ThruFire

Burning off the dross

March 1, 2014
by Chris Arsenault
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Christ demolishes the dividing wall

Sometimes we think we understand a passage of Scripture. Then later, we read the passage again, and the Holy Spirit brings together smoldering thoughts from our lives, our studies, and even His Word. He ignites it, providing a brilliant illumination of God’s love for us.

Recently while studying Ephesians 2 in a Sunday school class, I had one of those inspired “aha” moments. Here’s the section Eph 2:11-22 [NIV]:

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

When you read Scripture, it’s a very good idea to establish the context. Paul’s letter is addressed to the church in Ephesus – a city in western Turkey. Paul, being a very well studied Jewish believer was attempting to assure the Gentile believers in Ephesus of their complete access to God. It’s critical to note that people from different regions and backgrounds have widely varying ways of understanding what is written. Knowing this is key to interpreting what Paul was saying to the Ephesian believers.

Paul studied under Gamaliel, and as a Jew, his writings are very Hebraic. This means single words can be illustrated with pictures, providing definitive imagery versus an abstract notion of meaning.

So, whenever I see the word “peace” in the New Testament (Eph 2:14), I’ll dig into the Greek to see if I should consider it “shalom”, which has a far more useful definition. Most think of peace as quietude, but shalom means to be “filled to completion with nothing lacking.” Jerusalem , “foundation of peace” doesn’t mean quietude, but the place from which all of God’s blessings flow.

Floor plan of Herod's temple.In Paul’s day, Jerusalem was site of the Herodian temple, the access point to God. The temple grounds contained an inner court with the sanctuary building, a dividing wall/fence, then an outer court – “the court of the Gentiles.”  Gentiles, even if true worshippers of Yahweh, were not allowed into the inner area. There was a sign posted at the inner court gates (through that wall/fence) that strictly warned Gentiles they would be responsible for their own deaths if they entered. It’s not clear if this warning came from God, or if it was a man-made regulation. That wouldn’t make much of a difference to the Gentiles who were being killed. This is the hostility Paul refers to in verse 14.

Christ destroyed this wall by abolishing (katargeo – cease that prior work) the law of Moses (Torah’s commands and regulations – that is: mitzvot – good deeds). He did this – in his flesh.

 When I read verses like 15, I wonder – what does he mean? Jesus drove out the money-changers and animals, but there was no mention that he physically destroyed the wall/fence. Yes, Christ died upon the cross, but that’s not called for in Torah. How is it possible that Torah could be set aside without resorting to metaphors such as the perfect sacrifice?

It appears Paul is saying that when Christ died, so did the Mosaic covenant, the purpose of which was to keep Israel holy and righteous. That “image” of what constitutes holiness (through the law) died with Christ on the cross. The reason I put “image” in quotes in that last sentence has to do with the meaning of the Hebrew word for image – demut (dalet-mem-vav-tav). Demut doesn’t simply mean a figurative photo-likeness. It’s true meaning is really about someone’s character – their actions. The Hebrew word for death is mut (mem-vav-tav). A person’s “image” is made up of the right-correct actions they perform (that’s the dalet-door, indicating life-changes). If no righteous actions are performed, that “image” is dead (the dalet/life changes are removed). After sinning, Adam’s work in the Garden was no longer possible. He (his image) was mut – dead. In fact, all of mankind was dead (via non-righteous actions) because they weren’t acting/being like God.

Given that context, what Paul says next (verse 15b) makes sense: Christ’s purpose was to create a new man (new Adam) by which written Mosaic mitzvot (good deeds/actions) were not critical to judgement. His death on the cross replaced Torah as far as atonement was concerned. In Mt 5:17-18 Christ makes the claim that he’d didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (pleroo – fulfill – make complete.) He lived a sinless perfect life, and in doing so, was the exact “image” of God in the flesh. According to Mosaic law, no one could do any better.  Despite perfection in the law, Christ was rejected.

There is the distinction that Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit and did not rely upon adhering to external laws and regulations – those written upon stones. This “image” of man is what Adam was in the Garden – God blew his Spirit into Adam. Christ – through his death, provided a new covenant, replacing the stone tablets of law with the Holy Spirit within to guide each individual person. In effect, each person becomes a temple of God, just like Christ. Another way of thinking of this – a believers heart became like the ark of the covenant, the “tablets” of the law placed inside them. Now the law (The Holy Spirit through Christ) would be carried whenever and where-ever they moved.

