Pastor David B. Curtis


Biblical Theology

Hebrews 2 Intro

Delivered 03/26/2000

We come this morning to the first of five warning passages in the book of Hebrews. The author's style is to follow expository sections with exhortation and warnings. All five of these warning passages have the same basic purpose, though they increase in solemnity and weight.

Hebrews 2:1-4 (NKJV) Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

We must begin our exposition by asking a very important question: "To whom and for what reason is this warning being made?" This text is almost universally applied to the sinner and used for an evangelistic sermon. How shall we escape? Escape what? Hell?

The single most serious failure in the interpretation of Hebrews has been the eviscerating of its warning passages. The word "eviscerate" comes from "e", meaning: "out", and "viscera"meaning: "bowels" thus: "to rip the guts out, to deprive of an essential part."

If you interpret these warnings as applying to unbelievers, you miss their force and salutary effect. There are many theological positions on these warning passages, let me give you the main ones.

1. Arminian view: This view teaches that these warning passages are directed to believers, warning them that they could lose their salvation and be damned to hell forever.

2. Lordship view: This view teaches that these warning passages are directed to professing Christians. They confess faith in Christ and many even become active church members, but they are not really saved. The trials and temptations of life cause them to reveal their true identity and fall away.

3. Free Grace view: This view teaches that these warnings are directed to believers, not warning of the loss of eternal life, but warning of the temporal physical chastening that comes to believers who continue in sin.

Do you know what view I hold? You should. But the important question is: "Which of these views (if any) does the Bible teach? Which of these theological positions is Biblical Theology?" We, as believers, need to hold a theological position, we need a frame or grid work to filter things through. And this grid work must be formed from a diligent study of the Bible. All theology must come from exegesis - out of the text of the Bible. When we take our theology and force it on a text, that is called eisogesis. We must allow the Bible to speak, and then shape our theology from the Scripture. If you find that the Scriptures go against your theology, change your theology.

Let's examine these three views in light of Scripture.

1. The Arminian view:

The Arminian wing of the church has consistently confronted the warning sections in their obvious application to Christians. But they have missed the boat on a very important theological point. The "Arminian Manifesto" published in the seventeenth century states this as its fifth point: "It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost."

Does the Bible teach that believers can loose their salvation? No! And since it doesn't, it is obvious that Arminian theology is bad theology.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The Greek word for "everlasting" is aionios, it means: "forever, everlasting, without end." How long do you imagine that everlasting life would last?

John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 6:37-40 (NKJV) "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

The only kind of life that Christ gives is everlasting!

Romans 3:21-22 (NKJV) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

The "righteousness of God" is God's righteousness which he gives to those who believe. God demands righteousness and he provides righteousness to all who believe. This is eternal security!

Romans 3:23-24 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

The word "justified" is the Greek word dikaioo, which means: "to declare righteous." It is a legal term. God, the judge of all the earth, has declared us righteous. Are we? Yes, we have received the righteousness of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus Christ paid our sin debt and gave us his perfect righteousness.

Romans 3:25-26 (NKJV) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God is just in forgiving believers, because he has punished their sin in the death of Jesus Christ.

The argument that we find in Romans 5:8-10 is the most powerful argument with respect to assurance of our salvation that can be found anywhere in the whole of Scripture.

Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Verse 9 says, "much more than" this is an a fortiori argument, which is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If God has done the greater (verse 8), surely he will do the lesser (verse 9). Verse 10 also says, "much more" - now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved through sharing in his life. We are in Christ. We are accounted perfectly righteous, having paid the debt of sin and having fulfilled the law by our union with Jesus Christ.

If God sent his son to die for us while we were enemies, ungodly, sinners, how much more will he do for us now that we are his children and righteous? Because we share his life, we are eternally saved, eternally secure.

Romans 8:30 (NKJV) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

The chain of salvation is unbroken from predestination to glorification.

The Arminian view can't be right then, there is no possibility of a believer losing their salvation. So, the warnings we find in Hebrews can't be threatening the loss of eternal life.

2. The Lordship view:

This is probably the most widely accepted of the views among reformed thinkers. This view teaches that the warnings are directed to professing Christians. They are not believers, but they say they are.

John MacArthur writes, "Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. Such people are in view in Hebrews 2:1-4. They are aware of the good news of salvation provided by Jesus Christ but aren't willing to commit their lives to him." The Superiority Of Christ, p. 80.

