Some will ask why I have included the letter to Hebrews as Paul's letter. There is a tradition that Paul did write this letter to the Hebrews, although it is not a unanimous tradition. As Catholic tradition has for the most part ascribed this letter to Paul, I do include this letter in my examination of Paul's letters.
On the question of the Eucharist, both Catholics and non-Catholics will often refer to Hebrews to support their position. I will not get into that very much besides some commentary on Heb. 10:22-29. My focus on this letter to the Hebrews will concentrate on those verses that show salvation is a process, and works, the pursuit of holiness and endurance that are not merely fruits, but a cause of one's salvation. However, if one is interested in how the Book of Hebrews relates to the Eucharist, I have done a study of the Eucharist and Hebrews. To visit that study click here.
Hebrews 3:1, 5-6
Hebrews 3:16-19, 11:29
Hebrews 6: 9-12
1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];
Here in this context Paul speaks of salvation. In the first verse we are called to pay attention to what we have heard or else we can drift away of it. He is speaking of the gospel, which had been spoken. He then gives an oral tradition nowhere recorded in Scripture (v. 2) which notes that the message declared by angels caused those who responded in a negative way to be justly condemned. Those who are justly condemned because of their disobedience are concretely compared to believers. Since those people were justly condemned because of their disobedience, Paul relates how much more punishment shall we receive just if we merely neglect salvation. Christian believers are warned that they will be punished even more than the disobedient of the Old Testament. Paul speaks in the first person, as he warns himself when he writes: ďHow shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?Ē Thus, merely by drifting away, not paying attention, and even neglecting the message of Christ, imperils oneís salvation. Thus, through Godís grace we must work to remain in it.
3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ was faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.
Paul here first refers us to the example of Christ who is the apostle and high priest of our confession. He then uses the third person plural ďweĒ four times. He warns himself of the consequences. He is speaking to believers and speaking of himself as a believer. So any idea that he is not speaking of real possibility to believers is undercut by the fact that Paul is speaking not only of brothers in Christ, but even himself. That said, Paul writes that we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope. Again, we must hold fast. We are only Christís house if we hold fast our confidence. In other words, if we donít hold fast our confidence we cut ourselves off from Godís grace. It does not mean that we should necessarily be fearful. We must remain confident, but we must remain so in order to be Christís house. We know elsewhere that the house (or household) Paul is speaking of is his Church (1 Tim. 3:15, Eph. 2:19, 1 Pet. 4:17). This qualification of holding fast our confidence, and holding onto hope in Christ is the thing that keeps us in Christ. Paul lets us know that our salvation is thus contingent upon this.
Take heed, BRETHREN, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in DEPARTING from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
We first know that Paul addresses brothers in Christ. He is not writing to people who may have heard the message and telling them to come into the faith where they are guaranteed salvation by getting an imputed righteousness to their account. He tells his brothers in the faith to unswervingly hold onto faith in Christ. If a Christian comes to have an unbelieving heart, Paul tells them that they can fall away from the living God (v. 12) . This is a real threat that we can lose our faith, so we must persist in Christ. If a believer can not fall away from Christ and out of his grace, why does Paul write that believers can fall away. To prevent that Paul then writes that we must exhort one another to stay in Christ. The purpose of exhorting one another is not to merely have good fellowship, though that is no doubt part of it. Paul highlights this instead so that we stay in Christ. Sin is deceitful. Some think that serious sin can not separate one from God. Paul calls that deceitful. Paul here in Hebrews reflects his thoughts in Ephesians 5:4-6: ď4 Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.Ē We can only share in Christ as mentioned here in Heb. 3:14, if we do not fall into such serious sins, and thus depart from God.
