|Study of Hebrews|
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Let us review three things about a baby in Christ:
The thing is that he can shout over the Red Sea and say, “Why don’t you come back? There is lots of fun here.” If you keep on living around the shore of the Red Sea, you keep on hearing him and sooner or later you will get tired of this life of manna for breakfast and manna for lunch and manna for supper seven days a week and you will cross back over the Red Sea. That’s the danger that Paul is talking about. But the further you go away from Satan’s territory as you grow as a Christian, Egypt becomes less and less attractive.
Now the Jews, even though they were going physically towards Canaan, their hearts were in Egypt. So they could hear the voice of the Devil, not audibly, but they could feel the pull through the flesh and they were longing to go back to Egypt. That’s the danger. As long as you are across the Red Sea, no matter how weak a Christian you are, salvation is yours, but as soon as you cross back to the devil’s territory you are out of Christ. That is the danger that Paul is presenting.
Let us go now to Heb. 6:7-12. He has told us that if you cross back deliberately, wilfully, you are crucifying Christ afresh. Remember that before, you crucified Him out of ignorance but now you are doing it deliberately. May I make it clear that in the end of time there are only two things that you can do with Christ. You can either crucify Him or you can be crucified with Him. Those are the only two choices the human race will be given.
Now we must look at this very difficult statement that once you have gone back it is impossible for those who have been enlightened, who have known the truth, for them to return back to Christ. Let’s go to verse seven now and see what Paul is saying here concerning this aspect:
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God....
He is using the early and the latter rain as an illustration. When spring arrives and the rain comes most people plant a garden. All the rain that may come from God is not enough. What happens if you neglect your garden? You get weeds. Look at verse eight:
[If you neglect your Christian walk...] But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
What do you do with weeds? You can’t eat them. You burn them up. If you nurture your Christian experience, if you allow your yourselves to grow up in Christ then the end result is the same as when you have a garden. What happens at harvest time? You get lots of produce and you enjoy that. But if you neglect your garden you end up with weeds and you have to end up burning them. Paul is saying that the person who nurtures his Christian experience will end up with a blessing. Those who do not nurture their Christian experience will end up being rejected. Go to verses 9-12:
But, beloved we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which you have shewed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Now what is Paul talking about here? As I mentioned earlier, this is a passage that has caused great difficulty in the Christian Church. A great section of the Christian Church is composed of what we call Calvinists. The Calvinists believe that a person is saved or lost on the basis of God’s election. God has chosen some people to be saved and because He’s sovereign, because He’s boss, if He has chosen you to be saved, you will be saved. You can never be lost. And it is from this concept that we have the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”
Now what do they do with this passage that says that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation? They say, “Well, this is not true. These people were not truly converted in the first place. If they had been converted God has elected them to be saved and, therefore, they could never be lost.”
All through the book of Hebrews Paul is warning. Remember the book of Hebrews alternates between encouragement to press on and warning if you give up your faith. And I want to remind you that even though the righteousness that saves you can never be destroyed, remember that your faith is destructible. If you have had a good Christian experience, you can’t depend on your past experience. Christian living is a constant battle. The moment you relax you are on dangerous ground.
In other words, there are two great powers in this world. There is God, Who is the Creator and Saviour of mankind and there is the Devil, who is the prince of the world. They both want you. The Devil wants you because he wants your company in the fire and God wants you because He wants you to enjoy salvation and eternal life at His side. But God will not force salvation. So it is possible for you to lose your salvation. This is what Paul is warning in these verses. Turn to Heb. 10:38,39:
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, [if any man departs from his faith, what does God say to him?] My soul [“Soul” can also be used as a pronoun. What it simply is saying is “I”] shall have no pleasure in him. [I cannot save a person who has said “goodbye” to his faith.]
[Verse thirty-nine:] But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. [Your faith must endure unto the end.]
When I became an Adventist, there were two men who influenced me tremendously. One was a man who placed in my hand a “Youth Instructor” and said to me, “When you get to England and go to Newbold [College], wouldn’t you like to join the ministry?” He was the M.V. Leader of the East African Union. Today he is out of the church and to all appearance has given up Christ. The man that was responsible for leading me to join the ministry today is out of the church.
