The Restoration Principle

10 — The Book of Hebrews: Do We Need It Anymore?

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end . . .” (Hebrews 3:12–14).

IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD, RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS ARE NOT QUITE SURE WHAT TO DO WITH THE BOOK OF HEBREWS. Many of these scholars believe that once a person is saved, he is always saved; apostasy is viewed as being impossible. But the entire book of Hebrews is a fervent plea against apostasy. The writer implores his readers not to do the very thing which many today believe can’t be done: leave the faith in such a way as to be lost eternally.

I have in my library a book entitled Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. It’s a written debate among four scholars on what, for them, is a difficult question: if apostasy is not a problem that Christians need to be concerned about, what are we to do with Hebrews? One of the writers comes close to accepting the warnings in that book at face value, but the others are driven by their theology to find creative ways around the plain meaning of the text.

I fear that many of us who claim to be restorationist in our thinking and apostolic in our emphasis don’t do much better. We say we accept the New Testament as our constitution and guide, but we don’t bring up apostasy as a topic for discussion nearly as often as it appears in the apostolic writings. And as for the book of Hebrews, it is rare to hear sermons that come anywhere near the passion and urgency of its warning against the danger of apostasy.

The modern teaching of “grace” leaves the impression (perhaps unintentionally) that our salvation has nothing to do with obedience (as if that would be “legalism”), when, in fact, our salvation is directly impacted by our decision whether to obey God. If writings like Hebrews are to be taken seriously, there is simply no way around it: we must believe that apostasy from the faith will condemn us eternally — and none of us is so strong that we don’t need to be warned.

So I commend the book of Hebrews to you — without apology. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1).

“People in their handling of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed” (Lao Tzu).

Gary Henry — +

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