I deliberately asked this question as we started reading Hebrews because the text seems in some places to suggest we can and many Christians are disturbed when they read them. I was hoping to provoke you to think and be prepared to discuss your doubts. Regard this blog as a further step in the discussion and not the last word.
At first I want to state clearly that no major doctrine has been formulated from the input of only one book of the bible. Salvation is the main theme of the whole bible and it unfolds from the beginning and is slowly completed by the input from various writers at various times to various audiences. So it is also the main theme of Hebrews, once again coloured by the audience and the circumstances.
So as succinctly as I can, what are the essential parts of salvation as revealed throughout the bible?
- It is launched and sustained by God through Jesus. This is the central point. It became necessary because every person is born lost and heading for an eternity away from God. The mechanism of salvation depends entirely on the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, which bridges the gap of sin and enables mankind to be reconciled to God.
- While this action is initiated by God and given freely, there is something which we are responsible for. What is that? We have to simply respond to God and receive what He is offering, by faith. I look at it like this – God Woo’s us, every one of us (cf “Parable of the lost sheep” Matt 18:10). Each one of us, however holds the key to our own hearts, which can only be unlocked from the inside. When we are ready respond to his love outreach, convinced of His genuine care for us and His ability to do what He has promised to, all we need to do is turn that key and open the door by faith and He floods His love into us through His Spirit.
- When one has responded genuinely like this there is a definite supernatural transaction which takes place: you are “born again”, becoming a new creation, with a new citizenship, a citizenship of the Heavenly Zion, because you are now in Jesus and and have his identity. The transaction involves a sealing or bonding by God through His Spirit (Ephes 1:13-14), described in 1 Cor 12:13 as “being baptized by the Spirit into one body”. Your status has changed you are now adopted into God’s family (in Christ) and have become a true son or daughter.(Romans 8:15-17).
- Stop and think. This is a rock-solid spiritual transaction depending mainly on God’s unchangeable promises. They cannot be changed or rescinded. However, here we need to say two things; 1. This is the start of a process and not a once-off happening. We were saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. (Romans 5:9,10). 2. So how do we know if someone is genuinely saved? It lies between them and God. And while there are many signs which accompany genuine salvation, the only true measure is whether they persevere in the faith till the very end.
Now this is where we come in with Hebrews. Salvation is the main theme, as I said earlier. The letter is addressed to a group of converted Jews (a church or other) which is facing persecution from other Jews and who are in danger of falling back into the Jewish way of worship and effectively denying Christ. This group, like any church or Christian group, is made up of genuine ‘born-again’ believers and others who are associating with them, maybe close to salvation, or maybe just because they are enjoying the benefits of Christian fellowship. These are the ones described in Heb 5:11 – 6:7. They have not passed beyond the basic teachings of Christianity, they have not learned true righteousness, but have “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the world to come and shared in the benefits of being associated with this group of active believers”. It is these people who the writer is addressing when he says that they should be careful to move on to full faith and not drift away back to where they came from. And, he says, experience has shown that once you turn away from this truly Christian group and the teaching of the word, it is going to be impossible to win you back again.
From there the letter goes on to strengthen the faith of those who have really believed, to which he now adds his own name cf 6:18. “We who have fled to take hold of the hope….”
So, in summary, while we have an absolute secure, rock-solid, hope dependent on God’s promises, taken with an oath, covered by is grace, not on our ability to perform in any way, we should never become complacent. Our salvation is only complete when we are ready to go to be with Jesus.
In the words of Ray, yesterday on Reformation Sunday, from one of the Puritans; “We have been set free, to fight the good fight”.
Friends, this subject is extremely important, because sitting next to you may be someone who has not yet been born-again, blissfully thinking they are OK as long as the do certain things, like go to church etc. We need to understand that the church is not made up of an homogenous group of fervent believers, there are always some who are yet outside of the true family of God. This is not so that we may judge them, but that we act towards every other as if you are God’s hand of love, reaching out to them. Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have, always ready, in season and out of season, because even as God is Wooing, He is using each one of us. This ongoing attitude, I believe is one of the truest signs of a real faith in Jesus.
- The Blessing of the True Sabbath.
- The glory and centrality of Salvation.
- Responding to His Call.
- Satan seeks to sift us.
- Understanding Jesus as High Priest.
- Jesus' Transfigured Glory in a Crooked and Faithless World.
- Who IS this Man?
- Repentance - How do You understand it?
- Healing or Salvation?
- The Value and Necessity of Salvation.