Hebrews: Fate or Freedom?
Hebrews: Fate or Freedom 21/07/2008,19:41
An outline of the class can be seen by clicking on the link below, or click on the power point icon to see the power point presentation. by John M. Oakes, PhD
Fate or Freedom
June 26, 2008
I. Extremely brief overview of Hebrews
II. Brief introduction to the history and the doctrine of predestination.
III. Hebrews and the preservation of the saints (aka "once saved always saved)
IV. How to stay faithful and to grow in Christ to the very end.
Audience of Hebrews: Christians in general but especially Jewish Christians. Second generation disciples of Jesus who are tempted to lose heart and give up, especially in light of the coming persecutions.
Hint about audience: "Remember those earlier days when you stood your ground…. Hebrews 10:32.
AD 65-70? Hebrews 8:13; almost certainly pre-AD 70 "will soon disappear"
Theme of Hebrews: The preeminence of Jesus
I Jesus is greater than all the prophets. Heb 1:1-3
II Jesus is greater than the angels. Heb 1:4-14
III Jesus is greater than Moses. Heb 3:1-6
IV Jesus the great High Priest Heb 4:14-5:10
V The Priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Priesthood of Aaron Heb 7:1-3, 11-28
VI Jesus is greater than Abraham Heb 7:4-10
VII The New Covenant (in and through Jesus) is superior to the Old Covenant (through Moses) Heb 8:1-13
VIII The heavenly Tabernacle greater than earthly Tabernacle. Heb 9:1-10
IX The Sacrifice is of Jesus of far greater worth than the OT sacrifices. Heb 9:11-10:18
Purpose of Hebrews:
To give heart to Christians who have endured but are tempted to waver and give up on their faith in Jesus.
a. To encourage us to grow in Christ.
b. To prevent us from falling away.
•• Exhortation #1 Pay attention Heb 2:1-18
•• Exhortation #2 Do not turn back. Persevere Heb 3:6-4:13
•• Exhortation #3 Grow up. Become mature Heb 5:11-6:20
•• Exhortation #4 Summary exhortation. Hebrews 10:19-12:29
Given that the entire purpose of Hebrews is to prevent us from falling away, how could anyone believe in Once Saved, Always Saved?
(kind of like asking "given the book of James, how can anyone believe in faith only salvation?)
[That Hebrews Commentary]
Answer: If one starts with a presupposition of predestination, then one can read Hebrews through this filter and ignore all the evidence to the contrary.
A. The history and background of the doctrine of predestination.
B. The development of the once saved, always saved doctrine.
C. A refutation of the Calvinist version of predestination.
D. Hebrews on assurance of salvation and on falling away.
E. Practical application of the teaching in Hebrews with regard to falling away and staying faithful.
I. History of the doctrine of predestination.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)
"The City of God" (also "Confessions")
His key issue: the sovereignty of God
Augustine was the most influential theologian on the Reformation.
300’s AD baptizing babies
Why? Augustine: original sin. That’s not fair!
Why? Sovereignty of God.
Result: Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with our response. It has everything to do with God’s sovereign choice. We are only saved because God chooses us.
(Pelagius: human response is a factor in our salvation)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Augustinian monk. Restored theology of Martin Luther. A strong believer in predestination.
More important for Protestantism in America:
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)
John Calvin (1509-1564) Most influential theologist in the reformation.
"Institutes of the Christian Religion"
His greatest emphasis: the sovereignty of God.
The underlying assumption of all this:
God’s sovereignty trumps our ability to choose faith. We can have absolutely no part in our salvation. Period.
Limited atonement (double predestination)
Perseverance of the saints (once saved, always saved)
Reformed theology (Presbyterianism, Dutch Reformed, Baptists, Puritans)
US Jonathan Edwards late 1700’s very dark, depressing.
"A sinner in the hands of an angry God."
No assurance of salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with us. FATALISM Church attendance very low.
Cane Ridge Revival Barton Stone rejects predestination.
Huge pendulum swing. Total assurance of salvation. Tulip soft.
Modern idea of "once saved always saved" results.
Once you have been saved (pray Jesus into your heart), no matter what happens after that time, you definitely will make it to heaven.
Anathema to Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc.
Doctrine of Predestination:
Three kinds of doctrines:
Essential (salvation issue)
Important (not a salvation issue, but can have a significant effect on our relationship with God)
Not important (an actual biblical teaching or an implied teaching which one can be wrong about with little if any effect on our relationship with God)
Q: Where does predestination fall in this range?
Q: Where does once saved, always saved fall in this range?
Romans 8:31-39 Nothing can separate us (except we ourselves because we
have free will)
John 10:27-29 No one can snatch them out of my hands…
Romans 9:10-21 (read v. 14-18)
Example of Pharaoh and Judas
Is predestination true? Yes!!!
1. God predestined all of us to be saved (but he does not force anyone)
2. Very rarely God does step in and trumps our freedom of choice for a specific purpose (Pharaoh, Judas). But even in these cases, they could have chosen to repent and to be saved.
But: Deut 30:19-20, All of Hebrews.
Warnings against falling away.
Hebrews 3:7-11 They shall never enter my rest.
Hebrews 3:14 We… share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end….
Hebrews 3:16-4:11 esp. 3:16-4:1
Foreshadow of the Jews in the wilderness.
Let us make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall short of it…
Hebrews 6:4-8 Who is he talking to?
•• a. been enlightened (NT church "enlightened" = baptized)
•• b. tasted the heavenly gift (salvation?)
•• c. shared in the Holy Spirit
•• d. tasted the goodness of the word
•• e. tasted the coming age (saved)
That Hebrews commentary: Two audiences; Christians and Jewish believers who have not yet chosen to be baptized. (circular reasoning)
What happens to these people?
•• It is impossible… if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.
•• They are crucifying the Son of God all over again.
•• Land that produces thorns… will be burned.
Let us be careful how we use the term "fall away."
•• Crucifying the Son of God all over again.
•• Subjecting Jesus to public disgrace
•• Trampling the Son of God under foot. (Heb 10:29)
•• Insulted the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:29)
•• Blasphemed (spoken against) the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:32)
•• Committed the unforgivable sin (1 John 5:16, Luke 12:10)
•• What is the "unforgivable sin?" To willfully, deliberately continue in sin. (Hebrews 10:26)
•• See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (ie. They were pure but
•• become defiled)
•• He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
•• Hebrews 12:25 If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth (Moses), how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven (Jesus).
Assurance of salvation.
Hebrews 2:10-13 So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…. Here am I, and the children God has given me.
Hebrews 6:9-20. We are confident of better things in your case.
v. 16-20 He confirmed it with an oath. Two unchangeable things….
Two unchangeable things:
God’s Oath (Genesis 22:16-18)
Jesus, your anchor, is behind the veil with the Father
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
Let us draw near to God… in full assurance of faith.
For he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:35-36 Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded…. You will receive what he has promised.
Confidence, Assurance vs concern for falling away.
Both are true. We need to find the balance.
Practical advice for staying faithful to the end-for making it into the Sabbath-rest with God in heaven:
Exhortation #1 Hebrews 2:1-18 Pay careful attention to God’s Word.
•• "pay attention" = prosechein = to fix, moor a ship.
•• "drift away" = pararrein = to slip away, as with the tides, by careless inattention.
•• violation = parabasis = outright rebellion
•• disobedience = parakoe = careless hearing or unwillingness to hear
•• The point: If the Jews had to pay attention to a Law delivered by angels, and if they faced capital punishment for not listening, how much more ought we to pay attention to Jesus, and how much more great a punishment if we do not.
•• LISTEN UP!!!
•• Do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 3:8)
•• Do not turn away. (Hebrews 3:12)
•• Do not let your bodies fall in the desert. (Hebrews 3:17)
•• Do not fall short. (Hebrews 4:1)
•• Make every effort to enter (do not rest). (Hebrews 4:11)
Exhortation #3 Grow up.
•• Grow up!
•• Move on to maturity.
•• Mature in life and docrine (1 Timothy 4:16)
•• Do not be nothros (slow-moving in mind, torpid, witlessly forgetful, dull of hearing)
•• Are you on a diet of milk?
Exhortation #4 Final exhortations.
•• 10:22 Let us draw near [to God]
•• 10:23 Let us hold to our confession of hope without wavering
•• 10:24 Let us be concerned about one another and encourage one another toward love and good deeds
•• 10:25 Let us not stop meeting together.
•• 10:25 Let us encourage one another.
Hebrews 11: The key to perseverance is living by faith.
•• Hebrews 11:1, 11:6 Definition of faith
•• Faith is believing the facts of the Bible.
•• Faith is trusting the promises of the Bible.
•• Faith is obeying the commands in the Bible.
•• Heb 11:1 Faith is being certain of what we do not see.
It requires that we deny our senses.
•• They refused what the world calls greatness and staked everything on God.
•• They chose what is unseen rather than what is seen.
Look at these men and women. By faith they denied worldly pleasures, fame and fortune: all for things they could not see.
Why were these men and women commended? Why are they heroes of the faith? They refused what the world calls greatness and staked everything on God. They refused to be deterred by what is seen.
We have something so much greater. We see so much more. How can we deny the faith?
Lesson: In many ways, our worst enemy is success and prosperity. What the world seeks is what will destroy everything that is important.
Example: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Daniel chapter 3
Example: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego vs. Nebuchadnezzar.
What could they see? A crowd of tens of thousands, the most powerful ruler in the entire earth and a firey furnace.
What did they choose to believe? That God could save them from the flames, but even if he does not… Daniel 3:16-18
v. 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious…
Consider their faith and measure yours. We have so much more than they had.
The key to Hebrews 11 (in my opinion)
11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They made it!
Q: have you been thinking about returning to the country from which you left?
Accept hardship as discipline. Accept it as love.
If you are a parent, accept it as you wish your kids accepted your discipline.
(this hurts me more than it does you)
1. Keep your eye on the goal: in heaven with Jesus (v. 2)
2. Throw off whatever will hinder you in the race (v. 1)
3. Look at Jesus (and at the cloud of faithful witnesses) (v. 2-3)
If you feel "faint and weary," consider Jesus on the cross.
4. Accept hardship as loving discipline
If you cannot adopt this attitude toward trial and discipline, you will not make it.
Attitudes toward discipline:
a. accept it with resignation
b. accept it and get over it as soon as possible
c. accept it with a woe is me attitude
d. accept it with resentment as punishment
e. accept it as coming from a loving father.
•• Predestination, understood correctly, is biblical, but so is free will.
•• One thing for sure: Hebrews warns against "falling away." The purpose of the book is to prevent this happening!
•• In order to prove faithful to the end and to make it to heaven two things are required:
•- Know and understand how unimaginable fantastic Jesus is.
•- Mature in your faith, with the emphasis being on your faith.
•• Listen to God!
•• Grow up!
•• Believe in things unseen
Reference: Life in the Son Robert Shank.