Why does he say these people aren't believers? What do they lack? Commitment! John MacArthur gives this story to illustrate his point:

I will never forget a particular lady who came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. She said, 'I need help; I'm desperate.' So I presented the claims of Christ to her. Then I said, 'Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?' She said, 'Yes, and she prayed.' I said, 'Now, I want you to do something. Do you have your book with all your contacts?' she said she did. I said, 'Let's light a match to it and burn it.' she looked at me and said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'If you want to live for Jesus Christ, and you've truly accepted His forgiveness and met Him as your Savior, then you need to prove it.' She said to me, 'That book is worth a lot of money. I don't want to burn it.' she put it back in her purse and looked me right in the eye and said, 'I guess I don't really want Jesus, do I?' Then she left.
When it came down to counting the cost, she wasn't ready. I don't know what the outcome of that poor woman has been. I do know that she knew the facts and believed them, but she was not willing to make the sacrifice. The Superiority Of Christ p. 84.

Does a person need to commit his life, count the cost and sacrifice to be saved?

Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Does that sound like a call to commitment, or sacrifice to you? If commitment or sacrifice is involved, how much is needed? How committed do we have to be? How much do we have to sacrifice?

The Lordship view has become very wide spread in the church today, but is it biblical? At issue here are three things; A. The Nature of faith; B. The relationship between faith and assurance; C. The effect of salvation. In other words, the debate centers around three critical questions: What must a person do to be saved? What must a person do to know he is saved?; How will salvation show itself in one's life?

A. The Nature of Faith.

What exactly is saving faith? Saving faith is: Understanding and assent to the propositions of the gospel. It is not some special kind of faith in the sense that its quality or essence is different than other kinds of faith. There are not different kinds of faith, there are just different objects of faith.

We all know what faith is, for example: If I said, "He told me the check is in the mail, and I believed him." Are you going to ask me if I believed with my head or my heart? Of course not! You understand what I mean when I say that I believed him. But when it comes to Christianity, we look for some other understanding of faith. Faith is faith whether if be in Christianity or mathematics. Saving faith is taking God at His Word. It is believing what God has said.

Romans 4:20-21 (NKJV) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham believed Him - that is faith. He believed that God would do what he said he would.

1 John 5:9-13 (NKJV) If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Verse 9 is saying that we accept human testimony, how much more can we accept God's testimony. It's not that the faith that receives it is greater, but the testimony is greater, it's more reliable.

If I believe God's testimony about His son, I receive God's righteousness and have everlasting life. The Lordship view has redefined saving faith, so it's more than just taking God at His word. To them, saving faith involves surrender, commitment, submission, repentance, and sacrifice. These additions are both linguistically invalid and biblically invalid. Faith is simply believing.

Augustine, who lived from 354-430 wrote, "Faith is nothing else than to think with assent." John Calvin wrote, "For as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours to the recovering of God's favor but receiving from Christ what we lack."

John 20:30-31 (NKJV) And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

"Jesus is the Christ" - it is not the mere verbalization of this phrase that saves you. We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, and before we can believe it, we must understand what it means.

1 John 5:1 (NKJV) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

We must believe that Jesus is the Christ in the Johanian sense of the term. We must understand Christ as John does. How does John understand Christ?

John 11:25-27 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

In verse 27 Mary says, "I believe the very thing that the gospel of John was written to bring me to believe." In verse 26 Jesus asks, "Do you believe this?" What is this? It is the statement about Jesus himself that he gives in verse 25. He tells her that He is the resurrection and life. But that's not all he asks her to believe, Jesus is saying, "I guarantee resurrection and life to everyone who believes in me." To believe that Jesus is the Christ is in essence to believe that he is the guarantor of eternal life to everyone who believes. So if I can make people understand what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ, they'll either believe it or they won't. The Lordship view presents faith as if it were: "I have all the facts, and I believe them, but now I must do something with them, as though there's an extra step, an act of the will, surrender, commitment or sacrifice. That is not biblical!

Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Saving faith is accepting the testimony of God. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? If you do, then on the testimony of scripture, you are saved, you possess everlasting life.

Let me give you a test to see if you understand this.

John 12:42-43 (NKJV) Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Were these individuals saved? Were they Christians? The Lordship view would say no, because they did not confess Him. But the Scripture says, "They believed in Him."

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Lordship theology causes people to doubt the testimony of Scripture. Faith is believing, and believing alone makes you a Christian.

Acts 8:12-13 (NKJV) But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

The Word of God says that Simon believed, to say that he didn't is to question inspiration. Notice what the text in Acts goes on to say:

Acts 8:18-23 (NKJV) And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."

Because of Simon's actions, many say that he was not a Christian, but the Bible says, "He believed." The Lordship view says: He can't be saved because there's no commitment, no sacrifice, no good works. But the Scripture says, "He believed." Now, who are you going to believe - The Bible or men?

B. The relationship between faith and assurance.

The Lordship view teaches that assurance comes from obedience, and holy living - from your works. Martin Luther said, "For certainty does not come to me from any kind of reflection on myself and on my state. On the contrary it comes solely through hearing the word, solely because I cling to the word and it's promises."

