“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy spirit, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” – Heb 6:4-6
There has been a debate between two camps which has existed now for many decades. The issue of whether or not a born again believer can lose salvation. The verses listed above have been at the heart of this debate which appear to confirm one can indeed fall from grace, and become spiritually darkened. Many teach that the language of verses 4 & 5 clearly describes those who have experience the saving grace of God, and denotes a complete disowning of Christ, a deliberate and decisive abandonment of the Christian faith. They argue the people described here are not backsliders but apostates. That they have not merely fallen into sin but have denounced Christ altogether.
The Greek word parapíptō in verse 6 for “fall away” means to fall aside or away, err, or stray. Used only in Heb_6:6, denoting a falling away, an abandonment. Some have suggested that this word and its noun paráptōma (a lapse, error, wrongdoing) indicate errors of weakness, faults or accidents and do not represent deliberate, blameworthy or willful sin, contending that this would be expressed by parabaínō, to willfully transgress. The word is speaking of those who deviate from the right path, turn aside, and wander, however, the text is also clear, “to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame,” would have to be understood as an impossibility. In other words, they cannot go back and re-repent, and be re-born again.
The idea of losing one’s salvation and then being re-born again is just not supported by Scripture. We do have examples in Scripture of what can happen if a believer strays into sin and continues in it. In the church of Corinth a man had his father’s wife, and the Corinthians had a casual attitude about sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5:1). Paul scolded the Corinthians and instructed them to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). Paul informed Timothy he had “delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). To deliver an offender to Satan refers to excommunication, which was remedial as well as punitive. In both cases above we see two desired results, in the Corinthian offenders case, death to secure his soul for the day of the Lord was prescribed. In Hymenaeus and Alexander’s case, it was to learn not to blaspheme. John speaks of a sin which does not lead to death and a sin which leads to death (1 John 5:16). The sin unto death means a case of transgression, particularly of grievous backsliding from the life and power of godliness, which God determines to punish with temporal death, while at the same time he extends mercy to the penitent soul.
The chastisement in these verses pivot on extreme efforts by Paul to correct, secure, and restore, erring brethren. If the loss of Salvation was even remotely possible, the cases above would have never occurred.
THE PERIL OF NOT PROGRESSING
To understand any text one must turn to the surrounding context for a fuller meaning. What is in view in the context of Hebrews 6 is Spiritual Immaturity and the lack of progressing beyond the foundational principles of the spiritual life. The Hebrew writer reprimands these believers in Hebrews 5:12-14 for their slothful attitude towards the Word of God. They were still stuck on the first principles of the oracles of God and have come to need milk and not solid food. They were still babes in Christ and should have been mature at this point in their walk with God. Continuing Christian immaturity is dangerous leaving the believer annulled to the discernment of good and evil. Unskilled in the Word of God as well leaves them susceptible to false teachings, sin, and they run the risk of going astray.
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection (maturity), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, or resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” Heb. 6:1
Foundational principles are not to be laid again but built upon. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). All six of these foundational principles fall within the provision of the Cross of Christ. This is why the Hebrew writer said in 6:6 the renewal of repentance is impossible. That foundation has been laid, it is the lost who are called to repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, not the saved. Maturity is the building process upon the foundation of Christ’s finished work at Calvary. A distinction is made between the requirements of the lost and the saved as regards restoring ones relationship with God. For the lost, repentance of sin and faith towards the finished work of Christ is the Biblical requirement while the believer who has erred in sin or gone astray need not repent, but confess unto God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:8-9.
This is why this writer believes that the loss of salvation is not in view here in Hebrews 6:4-6. Believers cannot go back, only forward! On the straight and narrow road there is no room to turn around, no re-repentance. Confession is the only requisite to restore a right relationship with God. Once repentance from dead works is made and faith towards Christ is consummated the believer enters the blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20). “Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin” Heb 18:28. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of ALL sin, past, present, and future. The apostle Paul wrote: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you ALL trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Col. 2:13,14). How many of our sins were nailed to the cross with the Lord Jesus? The answer is all!
To clarify what I have just said in the paragraphs above let’s look at an example in Scripture, the prodigal son. If your familiar with the parable the one son took his inheritance and left his Father, wasted his possessions, lived a lascivious lifestyle, only to end up feeding swine (Luke 15:11-16). Finding himself in poverty (to the point of death vs. 17), he came to himself and returned to his Father willing only to be received as a servant rather than a son. When his Father met him, instead of repenting, he confessed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son” vs. 20. The Fathers response was full of compassion, he fell on his sons neck and kissed him, threw a party, put his best robe on him, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The prodigal was a son when he left and was still a son when he returned. Humility and the confession of his sin restored him to his rightful place in his Father’s house.
