Falling Away

I confess to being inordinately entertained by discussions about eternal security and loss of salvation. The spectrum spans the ridiculous extremes of “even God can’t reject you” to “you forgot where you left it”. To be fair, those extremes won’t make sense to most people, and even those I consider to hold one of them would disagree with my assessment of their position.

I fall into the odd “middle ground” of believing we can reject our Savior after having experienced Him, but that it’s not simple or easy. On the other hand, my position on salvation is that it’s not quick or even linear. I find that I’m alone in these positions, I can articulate them, but I can rarely inspire acceptance in others.

Hebrews seems to wrestle with the view of apostasy in several places, and this passage below is one of them:

Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Hebrews 3:5,6 NASB

Verse 6 has a condition, “…if we hold fast…” that leaves open the possibility that we won’t hold fast. In other words, we might not hold fast, we might…whatever the alternative might be, instead. The example the writer of Hebrews uses is the people of Israel as they wandered in the desert. He quotes Psalm 95 (in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, it’s Psalm 94), where the psalmist calls on the people to avoid the rebellion of their fathers. This psalm, and its use here, introduces a very interesting, and an intriguing element to the discussion of loss of salvation, or what it means to be “saved” in the first place.

For instance, were the rebellious people in the wilderness, those who had seen the work of Yahweh to deliver them from Egypt, those who had heard and ratified the covenant of Yahweh before His mountain, were these, at any time, no longer the people of Yahweh? They were denied entrance into the land of Canaan, and they died in the wilderness along the way. By not entering, were they rejected by God as His people? I don’t think so. You will need to process that for yourself, but my belief is that they remained His people, even in the midst of their rebellion.

So, is the writer of Hebrews referring to the loss of salvation? Actually he seems to be, even though he uses these people to make his point. The way he uses them to make his point is to refer to “entering My rest”, a reference from Psalm 95:11 (or Psalm 94:11 in the LXX). This reference is unpacked further in chapter 4, but the writer here points to the sin of unbelief as what kept them from entering the rest of Yahweh, their Redeemer. The quote he uses is, once again, from the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures:

“Today if you hear His voice,
DO not harden your hearts as when they provoked ME,
AS in the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw MY works for forty years.
“Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know MY ways’;
AS I swore in MY wrath,
‘They shall not enter MY rest.’”

Hebrews 3:7b-11 (NASB) – See also Psalm 95:7b-11

Keep in mind that the psalmist could be pointing out that his audience has entered this rest, but that it’s not likely. The context of the psalm makes more sense as a warning to his audience implying that they have yet to enter this rest, and that rebellious disobedience will keep them from it (see the entirety of Psalm 95). Psalm 95 is a call to worship Yahweh, but ends with this warning not to repeat the mistakes in the wilderness, and one element cannot be truly separated from the other in understanding it.

So, for us, there remains a rest as well. The writer of Hebrews will unpack this more in chapter 4, but he leaves the warning hanging as a possibility as he calls his audience not to repeat the rebellious sin of their fathers in the wilderness. So, does this mean that we, once having started on the path of our Savior and Master, Jesus, can wander off the path, and fail to reach the promise in which we hope?

The writer points out that those who fell were those who followed Moses out of Egypt. The implication is that leaving Egypt didn’t guarantee reaching the rest. The psalmist could be implying that just being in the temple, singing this psalm, didn’t guarantee reaching the rest as well. The implication for us could then be understood to mean that just being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t guarantee that we will enter the rest. The sin of rebellion could keep us from it.

Hopefully, as it was supposed to do for the initial audience of Hebrews, it will “sober us up” so that we take this life with our Master very seriously. We are disciples of Jesus, not just “Christians” in an association of those who go to a worship service regularly. We are to pattern our lives after His pattern. We are, as Paul puts it in several letters, to die that He might live in us. Jesus claims that those who wish to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives will gain them (Matthew 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:34, 17:33). Jesus wants our lives, not our attention. He doesn’t want us to do enough to warrant His favor, He grants us the favor of losing all of ourselves to Him.

