Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part One]

PROVERBS 26:11 (NIV)  

“AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT, SO A FOOL REPEATS HIS FOLLY.”


History Repeats Itself  [See Ecclesiastes 1:9].

I was reading an article the other day which prompted me to begin this study in Hebrews 6, believe it or not.  The article was entitled “Reasons why millennials are walking away from their faith,” by Stacia Hall.

The statistics show that 65% of them would not consider themselves to be religious.  This is a huge number, but when you’re talking about a cause-driven generation, who is very focused on community and are actually finding it both online and in person, you can see how the purpose of the church and God’s Word would be less necessary.  Being a grandparent, trust me, I’ve noticed.

But the statistics don’t end there. 

32% of them say they actually don’t believe in God’s existence.  1/3 of people between the ages of 18-30 don’t believe that God is, that He exists, that He started it all.  [See footnote [i] ]

Worse, many who at one time said they believed, and now don’t.  And let’s not just point fingers at the “millennials”.  Many people today from all generations are walking away from Christ.

Many are compliant but unconverted.  Some may come to Christ later.

Many of those are not denying that Jesus is the Son of God, they just don’t care!  Some have become enemies of the Gospel or embraced false religions.

Others just numb, deliberate rejection. 

That was the question the Messianic Jews had when they saw and heard their peers trashing Jesus and returning to mainstream Judaism.  We call this APOSTASY and shouldn’t be confused with falling into sin.  A lot of evangelical Christians, as many of us like to call ourselves, based on group dynamics, are a lot like the ancient Hebrews who followed Moses.  It was the thing to do.

Most of us agree I think, that someone whose FAITH & TRUST are not in Jesus is lost.

But what if they once professed the faith that they now deny?  What happened?  Were they SAVED then lost their salvation, or were they never really SAVED?  I believe the later.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter they are lost.  In another sense, it does matter, because if God ELECTS people to salvation, is God really in control here?  Is His SOVEREIGNTY broken?

We can anticipate knowing people who once claimed to be followers of Christ but later in life decided to disavow Him.

I’ve asked myself the question regarding a few members of my own family.  How could this have happened?

THE HISTORY LESSON ~

The lesson I’ve chosen for this study is built upon  The Rejection of the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14).

Most of the Hebrews were skeptics, even though they were ENLIGHTENED by God’s Word.  However, their commitment to Yahweh was flimsy, with reservation, not final, unreserved, and genuine.  It could have been a case of group dynamics and being overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

They had seen God’s Power in miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land.  Yet, in their hearts, they wanted to return to Egypt and worship the gods of Egypt.

The twelve spies were sent out to preview Canaan and then sorted out its challenges in two opposite ways.

They tasted the amazing produce of Canaan, including the giant grapes.

The people refused to believe God and honor His Word.

They couldn’t backtrack: too late.  So because of their ‘stiff-necks’ and their unbelief, they suffered God’s judgment [Numbers 14:32-37]:  Wandering 40 years in the wilderness until they dropped dead.

And their problem?

They didn’t actually Trust God’s character?

The same principle applies to those who have professed faith in Jesus to later reject Him.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NIV Bible)

[4] If it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the [powers of the coming age,  [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  

[7] Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  [8] But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end, it will be burned.  

[9] Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accommodate salvation.  [10] God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  [11] We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  [12] We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Applying this passage of Scripture to the people who professed their FAITH in Christ Jesus only to later REJECT Him is drawing parallels in some sense.

If you spend some time in the Book of Numbers account, it’s obvious that many or most of the Hebrews were not right with God, at least that first generation.  It’s not like they were ‘godly’ and then fell away.  They went along with Moses (sometimes), but did they take ownership of their relationship with the Lord?  No, they didn’t!  And this understanding is crucial.

Why has REPENTANCE become impossible?

It’s not that God won’t accept repentance, it’s, rather, that it’s impossible for these mentioned here to repent; they have crossed a boundary.  An expression I love to use in this regard is “You cannot put an impression on concrete once it’s dry.”

