Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Things that Belong to Salvation

Eternal Security or Eternal Insecurity?

The “things that belong to salvation” include the gift of the Spirit, the goodness of the word of God, and the power of the age to come. This sermon deals with the difficult and controversial material in Hebrews 6:4-12.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Sixteen: Things that Belong to Salvation
Originally presented on May 4, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NASB)

The Unplanned Detour

Lancaster went through a brief review of last week’s lesson and then, like the writer of Hebrews, intended not to cover any more material based on the six foundations since the Hebrews writer categorized those foundations as “milk” and not “solid food.”

But during the week, Lancaster received many requests from people, both face-to-face and by email to go into more details on the “milk”. It seems as if what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews considered the ground floor basics of the faith are very difficult for modern Christians to grasp.

Lancaster wanted to make this detour back into the basics, but his lesson plan wasn’t written around it and a week wasn’t enough time to prepare. He wanted to get into chapters 7, 8, and 9 of Hebrews, but today, he’ll stay in chapter 6 and tell his audience what I consider something important (but I haven’t really found anything unimportant in what Lancaster has presented as yet). We’ll be back to learning how to drink milk by the by.

The Point of No Return

…and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Hebrews 6:7 (NASB)

This is actually terrifying on a personal level. I have family members who once came to faith in Yeshua who have since fallen away from him. I have friends in the same condition. This sounds like once you apostasize from faith in Jesus you will never, ever be able to come back, no matter what. That’s what a Bible literalist would conclude.

Does that means the people I love who have fallen away are doomed to burn forever? Is their no way to reach out to them and save them?

Lancaster’s opinion is not that of a Bible literalist. He does say that questions like these almost resulted in the Book of Hebrews not being canonized.

Think of it as the difference between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. For nearly a century (2nd to 3rd centuries CE) the Western Church thought that your sins were only forgiven up to your baptism. After that, if you sinned as a believer, you were condemned to hell. The Eastern Church wasn’t even concerned with the issue. It’s the difference between linear Greek thought (Western Church) and global Hebraic thought (Eastern Church).

For a Greek thinking Church, everything is on or off, black or white, left of right, there are no ambiguities in the text. Hebraic thinking, global as opposed to linear thinking can contain a lot more dynamic tension and even apparent contradictions in the Word. It’s the difference between believing one has to be either a Calvinist or an Arminianist, vs. believing that God is completely, perfectly, absolutely sovereign and man can also have free will to choose or reject God.

Eternal Security of Insecurity

But make no mistake, Lancaster does believe the writer to the Hebrews is delivering a dire and potentially fatal warning about the dangers of falling away from faith in Messiah. After falling away, it will be extremely difficult, and may be impossible to return to faith.

The focus of the letter so far has generally been one of warning and support of a population of Hellenized Jews in the area of Jerusalem who were in danger of or who had already lost access to the Temple. They were heartbroken and desperate to obey the commandments of the sacrifices. Who would be their priest? They were in grave danger of falling away from the Master in order to return to the Temple.

the letterSo yes, this is a letter of warning. But it isn’t a sudden detour into the theology of soteriology, the theology about how salvation works. That’s how most Christians read it, badly parsing the text into bite-sized but otherwise unrelated chunks. When you write a letter, unless you are a bad writer, you write with an overall theme in mind, not by tossing in an unassociated theological smorgasbord of ideas and concepts.

Lancaster says he tends to be more of a Hebraic thinker. He doesn’t believe salvation can be reduced to a series of talking points or some sort of bulleted list. He does believe it’s possible to lose one’s salvation, but he also believes that God’s grace covers a multitude of sins. Without grace, we would never survive, even as believers.

What You Have to Lose

What distinguishes a Messianic believer?

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…

Hebrews 6:4-5 (NASB)

Lancaster breaks this down into a list (I just got done saying salvation can’t be reduced into a list, but this isn’t a recipe to the plan of salvation):

  1. Enlightened
  2. Tasted the Heavenly gift of the Holy Spirit
  3. Tasted the Good Word of God
  4. Tasted the power of the Age to Come

This is what you have to lose and, as a believer, what you possess right now.

We are enlightened, that is, we have received the revelation of God, the awareness of the spiritual world, and the knowledge of salvation through faith in Messiah by grace.

We have received the Holy Spirit, God’s gift of a foretaste of the Heavenly Kingdom.

We have tasted the beautiful flavor of the Word of God, the Bible.

We have tasted the power of the age to come.

I think enlightenment, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible are all more or less understood, but what is the power of the age to come? Resurrection. We know Christ was resurrected from the dead and in that promise, so will we upon his return. The dead will be raised in him.

Lancaster drew a parallel between the approach of the weekly Shabbat and the Messianic Age. In Orthodox practice, all meals must be cooked before the arrival of Shabbat at sundown on Friday. Anyone who’s done any cooking knows you sometimes taste the dish before it’s finished to see how it’s coming along. Lancaster says that tasting the soup, so to speak, before the arrival of Shabbat is like tasting a preview of the Shabbat.

Bubbe's soupTasting the revelation of God, receiving the Holy Spirit, apprehending the Word of God, and the knowledge of the resurrection are all the foretaste, the preview of the future Messianic Age, the Kingdom of God on Earth.

That’s what we have to lose.

Lancaster tells us a midrash which I’ve heard before and one that I’ll repeat here because I think it’s important.

It is said that when humanity is resurrected, everyone will still have the physical defects they possessed when they died. If a man died without a left arm, he will be resurrected without a left arm.

Only after the resurrection will he be healed.


But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

John 20-24-29 (NASB)

The midrash states that if a person were resurrected in a totally healed state, he would be unrecognizable and many might doubt that the same man who died was the one resurrected. The example of Jesus and Thomas gives much credence to the midrash. Certainly Jesus appeared very, very different to John in Revelation 1:12-16 than he did, even within the first few weeks after the resurrection.

This is the power of the promise of the resurrection. And this is what we risk losing if we deny Yeshua.

Crucifying Jesus All Over Again

…and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Hebrews 6:6 (NASB)

Lancaster interprets this rather troublesome verse thus:

One who walks away from his faith in the Master can be compared to one who would crucify the Messiah again, bringing him to shame. May God have mercy on that person.

The Death of the MasterIt isn’t some mystical or literal re-crucifixion, but a metaphorical comparison. Apostasy is a dreadful, disgraceful act, according to Lancaster, and the path back from falling away, should that person repent, is as if the Master needs to be crucified again. But by God’s grace and mercy it is still possible to return!

Apostasy is a very, very hard place to come back from, but it’s not an absolute hopeless place of no return.

Thanks be to God.

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Hebrews 6:7-8 (NASB)

Let’s first cover one part of verse 8 before moving on:

it is worthless and close to being cursed (emph. mine)

It is in grave danger of being burned and destroyed, it is very close to that end, but that final destruction, while imminent, is not absolutely a foregone conclusion.

In other words, if you let this happen you to, you are on the brink of falling into an endless pit of fire and darkness but it is still (marginally) possible for you to come back.

Lancaster spent some time comparing the Hebrews writer’s audience to the Master’s parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23) as well as the parable of the Tares (weeds) among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). These are all warnings of the level of our faith and whether we are even aware of the level (deep or shallow) of our faith (He says a lot more than what I’m including in this review, so you’ll want to listen to the entire recording for the details).

In a field of wheat and tares, it is impossible at first to tell the difference. When you go to church on Sunday or synagogue on Saturday, looking around the sanctuary, can you visually tell the difference between believers and false converts? Are people who raised their hand at a revival meeting or who once answered an altar call automatically saved and their “fire insurance” fully and permanently paid?

wheat and taresMany “weeds” are absolutely sure they are “wheat” even though they live like weeds. Lancaster told a story about a church youth group where almost all of the teens were sexually active and yet, they all (or most) believed they were saved and living Christian lives.

Then Lancaster made a confession. He said he was a weed and shallow dirt. But the difference is that he is deeply concerned about his being a weed. Even Paul admitted he was a weed:

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:21-25 (NASB)

Even the best among us (and that certainly isn’t me) struggles between our two natures. Paul called himself a “wretched man” and so are we all wretched people in this struggle, desiring to obey the Master and continually failing. My review of the four steps in making teshuvah speaks a great deal about the continual struggle we have in repentance.

Saving Grace

The danger of falling away is great and the consequences are (potentially) terrible, but there is a “saving grace.”

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:9-12 (NASB)

Amid the cries of warning there’s also hope and encouragement. We haven’t fallen over the edge of the cliff yet, though we (or rather, the Hebrews reading the letter) are (were) still dangerously close. If you’re worried about whether or not you’re a weed, even if you’re a weed, you can still come back and be wheat. Be honest about the state of your heart and your need for a Savior and you can still repent and be saved.

What Did I Learn?

If you’ve been reading my Teshuvah series, you should realize that this exploration isn’t just for the sake of teaching but also for the sake of learning. Seeking God’s grace and repenting of sins isn’t the simple little task many of us were taught to rely upon. Since sin still lives in our hearts, our repentance should be active and continual. It’s still possible to fall off the wagon and while climbing back on isn’t impossible, it isn’t easy, either. In fact, once fallen, it may seem impossible to return, and so most people usually either give up or tell themselves a story that falling off was the right thing to do.

More’s the pity.

FallingThis isn’t just about me. It’s about people I love. It’s about people who have fallen and fallen hard, and yet they don’t see the problem. In fact, they think that apostasy from faith in the Master was the best thing that could ever have happened to them. Some still follow a religious tradition and while their faith is important and contains many good things, by definition (seemingly), it requires denying Yeshua.

Most Christians, including Hebrew Roots people, have long since written off my loved ones as already, permanently, irredeemably condemned to be thrown into the fire and perpetually burned.

May it never be!

I was scared to death when I read Hebrews 6:6. I was immeasurably grateful when Lancaster didn’t insert a “hard stop” at the end of that verse and also write off my loved ones.

If you’re an Evangelical and/or a Bible literalist, I believe I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m choosing to believe Lancaster and that I’ve chosen a Messianic Jewish perspective for self-serving reasons. You believe that I want there to be hope for my fallen loved ones and my chosen belief allows me to still continuously pray for their salvation and restoration.

Yes, of course I still hope and pray. Wouldn’t you?

But that’s not the only reason I believe what I believe. Something inside of me keeps telling me this is the right way to view things and the right way to go. I believe one of the “crimes” of the Church, at least historically, is that they (we) have been too literal in all the wrong places, and we’ve chosen a hard-line instead of God’s selection, grace and mercy.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.”

Exodus 34:6-9 (NASB)

It’s ironic in a sense, that I turn to the Torah, the Law, which Christianity disdains, in order to illustrate God’s grace and mercy in which we Christians have always depended upon so greatly. Most of us still believe grace and mercy only came to Earth with the birth of Jesus Christ. And yet the Jewish people have relied upon God’s thirteen attributes of mercy for must longer than two-thousand years.

I depend on God’s mercy. I depend on God’s mercy and grace not only for my flawed and damaged self but for everyone I love, who are also flawed and damaged. As I once heard said, if faith is a crutch, who isn’t limping? I’ve got a terrible limp. So does everyone I’ve ever met.

Man alone in a caveWe are all at risk of falling. We are all in danger of going “ker-splat” on the hard, cold ground. Once down there, getting back up isn’t easy, and for some, it seems impossible.

And for some, it seems like falling down put them in a better place, the better place. If not for God’s mercy, not only would it be impossible for them to get up, but God would just let them lie there.

If you ever find yourself at the bottom of a pit or deep in some dark, damp cave, look up. If there isn’t enough light for that, feel around. God provides a rope or a ladder, even for the apostate. All you have to do is find it and then to start climbing.

29 thoughts on “Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Things that Belong to Salvation”

  1. Am I really, permanently, saved? This is a question we wrestle with almost from the moment we become born again. And I use the words “born again” on purpose.

    After many years of struggling with this issue, after having watched the effects of certain beliefs upon those around me, and after much study of the scripture, I’ve come to these realizations. Not sure if they will help, but hopefully so.

    We use the words rather glibly “once saved, always saved”. I believe in those words, yet not in the way perhaps that some do. I would put it this way, “once a new creation, always a new creation.” However, our being a new creation requires an act of God, not an act that we can perform. We commonly acknowledge that salvation must come from an act of grace given to us by God. But we must choose to receive that act of grace. It is freely provided, but we must choose it in order for it to be applied to our lives. So then how do we proceed from there? How do we actually obtain the results of the grace that we have received? There seem to be many theories of this. But I would contend that it is God who makes us perfect Phil 1:6. That we are not “saved by works of righteousness” Eph 2:4-5. If this is the case, then not only is the original starting point “salvation” a gift of grace, then “sanctification” that is the product in our lives of salvation, is also a work of grace. And that’s how a person can end up saying “shall we continue to sin that grace may increase”. Rom 6. Which Paul immediately reminds us is nonsense. “May it never be!” Which makes sense if the fact really is, that it is God who is doing the actual work of bringing us to perfection. How He does that, I truly believe is perfectly tailored to each individual, and is based upon our individual relationship with Him.

    So, in spite of our fumblings, our sin, our failings, we are headed toward perfection. Not because we are doing it, but because God is working it in us. It would perhaps have been more religious if God had just given us a formula. But look at the individuals in scripture and how He worked differently in each individual life. Well, this is a big subject and entire books have been written on it, so I’ll get to the point (one of many, but the one I want to make here).

    Can a person lose his salvation? If you can actually kill the new creation that has been created and resurrect the old man in yourself, then you can lose your salvation. It can’t be easy, you can’t do it by sinning since we know by looking at our own lives that sin doesn’t negate the grace we’ve been given. That was all paid for by the cross.

    What we can do then, is choose. I call this “the great choice”, it’s the only choice that really matters both now and in eternity, and that’s the choice we make to choose the grace or to reject it. Better put, I guess the choice would be to choose God and His way (the way of grace) or to choose ourselves (or something other than God…there are myriads of those choices we can make) and thereby reject God and reject grace. Where and how this happens would be individual to each person, and I would contend that those of us looking in from outside a person’s heart, are going to find it really difficult to determine where that heart is at with regards to “the great choice”. Sometimes we think we know, and we might be right, but I think the only person I can really know if I’ve made the choice or not is myself.

    We have to live with some assumptions because we need to choose fellowship and leaders and we really hope in those cases that we are right, but we’ve all seen leaders fail terribly, and we’ve all found ourselves in situations where the fellowship we’ve chosen, isn’t quite there. But then to assume where a person is spiritually by where they are currently, is a very linear (Greek) way of thinking about it. From an eternal perspective? Well, we know we can’t see that far, we can only see right now.

    Right now, it might look like you’ve chosen to reject God’s grace, or right now it might look like you’ve accepted it. And this is why we struggle so much. Because we are looking at something that can only be finally determined by someone who has an eternal perspective. Someone who knows the end from the beginning. Maybe someone like God.

    I think that the writer of Hebrews touched on this subject to remind us, that it is a choice. We choose God’s work in our lives, or we reject it, but the choice is not based on a single moment of time, or a single sin.

  2. Can one still be considered “wheat” if one is prone to offer “rye” (wry) commentary? [:)] From your reflection of Lancaster’s presentation, it appears that he was less interested in a possible distinction between “falling away” (due to external or circumstantial causes?) and deliberate “turning away” (internally motivated?), than he was in the issue of considering the difficulty of returning as being comparable to suffering another crucifixion. In either case, the process of encouraging the repentant return, and of accomplishing it, may be as difficult as that description. In the latter case, it may be actually impossible because of a change in how the Messiah’s sacrifice has come to be viewed. An inadequate appreciation of the possibility of repentance or of the value of repentance is a virtual guarantee that such repentance will be impossible, because it will be unwanted. Nonetheless, I appreciate Lancaster’s optimism that such difficulty can be surmounted.

  3. @Dree: Once in the faith, we must strive all of our lives, every day, to deepen that faith and to put a barrier between ourselves and disobedience to God. According the Lancaster, the readers of the Hebrews letter were undergoing a severe crisis of faith and were in danger of turning away from Messiah. The letter serves as encouragement and dire warning, which must mean that it’s possible for a “true believer” to be pushed so far that there is a real temptation of actually and completely losing faith and becoming an apostate. Lancaster is more encouraging than most in saying that even if you fall that low, there is a very small change of returning. It may be impossible because, as PL says above, of how the apostate has come to see the crucifixion of Messiah. Nevertheless, we must never stop encouraging and praying for those who know God and are severely struggling with their faith and even those who have rejected Him.

    PL said: Can one still be considered “wheat” if one is prone to offer “rye” (wry) commentary? [:)]


    This is an area where I have to depend on my faith that God can do what people cannot. If a person has fallen away/turned away, they may still be saved if even a glimmer of hope remains in the person. Consider the parable of the prodigal son. As you say though, and as it seems the writer of Hebrews said, it can, probably more often than not, appear truly impossible. That’s why this is issued as a dire warning for anyone in crisis.

  4. Since I don’t know Greek, I wonder if any of you Greek speakers have any insight into what appears to be a reflexive phrase (crucify to yourself?)

    Could it be possible that the concept of salvation does not refer to eternity in heaven or hell (Christian teaching) but refers to the Hebrew meaning of the concept, which is healing, wholeness, deliverance? I am thinking about how torah doesn’t mention the world to come once, unless I am missing something. In this way, one who turns away from the source of healing, deliverance and wholeness is calling the lamb slain from the foundation of the earth as performing a useless function.

    I get looking at the first century writings midrashically instead of literally, but why do think Lancaster represents a Messianic Jewish position? What is a Messianic Jewish position? Do you blend torah with evangelical theology, dropping off some doctrines while retaining others. Okay, no one probably wants to know my opinion, but what if we knock down all the legos and try to rebuilt from scratch? I am not saying to seek to create polemical distance by choosing opposition or distinction from past influences, because I have never seen polemics create anything good. But perhaps we are trying too hard to hold onto sacred cows, at least their bones.

    I remember this story of a couple friends of mine who were able to purchase a house really cheaply because the builder ran out of money midway. They did almost all the work themselves. But they told me that it would have been better to have leveled the house, keeping the foundation, than going to additional work and expense in trying to build according to the previous plan and make it fit with their vision for how they wanted the house to look.

    I think one issue with apostasy is that few people are willing to abide in the wilderness. If they find one camp no longer tolerable, they seek to be embraced and enfolded in a new one. But the new camp is not utopia, and has it set of problems. Ask anyone who has been divorced and is now remarried, and most likely they might confide that there are lots of problems in the new relationship too; just different ones, and sometimes they are worse. Behavioral psychology tells us the once a person makes a decision, they then see that decision as good.

    1. @chaya — If we were to translate the notion of reflexive crucifying from Greek back into Hebrew, it would appear that we would get “mitztalev” (“cross oneself”), which means to intersect or “cross paths with”. But maybe some other, less literal, notion would be more suitable. I suspect, though, that the idiom here is expressing a sense of disdain, whereby crucifying Rav Yeshua (a second time) in one’s own view would be to disdain the value of his martyrdom (and the implications of his resurrection). Actually, the Greek in which this sermonic letter is written is considered to be of superior quality, suggesting that it was composed originally in Greek by someone who was a skilled writer in the language. I’ve just looked at the P’shita Aramaic translation of it to see if it holds any interesting insights, and I found nothing significant. I also just examined an English translation from the P’shita that rendered the notion as “crucify afresh”.

      As for an original Hebrew version of Matthew, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it to resemble the version that Shem-tov Ibn Shaprut included in his “Even Bohan” treatise, which I’ve found rather interesting on numerous points. But a reader with an eye for Hebrew idiom and concepts can read the Greek text of Matthew to good effect. Franz Delitsch did an admirable job with his Hebrew translation, though it too can be criticized at a number of points. It would be intriguing to find a copy of the original among the Dead Sea fragments, which is not impossible given some of the odd material secreted there from the period just preceding the Hurban, but I suspect that anyone discovering such material would have already made a big deal out of it, so it’s not likely to be found there. I suppose we can’t rule out additional archeological discoveries somewhere around here, but we can’t be holding our breath waiting for them. Meanwhile, we have good material from which to reconstruct Rav Yeshua’s Jewish viewpoint by which to guide Jewish messianists in restoring an authentic MJ community.

      As for the meaning of “salvation”, I’m sure you are correct that the Hebrew perception of it is in view, but I can’t quite see what you wish to make of it. I would certainly disagree with any notion that MJ theology should be defined as a syncretism between evangelical theology and Torah, though one might expect that even a completely ab-initio development of MJ theology from Jewish literature, including the apostolic writings, would find some common ground with evangelical theology. Even a stopped (mechanical) watch can be right twice a day; and could evangelicals have misread absolutely EVERYTHING in the apostolic writings? I’m also not sanguine about James’ perspective about the current practical circumstance of multiple MJ expressions as if they could be equally valid. I do hold out for an ideal MJ, even if it is at present only theoretical. Restoration of the Temple is still only theoretical, but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it (or even build a few components for it as does the Temple Institute in Jerusalem). I do agree with James that Lancaster appears to be pursuing MJ values in his efforts to render Hebrews as James described them. I’m curious to see how he will deal with some of the problematic readings of later chapters, for which I have some solutions myself.

  5. Chaya said: but why do think Lancaster represents a Messianic Jewish position? What is a Messianic Jewish position?

    I don’t think any individual or group represents the Messianic Jewish position because there is more than one expression of Messianic Judaism. Lancaster represents a position.

    Hebrews is one of the most difficult and confusing epistles in the apostolic scriptures and theologians have been taking stabs at interpreting it for a long time. Lancaster is crafting an interpretation that supports the continuation of Torah observance for believing Jews in the mid to late first century CE, which is certainly not the traditional interpretation. It’s possible that even though he’s headed in the right direction, he isn’t 100% correct all the time. Maybe you have a few points that are better than his, but after all, without actually interviewing the writer of this (or any other) book of scripture, we can’t possibly know it’s exact meaning in every detail.

    Bible interpretation is as much art as it is science.

    1. I agree that biblical interpretation is as much of an art as a science. You are aware that there are references that claim Hebrews was written in Hebrew, as well as references to a Hebrew Matthew. If these were found, imagine what treasures they would hold.

  6. I agree but they have to be discovered, first. If they no longer exist, what secrets they held will have to wait until they are revealed by Messiah.

  7. “Think of it as the difference between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. For nearly a century (2nd to 3rd centuries CE) the Western Church thought that your sins were only forgiven up to your baptism. After that, if you sinned as a believer, you were condemned to hell. The Eastern Church wasn’t even concerned with the issue. It’s the difference between linear Greek thought (Western Church) and global Hebraic thought (Eastern Church).”

    James, I was just curious what your source was for this interesting piece of church history? I’m always interested in new resources for the early years of the faith.

  8. My source is Lancaster’s sermon, since this is a review/summary of his lectures. He doesn’t publish a bibliography for each sermon, so you’d have to ask him where he got his info, Mel.

  9. I was just speaking to my brother about this issue last night over the telephone; it’s an interesting, albeit sometimes confusing topic.

    Concerning the “once saved, always saved” theme, I’ve always felt it is plagued by the Greek linear thought process, which was not how the Hebrew people understood the world to operate.

    It wouldn’t be a contradiction to say, on the one hand, that God’s Grace is the only thing that will ever merit your “salvation,” while on the other hand, to concurrently say that you need to work ever hard to make your inheritance as sure as possible.

    To the Greek linear thought process, the above dichotomy is hard to grasp and in fact, for all intents and purposes, may actually be a “contradiction” if that were the way we had to read the concept.

    To the Hebrew “both and” thought process, one finds no such contradiction. Though a dichotomy exists, it is, in a sense, a necessary dichotomy. The contrast and tension that is created, bears a fruit that the Greek linear thought pattern cannot easily attain.

    I was modeling it this way to my brother; if I ever feel as though I have reached a place where I can proclaim to myself that I will, with 100% confidence, be found to live in the Messianic age, with no doubts whatsoever, then I know I have a problem. On the flip side, if I ever feel I will never be able to “make it,” that God’s Grace through His Son Yeshua won’t “be enough” for me to be found righteous through Him, then I also have a problem.

    My “works” will not “save” me, but my “works” are a necessary outpouring and expectation from the One who is saving me from myself everyday. We clearly see that Yeshua will rebuke many who thought with assurance that they were of the fold, though they indeed were not.

    This is where a humble heart, a contrite spirit, and a trembling at God’s word becomes necessary. His Grace is sufficient, yes; and yet, we have work to do.

    As disciples of the Master who seek to love Him and to serve Him, I think we can all echo Paul and say that it is our earnest hope, our greatest desire, “that by any means possible” we may attain the resurrection from the dead. And precisely because we have not yet attained it, we must forget “what lies behind,” and strain “forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

    May His peace find you on this day, James.


  10. PS – Forgive me for the seemingly blatant restatement of your meditation, James. I had read it yesterday, though was reading the comments today, and forgot that you had already done so to point out the “Greek vs. Hebraic” thought process.

    (My face-palm moment of the day)


  11. No worries, Nate. As far as the seeming duality between meritless grace and us having to produce any effort relative to salvation, I find the following quote instructive:

    When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

    -Yogi Berra

  12. Yes, the road less traveled. If we posit that the majority is likely to be wrong, then my tactic is to explore what is behind door number 3. What happens if you turn things upside down? The establishment always fears asking questions and examining, “What if?”

    PL, I understand that a broken watch is correct twice a day. I just believe that something that is so fraught with error and bad fruit (okay, there is some good fruit too) – maybe we should just toss it all and start from scratch, rather than trying to repair and improve. In other words, tear the house down rather than do a remodel, because if you spend a lot of $$$$ and time to remodel the kitchen, the bathroom is still bad. You can replace the plumbing, but the electricity is funky.

    Whatever anyone says, MJ is rife with evangelical theology, and worse, evangelical practice. I remember when Manny Brotman had the concept of a movement for Messiah within Judaism. How can you even imagine that you are practicing any form of Judaism when you adhere to evangelical theology? HR claims to have “left Babylon,” – while MJ is still financed and cross-promoted with Babylon, but they have also brought with them evangelical practices. Some of these practices include separating yourself from those who think differently about this or that issue, spending a lot of effort arguing theology, considering yourself to have “the truth,” honoring, “names,” etc.

    So, I have zero knowledge of Greek and a limited proficiency in Hebrew, but am trying to flip things around and see them differently. I also choose to learn from those who are also outside-the-box, creative independent thinkers. Sorry, but I distrust anyone connected to the religious matrix of financial support and social validation that would bias their judgement and create a conflict of interest. It may not seem fair, but it is easier to make the assumption that all used car salesmen are probably dishonest and act accordingly, rather than hold out hope for the few who don’t fit the stereotype.

    Since the idea of saved/lost, heaven/hell is so important in Christian theology, I thought I might try to see things differently. I suspect that the jailer that said, “What must I do to be saved,” was not asking about what he needed to do to get into heaven. I am trying to look at things through Jewish eyes, and have to admit that I have been schooled in Greek thinking and methodology, even outside of the religious environment.

    I want to do this as an explorer, according to real science, not junk science. Junk science/theology is starting out with a conclusion and looking for ways to validate it, rather than designing an experiment, gathering your data and following the conclusions wherever they go.

    1. @chaya — Manny Brotman’s expression of the desire for a movement for Messiah within Judaism is one of the early expressions of what I have asserted as the classic MJ paradigm, currently espoused and elaborated by Rabbi Stuart Dauermann on his Hashivenu website (now affiliated with MJTI & UMJC), and expressed (to the best of my knowledge) in congregation Ahavat Zion in Los Angeles where he is rabbi emeritus. There is still a corpus of Jewish messianists who adhere to that MJ model. Obtaining financing for endeavors such as the MJTI academic institution, or any non-profit institution, opens doors to the potential for problems, but independent donations have been contributed by like-minded contributors and the MJ world is not hopelessly bleak. Real MJ theology from a Jewish perspective is being developed, and some of its results are discussed on this very blog. Have you read any of the papers published on the Hashivenu website, or in the FFOZ “messiah Journal”, or the journal “Kesher”? I won’t say it is all uniformly excellent, but it is all thoughtful and though-provoking, and what more can one expect of a developing body of study in the areas of MJ history, ecclesiology, soteriology, messianology, theology, and related Jewish literature?

      1. Let me say I liked Manny a lot. I knew his first wife Audrey and their kids, Joel and Nathan. We met in his basement at first. I understand that back then, it was all new ground. There was an environment that said Jews had to give up being Jewish. We are not talking about torah, as most Jews are not Orthodox. Back then it was about celebrating our holidays, using our music, liturgy, culture and identification with Israel. So, back then, Manny was a ground-breaker. But, back then you had to speak on Christian tv and radio and raise all your funds in the church. These things were effective, but not in the way that they planned. They thought they would bring Jewish people to Yeshua, and there were a few. But mostly they brought interest and appreciation for Judaica and a positive attitude from non-Jews.

        I don’t know if the people you mention are making the rounds of Christian media and events to raise money and support, and I suspect that is not the case. I’ve decided that if a person/group is dishonest, covers up the bad guys in their midst and compromises for political purposes, I am not interested in what they have to say. Anyone who deletes uncomfortable questions rather than answering them and tells other bloggers to delete critical messages rather than replying demonstrates lack of integrity. I am not saying anyone is perfect, or people have to agree with me. But I am opting out of the Babel system, rather than closing my eyes to what it is. If someone wants to stay, or believes they can improve or fix things, that is their choice. I suspect the best sources of learning are those who have been dead a long time 🙂

  13. I’m not saying they weren’t trying, but it was not within Judaism at all. It was, “Christianity with bagels,” as I rarely even saw kippahs. He designed a 5 Jewish Spiritual Laws, modeled after the Four Spiritual Laws. They even passed an offering plate! They believed that all there was to Judaica was, “Do good, be good and that’s good.” Perhaps some of us experienced this, but that is a false representation, but of course gentiles ate it up. I remember when Sid mentioned that he didn’t need to trade his bagel and lox for ham and cheese – as if that is all there was to it. But we were naive back then and didn’t know any better. And it was better than what I grew up with.

  14. Shavua Tov, chaya — I well remember the days of Hebrew Christianity, or Christianity with lox and bagels, and I remember the 5 Spiritual Laws pamphlet. However, that was a reflection of the popular religious culture of the era, and the explorations within the Jesus movement of the 60s. I suspect that it was the utter inadequacy of these expressions that helped to drive a number of young Jews to look for something better, something more authentically Jewish. They almost could not help but wonder how a social movement within Judaism of the first century could have devolved into what they had observed, and they longed to recapture that original, unarguably Jewish perspective. Certainly we were naïve, and most of us Jewishly ignorant. Many were disaffected bar-Mitzva babies at best. But that, too, impelled them/us to seek something better. We took these basic ideas such as Manny B’s, and Joe F’s and a few others, and began to learn and to develop. We had to start somewhere, and the HC perspective served as a place to begin that was better than traditional churchianity. At least it encouraged lox and bagels rather than ham and cheese. But it also enabled further development toward a genuine MJ. Regrettably, it has also resisted the changes represented by truly MJ development since that time. It’s hardly uncommon to find folks who resist change, nor folks who get sidetracked or who just go off the deep end of strangeness altogether. It’s not unlike Rav Yeshua’s parable about different ground conditions onto which the seed of an idea may fall and either fail or prosper. In my own case, it was beneficial that I carried the seed of that idea back into a Conservative Jewish environment, onward into Israel, back into the USA, and back to Israel while remaining mostly in traditional Jewish environments. It provided my own little metaphorical greenhouse in which to nurture this seedling. Along the way, I found others who also were nurturing such seedlings, some of whom were also trying to grow their own gardens of them, without seeking publicity or support from contrarily-motivated outsiders. Whenever I could, I attempted to help to nurture such efforts, and I still do so. I’m pleased to observe that the efforts have not been entirely fruitless.

  15. PL: I don’t know where you lived, East Coast? Did you go to any of the Messiah conferences? Could I ask when you made aliyah?

    I would go to JCC and events in the Jewish community, and took part in Jewish charitable groups. But I have never been involved in a synagogue since my Bat Mitzvah, except we briefly attended a Reform synagogue when dh was in grad school, but he kept bowing out and I got sick of going myself. You must be aware that all varieties of Judaism, unlike Christianity and MJ or HR is oriented toward the family, rather than the individual. A person attending a synagogue alone would not feel comfortable, I spoke to the secretary of my parents synagogue, and she said, “We have X number of families.” See, she didn’t speak of the number of members.

    Perhaps it is a good thing that they don’t support division for religious reasons. I know that rabbis will not convert a married person, if their non-Jewish spouse doesn’t also want to convert, as they don’t want to create a mixed marriage. Christianity in all its forms has no trouble with this, perhaps blindly creating a situation where a woman looks to another man for spiritual nurturance, not realizing the “shalom bayit,” issue.

