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The Hebrews Commentary Project

Contents:

Hebrews 6:4-8

  1. Maurice Bergeron
  2. Charlene McCaa
  3. Kevin Hartley
  4. Donald Blind
  5. Tim Clifton
  6. Mark McCulley
  7. Murray McLellan
  8. Michael Cruz
  9. Jim McClarty
  10. Freddy Butler

Hebrews 6:4-8

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:    8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

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1. Maurice Bergeron

Heb 6:4-8; Seed thought

When Christian folk read these verses they often neglect to consider that it was addressed to a specific group of people (a gathered people) rather than an individual, in much the same way the letters were written and distributed to the various churches in the Revelation. The writer speaks to them in a corporate sense. An example of this approach is found in Revelation 2:

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:1-7)

Similarities are found in these letters in the appeals and warnings made to the gathered church as a whole. Within almost every gathering of professors there are believers mixed with unbelievers. Unbelief is the natural by-product of false professors.  Add their unbelief to an assembly of careless and weak saints, and you have the formula for eventual disaster.  Though our Lord's appeal is to the gathered church as a whole in Rev. 2, the proper response (repentance) is contingent upon the living (indwelt) individuals among the gathered.

Is the Spirit of God, in Hebrews 6, questioning the salvation of some individuals, or is He concerned for the life of this assembly as a whole (which in turn is dependent upon those who are spiritual)? I am of the opinion that we need to give greater study to the Spirit's loving and caring attention to specific church assemblies found in the Word. It should be obvious our Lord highly values the walk and testimony of the local gathering of His people, and He does not tolerate sinful practices for very long, especially the loss of affection toward Himself. 

 

For [it is] impossible. (6:4)

Some Calvinists have a good deal of difficulty with these words. Why is that? Perhaps it is because they cannot fathom our God not being able to overcome anything and everything. The sad truth is there are some things that our God will not do. Consider it a special kindness that the Spirit would warn them at all of the impossibilities.

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:17)

 

And have tasted the good word of God. (6:5a)

What true Christian church hasn't tasted the good word of God? Consider the impact of His Word as it affected the life of the assembly. These people obviously could reflect upon better days when Christ was at the center of their gatherings and when he was very dear to them; but now this same God, in whom they once rejoiced as the God of their salvation, has found them sorely wanting.

 

The powers of the world to come. (6:5b)

The enjoyment of "the powers of the world to come" was the effect of Christ working among and through them. Obviously, there were perhaps some, a few even, who still longed for those times when their hearts were warmed by the things of Christ. Once they had enjoyed the power of God working among them (which in turn pointed to powers not yet fully realized), but now they are the possessors of nothing more than memories, fading memories.

 

If they shall fall away. (6:6a)

Note carefully the words "if" and "they." Paul wrote to the church at Galatia:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,   I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. (Gal. 4:19-20)

 

Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh. (6:6b)

Have they fallen so far there is no hope of returning to their former state? Had their joy turned to sorrow while they were unaware?  Here again, their difficulty in some ways reflects those of the church at Galatia. Paul wrote:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (Gal. 1:6,7)

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Gal. 5:7)

Think with me for a moment. Did these Hebrews who professed Christ weaken under the pressure of the society in which they lived?  Perhaps James, while he addressed visiting Paul in Jerusalem, has unknowingly provided us with a clue when he said, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:" (Acts 21:20b).

Were these Hebrew Christians in our letter any different from those James mentioned? They did believe upon Christ as the promised Savior, but perhaps at the very same time they did not fully understand the Old Covenant was soon to be nothing more than a memory. They observed the Christian practices but they still labored within religious Judaism. In effect, their continuance within the sacrificial system that was at the heart of their Jewish life, and their adherence to that life in a practical sense, essentially made null and void their growth and hope in Christ.

Let us be honest my brethren. Have you considered how negligent the church has been throughout the ages with these very same foundational teachings pertaining to the Covenant of Christ? She is lost in the shadows and types of her own making. Even among our own number we grope to understand the basics of what Christ has accomplished. Is it any wonder that Paul could weep as he did, day and night, day after day, for the souls entrusted into his care? Have you considered why Paul would weep for the churches if he knew the sovereignty of God better than you or I?  It was Paul who said, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed...."  The writer of this letter to these Hebrews had to have wept as he prayed over them. How could he do otherwise? I weep because of my own ignorance in these matters.

 

For the earth . . . receiveth blessing from God. (6:7,8)

The author of life sent his sunshine into their midst and they blocked it out through the use of shadows and types. What fruit can grow under those circumstances?

The life of your assembly begins or ends with you! Your assembly needs your faithfulness to Christ and together you must cleave to Him.

Maurice Bergeron
ic@mdc.net
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2. Charlene McCaa

Commentary:

The warning of this passage is to be not like Esau, who held the things of God lightly. That one sold his birthright as the first born son for temporal gain or satisfaction, then sought repentance with bitter tears, but to no avail. What was his, then given up, was lost forever. Some can taste and feel, see the light of God, and even sit in His presence; they may receive His blessings (partake of the Holy Ghost) and hear His word, and after all that, reject Him. They may for a time appear to be believers, but prove to be superficial.

