Thursday, February 22, 2018

controlling context

The Word for today:
Hebrews 5:11-6:8
mark this: Hebrews 6:1-9 (see above)
Hebrews 6:1-9 is one of the most variously interpreted passages in scripture. By various interpretations, I mean a real variety show. Commentators weave all over the road (and off the road) on this one.
Some well-known commentators emphasize the ifs in the passage--as if this were all just a hypothetical situation. Amateur that I am, may I say 'balderdash!'
Some well-established commentators have said this is speaking only about profess-ors (not believers) who just mouth the words of belief but don't believe in their hearts. Amateur commentator that I am, may I say 'poppycock!'
Some renowned commentators have said that this refers only to the times in which it was written, when some believers reverted to the Temple worship and sacrifices that were still enacted there. Amateur that I am, may I say, 'hogwash.'
And, worst of all, some commentators say this passage refers to saved believers who have lost their salvation. For these I reserve my best epithet of all: 'bullwhipple!'
Hebrews 6:1-9 is for many Bible readers the most horrifying passage in scripture. And our commentators have done nothing to help them get through it without shattering their spiritual confidence.
Stand in the Rain will not shy away from this passage. (Many of our noble commentators opt to make no comment on these verses.) Stand in the Rain does not approach this passage with the academic and spiritual angst that others have told us this passage deserves. This is due to either one of two premises:
a. Either Stand in the Rain is too obtuse to properly appreciate how inscrutable these verses really are; or
b. Stand in the Rain is too smart to be intimidated by a passage whose context guides us to a clear and authoritative interpretation.
Fearlessly (as always) assuming Premise "b" to be true, we are going to de-mystify this passage by posting a picture of the verses with the important contextual clues circled. Then we are going to guide you through a proper, contextually derived interpretation.
As you can see, there are three phrases circled. We hope you circle them in your Bible as well:
1. Circle this: "A foundation of repentance from dead works"
This first circled phrase is the controlling context for the rest of the passage! It tells us that the "repentance" being spoken of is repentance from a works-based relationship with God (instead of a trusting, faith-based relationship.) We are not saved by good works, but by trusting in what Jesus achieved for us. So don't slide back to faith in "works." And if you do, repent!
2. Circle this: "It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened…"
Enlightened about what? About the uselessness of the dead works which were spoken of in circle #1, above. Those who keep drifting back into that fallacy will find it harder and harder -- and eventually impossible -- to fully trust in God's grace-based plan of salvation.
3. Circle this: "We feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation."
This phrase makes it clear that what has been discussed above is not salvation itself, but the rewards that those already saved will earn through the faithful use of the spiritual gifts they have been given. Such rewards belong to salvation (or, as the KJV says it, accompany salvation.)  So accompanying rewards are in question here--not salvation itself.  (1*)
Make no mistake, the warning of Hebrews 6:1-10 is sobering and should cause us to reflect on whether we are slipping back into a relationship with God that we've based on whether we have our halos shined and our goody-goody shoes polished (wrong!) -- or whether our relationship with God is based (as it should be) on the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
(1*) For the advanced student: 
Carefully note the phrase "its end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8, above). 
Then compare that phrase with 1 Corinthians 3:15 -- 
"If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

What future event do these phrases depict?  

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