Sometimes a post is made on Facebook that causes us to consider, “why do I believe the way I believe?”. This was the case this week for me and several others as we entered into a discussion regarding eternal salvation. In particular this passage in Hebrews appears to be a concern for those who believe you can lose your salvation once you have been adopted into the family of God. 4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is (G)impossible to renew them again to repentance, (H)since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
This has been a confusing passage for myself in the past as well as for many others that I know. This passage and a couple others in Scripture are odd passages when compared to the countless verses that make it clear that we are saved by grace and our walk with God is empowered through that same grace. It is the grace of God that saved us and the grace of God that keeps us and empower us to live godly lives. That is foundational truth of the gospel of Christ. Difficult passages such as this must not be singled out and doctrine built upon them. Unfortunately, many have done this. This watering down of the power and grace found in the blood of Jesus will not help anyone. We do not want to train people to obey God by manipulating Scripture to scare them either. There is no need for that as their is more power in the Truth than there is in any lie. We must stand on the Truth of the gospel if we are to see people truly set free to live in the power of Christ and when we run across Scriptures that appear to contradict the multitude of Scriptures, we must learn to interpret them in lieu of the whole counsel of God. It is clear that the way to God is through repentance of sin and accepting the gift of Christ. It is not through works. The same is true of our being kept for eternity. It is not by works but by the grace and power of God!!! Therefore, my understanding of this verse must be lacking if I see it as meaning anything different than that.
Our works are as filthy rags and unable to save us. They are no better after salvation than before. We are wholly kept by the grace of God sealed by the Holy Spirit as those who have been given a regenerative spirit. Once saved, we have a responsibility to live for Christ. God’s goal for us is that we become like Christ (Romans 8:29) and He has empowered us to do so. If we are truly saved, we care about the things of God. But we must remember that the organized church is full of goats as well as sheep. Do not be deceived.
I have come to the conclusion when read in context of the whole counsel of God, we cannot interpret those who “fall away” as true disciples who have had a genuine repentance experience. Instead, it is speaking of those who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit, convicted by Him; they have tasted of this free and awesome gift meaning God has clearly, in His goodness, revealed to these people His offer of salvation and they still choose to denounce it, refusing to accept Christ. God does this with every man as He gives everyone the opportunity to choose Him but many will not. They will fall away from this revelation experience. They see Him just as you and I do, but they never turn their hearts fully over to Him.
It helps to understand that there is a twofold falling away, one particular, and the other, general. When we sin as Christians we have fallen away from our state as a Christian, not in our Father-child relationship but we are acting like someone we are not. All sins have consequences and are so many fallings. But in Hebrews 6:4-6, the writer does not speak of sins such as theft, adultery, drunkenness. No, he is speaking of a defection, a falling away from the GOSPEL. This is not the Christian offending God with His sin but a person who is totally RENOUNCING His grace! This is the reprobate who was never saved to begin with and He, even though God has made known to Him His goodness and illuminated His Spirit to see, denounces Him, just as did the Pharisees in the day Christ stood right before them in person. Some of these may even have thought, ” okay, maybe I’ll try out this Christianity.” They played around with church but like the temporary faith Jesus teaches us about in Mark 4:17 where the seed (the Word) fell, started to take root but then the cares of the world uprooted it, they have turned away from God’s offer. These are they who have tasted of God’s goodness but they never turned their hearts over to Him. They never had a true salvation experience. My friends, rest assured that God is powerful enough to keep those whom His Son died for. He turns the hearts of kings as He turns the rivers. Jesus proclaimed that He would not lose any that the Father has given Him. He knew every single one He died for and He intends to keep them.
God offers His mercy to sinners but those who wholly fall away from His grace, are deprived of His Spirit and turned over to a reprobate mind. They will cease not to add sin upon sin as their hearts harden towards our God. The writer of Hebrews warns us that repentance is given by God to those who have not fallen away but instead have realized their need for a Savior and with a true repentant heart, accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. Those who have this regenerate spirit, will find themselves repenting time and time again throughout their life, but not afterwards for salvation but to be cleansed and returned to perfect fellowship with God.
The writer continues to explain that God will not pardon apostates as to do so would expose Christ to contempt. This is what is meant by “crucifying again”. This is not saying that they were saved and so to save them again would be crucifying Christ again. Absolutely not. I looked these verses up in Calvin’s Commentaries. He puts it like this, “The reason he (the writer of Hebrews) says that Christ would be cruicified again, is, because we (Christians) die with Christ for the purpose of living a new life; when therefore any return as it were unto death, they have need of another sacrifice, as we shall find in the tenth chapter of Hebrews. We as Christians, do not return again to death but we humble ourselves and repent according to 1 John 1:9. Then he speaks of Crucifying themselves meaning as far as in them lies. For this would be the case, and Christ would be slandered as it were triumphantly, were it allowed men to return to him after having fallen away and forsaken him.” When any one rises up again, after falling, we may conclude that he had not been guilty of defection, however grievous he may have sinned. Again, the writer is not suggesting this as a license to sin. Sin brings much harm to a Christian and sometimes the effects remain with us the rest of our lives. Sometimes God restores all and removes the effects of sin but we are not promised that. We are just promised that with true repentance, our fellowship in the household of God is restored.
Hebrews is not speaking of Christians who have simply fell into sin. Christians who fall into sin, have been given a way to return to Christ. Again, this is not saying they have a license to sin as those who proclaim you can lose your salvation try to claim we who believe in eternal security are promoting. Look, our relationship as His children is so important to God that He has made this way for us to be cleansed. The only work involved here is to repent of our sin and even a spirit of repentance is given to us by God. 1 John 1:9 says those who truly repent of sin, are cleansed by the eternal flow of Jesus’ blood which was given for them and they are returned to perfect fellowship with the Father. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews could be trying to explain why a true Christian cannot “fall away” and if we see our brother and sister in Christ falling into sin, we should lead them back to repentance as this is God’s desire. He welcomes them back joyfully! We need to keep one another accountable. But those spoken of in Hebrews 6:6, are not just sinning. They are like those who originally crucified Christ who denounced Him as Lord and Savior. God drew them, they said NO. They have fallen from the grace of God – this awesome gift He offers, they have denounced.
Well, it is late and I wanted to get this posted before retiring. I hope you will consider these things before accepting a doctrine “salvation kept by works”. My friends, it is all about God, none of us are good enough to save ourselves or keep ourselves. Only He can keep us. We need to humble ourselves before Him and His grace and His power to transform us and quit depending on our own good works to do so.
Your comments and a healthy discussion, even if you believe different than I do, is welcome. I realize that there are different beliefs within the various denominations of the church. Feel free to share why you believe the way you do but I do hope you will consider my words and the multitude of Scripture on this issue.
If you are interested in more regarding the issue of eternal security, I am posting chapter 3 of my soon to be released book, Experiencing Godliness God’s Way on Google Docs. This chapter is basically a commentary on Romans 4-8. A great way to get a preview of the book too. Hope you will check it out.