(The peril of becoming a Christian and then falling away)
As a sinner becomes a believer and child of God, the sinner is cleansed of his sins, accepted as a child of God through Jesus, instilled with the Holy Spirit, he is therefore able to pray directly to God, he will experience good things from God and the good times of Christianity.
But then if the child of God falls away from God and into the same old sinful ways as before then it will become almost impossible for him to recover and to come back. Now the child of God is outside of the umbrella of God again and wants back inside. He has forsaken Jesus because he wants to crucify Him again by coming back and put Him to shame to regain his place in God’s kingdom.
Therefore, it is most important in our spiritual lives to progress in every way that we can, that we do not fall and be overcome by our sinful ways. A warning is given of the danger of a Christian moving from a position of true faith and life to the extent of becoming disqualified for further service (1 Cor. 9:27) and for inheriting millennial glory.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Commentary: 6:1-2. Somewhat surprisingly, despite his estimate of their spiritual state, the author declined to go over old ground. Instead he urged them to go beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. To have reviewed the fundamentals would only have left them where they were. The author preferred “radical surgery” and decided to pull them forward as rapidly as he could. Indeed this was the solution to their problem. If they progressed properly, they would avoid the danger of laying again the foundation of repentance. If, as verses 4-6 went on to warn, they were to “fall away,” then a foundation would have been laid for a new repentance, but such a repentance is “impossible” (cf. vv. 4, 6). So advance was their only real remedy.
Acts that lead to death literally means “dead works,” which expression occurs again in a context where it seems to refer to the Levitical ritual (9:14). Here it would be appropriate in the same sense since many of the readers had been converted to Christianity from Judaism. The rituals they had left behind were lifeless ones, incapable of imparting the experiences of life they had found in Christ. The author implied that they should not return to these dead works in any form since to do so would be to lay again a basis for repenting from them— though such repentance would not be easily reached, however appropriate it might be.
But the foundation they would lay in the unhappy event that they fell away would involve other fundamental truths. These are enumerated in the words, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. The author clearly implied that all these matters belong to the “elementary truths” (5:12) on which the readers gave every indication of wavering. It is likely that each of them was a point at issue in one way or another in the readers’ confrontation with those of other persuasions. The return to ordinances, whether in normative or sectarian Judaism, would only be a return to “dead works.” One who took that backward step would need to be taught all over again that acceptance was obtained by “faith in God,” not by rituals.
Moreover the significance of the various “baptisms” which Christianity knew (John’s baptism, Christian baptism proper, or even Spirit baptism) would have to be relearned as well as the basic facts about “laying on of hands.” In alluding to matters like these, the writer may have been consciously countering sectarian teachings which may well have offered initiations of their own involving “baptisms” and “laying on of hands.” If the sectarians or others, in addition to offering their own initiatory rites, likewise denied the normal Christian eschatological expectations (cf. comments on 4:1, 8-10), then the fundamental doctrines of “the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” would also have been at issue. To abandon their Christian profession and “fall away” (6:6) would be to abandon all these doctrines. Whatever the readers had previously learned, they would be giving up. In this sense the foundation would have been laid for relearning them all over again, though the writer held out little hope in his subsequent statements for such a process to take place.
6:3. What he wanted them to do was to press forward. But he was perfectly aware that this required more than his effort to challenge his readers to make progress. God must help and He alone could help them achieve these goals. The writer had said, “Let us . . . go on to maturity” (v. 1), but in a spirit of dependence on divine aid he then added, and God permitting, we will do so.
- the alternative to progress (6:4-8).
In an extremely solemn pronouncement, the author then set forth the tragic alternative to the progress he desired his readers to make. If they did not advance, they would retreat. Should anyone so retreat, his situation would be grim indeed.
