“A SUPERIOR COVENANT”:- Hard Saying in Hebrews!!

In engaging the exegesis of Hebrews 6:1-12, the New American Standard Bible was selected as the version of the Bible that will be referenced primarily due to its readability and its maintenance of the integrity of the original Greek meanings and innuendos and nuances. Particular attention will be given to verses 4, 5 and 6.

Heb 6:1-12

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, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.4 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, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.7 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; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. 9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 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. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Introduction

The pressures and trials of life sometimes cripple the faith of believers to the point that they feel disappointment with the faith they hold and even with the God of their faith. Consequently, many faint in the walking out of this faith. Some refer to this state as a state of backsliding and others see this state as a turning away from God and a consequent loss of salvation.

The book of Hebrews seems to be a book that contains many difficult passages as it relates to soteriology. There is the warning against: “Doubt” (3:12-19); “Denial” (4:1-5:14); “Drifting” (6:1-20), among others. Many use those passages as arguments against eternal security, claiming lucid evidence to substantiate their points-of-view. Others argue that those seemingly difficult passages can easily be reconciled with the wider context of scripture as well as considering the historical context of the book and the circumstances that warranted the writer’s sharp warnings to his audience.

Any careful exegete of scripture will, from the historical context of the time in which the book was written; the general message from the book of Hebrews; the immediate context of chapter six and the meanings of the key words used within the passage under review, draw the true meaning of the same passage and its implications for our present context as we seek to live out our faith.

Historical Background of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is said to be like no other New Testament epistle. It is described as a book that has problems peculiar to itself. In form of construction, style, in argument, and in relation to other books of the Bible, Hebrews stands apart.[1] In addition, unlike the first nine epistles (Romans to 2 Thessalonians), which are addressed to Christian churches (primarily gentile audiences), Hebrews (the first of the final nine epistles) is clearly written to Jews.[2] The book’s address could have meant that the people to whom the book was written spoke Hebrew as in the case of Acts 6:1. However, if the title is a deduction of the contents of the book then it can be accepted that it is referring to members of the Jewish nation, who believed themselves to be specially chosen by God. But it is clear that from the letter itself that the letter is written to Christians – Jewish Christians.[3]

Why was the Letter Written?

The writer calls his/her letter an exhortation (13:22). The Greek word used for exhortation may also be translated ‘encouragement’ or ‘appeal’. The letter itself may justify those three translations as it contains passages of warning, encouragement and strength to Christian loyalty. The letter is really an argument for the superiority of Christ over the tenets of Judaism- Christianity supercedes Judaism.[4]

Why was important for such exhortation, encouragement or appeal? Though it is arduous to fix a date in which the epistle must have been written, it is plain that the book was written some time before A.D. 70, which was before the destruction ofJerusalem. It will help to understand the context of the letter, if we understand the general atmosphere at the time of its writing.

Christians were suspected and consequently punished by religious bodies-particularly the Jews-and by Roman authorities. As such, those Christians may have been pressured to the point of refusing to live out their faith and reverting to Judaism. Hence, according to Davies, a letter stressing the finality and all sufficiency of Christianity would strengthen them.

Furthermore, all Christians knew that the Old Testament was God’s covenant made with Israeland out of it; a new covenant was made in Jesus Christ. Their dilemma was now whether they should be Jews as well as Christians and how must they now relate to non-Christian Jews. Such confusion may have weakened their faith. The overwhelming persecution and confusion they experienced may have caused some to arrive at the brink of apostasy (refuge could not be sought in the Law or Judaism, which was rendered obsolete by the finished work of Christ on Calvary).[5]

Authorship

Though the name Paul is often linked with this book, there is much debate over its authorship. The book is anonymous. Paul often attached his name to his writings. The early church suggested it was Barnabas, Luke, Silvanus, Philip, Priscilla or Clement.[6] There is no internal or external evidence as to the author of the letter but what is clear is that the writer understood both the implications of the law and the deep theological realities of Christ’s sacrifice.

Background of Hebrews 6:1-12

Hebrews 6:1-3 picks up on the spiritual dryness of the Hebrews. The chapter begins with an appeal by the author to move on to spiritual maturity.[7] The Hebrew Christians must abandon the rudiments of the law[8] because they have a far better provision inCalvary and a superior priest in Christ. Since the total book of Hebrews is about the ‘Superiority of Christ’, chapter six seeks to present the superiority of Christ as a sacrifice versus that of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament.