16 Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief..... Heb. 11:29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land; but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
Next, Paul gives us an example of how we are not to follow the examples of the Egyptians rebelled. We must remember how Paul is speaking to his fellow brethren (v. 12). Those who disobeyed were punished by God, and their bodies fell in the wilderness. It is not enough to believe at one time. We must retain our belief in Christ until the end. But what about the example that Paul uses. Arenít they unbelievers so these warnings do not apply to believers. Well, as noted Paul is directly speaking to his fellow brethren (v. 12). Second, we know that Paul sees the Israelites who went with Moses as being examples of faith. Thus, at least the ones that Paul is focusing on are termed believers. We see this in the Hall of Faith Chapter 11 of Hebrews. It is By Faith the people crossed the Red Sea. It was the Egyptians who were unbelievers who were drowned. Since Hebrews 11 shows examples of what men of faith did, from the likes of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, etc. These Israelites in Chapter 11 are put on the same level as these heroes of faith. They could not be unbelievers at the time they by faith crossed the Red Sea. In fact after mentioning these people, in Heb. 11:39, Paul writes And all these, though well attested by their faith.... Thus that confirms even further that who Paul is focusing on are believers. Going back to Hebrews 3:16-19 Paul writes that they would never enter Godís rest because of their disobedience. Their disobedience was the cause of their separation from God, even though they were shining examples of faith, according to Paul (Heb. 11:29, 38). Though they believed at first, they were not able to enter the rest of God, because they let unbelief in God enter their soul. Thus, Paul is clearly warning unbelievers to exhort each other every day (v. 13), so they could keep the faith. He is giving a true warning to believers to not fall into unbelief, apostasy.
1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall never enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.
God gives us a promise of entering his rest, according to Paul. God sets the condition. The condition that Paul sets for his readers is that God judges you to have reached it. Thus, in order for us to enter his rest we must strive, we must reach. We have a race to persevere in. Looking to Jesus who is the perfector of our faith, we must set aside sin which clings so closely and run with perseverance in order to enter his rest (Heb. 12:2). Again, speaking of the necessity of keeping in the faith, he again refers back to the believers who became unbelievers in the Israeli desert, when he writes that they would not enter rest. We who believe must persevere in belief. We must continue to strive in the obedience from which belief stems. This is very similar to Paulís mention in 1st Corinthians of believers who due to disobedience and immorality were punished by God. They failed to reach it because of immorality as well (1 Cor. 10:1-12, esp. v. 8).
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Paul gives us a paradox. In order for us to enter Godís rest we must labor. He again speaks in a third person, as encouraging not only the readers but also himself. Labor (good works) in the end will produce rest in God. Labor is not merely a byproduct of Godís salvation, it will produce this rest that God gives us. Paul again reiterates that we should not follow the example of the believers who became unbelievers in Egypt, who because of their immorality and unbelief did not rest with God. Jesus is our High Priest who intercedes for us so that we can labor profitably so we can enter that rest.
9 and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Paul here is speaking of Jesus as the source of eternal salvation. Paul gives us the grounds of eternal salvation. It is Christ who is the High Priest who intercedes for Godís children. He grants salvation to those who obey him. Thus, our obedience is not merely an effect, but a cause of salvation.
4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
9 Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Paul first gives us the fact that our fruits will determine our eternal destiny. A little different analogy he uses is vegetation in v. 7. If we bring forth the vegetation of good works, we will receive a blessing from God. If we bring forth thorns and thistles (bad works) one will not receive the blessing from God. One will get burned, according to Paul (v. 8). Thus, Paul writes here what he had written in Gal. 6:8-9: He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Paul then gives us the reason that he has good hope of salvation of his readers: Because Godís justness is shown by the fact that he looks at our work. That is the reason that Paul can be confident. Paul knows that salvation is dependent upon grace empowered works. Paul desires that we have true hope in Christ. Paul shows us we must strive through earnestness of getting this hope realized (v. 11). Thus, our realizing this is contingent upon our effort. We must imitate those who through their works, love (v. 10) and faith and patience (v. 12) will inherit the promise.