6:4-6. This passage has been interpreted in four ways: (1) that the danger of a Christian losing his salvation is described, a view rejected because of biblical assurances that salvation is a work of God which cannot be reversed; (2) that the warning is against mere profession of faith short of salvation, or tasting but not really partaking of salvation (The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1315); (3) that hypothetically if a Christian could lose his salvation, there is no provision for repentance (The Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1736); (4) that a warning is given of the danger of a Christian moving from a position of true faith and life to the extent of becoming disqualified for further service (1 Cor. 9:27) and for inheriting millennial glory. The latter is the interpretation adopted here. The entirety of these verses constitutes a single sentence in Greek as well as in the English of the NIV. The central assertion is: It is impossible for those who have . . . to be brought back to repentance. Following the words “those who” is a description of the persons whom the writer affirmed cannot possibly be brought back to a state of repentance. The description he gave shows that he had Christians in mind.
To begin with, he described them as individuals who have once been enlightened. This is a natural way to refer to the conversion experience (cf. 2 Cor. 4:3-6). The writer’s only other use of the verb “enlightened,” is Hebrews 10:32, where the reference to true Christian experience can hardly be doubted. In also calling them people who have tasted the heavenly gift, he again employed familiar concepts related to initial conversion (cf. John 4:10; Rom. 6:23; James 1:17-18). The effort to evade this conclusion by seeing in the word “tasted” something less than full participation fails—in view of the writer’s own use of this word (Heb. 2:9)— to describe Jesus’ experience of death. One might also compare 1 Peter 2:3, which quotes Psalm 34:8.
The description is continued with the words who have shared in the Holy Spirit. The underlying Greek employs again the word metochoi, used in Hebrews 1:9 of the “companions” of the messianic King, and in 3:1, 14 of the Christian readers (and is also used in 12:8). The preceding expression evidently led the author to think about those who had received the gift of the Spirit as a result of their conversions. Finally, there are also those who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming Age. Here the thought naturally applies to converts whose instruction in “the Word of God” had given them a genuine experience of its “goodness” and who likewise had known the reality of miracles. The word rendered “powers” (dynameis) in NIV is the usual one in the New Testament for “miracles” and is an apparent allusion back to the experience mentioned in 2:4. In every way the language fits true Christians with remarkable ease. The effort to see here mere professors of the faith as over against true converts is somewhat forced.
There follows, however, the grim expression if they fall away. But the translation does not do full justice to the original language, where there is no hint of a conditional element. The Greek word parapesontas is in fact a part of the construction to which the preceding descriptive phrases belong. Thus a more accurate translation would be: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted . . . who have shared . . . who have tasted . . . and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” Far from treating the question in any hypothetical way, the writer’s language sounds as if he knew of such cases.
Naturally the words “fall away” cannot refer to the loss of eternal life which, as the Gospel of John makes perfectly clear, is the inalienable possession of those who trust Christ for it. But the writer evidently has in mind defection from the faith, that is, apostasy, withdrawal from their Christian profession (cf. Heb. 3:6, 14; 10:23-25, 35-39). The assertion that such a failure is not possible for a regenerate person is a theological proposition which is not supported by the New Testament. Paul knew the dangers of false doctrine to a Christian’s faith and spoke of a certain Hymenaeus and Philetus who said “that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17-18). The author of Hebrews was a solid realist who took assaults against the faith of his readers with great seriousness. And he warned that those who succumb, that is, “fall away,” after all of the great spiritual privileges they had experienced, could not be brought back to repentance.
The reason is expressed in the words because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace. The words “to their loss” might be better rendered “with respect to themselves.” 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. When they first trusted Him, they thereby acknowledged that His crucifixion had been unjust and the result of man’s sinful rejection of the Savior. But by renouncing this opinion, they reaffirmed the view of Jesus’ enemies that He deserved to die on a cross. In this sense, “they [were] crucifying the Son of God all over again.” Since the original Crucifixion was especially the work of the Jewish nation, if the readers were Jews being lured back into some form of their ancestral religion, the writer’s words made a particular point. Their apostasy would be like stepping back over the line again and once more expressing solidarity with their compatriots who wanted Jesus put on the cross. That this was most serious was precisely the writer’s point. Such persons could not be won back to the state of repentance which marked their original conversion to Christianity. In affirming this, the author’s words suggested a deep hardening of their hearts against all efforts to win them back, not to Christian conversion, but to Christian commitment.
