Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hebrews 6: Restoration for fallen Christians

This is a little sketch on Hebrews 6, for Christians who feel condemned because of something they have done even after accepting Christ. So often the guilt and remorse of such a one is unbearable. Know that if your sin is unbearable to you because of a sense of offending Holy God, that indicates that your heart is not hardened. There is hope.

Often this passage of Hebrews is used to quash that hope just when it is most needed. I intend to show that that was not the writer's purpose at all; quite the opposite.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
And this we will do, if God permits.
To move on in Christ we need to lock in the basics and then press forward into maturity. Maturity does not so much involve agreeing intellectually with dogma, it involves Christlikeness, shown by having power to love and a sound mind. It's about Kingdom character, obedience, and effectiveness. It's about fulfilling our destiny in Christ.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;
but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, whose end is being burned.
Now the case of believers who have fallen. Are they lost forever? This is one of the hardest passages of Scripture, and a first reading would seem to indicate so. To sin against the Name is a serious thing. There is nothing more serious. But we do not know the heart of the sinner. We don’t know how knowingly and willingly they sinned or to what degree the enemy tricked them. We don’t know the level of maturity they were operating from, where they had come from in life. Be careful about eschatological judging. Be careful about breaking a bruised reed or quenching smoldering flaxen, because that's something that Scripture explicitly says Jesus would not do.

To sin against the Name is indeed the most serious thing. He who does so is close to being cursed. Let's not nudge him over the line, lest we be judged guilty of a soul. Our goal should be restoration.

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.
First, it was not the writer's intention to destroy hope of recovery. Rather, he extends it. His purpose was only to warn against falling in the first place, and that's a very different thing.
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.
This reflects back on heart motivation. The fruit of salvation is good works and love of the Name. One mistake does not erase that, if it that mistake is repented. And the path back involves pursuing the fruit of good works and love of the Name once again.
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,
Diligence will be required. Diligence is earnest, consistent effort. It is whole-souled devotion, involving mind, emotion, strength, and will.
so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Know that behind all this is God's promise. He will not abandon those who cling to Him for salvation. He has sworn it by the highest witness: Himself.
For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.”
And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.
The next quality for recovery is patience. This is not a passive waiting by any means, as we have seen that diligence is necessary. Rather, it is waiting for the promises to manifest while we are sowing the seed and working the ground.
For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,
where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. - Heb 6
God not only promised to bless Abraham, He swore to do so. The writer here extrapolates the blessing of Abraham to all Christian believers, who like Abraham are sons of faith, sons of the promise.

The purpose here is not to condemn anyone who has fallen, to dowse what little hope they cling to for recovery. No, instead he is extending a sure hope of recovery, if they will repent and commit themselves whole-souled to pursuing God. And he backs it up with the weight of God's solemn promise.

If you are in Christ but have fallen, rise up and seize the promises. Seize on God's good nature. Yes, sin has a terrible cost, but where sin abounds, God's grace abounds much more for those who flee to God for refuge. Do not make the profound mistake of letting God's promise of restoration go unclaimed. Get right with God now. Confess your sins and then extend faith toward God that He is able to restore you, according to IJn 1.9:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Lastly, we are given examples in Scripture of those who fell but rose again. These are trophies of grace that God has put on display to show the depths of His mercy to us who so easily fail. Paul's persecution of the church was overlooked, and the Lord reached down and saved him. He went on to be perhaps the greatest apostle.

You might argue that Paul wasn't in Christ while he was persecuting the church. True, but Peter was in Christ when he denied Him three times. Three is normally the number of completion, signifying that Peter's failing was thorough. Yet Christ received him back with open arms. Perhaps it was the depth of Peter's failing that caused Jesus to appear to him alone on one occasion. Perhaps things needed to be exchanged that can only take place on a one-to-one basis with the Lord. But in any case, Peter was received back and went on to be a great servant of the Most High God. And yes, he made other mistakes afterward as well (Gal 2), but he didn't let that stop him from serving Christ with his whole heart.

These things have been written for our encouragement, so that we don't lose heart. The Bible wasn't given to condemn us, but to save us. Understand the Author's motivation, and trust in His love. If you have fallen, seek repentance and the Lord's forgiveness, declare the past over, and pick up the mantle of your calling again and get yourself back into service.

May God richly bless.

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