24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Paul writes that Jesus is able to save those who continue to draw near to him, and how is he able to save? By his continual intercession for his people. If salvation was wrapped up in the past, and what one does in the future does not effect oneís salvation, why does Jesus continually have to intercede for us, with the goal being our salvation? Jesus needs to continue to make expiation for sins (Heb. 2:17. Jesus continues to offer gifts and sacrifices (Heb. 8:3) ďFor every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.Ē Though he sits down, he continues to make expiation (Heb. 2:17) for our sins, continues to offer gifts and sacrifices 8:3, and continues to intercede for our salvation, 7:25. The death on the cross was complete. Jesus only died once. However, the benefits of what he did on the cross must be applied to our lives on an ongoing basis. This passage in Hebrews 7 shows emphatically that salvation is a process, not an event.
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?
In the beginning of this passage, Paul encourages believers to draw near with a true heart. The effects of baptism are alluded to, when Paul mentions that we can draw near with a clear conscience because of our washing with pure water (v. 22). This is similar to how Peter says that baptism saves us and gives us a clear conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). The grace from baptism survives and cleanses us, just as Peter writes that baptism now does save us. This grace helps us as he then tells us to hold fast the confession of our hope in Christ (v. 23). God is faithful to his promise and will give grace to those who cooperate and persevere in faith. Then Paul encourages the believers to not neglect to meet together, and encourage one another. Thus, there is a clear allusion to attending worship services (v. 25) (or the Mass for Catholics).
Paul writes that there is a mortal sin by sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth. (v. 26). We know he is speaking of believers as we see later Paul write that these are sanctified people who will be punished (v. 29). However, isnít every sin that we do in fact deliberate? So is Paul writing that if anyone sins after being a believer that they are condemned? No. Paul elsewhere shows that there are distinctions between types of sins (Heb. 12:5-15, 1 Cor. 3:14-17). Not every sin causes our disinheritance. However the immediate background to the sin of v. 26, is vv. 24-25. Paul had warned of not neglecting of the assembling together. Remember earlier, even the sin of neglecting had salvific consequences. Heb. 2:3 says, ďHow shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; The sin mentioned in Hebrews 10 is not going to Mass. V. 26 is a continuation of the preceding passage. Often, when people go out to prove that this passage proves that one will lose salvation (It does, but not in the way that they say that it does) , they leave out the important context. V. 26 says, For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth. In other words, it is a continuation of what he had been writing earlier (the forsaking of assembling together). He is not speaking of sin in a general sense, but a specific sin that separates one from God. Thus, v. 26 makes a lot of sense when Paul writes that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, when one willfully refuses to come to worship. It is thus a mortal sin to neglect the worship instituted by Christ.. The sacrifice of the Mass, which is a renewal and re-presentation of what Christ did on the cross, thus will be of no avail to those who deliberately refuse to come to worship. In much of the book of Hebrews, Paul writes that Christís work is much superior to the Old Covenant. Worship and grace provided in the New Covenant far surpasses the Old Covenant worship and grace. Paul thus lambastes those who do not stay in the worship of the New Covenant. One actually spurns the Son of God and profanes the blood of the covenant when he commits the sin of absenting himself from the Sacrifice of the Mass (vv. 24-26)
The sacrifice spoken of here is the same sacrifice prophesied in Malachi 1:11-12: For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lordís table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised.
Notice that the sin in Malachi 1:12 is despising the sacrifice. We know that Christís offering of himself is the only pure offering that suffices. This offering is that which is offered in many places is pure. There is no other pure sacrifice so mentioned in the Old Testament. Since it is offered in many places the sacrifice can not possibly be merely the one time sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Thus, the only way that this is fulfilled is in the sacrifice of the Eucharist. All the Church Fathers saw Malachi 1:11 as applying to the sacrifice of the Eucharist. As early as the 1st century, the Didache when alluding to the Eucharist refers to Mal. 1:11. Note also for our specific attention here in Heb. 10:29, in Mal. 1:12, the sin is when the people despise the Lordís table, and profane it. This is exactly the sin spoken of (in v. 29) when Paul writes of one who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of Grace? Those who treat with contempt the food at the Lordís table, are condemned, according to Paul.