If a regenerate person were to apostatize - fall away so as to lose his salvation - he cannot be restored. Christ died once for all for all His people - the perfect Lamb, the final sacrifice. He ended the sacrificial offerings in the temple. Now He is building the temple - we are the "lively stones." He has already housed the Holy Ghost in us. To reject His work is worse than to sell the birthright for a mess of pottage. To lose salvation is a sobering, horrifying thought. To be lost to begin with is bad enough, but to gain salvation, then lose it, or reject it, through careless flirtation with the enemy of our soul, is to be lost for eternity. To regain salvation lost, Christ would have to repeat the cost of that salvation: the shameful, painful public execution, and the separation from God. The last must have been the most painful for my Lord! This was the price of my salvation. Do I flirt with the perpetrator of that? God forbid. God has stated here in this epistle that salvation lost cannot be regained. That shame will not be required of Jesus a second time - nor allowed.

In vs. 7-8, we see the common grace shown to all mankind. The earth receives the blessings of the rain which falls on the just and the unjust alike. We all receive blessings from and benefits of the world which God created and placed us in. We are the soil (parable of the sower in Matt. 13:3ff), Jesus is the sower, and the seed is the gospel. While the seed of the gospel is scattered, the tares, the thorns, and briers are also sown by the enemy - and the fowls come to devour the seed. Some of each will grow, and grow to show which it is, and find its reward: blessing or destruction.

We are urged to make our calling and election sure. We must be sure that we are not superficial believers, that we are on the firm foundation - that Rock, Christ Jesus. We must be sure that we are good fruitful branches of that true vine (Jn. 15). May we all be found to be in Him and find comfort knowing that He will not suffer any of His to be lost. He is that Great and Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep of His pasture.

Charlene McCaa
cmccaa@juno.com
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3. Kevin Hartley

Commentary:

The 6th chapter of Hebrews reminds me of past tours I have taken of battlefields. One hears the stories of death and mayhem and is aghast to know that such horror occurred upon land where life once flourished. Hebrews six, for most of us, is such a place. It is a chapter of the Holy Word that has been the battleground of many through the ages. In Calvin’s commentary on the chapter you hear him recall the previous battle between the church and the Novatians and the effect it had upon the church. Countless battles of like manner have taken place upon this hallowed ground.

The beauty of Hebrews six has been lost in our efforts to defend the walls of our faithful city. What should be a glorious passage, teeming with life, has become nothing more than a shrine for old soldiers who once fought upon this field. Many come to visit, and to remember, but leave wondering who actually won the battle. It is time we put aside the salvos that fire at the doctrine of the saint’s perseverance and turn our attention to the true import of this passage. Forget your bunker mentality, for we have abundant evidence from the word of God in passages that address our prized doctrine that soundly silence all naysayers of the saint’s lasting salvation. So let us read and understand this passage in light of its designed intent.

 

And this we will do, if God permit, (6:3)

In verse 3 we have perhaps one of the most profound statements in defense of the doctrines of grace. Some wrongly attribute the demonstrative ‘this’ to refer to the author’s desire to go on with the teaching beyond the elementary doctrines of the faith. The design of the author is not that God would permit him to ‘go on teaching profound matters of faith.’ He cannot progress because his audience could not comprehend such things. His design is rather to declare the obvious; they will never move on unless God grants them such a privilege. He wants to go on with them to the heights of the glories of this the New Covenant, but as he looks upon them, he cannot fail to acknowledge the true facts. They shall never go on without the intervention of divine grace. No man can move one foot closer to Christ unless it is granted him from the Father above. No man can come without divine grant and summons. No one can understand and comprehend the profound mysteries of the kingdom of God without the efficacious work of grace. Grace, by faith, of the Holy Spirit applied, brings us to know Him. How clearer could it be? No one can move on without a grant of free grace from above. So our author says, ‘let us go on, and we shall, if God permits.’ Have our efforts at defending against assaults upon lasting faith resulted in our oversight of such a profoundly terse statement of sovereign grace?

 

Verses 4 - 6

The key to understanding this troublesome passage is the little words. The conjunction ‘for’ that opens the fourth verse indicates that the author is now giving an explanation for what he has just said, that ‘we shall go on if God permits.’ What does he mean that we must leave the elementary teachings of faith and go on to more elaborate doctrines, and what does he mean we may only do so if God permits? He begins by stating the dire consequences of those who fail to go on from the milk of faith alone. I do not doubt that in the mind of our author is the nation of Israel in the wilderness, when he speaks of those who have knowledge of redemption and the matters of faith. In the four clauses that describe ‘those who were once enlightened’ the text uses several similar and identical terms as found in the close of the fifth chapter. Basically the author is simply elaborating upon the state of his readers by listing what benefits they have known. The peril of their situation is the potential outcomes of this final plea; hearing they may be faithless and shun the glorious majesty of Christ for shadows and dead works, or they may hear and by faith believe and move on by grace to know Him.

