just thinking  Salvation, Faith Alone or Faith Plus Works - Part VI

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Hebrews 4:1-7
Be careful lest any of us may seem to fall short of entering His rest. Some who had the gospel preached to them did not combine it with faith and so will never enter God’s rest. The disobedient will not enter God’s rest, so, do not harden your hearts.

“Rest” seems to indicate resting in Christ from our works. In other words, having faith, or believing. Those who are disobedient are those who heard the message about Jesus but did not receive it with faith.


Hebrews 4:11
Be diligent to enter God’s rest.

The author is referring to the “People of God” (4:9), the Jewish people. Then here in 4:11 he indicates that that they, too, need to enter God’s rest – need to overcome any reluctance they may have and trust in Christ.


Hebrews 5:9
Having been made perfect Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Those who obey Jesus are those who have faith in Him.


Hebrews 6:4-8
If someone falls away after having been enlightened, having tasted the heavenly gift, shared the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come, it is impossible to renew that person to repentance because he is crucifying the Son of God again and holding Him up to public disgrace. Ground that drinks God’s blessings but produces thorns is close to being cursed and ends by being burned.

Does this mean that if someone who really believes in Jesus falls away that this person is permanently cursed and unable to repent?

No. First of all, I’m doubtful that this even refers to people who really believe in Jesus. The author of the Book of Hebrews is talking specifically to Jews and I believe he is saying to them that Jesus is the full expression of the Jewish faith, and he is urging his Jewish readers not to turn away from their own faith.

The Jews had to a great degree been enlightened; they had tasted of the heavenly gift (1 Cor. 10:1-5), shared in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 41:38, 1 Samuel 10:6-7, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 16:13-14, 1 Chronicles 28:12, Psalm 51:11, Psalm 139:7, Haggai 2:4-5, etc.), tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age. Also – like David and many other Jews in the past – many had repented of sins. But if they fell away now – that is, if they rejected the Christ who is central to their faith – it would be impossible to bring them back (More on the “impossible” part in a moment).

Notice that the passage says these people “tasted” spiritual blessings; they merely touched their tongues to them, they didn’t really surrender their lives to Jesus. The passage (Hebrews 6:7-8) describes good and bad land, suggesting that this is not a falling away from Christ, but rather that the land which experiences God’s blessing is either good or bad to start with, much like Judas Iscariot, who (Matthew 10:4) certainly “tasted.” In fact he tasted much more than many of his contemporaries. He was even sent out by Jesus with the other eleven disciples to preach, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse leprosy and drive out demons. Yet he was still condemned. He had merely tasted and had not truly let Jesus rule in his heart.

But why would it be impossible for them to repent?

When the author says it is impossible to renew those who publicly are crucifying the Son of God again, this suggests something these people are continuing to do, and it truly is impossible to oppose God and repent to God at the same time. You have to stop opposing in order to repent. Further, they are making it extremely difficult for themselves to repent because they are proclaiming their opposition in public, which adds the threat of public embarrassment if they want to change their minds and repent.

But it is not absolutely impossible for such people to repent. Notice that the ground that produces thorns is close to being cursed, which suggests there is a possibility of repentance, though the passage then says that this ground ends by being burned, suggesting either that the likelihood of repentance is extremely low or that such land will, as in 1 Cor. 3:12-15, go through fire in which the person’s worthless works will be burned up, though the person himself be saved. So, any impossibility in repenting would seem to be much like the impossibility of a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Then, when his followers asked Him who could be saved, He said that what is impossible for men is possible for God (Matthew 19:25-26).


Hebrews 6:11
The author of Hebrews wants the people to be diligent to the very end, “to make your hope sure.”

Our obedience will give us great confidence that God is at work in our lives and that we are, indeed, saved.


Hebrews 7:25
Jesus is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him.


Hebrews 9:26
Jesus did away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.


Hebrews 9:28
Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many and he will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who await Him.

In addition to the salvation of Christ taking away our sins, there is also a future salvation in which the very presence of sin will be banished.


Hebrews 10:14
By one sacrifice Jesus made perfect forever those who are being made holy.


Hebrews 10:18
Where sins have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Jesus made the one sacrifice (Hebrews 10:4), and any other sacrifices, such as the Old Testament sacrifices, are of no value.


