Romans 11:21-22 – “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
1. The “natural branches” are the natural Jews. All Jews, everyone that was born of the seed of Abraham, are in consideration here. They were cut off because they never believed. They never entered into the covenant of faith.
2. Douglas Moo sums up his discussion of this section of verses by saying, “We must not become so focused on the theology of Paul’s teaching here that we miss its purpose: to criticize those of us who are Gentiles for arrogance toward believing and unbelieving Jews and to remind us that our own spiritual heritage is a Jewish one.”
3. The Gentiles were being warned of two things: a) arrogance that the Gentiles were now the people of God, and, b) derogatory attitude towards Jews.
4. The text says we have seen the severity of God when he cut off the Jews who did not believe and we have seen the goodness of God when in his goodness he offered salvation to the Gentiles who would respond with humility and receptiveness.
5. If the chosen Gentiles take the same path of unbelief and arrogance that the unbelieving Jews took the Gentiles will also be cut off.
6. This is talking about people groups and the individuals with in those groups who respond with faith or unbelief.
7. This problem that caused being cut off is not “sin” or “immorality,” but lack of faith or “unbelief.”
8. The Jews are told in 11:23, “If they do not persist in unbelief they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Paul is clearly talking about a people group and here makes the point Israel will return as a group. The rest of the chapter discusses this.
9. When it says concerning the Jews, “Because of unbelief they were broken off,” does it mean the individual Jew had believed and then they stopped believing and lost their salvation? Or, does it mean the covenant (which included salvation by faith) was offered to Israel, but they as a nation rejected it (as is the historical case). Thus, natural Israel was “broken off,” yet, individual Jews like Paul continued to be saved by faith.
10. The real focus of this chapter is seen in verses 11:1-2; 11:11; 11:23; 11:24; 11:25:
a. 11:1-2 – “I ask then: Did God reject his people?...God did not reject his people, who he foreknew.”
b. 11:11-12 – “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recover? Not at all!...how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”
c. 11:23 – “…they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”
d. 11:24 – “…how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”
e. 11:25-26 – “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…”
11. This section of verses do not override these verses that support eternal security for the person who has been justified by faith:
a. Ephesians 1:13-14, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”
b. Romans 8:38-39 - "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (This is Paul’s way of saying “Nothing” will separate us from God. This is not Paul saying there is nothing that can separate us from God, except “(fill in here whatever thing he did not mention)” such as “a person renouncing Christ” or “murder” or “apostasy” or “(your favorite reason).”
12. These verses establish the existence of false or pseudo believers of whom all of who us could say they had “lost their salvation,” except for the fact these people never had salvation because they never had faith in the gospel message. They had some pseudo gospel of works, rituals, legalism, mysticism, emotionalism or mere surface acknowledgment of Christ (such as the sinner’s prayer at a mass group altar call).
Compare these two verses to establish the fact
that there are non-believing “believers”:
Acts 5:15 - "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Gal 2:4 - "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves."
b. James 2:14 - "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (A “workless” faith is “such faith” that is not true and cannot save.)
c. Luke 8:12 - "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."
d. Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”
e. John 2:19 - "If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us."
Hebrews 10:31-39 – It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings…Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise…But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
1. Consider the possible meaning of Hebrews 10:26, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
a. If “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” refers to being “saved” or “born again” (regenerated, justified, etc.) then this is saying that if a believer intentionally sins (which includes most of the known sins a believer commits), then they have lost their salvation and can expect to face the raging fire of damnation (since it says “enemies of God.”) If this is the case I am damned.
b. This verse has often been understood by the church to mean just that (any intentional sin after salvation results in eternal damnation.) This is really a crappy kind of salvation because it requires instant maturity of a believer mere moments after their salvation. It would be like putting a new born infant behind the wheel of an automobile traveling 55 mph down the interstate while a hungry and vicious wild animal sat ready to pounce from the passenger seat. Simply ridiculous.
c. A second century writer Hermas attempted to temper this radical interpretation when he wrote in “The Shepherd” that baptism in Christ’s name wiped out all previous sins, but anyone who sinned once after baptism could receive forgiveness one more time, but he could never fall again.
d. Tertullian around 190 considered this concession by Hermas to be both illogical and the thin edge of a wedge. Tertullian said it was impossible to be forgiven of sins after baptism.