Verse one calls for the abandoning of temple sacrifices and its attending rituals intimating a once and for all action as part of the warning echoed but also beginning a case for the Superiority of Christ’s finished work and thus encourage the Hebrews not to return to Judaism or apostasies.[9]

Furthermore, the writer makes a point by focusing on the words “leaving” and “pressing on” in the opening verse. The word “leaving” is a verb that mean to “put or place” with a preposition prefixed which means “off” or “away” (aphiemi). The preposition implies separation. The various meanings and shades of the word may imply: “to send away”, “let go” “to send from one’s self”, “to let be” or “to disregard”. On the other hand “pressing on” or “let us go on” is an aorist participle, which shows that the action of the aorist participle precedes the action of the leading verb  and thus the tense of the word will suggest a once and for all action. Hence from verse one, one gets the understanding that it is impossible for one to have truly moved forward if one has not been first separated from that which one was attached to. Verses 1-3 therefore tells the Christians that they need to separate themselves from the teachings of salvation through keeping the law and move on to faith in the finished work of a more superior sacrifice- Christ Jesus-a once and for all action- that saves once and for all.[10]

The question that still remains to be answered at this point though, in chapter six, is that if the believers had already abandoned Jewish Customs-the Old Covenant sacrifices, why does the writer still feel the need to admonish them to abandon same? According to Wuest (1947), based on verse four of chapter six, the Holy Spirit had already enlightened them so that they saw the sacrifices were abolished at the cross and  that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was the only way to salvation. They had acted on that realization and had abandoned the dependence on the works according to the Old Testament sacrifice. Their former dependence did not yield  to salvation.

“4 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, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.” Since salvation could not have been obtained through the sacrifice of any of the Judaistic rudiments and is only made available through Christ, who had made them partakers of the Holy Spirit and of the Heavenly gift, then to depart from that path means that there is no other source of  appeal for salvation. It will be, therefore, impossible for such a person (if it were possible) who turns away to be afforded the opportunity to repent because it will mean that Jesus Christ will have to again be crucified.[11]According to Williams (1926), if, after having come to acknowledge a crucified Messiah, they turned back from these realities to Mosaic rudiments, it would be impossible that they restart at John’s baptism and once again advance to Christ’s salvation for they had abandoned that road there would remain no other way of life and blessing.[12]

Verses seven and eight, according to Ryrie, will seem to suggest that a refusal to move on to maturity is inevitably going to lead to loss of reward; also supported in 1 Corinthians 3:15[13] while, verses nine to twelve seem to be sending the message that the sharp warning was to stir up a faith that persevered despite the persecution and the tendency to want to revert to Judaism-be steady in faith! A steady faith will assure them that even thought they are enduring the pressures now, they have a blessed hope because of the salvation experienced through a superior relationship with Christ (verse 11).

Exegesis on Hebrews 6:4-6

The most troubling part of the chapter however, is from versefour to six. It has been one of the points of departure for discussions on eternal security and loss of salvation through apostasy. For clearer understanding and proper exegesis of these verses, the general context of the book of Hebrews, the theme of the chapter under review, the meanings and nuances of critical words and the wider context of biblical teachings must be considered.

6:4 Ἀδύνατον *)adu/naton γὰρ ga\r τοὺς tou\s ἅπαξ a(/pac φωτισθέντας, fwtisqe/ntas, γευσαμένους geusame/nous τε te τῆς th=s δωρεᾶς dwrea=s τῆς th=s ἐπουρανίου e)pourani/ou καὶ kai\ μετόχους meto/xous γενηθέντας genhqe/ntas πνεύματος pneu/matos ἁγίου a(gi/ou 6:5 καὶ kai\ καλὸν kalo\n γευσαμένους geusame/nous θεοῦ qeou= ῥῆμα r(h=ma δυνάμεις duna/meis τε te μέλλοντος me/llontos αἰῶνος, ai)w=nos, 6:6 καὶ kai\ παραπεσόντας, parapeso/ntas, πάλιν pa/lin ἀνακαινίζειν a)nakaini/zein εἰς ei)s μετάνοιαν, meta/noian, ἀνασταυροῦντας a)nastaurou=ntas ἑαυτοῖς e(autoi=s τὸν to\n υἱὸν ui(o\n τοῦ tou= θεοῦ qeou= καὶ kai\ παραδειγματίζοντας

a rough translation of the verse may sound like: “It is impossible for the ones once being enlightened, besides tasting of the gift of the heavenly and being partakers the Holy Spirit and the good tasting word of God besides the powerful works of the impending world and falling aside again to be renewing into after mind, they crucifying to themselves the Son of the God and holding up to shame.”

