Hebrews 6:4-6

“For those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the sweetness of the heavenly gift, and who have received the Holy Spirit, and have experienced the wholesome nourishment of the Word of God, and felt the spiritual energy of the age to come - and after all this, to fall away from the faith, it is impossible to bring them again to repentance, since they continue to crucify the Son of God anew, mocking His death and exposing Him to public contempt.”
    (paraphrased)

The Christian world is sharply divided concerning this passage. While some view it as proof Believers can fall from grace, others feel it describes those who are not truly saved. But this in-depth portrait of Christianity leaves no doubt the writer intends to warn his readers of the possibility of discarding their faith in Christ. These clear identification marks are never used of sinners or nominal Christians, for they have nothing to “fall away” from. The five-fold description of “those who fall away” shows they were indeed Christians at one time. It would be pointless to warn someone about this who has never been converted. It is inconceivable the writer would so strongly caution them if apostasy was not possible. The context demands this interpretation, for the specific purpose of the epistle is to warn Believers against returning to their former lifestyles.

The writer has already warned them against “departing (aphistemi) from the living God” (3:12). Aphistemi means to revolt, leave, withdraw, and abandon. If the danger of denouncing Christ was not real and eminent, the writer could have toned down his pleas for perseverance. But this terrible warning cannot be minimized by filtering it through a doctrinal bias.

Many who ignore the clear warning in this passage cling to a false doctrine known as “Eternal Security.” The misinformed hold that once a person is saved, they can never be lost. Such assumptions have eternal consequences. No Christian ever “loses their salvation,” as one might lose their car keys. We must not emphasize the power of God to keep us by deemphasizing man’s free will to consistently choose to serve Him. Jesus teaches one must deliberately pick up his cross daily and follow Him (Lk. 9:23). Key words in God’s redemptive promises are “obey, yield and continue”. Salvation does not diminish one’s power of choice. Apostates deliberately choose to reject Christ. A Believer is saved voluntarily and remains in that position voluntarily. Those deceived by the “once-saved, always saved” myth should reflect carefully on the following verses:

<>Ezekiel 18:24-27: The righteous man can turn away from his righteousness.
<>Jeremiah 15:6-7: The Lord destroys those who forsake Him. (Jer. 23:39)
<>Numbers 15:30-31: Defiant sinners, blasphemers, those who despises His words and break His commandments will be cut off.
<>I Chronicles 28:9:  God will cast off forever those who forsake Him.  (II Chron. 15:2)
<>Isaiah 1:28: Those who forsake the Lord will be consumed. (Isa. 65:11-12)
<>Luke 10:20:  Only Believers have their names written in heaven. (Rev. 21:27)
<>Revelation 3:5: God can remove names from the book of life.
<>Exodus 32:32-33:  Moses feared God would blot his name from the book of life.
<>I Corinthians 10:12: Those who brag they are standing should take heed lest they fall.
<>II Timothy 4:10:  Demas forsook Paul, having loved the world.
<>Romans 2:7: Eternal life is attained only by patient continuance.
<>Romans 11:22:  We must continue in God’s goodness or be cut off.
<>II Peter 3:17: Saints can be led away by the errors of the wicked and fall from their own steadfastness.

Eternal Security advocates falsely assume if a Christian backslides or falls away they were never really born again. It is flippantly judgmental and presumptuous to say apostates were never saved to begin with. Hell has many former Believers who have faithfully served the Lord for decades and then defiantly turned their backs on Him. This terrible scenario is becoming more prevalent as the end times approach (II Tim .4:3). Satan is busy today deceiving even the most mature Believers (Mk. 13:22). Paul assures us no external force can remove a person from Christ, but he assumes all Believers want to be kept from sin (Rom. 8:38-39). Jesus affirms no one can snatch a Believer out of His hands, but nowhere indicates one cannot willfully reject Him (Jn. 10:28-30).

It is the responsibility of each saint to persevere. We must continue in the faith, grounded and settled and not be moved away from the Gospel (Col. 1:22-23). In the parable of the seed and soil, Jesus said those with shallow roots will wither away (Mk. 4:5-6). Some opt to reject Jesus after having known the way of righteousness and the holy commandment delivered unto them (II Pet. 2:20-21). Paul warns of those who have “cast off their faith” and “turned aside after Satan” (I Tim. 5:12-15). The writer of Hebrews echoes the thoughts of Jesus: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed (Jn. 8:31). Because God’s Word is immutable, our security in Christ rests on the solidarity of God’s promises. But how each person chooses to act on His promises determines their personal and eternal destiny.

v. 4
In Hebrews we are told of four impossible things. It is not possible for apostates to be saved, for God to lie, for animal blood to remove sin, or to please God without faith (6:4, 18; 10:4; 11:6). In this passage, everything pivots on the word “impossible” (adunaton). In every place adunaton is used in this epistle, it refers to something that positively cannot be done. The term does not refer to spiritual lethargy or backsliding, but emphatically denies the possibility of salvation for apostates. If they reject God’s only plan of salvation, nothing can save them. Consider the following five facts:

1. They were once enlightened
“Once” (hapax) means “once and for all.” The same term is later used to declare “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (9:28). “Those who were enlightened” is common terminology regarding those who are truly converted, having turned from darkness to light (Eph. 1:18 & I Pet. 2:9). Jesus proclaimed Himself to be “the Light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). The concept of falling having been “once enlightened” is synonymous with “sinning willfully after one has “knowledge of the truth” (10:26). A one-time commitment to Jesus is insufficient. Repeating the sinner’s prayer is not enough: we must live the confession of faith each day of our lives. One must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God; however that person must remain true to Jesus until death. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Mt. 10:22).