What is another hint that what Paul is writing about pertains to the Eucharist? Notice the words that Paul used in profaning the blood of the covenant (v. 29). Paul notes that the believers have already been sanctified by this blood. This means that they have been partakers of the flesh and blood of Christ in the first place (John 6:51-58). They have been sanctified by the grace given. Where is this language used?: Jesus directly uses the term blood of the covenant in his institution of the Eucharist:
Matthew 26:26-28: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
This language, blood of the covenant, is used in no other place in the New Testament. Thus, Paul in Hebrews 10 uses language that specifically calls us to the Eucharistic feast. The language that Jesus himself uses of blood of the covenant calls us back to Exodus 24, in the institution of the covenant between God, Moses, and Israel and the sacrifice of bulls. At the heart of this covenant is sacrifice. Exodus 24:8, for example relates: And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." The blood of the covenant represented the sacrifice in the Old Covenant. Here Paul refers us to Christís much superior sacrifice in the New Covenant, which is alluded to here, and is the only means through which we appropriate through the Eucharist.
Also notice in v. 26, Paul writes there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. One who had access to the sacrifice, no longer has access to it. What is the sacrifice? The context which we have examined only points to the Eucharist, which applies the fruits of Christ death on the cross to believers. By direct inference, there does remain a sacrifice for sins, for those who do not forsake the assembly of believers, and come to worship God in the way Christ instituted.
V. 27 shows that those who have so sinned, not only can no longer partake of the sacrifice, but will be facing a fearful judgment. As Moses had two witnesses to suffice to bring condemnation of someone (v. 28), the two witnesses that will so condemn in the New Covenant will be the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (V. 29). By going back to the Old Covenant, they have spurned the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, (v. 29) and the blood of the covenant. However, the people so spoken of by Paul, have already been sanctified by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, and deserve to be condemned even more than those who turned their back on Moses and God in the Old Covenant.
Finally, for those who hold that one can never lose salvation if one is justified before God, even if they deny all the Eucharistic implications, this passage shoots down that Calvinistic theory. Let us say that all these Eucharistic implications are mere coincidences, and Paul means nothing about the Eucharist. Let us say that one appropriates the blood of the covenant, by ďaccepting Jesus as Lord and SaviorĒ and makes one set for life. Or one appropriates the blood of the covenant by God preordaining and choosing for the person to appropriate the blood of the covenant. Or a combination of both. In any case it says that the people who are to be punished have been sanctified by the blood of the covenant. No one can be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, in any manner in which it is termed to be appropriated, unless they are justified (1 Cor. 6:11). Paul clearly points to these sanctified, justified people who committed this sin mentioned by him, as going to hell. Paul finishes this point by writing: Heb. 10:30-31 For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. 37 "For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.
Paul throughout Hebrews has encouraged people to hold fast the confidence. They must continue to persevere in Godís grace. If they do, they will be rewarded by God. (v. 35). Next, Paul highlights that one must have endurance. What is the purpose of endurance, according to Paul? Is it to show others that you have already been saved? Does this endurance give us more crowns in heaven? That very well may be, but Paul does not mention that here. Instead, he says the purpose of endurance is to do the will of God and receive what is promised. What is promised? An eternal reward, which is heaven. However, endurance is done with the purpose of getting rewarded by God. He then refers to Habakkuk 2:4 which says the just shall live by faith. This reference to Habakkuk which Paul refers us to also in Gal. 3:11 and Romans 2:4, shows that continuing faithfulness is necessary to stay justified. I have examined that reference in my study on Gal. 3:10-14. In my study I go verse by verse, and Paul in Gal. 3:11 refers to Habakkuk. click here and go to the section of my commentary on Gal. 3:11. If one does shrink back, God will have no pleasure in him. Those who shrink back will be destroyed. Now Paul does write that Ďwe will not shrink backí, but he is definitely speaking in v. 39 of hopeful terms. He is not excluding the possibility of one shrinking back. Otherwise the prior three verses would mean nothing. As we have seen earlier, Paul does apply Ďweí and Ďusí to having the possibility of cutting ourselves off from Godís presence in very real terms (Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-14; 3:16-19; 4:1-3; 4:11-14; 10:22-29).