Ἀδύνατον (adunaton)= Impossible

ἅπαξ (apax) = once (and for all- permanence)

φωτισθέντας (photisthentas) = being enlightened (from the word “photizo”meaning light) it is in the Aorist passive Accusative plural. The passive tone here suggests that the audience were recipients of the enlightenment (it was nothing they had done to achieve it) from God and connotes the message of genuine salvation experience.

Παραπεσόντας (parapesontas)- falling away/aside (Aorist Active Accusative Plural) past action with continuing implications. It is a linear tense.

παραδειγματίζοντας (paradeigmatizontas)= holding up to shame (Present Active Accusative plural). There is continuous sense of the action.

There is the sense that the writer uses a hypothetical situation to express the warning that he did. Clearly he makes a case for impossibility. It is impossible to have the process of enlightenment (regeneration expressed in Ephesians 2:1) and being made to receive the Holy Spirit (with whom we are sealed unto the day of redemption Ephesians4:30) twice. It will mean that Christ will have to crucified again because the work of salvation, described in verses four and five is once and for all. Hebrews 1:3 says that after he made purification for our sins he sat down; signaling the finality of his sacrifice over that of the old covenant. The implications for the Hebrews therefore was to consider what they were giving up (a superior covenant) for one that was impossible to bring salvation. Of course, such an argument will encourage them in a time of great confusion and temptation to turn back that they were really giving up the “real deal” for that which is only a shadow (Colossians 2 16:17). Furthermore, the writer summed up his argument in verse 12 of chapter 6 by telling them of the inheritance to be gained for persevering through persecution.

Application

Within many of our churches in the world, there is the sense that struggle with one’s faith and to the point of failure to practice its tenets leads to the loss of one’s salvation. Consequently, the person may be beyond redemption because of the impossibility of repentance after such. To hold to such a view therefore not only causes persons to remain in that state of backsliding longer than they should, it removes the assurance and hope one has in restoring fellowship with one’s saviour. As a consequence the Christian life becomes one that abolishes the idea of second chances. Further, it leaves no place for those who become weak in faith.

On the contrary, to understand and appreciate the passage in its truest sense, allows for an appreciation of the fact that the salvation which we have been made partakers of is so rich and precious. It leads the believer into a life of gratitude that we have, through the Christ and His work on the cross, we have eternal life. Our salvation is superior to that of the Old Covenant. I don’t have to be worried about keeping the law which according to Romans5:20was added so that sin may abound (that we realize how incapable we are of keeping same).

In the midst of our suffering, we can look to Hebrews 6 and when tempted to allow persecution and suffering to draw us away from our commitment to God we can say like Peter, “to whom shall we go.” We have a superior relationship in Christ, why not endure suffering to the end?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baxter J. Sidlow. 1960 “Explore the Book”, Zondervan Publishing House,Grand Rapids,Michigan,USA

Davies , J.H.. 1967 “The Cambridge Bible Commentary-A Letter to the Hebrews”,CambridgeUniversity Press.

Pfeiffer, Charles. 1962. Everyman’s Bible Commentary: The Epistle to the Hebrews, Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois

Pfeiffer, Charles F. and EverettF. Harrison. 1962“The Wycliffe Bible Commentary”, The Southwestern Company,Nashville,Tennessee,USA.

Phillips, John. 1977. Exploring Hebrews. Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois.

Williams, George. 1926. The Student’s Commentaryon the Holy Scriptures. Kregel Publications,Grand Rapids,Michigan. Pg. 978.

Wuest, Kenneth S. 1947. Hebrews in the Greek New Testament. W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.Grand Rapids,Michigan. Pgs 108-109.


[1] Pfeiffer, Charles F. and Everett F. Harrison. 1962“The Wycliffe Bible Commentary”, The Southwestern Company,Nashville,Tennessee,USA. Pg. 1401

[2] J. Sidlow Baxter. 1960 “Explore the Book”, Zondervan Publishing House,Grand Rapids,Michigan,USA. Pg. 259.

[3] J.H.Davies. 1967 “The Cambridge Bible Commentary-A Letter to the Hebrews”,CambridgeUniversity Press. Pg.3

[4] Ibid. Charles Ryrie agrees that the letter was a word of exhortation and posits that it was so because some of the believers were in danger of abandoning faith in Jesus Christ and reverting to Judaism. Ryrie sites persecution as a reason for why some may have sought to revert to the Judaism. Ryrie, Charles C. 1995. Ryrie Study Bible (NASB), Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois.

[5] J.H.Davies. 1967 “The Cambridge Bible Commentary-A Letter to the Hebrews”,CambridgeUniversity Press.

[6] Pfeiffer, Charles. 1962. Everyman’s Bible Commentary: The Epistle to the Hebrews, Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois. Pg.7. The author’s familiarity with Jewish teachings and customs suggests that he or she was Jewish but the anonymity of the letter may allude to female authorship. If the contents were to be taken seriously it could not have been a female author, hence it is alleged that is why the author chose to remain anonymous.

[7] Phillips, John. 1977. Exploring Hebrews. Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois. Pg. 89.

[8] These include animal sacrifices, keeping of the Sabbaths and all other rituals accounted for righteousness according to custom.

[9] Phillips, John. 1977. Exploring Hebrews. Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois. Pg. 89.

[10]. Wuest, Kenneth S. 1947. Hebrews in the Greek New Testament. W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.Grand Rapids,Michigan. Pgs 108-109.

[11]Wuest, Kenneth S. 1947. Hebrews in the Greek New Testament. W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.Grand Rapids,Michigan. Pgs 108-109.

As it is impossible for the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to be done again, it will be impossible for anyone to be brought into salvation through any other means since Jesus sacrifice is the superior of the two systems the writer to the Hebrews continues to compare. Of-course his is a hypothetical scenario. The careful exegete must remember that the central theme of Hebrews is the superiority of Christ.

[12] Williams, George. 1926. The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. Kregel Publications,Grand Rapids,Michigan. Pg. 978.

[13] Ryrie, Charles C. 1995. Ryrie Study Bible (NASB), Moody Press,Chicago,Illinois.

CHRIST ENDING THE LAW or FULFILLING THE LAW? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

“For truly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18; NAS).

What did Jesus mean when he spoke these words? Is it that Christians are expected to keep all the rigid Old Testament laws or is it that He (Jesus) will accomplish the law so that we are no longer required to do so? This may be one of the most difficult problems to reconcile in Christian doctrine. It has grave implications for our soteriology and the practice of Christianity. On the one hand, Christ is supposedly reinforcing the Law and its functions while on the other hand, Paul is purporting that Christ has brought an end to the law (Romans 10:4), cancelling its requirements by death on the cross (Colossians 2:14).

Firstly, in one’s attempts to bring reconciliation to these seemingly contradictory passages, it must be taken for granted that all of scripture is God breathed and therefore inerrant; without error or contradictions and that God’s revelation (His Word) is consistent with whom He is. Consequently, there is no contradiction that appears between what Jesus explained about the fulfillment of the law and what Paul explains in more lucid terms. Jesus Christ has ended the requirements of the law which was meant to bring justification.

Understanding the Law

Additionally, to further engage the argument, it must be understood by all, what is meant by ‘The law’. According to Fee and Stuart (2003, 164), the term Law has multiple connotations when it is used in scripture. One such connotation is that law in the plural form may refer to those more than six hundred specific commandments that the Israelites were expected to follow as a sign of their loyalty to God. In the singular, however, the law can refer to the Pentateuch, i.e. from Genesis to Deuteronomy. It may even refer to, what some writers in the New Testament refer theologically to, the entire Old Testament religious system. Conner (1980, 193) in his book, The Foundations of Christian Doctrine: A Practical Guide to Christian Belief, speaks of a concept of divine law, which he says God gave as a standard of righteousness for all to follow. He goes on to say that without the law there would be no order and everything would be chaos.

However, one must understand that the law is a paradigm. It is hardly a complete list of all the things that one could or should do to please God. The law presents, rather, examples of what it means to be loyal to God by, as Conner puts it, following His standards. The law was mean to lead men to faith in God; it was a guide to salvation. Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia puts it this way, “Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24; NAS). This is why nowhere in the Old Testament is it suggested that anyone was saved by keeping the Law. Rather, the Law was a special gift to Israel, to differentiate them from their pagan neighbours in moral and spiritual conduct but it could not justify them.  Again, Paul alludes to this in Galatians 2:16 “…a man is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no one will be justified. In other words, we have been vindicated of any charge of sin as it relates to our failure to keep the Law (Ryrie, 1995) because of what Christ has done. This is what is meant by Christ has put an end to the Law.

Christ has ended the Law

Wilkinson and Boa (1983, 395) in their commentary on the book of Galatians, describe the theme and purpose of the book as a corrective teaching on justification by faith apart from works of the Law to counteract the  teachings of Jewish legalists who were influencing the believers to trade their freedom in Christ for bondage of the Law. They went further to show how Paul’s discourse in chapters five and six were written to show that liberty from the law does not mean lawlessness as his opponents might have opined. The believer does not need the law to make him righteous he is declared righteous by his faith because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law, thus, ending it.

