Editors Note: This is a new series on sanctification designed to help our readers understand what sanctification is and how to grow in Christ.

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Introduction

Yesterday we built the exegetical foundation by examining Hebrews 6:1-8. Today we will conclude our examination of Hebrews 6:1-8 by looking at solutions to this difficult passage.

Solutions to the difficulty of Hebrews 6:1-8

The picture given in Hebrews 6:1-8 is a somber one. It depicts professing believers, likely church members, who are not really saved but fall away into a hopeless state. Andrew Murray rightly noted that, “My assurance of salvation is not something I can carry with me as a railway ticket or a bank note, to be used, as occasion calls. My assurance of salvation is alone to be found in the living fellowship with the living Jesus in love and obedience.”[14]

Reformed theology has traditionally and wisely shunned the use of the term “eternal security,” but has instead emphasized the “perseverance of the saints,” which is the emphasis of the writer of Hebrews. Iain Murray notes the distinction by telling of a Calvinists who was surprised to find one of Wesley’s preachers in agreement with this teaching. The Calvinists stated that he did not think they taught the perseverance of the saints. The Wesleyan replied, “O Sir, you have been misinformed; it is the perseverance of sinners we doubt.[15] He was right— it is the saints who persevere those who trust and walk with God are safe and secure.

Where then do believers look for assurance? Believers can and should look to the unchanging character of God and the certainty of His promises. Believers can and should look to the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ which is sufficient for all one needs. Believers should not look to themselves, to the strength of their faith, to the protection of various spiritual disciplines or methodologies, however useful they may be. It is not oneself or any regiment that depends on human strength that assures the believers salvation, but God, who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.’” That is the writer’s own conclusion in Hebrews 13:5-6. In assurance, as in all else, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (John 2:9).

Assurance comes from the knowledge of God and of His promises, and is thus the result of the exercise of faith. The same is true of security; it is through faith alone that believers are secure. Security comes from trusting in Jesus Christ, from persevering to the end in the power of the Lord. Philippians 3:12, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (NIV).

Therefore, like a soldier in war, believers should not stand still but take up the offensive. Believers are called to press onward in faith, which is the way of perseverance and the route to hope and joy in the Lord. If believers stumble or fall, they can call out to the Lord who is rich in mercy; He will lift them up. This is the best way to give thanks to God for His great gif of salvation, the way to honor Him before the eyes of this world and to make one’s life worthwhile as the believer bears fruit—real fruit that will last forever and be a blessing to many.

Conclusion

Hebrews 6:1-8 meets the people of God at their greatest need with the Gospel by wooing His people to draw not away from but deeper into the Gospel for greater assurance and confidence in their salvation. Perseverance of the saints, does not mean that everyone who claims to have received Christ as his Savior, participates in Christian work, and manifest various gifts is “eternally secure” (Matt. 7:1-23). The Church includes hypocrites who manifests the external signs of persevering saints but lacks the marks of true Christians. Those marks, according to the Belgic confession, are: 1) receiving Christ by faith as the only Savior, 2) avoiding sin, 3) following after righteousness, 4) loving the true God and one’s neighbor, 5) not turning aside to the right of left, 6) crucifying the flesh with the works thereof, 7) fighting against infirmities, and 8) continually taking refuge in the passion and obedience of Christ (Art. 29). The church also includes people like Demas, who seem to be godly but whose departure from the truth and the church reveal that they never really were in saving union with Christ (2 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 6:4-6).

Hebrews 6:4-6 warns believers not to fall away, but does not affirm the apostasy of saints; rather, it urges believers to persevere in faithfulness to God and to His revelation of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The Lord God uses serious admonitions to keep His people from backsliding and away from a host of dangers.

