Some thoughts on Bible Interpretation and book of Hebrews

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The bible is God’s word.  If I want to know or understand what God says or instructs I pick up the bible and read it.  Here is the tricky part though, what all too often happens is that different Christians will disagree about the bible says about something.  One of the things I realized when I was in seminary was that any one can make the bible say what they want it to say.  Whether they are intentional or not.  Many people have often been hurt because of something a pastor said from the pulpit.  For example, back into 1980 my gave up playing jazz music because the church we attended at the time felt the music was of the devil.  It was 15 years later when my dad realized that it was not a sin to play jazz when he met a pastor who explained things to him.

My approach to the scriptures and the way I was trained is this I let the history, grammar, and context explain to me what God is communicating.  Whether your theology permits you to look at a passage in a certain way or not.  We must remember that it is the text that is important not our theology.  Theologies will come and go.  I hear of the latest trends in theology often and different seminaries approach now to the bible but the reality is that you should approach the text by keeping it in it’s context or else you have a pretext.  This is then your guard in not taking the bible and making it say what you want it to say.

The rule of thumb for bible prophecy I hold to is this: When the plain sense of scripture makes sense, no other sense needs to be sought.  As in any language, literal, or normal interpretation does not rule figures of speech, but even those have a literal.

A book like Hebrews is often misunderstood.  The book was written to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem about 60-67 AD.  There are five warning passages in the book.  These warnings are given because the Christians there are considering going back to Judaism leaving their faith.  They were being persecuted for their Christian faith but not to the point of shedding their blood (Hebrews 12:3).  The warning passages (Hebrews 2:1-4; 4:12-13; 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 12:25-29) increase as you go through the book with stronger warnings for the readers.

Hebrews, like the bible, is written to and for believers.  This has perplexed bible scholars and theologians throughout the ages.  However, the key to unlocking the knowledge of Hebrews is in the book itself.  Hebrews 12:7 talks about how God disciplines those He loves.  Hebrews was and is for believers.  I have read a number of popular bible commentators who write how only certain parts of Hebrews was written to believers or how Hebrews deals with people who profess to know Christ but do not really believe. Let me make this clear as day, we are saved by grace and not of works.  Only God can see the human heart.  It is not my job or any other Christians’ job to judge someone’s salvation.  The writer of Hebrews throughout the book uses the pronoun “we.” He includes himself when addressing his audience, therefore the view of these people as mere professing Christians is ridiculous.

The warning passages serve to warn believers to progress in their walk with Christ.  In 70 AD the Romans came down and destroyed Jerusalem.  If any believers had gone back to Judaism then they would have been in Jerusalem at the time the Romans attacked.  They would have died.  The warning passages were given as an act of mercy.  On a side note, I believe God used the Romans to judge the people in Jerusalem for crucifying Christ.  God gave the people 40 years to repent and they did not.  God is always merciful and gracious.

There is a sin that leads to death and John makes mention of it in 1 John 5:16.  As I stated before, you have to keep everything in context.  God does not call home every believer who gets out of line.  Sometimes there are seasons of life where a Christian lives like the prodigal son.  God is always waiting for them to return because He will never leave us nor forsake us.  God is not a cosmic killjoy but He does want us to progress in our faith and to move past the milk stage and onto meat.  God has a great love for us and He like any father will love and give discipline when needed.

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Comments
  1. gary says:

    Why is the New Testament silent on Infant Baptism?

    Baptist/evangelical response:

    The reason there is no mention of infant baptism in the New Testament is because this practice is a Catholic invention that developed two to three centuries after the Apostles. The Bible states that sinners must believe and repent before being baptized. Infants do not have the mental maturity to believe or to make a decision to repent. If God had wanted infants to be baptized he would have specifically mentioned it in Scripture. Infant baptism is NOT scriptural.

    Lutheran response:

    When God made his covenant with Abraham, God included everyone in Abraham’s household in the covenant:

    1. Abraham, the head of the household.
    2. His wife.
    3. His children: teens, toddlers, and infants
    4. His servants and their wives and children.
    5. His slaves and their wives and children.

    Genesis records that it was not just Abraham who God required to be circumcised. His son, his male servants, and his male slaves were all circumcised; more than 300 men and boys.

    Did the act of circumcision save all these people and give them an automatic ticket into heaven? No. Just as in the New Covenant, it is not the sign that saves, it is God’s declaration that saves, received in faith. If these men and boys grew in faith in God, they would be saved. If they later rejected God by living a life of willful sin, they would perish.

