Her lips were drawn back to reveal a set of finely sharpened teeth as she crept up on her prey. The victim was completely unaware of its impending doom as its tormentor began her approach… closer… and closer… she was mere inches from clamping down on her prey’s neck when…!
Out of context, this may sound like an extremely scary situation to be in or even witness. What if I gave you better context though? Would it still be as terrifying? Let’s try it… your context for this is my one year old Husky puppy playing with her favorite plush duck in the front yard of my house. Still scared? Probably not.
Too many times in studying with other Christians, reading what other Christians may post on social media, or talking about Christianity with others who have not committed their lives to Jesus, I have seen this recurring theme of taking verses out of context. Sometimes, it’s not so harmful, for instance: when someone quotes Philippians 4:13 before a competitive sport. We all know that Paul wasn’t telling Christians that Jesus would allow them to “do all things” in the context of a basketball game. We know that while Paul was in chains writing this letter he wasn’t thinking, “Ya’ know… I bet future Christians will really want to win a basketball or football game and will need encouragement. How about I remind them that Jesus can strengthen them during their game so they can win!” No. Not even close. Paul was writing to Christians who were, and who would soon, be persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ. He was talking to those who had nothing and reminding them that regardless of the terrible conditions they might be living in, Jesus Christ is the one from whom they can draw strength to make it through another day.
It is terrible to see that same thing happens when we talk about our salvation in Jesus. We take one or two verses about the wrath of God or His judgment of the wicked and we apply those things out of context. The majority of young people I study with feel as though the past sins in their lives have somehow scarred them forever. That because of the past mistakes in their lives God only sees those things and judges them by those things – keeps His distance from them because they’re just “too dirty.” Have you ever felt that way? I have. Too many times in my life I have been so mesmerized by my sin that I believed I was too far from God for Him to hear my prayers, love me, or let alone be willing to forgive me. There were times, where after I had just committed a sin (for what seemed like the hundredth time), I would be brought to tears. And not just the regular, “I’m really sad” kinda tears, the gut-wrenching kind. The kind where you feel sick afterwards and you have all these dark spots around your eyes from where you’ve busted blood vessels from crying so hard. Just like the Christians in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, this godly grief was one leading me to repentance. I was convicted of my sin (John 16:8). It’s now comforting to look back and know that God was with me during a difficult season of life.
Hebrews 6:4-8 can be a really scary set of verses. Let’s read them together,
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
How about again in Hebrews 10:26 where the author states,
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
What can we get from these verses other than fear that the sin we have committed in our lives have separated us from God? The answer is in context.
What is the entirety of Hebrews concerned about? JESUS! Over and over, every single chapter is concerned with how much greater Jesus Christ is than the Angels (Chaps. 1 and 2), Moses (Chap 3), Aaron and the Levitical Priesthood (Chaps 4-5, and 7), and the Old Covenant (Chaps. 9-10). The whole letter is so excited to tell its recipients about how Jesus’ sacrifice was capable of ridding them of all sin – past, present, and future (9:25-26). This same message is for you and me today. We are free from sin!
But what do we do with those verses earlier cited? Let’s look at the words being used and apply them to the rest of scripture. I am going to get a little technical, but I know you’re smart enough to follow along. In 6:4-5, we have a list of things that let us know that the author is talking about people who were once saved Christians. No doubt about this, although some might try to argue the point. But “Heavenly gift,” “Shared in the Holy Spirit,” and the other phrases like it in those verses, all point towards the author speaking about saved Christians. So what happened to where no one can “restore them again to repentance”? These are saved Christians, right? Just like you and I. Why can’t they be saved? The answer is in verse six. They have “fallen away.” How? “…by crucifying once again the Son of God…” But what does this mean? In verse 8 we have another answer by way of analogy, “But if it (the land that has drunk the rain that falls on it [verse 7]) bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”
This means “bearing bad fruit” which we read about in Paul’s letters to the Galatians (Gal. 5:19-21), and the many times Jesus brings it up (John 15; Matt 7:15-20; Luke 6:43-45). Bearing bad fruit means doing bad, evil things (anything that is against the nature of God; go back and read Galatians 5 or read 1 Corinthians 6 if you want a list). But let’s return to our Hebrew text. When you read “…crucifying once again the Son of God…” that sounds terrible does it not? What do you think the author is trying to say? (Now let’s do that technical thing I brought up earlier). The verb being used for “crucifying again” is anastaurountas and it is a present active participle. All that this means is that the author is talking about someone who is continually doing this action. This saved Christian(s) he is referring to in verses 4-5 has not committed one sin and so is now cut off from God’s grace and forgiveness. This person is in the continual act of neglecting what he/she has been taught about salvation and through their wicked acts (bearing bad fruit) are shaming Christ. This fits in perfect with the other verse we looked at in Hebrews 12:26. It is those who are “sinning (present active participle again…) deliberately” who are to fear judgment, not those who are in Jesus Christ and thereby “walking in the Spirit,” and bearing “good fruit.” (1 John 1:7-9; Gal 5:22-23)
That’s why Paul writes the way he does in Romans 6. In chapters 4-5 he has set up the foundation for what our salvation rests on and reveals to us how great the grace of Jesus Christ is that he has to back up! He has to reiterate, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Rom 6:1). The question should never be, “Is there enough grace for me?” rather it should be, “Am I giving enough of myself to Him?” That’s what Paul continues within the following verses:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Do you want to know if you are forgiven of your sins? Ask yourself some questions:
- Am I involving myself in the same sins over and over?
- Am I bearing good fruit? (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, gentleness) or bad fruit? (sexual immorality [sex before marriage, lust, etc…], impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, jealousy, anger, rivalries, lying, drunkenness, gossip)
- Have I truly committed my life to Jesus by letting go of the things I want in life and living for what God wants for me?
My prayer for you as you read this is that you realize the saving grace that Jesus has brought to you by his death on the cross, and that you leave the sins you are now entangled in and go to Jesus (Heb 4:14-16). Grace and Peace to you from the Father.