Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Security of the believer

I've been so busy lately (getting ready for vacation has that effect) that when I got a request on Friday—"Jon and Rich, Here I am, stuck again. Would you guys be so kind as to give me your 'take' on Hebrews chapter 6? In particular, verses 1 - 6?"—I "tabled" it planning to get back to it but didn't think about it again until I realized I didn't have a topic for Monday's Jonal. So I'm hoping that the request wasn't as time-sensitive as wanting something for a Sunday school class of yesterday, and thinking it might be worth airing here in the semi-public Eforum. And in doing so killing both birds of catching up on an email and having something to fill today's space.

Here's the passage the writer requested help with:

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will[a] do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away,[b] to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Rich's reply was too lengthy to take up point by point in this space, but he mentioned the Baptist doctrine of the "security of the believer" as often mentioned as being referred-to in these verses from Hebrews. I agree with Rich that one can't lose his salvation the way he can lose his car keys, but I don't believe the Bible teaches "once saved, always saved." I once believed it; I even preached on it and cited "proof texts" that seem to make the claim in the New Testament, but then I found other texts which talk about members of the first-generation church—even ones who were in ministry alongside Paul—who "fell away." I was dismayed by this discrepancy until I encountered the Orthodox view of salvation. The Orthodox theology on salvation, which is as old as the times of persecution under the Roman Empire's Caesars, holds that salvation is incremental: "I have been saved," "I am being saved," and "I will be saved" is the way Orthodox usually put it. I have believed for salvation, but the rest of life is walking in faith, and only by keeping the faith until the end do I actually win the laurel of the Lord's approval in the judgment. Though there are specific verses that speak of no one being able to pluck out of the Lord's hands those He has elected to salvation, there are many verses that also say only those who persevere are, in the end, the saved.

So semantically, if "I have been saved," yes, I can be "unsaved" if I turn back from the Way. But I know my "past" salvation is always conditional on current and future behavior and believing. If I stop believing, a Calvinist (as I was for most of my life) would say, I never "truly" believed. So I had a profession, and it may have seemed credible to the elders of the church who accepted me into its communion but, if I've turned away from it it's obvious that it wasn't really credible at all. I was just an effective con man. Same difference. All that's different between the Orthodox view of security in salvation and the Calvinists' view is whether you're looking down from a heavenly perspective, or up from a limited, all-too-human perspective. The outcome is the same. The Calvinist says, "He seemed to be saved but apparently wasn't," the Orthodox says, "He made a promising start, made impressive progress, but stopped short of the mark." Which is more human? I say the latter, and therefore I have no qualms about having abandoned my previous stance for security of the believer based on Calvin's stress on God's "election to salvation."

The Hebrews passage is very complicated and complex, but in the main, I believe, is speaking of the administration of the sacraments or the means of grace of the church. Baptism, which Paul says is "for the remission of sins," and anointing with oil for the impartation of the Holy Spirit, are sacraments that are performed once, only. After that, if one sins, he slips and falls and is picked up by confessing and repenting and going on. But if he says he was never "truty" baptized or chrismated with oil so he wants it again, Paul is saying, no. That's not what these sacred gifts of the church are for or how they're to be handled.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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Today's chuckle

Funny Words of Wisdom—

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons because, to them, you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

— Sent by Trudy Myers

Thought for today

All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.

—Plato (427 - 347 BC)

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