For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6
I have to admit I gave serious thought to just skipping today’s three verses and moving on in Hebrews. Taken by themselves it would appear that the writer is telling us that we can lose our salvation and there is no way back. That is frightening. However, the rest of the New Testament contradicts the idea we can lose our salvation. Salvation is a gift of God and nothing we can do will change it. So, what is the writer telling us?
One thing about interpreting God’s Word is that is we keep it in context we can find the meaning. It helps us today that we have a multitude of commentaries and history to call upon. The context of today’s verses is the writer is taking to task Christians who have fallen back on their old Jewish customs and practices. They are moving backward rather than forward in their faith.
Next I turned to The Bible Knowledge Commentary edited by the late J. F. Walvoord, theologian and former president of Dallas Theological Seminary and one of my favorite authors, and the late Roy B. Zuck, senior professor emeritus of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. Here we learn that there are four ways to interpret these verses. First is that Christians can lose their salvation but this is rebutted in the rest of the New Testament. Especially in John where Jesus tells us that God has placed us in Jesus hand and no one not even God can remove us.
Next is that this is a warning for those who merely give lip service to the faith. But the writer of Hebrews calls these people who have been enlightened and have shared in the Holy Spirit. This indicated they were more than people hovering around the rim of faith but had accepted and understood. Then there is the view that these verses are speaking hypothetical about the possibility of one losing their salvation. Again, the writer is speaking to and about actual Christians and nowhere is there an indication he suddenly switched from actual Christians to hypothetical Christians.
We are left with the last interpretation that these are Christians who have moved away from the faith and now live a life of apostasy. They have been saved and still are saved but they are no longer useful in the work of the church. Once they denounced Christ and moved back to their old religion they are in essence crucifying Jesus once again that is aligning with those who originally called for Jesus’ crucifixion. In doing so their heart had so hardened that there was no way they could ever be brought back into the Christian walk. The writer of Hebrews is warning these people that they are on a path from which they will not return. He wants them to return to the faith before it is too late.
This still goes on today. Someone gets seduced by the world and eventually renounces Christianity. Maybe one of our kids goes off to college unprepared for the confrontations with the philosophy professor they have in the intro course and in order to fit in or not be ridiculed leaves the church. Someone is hurt by another Christian and leaves. There are probable as many reason for leaving Christ as there are people who leave. But once that happens it is usually for good. Why is that?
I think pride comes into play. Once someone takes a stand it is hard to later admit they are wrong. This is especially true when we are young but the young do not have a monopoly on pride. Maybe if we kept the change to ourselves it would be easy to reverse but that rarely happens. Someone renounces Jesus and Christianity and they want to world to know. They eagerly want to convince everyone else how right they are and how wrongheaded everyone else is. The heart hardens and the dye is caste. They no longer work for God nor do they keep their promises to Him. God however will keep His promise to those who renounce Him.
Have a blessed day,