2. They had tasted of the heavenly gift
The metaphorical use of the word “taste” (geuomai) does not mean to just sample something, but to fully experience it by ingestion. The writer earlier stated Jesus “tasted” (geuomai) death for every man (2:9). Tasting is a method used to comprehend the nature or quality of something. Although this “heavenly gift” is not specified, Jesus spoke of Himself as “the gift of God” (Jn. 4:10). Paul states that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). However, “the heavenly gift” may refer to the plan of salvation, redemption, the Holy Spirit, or any number of gifts originating from heaven.   

3. They were partakers of the Holy Spirit
Partnering with the Spirit of God is terminology that can only describe Christians. The New Testament record is clear: the Holy Spirit never fills sinners. He convicts, saves, and sanctifies. To be “sealed by the Spirit” does not mean one cannot later willingly reject Him (Eph. 1:13). What the writer warns of is the fatal, unpardonable sin Jesus mentioned, for to reject Him is to blaspheme the Spirit of God (Mt. 12:32). God will always forgive the repentant, but an apostate has no further desire to obey the Holy Spirit. An apostate actually actually despises Him (Heb. 10:29).

v. 5
4. They tasted the good Word of God
This metaphor indicates those who partake of God’s Word have accepted it as the foundation of all truth. “How sweet are Your words to my taste!” cried the Psalmist (Ps. 119:103). The apostle John “ate” the Word of God (Rev. 10:10). Jeremiah wrote he had consumed the words of God (15:16). David instructs us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Peter uses this term when reminding us we “have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious” (I Pet. 2:3). Having experienced the benefits of the Gospel, we must allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).

5. They tasted the powers of the world to come
First-century Hebrews divided time into two ages: the present and the future. The old covenant dispensation anticipated the future kingdom promised to God’s children, but their present era ushered in the glorious messianic era (Isa. 11:1-10)  The original recipients of the epistle to the Hebrews were among the first to enjoy the power of the Holy Spirit in the new dispensation.

v. 6
The writer speaks of “they who fall away” in the third person, while his readers are usually addressed in the first or second person. “They” refers to any and all persons who commit apostasy. “Fall away” (parapipto) means to deviate, swerve, turn aside, and totally abandon God’s salvation. It is the same term Paul uses when referring to those who have fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). The “falling away” in II Thessalonians 2:3 is apostasia. It means rebellion against God, a premeditated return to sin and abandonment of one’s faith in Christ. Those who renounce Him are beyond hope of redemption. “If” is not a word the writer would have used the word if Believers could not become apostates (Matt. 7:21-23). “To renew them again to repentance” supposes they had previously repented. However, apostates will not seek forgiveness of sins. The absolute impossibility of restoration proves they refers to former Believers. When one has wholeheartedly experienced redemption, to later renounce Christ imposes an irreversible sentence of damnation.

To the religious leaders, Jesus was an imposter and deserved all the horrors heaped upon Him. Apostates agree with those who crucified Him and now see Jesus guilty as charged and deserving of crucifixion. Though Calvary was the world’s most horrific crime, to reject Him is a worse atrocity. Metaphorically, apostates spit in Christ’s face and slap Him (Mt. 26:67). They stand with Judas who betrayed Him (27:3-4). They are as guilty as the soldiers who beat Him and the chief priests who taunted Him to come down from His cross (vv. 29-31, 42). They join with the Pharisees who claim Jesus was a deceiver (v. 63). They would nail God’s Son to the cross again, thereby proclaiming Jesus’ death has no vicarious merit. Because there is no greater dishonor possible, an apostate can never be restored to the Kingdom of God.

“Putting Him to an open shame” means to expose the Son of God to public humiliation, disgrace, and contempt. Having openly renounced the only means of salvation, they now mock the Redeemer by their apostate lifestyle. Such persons cannot simultaneously love, serve and honor Jesus Christ.

The writer shows that rejecting Christ is possible, but fatal. If the faith of his readers continues to weaken, hardening of their hearts will ultimately result in unwillingness to repent. He is determined to stress the vital importance of staying true to Jesus Christ.


QUESTIONS: THIRD WARNING: DON’T DENOUNCE (Part 3) - UNPARDONABLE SIN

Hebrews 6:4-6

1. One can lose their salvation as easily as they lose their sunglasses. True or False?

2. To realize the danger of apostasy is to doubt God’s keeping power. True or False?

3. In what must Believers abide?  (John 15:4)

4. In what must we continue?    (John 15:9)

5. What must we keep in order to abide in Christ?  (John 15:10)

6. What caused Demas to forsake Paul?    (II Timothy 4:10)

7. According to Jesus, who is truly saved?  (Matthew 10:22)

8. According to I Timothy 5:15, who influences Believers to turn away from Christ?

9. List safeguards you are building into your life that will help you stay true to Christ.

10. What is your most powerful incentive to serve God?


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