Moreover, for us to fully understand what is meant by Christ bringing an end to the law, therefore, justifying us through faith (and not the Law), we will have to understand the concept of justification. The teaching of Romans 3:24 that justification is given or imputed to us, or as we may put it simply, “given a mek up” so that we can be considered righteous before God is a teaching that resonates throughout the teachings of Paul. Paul continually makes the point that this is not a position in Christ that is earned through legalism but one that is accessed by faith. And this faith itself is not of the conscience of man but find its origin in God (Romans 12:3b). Further to, the anonymous writer to the Hebrews, or Pricilla (some scholars have suggested) refusing to reveal her identity, says in 9:12-14 presents Jesus acting as the propitiation or sacrificial lamb, satisfying the penalty for sin, which makes it possible for us to receive righteousness without having to pay or work for it. The righteousness that is revealed is from God not our efforts because again we all stand guilty before God Romans 3:10-18, 23. Speaking of God’s sovereignty in salvation, Paul supports this notion again in Romans 9:16.

According to Wilkinson and Boa, from Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul builds a case for the condemnation of all people, by God. He shows that Jews and Gentiles seek to be in right standing (be justified) by using relative standards not realizing that God’s requirement is absolute perfection. Paul knows, posit Wilkinson and Boa, that the bad news (condemnation) must be understood before the good news (justification) can be appreciated. The passage on justification picks up on man’s need for God’s provision, since man is unable of attaining this perfection on his own. The first 11 verses (Romans 3:21-31) of the discourse reveal that in Christ, God is both Judge and Saviour. The Lord is not unjust when he declares that sinners are in right standing with him because He bases this pronouncement upon the death of Christ on their behalf.

Furthermore, Warren W Wiersbe (1989), in explaining justification as seen in the passage begins by alluding to God’s nature. He says that God is absolute in what He is in Himself and relative in how He relates to men. One of His absolute attributes is love and when he relates that love to us, it becomes mercy and grace. In His mercy God does not give us as we deserve and in His grace, He gives us what we do not deserve. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand God can make us right before Him even if we do not deserve that pronouncement. The Greek word translated freely, can also be translated without cause as seen in John 15:25. We are justified without cause. In other words, there is no cause in us that merit the salvation of God. Justification is being put in right relationship with God by God himself. It finds its origin with God is independent of any human effort. Justification guarantees us peace with God because God’s demand for justice was satisfied in Christ’s death.

In this regard, as we grapple with the notion that Christ is the end of the law, it may augur well for us to think of the liberty that He wrought for us through His death and not necessarily about thoughts of lawlessness. Because even with the law, as Paul asserts, sin increased; there was lawlessness (Romans 5:20). As we encounter Christ in Galatians, we need to understand that He ended the Law in that He freed the believer from bondage to the Law (legalism) and to sin (license) and has placed him or her in a position of liberty (Wilkinson and Boa, 1983; 396).

Conclusion

What, then, did Jesus mean by His statement in Matthew 5:18? According to Ryrie Study Bible (1995) Jesus might have been making reference to the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. In the preceding verse Jesus said that he came to fulfil the Law not institute lawlessness and so one gets the Understanding that Jesus was making reference to His purpose in coming and the accomplishment of the cross; pointing to what Paul says in Romans 10:4, that by His death on the Cross, Christ ended our adherence to the Law to be declared righteous. Our righteousness is now dependent on faith in Christ just as Abraham’s was before the Law.

Reference List

Conner, Kevin J. The Foundations of Christian Doctrine: A Practical Guide to Christian Belief; BT Publishing, Portland, Oregon, USA. 1980.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart: How to Read the Bible for all its Worth. Zondervan Publishing Company; Grand Rapid, Michigan, USA. 2003.

Wiersbe, Warren: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Chariot Victor Publishing, Colorado Springs, Colorado; USA. 1989.

Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa: Talk Through the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 1983.

Once Saved, Always Saved? Seriously?

The issue of “Eternal Security” is often a vexing one. Depending on your church traditions you might not even have heard of the concept. Most Christians in Jamaica may have the belief that they can forfeit the GIFT of salvation and so they must live a morally upright life at all times to guarantee the reception and preservation of this gift.

Can a person who has been saved ever be lost? Is it possible for one to ever fall away from grace? Is the statement “Once saved, always saved,” true? Do I have to worry about whether I go to hell or heaven as a Believer? These are questions that often bombard the mind of many Christians. For many, there is the fear of losing their salvation at a moment of vulnerability, for others there is the arduous task of trying desperately to secure their places in heaven by ensuring that they have done everything to the letter. Why is it, however, that those who are supposed to have been set free by God’s grace; free to serve Him “out of gratitude for what he has done,” (Gromacki, 1973)rather than serve him out of apprehension or anxiety, live in so much uncertainty and bondage? If it is that we have been saved, then what is salvation and what have we been saved from? Is our anxiety caused because our salvation is not assured?

