by Mike Ratliff
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
Being a refugee from the SBC, I began this ministry with a great deal of spiritual baggage that stubbornly clung to me until God subjected me to the cleansing fires of His truth through dealing with tribulation, crises of dealing with bad doctrine within supposed brethren, and outright persecution from people I thought were friends. It was through these fires of tribulation that, even though very painful, I got my focus off of self and onto the Lord. His will became paramount in my heart. His glory became my focus. I am nothing; He is everything. He is my κύριος (Lord); I am His δοῦλος (slave, bondservant). I had a test today and I was not only surprised by my reaction to it, but I also rejoiced when it was over as I looked back on the journey God has thus far taken me as He has peeled away the heretical, self-focused, bad theology, and me-ism that was standard fare in the SBC churches from which I came.
The test came as I listened to yesterday’s radio show at Pirate Christian Radio as our brother Chris Rosebrough dealt with a teaching by SBC author and speaker Beth Moore on Hebrews 10:35-36. In this teaching she used eisegesis to make this passage all about believers retaining self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. Here are the two verses from Hebrews 10 that were her primary focus with the bold part being the theme for her teaching.
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36 ESV)
I had no issue with Chris showing the eisegesis and scripture twisting she did as she verse hopped all over the New Testament to support what she was teaching. My problems came as I listened to her repeat those same teachings I lived with for all those years in the SBC. I found myself being given a choice all through it. It was as if God kept pointing back to biblical context and His truth while contrasting that with what she was teaching. That is what the Holy Spirit does in the heart doesn’t He? He opens the heart to God’s truth and teaches us what is right in contrast to what is not. I found that there were still pockets of assent in my heart holding on to some of these self-focused teachings. I know that I do not teach that stuff nor was I aware that those things still had a bit of hold in me. Perhaps I am describing a stronghold that our enemy was attempting to exploit in me–perhaps–well, in any case, I did some heavy repenting as that went on and kept imploring God to continue to shine His light of truth in and cleanse me of these things. It helped a great deal that I followed along in my Bible through it all. I did indeed rejoice when it was over, having passed the test.
Let us look at Hebrews 10:19-39 to get the proper context and, therefore, God’s truth pertaining to saving faith vs. false faith.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. (Hebrews 10:19-22 ESV)
19εχοντες ουν αδελφοι παρρησιαν εις την εισοδον των αγιων εν τω αιματι ιησου 20ην ενεκαινισεν ημιν οδον προσφατον και ζωσαν δια του καταπετασματος τουτ εστιν της σαρκος αυτου 21και ιερεα μεγαν επι τον οικον του θεου 22προσερχωμεθα μετα αληθινης καρδιας εν πληροφορια πιστεως ρεραντισμενοι τας καρδιας απο συνειδησεως πονηρας και λελουσμενοι το σωμα υδατι καθαρω (Hebrews 10:19-22 WHNU)
Where the ESV says “therefore,” the Greek says εχοντες ουν, or “having then.” This points us back to context. In Hebrews 10:1-18, the writer gave us Christ’s sacrifice once for all in contrast to the repeated Mosaic animal sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus came into the world in order to eternally sanctify His people through His substitutionary propititiation on the Cross. According to God’s will, He offered Himself as a sacrifice once for all for His people. Therefore or having then the full assurance of faith in the veracity of our Lord’s sacrifice on our account, we have παρρησιαν, boldness or confidence, to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. What does this mean? Look at v22 where we read, “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.” What does this mean?
full assurance of faith. Utter confidence in the promises of God is intended… Such confidence will result in heartfelt assurance or security which will allow them to persevere through the coming trials. 1
From where does this παρρησιαν come? In what or whom is it based? Is it based in our intrinsic worth because we were created in the image of God or is it because of the perfect work of Christ on our behalf for the glory of God? It is the latter not the former. If you listened to Chris’ radio show about this then you know that Beth Moore said exactly the opposite. This confidence or boldness belongs to those with full assurance of faith, πληροφορια πιστεως, which enables the believer to walk in παρρησιαν regardless of the opposition or trials from those who oppose God’s truth and all those who believe it.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)
23κατεχωμεν την ομολογιαν της ελπιδος ακλινη πιστος γαρ ο επαγγειλαμενος 24και κατανοωμεν αλληλους εις παροξυσμον αγαπης και καλων εργων 25μη εγκαταλειποντες την επισυναγωγην εαυτων καθως εθος τισιν αλλα παρακαλουντες και τοσουτω μαλλον οσω βλεπετε εγγιζουσαν την ημεραν (Hebrews 10:23-25 WHNU)
This is the natural byproduct of a fellowship of believers who have genuine saving faith. This is the underlying reason we come together like this as we hold fast, κατεχωμεν, to the confession of our hope, την ομολογιαν της ελπιδος. Κατεχωμεν in v23, which is translated as “let us hold fast” in the ESV, is in present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. This refers to continuous or repeated action. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject to some condition. To what are we to κατεχωμεν here? It is the confession of our hope, την ομολογιαν της ελπιδος. Ομολογιαν, “confession,” refers to our profession of faith, our profession that we are Christians, saved by grace and a δοῦλος, slave, of our κυριου ιησου χριστου, Lord Jesus Christ. This is our ομολογιαν if we truly have saving faith and those who have it do hold fast to it. The word translated here as hope, ελπιδος, speaks of a confidence or an expectant hope securely based in a promise from one who is eminently trustworthy. Κατεχωμεν, we hold fast, to this ελπιδος without wavering, for he who promised is faithful, ελπιδος ακλινη πιστος γαρ ο επαγγειλαμενος. Again, this is the nature of true saving faith. It believes God without wavering because the one who promised is faithful.