12 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
In this section of the Hall of Saints of Hebrews 11, we see three things that characterize the Biblical view of justification: 1)Righteousness, reward, and pleasing God, 2) obedience and process, 3)inheritance.
1) Righteousness, reward, and pleasing God. God deems the people righteous. First we must see how Abel, Noah and Enoch are considered righteous. Did they believe God would impute righteousness to their account and serve as the basis for righteousness before God? There is no mention of an imputation of righteousness in any of the accounts. God accepted the righteous act of Abel offering sacrifice to God. God saw his righteous act, and he deemed his act as righteous (v. 4). Enoch tried to please God, and was so rewarded for his righteous act of faith that God took him up (v.5). Noah believed God and he so believed that God would reward him that he built a very large ark which showed his trust in him. He did this and Noah is called an heir of righteousness. This faith that he has produced this righteousness. This righteousness is termed as real, ontological righteousness. These deeds were recognized as righteous and he is termed by God as a heir of righteousness (v. 7). These men are termed as examples of men who pleased God, and saw that God rewarded those who are righteous. Thus, these people are ontologically righteous before God, and are termed righteouse. Not imputed, but righteousness that is a part of the person. God rewards those who are righteous and seek to please God.This is language that is reflected in the Council of Trent, on the cause of justification, Chapter 7:
the single formal cause (of justification) is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills, and according to each one's disposition and cooperation.
The righteousness that Paul shows here, is a real righteousness. God rewards those who please him, and act in accordance with God's will. God looks through the eyes of grace and sees these acts as righteous indeed.
2) Obedience and Process In all these instances, where Abel offered sacrifice, Enoch did an unspecified act of faith, and Noah built a huge ark, they did these things with a hope to please God. They were acts of obedience. These people, especially as they are all placed in the beginning of chapter of Old Testament Saints, are obviously in a state of justification.
Abraham serves as the perfect example of a justified one who is full of faith. As Paul is writing about people who are justified in God's eyes, Abraham serves that example. In Hebrews 11:8 we see Paul laud Abraham for his obedience and faith in God. It is written that Abraham "obeyed and wentÖ" What does obedience bring to Paul? Hebrews 5:9 explains: "and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him(also see Rom. 6:16)." Paul here in Hebrews 11 shows what any honest reading of Genesis 12 through 14 shows, a justified man performing marvelous acts of faith in God. Many of those who argue that one is justified by faith alone, will argue that Abraham was not justified until Genesis 15, per Romans 4. To say that Abraham was not justified during this time makes a mockery of Scripture, in order to desperately maintain a one time imputation theory. On top of that Hebrews 11:8 destroys any semblance of that theory. I have examined Abraham's life elsewhere which shows how his Abraham's obedience reflects the Catholic understanding of justification as a process, not a one time past event. Click here to see that examination. That paper gives an examination of the issues involved.
3)Inheritance Paul notes that Noah and Abraham are noted as heirs. Again these are examples of faith of those who are justified before God. One is a child of God totally through God's benificence. One will remain a heir by staying in the family and so not disinherit oneself from the kingdom. Noah, according to Paul, "being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith". Noah constructed a huge ark in response to God's call for him to do so. It is said that by this he became an heir of the righteousness. Notice that being an heir is not just being declared to be a child and once a child you are always a child. Noah wanted to please God and out of his love and obedience to God he responded. By doing this, he became a heir of righteousness. Thus, his relationship and inheritance with God depended upon his obedience. We also see Paul writing about Abraham: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance." Abraham left kin and home alike when he responded by faith to God's call for an inheritance. God later explains the inheritance which he was ultimately called for. Although of course, Abraham became the Father of nations, ultimately Abraham's call was for an eternal inheritance, which is heaven. This obedience led to him achieving the eternal inheritance. Inheritance was dependent upon obedience. As these examples are meant for us, the same applies to us. Inheritance does depend upon obedience. We see elsewhere that disobedience can cause disinheritance. In reference to Esau, a chapter later (and see my commentary on it as well), Paul writes, Heb. 12:15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled;; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Whereas Abraham and Noah inheritance was based on God's promise but also required their obedience, Esau's disobedience led to his disinheritance, so he could no longer inherit it. This of course is consistent with conditions being elsewhere laid on the fulfillment of inheritance is through obedience (Rom. 8:17) whereas disinheritance can be caused by grave sins (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-6).
