Eternal Security or Conditional Security – Part 2

My apologies for taking my time in the second part. I am not very timely in my writing as  I get lost in thought and study very easily. In the first post of this mini-series I laid out the doubt I see in my church concerning the eternal security of the believer. Before we can get in to doubts however I laid out the good news of Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection. This is the best news we will ever get; God saves sinners. This good news is so good, and so simple, that we doubt it. In this blog post I want to cover some of the texts that others use as their evidence that salvation can be lost. I will give their viewpoint and arguments, and then I will give my thoughts on their arguments.

1. The first text that is frequently cited for conditional security is Hebrews 6:4-6. (ESV will be used for all biblical texts)

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

The case that is made is thus: the enlightening, heavenly gift, and sharing in the Holy Spirit of verse 4 are references to salvation. The goodness of the word of God and powers of the age to come are sitting under the teaching of the Word and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant church. Verse 6 is the terrifying passage, which speaks of falling away and the impossibility of restoring them again to repentance. The logic follows that once you have accepted Christ and then turned from Him, you cannot enter again in to repentance since you would be in effect saying that his crucifixion was not adequate your first go-around, and holding Christ up to contempt as if His sacrifice was insufficient.

Counter Argument:

I don’t believe these verses refer to someone who is saved. Perhaps at first reading we think or assume that the verses refer to someone who is saved, but I think a careful reading of both the verses at hand, and the verses preceding and following show that this “person” was not saved. Can someone be enlightened, taste the heavenly gift of the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of God’s word, and fall away? Yes. Essentially the writer of Hebrews is saying that someone can be enlightened to the Gospel, see the work of the Holy Spirit at a church service or otherwise, and yet turn away from Christ and the Gospel. Perhaps they are speaking of a false conversion; someone who despite seeing all the evidence of God’s grace has yet turned away from Him. The writer of Hebrews gives us an indication that this person was not converted in the following verses.

7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Immediately following the illustration of someone turning from God, we are given this allusion to land and crops. Scripture is full of agricultural metaphors. Here we have land that has drunk the rain that falls on it and can either produce a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated and receives a blessing from God, or it can bear thorns and thistles, be declared worthless and near to being cursed, and in the end it will be burned. This metaphor would seem to say that the land (us, mankind) receives rain (the grace of God) and will either produce the fruits of salvation which God bless, or the thorns and thistles of those who do not follow Jesus, whose end is to be cursed and damnation in hell. It would seem that the writer of Hebrews is drawing a parallel between those who trust Christ and those who don’t; the redeemed produce a crop fitting with righteousness, the cursed produce a crop fitting with their rebellion.

Another clue that the writer of Hebrews does not refer to those who are or were saved is verse is the following verse.

9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

He felt sure of better things in the case of his audience, and he was writing to Christians. (see Hebrews 1) He felt sure of “better things – things that belong to salvation.” Meaning the preceding example did not belong to salvation, from which we can reasonably conclude the example given was not someone who is saved.

A glimmer of hope that I see for the thorns and thistles among us is that the text says the land is near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. The wording is not definite and speaks of the future. After all, those of us who were saved have not always produced good fruit. No indeed we were full of thorns and thistles until Christ came and gave us a new heart. Our old deeds were burned off and a new crop was planted by the power of God. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered,but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Despite over two weeks of on and off study I don’t know that I explained that well. But that is where comments come in. What do you think? Are there other verses or sections of scripture that you want me to take a look at?

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