In verses 17-20, Paul clarifies – the distinction between Jews and Gentiles is no longer made, because the old access point – the temple in Jerusalem, is no longer needed. Christ provided access to God through one Spirit. Then Paul begins making a comparison between believers and the temple in Jerusalem – with prophets and apostles as building blocks and Christ as the cornerstone.

In Eph 2:21-22 Paul expands the process of building a temple using living stones. If you’re wondering where that idea came from – it appears to be a common word-play on the Hebrew words for stone (eben – aleph-bet-nun) and son (ben – bet-nun). John the Baptist wittily mocks the Sanhedrin in Mt 3:9 using this analogy.

With temples, stones, sons of Abraham and access to God in mind, I think the Holy Spirit hit Paul with a clue-by-4 by reviving a past memory.

In Acts 7, Stephen provides a lengthy sermon about God’s interaction with the Israelites, but from Acts 7:44-50 he focuses in on the tabernacle and the temple. Saul (Paul) was likely present – listening to Stephen’s dialogue. Later, he watched over the garments of the elders after they stripped them off to stone Stephen.

By Acts 7:48, Stephen summarizes his point: “However, the Most High doesn’t live in houses made by men”. Here’s Stephen, surrounded by the Sanhedrin, stating God doesn’t live in the stone house – the Temple in which they serve. The very reason they are confronting Stephen is his speaking out against the “holy place” (Acts 6: 13) and against the law of Moses.

Suddenly, in Acts 7:51 Stephen seems to lose it. He’s condemning the elders because they are resisting the Holy Spirit, as Israel had done throughout it’s history.

The Sanhedrin, as guardians of the temple, are doing the very same thing to the Holy Spirit, that they did to Gentiles with the Temple! Further, God came in the flesh through Christ. God Incarnate – Immanuel – God dwelling among us. Christ, the true temple of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, God’s image (“the Righteous One”) and they didn’t show any lovingkindness (chesed) whatsoever.

This is what Stephen was yelling about. This is the blasphemous hypocrisy of the leaders of Israel, who claimed they were acting on God’s behalf (in the likeness of God – demut), but were really diametrically opposed to God’s will.

Y’shua came in the flesh – as a living Temple of God. He even refers to his flesh as the Temple – “destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in 3 days”. This referral is used against him in the mock trial. Notice, however, that His body is destroyed by the Romans, as a foreshadowing prophecy of the destruction of the Herodian temple in AD 70.

When Paul wrote Ephesians, it was quite possible he was being held as a prisoner.  So in Eph 3:1 when Paul attempts to summarize his mission to the Gentiles, all that imagery and the words of Stephen (who was taken prisoner, then stoned) must have came flooding back. It’s like Paul carried Stephen’s death all these years, and finally understood what Stephen meant about God’s real temple. I can’t help but think Paul fully understood Stephen’s suffering at that point. One cannot help but see the irony of stones being used to destroy Stephen who, being born again, was a true temple of the Living God.

In Ephesians 3:2 Paul switches to God’s grace, his purpose in Christ for the Gentiles. No longer would he enforce keeping Gentiles out – but would now work to include them into the Body of Christ. This is a godly, righteous action, but not of his own doing.  Eph. 3:12 sums up that access to God is always available to those who have become true children of Abraham.

When we consider the temple in Jerusalem, it’s nothing but stone – it had no real life until the Shekinah glory came to dwell within. In fact, He filled it to overflowing – driving out all the priests (2 Chronicles 7:2). Likewise, we are dead, lifeless stones until God comes, dwells within and fills us to overflowing with his presence. When this happens, we have shalom – peace.

It is with this imagery in mind that Paul begins praying for the Ephesians at 3:14-21.

Please go – read it, and whatever your heritage, Jew or Gentile, may Christ’s shalom be yours too.

October 13, 2012
by Chris Arsenault
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Biden’s behavior problem – no laughing matter

I’ve read a lot of commentary regarding Biden’s excessive debate laughter and constant interruptions, but have yet to read a perspective which properly frames the debate in global terms, even from the most thoughtful commentators.