Let us all heed the warning of the psalmist and the writer of Hebrews, and not succumb to danger of the sin of rebellion.

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17 Comments

  1. SpaniardVIII says:

    “Verse 6 has a condition, “…if we hold fast…” that leaves open the possibility that we won’t hold fast. In other words, we might not hold fast, we might…whatever the alternative might be, instead.”

    To understand a particular topic in any given verse or verses, we have to find a clear explanation in the Scriptures to determine how to explain the other verses that “might” seem to say the opposite. We know as Christians that Scripture does not contradict itself so the misunderstanding comes from us not the Scriptures.

    Where in Scripture is the clearest definition of eternal salvation? It is found in the Book of John Chapter 10 from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

    John 10:28-30 (CSB)
    28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    In verse 28, it defines the word eternal life as “they will never perish.” And it continues to tell us why because “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

    In the next verse, verse 29, it explains why no one can be snatched a believer from God’s hand because the Father is greater than all. Here Jesus said that God’s power keeps the person saved meaning that the Holy Spirit will always convict and bring back a Christian who has fallen into sin back to repentance. In verse 30, Jesus declares to be God and indirectly says that He will keep you from falling away.

    I have a series on “Can a Christian lose their salvation” and other different headers with with the same topic of eternal security. If you ever have time, you should check it out.

    https://spiritualminefield.wordpress.com/category/eternal-security/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matt Brumage says:

      Hi Spaniard, thanks for the comment.

      Your assertion that John 10:28 through 30 is the clearest definition of salvation is certainly different than my view. I find other verses to be clearer, at least to me.

      That being said, those verses make a really good point in favor of the “eternal security” camp. I believe they rely heavily on it, and they should.

      As you pointed out though, if other verses seem to disagree with the point derived from other verses, a decision has to be made that somehow preserves the point the Holy Spirit is making.

      So, the question I ask is, “Is there an interpretation of this passage that preserves the meaning of both?” A corollary question is, “Is there another way to understand this passage?” And, with regard to John 10, I believe there is.

      To be fair, though, I believe there are other interpretations of Hebrews 3 as well. I won’t pretend to have this issue all figured out, in fact I typically disagree with elements of both sides. I think (completely opinion) that both sides are asking the wrong questions, and that our Savior is interested in other things relating to salvation.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. I did visit your site, and you have clearly put a lot of work and thought into your study of Scripture. Good stuff, thank you for your service to our King.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SpaniardVIII says:

        I understand what you are saying Knothole. To me, John 10’s words [verses] from Jesus is very clear. I would like to point to you one that you probably didn’t think of which is pretty insightful which is on the same topic in this discussion.

        Genesis 3:22-24

        “22 The Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.”

        Here you have God taking action before Adam can get a chance to take from the Tree of Life because God would have to honor His Word in reference to the name of the Tree. The Tree’s fruit gives eternal life [not the tree’s fruit itself but it comes from God] as the passages suggest and we know that the Tree of Life represents Jesus Christ who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him.

        We see that God had to kick Adam and Eve out because if they would eat from the Tree of Life, God would give them eternal life and would not take it away. In their state of sin, it would have been a catastrophe because they would have been a sinner forever and no chance to be redeemed so God made sure to kick them out to save them. We see this when God made the first animal sacrifice [another reference to Jesus being our sacrifice] and covered their naked bodies in which nakedness in Scripture means sinfulness.

        Anyways, I thought you would enjoy it as I did when God revealed it to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Matt Brumage says:

        Wow, you are right, I have never heard that interpretation of that passage. Although, I don’t agree that the tree of life is Jesus, as the tree shows up again in heaven as a tree, and is part of the imagery in the temple as a tree. I believe the tree is a real tree, not a symbol of anything else, and that the Creator reserves this amazing created wonder to Himself.

        I did have a question though, doesn’t that view posit that Adam and Eve had a relationship with Jesus and lost it through sin? If that relationship can’t be lost by any means, then how did they lose it in the first place? If a connection to Jesus can’t be lost, then either Jesus isn’t the tree, or they didn’t actually lose their connection. Doesn’t it seem that, in this position, God Himself can block access to salvation? And that He will change the saved/loss status if He chooses?

