Reading Scripture in a way that follows the writer's progression of thought has helped me make better sense of passages that once seemed problematic. In my Quiet Time yesterday, I encountered one such passage, which I had often used to support the idea that, if I sinned badly enough, I could actually lose (our forfeit) my salvation.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ~~Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV)If this passage were self-contained, I indeed would have been correct in believing that my sinful works possessed an ability to sever me from the grace of God. And that idea appealed to my pride by permitting me to take credit for maintaining my salvation. I kept myself in His grace through my obedience, thank you very much! Oddly, I convinced myself that realizing the fragility of my salvation demonstrated my humble attitude.
The letter to the Hebrews, however, makes quite an opposite statement when read in its entirety with an understanding of its historical background. Its writer had noticed that a number of Jewish converts continued to offer blood sacrifices to atone for their sin, completely missing the message of the Gospel (that Jesus made a once-for-all atonement for sin by shedding His blood on the cross). These professing "believers" knew this great truth, but continued to sin by trusting in the rituals of Mosaic Law.
By continuing to rely on animal sacrifices, these Jews who claimed to be Christians treated the precious blood of Christ with a contempt that absolutely infuriated the Holy Spirit. Their stubborn dependence on their own efforts to please God mocked Christ's work on the cross, ensuring their damnation. No animal sacrifice could save them.
Similarly, my attitudes of self-righteousness could have made a mockery of Christ's shed blood. Thankfully, the Lord has brought me to repentance by showing me that I must depend exclusively on what He did for me on Calvary...not on anything I suppose I do in "obedience" to Him. The context of the letter to the Hebrews lets me rest securely as I trust Jesus for my salvation.