Joe Biden laughs hard.

Joe Biden’s inability to control his laughter during a serious vice-presidential debate is a cause for great concern, particularly if he did so to deliberately play to his base.

The vice-president forgot Ryan is there because he was nominated to represent a solid portion of the citizens of the United States. This nomination may have been through Mitt Romney, but Romney himself has been vetted through a particularly stringent process.

In other words, Joe Biden wasn’t laughing at Paul Ryan and his ideas – he was laughing at US citizens. Does Biden laugh at Chinese representatives? What about the Russians? The Taliban?

The contempt shown to the US citizenry by a sitting vice-president is a far worse transgression than mockery by any comedy channel or highly partisan news channel pundit. It broadcasts to the world a peculiar disdain for much of the US electorate.

If this was a strategy to play to his base, then his handlers are showing a very serious blindness to appearances on a highly volatile world stage. If a deliberate campaign strategy places election interests over the interests of the US electorate, they are not fit to govern.

That many fail to recognize the depth of his indiscretion, should be a great warning sign – as a nation we’re getting numb to the insults. This is toxic.

The partisan divide, like a calloused scab, is hardening, making it more difficult to work together on solutions in the future. It’s a highly visible projection of instability.

Just as it’s particularly dangerous for individual spouses to expose their marital problems with others who could then seek to exploit the opening, it’s deadly for national leaders to be so openly divisive and contemptuous of their own people.

If neither side sees such warning signs, then we’re well on our way towards civil war.

And that is no laughing matter.

Update: This morning after I posted this, I found Mark Levin is also bringing up the same point.

October 9, 2012
by Chris Arsenault
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Obama’s Priorities

I made this earlier today. It sums up all that is wrong right now with Obama’s campaign and his sense of what is most important. People should have very serious concerns that our President is out of touch with reality and his supporters aren’t helping him in the least.

Remember Chris Stevens

October 7, 2012
by Chris Arsenault
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Can you be a Christian and be pro-choice?

It’s been a long time since I visited the on-line abortion arguments, but recently I came across several postings that really touched the issue of abortion and faith. Although they have slightly different titles, it still comes down to:

Can you be a Christian and be Pro-choice?

Sheep in thicket

The link above is anonymous post – put up by the owner of the site. (Why do pro-choice people rarely if ever use their names when making profound statements they agree with – is it fear, shame or both?) Granted the article is titled about Democrats, but the Democratic National Convention this year was so overwhelmingly pro-choice, at this point I consider the terms synonymous.

The author hints in her article it comes down to bodily autonomy. Below is my response I gave in the comments, based in part on God’s Word, but also incorporating BioSLED – a series I did on refuting pro-choice arguments. Also, I edited and expanded my response below to provide a more complete discussion, given it’s no longer a comment, but a post here on my blog.

So “Can you be a Christian and be pro-choice?”

The definitive answer – no.

It is impossible for someone to be pro-abortion-choice and an observant follower of Christ. Now I’m not claiming it doesn’t happen, or the one making that claim is lost, unsaved etc. I’m claiming that being an observant follower of Christ is mutually exclusive from demanding bodily autonomy for one’s self or others. Abortion places the desires of the flesh over the love of God. 1 Cor 6:19-20 makes it abundantly clear that our bodies are not ours!

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

So let’s discuss human bodies, central to pregnancy and abortion.

As Jesus Christ observed the greatest commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. This requires us to know who is our neighbor and to love them. Who, then, are the smallest and weakest human beings among us? Does their development make them human at some point or are they of a human nature already?

Should human beings at different stages of development not be acknowledged as humans? Is the word “baby” a transformative declaration reserved for bestowing humanity? Should dependency upon others be a basis for declaring someone as inhuman?

Here’s another question – as a Christian are you looking forward to eternal life with Christ? If so, when did that start, or are you still waiting? Didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus you must be born again? Do you think he’s talking about a journey down a birth canal or is this what Peter refers to as being born of imperishable “seed”? It’s a matter of spiritual conception. Physical conception is the beginning of an intrinsic human existence, one which abortion violently ends.

It’s absurd to disregard development time within the womb as inhuman when there is literally nothing more sacred that makes us human – so much so that the Lord himself chose to enter human nature this way. You came into being at conception, and abortion is the destruction of that flesh, which means the destruction of a living human being.

