Hebrews 6:1-8 has been incorrectly used to support works righteousness, and legalism for years. This misunderstanding of scripture comes from eisegesis and poor hermeneutics. It, in fact, is an agreement for perseverance of the saints. We will look at just the section of scripture to begin. Then we will give it context within Hebrews and then within the entirety of the new covenant. I think it will be helpful to those who have been struggling with their own justification and soteriology. Hebrews 6:1-8;
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, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. 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, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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. 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; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
Here is a link to a book introduction from Dr. John Macarthur that will give us the context I was mentioning earlier; Book introduction for Hebrews
Many have been confused by this section of scripture. It has been used to argue against perseverance of the saints. Perseverance has been misunderstood by some as to mean eternal security. They claim that eternal security is a false teaching, and if wrongly understood, I would agree. We don’t believe that one will be saved, and remain saved, while practicing all sorts of ungodliness in unrepentance. It is as God said through Paul in Romans 6:1-2;
“…1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?…”
John 14:15; “…15“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…” and James 2:14-17, “…14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. …”
Here is a link from Matt Slick of CARM.org about perseverance of the saints; http://carm.org/can-believer-lose-his-salvation
Here is a great article from CARM.org also dealing with this issue; http://carm.org/about-can-person-lose-salvation
And here is another from GotQuestions.org that will also help us to see the context in the new covenant; http://www.gotquestions.org/license-sin.html
A person, who is truly justified by God, granted faith and repentance, who has been regenerated by God, simply does not choose to fall away, or become apostate. They did not save themselves. God did the saving to them. How many of you pray for person to be saved, when you know they want nothing of God, and claim to hate Him? You don’t seem to care about their alleged free will at that time do you? No, you want God to change their heart. So for all who truly believe, it is an act of the Sovereign God miraculously regenerating them to justification and on through the ordo salutis. If Christ did the work to justify us, then what work could we do to negate the perfection of His? None! In keeping with the spirit of salvation, we are changed, born again, a new creature with new desires, and affections. This new creature, loves the things of God, and hates the sin of his past existence, and bondage to his fallen nature. In this state of God granted repentance, and regeneration the new creature, of his new will and volition, derives his joy from doing that which is of the Father’s will, as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did upon the cross of His crucifixion. For this creature there is no ability in him to apostatize. Only for the religious person, who has not been freed from the old nature can fall away in any real sense, alas they were never really in Christ, so their falling away is even a false apostasy, thus the hyperbole of this scripture. For the one made to be resurrected unto eternal life, there are no sins of his account, to be tallied against him on the day of judgment. They had all been expiated, through the propitiation of Christ Jesus. Thus, for them there would be no grounds to repent, and believe again, or to crucify Christ, who once and for all died once, and was resurrected to never be crucified or die again. The absurdity of this concept should propagate the ideology of perseverance not the antithesis.
We fall into this heresy when we don’t understand justification and sanctification rightly. When we think we had something to do with our justification we tend to believe we need to keep ourselves saved. This view is held by all works righteousness religions. The practitioner maintains their state of pseudo-grace by doing deeds and sacraments. Well, we all know this is a heresy, so why do we fall for it? Idolatry and pride, that’s why. We still want to earn it. We want to be better than others. Then there is guilt and pride. You are so bad, look at you, of course there isn’t enough grace for you, you must add something. These are powerful adversaries to fight against because they are stealthy. They sneak in to rob you of your security and joy. They take from you the delight you have in the Lord of your salvation. When these appear we need to crop off their ugly heads with repentance and prayerfully remember who it is that did the saving. It is the Almighty God, Lord of Lords, and Eternal Creator, who justifies you! Justification is solely the work of Jesus. He did the work on the cross of atoning for our sins and imputing His righteousness to us. That is how we are justified.
Sanctification on the other hand involves our efforts in obedience. We try our best out of the provisions of God to affirm His will and be conformed to it. Notice we aren’t doing it out of our own provisions because we have none of any efficacy. Our pitiful temporary repentance and faithless intellectual understanding don’t do a thing for our sanctification. It is also the Lord who sanctifies us to Him through His provisions of all that is necessary. We through the true repentance of sins and the true faith are in concurrence with God and desire His will be done to us and by us.
