Last week we finished our study of the Book of Jude. We ended as we began talking about the subject of eternal security. Last week in the chat room Robert said, "Eternal security is what puts the good in the good news." Amen! The Gospel wouldn't be good news if we had to keep ourselves saved. Well ever time you talk about eternal security some asks, "But what about Hebrews? Doesn't it teach that you can lose your salvation?" No, it does not!
The primary rule of hermeneutics is called the "Analogy of Faith." The Analogy of Faith is the rule that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. This means that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. So the verses we looked at last week can't be in conflict with what the writer of Hebrews teaches. But I admit when you read Hebrews chapter 6 and 10 it sounds like he is warning of the loss of salvation. But we know this can't be, so let's look at Hebrews chapter 6 and 10 and see if we can reconcile it with the Doctrine of Eternal security.
Commentators agree that the issue in Hebrews is apostasy, but they don't agree on what apostasy is. There are three main views on apostasy.
The theme of the Book of Hebrews is a call to hold fast to their confession of hope and not to apostatize, don't turn away from Yahweh. These warning passages in Hebrews, there are five of them, have invoked a number of unusual interpretations. Some have unduly exaggerated these verses, and some have unduly minimized them. There were some in the early church who concluded that Hebrews chapter 6 and 10 were referring to the fact that once an individual had come to faith in Christ and had been baptized there was no longer any forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. I believe they missed the meaning of this text, but they must be given credit for treating sin in believers as a very serious matter.
Let's begin at the end of chapter 5:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 NASB
The writer tells us here that the Hebrew believers had become dull of hearing. He calls them "infants," which is the Greek word nepios. Nepios means: "not speaking or one unable to speak" figuratively, it means: "simple minded or stupid." Nepios implies stupidity, a moron in the spiritual realm. The writer is warning his readers about the dangers of infancy. Babies can't make right choices, they don't know the difference between good and evil. He is afraid that in their immature state they may turn from the Christian faith, they may apostatize.
This is why Jude exhorted his readers to build themselves up on the most holy faith while praying in the Holy Spirit so they would keep themselves in the love of God and not apostatize.
The language of 5:11-14 plainly intimates that they have gone backward. They have "become" dull of hearing, and they need to be taught the ABC's of Christianity all over again. The cause of this retrogression is made known in the tenth chapter, part of which takes us back to a point in time prior to what is recorded in chapter 5:
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, Hebrews 10:32 NASB
The experiences referred to were probably soon after their conversion. This "great conflict of suffering" they had taken joyfully:
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Hebrews 10:34 NASB
They endured the suffering "knowing" they had a better possession. But this spiritual state which characterized these Hebrew believers in the beginning days had not been maintained. Their faith was wavering, they became impatient of waiting for an unseen and future reward. It was for this reason that the writer says to them:
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NASB
They were becoming impatient, the pressures and trials were getting to them, which accounts for the state in which we find them in at the end of chapter 5.
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11 NASB
They were going backward spiritually, they had "become dull of hearing." The word "dull" is nothros, which comes from two Greek words; one meaning: "no," and the other meaning: "to push", hence its meaning is: "no push" thus to be slow or sluggish. Here it has the idea of mental laziness.
The words "you have become" are from the Greek ginomai, which is present tense and speaks of a process completed in past time having present results. The implication of "you have become" is that this was not the case with them originally. They "have become" lazy mentally. They were not always so. There was a time when these Hebrews had listened to the Word with eagerness and had made diligent application to it, but now they were going backward spiritually.
Then, in 6:1-3 they are given the solution to the problem:
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3 NASB
The opening words of this section are surprising. Our author has just told his readers that they are not really able to assimilate the solid food which he would like to give them—the teaching of Christ's Melchizedecian priesthood—because they are immature. But he decided to pull them forward as rapidly as he could. This was the solution to their problem. If they progressed properly, they would avoid the dangers of immaturity.
