Explore the aspects of grace and human response: a) between God and humans in Hebrews and b) between patrons and clients in the ancient world (Sect. 4.1, 4.2 and Scholar’s Corner box: Hebrews, Apostasy and No Return?).
Hebrews, Apostasy, and No Return? It would be inappropriate to derive from these texts a “doctrine of the impossibility of a return for the apostate” for a number of reasons. The most important of these is the fact that Greco-Roman texts about patronage and reciprocity bear witness to a kind of “double standard” in patron-client relations. On the one hand, recipients of gifts were to keep in mind certain “facts,” including the necessity of returning a favor and the exclusion from favor of those who showed themselves ungrateful, while givers were to keep in mind other “facts,” like the importance of giving with no thought of a return and the nobility of extending favor even to those who have proven themselves ungrateful. If human patrons could extend grace to the ungrateful, how much more does this remain a possibility for God? Nevertheless, such thoughts ought never to enter our minds as a prelude to presuming upon God’s favor. As “clients” ourselves, we are to keep in mind the first set of facts, and let them guide us, along with the first recipients of Hebrews, always to choose the course of action that shows respect, loyalty, and gratitude toward God and Jesus.