They had been ENLIGHTENED with the Gospel.

  • The Hebrews were enlightened by a pillar of fire/the Torah.
  • The Hebrews sampled the grapes, this sampled SALVATION.
  • They have tasted the produce of the HEAVENLY Canaan.  They haven’t entered the land and the rest that goes with it.

They have seen God’s POWER through the Holy Spirit in their lives and yet they desired to return to their previous religious status forsaking their inheritance that God had promised.  It’s one thing to doubt and it’s another thing to backslide.  And yet another to deny and reject Jesus!

They changed their INTERPRETATION of the Cross in unbelief and in their unbelief they’re agreeing with those who nailed Jesus to the cross.  If Jesus was a false teacher and a fake, then death was the appropriate penalty.

They cannot BACKTRACK and now accept the Messiah; too late!

Look closely at Peter’s words:

“wallowing in the mire” – Def. deep mud; wet, spongy earth.  To soil with mud or foul matter; to stick in a mire.

I was about 16 months in this old photo, but looking at my expression, I didn’t seem to be enjoying the “mire”.

At this point in the study, to correctly interpret any Scripture, we must know the basic rules of interpretation.

The FIRST RULE is to interpret Scripture in the context of the Entire Bible.

Secondly, we are to interpret in context with the Immediate Passage; we need to know the purpose of the letter or book that the text is written by looking at the verses immediately around our text, then interpret with the things as a backdrop for our interpretation.

And THIRDLY, we need to interpret Scripture using other Scripture.  Scripture isn’t going to contradict itself!

Finally, we want to interpret Scripture that is less clear with Scripture that is more clear.  So in this study, I have tried to use these principles in interpretation.

The verses in the first part of our passage of Scripture have been some of the most challenging for Christians throughout the centuries to interpret and taken by themselves, can seem to indicate that if you are a Christian and turn away from Christ, you can lose your salvation and there’s no hope of you ever being saved again.

THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S SAYING AT ALL.

Verse 4 and 5 says it is impossible for those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become a sharer of the Holy Spirit, and have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come [AMP].

That certainly could be a Christian, but then the author goes on to say if they fall away, it would be impossible for them to be brought back to a place of repentance.

So, when trying to understand this in light of the context of the Bible, it would seem to contradict other Scriptures that say otherwise, because the Bible as a whole, teaches that Salvation is by Grace and Guaranteed to believers by God.

It teaches that a TRUE BELIEVER is eternally secure in their SALVATION when they have truly believed.  We’ll explore this in greater detail in Part Two of this study.

Ephesians 1:13-14

When a person has truly believed they are given the Holy Spirit–and God says through Paul that the indwelling Holy Spirit in a person’s life becomes a deposit that guarantees our salvation.

And other Bible verses give testimony to the same:  2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Additionally, I want us to be aware of what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, that other writers of Scripture say when they are talking about someone who is actually saved.

He doesn’t say that the people he’s talking about have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30), or…

  • born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or…
  • chosen (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12), or…
  • predestined (Roman. 8:29-32; Eph. 1:5, 11). or…
  • reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:11), or…
  • forgiven (Luke 5:20, 7:48; 1 Jn. 2:12), or…
  • that they had never believed at all! (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:13).

Those phrases are each used in multiple places to describe a person who is SAVED.

Here is what the author does say about those he’s talking about:

  • They’ve been enlightened.
  • tasted the heavenly gift.
  • shared in the Holy Spirit.
  • tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.

Now while those things would certainly be true of a Christian, the QUESTION is…

“could they be true of a person who hasn’t received Christ as Savior”?

To answer that question you will have to continue the study in Part Two, Returning to One’s Own Vomit

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – everything.church, Jan. 5, 2016.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Personal Photo:  “Muddy Mel” – Family Photo Album.  1943.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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