WARNING #3: The Danger of Falling Hebrews 6:1-8

Posted in Sermon, New Testament, Hebrews by oceansidechurch on July 27th, 2014

This passage in Hebrews 6:1-8, which is in the section of the book dealing with the superiority of Christ's priesthood, is one of the most difficult and challenging portions of this book, and verses 4-6 in particular are arguably some of the most controversial in the entire New Testament.  It deals with the unpleasant possibility of 'falling away' from the Lord, and all that any serious contemplation of that prospect entails.  The three key interpretive issues in this passage are: (1) Who is this passage addressed to (vv.4-5)?  (2) What does it mean to "fall away," especially if the warning is directed to believers (v.6; cf. 2 Peter 3:17)?  and (3) What is it that makes renewed repentance "impossible" (v.6)?  A beginning of an answer to these disturbing questions is found in the illustration of the field in verses 7-8, and the significant contrast between the words "useful" in v.7 (cf. James 2:14,20), and "worthless" in v.8 (cf. Galatians 4:9) .  The key words in this passage are not actually the important theological words defining the recipients of this warning in verses 4 and 5, but the interpretive marker terms "close" in v.8 and "accompany" in v.9 (in the passage to be covered next Sunday dealing with God's desired alternative to 'falling away').  The key theological question which ultimately determines the understanding and application of this passage, then, is what does the author mean by "better things" --  the "things that accompany salvation?"  

The answer to the question of what the author/Author is referring to as the "better things" (v.9) provides the basis for evaluating the various major interpretations of Hebrews 6:1-8.  The Arminian position seems implausible simply in view of the use of the phrase "close to being cursed," as opposed to actually cursed, which would be expected if salvation had actually been lost.  The second alternative, that this passage is only hypothetical, simply because this view sees the consequence of 'falling away' as the loss of salvation which is unacceptable on the basis of broader theological convictions rather than actual exegetical evidence, is rejected due to the fact that it renders the passage all but meaningless in terms of application.  Likewise, the third alternative position, that the passage refers to mere professing believers, seems untenable in the clear light of the terms used to describe the recipients in verses 4-5. The Reform perspective is actually a subtle, and therefore more disturbing, variation of the view that this warning is directed to those who only profess to be true believers, but whose faith has not been authenticated by good works. Reform theologians seem to understand the "better things" that "accompany salvation" as the "work(s)" (v.10) which they view as a necessary validation of genuine salvation (cf. John MacArthur's perspective of "a working faith," and John Piper's treatment of Hebrews 6:1-8).  The problem with this perspective is the reference to the 'justice' of God in v.10.   Of course God is 'just' in declaring the believer 'justified' simply by faith on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross, but this passage connects the 'justice' of God not with faith, but with man's works in verse 10.  This is the key problem with the Reform perspective of the perseverance of the saints as continuing in good works.  If good works are necessary in order to validate a person's faith (i.e. determine the difference between genuine faith and a mere profession of faith), and human beings are held responsible and accountable for doing them (even though it goes without saying that they could not do anything good apart from the guidance and enabling assistance of the Holy Spirit), then from the Reform perspective on this passage, it would seem to imply that God would be "unjust" by withholding salvation from those who had actually done good works. 

It seems better--all things considered--to view the recipients of this dire warning as true (Hebrew) believers who are in danger of 'falling away' from their faith, possibly due to persecution, which would in turn make them vulnerable to the loss of the "blessing" from God for a faithful and obedient life which is manifested through good works motivated by love, rather than the fear of losing their salvation, or the loss of the assurance that they were saved in the first place (cf. "full assurance of hope" that requires our "diligence" in v.11).  This would fit better with the dichotomy in the illustration in verses 7-8, as well as the argument concerning the "things that accompany salvation" in v.9, since it connects the 'justice' of God with the "blessing" which God promises to those who remain faithful to Him in verse 7.  This perspective of Hebrews 6:1-11 is completely consistent with the teaching concerning "rewards" (= blessings?) in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  The blessing of this "reward" (v.14) is distinct from salvation which is clearly retained, even in the absence of ANY good work (v.15)!  Salvation is simply "by grace through faith" without any human responsibility whatsoever.  If it were not so, there would be no theological security of salvation based simply on believing the promise of the Gospel (cf. John 5:24), or personal blessing of the assurance of salvation, or the verification (vs. validation) of salvation, that is appropriated based on the degree of obedience in the believers life (the "full assurance" in v.11; cf. 1 John 5:13).

