Quote Originally Posted by Bob Higby View Post
Hi Don. Here are my thoughts on your latest post. I have put your comments in bold and mine in plain text, your quotations of me in italics. I hope I did all this correctly!

Here, having mentioned the Church of Greenville in my previous post in a negative light, I have to side with them on their interpretation:

Ok. I respect your sincerity of purpose in what you are defending.

. . . the warnings in Hebrews are targeted to a unique generation of Jewish Christians.

I am not convinced of this at all. They are targeted to the whole people of God and Hebrews is rated by many scholars as a General Epistle.

And I believe Paul wrote Hebrews, but he doesn't identify himself as such in the epistle because he is the apostle to the Gentiles, and some of the things he says in the epistle are not applicable to Gentiles.

I recommend very much David Allen’s book on the Lukan authorship of ‘Hebrews’; he presents arguments that in my thinking are so convincing they are extremely difficult to refute. I had believed in the Lukan authorship from my own studies for a long time before reading Allen. The Greek constructions in the book are the most literate of all NT writings, very much the same as in the gospel of Luke and Acts—but very unlike Paul’s Greek. He states for the third time (2:3, following the same in Luke and Acts) that he is not an eyewitness to the events of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Luke is writing to all persecuted believers in Asia and the whole Roman empire at that time, both Jew and Gentile. So, the book named ‘Hebrews’ is written to all believers at a time of great persecution shortly before Paul’s death. The name should be “Christ Superior to All” or something similar, but the addiction to one-word names for all Bible books was well-established by the second century onward. It was nothing sanctioned by God. I can’t remember who it was in the second century that first proposed the name ‘Hebrews’ for the book—though I know it happened then, but there is no indication whatsoever in the book itself that it is written mainly for those of an Abrahamic bloodline.

The closing greetings of the book are characteristically Pauline, possibly indicating Luke is writing some of these on Paul’s behalf. And since Paul spent his last few years before death with Luke beside him, I perceive that the argumentation of the book is presented with Pauline input.

I can find nothing in the book that is inapplicable to Gentiles, including those with an Abrahamic bloodline who had been progressively scattered as distant as Rome and all of Europe starting with the judgment on the 10 tribes in 722 B.C.E.

Both Hebrews 6 and 10 include phraseology that can only be applied to genuine believers (e.g., made partakers of the Holy Ghost and sanctified by the covenant in Heb 6 and 10, respectively). However, if they apostatize, which is what the author of Hebrews is warning about, they would be cursed.

But as we go on here in your argument, it becomes clear you are only talking about a temporal and not an eternal curse. Dispensationalists (John MacArthur comes to mind) argue that the curse to come as a result of this apostasy mentioned is what those ‘Jews’ of Abrahamic physical descent will experience in the judgment on Jerusalem if they travel there for the feasts in 70 A.D., yet he teaches that such apostates will still be ‘saved’ in eternity regardless of that Christ-denying sin in the end. The assumption is that Roman and Asian Jews understood the law required them to travel to Jerusalem every year (twice) for all of the Leviticus 23 festivals. But this is untrue, many of them understood that such travel was to a ‘place to far’ (Deut. 14:24) and very few Roman and Asian Jews travelled to Jerusalem for these feasts. They observed them locally according to the specifications of Deut. 14 in their own local place of worship.

Apostasy is real and not fictional, those involved have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit and will not have final salvation. The ‘Man in the Cage’ in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a great example of this. Christ warned very clearly about this sin to those who had said He was possessed of the devil. A person cannot sin against the Holy Spirit without once having been convicted of the Holy Spirit that Christ is Lord and God, having a non-salvific partial knowledge of the truth and taken the Lord’s supper, then subsequently ignored or openly rejected that conviction due to God’s sovereign hardening.

The greater-to-lesser argument is made: how much sorer a punishment is one worthy of who has trodden underfoot the Son of God versus the one who despised Moses’s law? (Heb 10:28-29). The destruction of Jerusalem may indeed be a form of the Old Covenant curse of failing to obey that covenant, but the ‘sorer’ punishment is the curse of the gospel, not the curse of the law. These have rejected the New and Everlasting Covenant of Grace in the Gospel. At the time the epistle was written, the Old covenant was “ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13) - but not quite vanished away yet.