Hebrews 10:26
If we sin willfully after receiving the truth, no sacrifice remains.

If we know the truth of Jesus yet willfully go on sinning and do not trust in Him, that truth we have heard is of no benefit to us. And if we do not trust in Jesus, there is nowhere else to turn – there is no other sacrifice for sin.


Hebrews 10:29
There is severe punishment for the one who tramples underfoot the Son of God, who regards the blood that sanctified him as unclean, who insults the Spirit of grace.
The preceding verses, Hebrews 10:26-28, indicate that the author is addressing people who receive the knowledge of the truth but deliberately keep on sinning. They are compared to those who rejected Moses’ law and died. Apparently they heard about Jesus but refused to accept Him. Also, a bit earlier, in 10:14, the author says Jesus’ sacrifice “made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” “Perfect forever” certainly suggests these people are permanently saved. Then, in 10:39, the author says that “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

So, with those apparent assurances of salvation for believers surrounding it, why does this passage say that a person who rejects the truth had been “sanctified?” It sounds as if the person had been saved and then was lost.

Well, first of all, sanctification does not necessarily mean salvation. In 1 Corinthians 7:14-16 an unsaved husband or wife is “sanctified” by being joined with a believing spouse. Sanctification means being set aside for God’s purposes, whether a person is a believer or not. Nor does punishment always imply hell; God frequently disciplines us right here on earth.

Also, the book of Hebrews is written particularly to Jews, and at the beginning of Hebrews 10 the author makes the point that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were “a shadow,” the reality of which is the sacrifice of Jesus. (We see that sense of shadow and reality again in 1 Corinthians 10:4, which says that when the Jewish people left Egypt they “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”)

So, in that shadow sense, the Jewish people were sanctified – set aside – by Jesus’ blood. But now that Jesus has appeared, the author wants his readers’ faith in the shadow to become faith in the reality and he urges them not to reject Jesus’ blood as unholy, and not to insult the Spirit of grace that draws us to Him.


Hebrews 10:39
we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 11:1-40
Throughout this entire chapter the author of Hebrews recalls heroes of faith from the past.


Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please God.

God will be happy with our works, but only if they proceed from faith.


Hebrews 12:14
Make every effort to live in peace with others and to be holy, because without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Our holy desire and holy efforts to live in peace with others is evidence of the holiness we have received from God.


Hebrews 12:25
Do not refuse Him who speaks. If those He warned on earth did not escape, how much less if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven.

The Book of Hebrews is written primarily to Jews, and the author is warning his fellow Jews not to reject Jesus and turn away from Him.


James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial. When he has stood the test he will win the crown of life promised to those who love the Lord.

The crown of life is for those who love the Lord, and it will be given “when” those who love the Lord persevere, not “if” they persevere. As James says in 1:2, trials build perseverance in our lives, so trials are God’s way of shaping us, and He will put us through various difficulties until we withstand the tests and He has made us into the people He wants us to be.


James 1:21
In humility receive the Word implanted in you which is able to save you.

This appears to refer to God’s Word saving us from the power of sin in our daily lives. James urges us to get rid of all moral filth and evil and to do what the Word commands.

James 1:26
Religion that does not bridle the tongue is worthless.

A religion that has no affect on our lives is nonexistent. Real faith allows God to change us from the inside out, and the first outward evidence is likely to be in our language, so if we really have faith, it should have its most immediate effect on our tongue.


James 2:10
Whoever breaks just one point of the law is guilty of breaking it all.

The law is like a chain; if we break one link we have broken the chain. And since we have all broken the law, James is pointing out our need for mercy. We can see this explicitly a few verses later, in James 2:13, where James tells us that we need mercy from God.


James 2:12-13
Act as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. Judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy – mercy triumphs over judgment.

We will all by judged by God. If we believe in Christ there will be evidence of it in the mercy we show, and we are accepted. If we do not show mercy then that shows we never believed in Christ, and we are rejected.


James 2:14-20
Faith without works cannot save. Works show faith. Faith without works is useless.

James says that faith without works is useless (James 2:14, 20), that it is “dead” (James 2:17, 2:26). Works are the evidence of faith (James 2:18). In other words, if there are no works then there was never any real faith. Such “faith” is dead; not that it was ever living, but it is dead like a rock is dead – it was just never alive, or, as we sometimes say, “dead as a door nail,” never intending to suggest that a door nail was ever alive.