Like Israel in the wilderness they have heard the outward and manifest signs of grace, but the question remains, has their hearing been mixed with faith? Apostasy is a heinous crime. Israel provoked the LORD God to vengeance with their rebellion in the wilderness. Their hearing was not mixed with faith. Like Moses was instructed to speak humbly to the rock, so was Israel expected to speak to the LORD with humility.  How is it then that both Israel and Moses would, in their complaints, strike the very rock of their salvation? Christ shall not be re-crucified by a faithless people. They who shun the sweet rest of Christ for the labors of Sinai shall perish in their sins. God will not have mercy upon them, neither will He grant unto them repentance. What makes their repentance impossible is that God will not make it possible. For the one who labors for righteousness other than that of Christ, labors in vain, and their every labor is as a rod striking the rock of living water.

 

Conclusion:

We have lost the awfulness of this passage. We have so labored to prove what it does not say that we have failed to hear what it does say. Apostasy is a horrid end to any man. It is an event that inspires awe in any observer. For any man to walk from Christ should grieve the soul and strike all with terror. But it is not as though we in Christ should tremble and become undone in light of such a text; the slothful, the indifferent, the turncoat, he should tremble, but the Christian should find this passage to be of great joy. For what God do we serve that is mindful of man, who would permit us in our wretched condition to go on and know a righteousness by faith alone? What God of the holiest would pull back the curtain and call by grace the leper, ‘come to me?’ Shall we not shudder as we enter in our filthy condition; will the walls of the temple cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" and shall we flee in fear? Never. For grace has found us. We have been permitted by grace to enter, to draw near, for righteousness has found us and we have known it at the cross of Christ.

We will not know the intended joy of our author if we seek to prove or disprove the doctrine of the saint’s perseverance in this text; it does teach it, and it is an undeniable doctrine. Let him who denies it contend with God. We will not know joy if from this passage we leave troubled and discontent. We will know joy if we know the source of our journey on: God and His grace. From this we know that it is all of Him, all glory is His, and to Him alone is our confidence placed. O give thanks unto the Lord of Lords that He has not only given His Son, but has also shown you Him, and made you like Him. Give thanks because you rest in Christ, and His singular crucifixion is necessary for your righteous stand. Give thanks that He struck His own Son that you might live. Give thanks to the Lord of your salvation today.

Kevin Hartley
kartleyk@erols.com
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4. Donald Blind

Commentary:

My bias is that this epistle is transitional. That is to witness to the Jews all over the Roman kingdom, including Israel of course, that The Messiah has come. There is no way to escape. Some totally reject their "King of the Jews." Peter told them at Pentecost:

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:29-36)

This is the main statement in the book of Acts, among many, that the Lord Jesus is the complete fulfillment of all the writings. The Lord Jesus set the basic teaching for our pericope when He taught in John fifteen that He was The True Vine. He was alluding to Psalm 80:

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. (Psalm 80:1-19

The Son of Man is a Messianic statement. The beginning of the creation of God, Christ Jesus (Col 1: 15, Rev 3:14) is the Son of Man, with power (Matthew 9:6). The entire Old Covenant was His shadow, Col 2:17, Heb 10:1,  and Eph 2:12: That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (Notice "without Christ, being....")

The Old Covenant people should have had a better idea who they were. They comprised the shadow of Christ, along with the symbols of priesthood, sacrifice, temple, prophet, and king. When Jesus spoke to the disciples in John fifteen, He brought in all of the Covenant People:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:1-6)

The parallel here is irrefutable. It must be seen in this light, or as some folks would have it, we could lose our salvation. The next segment will go to prove this.

Were they enlightened, had they tasted, did they partake? Without a doubt:

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. (Romans 2:17-20)

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1,2)

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:1-4)

Some were enlightened, did taste,. and partook. Hebrews chapter eleven proves that.

Donald E. Blind
dblind@erols.com
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5. Tim Clifton

Commentary on Hebrews 6: 4 - 8: True Apostasy

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, (6:4,5)

We will indeed go on unto perfection (v.1), but first the author will lay the scenario of one that 'goes back,' apparently leaving the foundations of repentance, faith,   resurrection, and judgment (6:1,2). It seems this section is a sober warning to the reader to examine himself to see if he truly is in the faith. What actually are the consequences of true apostasy? To the Hebrew reader, there were those voices calling the believer back to Sinai. To all believers, there is the call of the world, "go back, go back." Can we forsake our repentance from sin, our faith in Christ and His shed blood, and our belief in eternal consequences to knowingly, deliberately, and willingly go back to the things of this world from which we were brought out by the foundations of Christianity? And more so, can we go back, saying to ourselves that we might return to Christ at a more convenient time, when the pleasures of sin are less a draw to our souls?

Mark God's Words here you that say you believe. "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" Luke 9:62.   So the warning, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12), and this scenario is nothing new. Even though you 'feel' you have been a Christian, if you want to go back from the very foundations of Christ Himself, to return possibly at a more convenient season, don't kid yourself. It is impossible.

 

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (6:6)

True apostasy does not speak of salvation to begin with. You can taste, but not swallow. You can be in and among the miracles of God's Spirit without having true saving faith. You can truly assent to the realities of heaven and hell without enduring to the end. You can be totally convinced by all the trappings of the faith that you are in, but still hear, "...I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt 7:23).

