Monday, April 16, 2012

Be Warned & Be Blessed By the Trinity

I wrote on the possibility of losing salvation and the letter to the Hebrews about two years ago. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on this Monday morning (an all too common thing for this desert rat/pastor-teacher after a Sunday of ministry in the Word) and considered afresh the warning and blessing of the Trinity. For all the controversy and muddiness we tend to make of Hebrews (especially in passages like the one below), may we not lose sight of the infinitely great and mysterious God of the Bible, Who is one God in three Persons.

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God [the Father, 1:1,2] and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6). Here we have a warning to those who would, after being confessing participators in the life of the congregation of God, depart from the assembly of Christ’s family by faith. I do not regard these as having “lost their salvation,” for they are set in opposition to those who are both confessing and producing fruit of that confession; the writer is assured of their salvation by their fruit (6:9-12). There are those, however, who hear the Word sown in the congregation, demonstrate some response, but never produce fruit because of pressure, difficulty, or temptation (our writer traces the root to the fact that, though they hear, the Word is not united by faith in their hearts, 4:2):
  • “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:20-22).
  • “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:16-19).
  • “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:13,14).
These are those who have “forsaken the assembly” (10:25) and therefore are under threat of the terror of falling into the hands of “the living God” (10:26-31 - a judgment on those who "go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth," and the only sin mentioned in this section is the assembly-forsaking). These are those who “went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). The rejection is not just of the assembly. They are falling away from the household of God the Holy Spirit, the Gift and Promise of God’s Personal Presence. They are falling away from the Church, the Temple of God the Father, Who speaks and there is light and life for those whom He has chosen. They are falling away from the Body of God the Son, Who has “made purification of sins” by His death on the cross, and was raised from the grave and up to the Father, where “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). Hebrews 6:4-6 outlines a rejection of the Trinity, one God in three Persons, blessed forever.

“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned” (6:7,8). A simple enough illustration, isn’t it? Remember also Jesus’ words to His disciples as they traveled between the upper room and the garden of Gethsemane: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:1-6). Abide in the vine of Christ!

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:9-12). Keep abiding in Christ by faith, continue producing the fruit of that faith, and be motivated and assured by that faith-fruit.

Read 6:4-6 again. The warning to those who leave the fellowship of faith is at the same time a blessing of the Trinity’s glorious involvement in that same fellowship for those who faithfully remain in it!
  • Church, we have “been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” It is this Spirit Who dances in the spoken Word of God “by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts” in perfect expression of the will of the Trinity (2:4), Who breathes millennia-old Scripture to us in the present tense (3:7; 4:12; 10:15)!
  • Church, we “have tasted the good word of God [the Father, 1:1,2] and the powers of the age to come.” He is “the Father of spirits,” Who “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (12:9-11).
  • Church, the the Son of God” been crucified for us, “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time” (10:12), “through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:12), “bringing many sons to glory...through sufferings” (2:10).

Consider the fellowship of the Triune God, His Church. Live your confession together with His people faithfully, fruitfully, and forever. Be warned and be blessed by the Trinity.

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