John Calvin wrote, "From one's work conscience feels more fear and consternation than assurance." Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 3, 14,20. John Calvin taught that assurance was of the essence of faith.

If good works are the basis of assurance, then the believer's eyes are distracted from the sufficiency of Christ and His work to meet his eternal need. His eyes are focused on himself. If I seek assurance through examining my good works, one of two things must necessarily result: 1. I will minimize the depth of my sinfulness; 2. I will see my deep sinfulness as hopelessly contrary to any conviction that I am saved.

Our assurance is to be based upon God's Word, His promise that he would give eternal life to all who believe on His Son. Assurance does not come from our works.

C. The effect of salvation.

The Lordship view teaches that Christians can't apostatize (fall away from God), they must and will produce fruit. If heaven can't be obtained apart from obedience to God, then, logically, that obedience is a condition for getting there.

One writer who holds the Lordship view says, "The life of God in man will always produce a righteous pattern, and if you have an unrighteous pattern in your life, you are fighting against the very nature God has created in you. It's like holding your breath, it's a lot harder than breathing."

Is unrighteousness like holding your breath? Or is it more like breathing? Living a holy life is not easy, it takes constant diligence. We must live in constant dependence on God. Is it impossible for a true believer to turn away for God?

Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

Who is to beware? Brethren!!!! How could you depart from God if you were not a Christian?

Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV) For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Who are the "we"? The same ones who, in verse 23, are admonished to hold fast their profession.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Does God urge an unconverted or false professor to hold fast his false profession? The Lordship view is not biblical. Faith is believing God's Word, it's not commitment or sacrifice. And believers can commit apostasy, they can turn away from God. That is why this book was written, to keep the Hebrew believers from turning away from God. This turning away from God that Hebrews warns about does not result in the loss of salvation, but in temporal physical judgment. Believer, if you choose to live in sin, you will be judged in this life.

The Lordship view teaches that in order to be a Christian, you must do more than believe the gospel.

3. Free Grace view:

This view teaches that these warnings are directed to believers who are in danger of coming under the temporal judgment of God. Eternal life in not in view, physical life is.

A person becomes a Christian when they understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. At that moment they are placed into the body of Christ, given Christ's righteousness, indwelt by God, and are as sure of heaven as if they were already there. They are "in Christ".

The believer always has the potential for internal, spiritual struggle because he has a new nature dwelling in an unredeemed body. The flesh, because of its disposition of enmity against God, tries to control the believer in opposition to God's rule. The new nature prompts the believer to concur with and will to obey God's rule. It does not, however, give the believer the power necessary to overcome the power of the flesh. This must come from God. Because God permanently indwells, His power is constantly available to the believer. That power will not operate in the Christian's life, however, unless he personally appropriates it by faith. Moment by moment the believer must trust God rather than himself to give him power for victory in daily life.

The believer can fail, he can turn from God; he'll still be a Christian, but he'll lose his joy and peace and come under the discipline of God.

God calls all believers to be disciples but many will not pay the price. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace, but Discipleship is costly. Salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and maturity in the Christian life. Compare these two texts.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Eternal life is a gift of grace to all who believe - do you see any cost involved here? But now notice:

Luke 14:33 (NKJV) "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Discipleship is a call to forsake all and follow Christ. Can this be talking about the same thing as John in John 3:16?

Just because we are saved this does not mean we can live as we please and do as we wish. Grace does not give us a license to sin or constitute an excuse for carelessness. Remember, who the Lord loves, he chastens. To live in sin will cost us temporally. Sin, any sin, all sin will cost us in this life.

Matthew 18:32-35 (NKJV) "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

Here we see one who has been forgiven (a believer) being turned over to the torturers because of sin in his life. Verse 35 tells us that God will do the same to us if we live in sin.

If your theological persuasion is that of Lordship, and you believe that Christians cannot apostatize, you will completely miss the theme of the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The book of Hebrews faces the tragic capacity of believers to turn away from the Christian faith. And if the time ever comes when we turn our backs on the grace of God and turn away from obedience to God's word, God will judge us.

Hebrews 10:30-31 (NKJV) For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Let me show you an amazing and very key element in our faithful endurance in the Christian faith.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Notice what verse 24 says, "Let us consider one another." Notice also:

Hebrews 3:12-13 (NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Again, we see the need of "one another". We need each other! We need fellowship, encouragement and exhortation. I am very dependent upon other believers for my spiritual health. Let's seek to exhort each other in godly, Christ-like living.

The author of Hebrews writes to the children of God, and this must be kept steadfastly in mind how ever severe and solemn some things he says may be. The child of God deals deceitfully with the word of his Father and with his own soul when he refuses medicine because it is bitter.

May the study of Hebrews draw us all to hold fast the profession of our faith, without wavering.

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