It is the "if" again that separates the genuine from the spurious. "If" they shall fall away, here in verse 6 tells of a heart that does not truly love God. This is not our sins that we must daily confess. It is more a final repulsion and even open hatred for Christ and His cross. Those are the foundations that led us here. Even if you are totally convinced by everything in verse 5 that you are 'in Christ', you never were, 'if' you fall away from repentance and faith in the shed blood of the New Covenant and our Lord Jesus Christ. These foundations most assuredly accompany the salvation that is from above, as they are gifts of grace (see verse 9).

Jesus spoke of this scenario when He said, "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" Luke 8:13. We will hear of such people. They will look good, very good, but they won't last. Paul, (whom I believe is our author in Hebrews as well) spoke of this scenario in Rom. 11:22, "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." If thou continue..., that conditional "if" pricks us to examine ourselves to   know, at all costs, we are not part of the scenario of Hebrews 6:5 & 6.

 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, andbringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (6:7,8)

The end of the "apples of God's eye" is not cursing. Jesus said,

And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 6:39)  

Both true and spurious faith can be warned by this passage in Hebrews, and it could be said of both, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1Cor. 10:12).

The difference is that the elect of God will endure. The fruits of true apostasy is hell!

In Christ by the Grace of God,

Tim Clifton
tclifton@hotmail.com
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1. Mark McCulley

impossible to restore again
those who have once
been enlightened
experienced the heavenly gift
shared in the Holy Spirit
experienced the goodness of the word of God
and the powers of the (soon?) coming age

so is this talking about what the puritans called "temporary believers," who were not really believers but who were in the covenant and then broke it?  John Owen suggests that "better things belong to salvation" (6:9) than the things on this list. A temporary covenantkeeper can understand the gospel without believing it and without ever having her sins forgiven. So those in the covenant should be threatened.

I have to agree that Hebrews 6 is a threat and that the salvation discussed in Hebrews is not simply present but a future reality. Even if it is a future to be soon realized by Jewish Christians in the AD 70 passing away of the Mosaic law and cult, surely we can make applications to ourselves and to our situation, even if we are not Jews tempted to go back into Judaism as a balance and addition to the cross. Can’t we? Can’t we apply this threat to ourselves? I think we can.

A parallel in Paul is Colossians 1:22-23: "to present you holy and blameless irreproachable before him, provided that you (the "if" should NOT be translated "when" no matter how much I might want to do that!) continue steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel..." Though we may assume that all the elect will persevere, this does not mean we should presume we are the elect. So how can we know we will not be "temporary believers" and covenantbreakers?

A parallel to Hebrews 6 is Hebrews 10:29--"profaned the blood of Christ by which they were sanctified". Can even the reprobate be temporarily sanctified and in the covenant? If so,what does it do for our ideas about a regenerated visible church?

Uh. I had made a vow to stop with so many questions! The parallel that works for me best is Romans 6 (but then I think everything through the lens of Romans 6!) Those who answer "OK, let’s sin so that grace may abound" have heard and understood something of the gospel, certainly a lot more than those who think they are saved by works or by keeping covenant! But to respond to free grace with an "OK, let’s sin," shows that we are not yet regenerate: we have not yet experienced what grace is! There are those who hear simply "free from all law."  This is something different from grace. Grace teaches us what sin (and law) is, and to hate sin. So I think it is possible to experience the greatness of the kingdom without ever knowing the grace of God. God uses threats as a means to demand our trust in the cross and not in ourselves. And make no mistake: God does demand that all trust in the cross. This includes us who profess to be Christians!

Of course our ability to respond affirmatively to threats like Hebrews 6 is given us by the good power of God (I Peter 1:5).  Judas was created to be reprobate; he was foreordained to be a temporary believer. We who respond with trust in the cross (and don’t go back to something else plus the cross) have been elected to salvation from death. We hang on because God our Father will not let us go! I do think one can be a Christian and be anxious and unsure about the Father letting go. But the NT call us to faith, and faith means assurance, not suspicion of ourselves or of others. Because our faith should not be in ourselves or in others in the first place!

Romans 4:19 "Abraham did not weaken in faith...." His faith was not a one time thing, nor is the faith given to us by our Father.  Faith involves lifelong patience and trust in the cross (and not the Mosaic law system) as the fulfillment of ALL of God’s promises. Thus I pray: do not let me outlive my faith in the cross. I would rather die than live without this faith. This faith did not come from me; it does not come from me. It is a precious gift which will be tested but not despised or minimized. I need the encouragement and nurture of others with faith in the cross. I need to encourage and nurture others with my faith. Some days some of us have more faith than others!

ground that produces thorns and thistles is to be burned over. (6:8)

Though this does not say burned without end, it does say that the ground is to be burned. Not only the thorns and the thistles produced by "temporary believers,"  but the people themselves! Thus this is a real threat not to be relegated only to unbelievers or to professors; we believers also hear the threat and our positive response to it is not only guaranteed but NECESSARY. Just like when we got saved in the first place! Yes, we were predestined to believe. But also, it was necessary that we confess with our mouths and bow our knees!