Let’s pause here for a moment; the fallacy of once saved, then lost and re-born again lay in an improper understanding of what salvation is. This camp is very accusatory of men and women who believe in “once salved, always saved,” i.e. eternal security, most likely a result of their own insecurity. One such accusation is that many in the eternal security camp will make the statement, “they were never saved to begin with,” which the “you can lose your salvation” camp” says is unbiblical. Let me demonstrate that it is:
“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” – 2 Peter 2:18-22
Notice the distinction between “those that were clean escaped” and “those who live in error.” Those who have escaped are allured through the lust of the flesh but not overcome. It is “them who live in error who is doing the enticement, who are overcome and brought into bondage. They have a form of godliness, escaping the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior but are still unregenerated, they posses knowledge but have not the faith unto salvation. The key here is found in verse 22, “the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” The word “washed” means to “cleanse garments exclusively.” Just as Jesus told the Pharisee’s they were “like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Outwardly they appear righteous to men, but inside they are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23:27). Lastly, the dog and the sow did by nature what dogs and sows do. They never became a new creation in Christ, so, they were never saved to begin with.
THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION
“But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minster. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” Heb. 6:9-11
Faith looks to the one who promises while hope looks to the things promised. Faith and hope are what marks maturity exemplified in the believers work and labor of love shown towards God’s name, demonstrated to fellow believers. Mature Christians carry the burden of the weaker, setting the example for them to follow. The Hebrew writer was encouraging these “babes in Christ” to move beyond infancy and imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Over and over we are told in Scripture to bear one another’s burdens, to esteem others higher than ourselves and when we see an earring or straying believer we are to restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, by doing so we fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:1-2). God has given us each other to accompany us in salvation and in our spiritual development.
THE IMMUTIBILITY OF GOD
“For when God made [His] promise to Abraham, He swore by Himself, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, Saying, Blessing I certainly will bless you and multiplying I will multiply you. [Gen. 22:16, 17.] And so it was that he [Abraham], having waited long and endured patiently, realized and obtained [in the birth of Isaac as a pledge of what was to come] what God had promised him. Men indeed swear by a greater [than themselves], and with them in all disputes the oath taken for confirmation is final [ending strife]. Accordingly God also, in His desire to show more convincingly and beyond doubt to those who were to inherit the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose and plan, intervened (mediated) with an oath. This was so that, by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God ever to prove false or deceive us, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before [us]. [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it–a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil, [Lev. 16:2.] Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek.” Heb. 6:13-20 AMP.
Confirmed it by an oath: The meaning here is, “that he interposed an oath” between himself and us by way of a confirmation or pledge. All the hope one has of heaven is in the fact that God is immutable. His unchangeable purpose, to call Jews and Gentiles to salvation by Jesus Christ; to justify every penitent by faith; to accept faith in Christ for justification in place of personal righteousness; and finally to bring every persevering believer, whether Jew or Gentile, to eternal glory encompasses His oath. His immutability provides our consolation and security in Christ as the anchor of our soul. Salvation rest in His promise and ability to keep that which we have committed to him, our lives, our souls, our future. The two immutable things are by His word of promise, and by His oath, neither of which can ever be broken. The confirmation of His oath is our guarantee so God’s unchanging nature is the believers consolation and encouragement. Our hope is secure in Christ. An anchor is only as secure as that to which it is fastened to, in this case it is fastened to the immutability of God’s own oath. God has in fact pledged Himself as the surety of our Salvation since He could swear by no greater than Himself. “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” Rom 11:29.
If any passage of Scripture defends the eternal security of the believer, this passage does. Both the promise and the oath of God are a firm ground for the assurance of salvation. The immutability of God is the object of our hope and a preservative in our salvation. An act of sin does not cost you your salvation, however, we must, out of love on one hand and godly fear on the other, seek to live a life that is pleasing to Him. If one continues in a course of known sin, assurance of one’s salvation may be lost, fellowship with the Father may be severed, and they run the risk of premature temporal death, but the soul is still saved.
Now that the context has been examined, it becomes clear the passage is dealing with the maturity of the believer as they move beyond the foundational principles of God’s Word to a deeper relationship with Him. Everything in Hebrews 6 points the believe forward, they cannot go back and re-repent and hence, be re-born again as they are secure in the promises of God in Jesus Christ. The New Covenant is an everlasting covenant, one which God alone keeps. We, as a result of so great a salvation, work as a result of salvation to please him and do His Will. For erring brethren to go astray, God has placed a punitive system into His Word for believers to follow in the hopes of restoring them. If they refuse and continue, God intervenes delivering such to Satan to complete His chastening purposes. In some occasions, as is clear by Scripture, temporal death is the end result. Others learn from it and by confession of their sin, the Lord is faith and just to forgive and cleanse them, restoring them to their rightful place His Kingdom.