Why the Author of Hebrews Wouldn’t Have Been a Calvinist

Hebrews 10:26-30 is known for its shocking and drastic declarations. In the span of five verses, the author deals with both issues of the extent of the atonement and the perseverance of the saints. The author creates a comparative contrast between the Mosaic covenant and the covenant of Christ (28-29). He is claiming that the member of the Mosaic covenant who violated that covenant was judged by the terms of that covenant. He goes on to indicate that the punishment for those who spurn the Son of God will be that much worse. The comparison here involves the similarity between the Mosaic covenant and the Messianic covenant that whoever violates them will be judged according to the covenant of which he is a member. The contrast involves the varying degree of punishment. If condemnation was that bad for the one who violated Moses, how bad do you think it will be for the one who violates the Son of God. Several observations are worth making here.

1. The author of the Hebrews does not presuppose that membership in the covenant of Christ translates into final salvation. He sees this as a commonality between the Mosaic and the Messianic covenants. There are those who can be sanctified by the blood of the covenant of Christ who persist in sin and fail to receive the salvation that is the ultimate and final benefit of the covenant relationship. That is to say, the author of Hebrews did not believe in the final and necessary perseverance of the saints. Note that the verb “to sanctify” (hagiadzo) is from the same Greek root as the word for saint (hagios).

2. Since the author does not presuppose that covenant membership guarantees final salvation, he presupposes that one may be sanctified by the blood of Christ and yet fall away. Thus, he also takes it to be the case that the benefits of Christ’s blood extend to some who may ultimately fall from grace and experience the covenantal curse. This means that the author of Hebrews did not believe that the atonement was only intended for those who would be ultimately saved.

So, Hebrews teaches the possibility that the saints may fall away and that the potential benefits of the atonement extend to those who may not be saved. For these reasons, the author of the letter to the Hebrews would not have been a Calvinist.

21 thoughts on “Why the Author of Hebrews Wouldn’t Have Been a Calvinist

  1. The whole point of the book of Hebrews is an exhortation (13:22) to the readers to not apostatize.

    It is one continuous argument as to why they should hold onto their faith in Jesus. It all came together one day while I was reading through from start to finish.

    Heb 1-2:1 Jesus is better so don't drift away.

    Heb 2:5-3:6 Jesus was made like us and He suffered and remained faithful so you too should hold fast.

    3:7-14 Your forefathers had wondering hearts don't be like them hold firm to the end.

    3:15-4:1 Your forefathers didn't enter God's rest because they didn't trust and obey don't you fall short of it too.
    -And again in 4:2-11

    4:14-10 We need to hold fast because Jesus like us bore weakness and fought through.

    5:11-6:12 You must progress and mature for failure to do so may be fatal.

    6:3-19 You have an oath from God to hold fast to.

    6:20-10:23 Jesus is priest of a new and better covenant while the old one that you want to go back to is passing away so hold on.

    10:24-39 If those who rejected the law of Moses were put to death without mercy don't think of turning back from this greater covenant.

    11:1-12:2 Many brothers persevered by faith so you to can.

    12:3-13 Don't give up in despair, think of your suffering as discipline from a devoted father.

    12:14-17 Don't be like Esau who sold out for a mere meal.

    12:18-29 Take care this is not God merely speaking from earth (as terrifying as that was) this is God speaking from Heaven.

    Even amongst the short practical part of the letter the writer slips in some comfort for those who are feeling like they have been left out of the fellowship of the temple -that Jesus too suffered outside of the camp.


  2. Hi Andrew,

    I think it has. I don't have anything really to say beyond the arguments I've already advanced.

    Grace and peace,


  3. Its true, you have presented a very sound argument, however the very meaning of words can't be peripheral to theology if they alter Biblical meaning. Every understanding needs to be tested against the Bible for correctness.

    We agree, the word is being used in contrast to the Jews. Have you considered if there are any other possible ways the Bible could apply the term in contrast to the Jews that my not mean non-Israelite?

    If there is even one, we need to specifically rule it out to to ensure that our doctrine is faithful to the Bible don't we?


  4. I've already given you the arguments for how I understand ethnos to be used in the NT. Arminian theology does not depend on the way you understand the term. The issue is peripheral at best here.

    Grace and peace,


  5. Greetings Matt,

    Do you agree that consensus is not a sufficient reason for Arminian theology to continue using words in a traditional sense, if the use of the words can be shown to be Biblically inaccurate? Can Arminian theology use words without being held accountable for their use?

    What if the words being misapplied are the very thing causing differences between Calvinism and Arminianim? What if it can be Biblically shown that the word ethnos that has been used in [Rom 3:29][Rom 9:24][Rom 11:25][Gal 2:8,9,12,14,15][Eph 2:11] specifically in contrast to the Jews has caused incorrect assumptions and been applied to a group without Justification; seems reasonably right .. if not Jews then what?

    Although this may be equally true of other theological systems, it's fair to critique Arminian theology's presuppositions, is it not? If Arminian thought relies heavily on assumptions that mis-apply the term ethnos (as well as other related words) to mean non-Israelites in contrast to Jews, but this identification can be shown to be Biblically incorrect, would this argument be considered 'on topic' and permitted to continue?

    The Bible is the final arbiter is it not?

    May Peace and Grace abound


  6. Hi Andrew,

    I think your conclusions with regard to the meaning of ethnos are a bit hasty. There are a number of times where the term is used precisely in contrast to Israelits or Jews (cf. Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; Gal 2:8, 9, 12, 14, 15; Eph 2:11). For Paul and the pillars in Jerusalem to agree that Paul should go to the Gentiles/nations while they go to the circumcised. Gentiles/nations is used repeatedly to refer to the uncircumcised-non-Israelite-nations.

    While it may sometimes refer to nations including Israel, this is not always the case and to say that it is would be to committ the fallacy of illegitimate universal transference. The matter of whether or not the uncircumcised (ethnos) are included in the promises to Abraham by faith is precisely what is at issue in Galatians. While the term ethnos does not show up in Hebrews, it remains the case that the inclusion of the Gentiles by faith and not works of the Law is an important question for the New Testament, especially Paul.

    That said, I still don't know what your objection to Arminian theology is. So far, your criticisms of covenant theology and the inclusion of the Gentiles are criticisms many forms of Protestantism in general including both Calvinists and Arminians. These are interesting discussions but this blog is about Arminian theology. So, in an effort to keep the comments on topic, I invite you to bring your comments back to the issue of Arminian thought. I would be happy to hear your criticisms of Arminian theology.

    Grace and peace,


  7. With respect to your objection that the Mosaic covenant is still exists there are three considerations:

    1. Was the Mosaic covenant included in the Abrahamic covenant: The following references show that the Mosaic covenant was established by the Abrahamic covenant [Ex 6:8][Ex 19:4-6][Deut 4:4-8] [Ex 2:24-25] [Deut 4:36-38] [Deut 29:13] [1 Chron 16:15-19] [Ezek 20:1-44]. Here (again) is the reference where God promise the Mosaic covenant to Abraham himself [Gen 15:13-16]. Since the Abrahamic covenant is eternal, the Mosaic covenant is also.

    2. What is the consequence of discarding the covenant: If there is no covenant there is no priesthood, no atonement by blood, and no Law, since these things were all established by the covenant.

    You concede that Christ is our perfect high priest, and that his sacrifice is perpetual and sufficient. Since we still have the Law (written in our hearts [Rom 2:15]) the covenant is still in effect. The covenant also established the Kingdom of God. Do you reject that Christ came to claim the Kingdom of God?There is no dispute that the efficacy of the covenant established at Sinai was ineffective without Christ, but that doesn't mean it was discarded when Christ came. What you call the “New Covenant” is a more perfect image of the Mosaic covenant. The change spoken of in [Heb 7:12] is one of completion, not alteration or abandonment. The efficacy of the covenant is now perfect.

    3. Finally, what does [Hebrews 8:13] say and does it apply (since you quoted it): The word 'obsolete' is the English translation of the Greek word παλαιόω (palaioō G3822) which means to become worn, figuratively. There is no doubt that the Mosaic covenant has become worn. Isaiah, Jeremiah et al, show that God felt the covenant had become worn ([Isa 1:3-5][Jer 4:22] etc.).

    The word in [Hebrews 8:13] that is causing confusion is ἀφανισμός (aphanismos G854 ) which means to vanish away or disappear figuratively. However, the book Hebrews was not written in Greek, it was written in Hebrew translated to Greek. Although this is the only instance of ἀφανισμός in our Bible the word appears in the Greek Septuagint also translated from Hebrew. We can trace this word back to its Hebrew origin using the Dead Sea Scrolls since they contain proto-Septuagint Hebrew copies.

    The Hebrew word translated ἀφανισμός in [Heb 8:13] was related to מלח (malach : H04414 ) which means to fade from view. The exact same expression in [Hebrew 8:13] is found in [Isaiah 51:6]. What is interesting about the Hebrew word מלח is that it is the same word that means “to salt”. A better Greek word to reflect the Hebrew meaning might have been ἀφανίζω (aphanizō G853) which was the root of the word ἀφανισμός that was actually used. Thus [Heb 8:13] would have read:

    “In speaking of a new covenant, he has worn out the first. And what is becoming worn is nigh faded from view.” [Heb 8:13] {modified ESV}

    Why is it fading from view? The covenant was a shadow of heavenly things [Heb 8:5], an incomplete image. Jesus gave substance to the shadow. This is the change spoken of in [Hebrews 7:12]. When a shadow is eclipsed by the thing itself, where do we look? We no longer cling to a promise, but to is fulfilment.

    Most theologians may not accept this argument, but it is Biblical.

    Grace & Peace to you


  8. Matt many thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

    The initial post made some very good points about how the book of Hebrews suggests ways see the weaknesses in Calvinist presuppositions. The goal of showing how Calvinism is not fully Biblical so theology can be amended, is far more upright, than simply engaging debate between theological schools. Testing one's own theology against the Bible, benefits all God-honouring people.

    For example, consider the question: “Are gentiles included in the children of Abraham by faith?”

    This seems like a perfectly valid question, whether you're a Calvinist or an Arminian. However, it is imbued with theological meaning from the perspective of an English speaking, post Reformation believer, that may not have been intended by the Hebrew author. If so, any additional meaning added by translation detracts from the original. Would it not benefit us to see if this question makes sense from the perspective of the author, as a gauge of Biblical proximity?

    Here's why it is not valid to ask the Hebrew author this question, and why it would make no sense untranslated:

    The common English word “gentile” is translated from a number of Greek words, each a collective noun. Not one means 'non-Israelite', which is the sense it was used. Its restrictive English sense of implying a non-Israelite person, is not found in the original language. Any theology based upon its restrictive English sense would not have Biblical foundation.

    Ἕλλην (Hellēn – G1672) is a collective noun that means Greek by nationality. There were Jews who were Greek by nationality, and there were Israelites (who were not Jews), but who also Greek by nationality. It used by Greeks to identify other Greeks.
    Ἔθνος ( ethnos – G1484) is a collective noun that means nation, people, or tribe. It does not explicitly or implicitly denote either Israelite or non-Israelite. It is a word that does not specify any particular nationality.
    The Hebrew word “גוי ” ( goy or goyim H01471) means the same. [Gen 25:23][Gen 48:19][Deut 4:5-7]

    For example, ἔθνος (gentile) as used in [Matt 28:19] includes the nation of Israel. Try reading [John 18:35] with ἔθνος translated 'non-Israelite':
    “Pilate answered, Am I a Judahite? Thine own non-Israelites and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? [John 18:35].

    In English it is common to call someone a gentile, but to do so either in Hebrew or Greek would be like calling someone a nation. In the NT ἔθνος has been translated 93 times as “gentile”, 64 times to be nation, 5 times to be heathen, 2 times to be people, 1 time to be Greek. Ἔθνος is never translated 'non-Jew' or 'non-Israelite' explicitly. Everyone who translates the Bible brings assumptions, so theology gets embedded in the translation process. The more ancient the translation the fewer examples embedded theology, until we arrive back at the original text.

    The author of Hebrews would reply “yes” to the question Are ἔθνος included in the children of Abraham by faith? since the Israelites were a nation. No theological conclusion can be derived from the question, or the answer, about the status of non-Israelites in the original language.

    If the goal is to identify who are the 'elect', the whole of scripture needs to be searched since one presumes that God's election is recorded and would look something like “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God” or “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” or something to that effect.

    Arminianism's problem, if there is one, is that much of its well defined theological terminology may not be Biblically justified. Calvinism is the same.


  9. Hi Andrew,

    With regard to the first of your two most recent posts, I'm not quite sure what you are objecting to. Is it my argument that the Gentiles are included in the children of Abraham by faith?

    With regard to the second of your two most recent posts, I simply disagree with your statement that the Mosaic covenant is everlasting and not obsolete. Heb 8:13 says it quite clearly, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete.” This clearly refers to the Mosaic covenant because the following verses mention aspects of the Mosaic covenant (e.g., regulations for worship, a tent, lampstand, table, bread of the Presence). This does not mean that we have no High Priest or atoning sacrifice as you suggest. The work of Christ is not an aspect of the Mosaic covenant but the New Covenant which is itself a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. The Mosaic covenant could never atone for sins perpetually. The Mosaic covenant lacked the power to atone for sins perpetually and required annual sacrifice. Christ makes the practice of annual sacrifice obsolete by offering himself as a perpetual sacrifice. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (Heb 10:4). The Mosaic covenant is powerless to deal with sin in any permanent way. This is why Christ is so much better.

    Finally, I'm still not quite sure what your objection to Arminian theology is. Feel free to clarify for me to help me understand your position. You seem quite critical of what you call imperfect systems of theology. I would simply say that we both have our systems, and both systems appeal to biblical theology. Arminians (generally) don't hold their position because they have a particular affinity with Arminius but because they think its the best way to organize the Bible's teaching about salvation. We didn't make up the system and then impose it on the Bible. The system came as a result of biblical study. Arminius was a Calvinist at first. He only changed his mind with regard to Calvinism when he found it did not stand up to the test of scripture. The theology that now bears his name has its roots in a deep love and profound respect for the whole counsel of God.

    Thanks for your comments. They have been quite interesting.

    Grace and peace,


  10. Hello Matt,

    Thanks again for your insightful dialogue. There is continuity between the Abrahamic covenant and the covenant of Christ as you suggest so you agree that both covenants are the same reflection of God's purpose, even if one reflection is not complete?

    Since Christ is our High Priest [Hebrew 3:1] and since the Priesthood existed before Abraham [Heb 7:1-3], Christ was in the original covenant (Galatians [3:16-17]). Since God's word confirmed his covenant by, not one oath, but many, each established in His name, His eternal purpose must be immutable as stated in [Heb 6:17]. A wise man wrote “The whole Bible is Christian scripture ..” and “.. the faithful preacher must endeavour to be faithful to the whole of scripture.“ Since [Acts 17:11] and [1 Thess 5:21] says all doctrine must be tested against scripture let's see what scripture says about [Gen 17:6]:

    “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” [Gen 17:6]{ESV}

    If we stop here, your point would be correct about Abraham. But lets continue:

    “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generation for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”. [Gen 17:7-8] {ESV}

    Let's see what happened to this everlasting promise after Abraham obtained heirs. God blessed Ishmael [Gen 21:13,18] making him the father of many nations, but the promised birthright did NOT pass to him. He was not a co-heir with Isaac [Gen 21:10,12] [Romans 9:7-9]. Ishmaelites were excluded by a lack of faith in God's promise. Abraham's relationship with God was inherited by his seed (not seeds). Isaac, then Israel both inherited God's promise because both believed. Edom did not.

    The promise to become many nations God made to Abraham cited in [Gen 17:7-8] was then made to Isaac in [Gen 17:6][Gen 26:3-4] and Jacob in [Gen 28:14-15]. Since Jacob was to become the father of many nations, God changed his name to Israel [Gen 32:28], but the birthright and blessing did not stop there. Israel passed the blessing and birthright to Joseph [1 Chron 5:1] by way of Ephraim and Manasseh [Gen 48:14-16,19-21] again because of Joseph's faith. However the sceptre was preserved in Judah [Gen 49:10]. The nations that came out of the Israel were the House of Israel and the House of Judah, ultimately the nations of the covenant.

    When [Jeremiah 31:31] said that the new covenant in Christ would be made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, he was showing God's eternal faithfulness to the multitude of nations. What Jesus says in [Matt 15:24] and [Matt 10:6] is in accordance with the promise in Jeremiah. Jesus also reminds the Jews (part of the House of Judah) in [John 10:16] that they were not the only fold. Notice two brothers, one is at home and the other prodigal?

    With respect to the Mosaic covenant being obsolete, [Heb 8:13-9:1] does not say that the covenant has been discarded or disused. It says the new set of God's promises are more complete than the first. They are better promises.

    Consider this parable: If a Man chooses a bride to be his everlasting wife, and establishes a marriage covenant with her, but she is not faithful, and He sends her away to the wilderness until she returns to Him in faith as He re-confirms their marriage – is His marriage obsolete or is it like new?


  11. The Abrahamic Covenant was confirmed in the Mosaic Covenant since it was first promised to Abraham in [Gen 15:13-16]. The Mosaic is everlasting. Even so let's assume the Mosaic Covenant is obsolete, what would that mean? It would mean that we have NO high-priest: that redemption does NOT require atonement by blood: that prohibitions on murder, theft, adultery, polytheism etc, are also obsolete since these were all established in the Mosaic covenant. Clearly such a suggestion was hastily made from a theological framework that falls out of favourite passages, rather than from a reasoned understanding of the whole of God's word.

    With respect to the disagreement between Arminians and Calvinists: understanding where Arminianism falls short of Biblical truth has as much value as understanding where Calvinism falls short of Biblical truth for the simple reason; the Bible remains at the centre of focus. However, understanding how two imperfect systems of theology differ from each other has far less value for the simple reason focusing on imperfect theological systems rather than Biblical perfection cause us to shift focus away from the Bible and assume one of the two theologies approximates Biblical perfection.

    The difference between the theology of Armininism or Calvinism and Hebrews is far more interesting. Whichever, theological frameworks we are sympathetic to must yield to the clarity of the entire scripture provided Christ is our prism. No matter how uncomfortable that makes us, or how often we have heard our theology articulated, we must let the Bible speak its truth, unfiltered.

    May Jesus continue to abound in your life.


  12. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your follow-up comments. I am saying that the continuity is between the Abrahamic covenant and the covenant of Christ (Rom 4; Gal 3). I understand the Mosaic covenant to have been made obsolete (Heb 8:13-9:1). The Abrahamic covenant was always intended to include multiple nations (Gen 17:6). In Christ and by faith, the Gentiles have been incorporated into Israel (the people of God) so that they may be heirs of the promises to Abraham (Rom 4) and of the New Covenant (Jer 31).

    If this is how you understand it, then we are in agreement. Also, if this is how you understand it, then your repeated chastisement of Arminians and Calvinists for not understanding it this way is odd because this is precisely how those two groups historically understand the covenantal scheme. The disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians is not over the nature of the covenant but the nature of how one enters into the covenant – is it by God's unconditional election of individuals (Calvinism)or by God's conditional election of individuals on the basis of foreseen faith (Arminians)?

    Hope this helps. Grace and peace,



  13. Matt,

    Thank you for your response. Your dialogue is very helpful and appreciated.

    You are surprised by, and seem to agree with, an appeal to see continuity between covenants. But, does Calvinism and Arminianism both understand covenant theology the same as the Author of Hebrews and treat it consistently in its understanding?

    How would you categorize covenant theology? Do we see continuity between old and new covenant, in a serial manner, where one evolved into the other, or do we see continuity between covenants in a unified sense where God's eternal purpose is reflected in one covenant and then perfectly reflected in the other? If so, the source of what is being reflected hasn't changed. So how is our concept of election, redemption, whatever, consistent between the reflections?

    Clearly the Abrahamic covenant could not be set aside in Christ since it reflects God's eternal purpose, but the new covenant in Christ also reflects the same eternal purpose expressed in the Abrahamic covenant but more fully. How can there be differences between the Abrahamic covenant and the new covenant if Christ was part of the original covenant? Shouldn't we see what is being reflected, is one image in both?

    If there are no differences, why don't Arminians and Calvinists accept the Abrahamic covenant as the covenant which established the election in the first place, or debate whether this election was conditional or unconditional, since both are reflections of one covenant of Grace? If there are differences, we cannot say our theological framework deals with one covenant, one election, and one eternal purpose in both.

    The election of more than one bride implies more than one covenant is being established. This thinking reflects a serial treatment of God's eternal purpose rather than a single unified one. For example answer the question “Who is the husband and who is the bride in the NT?” Now read [Jeremiah 31:31-34] which was being quoted in [Hebrews 8:8], and ask the same questions. Are the answers different? Should they be?

    Consider this parable: If a Man chooses a bride to be his everlasting wife, and establishes a marriage covenant with her, but she is not faithful, so He sends her away to the wilderness until she returns to Him in faith, and He re-confirms his marriage – how many times did the Man elect his wife? Was His election, conditional or unconditional? How many covenants are there? Understanding the theology in Hebrews is related to understanding the parable above.

    If Calvinists and Arminians don't agree, that the Man has chosen the same bride, neither can they agree that one marriage covenant, one election and one atonement, has taken place. The Calvinist would say the Man elected Himself a bride, once, unconditionally. The Arminian would say He elected her more than once, conditionally. They cannot help but disagree. If both appreciate that the parable is true, both have a common framework for understanding the differences between their perspectives, and both are correct in a sense. The Biblical question to ask is “Who did Christ say was his bride [Matt 15:24] and does it match what is found in [Jeremiah 31:32]?”


  14. If you agree, that disagreements between Calvinists and Arminians stem from equally defective understandings of a common covenant theology, our awareness of our own reformation baggage in the discussion, allows us to continue drawing nearer to true Biblical meaning. Moreover, it also allows the Biblical writer to continue speaking his own theology faithfully. Isn't this, what is a Bible focused theology is about?

    What needs tinkering with, in our understanding of Depravity, Election, Atonement, Grace, and Perseverance, is a better understanding of the meaning of these words within the framework of one common covenant theology that is consistent with the first testament and includes the Biblical authors themselves. Our covenant theology is what needs more work.

    I accept your grace in peace in Christ, and offer you the same.


  15. Andrew,

    Thanks for your detailed response to this post. A few points in response…

    1. I'm a bit surprised by your appeal to seeing continuity between the covenants here. Both Calvinism and Arminianism are known as “covenant theologies.” Which means that they see one overarching “covenant of grace” which orders God's relationship with humanity. The covenant with Abraham is not set aside in Christ; rather, it is fulfilled. And the Gentiles are incorporated into the people of God such that God's chosen people now consist of a multi-ethnic Jew-plus-Gentile group. Both Arminius and Wesley saw continuity between the covenants. Before and after Christ, you get right with God the same way.

    It is important to note that in Covenant theology, the “Old Covenant” with Moses and the “Covenant of Works” with Adam are not the same thing. Covenant theologians see the Mosaic covenant as a temporary administration within the Covenant of Grace intended to mind the children for a while until the Spirit would come (cf. Gal 3 and 4).

    All that said, I have no problem with your pointing out continuity between the Old Testament people of God and the New Testament people of God. I think neither Calvin nor Arminius would have had a problem with it either.

    2. I think your claims that “both Calvinist doctrin and Arminian doctrine hold true looking at it as an Israelite” fails to understand both Calvinism and Arminianism. You articulate Calvinism as being committed to unconditional corporate election, and it may well be. But, more importantly, Calvinism is committed to unconditional election of individuals whereby God acts irresistibly on them to save them and preserve them unto the day of savlvation. In contrast, Arminians often see election in corporate categories but deny the individual aspect of it.