We must then repent and believe and work. And yet repenting and believing and working are very dangerous things for us to do. Because it is very tempting for us to put our faith in our faith, in our repentance, and in our works. For example, with our works, we think: "at least they won’t hurt me and maybe they will help a little." Wrong! Works done to "help a little" will hurt us because they put our trust in our works instead of 100% in the cross. Thus we must continually repent of our repentance and not put our faith in our faith.

Put it another way: our faith does not serve God but is self-serving. We need to trust God. God doesn’t need us to trust Him. There’s nothing wrong with this self-serving faith IF we are not depending on this faith. Our dependence is on God who serves us by saving us. God does all the saving. Our faith does none of the saving. Our self-serving does none of the saving. Our covenantkeeping does none of the saving. It’s not enough to "not keep the old covenant." We do not keep the new covenant. Jesus kept it! Jesus sat down.

So Hebrews 6 does not say: live your life so that you may look back and see that you were not a temporary believer. The threat is more direct. If you are a temporary believer, you will be burned.. If you are a temporary believer, you are sinning against Jesus by sacrificing Jesus for the sake of this other thing that you are trusting in. You will be "crucifying again the son of God." Do not say to yourself: "I could never do that." Do not say to yourself: "the elect can never do that."   Say to yourself: "don’t do that!" Say to yourself: "if you do that, you are lost and headed toward death."

The gospel does not tell us: just as you are is OK. The gospel tells us: "trust in the cross-- if you do not trust in Jesus and the cross,you will die." The gospel we preach to ourselves after we have become Christians says the same thing. Though we may not be Jews tempted to go back to the Mosaic system, we are tempted to add on something else to the gospel; To show that we are serious; To prove that our church is more righteous than other churches, etc. But the threat is the same threat: there is still no other way to be saved but in the blood of Jesus over there,outside of us, given at the cross. We Christians have not graduated to some other (additional) way of being saved now.

God has given us the threat of Hebrews 6 as a means by which we flee once again to the cross and to no other place. The fact that the elect of God do this very thing does not mean that the threat is unnecessary anymore than prayer is "useless if God has already decided." God has already decided that we Christians will not be temporary believers and that we will NOT say: "OK, let’s sin then."

But neither does God want us to say to ourselves: "my performance today is a retrospective test to see if I am good enough to stay in the covenant." We are not good enough. Not even now! The call is still for faith in the cross. Though this faith is a gift of God, the psychology of how we experience faith is not automatic or inevitable. So we should not be suspicious of fellow Christians when they do not have today the same measure of assurance that we have today. The test of faith is not how great the faith is, nor even our full understanding and interpretation of the cross in which we put our faith: the test is simply that we do continue to put our faith in the cross when we are threatened with the consequences of not doing so!

Mark McCulley
mcculley@redrose.net
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7. Murray McLellan

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (6:4-6)

After exhorting those readers, who were stuck in the pictures and shadows of the Old Covenant, to move on to maturity (the reality in Christ), the writer lays out a serious warning.

Clearly the pronouns "those" and "they" identify those who fall away as unbelievers. The writer is confident concerning true believers. Those who have true salvation will endure to the end (see v. 9). It is unbelievers (regardless of how they view themselves or how they are viewed by others) who are in danger of losing salvation. For these particular listeners have the opportunity presented and the knowledge of Christ before them. If they forsake Him, there is no other Savior.

If one is presented with the truth about sin and salvation and exposed to the glories of Christ and consciously decides to continue in rejection of Him, how does he anticipate making himself repent later? If one's heart is hardened now to walk away from and look away from the fountain of living waters to self-hewn cisterns that are broken and can hold no water, why would he return later when his heart is even more calloused? The act of rejecting such an altogether lovely High Priest will most certainly harden one's heart even further. Christ will not be any more lovely and glorious in five years than He is now. If one's heart and conscience is seared and scarred over even more, there will never be repentance.

Many have told me, after hearing much teaching and the gospel of Christ, that maybe they'll later decide to repent, but for now they want to pursue the things in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. However, there is a problem in their thinking. They feel it is up to them to decide for Christ. They believe that it is simply a matter of "accepting" Him. Unfortunately for them, the issue is that they are not acceptable to Him. Only a miraculous work of God could ever make it possible for God to accept them! What they fail to grasp is that salvation is of God, and repentance is impossible for them, as it is with every sinner, unless God, in sovereign grace, grants repentance. They fail to recognize the impossibility of any act of righteousness (such as repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ) on our part.

Jesus told His disciples, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  Who then can be saved? "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (See Matt. 19:24-26)

The Jews that the writer is particularly addressing in this context had obviously heard the apostles preach. They had seen them perform signs and wonders and various miracles (see Heb. 2:4). They were enlightened in the sense of Matthew 4:16, "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." They had tasted but not eaten; they had partaken of the things the Holy Spirit was doing. Perhaps some had even received physical healing or had benefitted in many other ways, being associated with the apostles and the true saints of God.

