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Careful, lest you drift!

Our home group Bible study were finishing off Hebrews last night.  We did a bit of an overview and I asked  what we'd all take away from the book.

One person said that the warning passages leapt out at them.  Things like:

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  (Hebrews 2:1)

Another person said they were struck by the once-for-all finished-ness of Christ's work.  Jesus - our Brother - has become our High Priest and accomplished it all on our behalf.  Amazing grace!

So there I was, leading the study, sat between these two reactions to the Letter.  How would I acknowledge both these realities?

Here's one option:  "Indeed, you both make excellent points.  We need to balance the warning passages against the grace passages.  The grace stuff is nice, but the warnings prevent us going too crazy with the grace thing."

Have you heard that kind of teaching?  It comes from people who have a high view of the Bible.  They want to honour both strands of teaching and for that we can commend them.  But...

Isn't there another way of taking both elements seriously?

Imagine if the warnings are grave admonishments not to forget the grace of Christ?  Imagine if the thing we're tempted to drift towards is legalistic, ritualistic, earnest spiritual points-scoring?  Imagine if Christ's finished work is the truth we're always forgetting?

Well then... be warned - Christ alone has achieved salvation, by grace alone, received by faith alone.  Be warned!  If that's true then there is no spiritual life to be found in any other message, any other system, any other life.   Return at once to this hope:

Let us flee to take hold of the hope offered to us [that we] may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever.  (Hebrews 6:18-20)

We must beware.  All of us naturally drift in the Christian life.  We must flee from those temptations.  We must take hold of true gospel hope.  But remember - the direction in which we're tempted to drift is towards earnest spiritual endeavour.  When the Bible says, "Don't drift!" it's not trying to bring you back to serious-minded religious behaviour, it's calling you from it.

Don't drift!  Open your Bible and return to your true hope - Christ alone.

PS - in this light, you might like to consider Dan Hames' post on Lent


7 thoughts on “Careful, lest you drift!

  1. Chris W

    Absolutely agree!

    Hebrews clearly has in mind a personal rejection of Jesus. It's not a case of not getting enough brownie points, chapter 6 talks about such people 'crucifying again the Son of God' and chapter 10 talks about them 'trampling underfoot the Son of God'. It's a real, personal rejection that is in mind - these people are really walking away from the one who sanctified them. I've seen Christians close to me walk away and it is personal and heartbreaking.

    Not to undermine assurance of course, but then assurance can only be found in Jesus so if we leave him behind what hope of assurance is left?

  2. Steve Martin

    "...remember – the direction in which we’re tempted to drift is towards earnest spiritual endeavour. When the Bible says, “Don’t drift!” it’s not trying to bring you back to serious-minded religious behaviour, it’s calling you from it."

    Awesome, Glen. Just awesome.

  3. andyharker

    Hi Glen, Totally in agreement. Since you've obviously been spending some time in Hebrews recently. Could you help us on a few verses in the middle? My wife and I have been puzzling over 5:11-6:12. I'd always thought the big point of Hebrews was don't drift from the gospel and particularly the gospel centred on Jesus' once-for-all priestly sacrifice. Heb. 5;11-6:3 seems to be saying we need to move on from foundational doctrine to higher things (a frequent emphasis in the church in E Africa). Is it talking about Jewish, non-Jesus-and-his-sacrifice-centred doctrine here? And then why does 6:4-12 follow from all this? What's the connection?

  4. Glen

    Hi Andy, I preached on it here:

    I'd say there were those who had "foundations" who were solidly converted - they're the ones the letter is to. There are also others who have experiences - amazing experiences - which you'd expect given the incredible founding of this church (2:4). But they are like fields which the rain falls on but which never produce a crop. They are not saved and never were.

    But the writer is convinced of better things in their case - things belonging to salvation.

    Therefore the call to move on from the foundations is emphatically not to trust in the experiences of verses 4-5. In context the higher things is Melchizedek - our Priest-King. In one sense it's difficult, but in another, it's just going deeper into the royal priesthood of Christ.

  5. andyharker

    Thanks for the link Glen. The distinction between foundations and experiences is really helpful, and the distinciton between YOU and THOSE. I'm just interested by the unexpected language (i.e. not how I would have put it - thank God that I didn't write the Bible) of 'leaving the elementary doctrine of Christ' (6:1) rather than, as I'd have expected, 'going deeper into', drinking more of' or 'holding fast to'. Could it be that the starter course they had at the founding of their church didn't spend time on the high priesthood / sacrificial death of Christ? That would seem like a bit of an oversight on the part of the apostles. Or could this be non-Christian Jewish teaching on the Messiah that they'd heard from childhood? And what about repentance and faith? Didn't Luther show they should be daily? Or am I in danger of pouring systematic theology into words that could mean something a bit different in the context of Hebrews?

  6. Mark of Faith

    Great post! (And the first of yours I've read, Glen.)

    I do like how you have balanced the seeming contradictions in such a way that they compliment and not oppose each other. I am convinced that there is not a single contradiction in the word of God and that the Bible is a unified and inspired message, and your treatment of this book of Hebrews indicates to me that you understand this and so approach seeming contradictions as being different views of the same ultimate object - which must be Christ.

    (Also, the comment as to those who had experiences and to those who had foundation is very useful for me.)

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