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? --"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Paul here shows that our relationship with God is based on son-Father relationship. We are his adopted sons. As we have noticed in many other passages in Paulís letter, there is the possibility of getting ourselves disinherited through mortal sins (See vv. 13-15, Eph. 5:6, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21), but here Paul focuses on the discipline that we get as children. What do we get for venial sins (those sins that hurt our relationship with God, but do not break the relationship)? Paul elaborates here. Exactly because God loves us, he disciplines us. The idea that there are no temporal consequences to sin underplays God role as Father. If he is a Father, he will really discipline, and even punish us, because he is Father. In fact, if we did not get punished Paul says we would be illegitimate children (v. 8). There is nothing here limiting Godís punishment and discipline. In fact when we go further down, (vv. 13-16) we see that one can disinherit oneself from God. However, when we venially sin, God still punishes us. Paul shows that the purpose of Godís discipline is for our good, that we may share his holiness (v. 10). Father God wants us be conformed to the image of his Son. That is the type of justification that God wants. Discipline for the purpose of holiness. The purpose of punishment and discipline, according to Paul is to yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled;; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
We must remember that Paul here is speaking to people who are sons (vv. 5-11). In this section, he continues along the same thing but points out the end result of this discipline. In this section he points out an important cause of salvation, and if we do not do this, the eternal consequence of not doing so. As we see Paul constantly doing in this letter, he tells people to be strengthened in Christ and tells of the absolute necessity of perseverance (vv. 12-13). Then he says that one must strive (in other words labor. Laboring = working). One must reach and do. Reach and do what, and what is the end result? According to Paul, one must first strive for peace and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Thus, in order to see the Lord we must be holy. If we are not holy, we will not see God. Thus, holiness is a cause of salvation. We can disinherit ourselves if we commit a sin that separates us from God (Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-6, 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Paul noted a little earlier Heb. 12:5-11, that through some sins we received discipline. However, if one commits a sin that is so against holiness (a mortal sin) he will cut off the relationship with God so much that he won't see God, according to v. 14.
Now Paul warns these same people who are in God's grace (remember he is speaking to people who God is treating as sons - Heb. 12:5-11)that it is possible for the people to "fail to obtain the grace of God" (v. 15). They obviously failed to pursue holiness (v. 14). A root of bitterness can spring up and we can become defiled (v. 15). If we become defiled, we cut ourselves off from God's grace. Then one can become immoral or irreligious like Esau. Now one may say, well, 'Esau was never God's child, therefore it is irrelevant to those of us who are God's children.' The point that Paul makes however, is that we can become like Esau, and not be able to inherit the blessing. The end result of Esau's mortal sin caused him not to be able to inherit the blessing (v. 17). This fleshes out and gives an example of those who commit and die in idolatry and immorality they will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-6).
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven."
Again Paul speaks in third person, as this possibility specifically pertains to himself and the believers who read this letter. We must not refuse him who speaks to us. God has indeeed given to us believers divine revelation. Paul thus writes that if we reject God we shall not escape his judgment. We have all the benefits given in the New Covenant, and in order to inherit the blessing we must be faithful and not turn from God.
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© 2000 Paul, Faith, Works, Obedience, Righteousness, and Salvation -Hebrews...by Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.