I’m convicted it would be incorrect to view the warnings in Hebrews merely in the context of God’s chastening (such as Ananias and Sapphira and some Corinthian saints who abused the Lord’s supper), because the curses are covenantal. God is not truly wrathful toward His children so that He would pour out eternal vengeance on them. He covenanted with Israel to bless them for obedience and curse them for disobedience (e.g., Deut 28:15-68). So the temporal covenant curses were set to come upon Israel after the flesh.

And as you rightly pointed out in one of the articles you wrote here, which I read, the blessings and curses under the Old Covenant pertained only to this life, and did not necessarily have any bearing on eternity.

Totally correct. There are no curses for us under the New Covenant, as Christ became a curse for us. God always keeps every one of His covenants; the wholly promissory covenants (Noah, Abraham, David, New) have no curses announced to those for whom these are purposed! But there are curses for false professors, the ‘far greater’ punishment for those who disbelieve mentioned in Hebrews

The difference between the Old and New Covenant era in this regard is the GREATER MEASURE of the Holy Spirit received in the massive outpouring of the Spirit to God’s elect at Pentecost and extending through to the Parasouia (Pentecost is still present). This is what is referred to as Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament, the greater measure of the Spirit that believers are given as a result of full knowledge of gospel truth once Christ has come and established His kingdom.

I agree that the promises are from Pentecost to the Parasouia. But the ministry of the Comforter is unique to the New Testament. God was not "IN" His people in the Old Covenant in the same way that He is in the New. Paul teaches we've become dead to the law through the Body of Christ (Rom 7:4). It's a different ministry of the Spirit which is unique to the New Testament (John 7:37-39). The Spirit is specifically given as the earnest of our inheritance (2 Cor 1:21-22, 2 Co 5:5, Eph 1:13-14), by Whom we are sealed (Eph 4:30)--that is, shut up, as God shut Noah in the Ark (Gen 7:16), or as Song of Solomon 4:12 states - A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Beware of using analogy as a hermeneutic to prove truth, especially from the Canticles. Well, the ministry of our Advocate was operational in the Old Testament also, though, just not in the measure that came with the clarity of the Gospel and kingdom of God that commenced in the person and work of Christ.

Water baptism as a sign of the New Covenant. I have no issue with the teaching that it is a sign, rather, I have issues with the teaching that it is to divide believers when there is no clear evidence from either: 1. The New Testament or 2. The history of the Ekklesia that God settled all of the debate decisively. I stand with John Bunyan on this, who was clearly a Free Congregationalist (and not a Baptist) on the issue. The fellowship of believers he attended at Bedford were nonconformist to the Church of England and nothing else. They accepted all believers to communion, regardless of their water baptism views. They even believed that elders and deacons were not to be judged on different views of this matter. All of this history has been lost in the shuffle of dogma. Ultimately, Bunyan received submersionist baptism but he NEVER accepted the notion of it being a dividing wall between believers.

I agree that it should not used to divide. I don’t view it as a sign of the covenant, though, or see how that could possibly give us any assurance (and, as Col 2:11-12 states, the circumcision of Christ is "without hands," precluding water baptism). I see the Spirit as the sign of the covenant. The gospel Peter preached required water baptism to receive the Spirit (Acts 2:38). Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom (Matt 16:19), which authority he exercised temporarily in the administration of water. Also, he had to approve new Samaritan converts before those could receive the Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). So Peter still had the keys to the kingdom at this point.

But then God gave the Gentiles the Spirit without water in Acts 10. Hence, Peter’s and Paul’s gospels differed on this point. Gal 2:7 indicates Peter preached the gospel of the circumcision and Paul the gospel of the uncircumcision. In Paul's gospel, the Spirit is given by faith (Gal 3:2, Gal 3:14).

So the gift of the Spirit was the purpose of the administration of water prior to Acts 10. As Peter asked, how can any man forbid water to the Gentiles to whom God has given the Spirit? (Acts 10:47). It’s a lesser-to-greater form of reasoning. The gift of the Spirit was the entire purpose of water baptism, and marked entry into the kingdom, which was irrevocable and makes salvation a 100% certainty. Regardless of anything we do or don't do from that point on, we're secure!