Arminian and Calvinists would argue against and for eternal security (http://www.epm.org/articles/arminian_calvinist.html). But which view does the Bible support? Does it support both? For certainty, the Bible cannot present two contradictory claims on the issue of salvation and thus one’s eternal security, having come into salvation that the Bible teaches. So where is the supposed evidence that supports the loss of salvation or security of same coming from? Furthermore is there any truth in either claim?

In a quest to answer these questions put forward, critical analyses will be made of the two existing views on eternal security, citing scriptural references (from Romans mainly) that support each view, while at the same time highlighting and establishing the stronger of the two arguments. Further, the researcher will seek to employ hermeneutical principles and establish grounds that God’s character is harmonious with His revelation. Thus the Bible teaches in Romans and other books one doctrine on eternal security, which is a person who is born into the family of God, cannot at any point lose his or her position. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son, that he might be the first born among many brothers. And those He predestined, he also called; those He called, He also justified; those he justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30, NIV)

The position on eternal security is, believed by John R. Church, D.D., to be, unsound and a dangerous teaching. Church uses as his premise 1 John 4:4, which assures the believer of the ability to endure to the end without falling into Satan’s hand (Church, Pg 7). However, this security in the scripture mentioned, according to Church, cannot be construed as unconditional security. He calls such teaching “the first deception that the devil ever put over the human race.” He draws his argument from the scenario in the Garden of Eden when the Lord told the couple in the day they shall eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they shall surely die. Then, comes the devil and he says to them that they will not surely die. He further claims that the Bible teaches in Ezekiel 18:20 that the soul that sins shall surely die. In light of this scripture, Church, like other Arminians, believes that anyone who dies in sin whether Christian or not will be eternally lost.

In addition, those who support the idea that one, after having been saved, can lose one’s salvation, argue that Jesus himself teaches in Luke 8: 11-14 (in the parable of the farmer and the seeds), particularly verse thirteen and in John 15:1-2 (husbandman and vine and branches), that a person who had once been saved could fall away and be lost. Church, adamantly puts forward that is only he that endures in righteousness shall be saved. If what Church says obtains, then we cannot, in this life, know that we are saved or it is impossible to be saved in this life. The best we can know is that we are working towards being saved.

He, further, argues that Matthew 24:12-13 teaches “But he that endures to the end shall be saved. According to him the conditions for eternal life are: constantly abiding in Christ, fruit bearing, and enduring unto the end. “There is no promise of eternal life to any others” (Pg. 11).

Furthermore, Church cites Exodus 32:33; Ezekiel 18:24, 33:12-13; Luke 9: 62; John 6:66; Galatians 5:4; and 1Timothy 4:1 as verses in scripture that support his argument against eternal security. He says that man can take himself out of God’s hands because he is a free moral agent. If these scriptural references are used appropriately by Church and are interpreted based on sound hermeneutical principles then, it stands to reason that what he has posited and what those of Arminian persuasion believe has credence based on scripture.

Church uses Luke 8:11-14 and John 15:1-2 to argue that a person can lose his or her salvation after having believed. Romans 5: 9 & 10 tells us that when we have been justified by his blood, we will be saved from wrath through him (Christ). It must be understood that the death of Christ and His shed blood effect salvation, but the life of Christ sustains it. This verse underscores the lasting effect of the blood he shed, and that it is Christ who keeps us. In other words, Christ never gets weary of keeping us. John 10:26-30 tells us that His sheep know His voice and follow Him and in verse 28 makes the promise that He gives them eternal life and they will never perish; no one will snatch them out of His hand. In other words he or she cannot lose his or her salvation. Such person is eternally saved and will go to heaven when he or she dies. It is not possible for him to be lost.

Moreover, in that passage of scripture are some fundamental truths. Firstly, those who believe are His sheep (children). The flip side of that is those who do not believe are not his. Therefore, according to Romans 8:29-30, those who believe are the ones who he had predestined to believe in Him. Secondly, those who believe in Him, listen to Him. This speaks to obedience. Therefore, we must answer the question, can one who has put on the righteousness of Christ (justified) resist God constantly and continually as one who never believed? Scripture teaches us of newness that is found in Christ in Romans 6:6-7. Thirdly, there is the promise of eternal life. Then, the second part to that promise is that his sheep (those who believe) will never perish. Fifthly, Jesus assures those who believe that no one can snatch them out of his hand because his Father, who is greater than all, had given them to Him.