James 2:21-22
Abraham was justified, or, “shown to be justified” in the Amplified Version, by works. His faith was working with his actions and his faith was completed.

Abraham’s faith in God led him to be obedient to God. His works were a powerful evidence of his great faith. If our faith does not result in works then our faith is not complete; we haven’t really believed in Jesus.


James 2:24-26
Man is justified by works and not faith alone. Rahab was justified by what she did. As the body without the spirit, so faith without works is dead.

Again, there need to be works if we have faith! If there are no works, then likely there never was any faith; it was a false faith, dead as a door nail.


James 5:12
Let your “Yes” be “yes and your “No” be no, “or you will be condemned” (NIV), or “fall under judgment” (NASB).

We are not to be weaselly in our speech. Say it straight and honestly. If we don’t, we may be condemned right here on earth, by both our peers – who don’t appreciate being misled – and by God, who may need to discipline us for being weasels. I do not believe this is refers to eternal condemnation, but rather earthly judgment and discipline.


1 Peter 1:3-5
God has given us new birth through Jesus’ resurrection into an inheritance that can never perish. We are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation to be revealed at the last time.


1 Peter 1:9
You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We have been saved for heaven if we believe in Jesus, but this passage seems to refer to our being saved from the power of sin right now in our daily lives.


1 Peter 1:18-19
We were redeemed by the blood of Christ.


1 Peter 1:23
We have been born of imperishable seed through the living word of God.


1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes we should long for spiritual milk, that we may grow up in our salvation.


1 Peter 2:24
Jesus bore our sins on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed.


1 Peter 3:21
Baptism saves you by being the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Body and spirit walk together. Being baptized parallels and demonstrates the inward, spiritual act of believing. But it is a “good conscience,” a trusting surrender, toward God through the resurrection of Jesus that saves us.


1 Peter 4:17
Judgment starts with the household of God. What will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

I don’t believe this means believers are subjected to a judgment that weighs their good and bad deeds and decides whether they go to heaven or hell, but rather it is speaking of the here-and-now.

Peter 4:12 says not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come upon you. So, this judgment upon believers is happening at that moment. Peter is saying that non-believers are being used by God, apparently to test and refine the believers, but that while the believers are being judged first, the non-believers will get their turn, either on earth, or in heaven, or both, and the outcome for them will not be good.


1 Peter 4:18
It is with difficulty that the righteous are saved.

It is indeed difficult to be saved. The difficulties are that Jesus had to give his life for it to happen and we have to surrender our lives in faith to Him.


2 Peter 1:1
Peter says he is writing to people, who, like himself, have received a faith by the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ.


2 Peter 1:3-4
Jesus has granted us everything we need. He has given us His precious and magnificent promises so we can be partakers of the divine nature.


2 Peter 1:10-11
Make sure of Jesus’ calling and choosing you. If you do these things [the things listed in verses 1:5-7] you will never fall and will receive a rich welcome into His eternal kingdom.

We should check that our lives show evidence of God at work in us. If we don’t see any evidence, do we really believe in Jesus? If we are doing the things outlined in 2 Peter 1:5-7 then we can be confident we are being effective in God’s kingdom (2 Peter 1:8), that we won’t trip or fall, and that we have been saved. Also, if we do these things we will receive a “rich welcome” (2 Peter 1:11) into Christ’s eternal kingdom, perhaps suggesting that otherwise we may receive a more ordinary welcome, or that we will be as the one whose work burns but who himself is saved (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).


2 Peter 2:20-21
If they are ensnared by defilements they had begun to escape by the knowledge of Jesus, their state is worse off than at first. It would have been better for them not to have known the way than to turn from it.

I don’t believe this means that a real believer caught up in sin is damned.

Peter is speaking of false prophets and there are several suggestions that these false prophets never trusted in Jesus in the first place. 2 Peter 2:12 says they slander things they do not understand, suggesting that they never had any real spiritual understanding. It also says that they were born only to be caught and destroyed, suggesting their original nature never changed – it was bad in the first place and remained bad. 2 Peter 2:22 makes their unchanged nature explicit when it says that a washed pig – clean on the outside but with its piggy nature unchanged – is still a pig and goes right back to the mud. These false prophets were clean on the outside but their sinful nature was unchanged.