The other man was the treasurer of our Union. He was a brilliant young man. He was a South African and the division gave him a scholarship to Walla College. He had a tremendous voice. He was a tenor. One day he was singing for a program, I believe at Whitman College, and two men approached him and said, “You know, you are wasting your time and your talents in this denomination. We would like to offer you something.” They offered him one of the highest positions in the World’s Fair in New York, the job of assistant manager for the financing of the whole program. Well, he accepted that and gradually, in mixing with worldly people, he began drinking and smoking and today he is out of the church.
If you had told me when I was baptized that these men would leave the church, I would never believe it because they were very spiritual men. In fact, the last man was the pastor of the Nairobi City Church. Today, both of them are out.
I want to remind you also, folks, that the two men that God used tremendously to bring the message of righteousness by faith in 1888 both left the church. I remind you that Canwright, who was one of the greatest evangelists this denomination produced, left the church. So the fact that God has used you mightily does not mean that you are on safe ground. You need to press on.
When the Pacific Press moved to Idaho, we had some tremendous talents in all areas. I remember going to a couple who were used mightily by their church in California. I said, “We would like to use you in our church.” I will not forget what the lady said to me.
“We have worked so hard in our church in California that we feel we need a break.”
The moment you begin to relax and think, “I have worked so hard, I need a break,” you will discover that the Devil will use you slowly and steadily to get you out of Christ. There is no way you can relax in this world until the coming of Christ. There is a battle for your soul and there is danger in relaxing your Christian experience. So I would plead with you as does Paul. Don’t you ever do that. Don’t ever relax in your Christian experience. The moment you do you will not remain stagnant but go backwards.
We have moved to our new house and we have a creek that flows through our back yard. It’s quite a fast-flowing creek. If I could swim upstream in that creek I could make progress but the moment I’d relax I would go downstream. This is the problem. There is a current in the life of every human being. The current is towards sin, towards the world. You can’t relax in your Christian experience. That is why, at the end of his life, Paul said to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith.”
Let’s look at some counsel from Jesus Christ in Matt. 10. He tells the disciples that when they become followers of Him they are going to face hardships in this world. Reading from verse sixteen:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Now I don’t know much about sheep and wolves but I do know about antelopes in Africa. They are always having one ear pricked up to hear the movement of lions and cheetahs. Even when they drink water you can see the animals are not relaxed because they know that any time one of those wild beasts will come and pounce on them. So they drink and they look up. Christ is saying that we have to face a similar problem in this world. The Devil is looking for every opportunity to destroy us. Now go to Matt. 10:22:
And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Please notice there is the requirement of endurance. Turn to Acts 20. Here Paul is talking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Paul has described to them the many things he had suffered, but look at verse twenty-four:
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Please notice: we have begun a race. Paul is saying, “I will finish the course.” By the way, in Paul’s writings, he will use racing only in terms of Christian living. He will never use it in terms of salvation. Salvation is a gift. But the moment you accept Christ, it’s like a race and you have to run with all your might to reach the goal. Now what is the goal? The goal is Canaan. What happens if you die in the wilderness? I am not talking of physical death because you can die physically here but please remember Eph. 2:6 where we are told that we are sitting in heavenly places in Christ. So, even though we are moving in this direction, our position is in Christ (i.e., Canaan). We can lose that by unbelief. Unbelief is the only thing that God cannot forgive. So please remember that this passage is a warning. Hebrews six is a warning that you should not take your religion lightly. Going back to Heb. 6:11:
And we [the apostles] desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.
Don’t give up your faith until you arrive at Canaan. In other words, hold on to your faith until you arrive there. In verse twelve:
That you be not slothful....
Please don’t say, “I am exhausted, I need to have a break.” Now it is true that it is possible to be burned out, and God doesn’t want that. I am not talking of a break for a few weeks I am talking about saying, “I don’t think I will do anything this year for God.” Then you begin to relax and the next year will come and you are in the habit of relaxing and you say, “I think I will wait another year.” Gradually, you will find yourself praying less, studying less, and before you know it, you will be coming to church less. It’s very slow. You may not notice it.
When we were in the mission field we would come back to America every three years and we noticed the change in the lifestyle of Adventists. The people did not notice it because it was gradual. When we went to the mission field we would buy clothes not for one year but for three years. When we came back the kids were wearing clothes that we had bought three years before, and when we arrived in America they were like fish out of water because things had changed so drastically in those three years. The people didn’t recognize it, but because we were away, we could see the suddenness of the change. You know, the devil is trying to get us. He is trying his level best to pull you out of Christ. So please remember that Christianity is a battle. We need to grow. We need to spend some time in study and growing.