Are you perfect? Perhaps in Christ, but is he willing to kill you because you haven’t been fully sanctified? So does development make us more or less human? What about dependency?

As a believer in Christ, you rely on the grace and mercy of God Almighty through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross to not only cover over your sins, but to make you a member of His family. In other words, you’re completely dependent upon Him. If grace is unmerited favor, and mercy is not getting what we rightfully deserve, should grace and mercy be extended to every human no matter their actions, or should we judge and punish? That too would be a “choice” – wouldn’t it?

You wouldn’t want to be on the end of another’s choice to violently shred you. In fact, if you felt threatened you’d look to authority for safety & security. Does this sound familiar? Remember – you live at the mercy and grace of others all around you, at every minute.

Every principle of Christianity is in firm and complete opposition to abortion and it makes others wonder if a semantic game with the word “Christian” is being played just like claiming the word “choice” does not refer to extreme violence done to an innocent human being.

Put another way, claiming you’re both a Christian and a Democrat is an absurdity between following Christ and following our own desires regarding abortion and bodily autonomy.

In Matthew 16, after Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus told his disciples he must go up to Jerusalem to die. Peter physically blocked Jesus’ path, and said “No Lord!”

“No Lord!” The shortest oxymoronic statement made in the entire Holy Bible.

If you’re unfamiliar with Jesus’ response I suggest you look it up – then apply it.

July 2, 2012
by Chris Arsenault
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ObamaCare is Void for Vagueness

After last Thursday’s release of the SCOTUS ruling on NFIB v. Sebelius, we’ve had a serious run through on the spin-cycle by all sides. Claims of Chief Justice John Roberts being a legal genius by both sides has gotten ridiculous. We’ve also had backflips by the White House and Nancy Pelosi about whether “what was in the Bill” was actually a tax or something else – a penalty. This is all nonsense.

Seeing a great deal of obfuscation on both sides, as well as acknowledging the more than 2700 pages of legalese, there is only one conclusion I can draw – ObamaCare is void for vagueness. It is unworthy of enforcement.

Void for vagueness is a legal principle which means that a law is judicially unenforceable because the average citizen can’t determine what person is regulated, conduct is being prohibited, or punishment being imposed.

Currently the controversy sounding this particular act of legislation continues to play out in the media and if you have to be a legal scholar to understand the impact, or you need to set aside 3 months of your life to read the document, or if you can’t decide who is telling the truth between the 3 branches of government – then I’d say that the legislation is completely void for vagueness.

One more thing – although we are taught in school that there are three branches of government, the real answer is there are four: legislative, executive and judicial, but all too often forgotten by those three: the people.

We reserve the final say as to whether we uphold any law or ignore it.

Those branches work for us – we don’t work for them.

That point is long overdue to be reinforced to those who have forgotten who holds the power.

We don’t elect leaders – we elect representatives.

WE the people are the leaders.

Update: 7 July 2012: Randy Barnett and Mark Levin – both legal scholars, have a go at explaining/counter explaining the meaning of this legislation.

As a software developer for over 30 years, I have at least an inkling that I can comprehend some fairly complex ideas, but I’m dead serious when I say, the entire Robert’s opinion and all the legal chatter coming out of it seems like complete semantic hogwash, and it’s simply more evidence of a government which is relying on mass confusion to get it’s way.

I’m still fully convinced ObamaCare is void for vagueness. And the American people need to say as such.

November 5, 2011
by Chris Arsenault
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The Dangers of Preaching Lost Salvation

Our family recently attended a Sunday service at a vibrant young new church. We were surprised to find the church filled to capacity with many diverse college-aged men and women. The ratio of younger to older believers was inversely proportional to that commonly seen at many older churches.

Everything was fine until the young pastor began preaching from Hebrews 6, saying it was possible for God to use Scripture to harden your heart if you were disobedient, which could lead to losing your salvation – your eternal life with God.

I sat there shaking my head. It sounded very, very familiar. In fact, every single passage of Scripture he covered I had just thoroughly studied because a young new believer thought he had lost not only his hope in Christ, but his very soul. This young man knew he was continuing to sin (as we all do), and considered that as being disobedient to Christ. This line of thought spiraled him into severe depression. As it deepened, he interpreted the emotional flatness of depression as the departure of the Holy Spirit.