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WHY Are So Many Believers “Dull of Hearing?” Hebrews 5:11-14

Posted in Sermon, New Testament, Hebrews by oceansidechurch on July 20th, 2014

This passage in Hebrews 5:11-14 is not only transitional to the 3rd major warning in Hebrews, but it is also foundational for a correct understanding of one of the most difficult passages in the Book.  These verses are clearly addressed to believers who have become "dull of hearing" which leads to the loss of blessings associated with their salvation in Hebrews 6:1-8.  These verses -- which can be summarized by the expression 'use it or lose it' -- can also be outlined as follows.

Transition:  "Concerning him..." (i.e. Melchizedek) -- connects this segment to the previous passage in Hebrews 5:5-10 (v.11a)

I.  Two reasons why the concept of Melchizedek's relationship to Jesus our great high priest is "hard to explain" (v.11)

     A.  Because there's just so "much" content to be communicated and understood (v.11b)

     B.  But the primary reason is because these Hebrew Christians have simply become "dull of hearing" and cannot understand (v.11c)

Transition:  The big question to be explored in the segment to follow in verses 12-14 is -- WHY?

II. The far-reaching ramifications of becoming "dull of hearing"  (vv.12-14)

      A.  These Jewish believers should be teachers by now, but instead they've even forgotten the fundamentals of the faith (v.12a)

            (In other words...'Use it or lose it!')

      B.  An illustration everyone can identify with:  these believers are like immature babies who need milk, not solid food (12b-14a)

             1.  They have "come to need milk" -- i.e. their spiritual growth has been stunted, or even regressed (v.12b)

             2.  As a result they are not "accustomed to the word of righteousness" -- They are not used to hearing teaching about how saved people who have been declared righteous by faith should live a righteous lifestyle -- and they remain babes in Christ (v.13)

             3.  In contrast, solid food -- i.e. teaching beyond the basic principles of the Gospel -- is for maturing believers (v.14a)

III. Finally the question of what makes the difference between mature and immature believers is explored (v.14b)

     A.  'Practice makes perfect' - or at least moves one in the direction of completeness in their faith (v.14b)

     B.  "Practice" is what trains the senses to "discern" (i.e. know) the difference between  "good and evil" -- the "word of righteousness

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Christ’s Priestly Qualifications Hebrews 5:1-10

Posted in Sermon, New Testament, Hebrews by oceansidechurch on July 13th, 2014

Beginning with Chapter 5 of Hebrews we move from the first segment of the book focusing on the superiority of Christ's Person, into the second major section focusing on the superiority of Christ's priesthood, according to the following outline:

II. The superiority of the Priesthood of Christ (5:1-10:39)

     A.  Christ is superior in His Qualifications (5:1-10)

     B.  Christ offers superior blessings (5:11-6:20)

          Parenthetical warning #3:  Don't diminish your spiritual growth   (5:11-6:8)

     C.  Christ is superior in His priestly order (7:1-8-15)

     D.  Christ is superior in His priestly ministry (9:1-10:18)

     E.  Christ offers a superior reward (10:19-39)

          Parenthetical warning #4:  Don't be deficient in your obedience (10:19-38)

 

The structure of this portion of the book of Hebrews is carefully and clearly laid out according to the following sermon outline:

Introduction--Three general qualifications, or aspects, of the priestly ministry of men (5:1-3)

     1.  The necessity of being called and appointed by God (v.1)

     2.  The essential characteristic of empathy for people based on shared human weaknesses and experiences  (v.2)

     3.  The primary priestly responsibility of offering gifts as well as sacrifices for the sins of others as well as for his own sin  (v.3)

 

Transition:  Hebrews 5:4-10 amplifies and explains how Christ's priestly ministry is the same or similar to the priesthood of men, but also how it is different from that of human beings in significant ways (these essential differences will be highlighted throughout this section).

