Hebrews 6:1-8 – 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. 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. 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.
This is one of the most challenging passages in scripture, both in understanding its meaning and its application in our lives. There are some who interpret these words to mean that a person can truly know Christ – truly be saved and redeemed – and turn away from God and lose their salvation. There are many other scriptures why I don’t believe that can be what the author meant, but primarily I believe in the eternal security of the believer because it is a work that God does, not us. Before Christ, we are spiritually dead. A dead person cannot act to raise himself to spiritual life. God must breathe life into us through His Holy Spirit and regenerate us. Also, Jesus Himself uses the analogy of birth to illustrate salvation, and Nicodemus made the observation that a person cannot go back into his mother’s womb and be re-born. Once a child is born, he can’t be “unborn.” We need a new birth – a spiritual birth, and that cannot be undone.
Matthew Henry explains what those challenging words mean. What does it mean to be “enlightened,” to “taste” of the heavenly gift, to “partake” of the Holy Spirit, to “taste” of the word of God and the powers of the age to come? That is the real issue. Is this person truly saved, or only presenting the appearance of faith in Jesus?
Here is how Matthew Henry explains it.
“They may be enlightened. Some of the ancients understand this of their being baptized; but it is rather to be understood of notional knowledge and common illumination, of which persons may have a great deal, and yet come short of heaven. Balaam was the man whose eyes were opened (Num. 24:3), and yet with his eyes opened he went down to utter darkness.
“They may taste of the heavenly gift, feel something of the efficacy of the Holy Spirit in his operations upon their souls, causing them to taste something of religion, and yet be like persons in the market, who taste of what they will not come up to the price of, and so but take a taste, and leave it. Persons may taste religion, and seem to like it, if they could have it upon easier terms than denying themselves, and taking up their cross, and following Christ.
“They may be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, that is, of his extraordinary and miraculous gifts; they may have cast out devils in the name of Christ, and done many other mighty works. Such gifts in the apostolic age were sometimes bestowed upon those who had no true saving grace.
“They may taste of the good word of God; they may have some relish of gospel doctrines, may hear the word with pleasure, may remember much of it, and talk well of it, and yet never be cast into the form and mould of it, nor have it dwelling richly in them.
“They may have tasted of the powers of the world to come; they may have been under strong impressions concerning heaven, and dread of going to hell. These lengths hypocrites may go, and, after all, turn apostates. Now hence observe,
“These great things are spoken here of those who may fall away; yet it is not here said of them that they were truly converted, or that they were justified; there is more in true saving grace than in all that is here said of apostates. This, therefore, is no proof of the final apostasy of true saints. These indeed may fall frequently and foully, but yet they will not totally nor finally from God; the purpose and the power of God, the purchase and the prayer of Christ, the promise of the gospel, the everlasting covenant that God has made with them, ordered in all things and sure, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the immortal seed of the word, these are their security. But the tree that has not these roots will not stand.”
What is the “measure” that indicates a person truly belongs to God? It is perseverance to the end. We may find ourselves in times of trial and temptation and for a time walk far from God, but the one who belongs to Him will return. We cannot stay away; the conviction of the Holy Spirit will bring us back into fellowship and repentance. We will make progress in our faith. We won’t remain spiritual babies but will be drawn to God’s Word and desire to grow spiritually and mature, becoming more and more like Christ.
Hebrews 6:9-12 – But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
I believe the writer of Hebrews meant for his words to both encourage us and convict us. It is a serious thing to miss salvation, to be religious yet not right with God. We ought to examine our lives and our hearts and find the affirmation of our faith in God’s Word alone. It is possible to appear to have faith, yet in the end, fall away. Be accountable to others in your faith family. Stay in God’s Word and pursue Him with a pure heart. Talk to God and ask Him to make all things clear concerning your relationship with Him.
Settle the matter of your salvation. Have you repented of your sin? Have you asked God to forgive you and receive you into His family? Do you have a desire for His Word, and a love for His people? Do you truly want to walk with the Lord and obey His commandments? Are you convicted when you know you have disobeyed Him or grieved Him by your disobedience? Has there been a change in your life since you came to faith? Do you have a distaste for worldly things? These are all good signs you are saved, but this can only be settled in your heart between you and God.
Continually doubting if you are saved, or if you might fall away and perish, will hinder your spiritual growth. Salvation is a work of God we receive by faith, a gift of grace. Receive it and move on to maturity.