Well, there is a difference in the ministries of Peter and Paul in respect to water baptism for sure. Paul states that he was not sent to baptize but to proclaim the gospel. However, my conviction is that an error is made in reading too much into the apparent difference in administration of water and the order thereof. Repentance (change of mind) in Peter is the same as faith (belief) in Paul when it comes to the first activity of a believer in relation to hearing the gospel. There are plenty of instances of Gentile baptisms in Acts, so I see no evidence of distinctive practices. I do not see that Peter is making water administration into a conditional-time event before the Spirit can be poured out. He is saying “change your mind” (about the gospel presented and your murder of Christ) and be baptized “unto” (in connection with) receiving the remission of sins and reception of the Spirit in greater measure. But Peter is not saying that one who believed that day and waited until the next day to be baptized would have a delay in Holy Spirit infilling. The ‘order’ in exact time of faith, Spirit reception, and water administration varies in different instances in Acts.

On the keys, I don’t accept the notion that the ‘keys’ are something different for the eleven (the power to require water baptism as a condition of receiving the Spirit) and all New Covenant believers who possess the same promised keys. These keys refer to the power of binding and loosing that occurs when the true gospel of Grace is proclaimed by us. The binding and loosing actually happens by the sovereign power of God, we are just His ‘flunkies’ in the proclamation that He uses to regenerate or harden. Not that God always uses direct human proclamation to achieve His purposes of regeneration for the elect.

I still regard water baptism as an ordinance, insofar as Peter commanded the Gentiles to be baptized in water even after receiving the Spirit. But if someone's not baptized in water, or not baptized in water as you might think it should be done, yet he's received the Spirit, he's received the greater baptism and really lacks nothing.

We do not disagree on the above point, as far as I can tell.

The progression of Augustine’s thought—well--he did teach works-based assurance until the very end, that is my point. His conversion to a gospel-centered approach to God’s sovereignty would only have occurred to Holy Spirit conviction in studying God’s revelation in the scriptures. It is impossible that it could have happened based on any study of his from the teachings of men available to him at the time he lived (except very few and puny ‘snippets’ from Ambrose of Milan, Polycarp, and maybe some others). Well, something to think about, study about, and dialog about!

Yes, this is an interesting dialog, though it appears we have several points of disagreement. I don't agree that the Holy Spirit is the only way he could have discovered this.

You could be right if it was merely a change in head knowledge, however, in all the tireless hours I have spent in study of the “church fathers” I have not found a single reference having even this level of clarity on the gospel. The snippets of gospel language in ‘fathers’ that are used by NT scholars to propose that they had a clear understanding of the apostolic testimony convince me of nothing So what Gus says at the end of his life is either a mere intellectual show of Bible knowledge (which I doubt very much, considering the content) or evidence of his regeneration at some past point.

Bro. Bob

Hello Bro. Bob,

Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough response. I was actually starting to rethink Heb 6 in the last few days, myself. The lead up to this passage is Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews) exhorting his audience to move on from milk to meat. It may not be an OT curse in view; if so, the “falling away” would be going back to works of law from grace. Perhaps the sense is it is impossible to repent or be in a good or fruitful relationship with God through works of law if you’ve tasted of the good gift of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, and become a partaker of the Holy Spirit (definitely only describes someone in Christ). In particular, the fact that v. 9 talks about “things that accompany salvation” is leading me to this view. And the exhortation to work towards full assurance. James says that the one who converts an erring brother shall save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins (Jas 5:19-20). This is not eternal death, but loss of fellowship with God. Paul tells us, that if you live according to the flesh you will die (Rom 8:13). This is a true warning to believers - going back to the flesh (including works of law) will only make us defile our garments, and we’re in an even worse state than if we’d not know the truth if we’re entangled against in the corruption of the world (2 Pet 2:18-22). We’re to walk in Christ as we received Him (Col 2:6) - which is in the Spirit. But if we forget the Spirit, all that’s left is the corruption of the flesh. Hence, James also said that a multitude of sins will be hidden. This is because, even if we do things that are outwardly righteous after the flesh, it is sin. Why? Because we’re only doing good for self-serving reasons. The carnal mind is enmity against God and those in the flesh cannot please Him. The only obedience that pleases God is obedience that works for neither salvation nor assurance, but which works by love, which works out of gratitude towards God.

