Hebrews: Once Saved, Always Saved (?)

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If it seems like we’ve been in Elementary school for the past month, it’s because we have. We’ve been looking at the topics that the writer of Hebrews termed “elementary teachings about Christ” from Hebrews 6:1-2. They were basic, foundational truths like repentance, faith, baptism, the resurrection and, eternal judgment. Things that aren’t well understood in the 21st-century church. As we prepare to “graduate” to middle school, I have to warn you that this jump will feel like you’re being launched over the Snake River Canyon in a rocket. But we can’t skip hard passages. The whole counsel of God’s Word is life and light to us.

Buckle up. Here we go. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:4-6). Wow! Did you feel those G-forces?

I am of the Baptist tradition and we are staunch believers in “once saved, always saved.” And I will not argue against that theology, but we need to lay it against all of Scripture and see what God says. This is generally taught that saved people cannot lose their salvation, but those people who “fall away” were not saved to begin with. I think that’s basically correct. But I want you to understand why – and be warned, we’re going to take our time with this passage.

Here’s the assurance you and I need: Jesus promised that no one can snatch His sheep from His hand (John 10:28).  The hands of Christ are eternally secure. The word “snatch“ implies being caught unaware. It means that someone has stealthily come up and taken something away without the owner’s knowledge.  That will never happen. No one sneaks up on Jesus. No one catches Him off guard. He also said that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. I shall lose none of all that He has given me” (6:37,39).  That means, if you are in Christ, He will never turn from you, He will never abandon you, and He will never drop you. Those who belong to Christ are His forever.

That’s enough for today. We’ll dig into this text more next time. There’s a lot to consider here and it’s time to grow up and start learning.

Hebrews – Back to Elementary School

My Elementary School class photo

I hate math. I always have and I always will. I know it’s important to a functional society, but it has always been a huge struggle for me. I have a word-brain, not a numbers-brain – and whose bright idea was it to put letters in numerical equations?  I cried my way through math homework, from first grade through college. My math pre-test was so poor I had to take two “remedial” math courses before I got to the one that actually counted toward my grade. I had to go back to the basics – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – before I could move on to College Algebra.

When the author of Hebrews wrote about the lack of spiritual development among his readers, he said, “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (6:1). Just as I had to relearn elementary math, they had to relearn some basic stuff about the Christian faith. So what were these elementary, foundational teachings? “repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (6:1-2). I dare say that believers in the modern era don’t even grasp these “elementary” concepts of the faith. For contemporary Western Christians, the basics are things like, “Jesus loves me,” having devotional time a few days a week, learning about disconnected Bible stories, and showing up at church at least two Sundays of the month (at least we’re not Chreasters, right?). We only want to know about how God desires to bless us and how just much we can flirt with sin and still take the Lord’s Supper. If verses 1-2 are describing “elementary truths,” then our churches are filled with toddlers today.  If those subjects are spiritual “milk” then it’s no wonder the 21st Century church is dangerously malnourished.

The writer has said, “Let us leave the elementary teachings . . . and go on to maturity. And God permitting, we will do so.” (v. 1,3). Oh, Beloved, God permits. It is His desire for us to be mature and complete – which the Greek renders as “perfect” – in our faith. But before we can get there, we have to start here, in elementary school. Over the next few devotionals, we will fill our cups with milk and try to grow up in Christ.