The Reformed doctrine of perseverance is that a regenerate soul will persevere through the trials of life and continue to believe and repent. He will slip and fall, develop bad habits, wrestle with doubt, but through it all he/she will keep on going even as he/she began. All believers slip and fall into sin, but no true believer stays down. Just as God gave him faith and repentance unto initial conversion, so He supplies him with faith and repentance all along the way to heaven (Canons of Dort, Head V, Art. 7).[16]

Believers who have come to Christ by grace remain wedded to Christ, knowing they are in Him by grace. Perseverance and assurance are the two sides of grace. The believer cannot persevere in grace without growing in assurance, and they cannot grow in assurance of faith without perseverance.[17]

The doctrine of perseverance is not just a pretty ribbon that completes the package of Calvinist soteriology. Perservance involves intense Christian watchfulness and discipleship. It requires pilgrim warfare in a world that aims to distract the mind and rip open the heart. It embraces major issues of life and death, including the believer’s eternal security in glory. Frances Roberts says, “Perservance is the rope that ties the soul to the doorpost of heaven.”[18] John Blanchard concludes: “Glory for the Christian is more certain than the grave. God has never torn up a Christian’s birth certificate. It is possible to fall in grace, but not to fall from grace. The Christian can be as certain of arriving in heaven as he is that Christ has already ascended there.[19]

Because the believer’s perservance depends on the One who does the work of salvation, namely, the triune God, every believer is a jewel of Christ and can never be lost. Malachi 3:17, “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. “ Thomas Brooks adds, “Earthly jewels sometimes get separated from their own, Christ’s jewels, never. Earthly jewels are sometimes lost, Christ’s jewels never. Earthly jewels are sometimes stolen, Christ’s jewels, never!”[20]

“In the final analysis, the hope of true believers resides not in our feeble hold of God but in his powerful grasp of us,” Bruce Demarest writes. “The stability and constancy of our spiritual lives rests not in our human powers but in God’s eternal purpose and infinite resources.”[21] God’s purposes, God’s promises, God’s powers, God’s provision, God’s protection- what comfort that gives.[22]

Perseverance is ultimately the result of the work of the Spirit in believer’s hearts. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, coming down to believers from the Reformation must be preserved at all costs. Believers must neither abandon it nor compromise with those who wish to do so.

Perseverance opens the way for assurance. Rooted in God’s grace, objective perseverance makes possible subjective assurance, which is rooted in the believer’s conscience. If a Christian does not believe in the perseverance of the saints, he/she cannot be sure he/she is going to Heaven. He/she may know he/she is in a state of grace, but he/she has no way of knowing whether he/she will continue in that state. Assurance is wedded to the doctrine of perseverance.

Perseverance increases assurance. Those who persist in works that spring from faith will attain high levels of assurance, which is why believers must persevere to the end in faith, holiness and obedience. To deny that necessity of perseverance is to deny the clear Scripture teaching on the subject (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 18:15; John 8:31-32; 15:6; Rom. 6:22; 8:22-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-1; Col. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 2:11; Heb. 2:1,3; 3:13-14; 12:14). Such a denial will weaken the resolve of the believer to run the Christian race, which, in turn will open him/her to the chastening hand of his Father (Heb. 12:1-13).

Perseverance encourages the believer to live in hope. As believers persevere, they become increasingly confident of victory in Christ and their future with him in glory (Rom. 5:1-11).

Bibliography



[14] Andrew Murray, Holiest of All, (Whitaker House, New Kinsington, 2004), 209.

[15] Ian Murray, Wesley and Men Who Followed (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 2003), 66.

[16] Curt Daniel, “The History and Theology of Calvinism” (Dallas Scholarly Reprints, 1993), 415).

[17] R.C. Sproul, “More than Conquerors,”TableTalk,28, no.12 (Dec. 2004): 5-6.

[18] Quoted in John Blanchard, The Complete Gold (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2006), 446.

[19] Ibid, 170.

[20] Quoted in John Blanchard, The Complete Gold (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2006), 170.

[21] Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1989), 255.

[22] Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1989), 255.