Over and over the writer warns his readers to hold fast their Christian commitment. And it is precisely because he is afraid that some of his readers may waver that in Hebrews 6:4-6 he penned words that must certainly go down as among the most solemn words in the Word of God:
For 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, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB
These verses show us the alternative to progress. M.R. DeHaan wrote, "This is admittedly one of the most difficult and controversial passages in the entire Bible and has been the battleground of many a fierce conflict among theologians and Bible students." It sure has, but keep the Analogy of Faith in mind.
Now, the question we all ask here is whether the person who falls away like this was ever truly "saved" or "justified" or "called" or "born again." Can you taste and be a partaker of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and the powers of the age to come and not be justified? In other words, is this text teaching that you can lose your standing as a truly saved person and be lost? Or is it teaching that you can have these experiences in verses 4 and 5 and never have been saved? Both teachings are shocking and sobering. Which is true? Neither!
Those who believe that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation and be lost eternally, have confidently appealed to these verses for proof of their theory. But we know that Scripture teaches most emphatically and unequivocally the Divine perseverance of the saints. And the Word of God does not and cannot contradict itself.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28 NASB
If our Lord Yeshua asserted that His sheep should never perish, then certainly Hebrews 6 will not teach that some of them do.
It may not always be easy to discover the perfect consistency of one Scripture with another, but we must hold fast to the unerring harmony and integrity of God's truth. We must hold on to the hermeneutic principle of the "Analogy of faith."
Many who hold to the Doctrine of Eternal Security tell us that what is in view here is false professors. The view of this school of interpretation is concisely stated in the notes of this passage in the Scofield Bible which states:
"Hebrews 6: 4-8 presents the case of Jewish professed believers who halt short of faith in Christ after advancing to the very threshold of salvation, even going along with the Holy Spirit in His work of enlightenment and conviction. It is not said that they had faith."
Do dead men advance to the threshold of salvation? Is our author writing to false professors? Hebrews is written to a group of suffering, persecuted Jewish believers, who, because of persecution, are tempted to forsake the Christian faith and turn back to Judaism. The theme verse of Hebrews is:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; Hebrews 10:23 NASB
Who is being admonished to hold on to their profession? Is it false believers? No! Why would true believers be admonished to hold on to their profession if they couldn't cast it away? The writer of Hebrews is addressing believers whose loss of confidence and whose flagging will to persevere in the Christian race point alarmingly to the possibility of their dropping out of the race altogether.
The writer says that these people were "once enlightened." The Greek word used here is photizo, it means: "to enlighten, illuminate, to give light, to make see." The writer's other use of this verb in 10:32 seems clearly to point to the early days of their conversion experience:
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, Hebrews 10:32 NASB
In Hebrews 6:4 the word "once" is the Greek word hapax, which means: "once for all." They had been "enlightened once for all." It is extremely questionable whether an unsaved man could be said to be "enlightened." There is certainly nothing to suggest that here, except bad theology.
They are also said to have "tasted the heavenly gift"—this is most naturally a reference to the gift of eternal life. My favorite Lordship writer says this, "This great gift, however, was not received. It was not feasted on, but only tasted, sampled. It was not accepted or lived, only examined." This stands in contrast with the meaning of the word "tasted." The Greek word used here for "tasted" is geuomai, it means: "to experience something to the fullest." This same word is used in:
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Yeshua, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NASB
Yeshua experienced physical and spiritual death on the cross. The word "geuomai" is common throughout Greek as a metaphor for experiencing. Yeshua fully experienced death, and the Hebrews fully experienced the heavenly gift. In no sense does Hebrews 2:9 imply anything less than a full and deep experience of death. Should the same word mean less in Hebrews 6? To what extremes will men go to defend their theories?
They also "have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit." The word "partakers" is the Greek word metochos, which means: "partner or companions." They had become companions of the Holy Spirit. That the writer had in mind a definite, known reception of the Spirit is shown by the use of the aorist participle ginomai ; they became partners at a distinct point. Nicole admits, "This expression, perhaps even more than the other, appears to lend support to the view that true Christians are described here."
These Hebrews had also, "tasted the good word of God." This is the same word, "geuomai" and refers to the believer's experience of appropriating God's Word. What emerges from the list is a series which traces Christian experience up to a certain point; the illumination which results in salvation, which makes possible partnership with the Holy Spirit, under whom they fed on God's Word and taste God's power.
