Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you are reprobates?
(2 Corinthians 13:5)
1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that cometh often upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: 8 But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
In the previous chapter we saw the best way to avoid falling into apostasy., by remaining firmly grounded in God’s word and putting the things we hear into action.. By following this advice we would grow from a state of immaturity to the fullness of stature of the new man in Christ.
The writer declares his readiness to assist them all he can in their spiritual progress; and for their greater encouragement he will go through it with them. He states, “Let us go on”. Note that he does not say, “You must go on”.
In order to grow the believer must leave behind the rudimentary beliefs and principles of the faith. How, then, are we to leave them? We must not forget them. They must be laid up in our hearts as the foundation of our expectations and our lives; even so we are not to rest in them and stick in them. We should never continually lay this foundation, we must go o and build upon them.
The foundation is first laid so that something can be built upon it. The foundational teachings of the Gospel are these:
- Repentance from dead works. There has to be repentance from dead works. Those that are not born again are dead in sins and trespasses and so are their works.
- Faith towards God. We must believe that God is, his nature, attributes and perfection. The essential nature of the Godhead and the mind and will of God through the revelation of the Son of God. Repentance from dead works and Faith if God cannot be exercise independently from each other because without faith it is impossible to please God, and faith without works is dead!
- The doctrine of Baptisms. (Note that it isn’t the doctrine(s) of Baptism, but the doctrin(e) of Baptisms). For there is the necessity of baptism both in water AND in the spirit. The first is an outward sign; the second is an inward work of the Holy Ghost through the effective work of the same via the Blood of Christ.
- The laying on of hands. It is good that when a person is baptised the elders gather round them in order to lay hands on them in order that they may be affirmed. This need only be done once.
- The resurrection of the dead. This refers to the resurrection of dead bodies that will be reunited with their souls either to eternal life or to eternal damnation.
- Eternal judgement. The judgement is the passing down of the sentence declared for both the righteous and the unrighteous; the righteous to be received into the Joy of the Lord, the unrighteous cast out into outer darkness.
These are the foundational truths that every believer must know and understand. It is essential that new believers be carefully instructed in these foundational truths and established in them and must never depart from them. Without these any other foundation is weak and will not support the building upon which the person intends to build.
Now the writer states some very hard things:
4 it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
It is entirely possible for a person to start off on the right path and yet fall away and be lost.
They may be enlightened, that is, they may have some knowledge and their understanding be illuminated somewhat and yet still fall short of Heaven. Balaam was such a person yet he went with his eyes wide open into darkness.
And he took up his parable, and said, “Balaam the son of Beor has said, and the man whose eyes are open has said”: (Numbers 24:3)
They may have tasted of the Heavenly gift, having felt something of the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They enjoy the fellowship, feel moved by the music and the atmosphere that is produced in the meetings and yet will not deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Christ to the end.
They may even have partaken of the Holy Ghost that is they may have cast out devils in His name and done miraculous signs and wonders and still face rejection on the day of judgement. Remember Judas, he was an apostle of Christ who Christ sent out with the power to heal, cast out demons and raise the dead.
They may taste of the good word of God. They may have pleasure in the doctrine, may remember it and speak well of it and yet do not conform to its teaching.
They may have tasted of the powers of the world to come.
All these things and yet ultimately they will turn apostate. The apostate turns away from truth and against the work of Christ and God, and for these there is no way back. Once such a person has fallen away they have fallen away completely.
They are like a tree that is devoid of strong roots and will ultimately fall because they have no strength in the inward parts. What they do have is but a show of godliness.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
(2 Timothy 3:5)
To apostatise is to recrucify the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame. Their actions declare that they approve of what the Jews did in crucifying Christ, and that they would do the same thing again if they could. They pour the greatest contempt upon God Himself. For them Christ and his doctrines are a shameful thing.
There can be no repentance for them again. All that work done in cultivating them only for them to be found fruitless like the fig tree that the Lord cursed. They grow up in the same soil as others; whereas the others bring forth fruit these bring forth only thorns and thistles
Its end is to be burned. The apostates will be punished with everlasting fire that will never go out.
We do others no service if we maintain them in ignorance of these things!