These false prophets appeared to have had knowledge of Jesus because they associated with Christians (2 Peter 2:13). Further, they knew something of Jesus’ power because He had begun to cleanse them (2 Peter 2:20), but this cleansing appears to be like the cleansing referred to in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26, in which Jesus says that when an evil spirit is cast out of a man, it wanders around in dry places, then returns and finds its former house tidy and empty, then it brings even more evil spirits to live with it in the cleaned-up man’s life. This parallel appears quite intentional as Peter mentions that the false prophets’ last state is worse than their first state, which is essentially the same phrasing that Jesus used to refer to the man cleansed of demons.

So, there is a cleansing that may be accompanied by some knowledge of Jesus, but is not accompanied by trust in Jesus, and even though that cleansing may have been accomplished by Jesus, that in itself is not salvation; salvation is by trusting in Jesus.

Finally, these false prophets’ final state is worse than their original state because – like the man who had the demons cast out and his life swept clean of rubbish – all that the cleansing accomplished was to make room for more demons! Also, having had a superficial connection with Christ and thinking that they “know all about that stuff,” then when they overtly turned away they were, in a manner of speaking, “inoculated” against Christ and therefore worse off than they were at first.


1 John 1:5-6
God is light and in Him is no darkness. If we say we have fellowship with God but walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

If we believe in Jesus we will tend to walk with God; not perfectly and not sinlessly, but as a general rule. We know that John does not mean we must walk absolutely sinlessly because in the next verse, 1 John 1:7, he says that if we walk in the light then Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin. So, we can have sin even when we are walking in the light, otherwise, what sin is Jesus forgiving us for?



1 John 1:7
If we walk in the light then the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

“Walk” and “cleanses” are in the present tense, so this seems to refer to our daily walk. It is about the power of Jesus to cleanse our daily lives.


1 John 2:3-4
We know we know Him if we keep His commandments. If someone says he knows Him but does not keep his commands, he is a liar.

Keeping God’s commands is evidence we know Him.


1 John 2:12
Your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake.


1 John 2:15
Anyone who loves the world does not have the love of the Father.

“The world,” in this case, appears to be used as we would say, “the way of the world.” In other words, a path that takes no consideration of God, for which God is irrelevant, for which only those things we see around us are relevant. You do not love God if you prefer the way of the world to God. You are not connected with God if you love things that oppose God.


1 John 2:24,25
“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If you do, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – even eternal life.”

John is encouraging the believers to resist teaching from false prophets.

Looking back a few verses to 1 John 2:19, John says these false prophets were never members of the Christian family because they abandoned the family, which they would not have done if they were real believers. Then in 1 John 2:22 he explicitly says they deny the Father and the Son.

Instead of listening to false prophets, John wants them to remain true to what they learned from the beginning. If they do this they will be walking with God, they will remain in communion with the Son and the Father in their daily walk. And John wants to assure them that what they believed from the beginning will result in eternal life – God promised! – so they should not be fooled by some false prophet who says they need something extra or different for salvation.


1 John 3:5-10
He appeared to take away sin. No one abiding in Him keeps on sinning. The one who practices righteousness is righteous. Practice sin and you’re of the devil. No one born of God practices sin – he cannot sin. If you are not righteous or if you don’t love your brother, you’re not of God.

If we are born again to God by trusting in Jesus we will not continue in sin – we cannot continue in sin. We will love our brother. When John says we cannot sin he does not mean that we will never, ever, sin; in fact he says in 1 John 1:8, 10 that we are lying if we say we are without sin. Instead, I believe he is saying that the willing, constant practice of sin means we never knew God.


1 John 3:14-15
If you love the brethren, you have life. If you hate your brother you don’t have eternal life.

John says we “have passed from death to life” if we love our Christian brothers. The loving is evidence of our faith. If we reflect God’s love, we have life. If not, we don’t.

1 John 3:23-24
John says God’s command is to love Jesus and one another. If we keep His commands we know we abide in Him and He in us.


1 John 4:14-15
The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.


1 John 4:20
If you hate your brother, but say you love God, you are a liar and you don’t love God.

The evidence of our love for God is that we love others.


1 John 5:1
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

1 John 5:4

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith.

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