They had also tasted, "the powers of the age to come", the word "powers" is the Greek word dunamis. This is the New Testament word for "miracles" and is an apparent allusion back to the experience mentioned in 2:4.
Notice that he says, "the age to come"; the author uses the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to," and "be on the point of." (see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon. The "age to come" is speaking of the consummation of the New Covenant that happened at the return of Christ in A.D. 70. The writer is telling them that it was "about to come." It was near in time; soon to arrive.
The coming of Christ and the end of the age are connected in Scripture. And these Hebrew Christians had tasted, experienced fully, the power of the New Covenant age:
and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:6 NASB
As most expositors agree, the idea refers to apostasy. The total context of the Epistle supports this, with repeated exhortations to hold the confession and hope firmly.
A literal rendering of this verse would be, "For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who....and have fallen away." The word "impossible" is from the Greek word adunatos, which means: "could not do, impossible, impotent, not possible, weak." The verb is active and not passive so we cannot render it, "It is impossible for them to be renewed." It is improbable that the writer would say that God cannot renew them to repentance. Yahweh can do whatever He wishes. The context would suggest either, "it is impossible for us to, or it is impossible for anyone to." The statement may not be absolute in regard to future repentance.
The reason for the impossibility is given at the end of verse 6: "...since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame"—those who renounce their Christian faith are, with respect to their own conduct and attitude taking a step that amounts to a fresh public rejection of Christ. By renouncing Christ, they reaffirmed the view of Yeshua's enemies that He deserved to die on the cross. In this sense, they were crucifying the Son of God all over again. This is a serious step and not to be thought of as easily reversible.
If you want to find someone harder to deal with than an unsaved person, talk to an apostate. Some people will have a hard time believing that a Christian could abandon his faith. But the view that a Christian cannot apostatize is an arbitrary theological conviction, and since it is not supported in the Bible, it ought to be given up.
They've renounced their faith, what happens to them? He may have lost his faith in Christ, but Christ has not lost him:
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 NASB
The apostate is safe from the eternal judgment of God, but they're not safe from the fire of God's chastisement and discipline, and they live in the shadow of disaster:
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. Hebrews 6:7-8 NASB
When we become believers, we are like a plot of ground that belongs to Yahweh. He has poured out upon us the blessings of His grace like rain from heaven and has a right to expect that our lives will be fruitful, productive, and useful to men. And when they are, He blesses that life; but if after the rain has fallen upon our life, if after we have received the blessings of His matchless grace, we produce briars and thorns, then Yahweh rejects that kind of life, it falls under his temporal curse and its destiny is to suffer the fire of discipline and chastisement.
The word "worthless" in verse 8 is the Greek word adokimos, it means: "disapproved." This same word is translated "disqualified" in 1 Corinthians 9:27 .
I think the reason it's impossible for us to talk an apostate Christian back to his former convictions is because God reserves that person for the fire, and if recovery in this life is ever to happen, it will only happen after the individual has passed through the searing reality of God's righteous retribution.
Now let's move to Hebrews 10. Verses 19-25 of Hebrews 10 could be called The Divine Antidote to Apostasy:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 NASB
These verses are a Divine prescription for spiritual victory. They sound just like what we saw in Jude 20-21.
But suppose someone does not hold fast the confession of their hope. Suppose they don't draw near to God. Suppose they do forsake the assembling with other Christians. What happens then? Verses 26-31 answer that question. They receive temporal judgment:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Hebrews 10:26-27 NASB
Kenneth Wuest says this about this passage, "This sin could only be committed in the first century while the Temple was still standing and only by an unsaved Jew or proselyte to Judaism. In this case there can be no secondary application to present day circumstances or individuals." So, in his view, this passage means nothing to us.
To whom has he written this warning ? We must start by understanding who he's writing to. Dismissing Wuest's exaggerated view, we really have only two choices: he is either writing to believers or unbelievers. Would you agree? The easiest way to get rid of the unpleasant message is to apply it to unbelievers. The most common, popular and almost universally accepted view is that it refers to unbelievers, make-believers. This interpretation is in direct violation to the plain intention of this chapter. Notice the context of this chapter beginning with:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-20 NASB
Every Bible student agrees that these words are addressed to and refer to believers.