So the difference between the two doctrines should be clear. In justification God does the saving and keeping. In Sanctification we do the agreeing and growing. We are like a baby in a crib. We can think about growth and desire it. We can focus all of our efforts towards it, but we will grow according to His will. It is His design for a baby to grow to maturity. The immature believer will grow by design. Of course here is where the synergism comes in, like a child we must be fed good things and given work and exercise. We must be nurtured and disciplined. God being our Good Father sees to it. We are part of our sanctification for sure, but it is not what keeps us saved. I hope this has helped.
20 thoughts on “Hebrews 6:1-8, eternal security, perseverance of the saints, justification, and sanctification.”
We are clearly instructed in Scripture to work out our salvation (Phil 2:12). Other scripture passages indicate that we have been saved (justification), we are being saved (sanctification), and we will be saved (glorification). Hence salvation is portrayed in Scripture as a process; not just a one-time event. Just because we have been justified, does it automatically guarantee our glorification? Or, if we for whatever reason fail to pursue sanctified lives, does that affect our salvation? I think it does; for example examine Rom 8:12-13.
Paul’s warning is a somber one as these verses describe the potential death of born-again believers, referred to as the brethren in v. 12. If this death were not a real possibility, the warning would be nonsensical. We also know that this warning pertains to spiritual death – not physical death – because everyone dies physically irrespective of how we live our lives. Moreover, one must have spiritual life in order to be in danger of spiritual death. You cannot threaten a spiritually dead person with spiritual death. Such a person is already dead. Therefore, it must be concluded that these are regenerate brethren who are being warned of dying. Also note that this verse is conditional – not unconditional – as indicated by the word “if.” IF believers walk according to the flesh = they will die. IF believers walk according to the Spirit = they will live.
Those who hold to eternal security often point out that there is no condemnation for those in Christ citing Rom 8:1. However in its proper context, v.1 is conditioned by the clause in v.4 which states: “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Thus, “no condemnation” is only promised to those walk by the Spirit which again is coherent with verses 12-13.
I think you are just making my point for me. Did you read the article? If a person is truly converted they will be different. That includes loving God and His will. They will persevere until the end because of what He has done to them and for them. Your point of view puts to much of the focus on mans works and doesn’t glorify God as much as the reformed view does. Working out your salvation is another way of speaking about sanctification. We don’t keep ourselves saved or save ourselves. Pursuing sanctification is something true converts do all the way to the end whereas a false convert might pursue it for a while or sporadically they fail in the end because they lack true salvific repentance and faith. We can prove we were never saved to begin with, but we can never become unsaved if we truly are converted. With Romans 8:12 you are just making my point again. Simply put what glorifies God more, us keeping ourselves saved by our own force of will or God keeping us saved by His?
I think you missed my point just judging from your reply. We agree that true converts will always persevere – that is not the issue. The issue is your contention that “we can never become unsaved if we are truly converted.” Your statement contradicts Rom 8:13 as Paul is clearly addressing believers for reasons that I previously stated. He warns them that they will experience spiritual death, i.e., eternal separation/loss of salvation if they pursue sin and continue to walk after the flesh. You appear to agree that Rom 8:12 references believers however you fail to explain away the consequences of the very next verse. One has to either ignore it or account for it in order to hold to your belief.
As to your last question – the answer is both – not one or the other. What glorifies God is our obedience to his will made possible by the empowerment of his grace. To continually disobey makes a mockery of his grace and certainly does not glorify him.
Both belief and obedience/repentance are necessary for saving faith – not just belief only. Heb 5:9 states: “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who OBEY him.” The Greek word for obey is hypakouousin which is a present active participle. Therefore salvation is only promised to those who are obeying or continue to obey – not just a one-time act of obedience. Those who continue to disobey have no assurance of salvation.
