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June 13, 2013

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A question I often ask is: "are you saved because you believe, or do you believe because you are saved?"

If Faith is a Fruit of the Spirit, as we know it is, then you believe because you already have the Spirit, and are saved. It becomes the substance and evidence that God saved you.

For the sake of argument, what about these verses?

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Heb. 2:1
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. Heb 3:12
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Heb 4:11
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Heb 6:4-6

Q, maybe because Hebrews was written by a different person, they may have had different ideas about salvation. why should we expect everyone to agree?

The answer to that one is because it's the
Word of God--and He doesn't speak from both sides of His mouth. Our understanding of His Word is what needs to be examined! He would not contradict Himself and the salvation of mankind was of supreme importance to Him.

q, that's a good question, and I suspect that Fred Sanders probably does think not that God can reject you, but that you can walk away from your salvation (I think he's Wesleyan). His point is mainly that this is more complex than many people think.

However, I don't think a person can cease to be saved, in large part because of the issues raised above. I think that reading through the first six chapters of Hebrews over and over will shed some light on that (or even better, the whole book over and over). I only have a few minutes to respond to your Hebrews comment, so here's a very quick response.

The writer of Hebrews clarifies the statements you mention by comparing their situation to the Israelites who weren't able to enter the land because of their lack of faith in God. They saw God's works for forty years (3:9), and yet, they didn't have faith in Him. In the same way, he says, there are those among the Christians who have not coupled the hearing of the truth and the seeing of God's works with faith: "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard." He follows this with "For we who have believed enter that rest." I don't think it's a coincidence that he says "have believed" and not merely "we who believe [now]." That is, if once we have believed, all of these blessings are guaranteed to us because true faith will not cease (see also 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.")

I take that to mean that those among them who are witnessing the works of the Holy Spirit who haven't coupled that with faith and who walk away have nowhere else to turn. The rest of the book talks about how the new covenant is greater than the old with its temple system, so it seems likely the people being referred to here are those who returned to the old system of temple and sacrifice, showing their lack of trust in the true sacrifice of Christ (for which the older system was just a shadow, as Hebrews explains).

At the very end of this section, the writer concludes this by saying, "But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way." In other words, the things that accompany salvation--the things we would see in someone who is saved--involves their perseverance in the faith.

This view makes sense with the rest of the book, as well, which talks about how Christ is our perfect priest who, because He continues as our priest forever, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (chapter 7). Christ is praying for our continued faith, and so He can say in John 6 that "all that the Father gives Me will come to Me," and that He came to do God's will, which was "that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." And then in chapter 10, "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." If "no one" can do this, I would think that includes the person himself.

(I know Walt Russell has a different interpretation of the Hebrews verses in chapter 6. He argues that the important part in this passage is the verse that says the ground is "close to being cursed." He says it's burned, but not cursed--meaning, those who leave Christ will be severely disciplined, but not lose their salvation. And of course, there are also people who interpret this passage to mean people can have faith and then lose it.)

Secondly, God uses means to keep us in the faith (just as God uses the means of hearing the Gospel to draw people to Himself), and one of those means is through warnings. So you will see both warnings and guarantees (e.g., Romans 8:29-30) in the New Testament.

Well, I spent more time on that than I was expecting! But still there's plenty more to be said, so I'll let you all have at it.

"Our understanding of His Word is what needs to be examined! He would not contradict Himself and the salvation of mankind was of supreme importance to Him."

Totally agree, and also agree with Amy's assessment of Eph. 1 along with other passages that would support as well (Rom. 8:38-39, etc.)

Given that, what must be the meaning of these passages in Hebrews?

Well said, Amy.

If we could lose our salvation, we would.

Simon,

Exactly!

Amy,

Thanks for that reply; makes more sense to me now. That's the first time I've heard anyone explain those passages in light of the surrounding context, and for some reason I haven't clued in on that before now.

It would seem to me that if you become saved through faith, then you can leave the same way--by lack of faith. Salvation is not a one-way door; how you enter is the same way you exit.

@RyanS -

What's your biblical basis? Are you hypothesizing with a closed Bible, or is there chapter and verse leading you to conclude, "Salvation is not a one-way door"?