    No matter your perspective, Calvinists and Arminians remain in disagreement over the nature of election and the extent of the atonement. Of course, it would be anachronistic to say that the author of Hebrews was Arminian. However, Hebrews does provide strong exegetical support for the Arminian position. Arminians get their doctrines of conditional election, unlimited atonement, and conditional perseverance precisely from the book of Hebrews.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Grace and peace,


  16. You might be right, the author of Hebrews would not have been a Calvinist, but I doubt he would have been an Arminian either.

    The author of Hebrews was writing to the House of Israel far off, gentilized, and separate from the House of Judah by civil war and subsequent diaspora into Assyria. Hence, he was writing to an audience that was the natural heir of both Covenants according to Jer 31:31 and Heb 8:8. This author and his audience, did not distinguish between old and new covenants as we do, in anything other than degree of fulfilment, since the heirs of both covenants were one and the same. There was but one election. As Christian's we make trouble for ourselves by falsely concluding there were two.

    As Christians we do not see ourselves as heirs to the promises of the first covenant, though we do see ourselves as heirs to the new covenant. We struggle to explain theologically what it means to be elect under one covenant but not the other. Because we distinguish between covenants, we also distinguish between elections. Both Calvinists and Arminians view election as pertaining to the new covenant only, therefore the scope of atonement ignores the original election. But this is not the view of the author of Hebrews or his audience.

    Just as there is one atoning sacrifice in Christ, there must also be only one election in him. There are not two sets of covenant promises, two sets of obligations towards God, but one set fulfilled and unfilled. There are not two marriages but one. Is it a reasonable conclusion, that there is only one covenant, one marriage between God and his elect, given the apparent distinction made in Jeremiah 31:31?

    To the Israelites to whom Hebrews was written, yes it is reasonable. God makes plain, his desire to end the first 'marriage' with his elect in Hosea 1:9 where he casts off the House of Israel and the House of Judah. However, he also promises in Hosea 2:23 to reconcile Israel to himself (re-marry his elect) all over again. This 'redemption' of the elect is repeated over and over again in the OT and shows that the new covenant election stems from the first (Eze 16:60, Isa 44:21-22, Zech 10:7, Mic 4:10, Joel 2:25-27, Amos 7:8,Amos 8:2 etc). This shows that the one election remains everlasting, as God said it would, although the 'marriage' or the covenant relationship would become 'better', fulfilled. The marriage would be with the same bride but perfected (in Christ).

    We see that atonement in the general sense, means creation being reconciled with creator. Atonement in a particular sense, is the bride being reconciled to the bride-groom as was promised in the OT. Christian's struggle to connect the scope of atonement to election where there appears to be two, but the author of Hebrews had no such struggle.

    This suggests whether Calvinist or Arminian, we are going to have to try looking Hebrews a different way, leaving our Christian baggage by the wayside. By putting ourselves in the shoes of the author of Hebrews, or his audience, we are going to have to see one covenant relationship with God, albeit one that is finally and completely fulfilled in Christ. Therefore we must acknowledge one election into this relationship by appreciating that the heirs of the promises of the first covenant were also the heirs of the promises of the second. God's promises in the first covenant were fulfilled in Christ and his required conditions (of honouring the covenant) were facilitated by Christ.


  17. So what? What difference does this make? If we view election as pertaining to a covenantial relationship with God and see ourselves as remnant Israelites, as the recipients of Hebrews would have, the perspectives of Calinism and Arminianism can be seen to be equally off the mark.

    If we as Christian's adopted the same view point the author or his Israelite audience had, that we were full heirs of one covenant that needed perfection, needed fulfilment, our theological differences break down. In the Calvinist sense, the election of the bride by the groom is unconditional and everlasting, unable to altered, lost or undone. Even after the groom presents his bride with a bill of divorce, when God rejects his elect, the groom remains faithful using the diaspora to restore His bride. The groom has not replaced his bride but perfected her. His election is everlasting and unconditional corporately.

    However, in the Arminian sense, this is not true at an individual level. Only the faithful remnant was saved, and through the faithful remnant God restored his election. The tame branches that continued to bear fruit were preserved. Both Calvinist doctrine and Arminian doctrine hold true looking at it as an Israelite, both break down otherwise.


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