Author: tartanarmy (5:06 am)
A few passages in order to reform us in our claim to be reformed....Part 1
Heb 6:1 Therefore, having left the discourse of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to full growth, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Heb 6:2 of the baptisms, of doctrine, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Heb 6:3 And this we will do, if God permits.
Heb 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
Heb 6:5 and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come,
Heb 6:6 and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.
Heb 6:7 (For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes often upon it, and brings forth plants fit for those by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God.
Heb 6:8 But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected and is a curse, whose end is to be burned.)
According to these passages, only within a New Covenant perspective, made up of believers and unbelievers, being part of the Visible Church, can we make sense of the force and language contained in these passages.
A few thoughts to consider.
1/ Who here is referred to as those who "have fallen away" and have "Crucified afresh the Son of God?"
Before you try and rely on any presuppositions you may or may not have, I simply ask for you to pause for a moment and read the texts again.
What is presented here are people who have been "a part" of several things.
These people who are "falling away" are said to have been,
a) Once enlightened
b) Tasted of the Heavenly gift.
c) Partakers of the Holy Spirit.
d) Tasted the good word of God.
e) And the powers of the world to come.
Now before I explain the nature of the New Covenant more fully in part 2, I want to alleviate any fears over the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.
That doctrine is not threatened by these passages (verses 1-8), as a right reading of verses 9-20 of this chapter follows up on, but not for the reasons many attempt to read into these passages.
Some Christians tell us that these persons falling away are nothing but false believers, unregenerate unbelievers, people who are not part of or ever were part of the New Covenant Church.
Often 1Jn 2:19 is quoted as a simple defense, which sadly does not go to the depth being here spoken by the author of Hebrews.
Whilst I agree that these persons are surely unregenerate unbelievers, it is not quite so simple to suggest that they were not members of the Church in the New Covenant community.
If we hold to a view of the New Covenant which holds that every member in the Church is regenerate (Invisible Church), then we will no doubt minimise the force of the language being used here by the author of Hebrews.
In what sense can an unregenerate unbeliever be enlightened, and have tasted the Heavenly gift, partook of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come?
These things can only make sense when we see that the Church as a whole is understood as being a group which contains both believers and unbelievers.
There is a Visible Christianity and within it, an Invisible Elect body of believers known only to the Lord.
The author uses such language, as he is talking about the Visible Church to whom he is actually addressing as do much of the Epistles, the very place where all the benefits of Christ and salvation are found. The Church is the object that receives such things as enlightenment, Heavenly gifts, the Holy Spirit and the good Word of God and it's power.
To say that only the regenerate make up the New Covenant, negates so much truth about the Church Visible and the Now/Not yet paradigm that all of us as Christians are now currently experiencing and being exhorted every day to persevere in.
Whilst it is true that the "elect" are the Church Invisible, and that ultimately they shall "one day" be the Pure Church of God (In the eschaton), it is error to see the Church in the here and now as "only" a regenerate membership, for the New Testament/Covenant does not present such a Church in the here and now. It does in the "Not yet", and such goes without saying.
If you want to say that false Christians were never really Christians, that is fine, but only by hindsight and known Apostasy can we know that.
(btw, Apostasy is something believers do, not unbelievers in the general sense of the term)
Some formerly professing Christians shall fall away and be lost forever, but at one point in time they were part of the New Covenant professing Church and as such were experiencing real benefits by virtue of their association with all that the New Covenant holds out to the gathered Church community of believers in this New Covenant dispensation.
The writer of Hebrews, knowing a thing or two about Covenant Theology, has a worldview which is radically different to us in our own modern, individualistic day.
In part two I will try and flesh out the New Covenant and reference other scriptures that address it's nature, and I hope my fellow Christians who tenaciously hold to a "regenerate only New Covenant Church" shall patiently give me a solemn hearing, that is, my reformed Baptist and Dispensational friends who lean toward Calvinism and reformed Theology.
A thought related...
Is there any difference between a normal Un-churched Pagan unbeliever and an Apostate, that is, between someone who had professed Christianity and departed from it and someone who never made nor joined with those who made such a profession?
In Hebrews 10:29 we learn that God will severely punish those who treat as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.
If salvation cannot be lost, whom can this verse possibly describe?
It must be someone who, though not a true saint, was yet considered in covenant with God, someone who was "sanctified" or "made holy" by "the blood of the covenant"
- it must be an unbeliever in the visible church (regardless whether he was baptized as an infant or as an adult).
Maybe later, I will do a post exposing "Covenant language" from the scriptures, which may help us see how the original writers used such terminology in their writings, which sheds much light on the nature of the Covenants, especially New Covenant as per Jer 31...