Friday, July 6, 2012

The Book of Hebrew's take on Apostacy



The book of Hebrews was written specifically to warn Christians against apostasy.  The writer does this by showing Christ’s superiority over all other events or “isms”.  The message of the book is abundantly clear, and yet Bible scholars who insist on unconditional eternal security argue away the straightforward message of the book.  The book of Hebrews is a treatise, its main purpose is to argue against the doctrine of unconditional eternal security.  In this book, there are many warnings against apostasy.  In fact, Hebrews has so much to say about it that it seems overbearing to use many of the arguments in what is to be a short post like this.  Here I would refer my readers to my book, Doctrinal Errors in Protestant Churches, it is available at www.worldmysteries.com.  

To believe Wuest's following paragraph is to deny the truth presented by the Scriptures.  The Epistle to the Hebrews is unique among the New Testament books in that the entire book is concerned with a situation that obtained in the first century, which does not exist today.…the application of this basic interpretation, must apply only to the first century conditions in this case there can be no secondary application for today.

In opposition to this opinion, Jerome Smith writes the following.  To suggest, as many contemporary expositors do, that the warnings against apostasy in the book of Hebrews were addressed only to Jewish Christians who were in danger of forsaking Christianity and falling back into Judaism, and therefore cannot apply to believers today, is at best a shaky assumption, and at worst is taking away from the Word of God by wrongly rendering its warnings inapplicable to present day believers.

 In this respect, it can also be pointed out that the canon of Scriptures was not decided on until the fourth century.  Why would the Church fathers have included the letter to the Hebrews, in the canon, if it were intended for first century Christians only?!  

Another suggestion that many contemporary expositors make is that the people written to were associates of the Christians, but that they had never been born again.  Therefore, the warnings against apostasy are to non-believers only.  If the book is read carefully, and without forcing one’s own theological viewpoints into  the words given, that theory is also shown to be false!

It is agreed that the book of Hebrews has much to say about apostasy.  What is not agreed on, is, were the recipients Christians or non-Christians.  If that question were answered, the whole issue of unconditional eternal security could finally be put to a permanent rest.  If one reads the book of Hebrews, without making it say all kinds of things, that are not written there, it becomes obvious that the book of Hebrews was written to a mixture of young and mature Christians.  Obviously, then the debate should be settled in favour of conditional eternal security.  However, not every Bible student is willing to let the Bible speak for itself, if what the Bible says does not agree with his or her theories.

Matthew Henry’s stance on the book of Hebrews is this: The design of this epistle was to persuade and press the believing Hebrews to a constant adherence to the Christian faith, and perseverance in it.

Let us look at a few verses in Hebrews to try to show that the readers, to whom this book was written, were actually Christians, not just professed Christians.  If it can be shown that they were real Christians, than the theory of unconditional eternal security has no validity in the book of Hebrews, or indeed, in the Bible’s teachings.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus3:1 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. 3:1 NRSV 

It is obvious that the writer thought of his readers as being his brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, the argument is made that he meant fellow Jews and not born again believers.  It is difficult to maintain the argument that he meant brothers in the flesh, (Jews) for the writer knew that the Israelites, as a nation were not holy.  By using the words, our high priest, he confines the statement to born again believers.

Mr. Smith denounces the theory that Christians cannot “fall away”:  He writes, The Scripture frequently warns against the possibility of apostasy as a very real danger.  Logically, only real believers can apostatize, unbelievers cannot.  These warnings in Hebrews must not be explained away as applicable only to Hebrew Christians who were at that time in danger of falling back into Judaism, if only because the same warnings are given with equal urgency to the Gentile Christians to whom Paul wrote in his several epistles.

But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 10:39  

About this verse, Wuest writes, The Word of God is very clear in its statements to the effect that a person once saved can never be lost.  Therefore, this person who draws back to perdition must be an unsaved person.  

Perhaps, if he had read the verse immediately preceding this one he would have realized his error.  In the Greek text it flows like this, but the just man of me by faith will live, and if he withdraws, is not well pleased the soul of me in him.  But we are not of withdrawal to destruction.  The writer of the book says nothing about pretending to follow Christ.  In the NIV that same verse reads like this, But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him, But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed.  Obviously, according to these words, those who have lived by faith can be destroyed if they shrink back.

It seems, therefore, that there really are no valid arguments from Scripture that substantiate the theory of unconditional eternal security.   Mr. Thiessen, in his book of theology devotes 7 pages to the topic of ‘perseverance’.  In those seven pages he makes only scant reference to those verses that contradict his theory with words such as, “if” and “but”.  He would rather ignore those Scripture verses that do not suit his taste.

Let Mr. Jerome Smith close the topic. We need to exercise care in formulating our doctrinal systems that we do not wrest Scripture by arbitrarily denying even the possibility of what so many texts repeatedly warn against.