Saturday, April 3, 2010

Christians and Apostasy: A Fresh Look At Hebrews 6

by Babu G. Ranganathan

In 1 Timothy 1:19-20 Paul tells us that certain Christians who committed apostasy will remain saved but not escape judgment here in this world. Paul says, in the passage, that he delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had shipwrecked their faith (committed apostasy), to Satan so that that "THEY WILL LEARN NOT TO BLASPHEME." The Apostle is saying that these men would come again to repentance because they would learn not to blaspheme. God will use Satan to discipline them, and God only disciplines His true children. God leaves reprobates alone!

But, if we’re kept by the power of God through faith, as Scripture teaches, how can apostates still be saved when they become faithless. That’s a good question and it will be answered as you read on.

And doesn't Hebrews 6 say it is absolutely impossible to bring apostates back to repentance? No. Context is key here. In the context of the passage, the Apostle was warning these Hebrew Christians that if they commit apostasy it would be impossible for them to come to repentance again BEFORE experiencing fiery judgment.

In Hebrews 6, the Apostle was telling certain Christians that they were in danger of their hearts becoming so hardened that they would not be able to repent before they are judged. The Apostle gives an example towards the end of Hebrews 6 of how land that does not bear fruit will be burned of its weeds, thorns, etc. The land itself will not be destroyed and may afterwards become profitable to produce fruit. The Jews were known, in ancient times, to burn land that only produced weeds, thorns, etc, so that it may be used afresh again. Obviously, the use of the word "land" represents Christians (believers).

Most Christians don’t understand the difference between their position in Christ and their condition. For example, haven’t you ever asked yourself why, as a believer in Christ, you need to ask forgiveness to God for your sins but, yet, the Bible says before God’s eyes you are as righteous and as sinless as Christ because He sees you in Christ. How can both be true?

Our being as righteous as Christ is our position in Christ, not our condition now. Position has to do with our legal status. When the Bible says that by faith in Christ we are justified (declared not guilty), it is referring to our position. The biblical term “justified” has solely a judicial meaning. Judicially we believers in Christ are declared to be not guilty, but in our condition we still have guilt because we still have sin.

Here’s an example. A murderer is pardoned (justified or declared not guilty) by the governor of a state. Does that mean he hadn’t committed murder? Legally speaking, he is considered as if he had never committed murder, but in actual history (his condition) he did commit murder. So, too, before God the believer in Christ is legally considered as sinless or as righteous as Christ, but in his condition the believer still has sin. God’s acceptance of us is based on our position (our being in Christ), but our condition (our practical spiritual and moral state) determines our fellowship with God.

One day the believer’s condition will be the same as his position (the same as his legal standing before God). That day will be in heaven. Until then, the believer, through the Holy Spirit, experiences sanctification, which is the gradual experiencing in his life what he has in his legal standing (or position) before God.

Our position (justification) before God is forever secured by a one-time act of faith in Christ, but our sanctification (our present condition of being saved) requires continued faith in Christ. Let’s look at it another way. We are justified only once by our faith in Christ (when we once received Him as our personal Lord and Savior). We don’t keep getting justified. We don’t keep receiving Christ as our Savior. Receiving Christ as our Savior was based on a one-time act of faith, but our sanctification (becoming Christ-like in our lives) is an on-going process of salvation. The sanctification process of our salvation requires continuing in faith.

The Scriptures teach, in various passages, that the ultimate completion of the believer’s sanctification, even when interrupted by sin, is ultimately guaranteed by God. That is why Scripture says in Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering He hath PERFECTED (past tense) FOREVER them that are sanctified (being saved).” In this life, Christians may fail in their faith when it comes to their sanctification, but their original one-time faith for justification is what God will use to keep them from ultimately losing eternal salvation.

And, of course, Scripture also talks about those who profess faith in Christ but were never true believers to begin with. We are not talking about those people in this article. We are talking about in this article true believers who become apostate.

To access learning more on this subject just google the following: Understanding God and Predestination by Babu G. Ranganathan

(Some thoughts shared in this article were gleaned from reading The Bible Knowledge Commentary a work of the Dallas Theological Seminary faculty).

I truly hope all will read my article "Understanding God and Predestination" at: