Prayer for Unbelievers to come to Faith in Jesus
Why It Matters That Hebrews Was Written to Believers | Grace Evangelical Society
Because the epistle to the Hebrews is a challenging book to understand, many believers today don’t take the time and effort to mine its rich truths. One reason it has become difficult to understand is the debate concerning whom Hebrews was written to.
1 Many view Hebrews as a message that was written to a combination of “true” believers and “professing” believers, i.e., unbelievers.
With the mixed-audience view, the five warning passages (Heb 2:1-4; 3:1–4:16; 5:11–6:12; 10:1939; 12:14-29) are typically regarded as being addressed to “professing” believers (= unbelievers), with the rest of the book addressing “true” believers.
However, if the entire book of Hebrews was in fact written to “true” believers, then all of it becomes beneficial to believers today. In this way a believer today doesn’t have to dismiss parts of Hebrews because those parts were not written to him.
Why We Know Hebrews Was Written to Believers
There are eight reasons to believe the entire book of Hebrews was written to believers (i.e., to those who have eternal life):
First, the writer calls the audience “holy brethren” (Heb 3:1).
Second, the writer describes himself and his readers (“we”) as ones who “have faith” (Heb 10:39). This would be true only of believers.
Third, readers are referred to as “sons” who have a relationship with God the Father (Heb 12:5, 7, 8). Unbelievers, professing to believe or otherwise, do not have a “son” relationship with God the Father until they are adopted and have eternal life (Gal 4:5).Fourth, the author did not exhort readers to “believe in Jesus for eternal life” anywhere in Hebrews. The starting point for unbelievers is to place their faith in Jesus Christ for the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Rom 6:23).
Fifth, the author did exhort (Heb 13:22) readers to “press on to maturity” (Heb 6:1) in the faith they already possessed (Heb 6:4-5). To exhort unbelievers to “press on to maturity” makes no sense. Without faith in Christ there is no life to be matured!
Sixth, the readers went through sufferings, reproaches, and tribulations for their faith (Heb 10:32-33). They even “accepted joyfully the seizure of [their] property” (10:34 NASB). It seems unly that unbelievers would be willing to go through these things for a nonexistent faith.
Seventh, in each of the five warning passages, the writer uses first person plural pronouns (us or we); he includes himself with the readers. Because the author was a believer in Jesus Christ, this is noteworthy.
He views the warnings as applicable to both himself, as a believer, and to his readers, also believers. Had the warnings been for “professing” believers/unbelievers, he would not have included himself.
For example, Heb 10:26 says, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.
” The writer sees “sinning willfully”— a return to animal sacrifices as a means for atonement, Heb 10:29— as something which he, as a believer, could commit, as could the believers he is writing to. After the five warning passages below are the verses containing “us” and/or “we” demonstrating the author included himself in the warning.
First warning (Heb 2:1-4): 2:1, 3
Second warning (Heb 3:1-4:16): 3:6, 14; 4:14
Third warning (Heb 5:11-6:12): 6:1
Fourth warning (Heb 10:19-39): 10:19-24, 26
Fifth warning (Heb 12:14-29): 12:25
Because the warning passages in Hebrews include the author, it does not stand to reason that these sections are addressed to unbelievers.
Eighth, there are no clear signs in the text to indicate switching of the audience between “true” believers and “professing” believers. The burden of proof for a spiritually-mixed readership rests on those who propose this view. This is not simply an argument from silence.It is logical to assume that the writer is addressing one consistent group of Jewish believers unless a change is clearly indicated by the text.
The idea that the readership switches back and forth between believers and unbelievers seems to be governed by its proponents’ need to support their theological position rather than by evidence from the text.
Why It Matters
Hebrews is a “word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22) written to Jewish believers who were experiencing persecution and considering returning to the external practices of Judaism, including animal sacrifices for sins. The writer encourages these believers to persevere in their faith, even in a hostile world. This encouragement includes five warnings about the consequences of not holding fast to their faith.
Rosemarie Matlak’s summary relates the overall message of Hebrews to believers today:
As modern day Christians, we are also beguiled and pressured to distance ourselves from Christ through false teachers, worldly philosophies, discouraging circumstances, social pressure, and even persecution.
As believers we all experience times of spiritual defeat…in our walk with God.
It can be tempting to return to our old way of life where we felt accepted and admired…and to the pursuit of wealth and comfort rewarded us with immediate gratification.”2
Many of today’s believers are not Jewish and none of us live in the First Century, but we all still face similar challenges. Over the past twenty years many born-again people have left Bible-teaching churches for the liturgical practices of Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
Many believers have departed from the teachings of God’s Word to practice counterfeit means to spiritual maturity transcendental meditation, centering prayer, lectio divina, and prayer labyrinths.
Sadly many believers have been duped into ceasing to believe that everlasting life is everlasting and thus they have begun trying to give and work so as to retain that life. Legalism both for justification and sanctification is quite alluring today.When a believer in Jesus Christ returns to a religious system or perspective that denies the sufficient work of Christ on the cross, they are making the mistake the book of Hebrews warns against.
Here in Utah when an active Mormon comes to faith in Christ apart from their works he is contradicting the teachings of the church of his family and friends. The result is that he will face very real pressure to stop saying he knows he has everlasting life simply by faith alone in Christ alone.
If this new believer continues to confess his belief in justification by faith alone, the result is often complete rejection by all his friends and family.
New believers from a Mormon background face a very real temptation to return to Mormonism at least in some external way to restore relationships with their relatives in particular.
Of course, leaving a Bible-teaching church and returning to the works-based system of Mormonism will prevent the new believer from going on to spiritual maturity and puts him in danger of being disciplined by the Lord.
Even someone who has no religious background may be tempted and/or pressured to return to their previous lifestyle without God instead of following Jesus more closely and continuing on to spiritual maturity. Old friends may hound the believer to come back and party the old days. These “friends” and their lifestyle may hamper the believer from growing spiritually.
But Hebrews is warning against more than just returning to a sinful lifestyle. The warning is against denying the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ in their life. This might take the form of verbally rejecting or denying critical truths about Jesus including his death, resurrection, or ability to forgive our sins.
Such a change in beliefs is what Hebrews warns against.
The writer of Hebrews was deeply concerned because he knew that the believer who departs from the faith reaps fiery judgment in this life (Heb 6:7-8; 10:27-31).Worse, the believer who apostatizes will not be one of those chosen to be Christ’s partners (metochoi), His co-rulers, in the life to come (Heb 1:9; 3:14).
Instead of hearing the Lord’s “Well done, good servant” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Luke 19:17), he will experience rebuke and shame before His Lord and Savior (Luke 19:20-26; 1 John 2:28). That’s why this matters. Departure from the faith is a terrible thing.
Knowing that the entire book of Hebrews was written to believers in Jesus Christ is vital to understanding God’s message in Hebrews. Because it was written to believers, the entire book is relevant for today’s Christians.
The message is not that “professing” believers must prove their faith by commitment and perseverance, but rather that “true” believers are to move on to spiritual maturity despite difficulties.
The dangers are clearly described in the five warning passages in Hebrews: negligence, unbelief, immaturity, willful sinning, and unresponsiveness.
3 A believer today who “neglects” their spiritual life, remains “immature” and “unresponsive” to the Lord Jesus is not at a spiritually neutral place. These warnings remind us that not going on to maturity has negative consequences, and we must guard against these dangers if we are to press on to maturity.
David Janssen is Equipping Pastor at Grace Community Bible Church in Sandy, UT.
1. Another reason Hebrews can be difficult to understand is the overall Jewish orientation of the book. The writer expects the readers to have a detailed understanding of the Jewish priesthood, tabernacle, and sacrificial system. Modern Gentiles, myself, do not have any firsthand experience with the Jewish sacrificial system, which makes Hebrews more difficult to understand.
2. Rosemarie Matlak, Hebrews Study Guide (2010), p. 6.
3. Mark Bailey and Tom Constable, The New Testament Explorer (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999), pp. 506-507.
Five Things to Know When Unbelievers Die
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This question falls into the category of the unmentionables: the things we don’t want to think or talk about because of the distinct challenges with death and dying. And when we do think about it, our souls grieve. Hence the question.
Christians are not the only people group who do not want to think about the end of our lives. Unbelievers don’t to give much mental space to this imminent reality.
Death is no respecter of persons. Death does not see color, gender, age, or sexual orientation. Old people will die. Young people may die. And nobody knows when their appointed time will come, but we all know it will arrive.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:27-28What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? – Psalm 89:48
This article is for both people groups—those who believe Christ is their Savior and have been regenerated by Him and those who do not believe and have not been born from above.
What Will You Believe?
The Christian belief system is a worldview—the way we think about and respond to life. There was a time when I was not a believer, and then God made me one by the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).
There was a particular verse He used to convince me that Christianity was the truth and the right kind of life for me (John 14:6). It was a verse about hell—the place we don’t want to think about because of what it means.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:15
Because the Bible does not flatter people (Proverbs 27:6), a verse about hell stirred my interest. Most of the books I read from the self-esteem and positive mental attitude advocates told me how great I was and what potential I had. The Bible had a “counter-to-human-ego” message. It told me that I was worthless (Romans 3:12), a sinner (Romans 3:23), and bound for hell (Matthew 25:30).
Because I had imbibed in the culture’s “you are somebody” message, the declarations from the Bible were shocking. For me, it came down to a watershed issue that would send me in one of two radically different directions.
Through a process of thinking, reading, seeking guidance, and praying, I became a believer. I was born from above, regenerated, adopted, justified, became a child of God, and was no longer alienated from Him (Colossians 1:21-23).
Salvation is a possibility for any person (Matthew 16:24-25; Romans 10:13), but the sad news is, as our Member implies, every person does not believe the gospel message. Every individual does not enter the family of God (John 3:7). They die in their “unforgiven-by-God” sins (John 3:36).I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. – John 8:24
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? – Ezekiel 18:23
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:24
Where Will You Go?
Those who reject the gospel message are just those who accept the gospel message in that they do what they do by faith. I believe what I believe because of faith. They believe what they believe because of faith.
Neither one of us can ultimately prove our points outside of faith because none of us can go to the afterlife until we die. We trust what we believe for a myriad of reasons, but the result is that we have faith claims that ultimately boil down to one of two things: (1) You are a Christian or (2) You are not a Christian.
According to the Christian’s understanding of life and death, there are two possible destinations for humanity. Those who have been born again go to heaven and those who are not born from above go to hell.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. – Daniel 12:2
What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. – Proverbs 10:24
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28
The good news for all people everywhere is the possibility of understanding the gospel message and not go to hell. Even those who have not heard about Jesus can perceive there is a God, which removes the excuse of, “I did not know.”For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
I remember as a child how the greatness of God’s creative power was ever before me. Though the Christians that I knew adulterated their message, Sovereign God broke through my darkness to convince me of His way (Ephesians 4:18).
The Lord saved me in spite of Christian religion, much He can regenerate the person who does not know anything about Christianity. God’s power can penetrate any darkness and open the eyes of the unbelieving regardless of how they were made blind.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4
When the Unsaved Die
This article is sobering to write. I feel the weight of my words. There is a truth, which my fellow Member is trying to reconcile in his mind. Becoming a believer does not release you from the tension between heaven and hell; it exacerbates the tension because the believer knows,
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
As an unbeliever, you can deny or rationalize hell away because non-believers do not want to believe. Believers are the ones who trust, which is why the weight of hell is harder for them to process. They know hell is real, which is why the burden of it can weigh down the unfortified soul.
There is a danger here we must discuss. If not, it will weaken your effectiveness in helping the ones you’re afraid are going to make the eternal mistake. You don’t want that unintended consequence working against your efforts to tell others about the gospel.
Here are five things I want you to consider about death and eternity. If you are not a Christian, I appeal to you to study the Bible verses in this article. Before you fully dismiss the Christian message, do your due diligence. Test our faith claims about God, salvation, heaven, and hell.
God is Good – The main thing to keep in mind regarding the death of unbelievers is the goodness of God. Whenever something weakens your faith, the goodness of God is always in question. In the case of the passing of an unbeliever, you must guard your heart against drifting from the Lord’s goodness.
Isn’t this the accusation of unbelievers? They ask how a good God can send people to hell. Don’t fall for this. What you need to do here is a thorough study of God’s love and justice. A good systematic theology book will help you. Many people have been blessed by Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine because it’s not hard to read.
A systematic theology book is an encyclopedia. You don’t typically read it from cover to cover, but you peruse random topics to learn what the Bible has to say about those issues. The Grudem book would serve you well. Read about God’s love and His justice.
Guilt is Gone – I don’t know how God is going to remove all guilt, but I do believe God’s Word. There is coming a day when all guilt will be gone, which is great news because we all live with the nagging reality of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.[The Lord] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:8-9
There is a sense with all self-aware Christians that we could have done more. Each day brings missed opportunities to tell someone about Christ. Whether it’s because of our fear of man or the busyness of life, we are aware of personal failure when it comes to proclaiming Christ.
I’m not saying our failures are right, and I’m not making an appeal for laziness or apathy. I’m stating reality. While I have no desire to be lazy or ever to stop broadcasting Christ to the world, I know there is always more that I can do.
Even so, I can find rest knowing the Lord will not leave us wallowing in our guilt now or later. It is hard for me to fathom this mercy from God, but I do find hope–through faith–that He can eradicate current guilt as well as future guilt too. For the unbeliever, this is just as awesome. They can also be free from guilt if they would choose to be born again.
Live in Hope – In 1987, someone brutally murdered my brother. He was almost 32-years old. Just three months earlier I shared the message of Christ and how he could be born again. He said to me on that day, “I can’t. I have some things to do.”
My heart sank as the door of his heart closed. I don’t know what all happened to him between me sharing the gospel and his appointment with death. I would to think he was born again, but I know I can’t play mental games here by wishing him into heaven. He may or may not be a Christian. When I arrive in heaven, I will look for my brother. In the meantime I know these two things:
- God is good today.
- God will be good in the future.
All Things New – Somehow Sovereign Lord will make all things right. Similar to how I think about what He is going to do with my guilt, I also reflect on His miracle-working power in heaven.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
The would’ve, should’ve, could’ve will be forever obliterated. You ask, “How can this happen?” I have no idea. He did not tell me, but I believe Him. The Lord will make all things new. To be submerged in unresolvable guilt, shame, or fear does not honor the Lord we serve. His grace is greater than all of our anxious or fret-filled thoughts.
Share Christ – You have a choice. You can rest in the goodness of God and His plans for humanity, or you can allow cynicism to assault your faith. If you choose to trust God, you are positioned to do the one thing that is most important when it comes to heaven and hell: share Christ with anyone who will hear. You do have a powerful message for them.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Call to Action
- Do you believe God is good regardless of your situation? If not, how do you need to change?
- Do guilt’s tentacles keep hold of you? If so, why are you this way, and how do you need to change?
- How does the hope you have in Christ settle your soul during difficult times?
- How does the “all things new” in heaven affect how you live today?
- What hinders you from sharing Christ and what will you do to change?
JOYFUL!! EXCITING!! PURPOSE-FILLED!! These three words are just the beginning when we attempt to describe the wonderful life we can have as Christians. Following God is an amazing adventure full of life, fun, and love.
So why wouldn’t we want to share that joy with others? I believe that as Christians, we can offer hope, meaning, and courage to a world that often screams of fear and powerlessness.
Here are my top 7 Bible verses to share with unbelievers to encourage them in their life’s journey.
I really this whole chapter in Ecclesiastes, because it addresses some big problems for unbelievers.
Many will ask why does humanity have to deal with death, wars, or other challenges if there is a God? This verse addresses these issues by explaining that there is a time and a season for all things.
God is not to blame for the consequences of man’s actions. Hardships and trials will come, but God has it all under control. Once we choose to follow him, then our lives will be overrun with blessings.Bullies, television shows, and the news often put individuals down, and they try to make others feel powerless, stupid and insignificant.
But what the Lord wants us to know from this verse is that as Christians we can accomplish great things in our lives. What the world says is impossible, Jesus says is possible for those who believe.
Faith in God provides us with a “can do” attitude that benefits us in so many ways.
I love this verse, because it clearly states how much God loves us. He cares for us so much that he gave his one and only son for our salvation. Love gives, and God is love.
God created the world around us, and he made everything good for us (Genesis 1). That is how much he loves us.
It is all for our pleasure– parents creating a beautiful room to welcome their newborn child into their home, God also created a whole world to welcome in humanity. This gives us security in our lives.
As I mentioned earlier, the media and even family and friends, can tear us down and discourage us in our daily journey through life. Discouragement, sadness, and hopelessness permeate our society, and depression runs rampant as well.
Jesus himself, though, reminds us in this verse that he came to give us abundant life. I believe that means that our walk with him can be fun, exciting and a daily adventure.The Lord gives us vision and purpose and power in our quest through life, and there is never a dull moment in the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, we can do more than just survive life here on earth. I believe that this verse points out that we can thrive.
God’s love and support makes us more than conquerors in everything that we do and say. Once we overcome our fears and anxieties, we can see the possibilities are endless.
We can go forward in our quest through life with enthusiasm, meaning and a greater purpose than ourselves.
Our lives can be full of challenges and trials and even prisons of our own choosing. However, this verse includes an important truth for both believers and unbelievers combined.
Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, so that we can be set free from any yoke of slavery. Addictions, depression and other “stinking thinking” can be gone when we fully embrace the Christian walk.
The apostle Paul goes on in this same chapter to encourage us to not only enjoy our freedom ourselves but to use it to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
One of the most wonderful things that we could ever hear as human beings is that we are loved. The love of our parents, our spouses, or our children can encourage us tremendously, but fully knowing that we are loved by the creator God, can change our lives beyond measure. this verse says, “God is love.
” This is very refreshing to hear in a world where it seems that everyone is looking to find fault in everyone else. Laws and punishment are the norm, but it is imperative that an unbeliever understand that our God is not that. He loves us so much, and he offers us peace, hope and forgiveness.He is not out to get us, but rather he gives us free will to choose our own path. Unfortunately, there are consequences to our bad choices and actions, but God’s heart is for us. His perfect love for us casts out fear (I John 4:18).
In other words, I want unbelievers to know that God’s unconditional love encompasses all of our lives.
The Bible is full of great verses to share with an unbeliever. There are verses that will appeal to a person’s intellect and logic, and there are other verses that will touch an unbeliever’s emotions and heart.
These are my top seven verses, because I believe that God wants us to share about the many wonderful aspects that are a part of following him each day as a Christian.
With God, life is a wonderful adventure, and I want to share that good news enthusiastically with all of my family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Written by Karla Hawkins
I feel blessed to be the pastor’s wife of a thriving church in northern Michigan and the mother of four amazing grown children. It is also very rewarding to be a Christian author, editor and translator for the Kingdom of God.
Some of my favorite pastimes include supporting my children’s contemporary Christian band ONLY9AM, singing on the worship team at church, traveling, and connecting with family and friends via social media.
When I am not working, I love spending time with my family and especially with my precious three-year-old grandson.