The Eighth in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
In the first five chapters of the Book of Hebrews, the author has made a very powerful case for the superiority of Jesus Christ. Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses, and to the priests of Israel. The author of this epistle has built a powerful case because the church to which he is writing is facing a serious crisis. A number of people in this church came to faith in Jesus Christ as converts from Judaism. Now, apparently, a number of these same converts were facing serious persecution. As a result, many have renounced their faith in Jesus and returned to the synagogue. Having made his case for the superiority of Jesus Christ, at this point, the author now issues a stern warning to the members of this church to grow to maturity, to know what they believe and why, as well as warning them of the need to persevere to the end of their lives in faith. But the nature of the warning raises an important and long-standing theological question. Can a Christian fall away from Christ and be lost? Can a true Christian believer lose their salvation?
We are continuing our series on the Book of Hebrews, and we now come to the author’s very direct warning about the possibility of apostasy (Hebrews 5:11-6:12). Christ’s church has long debated the meaning of this passage–some see it as proof that a true Christian can fall away from Christ and be lost, while others see the passage as a warning for Christians not to fall away from Christ, a warning which those are truly Christ’s will heed, meaning that those who fall away were never truly Christ’s in the first place. Unfortunately, this important debate often takes place apart from the context in which the possibility of apostasy arises, and that is the author’s warning to professing Christians about returning to Judaism. So, as we deal with this issue, it is imperative that we keep the original context in mind.
The author’s warning takes place against the backdrop of his five chapter argument for the superiority of Jesus Christ to all things. Repeatedly, the author has cited from well-known portions of the LXX, demonstrating that the Old Testament Scriptures foretold of Jesus Christ, Israel’s priest and king, who is the Son of God as well as the creator and sustainer of all things. The author has shown us that the death of Jesus renders us perfect (because Jesus’ death propitiates the wrath of God), and that because Jesus suffered and was tempted as we are, we have in Jesus a high priest who sympathizes with all of our weaknesses. Jesus is not just a great high priest, he is the great high priest.
As we turn to our text (Hebrews 5:11-6:12) and address the question as to whether or not a Christian can lose their salvation, the severity of the author’s warning soon becomes clear.
Throughout the epistle so far, the author has warned his readers about their need to persevere in their faith Jesus Christ, while at the same time giving his readers ample reason to persevere. Jesus Christ, and the New Covenant, of which he is the mediator, is vastly superior to the Old Covenant, whose mediator was Moses, and whose priests were sinners who needed to offer sacrifices for themselves as well as for the people of God. In this section of this epistle, however, the author breaks off his argument for the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to Israel’s priesthood, and scolds his readers for their collective spiritual immaturity, before warning them about the gravity of the sin of apostasy.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here