western 21st century. If we are merely under a contract, or “sealed” so to speak (we’ll get to that word in weeks to come), and that contract can’t be broken, then we may say, “hey, I’m once-saved-always-saved so my intentional defiant sin doesn’t really matter,” like our friend in C-Hall of my high school, and countless others I’ve run into since then.
But 1st John is clear that a true believer will not continue to intentionally sin as a practice or lifestyle, calling “good evil and evil good” Isaiah 5:20. Romans 1 is clear about what happens when people WILLFULLY reject or SUPPRESS His ways.
Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
Some people call it Karma, but it’s just a basic law of the universe God created called the “Law of Reciprocity,” or “sowing and reaping.” If we sow (demonstrate a lifestyle of the flesh), we will reap corruption.
What does corruption mean? Does this mean hell? Or does it mean you just will reap bad things in this life: divorce, debt, depression, etc.?
This verse seems to be contrasting “corruption” with “everlasting life,” meaning one will reap “everlasting life,” and the other will reap “NOT everlasting life.” The nuance of the verse indicates that “reap corruption” means “hell.” If this verse stood alone then we could throw it out as obscure, but the multitude of verses that use this same lingo assume a reader who understands these literary phrases convey certain meanings.
In Matthew 24:48-51 Jesus tells a parable about a master and his servants. It says, 48. “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49. and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50. the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51. and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
In this passage, the “servant” would be the same as a “Believer,” or a follower of Christ. Jesus in this story is the master. This servant was doing well, then “says in his heart” that his master (Jesus) is delayed in coming, and his lifestyle changes to that of defiant sin.
Wait Mikey, it says “if that ‘EVIL’ servant says…” meaning that he was “evil” before, and therefore not saved in the first place.
We’ll get to the Red Herring of “Never Saved in the first place” next time. But for now let’s look at the parable (or parallel) in context. What makes this servant EVIL is his disregard for his master, leading to willful disobedience, thinking the master will not catch him. 1st off, in this parable, this guys is A SERVANT. He works for the Master.
He’s a part of His people so to speak. Looking at the context of when Jesus said SERVANT all throughout the New Testament, He’s talking about those who are SAVED. Matthew 25:23 says “Well done my good and faithful SERVANT…enter My rest.” This is clearly talking about those who are in the faith.
The master then comes back when this servant is not expecting it and his master cuts him into pieces and sends him where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The use of that phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” usually points to torture in hell for eternity. We don’t like to talk about that much anymore. We’d rather silence portions of the Word of God.
For more on the topic of hell, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VivmM0VTjCs
BUT MIKEY, WHAT ABOUT GRACE?!!!
Right on! Jesus has grace for sin in the case of the woman caught in adultery. He tells the men who wanted to stone her that the one who had no sin should “cast the first stone.” They walk away and then He tells her that she is forgiven, but then says, “go and sin no more.” He’s saying, repent (metanoia), and reconsider. Change your lifestyle.
So bringing this all together, Hebrews 10:26 says “if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.” That is lingo reflective of Numbers talking about the difference between unintentional sin and defiant, willful sin. 1st John talked about how one who is “Born of God” does not practice a lifestyle of sin. Galatians 6 showed us that God will not be tricked and that WE will reap what WE sow. And Jesus has grace for the woman caught in adultery, and then says, “Go and sin no more,” change your lifestyle, repent, change your mind.
Back to Hebrews 10:26 though. “For if we sin willfully…after we have received the knowledge of the truth…”
So if we sin AFTER…WHEN?
“after we have received the knowledge of truth…” This seems to be indicating the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, not just a “mental assent” to knowing what truth is, but the Truth of Jesus Christ.
James 2:19 “…Even the demons believe [in God]—and tremble!” James 2:19 is not referring to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (because demons will not be saved), but rather a “mental assent” to a fact that there is one God.
1 Timothy 2:4 speaks of Jesus, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Being “saved” is “the saving knowledge of the truth” which is the same lingo used in Hebrews 10:26 “after we have received the knowledge of the truth…” So putting it all together again: Hebrews 10:26 says “For if we sin willfully (we covered that already)…after we have received the knowledge of the truth…” this means that someone who is “saved” or “received the knowledge of the truth” can “sin willfully (lifestyle of continual, defiant, sin).” So what happens after this?
Hebrews 10:26 “…there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
This is the troubling piece of the verse. The IVP Bible Background Commentary says this:
“Those who do not engage in the true worship, who do not continue to persevere would ultimately fall away or be lost… Jewish teachers also observed that those who sinned presuming that they would be automatically forgiven were not genuinely repentant and hence were not forgiven…deliberate rebellion against God’s law demanded expulsion from the community. The sin in this context is unrepentant, thorough apostasy.”
So the scary part of that verse is the part that says, “there remains no more sacrifice for sins.” There are many theological ideas across the board on what that means. Does this mean that when I sin intentionally that God won’t forgive me?
Take comfort in 1John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This seems to say along with a lot of other verses that God forgives unintentional and intentional sins.
Lamentations 3:22 says that “his grace is made new every morning and that His compassions fail not.” So that is comforting.
Yet, we cannot mis the point that the author of Hebrews makes reminds us of this Old Testament lingo of intentional and unintentional sin. We should not take this further than the author’s intended purpose, but we SHOULD perhaps take more seriously the fact that it is possible to fall into a state of apostasy.
The next verse talks about what happens to one who “sins willfully AFTER receiving the knowledge of the truth.” This means that what is about to be said is what we, who have the knowledge of the truth (once saved), can expect if we live a lifestyle of sin (using the language of 1 John “sin” as a lifestyle.)
Hebrews 10:27 “but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Here’s what those who sin willfully, perhaps those who have a lifestyle of living in sin, can expect. “Judgment and fiery indignation that will devour the “adversaries.” We become His “adversaries” or “enemies” and we know that “His enemies become His footstool” in the end.
Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”This verse suggests that they know the truth but suppress it, and therefore will have the wrath of God upon them on “That Day.”
Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. This is a cross reference to Deuteronomy 17:6. Rejecting Moses’ law implies a willful defiance; a saying, “no, I’m going to ignore that part on purpose.”
The IVP Bible Background Commentary says: “Jewish teachers recognized that everyone sinned in some ways; but a sin by which a person declared “I reject parts of God’s Word,” was considered tantamount to rejecting the whole law and was reckoned as apostasy.”
We’ll go more into the word “APOSTASY” next time, and if you study it between now and then, you may find that many Bible scholars (most of which are “Reformed”-another way to say Calvinist) are quite squeamish in nailing down what apostasy means.
It’s like what the poets “Jason Derulo,” and the infamous “Snoop Dogg” once wrote… “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.” For those who can “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,” out of the clear context of the word “apostasy,” all of the “contingency” verses shared in Part 1 of this series, I give a “10” for theological gymnastics.
Why is it so hard to imagine (at least since the Reformation) that WE have a part to play in this RELATIONSHIP with God; that we will reap what we sow, that we’d better not “play games with God’s Grace,” that we should “go and sin no more,” that “He who is Born of God does not [practice a lifestyle of defiant, rebellious] sin?”
In the end we may try to fool ourselves but “God will not be mocked (tricked).” He knows what is going on in our hearts. Is this a call to “fear for our salvation?” NO! It’s a call to rise up to the fullness of what a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD CAN LOOK LIKE with all of its intimacy and greatness!!!!