9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end: 12 That you are not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men truly swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which enters into that within the veil; 20 Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
After the warnings to them concerning the dangers of apostasy, and knowing these believers very well, the writer encourages them by concluding that he is persuaded better things of them. God knows whether or not a person displays those things that accompany salvation. There ARE things that accompany salvation. These do not produce salvation, nor do they contribute to God’s reasons for granting salvation, nevertheless they do accompany it. Salvation must produce a change in a person.
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; see, all things are become new.
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
True, a man may say, “You have faith, and I have works”: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was Abraham our father not justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Do you see how faith fashioned with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
When it comes to the subject of “salvation and good works,” there are two serious errors that plague the church. One is that of Roman Catholicism, which teaches that in order to gain enough merit for salvation, we must add our good works to what Christ did on the cross. Under this view, you can never know for sure whether or not you are saved, because there is no way to check your “merit balance” to see if you’ve stored up enough. So you have to keep adding good works in the hope of gaining eternal life. Under Roman Catholic teaching, a person could never say what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, “you have been saved.”
The other error, which is more pervasive in evangelical circles, is that good works have no connection whatsoever with salvation. This view teaches that since we are saved by grace through faith alone, a person may believe in Christ as Saviour, but there may not be a life of good works to follow. A person may pray the sinner’s prayer and profess to believe in Jesus as his Saviour. Later he may profess to be an atheist and live in gross sin, but he will be in heaven because he made a decision to receive Christ. This view fails to realise that salvation requires God’s raising a sinner from death to life, which inevitably results in a changed life. It divorces repentance from saving faith and teaches that saving faith is simply believing the facts of the gospel.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians answers both of these points:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Genuine salvation is entirely of God and inevitably results in a life of good works.
There is no conflict between Paul and James on the issue. Paul is attacking the Pharisaic notion that our good works will commend us to God, whereas James is attacking the antinomian notion that faith does not necessarily, or need to, produce good works.
If a person believes they will act accordingly!
In verse 10 Paul declares that God has not only saved us, but that He has saved us in order to produce good works.
In writing to these Jewish believers the author shows that he believes that these good works have been produced and that they have shown great love towards the other believers.
Loving concern and actions towards other believers is what we are commanded by Christ to do and being saved and born of the spirit will cause us to have this love.
By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Good works and work that proceed out of love for God will never go unrewarded. They may not go rewarded right away but they will eventually.
Then will the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. (Matthew 25:34-36).
Those that persevere to the end in this manner will have full assurance of hope. The way to attain such an assurance is spelled out in no uncertain terms: not to be slothful. The slothful love their ease and they lose many opportunities.
We are to follow those examples of the people of God who have gone on before who inherited the promises made to them.
Abraham is the classic example. He believed God and did what God told him to do. He did this by faith, not knowing where he was being sent. All he had to go on was God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.
Normally men promise to do a thing because the reward is given by someone’s guarantee, someone of greater authority. For example, company agents cannot offer anything unless authorised to do so by someone with greater authority. With God there is no one greater so God swears by Himself.
God promised to bless him and multiply him.
In due time Abraham obtained the promise, however Abraham had to patiently endure. God had promised Abraham an heir. Years passed and Sarah was still barren. On Sarah’s behest he lay with Hagar in order to bare him a son. It would be 13 years after the birth of Ishmael that Isaac would be born!
Our ultimate redemption will not come until Christ returns, until then, we will have to wait patiently through good and bad! Anyone who cannot wait patiently is doubting God’s oath and, ultimately, is calling God a liar!
The fact that we may trust God is founded upon two immutable (that is unchangeable things); the counsel and the oath of God, for which it is impossible for God to lie, being contrary to His divine nature.
The promises are given to the heirs of the promises by inheritance, by virtue of the New Birth and union with Christ. The curse is the inheritance that we are born into; the promise is what we are heirs to by virtue of the New Birth.
Maintaining this hope will keep us anchored to the promise and enable us to remain patient enduring to the end. The anchor is attached to solid bedrock within the veil, the holiest place where the very presence of God abides. This bedrock is Christ, himself.
He has entered the veil where He intercedes on our behalf. He is thee forerunner of the people and has entered in order to prepare them a place and assure them of a place there. He remains there as High Priest in the same way as Melchizedek, a priest forever. Our faith must remain in Him and the work that he has accomplished on our behalf.
Not only has he brought reconciliation and redemption but he has entered heaven where he has prepared and is maintaining a place for us! This is what we ought to keep at the forefront of our minds. This world is not our home, this world (and anything in it) is not our inheritance.