There are many ways the devil will try to get you out of Christ. He will try to get you preoccupied with material things. He will try to get you preoccupied with issues that are not healthful for your Christian growth. He will try to get you side-tracked from the gospel to items that have no relevance to your growth in Christian living. He will try to get you out of Christ by persecution, but please remember that you need to hold on until the end. This is why Paul spends so much emphasis in this passage to hold on. “Be not slothful. Do not relax your Christian grip but be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise.”
Here are two more texts which say the same thing. Turn to Romans chapter five and notice the three steps that Paul puts forth. He’s describing the progress of the Christian walk:
Do you know what Christ said in Matthew twenty-four? “Because we have delayed His coming the love of many has become cold.” This has become a real problem in our church. We have been preaching the second coming of Christ since 1844, which is almost one hundred and fifty years. Our young people are saying “Look, we are tired of hearing that Christ is coming soon.” The result is that many of them are leaving because the love of many is waxing cold. Let’s go back to Romans 5:3:
Tribulation worketh patience and patience, experience [character]; and character produces hope....
Please notice the progress. Peter said the same thing, “Add to your faith....“ Remember the ladder? There has to be growth. In 2 Peter 1:4-9:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence [please notice the same idea], add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge;
And to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness [which is character];
And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, agape [i.e., God’s love which is the ultimate goal of Christian experience].
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he that lacketh these things is blind [there you have the warning], and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
If you don’t grow, you cannot see Canaan. It’s too far. You will have a tendency of looking backward to Egypt. That is why we must grow. We must help our young people to grow. There is no such thing as a stagnant Christian. There are two forces pulling you, God on one side and the Devil on the other.
Let me make it clear. The flesh is what the Devil will use. Your human nature is your greatest enemy and the Devil will use your flesh to pull you away from Christ. That is why there is some counsel I must give you in Gal. 5:24:
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Why? Why must we surrender the flesh to the cross? If you don’t, the Devil will use the flesh to pull you back into the world. Jesus said the same thing in Luke 9:23:
He who follows Me must deny himself, take up the cross, and follow me.
To be a Christian is not the most enjoyable thing in terms of this world. There are hardships that we have to face. There is growth that we must experience because we are living in enemy territory. The end result is Canaan and when we get to Canaan, I want to remind you what we are told by the Spirit of Prophecy. We will look back at the troubles that we have gone through and we will say, “Heaven was cheap enough!”
But here we think it is very hard. Remember that the suffering is only for a season. It is not worth enjoying the world for a season and losing eternity. But we human beings want everything now. And that’s the problem. That is why we have to develop patience. That is why we must grow also, because the weaker the Christian we are, the easier it is for the devil to pull us from Christ. If we don’t grow, we are on dangerous ground.
So it is my prayer that we will take time to study the Word of God; we will take time to spend with God and think about God and talk with God so that there is a growth and there is a greater desire to move forward towards Canaan rather than to look backwards, because the Devil will always be pointing backward. “See what you gave up. You are miserable. Think of all the fun you missed since you left the world.”
Don’t you ever believe him. He has only one desire and that is for you to join him in the lake of fire. He offers you nothing. We are told, “There is a way that seems right, but the end is destruction.”
So please hold onto your faith. Don’t give it up because, as you see, the end approaching the difficulties will get harder. The attractions to join the world will be greater. That is why, as we approach the end, there will be a polarization. Those who have been faithful will remain close to God and those who have been lukewarm will be “spewed out.” You cannot be lukewarm Christians forever. You must grow! If you don’t grow, when the crisis comes, I’ll tell you, you won’t be able to face it.
I’m talking from experience. When communism came into Ethiopia, a lot of our people couldn’t handle it. I’m talking of workers. I’m talking of men and women who were trained in this denomination, who were workers for God, who were leaders in the church. We had two hundred workers in our hospital in Addis Ababa. Only eleven remained faithful when the hospital was taken over by the government. They had to deny their faith. Only eleven were willing to die for their faith. Only eleven were loyal to Christ, out of 200. I dread to think what would happen if a crisis like that came here. That is why we must grow. We must spend some time in nurturing our faith or else we will find ourselves out of the fold and then there is no hope.
Our next section will deal with Hebrews 6:13-20. We are going now from warning to encouragement again: the certainty of God’s promises. God has promised wonderful things to those who keep their faith in Him. You may want to study ahead. Read it from as many translations as you can, look up any commentaries you may have, look at each verse, study the verbs, and see what God has in store for us.