(Cont’d from last blog; please read it first)
Where will it all lead if we do drift away? Heb. 2:2- “For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” The author of Hebrews uses the method of arguing from the lesser to the greater. If people in the Old Testament days received severe punishment for disobeying and consciously violating the lesser covenant (the Law at Mt. Sinai) given by God and mediated by angels, how much more severe will the judgment be upon those who neglect the greater salvation mediated by Christ? The word neglect or ignore goes along with the image of drifting; amelesantes means to be apathetic or to care little for something or treat it with little value. Like Esau didn’t value his birthright so he traded it for a bowl of stew. [The word is also translated as rejected in 1 Timothy 4:4.]
I believe the writer of Hebrews has in mind a rejection of Christ that is not characterized by open hostility, but due to apathy; of no longer caring or treating as valuable the salvation which Christ accomplished. Such apathetic drifting may lead to a complete rejection of the faith, which will bring serious consequences. How serious? Hebrews 10:26-31 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God… How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?… It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (cf. Hebrews 6:6, 2 Peter 2:21)
Wow, this is serious stuff! The first reaction of most Christians when they read such a passage is to ask the question, can a Christian lose his/her salvation? I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the question, but we must be careful not to overlook the main point of the author. Such a warning is here not to prompt theological debate, but to challenge us to wake up if our attention is not on Jesus Christ; that we may be drifting away to the place of rejecting the gospel we once claimed to believe! And remember the characteristic of saving faith is “if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” Heb. 3:14. The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us because they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Thus John’s theme in all of his letters is on walking and abiding– of continuing in the faith.
If a person who professes to be a Christian drifts away from Christ and ultimately rejects his faith, there is no salvation left for him because his faith was not genuine in the first place. This is not because God’s grace is not sufficient, but because the heart of the once professing Christian is hardened and calloused to the truth. The dose (or the taste, as Hebrews 4:4 puts it) has inoculated them from the real thing. You can see this evidenced on Atheist websites where people stridently testify to their unbelief, many of whom once identified as Christians–some even as pastors. This is why it is essential to understand that the characteristic of saving faith is its enduring quality; it lasts. Jesus said, “…the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:12, 13). I don’t think this means that we merit salvation by our endurance, but that endurance is the hallmark of saving faith.
If you refuse to continue to drink from the water of life you will have to die of thirst. If you refuse to continue to eat of the bread of life you will be doomed to starve eternally. If you continue to neglect Christ, the only means of your salvation, you will fall into the hands of the living God.
(finished in next blog….)