Lord Jesus, we place our hand in yours and ask for your help as we travel through the difficult and slippery times in our lives.
It is no exaggeration to designate the passage we now consider as one of the most controversial in the book of Hebrews- indeed, one of the most disputed in the entire New Testament. We are plunged right back into challenging readings. This passage appears to contradict what seems to be clear in other parts of Scripture, that nothing can sever the believer from Christ. The difficulties come from a long and difficult sentence in Greek, different ways of understanding and translating this sentence, and the different presuppositions and prior theological commitments of different commentators and preachers. The first thing to do when reading a controversial passage like this is to try to put previous preconceptions aside and tot be open to seeing things in a new way. Not easy to do, and perhaps threatening! It is also important to read in context. This is not the only warning in Hebrews, and the warning must be read in conjunction with the assurances.
The warning here is against deluding ourselves. If any believer abandons Christ for any reason, there is nowhere else to turn for salvation. The apostate may never find his way back. What counts is perseverance to the end. The New Testament provides some instance of apostasy: Judas, Hymenaeus and Alexander, and Demas. Paul warned the Galatians about those who would lure them away. The Scriptures contain both assurance to those whose faith is weak and warnings to the careless, and we need to hear both. I think again of the student I mentioned in the introduction. There are dangers in carelessness and in lack of confidence. We need to be careful before we construct a theology around absolutes. Life and good theology–and human beings – are more complicated than that.
Trust yourself to ‘him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy’