39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
The Holy Spirit now moves from future considerations to what believers were facing in the first century.
There is a connection between a weak faith and withdrawal from a faithful walk with the Lord. There is also a similarity between the Christian life and the exodus generation (He 3:6–4:13).
39 But we [emphatic, including the author] are not of those who draw back
“Draw back” does not refer to apostasy but contextually to the failure to be consistently true to what God has said (Ga 2:12). The class of those who draw back contrasts with the “faith” class. The author of Hebrews fears that some may have misunderstood the warning of the previous verse (He 10:38).
to perdition [ruin],
“Perdition” here is not hell; it is not eternal destruction of the soul. This word means ruin. The term can refer to either eternal destruction in hell or temporal discipline. Here to draw back will ruin the believer who does this in his present life. These believers “who draw back” will face temporal disciple from God.
The believer cannot draw back to eternal ruin. However, the Christian can ruin their testimony of walking by faith and keeping the clarity of their message if they minimize the finished work of Christ.
but of those who believe to the saving of the soul [life].
The word “saving” in Greek does not refer to saving the soul for eternity. The word in Greek is a noun that should be translated as preservation, keep safe, It is not the normal Greek word for “save.” It has a range of meanings that include conserving the consistent spiritual life of the believer. The preservation here is the saving of the believer from ruining his daily Christian life. This phrase has nothing to do with the conversion of the soul. The point is that the believer is to be careful not to lose his or her healthy spiritual life and thus their reward.
The word “soul” can mean simply normal day-by-day life. Here the meaning is the saving of one’s daily life (He 10:32–39). If one lives by faith during times of duress, then he will receive reward from God. This is the point of the next chapters (He 11 and 12). Thus, the “saving of the soul” here has to do with ruining the Christian life. The believer will have wasted opportunity for rich reward in heaven.
The Christian can lose his or her reward by not remaining true to the truth.
The purpose of the conclusion of Hebrews 10 is to warn believers of God’s disciplining them for distorting doctrine and walking away from a consistent Christian life. Under duress, a believer must not give way to her personal pain.
The point of the concluding verses of chapter 10 is not apostasy but the danger to believers of willfully departing from God’s will.
Mike, thanks again for your comments. Note that I did not say this refers to all Christians, but only Christians in reversionism. Note previous verses. The previous and succeeding contexts are dealing with believers. Note also my studies on the verses you referenced.
Mike, there are a number of things to keep in mind. The entire epistle was written to show Christians how to sustain their Christian lives in suffering. The Greek word for “endure” (ὑπομονῆς) is a key term running throughout the book of Hebrews. Believers needed to learn how to have the tenacity of soul while under persecution (He 10:32-34). Thus, the context does not deal with heaven and hell, but with what it takes to endure suffering without caving to the pressures around the Christian. V. 35 indicates that believers had a problem with their “confidence,” they were weakened by persecution. If they maintained their confidence, God will “reward” them, if not then they will lose their reward. That is why they had need of “endurance” so that they could “receive the promise” (He 10:36). Both quotations from Isaiah and Habakkuk establish this point (He 10:37); i.e., that God will reward what He promises. I think what throws many people off is what is meant by “faith” in v.38. Is it saving faith or daily operational faith by the believer for his Christian life? The latter is obviously the point in context. This is established by the entire argument of Hebrews 11 and 12, which argue for the believer walking by faith and giving examples of believers in the Old Testament, and even Jesus as he walked on this earth (He 12:1ff). The believer (“the just”) must walk by faith to endure sufferings, or he will subsume to persecution. God takes no pleasure in those who do not walk by faith (He 10:38). The writer of Hebrews is one who walks by faith; he does not ruin his Christian walk by caving into persecution. Obviously, he does not include himself in the group that goes into reversion because they do not walk by faith. The very next verse says “now faith is…” speaking of how to live daily by faith. What is important in interpretation is context above all. If a person neglects the argument of this section of Hebrews, he uses pretexting based on a couple of verses (that have more than one interpretation).
Mike, it is getting frustrating in dealing with someone who is attempting to use Greek, of which he knows little or nothing about. It is highly dangerous even for those who know a little Greek to make judgments on Greek without a full understanding of the implications of using it.
First, the Greek word in Hebrews 10:39 is not σῶσον but περιποίησις. περι means around and ποίησις means do or make, giving the idea of preserving, keeping, and yes saving (but not in the eternal sense). Note these studies:
περιποίησις, εως, ἡ as an action; (1) preserving for oneself, saving, keeping (HE 10:39); (2) acquiring for oneself, obtaining (1TH 5:9); (3) possessing for oneself, possession (1P 2:9)
περιποίησις (peripoiēsis), possession; gaining. Cognate words: ἀγαθοποιέω, ἀγαθοποιί̈α, ἀγαθοποιός, ἀχειροποίητος, εἰρηνοποιέω, εἰρηνοποιός, εὐποιί̈α, ζῳοποιέω, κακοποιέω, κακοποιός, καλοποιέω, μοσχοποιέω, ὀχλοποιέω, περιποιέω, ποιέω, ποίημα, ποίησις, ποιητής, προσποιέω, σκηνοποιός, συζωοποιέω, χειροποίητος
57.62 (3) possession Eph 1:14; 1 Pe 2:9; preservation Heb 10:39
cause to remain over and above, keep safe, preserve
(Show lexicon entry in LSJ Middle Liddell) (search)
περιποίησιςb, εως f: (derivative of περιποιέομαι ‘to acquire,’ 57.61) that which is acquired, presumably with considerable effort—‘possessions, property.’ λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν ‘a people that has become (God’s own) possession’ 1 Pe 2:9; ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ‘but for the possession of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ 1 Th 5:9. For another interpretation of περιποίησις in 1 Th 5:9, see 90.74.
The author uses the cognate noun of the verb “to shrink back” in v. 38. The word is used only here in the Greek New Testament and does not itself refer to apostasy, but it is often so interpreted in this context. The word here refers contextually to a lack of endurance. Whether this is referring to apostasy or not is another matter altogether. Those who take it to mean apostasy point to the phrase “to destruction,” where the preposition in Greek means “with the result that.”157 Here the word is often taken to refer to everlasting destruction. The active sense of the noun “destruction” is rendered verbally as “to be destroyed.” Again, however, this noun does not itself mean “everlasting destruction,” though such an interpretation is contextually possible.
The class of people who withdraw is contrasted with the “faith” class. The noun pistis158 is usually translated in such a way as to bring out the verbal idea as in the NIV’s “those who believe.” The final noun phrase reads (lit.) “unto [with the result that] [the] preservation of [the] soul.” The word in Greek indicates preserving something in the sense of keeping it safe. “Soul” here does not necessarily refer to “eternal life” but to one’s physical life or being.159
Likewise, given the contextual considerations of passages like Heb 6:4–6 and 10:26–31, not to mention the lexical meaning of key words and phrases which can be taken to refer to genuine believers and to something other than eternal damnation, how can it be asserted unequivocally by many in the Reformed tradition that the meaning is to apostasy in the traditional theological sense of that term? That interpretation is certainly possible, but it is not at all certain, or even probable, as I have endeavored to show. Apostasy is certainly a possibility for one who is a member of the outward church, as we acknowledged in the discussion of Heb 6:4–6. Since salvation is a work of God in one’s life and since Scripture teaches the eternal security of a genuine believer, apostasy shows that a person was never truly converted. This approach is compatible with the Reformed understanding of apostasy. The problem comes when interpreters attempt to foist this construct on the warning passages of Hebrews. When that happens, one must make a number of hermeneutical “adjustments”165 to create a fit: posit two audiences the author is addressing, one comprised of genuine believers and the other comprised of false believers; re-interpret straight-forward language so as to make it describe mere “professors” who are not genuine believers; minimize or ignore the Old Testament background of the warning passages; and minimize or ignore the concept of spiritual maturity as the context of the warning passages. One question that arises for those who see apostasy in this passage is how can those who are righteous (10:38) be called righteous if they apostatize?
The key point and conclusion is this: the warning passages are not addressing the danger of apostasy. They address the danger of willful disobedience to God on the part of a genuine believer and the serious consequences to that disobedience.
Excursus: On Smuggling Presuppositions into Exegesis
The old saying “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” is applicable to Rudolph Bultmann’s outstanding article “Is Exegesis without Presupposition Possible?” Evangelicals and Bultmann don’t have much in common, but most Evangelicals would concur with Bultmann in answering “no.” All who labor in exegesis must fight the urge to smuggle our presuppositions into the task. There is no more glaring example of this syndrome than in the way some Arminians and Calvinists approach the warning passages in Hebrews. By definition, an Arminian believes it is possible for a truly born again Christian to lose one’s salvation. Arminian interpreters correctly recognize that the author of Hebrews addresses his readers as believers throughout the epistle. When they encounter the warning passages with such language as “falling away,” “trampling under foot the Son of God,” and “destruction,” they are usually all too quick to presuppose the author is talking about loss of salvation and thus they describe the passages in this way before the first spade of exegetical dirt is turned. Thus, to take one example, Grant Osborne, in his chapter “A Classical Arminian View” in Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, 86–128, informs his readers in the second paragraph that Heb 6:4–6 speaks of genuine believers who commit apostasy which is the unpardonable sin, and thus lose their salvation forever.166 Forty-one pages later, he draws the same conclusion. Undoubtedly, he is convinced that the text warrants such a conclusion. But his chapter evidences the presupposition smuggled in at the beginning of the argument. Another example is the excellent and influential article on the subject by Scot McKnight.167
Calvinists are no less guilty in their approach to the warning passages. For example, Calvin himself, in commenting on, Heb 10:26, in the very first sentence pronounces the passage a reference to apostasy. Two paragraphs later, he said that “it is clear from the context the apostle is referring here only to apostates.”168 Hughes, in commenting on, 10:26, writes in the very first sentence: “The very real danger of apostasy … is now stressed once more. Persons who lapse into the irremediable state of apostasy are precisely those members of the Christian fellowship who sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth.”169
Finally, we consider two stellar commentaries on Hebrews in English by William Lane and Paul Ellingworth. Lane’s discussion of v. 26 is interesting in the way he develops the logic of what the author is saying. First, he notes that the passage is introduced by gar which closely connects it to the preceding paragraph 10:19–25. Lane says nothing about apostasy in 10:19–25. Second, Lane spoke of those who “deserted” the community in 10:25. The author of Hebrews said nothing about the readers “deserting” the community. Lane then stated: “the neglect of God’s gifts is almost tantamount to a decisive rejection of them.” Note the phrase “almost tantamount.” Lane is conjecturing here. The author of Hebrews spoke of “neglect” in 2:1–4, but not of “rejection.” Lane next speaks of the readers’ neglect of meeting together as displaying “contemptuous disregard” for the truth. True enough, but again there is nothing here concerning apostasy. He points out that such an attitude exposes “hardened offenders” to divine judgment, and then stated the severe warning is parallel to Heb 6:4–6. Lastly, he concludes “it exposes the gravity of apostasy.”170 All of this is in the confines of the first paragraph of commentary on, Heb 10:26 and precedes any exegesis or explanation of the text. Turning to Ellingworth’s commentary on Hebrews, in his second sentence of commentary on, Heb 10:26 we are told the author is describing “the nature and consequences of apostasy.”
From these examples it ought to be evident that commentators have perhaps not always been aware of their own presuppositions which get smuggled into the argument. Even if their interpretation of Heb 6:4–6 and 10:26–31 is correct, smuggling the supposed meaning of the text into their writing before the exegetical spadework is done is problematic.
Mike, I am finished with you. Each time you attempted to use the Greek I showed you how you were wrong, but you go blithely go on your way as if facts do not matter. You are not worthy of an intelligent conversion. All communication from you will not be approved.
My question is, Isnt it obvious that verse 26 says this person has received the knowledge of the truth before he decide to sin on purpous without applying 1 John 1:9 ? And isnt it obvious that verse 29 says that this person had been sanctified by the blood of Jesus before he counted Jesus blood an unholy thing by persisting in sinning willfully ? If he insulted the Spirit of grace, wouldnt this person have had to have experienced the grâce of God and had known the Holy Spirit of grâce ? Please comment.
Becky, have you read my commentary on all of Hebrews 10?
I thank God for you and your labor of interpretation of His Livivg Powerful Word. I found one of the most reliable commentaries which I have seen on lines till now.
Regarding the book of Hebrews or others relating to Christian Life, the grace principles are so foundational or important. I mean how a person understand life principles becomes his interpretation of the Word.
Samuel, thank you for your words.