In any event, while I may have waffled on the particular sense of Heb 6, I am definitely more adamant that not only is it is not the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin against the Spirit is not as you describe it (or how Bunyan treats of it). Firstly, I would note it is not called “the unforgivable sin,” but it is rather said that the one who speaks against or blasphemes the Holy Spirit does not have forgiveness. There’s a big difference there, and I hope to show why. Jesus even shows a distinction between speaking "a word" against the Son of man, versus "speaketh against the Holy Ghost" -- notice "a word" is absent. Matthew 12:32

I, for one, do not accept this notion that a single act or word spoken in time puts one past forgiveness. As long as one is still alive, God may yet save him. Indeed, in the same context that Jesus talked about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, He said that an evil man brings forth evil things from the evil treasure of his heart, and a good man brings forth good things. Matthew 12:33-35. So it's not about a decision or a single moment in time, but a condition of the heart.

If Saul of Tarsus had been in the shoes of those Pharisees at the time, he might have said the same things. Would that put him past forgiveness? Of course not.

So what is it? I have already written about how God gives His people the Holy Spirit as an earnest of our inheritance at the time we believe, which is specifically a pledge of our inheritance, and is otherwise known as the promise of the Spirit or Holy Spirit baptism. Therefore, the Holy Spirit translates the elect into the *kingdom* of His dear Son (Col 1:11-13)--note Jesus is talking about the *kingdom* when He mentions Holy Spirit blasphemy--and in doing so He *casts out* fear (1 John 4:18), just as Jesus cast out devils by the same Spirit. He who fears is not made perfect in love, as John says. But anyone who believes he can lose salvation has reason to fear, and is still a slave of sin. And so anyone who denies eternal security speaks against the Holy Spirit, because he denies even the premise of the sealing of the Spirit, the promise of the Spirit. Such a person doesn’t have forgiveness because it’s obvious he’s never received the Holy Spirit. If he had, he wouldn't speak that way. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

But it goes beyond that. Because if I said, that God has given me the earnest of my inheritance, and that I no longer work to keep my salvation or to prove that I am saved, and someone should tell me that the promise I received of God was not of God, then it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about the immediate witness of the Holy Spirit. To denounce that is really the one sin that a man could commit that shows he’s not in the kingdom of God. And if anyone should wonder, how do you know it's the Spirit? Well, Jesus said Satan does not cast out Satan; if he did, his kingdom is divided against itself. Hence Jesus said “all manner of sin and blasphemy” shall be forgiven, except Holy Spirit blasphemy. But, frankly, even many Calvinists say that a man can only know by his own works whether he’s truly elect, and I have serious doubts about anyone who teaches such things. If you take that to its logical conclusion, it is a denial of the gospel. Case in point, I could show you right from the lips of John Piper, that he holds, “you don’t get into heaven by faith alone.” I know that there are a lot of verses they will use to support such teachings. Frankly, God has put such things in the Bible to deceive them. "If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet." The Bible talks about knowing the truth (e.g., 1 John 2:21), and this is not an exhaustive knowledge of Scripture but an experiential knowledge of the truth--as Jesus said, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32. But those who don't know the truth are likely to be deceived by their "plain reading" of the Bible, just as God intended (Matthew 11:25-26, Matthew 13:10-17).

Finally, to the subject of the differences between Peter’s gospel and Paul’s, I can’t see Acts 2:38 as anything other than a condition set forth to receive the Spirit. This shows that the gift of the Spirit is not the same thing as gospel faith. The Samaritan believers had faith but didn’t have the Spirit yet. But that was definitely a unique situation in early Acts that has been superseded by Paul’s gospel which includes the gift of the Spirit solely by faith (and God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to Paul’s “my gospel” - Rom 2:16, and he also calls it “my gospel” in 2 Tim 2:8).