It seems Amy’s description of the vector, “When we flatten it out to merely a decision we make, without reference to the work of God……” is indeed heresy to the Nth degree as she rightly points out. And, also, if we reverse the vector 180 degrees, we find another common heresy to the Nth degree: “When we flatten it out to merely no agency at all without reference to the work of Power’s Will to Will that other wills besides His Own actually exist……..”


Indeed both of these are heresy. To the Nth degree. Although I am really not sure anyone believes in either one. Then again, perhaps we do. Perhaps, though we tend to get into conversations about this with various levels of hedging or prevarications, it seems that maybe after all we really do believe in one or the other. Unlike all our theology in the Triune we cannot in any other arena (arenas other than the trinity) find ourselves comfortable with Both-And. Perfection is One. Perfection is Three. Here inside our Uni-Linear topography it is inevitable that all our travels in all arenas will eventually bump into, merge with, that Tri-Linear topography. Such is uncomfortable for most of us it seems. Or, perhaps just unsatisfying.


Well, it seems intellectual satisfaction must be quenched, at whatever cost. It will be these verses over here, or, it will be those verses over there. But it will not be both. Except, that is, with the Trinity.


Perhaps this: Trust requires unanswered questions.


Or this: Trust requires unanswered questions.


“Often the apparent intellectual coherency of a theological system is taken as absolute and compelling proof that this view of God, salvation, and the world must be true and all others be heresy to one degree or another. But it is perfectly possible to argue logically and coherency in a hermeneutical or theological circle with all parts connected, and unfortunately be dead wrong -- because one drew the circle much too small and left out all the inconvenient contrary evidence.”


“In the face of the divine-human encounter, even Barth's Dogmatics appear to be little more than a good start to understanding God.” It is Love and Wrath. It is Truth and Grace embodied there in Word’s Corporeal. Perfection itself is One and Three. Three Perfects. It is Volition’s Motions and Power’s Will. And so on. Wide circles.


Be patient with me here. I find I have grown quite comfortable with quite wide circles where this Triune God Who is Love is concerned, and, I find I have grown uncomfortable with circles unwilling to embrace both One and Three where Perfection is concerned. The more I see of what Love is, what He Himself is, the more satisfying each and every one of Word’s verses all become.


Once we taste of Him, all the need for miracles and signs and Nth-Degree Proof-Text wars fades away, for, well what are those compared to Him? The miracle chasers and sign-chasers commit the same error, perhaps, as we who cannot say, or will not say, “Both-And” where Perfection is concerned and that is because sooner or later the One-We-Know will bump up against all our thirsts for miracles and signs and needless trust (certainty in every arena) and when He does the Nth degree will find itself saying, necessarily, -- Love itself, Love Himself, Perfection itself, Perfection Himself are all both One and Three. And there the Nth degree of Logic and the Truth of Love thus converge and Logic and Love find themselves leading us to the very same ultimate regress there inside of Uncreated Life which is Forever-Dying in Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self in Whom we find Life also Forever-Resurrecting there within the volitions of perpetual Self-Abdication and Other-Exaltation within, among, and amid the Triune. Both-And. Such is His Topography. Such will be our topography necessarily, for the Created, at least this Created, is to be fashioned in the Image of the Uncreated.


“In the end our posture should be 'fides quaerens intellectum' -- trust seeking understanding, not 'intellectus quaerens fidium' -- understanding seeking and defining and limiting trust.”


Be patient with me here. I find I have grown quite comfortable with quite wide circles where this Triune God Who is Love is concerned, and, I find I have grown uncomfortable with circles unwilling to embrace both One and Three where Perfection is concerned. The more I see of what Love is, what He Himself is, the more satisfying each and every one of Word’s verses all become.


What's your biblical basis? Are you hypothesizing with a closed Bible, or is there chapter and verse leading you to conclude, "Salvation is not a one-way door"?

@Sage S: I was arguing from logic, but certainly not with a closed Bible. Probably one of the clearest statements is the following from Romans 11:20-23:

20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;
21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

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