Another collateral result of this understanding of Heb 6:4-6 is that our salvation can, at times, be very unsure. While confidence and assurance is always available to us, we often turn our back on God’s promises and slide into a state of jeopardy before we fall away entirely.
(Heb 6:10-11) 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.
Our hope is not necessarily sure. And the way to make our hope sure is to serve others. Peter teaches a similar lesson —
(2 Pet 1:5-8) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although we begin with faith, we must grow in the Christian virtues — and never stop growing.
(2 Pet 1:10-11) Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here we encounter the same thought. We can have an unsure election. We can live in jeopardy of falling away. But we can also live in a way where we “never fall” and have a sure “election” and “calling.”
Plainly, Peter doesn’t see calling and election as unconditional and irresistible, but they can be sure if we are growing in Christ. You see, the best way to avoid going backwards is to go forwards. Playing with rebellion, going backwards even briefly, is dangerous because our heart can be quickly hardened. We can’t count on being able to repent in the future.
I can’t reconcile either Hebrews or 2 Peter with the notion that Christians necessarily persevere and so their calling and election is necessarily sure. No, we are plainly taught that we have to be diligent and grow in order to have a sure election — and I think this is a teaching that should be taught over and over and over. We need to hear it.
Our assurance is in Jesus, but we only stay in Jesus so long as we are true to Jesus — and so we minister to others and allow the Spirit to fill us with the virtues Peter describes. If we turn away from the life of Jesus, we risk also turning away from his salvation.