Romans 8: 34 – 39 assures of this promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, because Christ himself is making intercession for us. No matter what happens, we cannot be separated because his grace is sufficient to those who are the elect. These scriptures mentioned in Romans and also John stand in direct contradiction to Church’s Claim that those who believe or who have experienced Salvation can lose it or can even reject Christ and consequently eternal life.

In addition, Church makes the assumption that a person who has come into salvation can go on sinning as one who has not or can revert to the position of never knowing God. Hence, he alludes to the scripture in Ezekiel 18:20, which says that the soul that sins shall surely die. Romans 6:1 tells us that if we sin more grace is abounding, this however doesn’t mean that we must continue sinning, because grace is not a license to sin. 1John 3:9 also says that one who is born of God will not continue sinning because God’s seed; (His word and His Spirit, who is the guarantee of salvation) remains in him.

In fact chapter one of 1John and the eighth verse says if one claims to be without sin then one deceives oneself and does not tell the truth. So with such sin being in us and the inevitable death of the soul, who sins, how is eternal life ever possible? The answer lies in Romans 8:30. “….those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” We are justified or made to be in right relationship with God because of Jesus’ work on Calvary alone. That is why if we confess our sins he is faithful and just (because the debt was already satisfied) to forgive us our sins and forgive us all unrighteousness.

Once a person comes to Christ, he cannot lose his salvation (Romans 8: 34 – 39,John 10:26-30). He is eternally saved, he cannot be separated once he has been elected and will go to heaven when he dies. It is not possible for him to be lost. This is a big problem for the Arminian view of freedom. If it is not possible for a person to lose his salvation, they contend, then there are two options: firstly, It is possible for the believer to later on reject Christ and reject eternal life, but God will still take him to heaven when he dies even though he has rejected it and secondly, it is not possible for a believer to ever reject Christ and eternal life once he is saved (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8449/ armin.html).

Under option one; clearly the person’s will is violated, for the person would be rejecting Christ but God would be taking him to heaven anyway. He would be saving the person against his will. This would obviously be inconsistent with the Bible. The Biblical teaching of eternal security clearly teaches that a person cannot reject eternal life once they are saved because they do not want to reject eternal life. God causes us to continue wanting to believe in Him once we are saved. If it Christ who sustains us, it is He who will continue to give us the desire for Him – Romans 5: 9 & 10.

Moreover, the Bible teaches that the grace of God actually stimulates believers to serve God with a thankful heart Romans 2:4. God cannot act outside of his nature. His nature is good and though perfectly just, He is perfectly merciful and thus, He acts in those manners. His Justice was satisfied when He, as Christ took up our sins and paid the price while His mercy is expressed in his forgiveness extended. God is able to determine who will be saved without violating our wills or forcing us to believe. If a person is elect, God does not force him to believe neither does He leave open the possibility that he will use his will to reject Him and overthrow His plan. For if God prepares his heart and gives him a desire for Christ that is greater than his desire to remain in sin, the person will most certainly come–and will come freely. This presupposition is supported by the scripture in Romans 8:29-30. We must remember that the faith that comes to those who believe is given by God in the first instance. For, in Romans 12:3 we are told that God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Furthermore, we must be cognizant that man has no basis of appeal before God; he is simply guilty according to Romans 3:10 -20 (Gromacki, 1973). What then is man’s hope before God since he is already guilty before even starting out? Belief in Christ! “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…,” John 3:36.  Man’s only hope is belief in Christ, which assures him of salvation from the penalty of sin – death. God foreknew us because he chose to save us, in spite of our future sins and failures which he knew since eternity. All are eternally certain (Gromacki, 1973. Pgs 36-37). Not only that but even while in sin, as enemies of God, He reconciled us unto Himself (Romans 5:10) how much more of His mercy will we experience having been reconciled.

The fact that we are predestined means that there is a guaranteed future destiny of the child of God and not that a person is determined to go to hell or heaven. Our predestination and subsequent election are based on God’s Foreknowledge (Romans 8: 29). Our election to salvation is based on the same principle as God’s choice of Jacob through whom the blessing of Abraham would come to the world, according to Romans 9:10-13 (Gromacki, 1973). Romans 9 reveals that out of God’s own Sovereignty, He has determined that though all are condemned to death (separation from Himself) because of Sin that He was going to save or rescue some for eternal life.

Does God guarantee our salvation? According to the Calvinists and particularly Gromacki, He does. Gromacki argues that salvation must be seen as the work of God. “Salvation,” he says, “is Theo centric, not anthropocentric. That is, salvation originates with God and not man. He (God) has done the work, and He has done it for His eternal glory.” Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the author (originator/beginner) and finisher (perfecter) of our faith. Our eternal salvation rests in Christ’s ability to perfect that which he has begun 1Thessalonians 5:23-24.

