The Warnings Against Apostasy in Hebrews

Hebrews 6 and 10 warn believers against apostasy. Can we say that those in the church that reject Christ have received saving grace?

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The warnings against apostasy in Hebrews, especially in chapters 6 and 10, are sobering. They're troubling because the author, especially in chapter 6, says if someone has participated in the life of the new covenant community and heard the good word of God, seen the Holy Spirit at work and then turns away, that turning away for that individual is not something that is going to be reversed. It's a very sobering thing. I think we need to realize that the author here is writing to a congregation. He's not presuming to read the hearts of every individual who will hear this sermon read aloud. He's not presuming to peek into the Lamb's Book of Life. So, he's really talking to people who profess faith in Christ, but he knows that the new covenant church, like the old covenant church in the wilderness, as he says in chapters 3 and 4 from Psalm 95, is a mixture of people who genuinely trust in Christ. For those people, he will say so clearly in chapter 7 that Christ is able to save to the uttermost those who approach God through him. But others who may be professing faith in Christ but don't have a genuine saving faith, and he says for them the very fact of their being associated with the church and then turning away means a more severe judgment. So, it is a warning. It's not to cause us to be living in constant fear, but it is to call us to love one another with a proactive love, to hold onto one another, to encourage and exhort one another lest there be someone who is weak and falls away. Ultimately, our calling is to encourage one another and to hold fast, knowing that God holds fast to his own people, and he uses us to make that perseverance take place in the lives of his people.

Answer by Dr. Dennis E. Johnson

Dr. Dennis Johnson is professor emeritus of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California, where he taught from 1982 to 2018. He previously pastored Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and East Los Angeles, California. Dr. Johnson was Associate Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Escondido. He served as moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly and Presbytery of Southern California, moderator of the South Coast Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in America, member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Committee on Christian Education, and Trustee of Covenant College.