This is the nature of saving faith. Now lets contrast that with false faith.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 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. (Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV)
26εκουσιως γαρ αμαρτανοντων ημων μετα το λαβειν την επιγνωσιν της αληθειας ουκετι περι αμαρτιων απολειπεται θυσια 27φοβερα δε τις εκδοχη κρισεως και πυρος ζηλος εσθιειν μελλοντος τους υπεναντιους 28αθετησας τις νομον μωυσεως χωρις οικτιρμων επι δυσιν η τρισιν μαρτυσιν αποθνησκει 29ποσω δοκειτε χειρονος αξιωθησεται τιμωριας ο τον υιον του θεου καταπατησας και το αιμα της διαθηκης κοινον ηγησαμενος εν ω ηγιασθη και το πνευμα της χαριτος ενυβρισας 30οιδαμεν γαρ τον ειποντα εμοι εκδικησις εγω ανταποδωσω και παλιν κρινει κυριος τον λαον αυτου 31φοβερον το εμπεσειν εις χειρας θεου ζωντος (Hebrews 10:26-31 WHNU)
The phrase, “For if we go on sinning deliberately” in Greek is, “willingly (εκουσιως) for (γαρ) sinning (αμαρτανοντων) of us (ημων).” This is rhetorical. This Greek term carries the idea of deliberate intention that is habitual. The sin is rejecting Christ deliberately with premeditation. The phrase, “after receiving the knowledge of the truth” in Greek is, “ after (μετα) the (το) to receive (λαβειν) the (την) perception (επιγνωσιν) of the (της) truth (αληθειας).” The Greek term translated here as “knowledge,” επιγνωσιν, denotes specific knowledge, not general spiritual knowledge. The issue is with the application of that knowledge not in the state of the knowledge given. Judas Iscariot is a very good example of someone in this state. He possessed the same intellectual or reasoned knowledge about Jesus Christ as the other disciples, but what he lacked was saving faith and so became the arch-apostate. We see this in men who progress far in their studies of theology, but end up apostatizing. These people are beyond salvation because they have rejected the only sacrifice that can cleanse them from sin and bring them to repentance.
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31 ESV)
It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, φοβερον το εμπεσειν εις χειρας θεου ζωντος! This Greek phrase literally says, “Fearful the to fall in into hands of God living.” I do wonder when I hear the blasphemous preachers, teachers, false prophets, and apostate Christian leaders in our time prate on and on and on with their false doctrines, leading who knows how many people astray and they do it with no fear of God.
Well, enough of that. Now it is time for some encouragement for those reading this who DO possess saving faith.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:32-39 ESV)
32αναμιμνησκεσθε δε τας προτερον ημερας εν αις φωτισθεντες πολλην αθλησιν υπεμεινατε παθηματων 33τουτο μεν ονειδισμοις τε και θλιψεσιν θεατριζομενοι τουτο δε κοινωνοι των ουτως αναστρεφομενων γενηθεντες 34και γαρ τοις δεσμιοις συνεπαθησατε και την αρπαγην των υπαρχοντων υμων μετα χαρας προσεδεξασθε γινωσκοντες εχειν εαυτους κρειττονα υπαρξιν και μενουσαν 35μη αποβαλητε ουν την παρρησιαν υμων ητις εχει μεγαλην μισθαποδοσιαν 36υπομονης γαρ εχετε χρειαν ινα το θελημα του θεου ποιησαντες κομισησθε την επαγγελιαν 37ετι γαρ μικρον οσον οσον ο ερχομενος ηξει και ου χρονισει 38ο δε δικαιος [μου] εκ πιστεως ζησεται και εαν υποστειληται ουκ ευδοκει η ψυχη μου εν αυτω 39ημεις δε ουκ εσμεν υποστολης εις απωλειαν αλλα πιστεως εις περιποιησιν ψυχης (Hebrews 10:32-39 WHNU)
We have put vv35-36 in context, which Beth Moore did not do in her teaching. What is it? The context is that genuine, saving faith produces an abiding hope that is based in a faith that believes God and enables the believer who possesses it to endure fiery trials of that faith. The passage in question is in bold above. The Greek for vv35-36 is, “ Not (μη) you might throw off (αποβαλητε) then (ουν) the (την) boldness (παρρησιαν) of you (υμων), which (ητις) has (εχει) great (μεγαλην) payment (μισθαποδοσιαν). Patience (υπομονης) for (γαρ) you have (εχετε) need (χρειαν) that (ινα) the (το) want (θελημα) of the (του) God (θεου) having done (ποιησαντες) you might obtain (κομισησθε) the (την) promise (επαγγελιαν). Does this have anything to do with self-esteem or self-confidence? No! This is the same boldness or confidence that the writer of Hebrews was talking about back in vv 23-25. All genuine believers will possess this same faith. All of us must mature and grow in this παρρησιαν and υπομονης, boldness and patience. In this, we can endure all sorts of trials and tests, but we do not do so via self-confidence or self-esteem. We may indeed struggle with pain and loneliness and may even despair at times, but we will endure.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:4-13 ESV)
Notice that Paul instructs us to pray continually with thanksgiving. Our peace will be given to us in this. This will be that vital ingredient that God gives to us in abundance as we fight the good fight even when everyone and everything seems to be against us. We focus on Christ and His goodness as we hold fast to our confession no matter the pressure to let go. God will give us the grace to do this no matter our circumstances. We will be content in Christ no matter what our Lord allows to come into our lives because we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. What we do in this is God’s will, not ours, for His glory, not ours.
Soli Deo Gloria
1John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2005), p. 1864.