J.I. Packer has famously said: “You are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.”
The book of Hebrews has many warning passages. You might some them up like this:
· Heb. 2:1-4: Don’t drift from the Gospel
· Heb. 3 :7 – end of chapter 4: Don’t doubt the Gospel
· Heb. 5:11-6:8: Don’t disregard the Gospel
· Heb 10:26-39: - Don’t despise the Gospel
· Heb. 12:25-29 - Don’t defy the Gospel
As we enter the third warning chapter in our weekly study of Hebrews, it is a good time to remind ourselves what the Bible says about disregarding the chapter.
Truth be told, this warning section is oft-debated by many as we seek to define who it is referring to. Some say that this passage is evidence we can lose our salvation. Others say that these are just “carnal” Christians—believers who truly are saved but who aren’t walking with Christ in the moment.
And, finally, yet others argue that those referred to in Hebrews 5:11-6:8 are those who have been around the Gospel, heard the Gospel, and experienced a Gospel community but have never truly been saved by faith in the God of the Gospel. This is view that I (Darin) take.
Our greatest danger from the world’s opposition is not persecution, it’s apostasy. It is not imprisonment or even death, it is falling away. So, today, several reminders about what it means to not disregard the Gospel. Let’s get to it.
1. Jesus warned us many times about falling away and not truly trusting him alone for salvation. “Then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (John 16:1). “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). We make it to the end by word and prayer and trusting him alone to save us!
2. Hell is full of almost converted people (Matt. 7:21-23). To be almost saved is to be entirely lost. To be almost converted is to be entirely unconverted.
3. The faith that God gives is a persevering faith (Jude 24-25). A believer may stumble and fall, but will never fall away from Christ. No true believer will ever become an unbeliever.
4. Jesus assured us that the way is narrow that leads to life (Matthew 7:14; 24:10-13). People can fall away by veering to the left or to the right. Sadly, it seems many are falling off on both sides. Jesus warned it would be this way. Lord, help your people, we are in dark days.
5. Spiritual shipwreck rarely happens in a moment. More often it is the result of slowly drifting from the course Jesus set before us. Backsliding is often marked by a thousand small steps in the wrong direction. Repentance is often a thousand small steps in the right direction. Turn to Jesus while you still have time. "Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
6. A mark of a true Christian is that he walks in the light (1 John 1:6-7). His lifestyle conforms to what God has revealed in the Scriptures about His nature & will. The false convert walks in darkness. His lifestyle reflects little or no conformity to God’s nature, will or purpose.
7. Most churches don’t teach on this subject! As a result of an evangelical pulpit weakened by ignorance, pragmatism, or fear, local assemblies are filled with individuals who have never really been confronted with the gospel or heard any biblical warnings regarding the dangers of a false faith
8. There are no life-long “carnal Christians.” "But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23). God has his wise purposes for how long he lets them slide back. What a precious rescue from our slide. Take courage—God can do this. Don’t despair of your beloved backslider.
9. We should not trust our heart in matters regarding assurance of salvation because it might wrongly approve or condemn us (1 John 3:19-20). Paul writes that it is unwise to measure ourselves by our own standard or compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). It is wise to seek the counsel of other men in this matter (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6), but we can’t base our assurance merely on their opinions. Some may wrongly assure us as a result of their low view of salvation (Jeremiah 6:14-15) and others may wrongly condemn us by demanding proofs that exceed the dictates of Scripture, laying heavy burdens upon us that they themselves are not willing or able to bear (Matthew 23:4). What then should be our standard and our confidence in matters of salvation? THE SCRIPTURES!
10. Some of the greatest signs of false conversion are blindness to sin, a hardness of heart, and a life with little or no genuine confession. A true convert may be very weak but will be marked by a struggle against sin, brokenness over sin, & confession. A false convert may profess faith in Christ but will be able to live in a state of worldliness without an afflicted conscience, brokenness over sin, or confession.
11. If yesterday you failed, fell, sinned... and you are unconcerned, then you would be right to fear! However, if your heart is broken over yesterday's failures, run to Christ immediately & do not delay. "For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning..." (Lam. 3:22-23).
12. True faith believes Jesus, trusts Him, loves Him, and lives to please Him. But false faith believes self, trusts self, loves self, and lives to please self. Jonathan Edwards: "A cold, hard-hearted Christian is the greatest contradiction. It is [like] speaking of dark brightness or false truth." A great evidence of salvation is God’s discipline in our lives that we might share in His holiness and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. A great evidence that our faith is false is that we are able to live in sin and remain unscathed by divine discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11).
13. Sometimes, well, people just don’t believe. Anybody who’s been in the ministry long enough has experienced the lamentable reality of people who, despite your best efforts and plenty of consistent gospel proclamation, just don’t believe. Or, perhaps sadder, claim to believe only to later walk away. In any event, sometimes people “fall away” because they aren’t discipled well or go to gospel-deficient churches. But sometimes people hear the gospel clearly & consistently — and just don’t own it for themselves.