Furthermore, Jesus himself testifies to eternal security in belief in Him. Could Jesus have testified of two opposing views? The Bible is whole and presents one doctrine. In John 5:24 Jesus said, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” However one may attempt to argue that one can stop believing because of what, they perceive, is said in 1Timothy 4:1. In that passage, the issue addressed is not a believer turning away from truth but the refusal of many to accept the truth and thus turn to deceitful teachings. To agree with the former suggestion is to argue with God’s nature to Give faith to cause one to continue in His ways as is clearly demonstrated in Ezekiel 36:27 and Jeremiah 32:40.

In summary, we know that the blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the nature of salvation. Scripture reveal to us that salvation is eternal. John. 3:16, 36 attest to this claim. The former tells us that those who believe (a) will never perish and (b) will have everlasting life. Secondly, salvation is a present possession as is lucidly stated in Romans. 5:1 and 1 Peter 2:24-25. Thirdly, salvation is by imputation and substitution (2 Co. 5:17; Ga. 2:20; He. 9:10; Ro. 3:24). Salvation is positional. We are told so in Ephesians. 1:3 that salvation is “in Christ”; Romans 6:7; Colossians. 2:10; 3:1-4, 12. Salvation is not of human merit; it is a free gift of grace which cannot be mixed with works Ephesians. 2:8-9; Titus. 3:3-7; Romans 3:19-28; 4:4-5; 9:16; 11:6. Not only are we assured of eternal security because of the nature of salvation but also of the results of salvation as scripture teaches. The results of Salvation are: eternal life John 3:16; Justification Romans 5:1; 3:19-28;  Peace with God Romans 5:1; Sure possession of future glory Romans 5:2, Col. 3:1-4; Salvation from future wrath Romans 5:9; Raised up with Christ Romans 6;  Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Ephesians 1:3; Sealed with the Holy Spirit Ephesians. 4:30; Passed from darkness to light Colossians. 1:12-14 (http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/eternalsecurity.htm).

We cannot and should not construe that because salvation is eternal, it necessarily gives way to licentious behavior or supports that behviour. On the contrary, though eternal security recognizes the grace of God that leads to full and free salvation, it does not support the view that grace has abolished the responsibility of the believer to live rightly or morally. For certainly, Paul does not agree with the notion that grace is the antithesis of good works. In chapter 6 of Romans, He anticipates that said notion and emphatically said may it never be that one thinks that in light of God’s abundant grace, one should go on sinning. Furthermore, in Romans 12 verse 1, Paul implores his readers that after having considered God’s grace, they must present their bodies to Him as living sacrifices. The idea Paul picks up on is that the life of the believer must be given over entirely to God; much as the sacrifice was in Jewish culture as well as yielding their members to God rather than to the dictates of the evil desires of man (Romans 6:13).

The refusal of many, to accept the doctrine of eternal security stems from a belief that the doctrine of eternal security gives persons a license to sin or live carelessly. Paul, the apostle addressed this misconception in the church at Ephesus in Romans 6:1 “…shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” His answer to that rhetorical question comes in the early part of verse two “By no means…!” In fact, the opposite is true. The Bible teaches that the grace of God actually stimulates believers to serve God with a thankful heart Romans 2:4; Ephesians. 3:14-19; Titus. 2:11-14. The more a believer understands the unfathomable love God has for him in Christ, the more he wants to please God. A believer ought not to live in constant fear of one day falling away, or missing the mark or ultimately going to hell because his or her destiny is sealed in Christ’s redemptive work at Calvary. All efforts must be in fulfilling his purpose which is to serve and worship God. Our salvation (rescue from the penalty of sin) remain a gift; an act of grace _ something we neither work to receive nor can we work to keep. In the words of our Christ, “It is finished!”

REFERENCE LIST

Church, John R. Security In Christ: Or Kept By The Indwelling Christ. Pentecostalk Publishing Co., Louisville, Kentucky.

Gromacki, Robert G. 1973. Is Salvation Forever. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago: Moody Press, Chicago.

Randy Alcorn. 2006. Some Thoughts on Eternal Security and the Arminian and Calvinist Positions. Internet Source:http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8449/armin.%20html Eternal Perspective Ministries. Last Updated: October 21, 2008.

Way of Life Literature’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service. 2001. Eternal Security And Problem Passages. Internet Source:http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns%20/eternalsecurity.htm. Last Updated: October 21, 2008.

Internet Source: http://www.epm.org/articles/arminian_calvinist.html. Last Updated:October 31, 2006.