 

I.  Amplification of the selection and appointment of Jesus Christ to the priesthood by the Father  (5:4-6)

     A.  Christ was called and appointed ("begotten") as our great high priest by God just as Aaron was (vv.4-5)

     B.  But Christ's priesthood is also very different because it is "forever" according to the order of Melchizedek  (v.6)

 

II. Amplification of the empathy aspect of priestly ministry -- Explains how Jesus identifies with our human condition  (3:7-8)

     A.  Reveals and explains the significance of Jesus' anguish as He faced death in the Garden of Gethsemane  (v.7)

     B.  Reveals how Jesus learned obedience in submitting to the Father's will in the Garden (v.8)

 

III. Amplification of the importance of the "perfect" sacrifice Jesus offered up on the cross  (5:9-10)

     A.  He became our perfect sacrifice on earth... (v.9a)

     B.  In order that He might become our great high priest forever in heaven and the source of "eternal salvation"  (vv.9b-10)

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The Christ of Communion Hebrews 4:14-16

Posted in Sermon, New Testament, Hebrews by oceansidechurch on July 6th, 2014

These last three verses in chapter 4 of Hebrews (4:14-16) are not only the end of the chapter, but also the end of the first major section of the book dealing with the superiority of Christ's Person.  This passage is also transitional to the next major section in Hebrews 5-10 highlighting the superiority of Christ's priesthood.  Basically these verses explain the practical significance of the Person of Christ as it relates to His high priestly function on behalf of those who believe in Him.  The message can be summed up this way:  In order to be able to "draw near with confidence" to find the help we need (v.16), we must first "hold fast our confession" (v.14).  Verses 14-15 explain why it makes good sense to hold fast to our confession of personal faith in Jesus Christ regardless of our circumstances in life.  The passage can be outlined as follows:

OUTLINE

Transition:  "therefore" - better than Moses and Joshua as source of true rest

I.   The principle (2 reasons): We have a great high priest -- So we should "hold fast"  (4:14)

            A.  He's great because of where He is - 3rd heaven  (v.14b)

            B.  He's great because of Who He is - Jesus = savior (human) and Son (diety or God)  (v.14c)

            C.  The obvious conclusion:  "hold fast"  (v.14d)

 

II.  The explanation:  Why it makes good sense to "hold fast" (vv.15-16)

 

            A. Our great high priest can "sympathize"  (v.15)

 

            B. Our great high priest (in 3rd heaven) is constant source of mercy and grace (v.16)

 

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WARNING #2: Don’t Harden Your Heart! Hebrews 3:12-4:13

Posted in Sermon, New Testament, Hebrews by oceansidechurch on June 29th, 2014

This sermon is part 2 of the message in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 which explains the significance of the assertion in the first 6 verses of chapter 3 that Christ is better than Moses.  Hebrews 3:12-4:13 also contains the 2nd of the significant warning passages in the book, drawing on the significance of the extended quote of Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews 3:7-11.

III. WARNING:  Don't harden your hearts and fail to enter His rest as a result  (3:12-4:13)

      A.  The principle - Don't allow the deceitfulness of sin to harden your heart  (3:12-15)

      B.  The example - The wilderness wanderings of Israel  (3:16-19)

                * BTW--Jesus is also better than His namesake Joshua!

      C.  The application -  The importance of finding two 'kinds' of rest   (4:1-13)

                1.  The fundamental importance of a healthy respect for God based on what we already know about God (as in the example of "they" - the Israelites, cf. esp. 3:18-19)  (4:1-2)

                      * "Let us fear" (v.1) "we who have believed" (vv.2-3) vs. "did not profit them" (v.2)

                2. The foundational necessity of saving faith = "resting" from (dead) works  (4:3-4)

                      * Justification by faith means that we no longer have to work to earn salvation.