Christ washes feet

If you’ve never encountered this problem before, it’s very hard to discern between spiritual oppression and it’s consequences – spiritual depression. As I learned, the core of the problem for every new believer is an immature, often incomplete, identity in Christ. In a follow-up post I’ll discuss why we are commanded to “make disciples” and not merely preach the gospel, but first let’s address the primary issue:

Does the Word of God harden people’s hearts if they are disobedient after having accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, leading to the loss of God’s promise of eternal life?

The answer is no – yet many refer to passages in Hebrews (specifically Heb 6:4-6 and Heb 10:26-31) among others in the Old and New Testaments to substantiate their claim it’s possible to lose your salvation. There is a school of theology called the Arminians who believe this notion. You can draw such a conclusion if you make several common scriptural interpretation mistakes:

  • take passages out of their full context
  • filter God’s Word through emotions/feelings
  • insert false ideas onto the text (eisegesis vs exegesis)
  • use poor translations without researching primary language (Hebrew or Greek)
  • apply faulty conclusions to other passages in the Bible (consider false premises as true, then test other conclusions against them – faulty cross-correlation)
  • fail to logically consider the full scope of the author’s material
  • fail to establish the historical context of Scripture and intended audience

If you’re thinking this is fertile ground for spiritual deception, you’re right. No doubt God uses such passages as testing grounds for teaching his children to differentiate between right and wrong.

The young pastor claimed this issue has been debated for centuries by scholarly men. Merely voicing that caveat indicated a lack of discernment of potential spiritual foul play when it came to preaching this issue. To me, that indicated a spiritual immaturity. Even the Aminians, who consider lost salvation possible, advocated deeper inquiry – for them the matter was unsettled.

What could go wrong?

There are very real and present dangers delivering such a message – if you’re in a fragile state of mind where you believe your identity in Christ has been forsaken, then having a pastor tell you it’s because God is hardening your heart due to either real (or imagined) disobedience can send you into a tailspin of severe depression, which can lead directly to uncontrolled psychosis with potential for homicide, suicide or both. In other words, it can trigger a very deadly feedback loop.

Preaching any gospel without full assurance of salvation despite disobedience takes the burden from Christ and puts it back on the adherent. It would require the adherent to know the full extent of right vs wrong, and make it practically impossible to maintain obedience. Such a gospel would be “void for vagueness”, a legal term which describes uncertainty when it comes to upholding a particular law or set of laws. One could never be certain of their salvation at all. Another way of putting it – which sin did Christ’s atoning death not cover? Would that be the unforgivable sin? As I found out with the troubled young man – he thought he was blaspheming the Holy Spirit!

Further, a non-assuring gospel focuses on punishment and not on grace. Adherence becomes an act of works, not the grace of salvation through Christ, received through faith. Ultimately such a promise is really no gospel at all. The Israelites had 613 commandments and the only one who could claim perfect obedience was Christ. Perfection is simply unattainable without God’s grace (which is His bestowing unmerited favor upon us), otherwise there would be no need for Christ’s work…I’m beginning to repeat scripture here.

reaching.jpg

The young pastor’s message completely lacked Hope and the full and absolute assurance Christ always provides.

If you think it’s possible to have eternal salvation but also lose it, then you are exactly in that doubled minded state found in James 1:7-8, which this young pastor referenced, without thinking it applied to himself!

He forgot to ask for wisdom, failed to discern the dangers of not believing in full assurance, then preached on the subject.

It all made perfect sense why we were there that Sunday. You could say his heart was in need of some softening compassion through truth and grace spoken with love. This softening was to be done using Scripture with a very personal testimony as to the dangers. I don’t say that with pride in my own sense of righteousness – I was only there to be a messenger for the Lord.

So what does Hebrews 6 actually say?

Here’s the first hard passage:

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. [Heb 6:4-8 NIV]

The spiritually immature tend to fixate on v4-6 considering those who have fallen away and can’t be brought back to repentance. Lacking a solid understanding of salvation, they swap the word repentance with salvation, then completely overlook very key portions of the passage.