6:7-8. An illustration from nature now drives home the writer’s point. Whenever rain-soaked ground is properly productive, it receives the blessing of God. Here the writer compared the spiritual privileges he had just enumerated (vv. 4-5) to a heavenly rain descending on the life of a Christian. Their effect should be a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed—a reference perhaps to the way other Christians benefit from the lives of fruitful believers (cf. v. 10). Such productivity brings divine blessings on fruitful believers’ lives.
But suppose the land that has received this “rain” is unproductive? Though the NIV introduces the word land for a second time in verse 8, the original text seems to relate the statement directly to the “land” mentioned in verse 7. A clearer rendering would be: “But when (or, if) it produces thorns and thistles. . . .” The point is that when a plot of ground that has been rained on is productive, God blesses it. But if it only produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless (adokimos, “disapproved”; cf. 1 Cor. 9:27) and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. The metaphor recalls God’s original curse on the ground (Gen. 3:17-19) and suggests that an unproductive Christian life ultimately (“in the end”) falls under the severe condemnation of God and is subject to His blazing wrath and judgment (cf. Heb. 10:27).
Naturally the reference to “burned” has caused many to think of hell, but there is nothing in the text to suggest this. God’s anger against His failing people in the Old Testament is often likened to the burning of fire (cf., e.g., Isa. 9:18-19; 10:17). Even this writer could say, with intense metaphorical effect, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). In fact, to think of hell here is to betray inattention to the imagery employed by the author. The burning of a field to destroy the rank growth it had produced was a practice known in ancient times. Its aim was not the destruction of the field itself (which, of course, the fire could not effect), but the destruction of the unwanted produce of the field. Thereafter the field might be serviceable for cultivation.
By choosing this kind of metaphor, the author showed that he did not totally despair of those who took the backward step he was warning against. To be sure, at least prior to severe divine judgment, all efforts to recall such people to Christian faith are futile (6:4-6), but it cannot be said that the impossibility applies in an absolute sense to God Himself. What the author probably meant is that nothing can deter apostates from the fiery retribution toward which they are headed, but once their “land” has been burned it is another matter. Paul believed that those who “have shipwrecked their faith” could profit by the retributive experiences to which they were exposed as a result (1 Tim. 1:19-20). But of course the writer of Hebrews was reticent about the issue of subsequent restoration. That some might not respond to the chastisement was perhaps in mind, but he was mainly concerned about warning against the course of action which leads to such calamitous divine judgment. Nevertheless his deft choice of this agricultural image serves to disclose that the “burning” is both temporary and essentially hopeful.
- The concluding encouragement (6:9-20).
The author knew that his words were both heavy and solemn, though not to the same degree that subsequent exposition has often made them. He felt that a word of encouragement was then in order. This pattern—stern warning followed by warm encouragement—has already appeared in the previous warning section (3:1-4:16) which concluded in a distinctly positive manner (4:14-16). Similarly the writer drew his warning section here to a conclusion that is alive with hope.
One good thing about truth, the Gospel is God’s Truth, tell it and teach it to others and you will please God and build many rewards in heaven.
Always keep Jesus in your heart and on your mind.
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time.
Prayer: Father in heaven, I praise You for Your Son and the Holy Spirit. Please bless those who read this article for they too are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding.
It is from your grace and our belief that we have You for our God and Jesus for our Lord and Savior. May this article improve the readers knowledge and understanding of the importance of moving forward in our spiritual life and not falling from grace.
May God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights, our safety nets and our inspiration for loving happiness in all of Your kingdom. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Yours be done. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory and to the power of the Holy Spirit,