                3. The application-al experience of living faith = "obedience"  (4:5-7)

                      * Seamless transition picking up thread "profit" (v.2) - Some of US have not yet entered this 2nd kind of rest just like those in the example of the Israelites who did not enter this rest because of disobedience  (v.6)

                      * cf. one of most quoted OT verses in the NT Hab. 2:4 in Rom 1:17 "from faith to faith" (i.e. from saving faith to living faith) because "the righteous man shall [also] live by faith" - One is absolute and certain...the other is relative and proportional to obedience

                4. The important clarification-The Promised Land is not a picture of heaven...It's a picture of the obedient / victorious Christian life  (4:8-13)

                      a.  KEY:  If Joshua had given them this kind of rest (talking predominately to believers) in the past (the Jews have been in (and out of) the land since ~1398 B.C.) He would not be talking about another kind of rest "TODAY!"  (v.8)

                      b.  The foundational "Sabbath rest" for the people of God  (4:8-10)

                      c.  The second application-al  "TODAY!" kind of living rest requires diligence in order to avoid disobedience so that we might not "fall" (from our salvation?  and if we aren't saved in the first place, what are we falling away from???)

                      d.  The conclusion - important role of the Word of God in he process of learning to "rest" in God  (4:11-13)

 

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Jesus Is Better than Moses Hebrews 3:1-11

Posted in Sermon, New Testament by oceansidechurch on June 22nd, 2014

This sermon is part 1 of a 2-part message from Hebrews 3-4 concerning the superiority of Jesus Christ to Moses and the practical implications of this truth.  This portion of the text in Hebrews 3: 1-11 lays the foundation for the second and stronger warning passage in Hebrews 3:12-4:13.  The entire passage can be outlined as follows:

 

BOOK OUTLINE

I.   The superiority of the Person of Christ (1:1-4:16)

     A.  Christ is superior to the prophets (1:1-3)

     B.  Christ is superior to the angels (1:4-2:18)

         Parenthetical warning #1:  Don't drift away from Christ (2:1-4)

     C.  Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-6)

     D.  Christ is the supreme object of faith (3:7-4:16)

         Parenthetical warning #2:  Don't be deterred from entering Christ's rest (3:1-4:13)

SERMON OUTLINE – Hebrews 3-4

Part 1

I.   Introduction & Background - Jesus is even better than Moses  (3:1-6)

      A.  Introduction - The addressees and an exhortation  (v.1)

      B.  The basis for Jesus' superiority over Moses  (vv.2-6a)

            1.  Both Moses and Jesus were faithful to God, BUT..."  (v.2)

            2.  Just as the builder has more glory/ honor than the building  (v.3-4)

            3.  Moses was faithful as a 'servant,' while Jesus was faithful as a Son  (vv.5-6a) 

      C.  Pelude to the warning - 'rest' is conditional "IF" we...  (v.6b)

II.  Foundation for the warning to follow in 3:12-4:13 - The concept of 'rest'  (3:7-11; cf. Ps 95:7-11)

      * "hardness of heart" defined in v.12 as "an evil unbelieving heart" as a result of "the deceitfulness of sin" (v.13) - but note that the warning refers to "brethren."

       A.  The inspiration of the OT by the Holy Spirit is affirmed  (v.7a)

       B.  The foundation of the warning to follow is taken from Psalm 95:7-11 considering the wilderness wanderings of Israel  (vv.7b-11) 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Part 2

III. WARNING:  Don't harden your hearts and fail to enter His rest as a result  (3:12-4:13)

      A.  The principle -   (3:12-15)

      B.  The example - The wilderness wanderings of Israel  (3:16-19)

      C.  The application -   (4:1-13)

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Why Can’t Fallen Angels Be Saved Hebrews 2:14-18