In Greek, what does it mean to “fall-away”?

fall-away – parapipto (para: from close-beside + pipto: fall, collapse) fall from a position close/next to. Heb 6:4 is the only use of this word in the whole Bible, so that’s a little problematic. Notice, it’s unclear who the subject was close/next to. We will have to look for clues elsewhere about who.

What about “brought back to repentence”?

brought back – anakainizein (ana: up, complete process + kainizo: new in quality) renewal, make qualitatively new

repentance – metanoian (meta: with,among, after + nous: mind, thinking, understanding) change of mind, after-thought; change your mind after thinking about it.

Just looking closely at Heb 6:4 implies a moving away from someone who is very close, which makes it impossible to complete a renewal process of changing one’s mind.

I think it’s fair to conclude this verse is not about loss of salvation (being with the Lord), but most likely incompletion of sanctification. If you move away from the Holy Spirit, and pile up sin, He can’t complete sanctification – pointing out your disobedience and calling for repentance. In the eyes of the world, a disobedient believer appears to say it’s okay to crucify Christ, as opposed to humbly acknowledging his own sins lead to Christ hanging from the cross. This passage is about humility and submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit and not salvation. It’s similar to the message of Romans 12, specifically Romans 12:2.

That aspect of the fruit of the Spirit becomes clear in v7-8. God pours out rain on both good and evil, but only the good land (adamah in Hebrew) produces beneficial fruit. Disobedient believers become worthless in accomplishing God’s ongoing purposes here on earth, including transforming the culture around them. Another way of putting it – what exactly are you sowing if you’re disobedient?

So what about the danger of “being burned”? Look closely again at the passage. It’s not the land that is burned/consumed by fire – it’s the worthless produce on the land that is destroyed. The “works” (bad fruit) of the disobedient believer are unacceptable. Go read 1 Cor 3:9-15. For those unfamiliar with that passage, it’s a direct reference to Lot, and a familiar theme for the prophets of Israel.

Everyone, over a period of time, produces some sort of impact – “works”. Some impacts are much more fruitful/beneficial than others. And as James 2:20 makes clear “faith without works is dead”.

Hebrews 6 in the real world

Have you ever experienced an unrepentant disobedient believer in your congregation? If you have, you know how destructive that is for everyone. It’s near impossible to get them to repent and rejoin the congregation, and it’s more severe if it’s a ministry leader. Obedience and submission are critical to the lives of all believers, for very practical and visible reasons. This is the real key to the passage, but you have to understand it within the full context.

The writer of Hebrews was writing to a particular group of people, Messianic Jewish believers as well as non-believing Jews, who knew of God, and also knew of the sacrifices and offerings made through the Mosaic covenant. The target audience was not modern abstract-thinking Gentiles, with little experience with the books of Moses or the Prophets. Obedience, to the target audience, involved following the “Law” – meaning the written Torah. But all that changed with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Did you notice the phrase in Heb 6:6 “crucifying…all over again” – there’s only two ways this can apply – either literally those being addressed participated in the call for the crucifixion of Christ, or there’s the understanding that the sins of everyone metaphorically crucify Christ. Christ dying for our sins as a better sacrifice weaves throughout the entire book of Hebrews, and His devotion to us in such a sacrifice is a work only God could do. In essence, only the eternal living God, who could never die, would have to incarnate – become flesh, in order to be a substitute, die a human death, so through faith every human could claim His death and resurrected life as our own. God alone is perfect. God with us (Immanuel – that is God AND us) was not perfect, due to our imperfections, until his ultimate sacrifice. This atoning (be at-one ) work required obedience to the Father.

The author of Hebrews 5:7-10 talks about Jesus going through the process of submitting himself in obedience in order to be made perfect as the source of eternal salvation. Then as such, being designated the high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Consider this a bookend, with the other found at Hebrews 6:20.

Everything in between those two points describes the relationship you have with God through the high priest and in fact, taken as a whole provides a completely opposite conclusion to the loss of salvation idea some derive from Hebrews 6:4-8.

Continue reading Hebrews 6 and you’ll find that fixating on verses 4-8 is to miss the wonderful promise of assurance God has made through Jesus Christ as the high priest who is always available to make atonement for you – granting you eternal salvation.

It’s not about you or the sacifices you make, your insufficiencies, but the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ Jesus.

Of course – that leads to another question – what is “saving faith”? That will have to be another post.