Notice carefully what 10:26 says, "For if WE go on sinning willfully…" Who is the "we"? It is referring to the writer and his readers who are believers. By what rule of interpretation, reason, or logic can we make this refer to unsaved people? How can we say verses 19-25 applies to believers, and then suddenly at verse 26 say these are make-believers?
So who is this warning to? Notice in verse 26 that they "have received the knowledge of the truth." The word "knowledge" is from the Greek word epignosis, which means: "a personal, full knowledge." There is nothing in the New Testament usage of epignosis to encourage the idea that it can mean mere information about the truth. It's usual connotation is a genuine and personal knowledge:
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29 NASB
Notice that it says, "He was sanctified." This sanctification is obviously the sanctification of:
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua the Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10 NASB
For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 NASB
The word "sanctified" is from the Greek word hagiazo, which means: "to make holy." It is used of positional holiness in Hebrews, which means they had eternal life.
One honest Lordship writer says this, "This is the most difficult phrase in the passage. It seems to indicate that he is here talking about a believer. This is a very problematic phrase. When you look in Hebrews, you discover that the verb "sanctify" always refers to Christians and always entails the idea of a full and completer salvation":
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10:26 NASB
The "if" here is a third class condition meaning: "maybe yes, maybe no." The word "willfully" is from the Greek word hekousios, it means: "voluntary, of one's own accord." It is opposed to sins committed inconsiderately and from ignorance or weakness. It's a plotted and planned sin, committed with full intention.
For the deliberate, planned sin there is no more sacrifice, only judgment (verse 27). In the background here is the Old Covenant situation in which no sacrifice was provided for "presumptuous" sins:
'Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. 'The priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 'You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 'But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 'Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.'" Numbers 15:27-31 NASB
The Hebrew word for "unintentionally" is shagag. It means: "to stray, a mistake." The priestly sacrificial system was only for those who sinned in ignorance. The word "defiantly" in verse 30 is from the Hebrew word rum, which means: "defiant or deliberate." There was no sacrifice for those who deliberately sinned. Notice verse 31, "He has despised the word of the LORD" and "his guilt shall be upon him." His guilt cannot be removed through a sacrifice, he must pay for it.
Verses 32-36 illustrate what verse 30 states:
Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Numbers 15:32-36 NASB
Gathering wood falls under the heading of work and is thus forbidden on the Sabbath. The man knew this and therefore did not sin out of ignorance. What he did was willful, and there was no sacrifice for that. This is what the author of Hebrews says:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10:26 NASB
Those who sin willfully can only look for punishment:
but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Hebrews 10:27 NASB
The word "will" is from the Greek word mello, which means: "about to." This fiery judgment was "about to" devour the adversaries. I think that this is a clear reference to the A.D. 70 judgment of God on Jerusalem. The Christians who turned away from Christianity and went back to Judaism were in fact turning from God and would experience severe judgment when Jerusalem fell.
He is not referring to the case of a believer being "overtaken in any trespass" (Galatians 6:1), or a yielding to fear or the flesh in a moment of weakness, like Peter. The writer of Hebrews is speaking of a deliberate, willful, presumptuous sin.
Believers, we are saved by grace, our sin debt is paid in full, and we can never lose our salvation. We are eternally secure. But if we turn from God in defiant, intentional sin, we will be judged by God temporally. Sin is very destructive, and we will reap what we sow:
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:28-29 NASB
The simple thought of these verses is that a quick, sure death attended severe infraction of the Old Covenant. An even worse punishment awaits one who violates the New.
The apostate has flagrantly cast aside every gracious witness and ministry of the Spirit of God. He is trampling under foot the Son of God... this is willful, premeditated sin, and there remains no more sacrifice; judgment will come.
Believers, I hope you see from this passage how seriously God takes sin. Sin is very destructive to a believer in this life. We don't have to fall into His hands of judgment, we can fall at His feet in worship if we follow the three exhortations of verse 19-25 : "draw near, hold fast, consider one another."