Posted in Sermon, New Testament by oceansidechurch on June 15th, 2014

In these final verses of the 2nd chapter of Hebrews we have God’s last word on why Jesus is better than the angels, in spite of the fact that due to the physical limitations imposed by the incarnation Jesus was temporarily in a state “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9).  This portion of Hebrews in verses 14-18 details the reasons and results of the miracle of the incarnation, and in the process explains why Jesus is still superior to the angles despite the limitations imposed by Jesus’ humanity because of what God was able to accomplish though it.  The passage can be broken down as follows:

 

I.   The primary reason for the incarnation – It was necessary in order for Jesus to identify with mankind (2:14a)

 

II.  The primary results of the incarnation – Two things the incarnation enabled Jesus to do for mankind (2:14b-15)

      A.       Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross broke the devil’s power to entice mankind to sin resulting in death  (2:14b)

      B.      Jesus’ substitutionary death broke the power of the fear of death which enslaves mankind  (2:15) 

Transition (v.16)  Why can’t fallen angels be saved?  (cf. James 2:19)  Jesus did not become an angelic being to save angels, He became a human being in order that God might render help to His people through Him  (2:16)

 

III. A Secondary reason for the incarnation – It was necessary in order for Jesus to fulfill His two-fold ministry as our High Priest  (2:17a)

 

IV. The secondary results of the Incarnation  (2:17b-18)

      A.      Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross served to propitiate, or appease, the anger  of God toward us because of our sin, thus making it possible for us to God to forgive us  (2:17:b)

      B.      Jesus’ perfect life in the face of all the temptations/testings  common to mankind that He endured enables Him to come to the aid of believers today who are being similarly tested/tried  (2:18)

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What Is Man? Hebrews 2:5-13

Posted in Sermon, New Testament by oceansidechurch on June 1st, 2014

This passage deals with the crucial question of why the creator of the entire universe would even care about something so seemingly insignificant as mankind, much less send His only Son to die for man's sin.  In the process the author of the Book of Hebrews explains the reason for the "already but not yet" aspect of the subjection of all things to Messiah.  This passage provides the explanation for the delay.

The passage can be outlined as follows --

I.  The principle of the subjection of creation to Messiah in light of His temporary low estate described in LXX Psalm 8 as "lower than the angels" (2:5-8)

II. The explanation of the reason why this subjugation is not yet complete as it relates to the true purpose for Christ's first advent  (2:9-13)

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WARNING: The Danger of Drifting Hebrews 2:1-4

Posted in Sermon, New Testament by oceansidechurch on May 25th, 2014

This is the first of five difficult warning passages in the Book of Hebrews.  This passage concerning the danger of inattentiveness causing us to drift away from God's truth resulting in  neglect of our salvation that God has procured for us at such great cost.  The passage can be outlined as follows--

I.  WARNING:  The danger of drifting is that we can end up neglecting our salvation sue to inattentiveness (v.1)

II. Explanation:  There is no escaping the consequences of our spiritual insensitivity and neglect  (vv.2-4)

     A.  A comparison of the "just penalties" under the Law of Moses "spoken through angels  (v.2)

     B.  The consequences of spiritual inattentiveness and neglect of "so great a salvation"  (v.3a)

          1.  We cannot escape God justice under God's grace any more than God's people under the Law in the OT could  (v.3a)

          2.  The reason is because God's truth in the gospel of our salvation which was spoken through the Lord (Jesus) has been clearly and miraculously confirmed to us...and we ARE accountable for paying close attention to that truth in our lives!  (vv.3b-4)

 

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Jesus Is Better Than the Angels Hebrews 1:4-14

Posted in Sermon, New Testament by oceansidechurch on May 18th, 2014

The second major point concerning the superiority of the person of Jesus Christ is that He is superior to the angels (Heb. 1:4b-2:18).  The passage can be outlined as follows--

I.  The statement of Christ's superiority over the angels  (1:3b-4)

II. The explanation of Christ's superiority over the angles  (1:5-13)

III. The purpose of the incarnation contrasted with the purpose of angels  (1:14)

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