Also, these people had the advantage of being raised under the Old Covenant which continually gave them sights and sound, smells, words, and experiences pointing to the New Covenant reality in Jesus Christ. If they think so little of Christ, they are like their brethren who crucified Him. They are casting in their lot with them and "for themselves" (i.e. as far as they are concerned) they are crucifying Him again. They are proclaiming, "Away with such a One. We will not have this Man reign over us!" They are taking their stand with the crucifiers. They have seen and heard the evidence in the unjust trial of their mind. After hearing and seeing and tasting, they, in hatred of the light, fall away into the darkness, lest their evil be exposed.

 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (6:7,8)

Here we have an illustration of soils (compare Matt. 13:3-23). The gospel message falls like rain. Those whom God has determined to bless, grow and bear fruit for His glory. Some growth, however, is unproductive and becomes thorny and worthless - good only for burning.

For those of us who can grasp the seriousness of sin and Christ, does this not warn us about playing around in the sewers of sin. What are we doing? Jesus is the fountain of living water. He satisfies, remember? Fight against the unbelief with which the world, the devil, and this present world system seek to invade our hearts and minds. The truth is, our sinless Savior is all together lovely. He does all things well. If we listen carefully to Him and eat what is good, will not our soul delight itself in abundance? (Isa. 55:2) If we have tasted with "made-alive" tastebuds, we'll open for more. "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." (Ps. 81:10)

Murray McLellan
m.mclellan@sk.sympatico.ca
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8. Michael Cruz

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (6:4-6

These verses present a problem for the Calvinist who proclaims the doctrine of the believers' perseverance in Christ because they seem to imply a saint can fall away from grace at some point after having believed. We could argue that the description of "once enlightened" does not refer to a genuine believer but is in fact referring to a false believer as in John 8:31. But this presents another problem, for if one starts with a false profession, when the inevitable falling away comes, that one has no hope of being a true believer. This would of course be a microcosm of the Arminian’s problem: If perseverance is a matter of the will, then he is doomed after having willed himself out of a relationship with God. I found rest in the doctrines of grace because they answered many of the questions the typical modified Arminian (1 point Calvinist) position could not answer.

All true believers should share at least this one trait: They should be willing to throw themselves on the mercy of a sovereign God whom they do not totally understand. I believe this verse is meant to slay the natural man who searches for security in his works.

This relates to the type of believers in John 8:31 who had a faith that did not hold to the teachings of Christ nor welcome persecution, and Christ was not deceived by their profession. I do not like the obvious answer that it is impossible for these people to be restored but if my position is correct on who these verses refer to then my problem is with God.

There are many passages with which we can take comfort that we are secure in Christ, but lest we become complacent we have these verses to humble that pride. We should continually cultivate a need for God’s grace and mercy in our lives so that we are forever reminded how unworthy we are of this blessing of God’s favor. All of us are hell deserving and have no right even to expect redemption. But we can take comfort in the fact that God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise.

 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:    But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (6:7,8)

Continuing the thought from the last three verses, it is important for us to test our faith. We should take every opportunity to make sure we are sincere in our belief and to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Verses seven and eight are intended to contrast the nature of saving faith with that of deceiving faith. The person with genuine faith is one who drinks in the knowledge and words God offers and they are a joy for him and those to whom he ministers. Just as a flower breaths in CO2, and feeds us with its oxygen output, so should the believer take what God gives him and use it to the nourishment of others.

The contrast of the fruitful ground is made with that of the unproductive land in verse eight. A neglected spiritual life is barren and lifeless with nothing of use produced in that life. One's daily interaction with God never permeates the soul, producing fruit for the benefit of others. There is but a barren and lifeless existence that begets barbs and thorns and that will one day be thrown into the flames of hell with all of the wicked acts of it (Rev 20:15).

There are many passages from which we can take comfort that we are secure in Christ, but lest we become complacent we have these verses to humble that pride. We should continually cultivate a need for God’s grace and mercy in our lives so we are forever reminded how unworthy we are of this blessing of God’s favor. All of us are hell deserving and have no right even to expect redemption. But we can take comfort in the fact that God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise."All the father has given to me shall come unto me and he that comes to me I shall in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). I think it is the natural tendency of a humble believer to be sensitive to failure and to put himself in the category of this verse or even of the infamous blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of which our own Lord speaks. But if we look at the lives of those in scripture who have failed (Peter, Thomas, David, et al), we can see it is true for both believer and unbeliever that, "he who comes to me I will in no wise cast out." This section reminds me of something I heard concerning Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s view of Matthew 5:29-30. Evidently it was quite common in his day for preachers to comment on this section by saying, "Now this does not mean that we are take this literally, but it means…." C.H.’s supposed response to this line of thinking was to say, don’t be so sure! For it is imminently clear throughout scripture that we are to hate sin. These verses are only speaking of the degree with which we should hate sin. I do not think we can hate it enough. I don’t know if that story is true or not, but the wisdom of it is great. Going back to the verses at hand, I do not intend to use any of this analysis to heap coals of fire onto the heads of others or myself. If I am wrong on this issue then I ask humbly that God would guide me in all wisdom and honesty. But there is one sure bit of advice I would give to believer and unbeliever alike: throw yourselves upon the mercy of God today! It will not return void

Michael Cruz
a_la_cruz@technologist.com
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9. James McClarty

INTRODUCTION:

Not laying again the foundations, the author embarks immediately on the first lesson of Advanced Christianity 102, and he meets the question of "eternal security" head-on. There is widespread confusion and a variety of misinterpretations concerning these verses. For instance, there are theologies today which teach that we can be saved by the sacrifice of Christ, but we can later lose that salvation through ignorance, sin, or willful neglect. Then, if we get our act together and "decide" to repent, we may regain the state of being "saved." Consequently, in one lifetime we may pass through several periods of being "saved" and "unsaved." If we happen to die during a "saved" period, we're Heaven-bound, but if we die during one of our "unsaved" periods we are destined to Hell.

Usually this teaching insists the way to guarantee we will continue in the "saved" condition is to perform "acts of faith."  This activity of keeping our faith "active" guarantees we will remain in a "saved" state. Of course, that is simply "faith in faith." In other words, this theology does not rely on the finished work of Christ for salvation, but it rests on an individual's ability to keep himself in a "saved" condition through acts of the will. It's a form of what Paul called "will worship"(Col.2:23).   To make the water even muddier, some preachers use this passage as a proof text to argue that once a man has fallen away, it is impossible for him to recover. Thus, they use these verses to scare people into better performance, to guarantee they remain in that "saved" condition rather than fall away and get "blotted out" once and for all.

Fortunately, that's not even close to what the author is intending. He will argue that it is impossible for a saved man to fall at all. He will say that Christ has determined the salvation of some people and it is impossible to lose those people. True Christianity is an "ever forward" proposition. It doesn't look back, move back, or go back. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke9:62).  That's why the author said that we should move toward perfection, or completion, not constantly going back to lay again the foundations of the faith. If it were possible to lose our salvation, we would have to return to those basics again and again in order to be regenerated again and again. But, as we'll see, there is no such possibility.

Let's dig in...

COMMENTARY:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; (6:4-6a)

The author has stated an impossibility. There is something here which is utterly not possible. What is that thing? That's the crux of this whole argument. He begins by describing a certain type of people who have the following distinguishing characteristics:

a) They are "once enlightened." That's the Greek term "photisthentas." It is better translated "having been enlightened." It a participle in the passive voice. In other words, they were the passive recipients of this enlightenment. Their eyes are opened, their ears begin to hear, but their new understanding is a gift from God.

b) They have "tasted of the heavenly gift." Or better yet, "having tasted...." It's the Greek "geusamenous." There's a jump here to the middle voice. That indicates their response to being enlightened. They have begun pursuing heavenly things. They have experienced the joy and comfort of Christ. They have pursued the path which leads to eternal life. Notice, however, that what they've bitten into is a gift, not something they earned, figured out, or obligated God to give them. And, it's not a gift which was begun or secured by earthly means, it is a "heavenly gift."

c) They "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost." Here again, the phrase "were made," or better still, "having been made" is in the passive voice. It's the Greek word "genethentas," the participle form of "ginomai," which most frequently speaks of something made from nothing. When the apostle John wrote of the creation of the universe, he used this same term - "All things were made (ginomai) by him; and    without him was not anything made that was made" (John1:3).  God in Christ created all things from nothing by the authority of His spoken word. Likewise, in this Hebrews verse, these people were passive recipients of the Spirit of God indwelling them. Through no effort or value within themselves, they were "made," created anew from nothing, to be the tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. As well, the aorist tense of "genethentas" refers to a past action, most likely indicating God's divine initiative in graciously sending His Spirit to them.

d) They "have tasted the good word of God." Again we bounce back to the middle voice. The Greek participle "geusamenous," "having tasted," implies their response in reading and understanding God's word, taking it to heart, and being transformed by it. They value it and see it as good in and of itself. This is the outgrowth of the Spirit's activity within them.

e) They have experienced "the powers of the world to come."  Their thoughts go far beyond this mortal existence and their day-to-day survival. These people look forward to, and have "tasted," the power - "dunameis" - of the eternal age to come. They are looking forward to their celestial home. That Greek term "dunameis," from which we get the word "dynamite," is most often a reference to miraculous power. And it is indeed a miracle when men look beyond the limits of their flesh to seek the kingdom of God in all its glory and eternal majesty.

So we have a vivid description of someone who has been the recipient of God's gracious enlightenment, ingested the heavenly gift, was filled with the Holy Spirit, is committed to the word of God, and looks ever forward to God's exercise of dominion and power on behalf of the believers. Sounds kinda' like a Christian, doesn't it?

So what can we say about such an individual? If - and that's a big "if" - that person were to fall away from the faith, it would be impossible to take him back to square one - repentance - and renew him all over again. Now, pay attention. There's a very big Greek term at work here. It is the infinitive term "anakainizo" - to renew. It means "new, but qualitatively different".

You see, if Christ died intending to save these people, gifting them with enlightenment and the Holy Spirit, but any of them are able to fall, then that means of salvation didn't work. There would have to be a brand new form, or kind, of salvation to resave this person, because the original attempt had failed.

Think through this with me. Those who preach that a person could be truly, in fact, saved and later fall away have admitted Christ's inability to accomplish true salvation through His crucifixion and resurrection. It didn't work! He failed! And to gain such a person back, knowing that the first attempt was a failure, would require another, qualitatively different, system of salvation. The first cross was futile. There would have to be yet another cross, yet another sacrifice, yet another shedding of blood, yet another resurrection and yet another salvation.

So now, why it is impossible for such a person to be restored? Because it is impossible to put Christ back up on the tree. He did it once and He intends that one sacrifice to be eternally effective. So, if - and, again that's a big "if" - such a person could walk away from Christ and be damned - the cross of Christ was of no effect at all.

 

{it is impossible...}"if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open  shame." (6:6)

How horrible! The preachers who preach anything other than eternal security are putting Christ to an open, public shame. They don't realize that when they attach the name of Jesus to the idea of "falling away," they are announcing to the world that Jesus is weak and incapable. They shame Him. And when they preach that an apostate person may regain His "saved" standing with God, they crucify our Lord over and again. They take these people back to the foundations, back to scratch, back to the cross, demanding a new crucifixion on behalf of those who claim to have believed and left and believed again. They put the Lamb of God to an open shame. What dreadful words. Words which precede judgment.

 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (6:7,8)

This is an allegory, an analogy by which we can learn a lesson. God sends the rain to the earth, and He is faithful to send it repeatedly. That causes food to grow to feed the ones who tend to the garden. That bounty is a blessing from God. Still, among the good plants, weeds spring up. They are part of the curse on the earth which was declared back in Eden. The good gardener knows to pull them up and burn them.

Likewise, God sends His Spirit into the earth. As a result, some people grow. And they are "meet" or acceptable to the one who planted them. Christ is the vinedresser who teaches and guides us, tending to His garden. Consequently, our growth, our protection from the choking weeds, and our being found good by the vinedresser, are all gifts from God. But, Christ will also uproot the thorns, planted by Satan, and send them to their fiery judgment.

It's all up to God. He blesses us with His Spirit; He causes us to grow; He sent the faithful vinedresser; He protects us from the thorns and briars; He will find us to be good fruit, acceptable in His sight; and He will burn the enemies which would have stunted our growth or choked us to death.

 

CONCLUSION:

This is a fairly easy conclusion. It is impossible to fall away from the true faith of Christ. It was purchased for us with an eternal price and it satisfied an eternal debt. The blood was of infinite value, and we are the passive recipients of an infinite gift. It is impossible for the true believer to fall away because Christ will not be laid to an open shame, giving opportunity for the evil denizens of Hell and earth to laugh Him to scorn because His plan was a failure.

God will not, I say most assuredly, have His Son subject to failure, embarrassment, or public humiliation. To the definitive contrary, He is the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm18:2) He is the surety of our redemption. (Heb.7:22) We are secure in His hands, and He is securely in the Father's hands. (John10:28-29) He is Almighty and will not stand before His Father with one sheep missing. (John6:39)

That's the will of the Father, and it is the crowing success of the Son.

Be happy and rejoice!

Jim McClarty
McClartyfam@juno.com
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10. Freddy Butler

I have been eagerly anticipating the discussion of this particular passage. I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts. I am not sure of my comments. They may be a tad vague, but I hope I am at least going in the right direction.

For the freewiller, this is a fulcrum passage proving the lose of a believer's salvation. The serious bible student knows better. The thrust of biblical salvation is the wonderful truth that men are saved eternally with never a chance of being cast away. There are just too many passages teaching eternal security: John 10:28-29, 17:24; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 1:6; I Peter 1:4-5, to name a few. Besides, if this passage in Hebrews teaches the losing of one's salvation, it makes it clear that the Christian has one shot at being saved; once he has fallen away, he can never get it back (Heb 6:6). To do so would be a sin against the Lord. But, to say the passage does not teach the losing of salvation, however, does not negate the difficulty of interpretation.

The common view for those holding to eternal security is to see an audience of individuals who have an intellectual understanding of the gospel, but they have not exercised believing faith. Verse 4 contains three key words or phrases:

With all that in mind, there is no reason to read into the passage the idea of a person who is on the verge of making a commitment to Christ, yet is still hesitant to take that step of faith. A genuine believer is in view here. So, how do we deal with the apostasy spoken of in our passage? I think it is an illustration of a hypothetical situation to demonstrate the foolishness of those who would desire to be Christians, yet who want to still cling to their Judaism. These people need to move unto perfection (maturity [Heb. 6:1]) and leave the old covenant ways. The illustration is expanded to include the oft used parable of a farmer receiving thorns and briers on a piece of bad ground (Isa. 5, Matt. 7:17-19, 13:3-23,Luke 13:6-9, John 15:2-16, etc.). The point is that these folks need to essentially get out of the temple. The writer expresses his hope of their salvation and wants to encourage them to move on in Christ.

Freddy Butler
butler@gty.org
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