e. The illogical concession of Hermas to forgive one sin after salvation led others in church history to conclude that other sins could be forgiven after baptism if penance was made. This established the institution that taught every baptized believer to seek periodical confession, penance and absolution for sins. This, of course, is mimics of the Jewish Temple and its institution of the Day of Atonement which the writer of Hebrews is clearly condemning when he writes in 10:3 that this is “an annual reminder of sins” that really has no power to cleanse the worshipper.
f. Hermas concession is illogical. Tertullian’s rigor is going to lead to people (like Constantine) refusing baptism until they are on their death bed where it is impossible to sin. The Latin church (and, others) are going to reestablish a similar sacrificial system that the writer of Hebrews is speaking against.
g. In 10:26 the writer of Hebrews is saying this: That if we reject the gospel after it has been clearly presented to us then we should know that we have rejected the only sacrifice for sin that God is going to accept.
h. “deliberately keep on sinning” means to knowingly continue in unbelief of the Gospel message (see 3:12, 13, 18, 19; 4:2, 6 for a definition stating that the “sin” or the act of “sinning” in this context is “unbelief” or rejection of the Gospel or refusal to believe in Jesus as the savior and Messiah.)
i. “we have received the knowledge of the truth” does NOT mean “accepted the knowledge of the truth,” but merely “had the knowledge of the truth explained” so that the person is no longer in ignorance, but instead has “knowledge of the truth” that they must now respond to with either faith or unbelief; acceptance or rejection.
j. Concerning 10:31-39 – “enlightenment” in 6:4 means to have understood the Gospel or to have had the Gospel clearly revealed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. To reject this would be to commit the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:32; John 16:7-11; 1 John 5:10). In Hebrews 6:4 “enlightenment” is followed by having “tasted the heavenly gift,” which would refer to having “tasted,” “received,” “accepted,” “taken in,” “personalized” the message that had been understood. These Hebrews are saved.
k. These true believers are facing persecution from their fellow Jewish brethren for having forsaken Judaism (12:4 and 10:33-35)
l. One of two things is being said here:
i. If these true believers fall away in times of physical persecution they will lose their eternal security. For example, if they renounce Christ and return to Temple worship instead of having their heads cut off or being stoned to death, they will burn in the fires of Hell.
ii. If these true believers fall away in times of physical persecution they will lose their “rewards” in eternity for having “souls” (minds) filled with hope, confidence and faith that comes from knowing the Word of God. They will be saved from Hell, but have little reward for their failed Christian testimony.
m. Verses that may apply:
i. First Corinthians 3:13-15 – “his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
ii. Luke 22:56, 57, 58, 59, 60 – “A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’ But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’ ‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’ Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ ”
Second Peter 2:20-22 – “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not the have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’ ”
1. The subjects of this rebuke are false teachers.
2. When Peter writes “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning,” he is using a phrase Jesus used to describe a demon possessed man who was delivered from a demon only to be revisited by that demon returning with seven more wicked spirits. This example comes after Jesus spoke of the unforgivable sin. Jesus had come to make the Truth available, but upon hearing the knowledge of the Truth, the Jews decided to reject it and continue in their own version of what they wanted to be true.
3. This is similar to the false teachers that Peter is addressing. They had been delivered from the pollutions of the world system and given the Truth, but instead of continuing in that Truth they returned to teaching the philosophical and religious vomit of this corrupt age.
4. The false teachers were not converted (not “born again,” not “saved”) since they still remained as “pigs” and returned to the mud.
5. These are false teachers who were trained, they heard the truth, they learned the truth but the truth never changed them: They remained dogs. They remained pigs. And, as John writes, “their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Case point: Judas in Jesus ministry…Did Judas lose his salvation??
6. John spoke of men who were trained in his school but never really bought into the Truth. This is what happened with Judas. The only way to test this is to send the man out on his own to see where he ends up.
a. John 2:18-19 – Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
James 5:19-20 – “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
1. First Corinthians 11:30 – That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
2. First Corinthians 5:5 – “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature (flesh) may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”
Revelation 3:5-6 – “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
1. Mounce writes, “It is hermeneutically unsound to base theological doctrine solely in either parables or apocalyptic imagery. Better to allow the text, even when theologically awkward, to present its own picture.”
2. Conditional predestination would say that the decrees of God wait on the acceptance or rejection of each individual.
3. Walvoord says the book of life lists the entire human race and individuals who do not accept Christ are blotted out.
4. “overcoming” is faith in the Gospel message as seen in First John 5:4-5 –
“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”