        Anyway, I’ll have to look into that interpretation of Genesis 3. Thanks for bringing it up.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. SpaniardVIII says:

        I didn’t say that the Tree of Life was really Jesus but that the Tree symbolized Jesus. I also believe that it was a real Tree.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Matt Brumage says:

        Oh, my bad. I’m reading and replying on my phone, and really should wait to read them more carefully on my computer. Sorry about that. Thank you for clarifying.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. SpaniardVIII says:

        Your good, no problem. It’s good to be clear.

        Like

      6. SpaniardVIII says:

        ” If that relationship can’t be lost by any means, then how did they lose it in the first place?”

        That’s a great question. They didn’t have the seal of God through His Spirit which gives eternal life. Adam and Eve didn’t have eternal life like a Christian has today before their fall. The reason why in their sinless state they would live forever was because they hadn’t sinned yet. They were the first humans made without sin without already having eternal life through the Holy Spirit.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. SpaniardVIII says:

    Adam and Eve still needed God to give them eternal life as they never ate from the Tree of Life. Look at it like, they still needed salvation but they didn’t bother to eat from the Tree that would give them that but instead feel from their sinless state not from their eternal life state.

    Like

    1. Matt Brumage says:

      I’m sorry, where does it say they never ate from the tree of life? That’s kind of a huge assumption, especially considering it was permitted by God.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SpaniardVIII says:

        Let’s use Biblical logic. In the last few verses of Genesis 3, we can conclude that they did not eat from the tree because God said in the same Chapter that we must take them out of the garden lest they will reach out and take from the tree of life and live forever. So Scripture testifies that if they would have eaten from the tree of life God would make them live forever in keeping to His Word. For them to get the punishment of death tells you that they did not eat from it.

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      2. Matt Brumage says:

        No, that they got the punishment of death tells me they are from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was the punishment promised for eating of that tree. It seems that the tree of life would not keep them from experiencing death for eating from the wrong tree. From the two trees, the punishment for the one, and the keeping them Frome the tree of life afterwards, for all that to be together, I infer that the tree of life is not a one-and-done effect as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice that God never said that in there day they ate of it they would live forever. Only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil enjoys an instant result. I infer from all that the tree of life was something that was enjoyed over and over, and that the effect wore off. It was the tree of life, not the tree of eternal life.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. SpaniardVIII says:

        I understand what you are trying to say, but let’s exam in detail those passages.

        Genesis 3:22
        22 The Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”

        It is very clear that according to verse 22 they never ate from it as they received death due to their disobedience in eating the forbidden tree. I say this because if they already have eaten it (tree of life) they would have never died based on God making sure to kick them out before they could get the chance in eating from it.

        Genesis 3:24
        24 He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

        God took extreme measures to make sure that the man may not get an opportunity through temptation to reach out and take from the tree of life. God puts two opticals to avoid a catastrophe. God put a high ranking angel and a flaming sword. Trust me, no one can get through those two opticals, they would only find death if they tried which they didn’t.

        We must let Scripture speak to us. We must follow the direction that the Word of God gives us and for me personally, if it is silent on something I would have to conclude that it didn’t happen. If we say it did then we run the risk of adding to the passage. Now if it alludes to it and gives enough evidence then we can be safe to say that it did happen.

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      4. Matt Brumage says:

        So, you’re still asserting that, had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life before the other tree, they could have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and lived forever even though God said they would die in that very day? That is what doesn’t make sense to me. It makes far more sense to me to view God’s blocking of access to the tree of life as an indicator that the tree was a reuseable resource. I’m afraid I cannot see the sense of your view.

        Like

      5. SpaniardVIII says:

        Just read the text. I”m not asserting my view or giving you my opinion. Let Scripture reveal itself to you, and do not assume any interpretation of any passage if it is not in the text or does not have any evidence to support one’s interpretation. Anyways, my last response, thank you for the dialogue. May you continue to seek the Lord face through reading the Word and giving Jesus time in prayer.

        Liked by 1 person

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