    This pattern of including the children of believers in God’s covenant continued for several thousand years until Christ’s resurrection. There is no mention in the OT that the children of the Hebrews were left out of the covenant until they reached an Age of Accountability, at which time they were required to make a decision: Do I want to be a member of the covenant or not? And only if they made an affirmative decision were they then included into God’s covenant. Hebrew/Jewish infants and toddlers have ALWAYS been included in the covenant. There is zero evidence from the OT that says otherwise.

    Infants WERE part of the covenant. If a Hebrew infant died, he was considered “saved”.

    However, circumcision did NOT “save” the male Hebrew child. It was the responsibility of the Hebrew parents to bring up their child in the faith, so that when he was older “he would not depart from it”. The child was born a member of the covenant. Then, as he grew up, he would have the choice: do I want to continue placing my faith in God, or do I want to live in willful sin? If he chose to live by faith, he would be saved. If he chose to live a life of willful sin and never repented, and then died, he would perish.

    When Christ established the New Covenant, he said nothing explicit in the New Testament about the salvation of infants and small children; neither do the Apostles nor any of the writers of the New Testament. Isn’t that odd? If the new Covenant no longer automatically included the children of believers, why didn’t Christ, one of the Apostles, or one of the writers of the NT mention this profound change?

    Why is there no mention in the NT of any adult convert asking this question: “But what about my little children? Are you saying that I have to wait until my children grow up and make a decision for themselves, before I will know if they will be a part of the new faith? What happens if my child dies before he has the opportunity to make this decision?” But no, there is no record in Scripture that any of these questions are made by new converts to the new faith. Isn’t that really, really odd??? As a parent of small children, the FIRST question I would ask would be, “What about my little children?”

    But the New Testament is completely silent on the issue of the salvation or safety of the infants and toddlers of believers. Another interesting point is this: why is there no mention of any child of believers “accepting Christ” when he is an older child (8-12 years old) or as a teenager and then, being baptized? Not one single instance and the writing of the New Testament occurred over a period of 30 years, approximately thirty years after Christ’s death: So over a period of 60 years, not one example of a believer’s child being saved as a teenager and then receiving “Believers Baptism”. Why???

    So isn’t it quite likely that the reason God does not explicitly state in the NT that infants should be baptized, is because everyone in first century Palestine would know that infants and toddlers are included in a household conversion. That fact that Christ and the Apostles did NOT forbid infant baptism was understood to indicate that the pattern of household conversion had not changed: the infants and toddlers of believers are still included in this new and better covenant.

    Circumcision nor Baptism was considered a “Get-into-heaven-free” card. It was understood under both Covenants that the child must be raised in the faith, and that when he was older, he would need to decide for himself whether to continue in the faith and receive everlasting life, or choose a life of sin, breaking the covenant relationship with God, and forfeiting the gift of salvation.

    Which of these two belief systems/Biblical interpretations seems to be most in harmony with Scripture and the writings of the Early Christians?

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

    • danrobb007 says:

      Gary I appreciate your comment. Thanks for sharing. Going back to your question I would respond by saying if the NT does not talk about it then it is probably is something, which was not instructed by Jesus or the disciples. I am not ruling the OT as obsolete or something. It is part of God’s word. Jesus often quoted the OT in the Gospels. OT stories serve as illustrations for the NT believer. However, Jesus died for the law so that we do not have to keep it (Romans 6:14 and 10:4). If something as important as infant baptism was a regulation or an ordinance of the church then it would make perfect sense that Paul would have instructed the early churches on how to do it. However, there is no record of that happening in the bible.

      As far as the child or teenager point, I would write that in the book of Acts when some got saved like an adult they would share with their house and the whole house would get saved. A child or teenager would fall into this category. Children were not highly considered in that society and culture. In the story of the fishes and loaves in John 6, children were excluded. However, it seems highly probable that they were present at that miracle because of the one boy who presents

      I realize that may not be the answer if you are looking for answer you want to read. I believe you get into a slippery slope when you start assuming things that the disciples must have practiced without the bible speaking about it. If the NT is silent then there could be a reason.

      I know some people hold the early church fathers with much regard, however, I am not one of those people. We have God’s word. The early church fathers are not inerrant or infallible, therefore, I take them when I read them with a grain of salt. I have done much research into their works and I believe you must be careful because they were influenced by Greek philosophers. Aristotle was a major influence.

      Okay after all that I do have a solution or if you will a possible theory about teens or children going to heaven. The story of David losing his child in 2 Samuel is key. Also the story of the next generation entering the Promised is interesting, because it was the children of the generation who sinned. I will develop this idea more in a blog post soon. Those are my initial thoughts. Thanks.

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