by Ken Yates
In the last two blogs, I have argued that in the book of Hebrews we see that a Christian cannot lose his eternal salvation. However, even though that is the case, a believer can sin against the Lord, even in a very serious way. Esau is an example of such spiritual failure.
In 10:38-39, we see the same thing. These verses state:
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
As we saw in the example of Esau, many think that the author is saying that if person claims to be a Christian but “draws back” he was either not saved to begin with, or he loses his salvation. Since the author of Hebrews knows a person cannot lose their salvation (10:10, 14), we know that he is not talking about such a situation.
But can we say that these verses are saying that if one draws back he was never saved to begin with? After all, the author says that such a person is one in whom God has “no pleasure.” In addition, he also says that such a person experiences “perdition” and does not experience the “saving of the soul.” Maybe the author is thinking of people who only claimed to be Christians but by their actions really aren’t.
As we saw in the previous blog, however, we know that the author realizes that a “true” believer can be like Esau and indeed draw away from the things of God. But even here in these verses we see that the author recognizes that a Christian can indeed do that.
In these verses, the author is talking about the person who is “just.” The word means to be righteous. In the original, it says “My” just one. In other words, the author is talking about somebody who is God’s righteous one. Unless we read our theology into this verse, we must conclude that the author is talking about a believer. How could an unbeliever be called God’s righteous one?
But such a righteous one can “draw back.” Unfortunately, the King James Version adds the words “any man.” These words are in italics because they do not appear in the Greek. The point of all this is that the author is only talking about one person—God’s righteous one.
God’s righteous one has two options. He can either live by faith, or he can draw back. Regardless of which he does, he is still God’s righteous one.
The believer can indeed draw away from God. He can love the things of this world and be like Esau. He can decide not to care for spiritual things or even consider the value of them.
If he does, God will not have pleasure in such a life. This does not mean such person is not the child of God. It simply means that God does not approve of such a life. We see the same thing in our earthly families. A disobedient child lives a life that his parents do not approve of, but he remains a child.
If a child of God lives such a life, he winds up experiencing “perdition” and the loss of his soul. The word perdition can describe loss of many different kinds. The word for “soul” in the New Testament often means “life.”
What the author is saying is that the righteous one who draws away from God will experience great loss. His life will be wasted. The works of that life will have no eternal value and will thus in the end be lost. As we see in the book of Hebrews and the rest of the New Testament, such a drawing back will result in the loss of eternal rewards (1 Cor 3:10-15). In addition, such a believer can experience the severe discipline of God in this life, and any of the loss such discipline can bring. All of these things are descriptions of the “perdition” the unfaithful believer experiences.
No doubt, many will disagree with the idea that the author is talking about the loss of rewards, the loss of one’s life, or the discipline of God in these verses. However one sees these verses, if we are honest with the text we will recognize that the one who experiences these things is the righteous one of God.