    I don’t know if you had problems with aliyah, or you made aliyah during a time when this was not problematic. It would bother me if the 40 years I spent mostly in various factions of evangelicalism (including MJ) would bar me from aliyah.

    1. Yes, chaya, I lived in the greater Philadelphia area and attended MJAA conferences, making aliyah with my wife in 1982. In fact, I suspect you might be the Chaya I met briefly at the conference in 1976 or 1977, who complained one evening of suffering some spiritual oppression, to which I was able to contribute a degree of relief. Because my wife is also somewhat in the “disaffected” category, I have had to spend much of my time in the synagogue community as a “single”, though not the only one.

      I cannot say whether you would suffer any impediment to making aliyah, though even people whose names were once on lists with the aliyah authorities as high-profile MJs have managed to do so. I suspect if your highest motivation as expressed in any aliyah-related interview was to return home to the Jewish environment of Israel, especially as a mature adult, that there would be little difficulty about prior non-Jewish associations. You would, of course, need to produce documents affirming your Jewish parentage, and possibly a Jewish reference or two attesting to your good character.

      Some folks spend a few years participating quietly in a synagogue community prior to aliyah as preparation and practice for their return and re-entry into a Jewish environment, as well as an opportunity to meet potential character references. Others simply move to Israel on their own and apply for citizenship after a few years when their initial visa expires. The same parentage documents would be required, though you would presumably have acquired Israeli character references. Being disaffected from the religious community, hence presumably “secular”, is not, in itself, an impediment to aliyah. One need not advertise any other prior affiliations that might be deemed inappropriate or irrelevant to the aliyah process, if in fact, your present motivation is to return “home” to Israel (which, of course, I recommend).

      1. PL, that wasn’t me, as I don’t recall having an issue with spiritual oppression or speaking to anyone about it. I didn’t use the name Chaya at the time, as this is my Hebrew name. I was 17/18 at the 1975 (my first) conference.

        I’ve read that some who are not high profile have difficulty. Would I be expected to delete all social media that would identify me as a believer in Yeshua, like FB and Twitter. I have lots of MessyWorld friends and a couple groups I am in. Since my parents belong to a synagogue, I would have no problem with proof of Jewishness. As to Jewish character references, I suppose these would have to be non-relatives? I don’t have any “real world,” friends that are Jewish and not believers. Well, I have some that are no longer involved in Messianism, but they don’t live near me and we only keep in touch online. My husband would certainly not be interested in aliyah at this time. I see dark clouds on the horizon, and they are coming here, although most don’t see it.

        If asked about my belief, I would not deny it, but I can honestly say that I am not a part of any church or Messianic Congregation. Perhaps that is why I am being led this way? That is a good point about seeking to connect in some direct manner with either a synagogue or some other Jewish involvement. I have some Jewish people in my wine-tasting group 🙂 – including I met a person who might be descended from Rabbi Luria. I am sort of in the middle of nowhere Jewish speaking – well not James 🙂 It is 25 minutes either east or west to any synagogue, and 45 minutes southwest to the JCC and any Jewish organizations. I also hate driving long distances.

        If something regarding No. 1 son (who is currently secular mostly) works out as planned (which I am forbidden to discuss on social media – but I think I told James so you can ask him, this all might not be a concern. Thank you for sharing your story, and I’ve always felt that if it was the will of heaven, it would work out. I did go up to Philly (Beth Yeshua) several times during the late 70’s and I was at Joel and Mindy’s wedding.

        I assume one never uses any Messianics for references, even if they are not high profile? A good friend and former boyfriend lived in Israel for 20 years, returning recently – not involved in any, “missionary,” endeavors, except fellowship. He is not Jewish, but his wife is. I have relatives, but I have lost touch with them. My sister-in-law has relatives from Iran that I have never met in Israel, but my niece met them.

      2. OK, chaya, I guess it wasn’t you I met, though the age is right, and the association with the MD/Brotman crowd (were they already in Rockville?) matches. I narrowed the year to ’76 or ’77 because also present with me was the girl I later married and I am virtually certain we were not yet at that time married. But these coincidences of age, location, and name certainly can’t eliminate the possibility that someone else of your peers was using the name Chaya at that time when you were not. I have no idea what became of her, and I was at that time somewhat concerned for her welfare, because she seemed just a bit unstable; so I sort of hoped you might be the grown-up survivor of that brief encounter. Oh, well…. You might suggest to hubby the possibility of a vacation trip to Israel that might include visiting relatives or any friends already there. Such travel can be inspirational. My wife and I made such a trip a couple of years prior to when we actually made aliyah; and at that time we were asking ourselves the question of whether such a move was even conceivable or was it completely out of the question for us (my wife having never been the pioneering sort to take up the challenge of a less pampered lifestyle). You would most certainly not be able to consider aliyah unless he also were motivated, though I agree that the dark clouds you mentioned do exist and do offer some recommendation toward it sooner rather than later.

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