Monday, December 15, 2014

Hebrews 3: Today's Grace for Today's Faith


Heb 3:7-19 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.Therefore I was provoked with that generation,and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'" Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. 

This is an uncomfortable passage for those who hold on to the OSAS doctrine--Once Saved, Always Saved. In other words, once we have a "share in Christ", we will never lose our salvation. But this Hebrews passage seems (like many of Paul's & Jesus' teachings) to contradict this doctrine. OSAS preachers forget that while it's true that God has done everything necessary for our salvation, not all people are automatically saved. We have to respond with faith to God's grace in order to be saved (ultimately): "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9).

Salvation (including our faith) is a gift of God, not based on works. But faith is not the same as belief--for many believe but did not receive because it is not evidenced by obedience. Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. The kind of "faith" that does not lead to obedience is not saving faith--such faith just agrees to a truth, but not accepts the truth: "And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief" (Heb 3:18-19). So, the writer to the Hebrews says that disobedience and unbelief are the same thing--or conversely, we may say those who enter the rest are those who demonstrate their faith by their obedience.

And what do we mean by disobedience? The writer here makes it quite plan: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (Heb 3:12-14). Here it is obvious that the writer is addressing believers ("share in Christ"). Some OSAS bible teachers try to detract from the obvious by saying that the writer is addressing Jewish believers, so implying that this cannot apply to Gentile believers. I think they are mistaken, because in Christ, there "is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). So the principle that applies to Jewish believers and Gentile believers would be the same, viz., sin and unbelief is the same thing, and will relieve us of God's grace--just like those who are yet unbelievers. And like all unbelievers, such can be restored only through repentance again.

Faith is not a "once for all" thing: it has to be exercised day by day. And so God's grace is experienced daily. It is not based on what we did in times past, but is based on what we do today. The writer to the Hebrews uses the word "today" three times and concluded: "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Everyday is a new day, and a new opportunity for faith to be exercised so that we can live "today" by God's grace in obedience, not in sin.

I once heard one "prophet" said that "we cannot sin" anymore. He probably misapplied Paul's teaching that "Christ is the end of the Law". He implied that since there is no "Law" there is no transgression for new covenant believers and therefore there is no more sin, not matter what we do. But what Paul meant is that Christ is the end of the Moses' Law, not the end of all moral laws. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), Jesus gave us the new covenant law of the Spirit that is focused on heart attitudes and motivations, rather than outward conduct. So, we have a new law under a new Moses - the Law of Christ has replaced the Law of Moses, Christ puts an end to Moses' laws that require the Jews to be circumcised, to keep the Sabbath, to eat on kosher food, etc. In its place, we have the new law of the Spirit that is far more superior to the Law of Moses. Unlike Moses' Law which was given to Israel as a nation, Christ's Law is given to all people, which is inclusive of females, not exclusive to males only. The only requirement as far as outward conduct is concerned is water baptism to signify our acceptance of Christ as our new Lord and King.

We cannot speak of sin if there is no law. So the prophet is right to say we have no sin--if there is no more law to obey. But that is a false teaching--we do have a law to obey, and therefore believers do sin. But this sin is not based on Moses' Law but on Christ's Law.

Father, open our ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying to us today, that we may obey You by walking in accordance to the inward law of Your Spirit. Help us not grieve or quench Your Spirit by our disobedience. Amen.

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