What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Hebrews 11

by Jay Guin

Now that we have a foundation in the thought of Hebrews, we can consider the Roll Call of the Faithful in Hebrews 11.

(Heb 11:1-2) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

The point of this definition of faith is that faith — to be truly faith — must lead to certainty in God’s promises.

(Heb 11:17-19) By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

The point isn’t that Abraham obeyed each and every one of God’s commands. He didn’t. The point is that Abraham’s faith was so strong that he believed God would keep his word even if it required a miracle. Abraham was “certain of what [he did] not see.” His faith was true faith.

The writer doesn’t say that Abraham wasn’t saved until he offered the sacrifice. Rather, he says we know Abraham had true faith because his life shows his reliance on God’s promises. He was “sure of what [he] hope[d] for.”

(Heb 11:39) These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

Just as John wrote, faith produces obedience. It doesn’t produce perfect obedience or perfect understanding of God’s will. Gideon, Samson, and David — listed as among the faithful in verse 32 — were all deeply flawed men. But each had a faith that was strong enough to lead them to action in reliance on God’s promises.

And so, here we see one reason that faith is so very closely associated with works. Faith includes belief in the promises of God that accompany our faith. You see,

(Heb 11:6) … without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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9 Comments on “What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Hebrews 11”

  1. Royce Ogle Says:

    Jay,

    You wrote “The writer doesn’t say that Abraham wasn’t saved until he offered the sacrifice. Rather, he says we know Abraham had true faith because his life shows his reliance on God’s promises. He was “sure of what [he] hope[d] for.” And, you are exactly right.

    A common mistake our conservative friends make is that they unwittingly assign human limitations to God. They think that God is like some spectator Judge who is waiting to see what we will do next Tuesday or if we will worship correctly on Sunday. Don’t you suppose that the God who knows the number of the very hairs of my head knew exactly what I would be doing at this moment before time began?

    And, sadly, many coC folks think they can broker some deal with God convincing Him that their good works and their correct doctrine and their membership in the true church……along with what Jesus has done should reserve a place in heaven for them. Jesus alone is quite enough. He did it all, He paid it all, He is all.

    Royce

  2. nick gill Says:

    Don’t you suppose that the God who knows the number of the very hairs of my head knew exactly what I would be doing at this moment before time began?

    No, actually.

    I believe God knows all things that exist.

    The future does not exist yet, therefore God does not know it.

    God may state what He will DO in the future, what he will cause. But did He lie when he said that He regretted making Saul king? Of course not! He thought it was a great choice! The One who Sees the hearts of men chose Saul to be king, and when it didn’t work out, he didn’t tell Samuel, “Don’t worry yourself about it — I knew that would happen.”

    Likewise, history is a working-together between God and men. He gave mankind real authority and real power to act, even to rebel.

  3. Royce Says:

    I would be surprised if all of the 4 participants in this discusson would not disagree with your idea that God’s knowledge is limited. Limited by what?

    It is a very grave error to assign human limitations to the limitless God. Do you not remember reading how Jesus knew what men were thinking? And that he saw their faith. Did the life of Joseph play out the way it did because of fate?

    Do you think the prophets were smarter than God? How in the world did they know so much about Jesus birth, life, and death hundreds of years before the events happend? A lucky guess?

    The idea that God has any limitation is the most outrageous position I have heard in a long time.

    I believe if you will think about it a bit you didn’t really mean it the way it sounds.

    Royce


  4. Well, I was trying to read through all the discussions presented me before I posted on any one of them (except the original), but I am compelled to respond to Nick here. (Nick, you are the conservative in this thread, correct?)

    One of the major issues I deal with when discussing God’s existence with atheists is God’s omniscience including foreknowledge and free will. They say, “Since God already knows what choice you are going to make, free will is an illusion. God already sees the choice as existing and therefore it is the only one you can make, else God is not omniscient.” And so on.

    Eternity – Spiritual existence superior to the universe (space & time) that contains the universe entire (including all of time from beginning to end). That is to say, someone who exists with the perspective of eternity looking at the universe will see the entirety of the universe, past, present, and future.

    Foreknowledge – knowing that something will happen before it actually happens

    Free will – the capacity to make a real, destiny shaping personal choice

    The problem comes in, in essence, in believing that foreknowledge is the cause, and the choice is the result. For them, they have the cause/effect reversed. Man’s eventual choice (the effect) causes God to foreknow what it is that they will do.

    To say that God does not know the future is a gross misunderstanding of the nature of God. I do not believe humans have any capacity to limit God, but I do understand what you were trying to say. God is omnipotent but cannot do things that are not subject to power (He can’t create a triangle with three sides). These are not limitations on God. What I believe you were attempting to say, is that because the future does not exist (from the human perspective – because if it did exist [present tense] it would be the present), God cannot know it.

    However, God does not see things from the limited perspective from within the universe (space and time) He sees them from the perspective of eternity, within which exists all of space and time.

    I teach my students to think of the universe as a string. That string represents all of space (at any one point on the string) and time (the length of the string)…and there is God, in eternity, with one hand holding up either end.

    To believe that God cannot know the future is to deny every bit of prophecy as prophecy and relegate it to simple determination of a really powerful being. But God knew Cyrus before Cyrus was born and prophesied what Cyrus would choose to do (not what God would do). If Cyrus’ choice to let the Jews go back to rebuild Jerusalem is something God did, then you must deny free will.

    In Truth and Love,

    Ernie

  5. Glenn Dowling Says:

    Ernie, Two comments relative to your writing (above). Foreknowledge… in Ephesians relates to God’s “fore..knowing or fore loving, as Adam “knew” Eve and she conceived. After the fall, man was not born with a true “free will” in that he has Adam’s fallen nature – thus while may be “free” to chose God, he is not able to…without the enabling Holy Spirit.

    “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

  6. Harold Scott Says:

    I suggest a study of Romans instead of a debate as Romans is about God and His way with mankind. To much debate is imputing other’s positions ascribed to them by those who disagree. All Christians should be open to a written discussion of Romans mutually agreeing that it is inspired by God. I believe Romans is the clearest revelation of God’s will and is the answer to our divisions as it focuses on God and not on the church of the first century.

  7. Glenn Dowling Says:

    Harold, Your pointing to Romans is a good thing – I saw a teaching leader for Men’s Bible Study Fellowship (BSF)do a 180 degree turn in his theological positon. He was a member of the Church of Christ and he confronted the preacher…all to no avail. He and his family left the church and are now settled in a strong Baptist church.

    The BASIC problem…and it is basic – is the lack of understanding/acceptance of the effects of Adam’s sin and fall. When that scriptural truth is ignored then comes the other two options: man,then, is either born…good…or he is born neutral. Neither are taught in scripture.

    Are we not “objects of wrath” as stated in Ephesians (above)? Does not Christ have to “make us alive” because we are dead (again, Ephesians above). My quesion to the Church of Christ leadership is – what part of DEAD do you not understand? What can a dead person do…get up and believe on his own?


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