No I understand I just disagree with you. I think you are wrong in your conclusion. More eisegetical proof-texting won’t help your case either. I believe the scriptures are pretty clear that once you have been truly converted by God you can’t become unconverted by your own doing. All you accomplish is showing that you were never converted to begin with. Affirming something intellectually and convincing yourself that you believe it is different than actually being converted. I could do a google search and put up a ton of verses supporting eternal security, but it wouldn’t do any good because you are convinced that your position is the right one. Conversely I believe you are wrong and that my position is the right one, however if either one of us saw the other living like an unrepentant heathen we would question if that person was truly saved.
Bob, we have unity with your last statement; but like I said earlier you have to either ignore or come up with a cogent argument to explain away the simple and plain reading of Rom 8:13. You affirmed that v.12 addresses believers but have not dealt with the warning and consequences of v.13. Of course that is your prerogative to do so if you so choose.
I would argue, but it is just the same old argument. I’m tired of arguing with everyone who comes along. Don’t you ever tire of arguing with everyone who comes along? If you insist and confide that perhaps your mind is not made up, and you may be convinced, then I will discuss it with you, but if you are firm in your belief that you can loose you salvation like the mormons and the catholics then I don’t see the point.
Actually Bob I don’t see us as arguing as opposed to discussing scriptural/theological view points. Although we disagree, I appreciate the respectful nature of your responses and I hope you perceive my comments in the same light. I do not tire of these discussions as I feel they are fundamental to the faith since they pertain to salvific issues which directly impact people’s eternal destiny. Thus, I don’t think there is anything more important than the subject at hand. I am firm in my belief, as are you which is fine but we should be able to give an adequate rationale and defense for our beliefs. Scripture says iron sharpens iron and if we presume to be teachers, James states that God holds us to a higher standard. Therefore when someone questions what we believe we should be ready to give an adequate answer. I realize that this is your blog though and you can do as you please. At any rate blessings to you.
I can, I have, and I probably will again. At this point I’d probably just redirect you to all of the work of more brilliant people than myself. It is important to know. If you want an explanation you can read all of the work of the puritans and before them the reformers. God bless.
Perseverance of the saints
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Perseverance of the saints (also referred to as eternal security as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as “Once Saved, Always Saved”) is a teaching that asserts that once persons are truly “born of God”, or “regenerated” nothing in heaven or earth “shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God” (Romans 8:39).
Sometimes this position is held in conjunction with Reformed Christian confessions of faith in traditional Calvinist doctrine which argues that all men are “dead in trespasses and sins”, and thus, apart from being resurrected from spiritual death to spiritual life none choose salvation of their own accord.
Calvinists maintain that God selected certain individuals before the world began and then draws them to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. They believe that when Jesus said, “No man can come unto Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him”, that Jesus was saying that men had to be drawn to Him by God before they would believe. Calvinists have long taught that when the apostle Paul wrote “God hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), he was indicating that God actually chose believers in Christ before the world was founded. According to Calvinism, God begins a good work in some and then continues it. They attempt to prove this with the text from the book of Phillipians where the apostle Paul writes, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”.
There also are many non-Calvinists who also maintain that once a person is saved they can never be lost. This Free Grace or non-traditional Calvinist doctrine is found predominantly in “free will” Baptist theology, but also other Protestant churches of the evangelical tradition.
The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is distinct from the doctrine of Assurance which describes how a person may first be sure that they have obtained salvation and an inheritance in the promises of the Bible including eternal life. The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches on Perseverance of the Saints in its Chapter 17 and on Assurance of Grace and Salvation in its Chapter 18.
2 Reformed doctrine
3 Free Grace doctrine
3.1 Evangelical criticism
4 Biblical evidence
4.1 Difficult passages
4.1.1 Calvinist interpretations
4.1.2 Other interpretations of Hebrews 6:4-6
5.1 Arminian view
5.2 Roman Catholic view
5.3 Lutheran view
5.4 Comparison among Protestants
8 External links
Careful with using Wikipedia for a source as it is maintained by various users who may or may not have credible info.