“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened . . . 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.” (Hebrews 6:4–6, KJV 1900)
I once was in a strange traveling predicament. I had a special discount ticket to travel from Germany to Chicago. It was only good for one flight and if I missed it, I would lose my money and be stuck at the airport. I was running late for the flight and got to the Frankfurt airport 10-15 minutes before departure. I jumped the check-in line, and ended up making the plane just before they closed the door. The point is, if I missed the flight, there was no possibility of getting on the plane.
Much the same way, if one misses the eternal trip by failing to trust in Jesus, there will be no other way to Heaven. The author of Hebrews speaks of such an impossibility to his Jewish audience. Remember, the author is writing to a group of Jews transitioning from the Old to the New covenant. They have grown up in Judaism and have been confronted with the gospel. Some have become true believers, trusting in Christ alone. Others have not. These are still clinging to the Old Covenant while professing to know Christ. I believe it is to this latter group that the author gives this exhortation.
Some theologians have used this passage to erroneously conclude that a person could lose their salvation. The problem is that they conclude the author is writing this to genuine believers. Yet, as I have stated, not everyone who makes a profession of faith is a true regenerated believer in Christ. Remember what Jesus said when speaking of those at the great judgment,
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22–23, KJV 1900)
Many will profess Christ, and even do great works in His name, but will fall short of true saving faith.
Here we must understand to whom the author addressed and how they could experience everything the he lists without being truly saved. While I will look at this in the next couple posts, let us now view this from a broad perspective.
The author states that it is impossible for those who have been enlightened, if they fall away, to be renewed again to repentance. I had a girl visit me once extremely burdened and in tears. She had been taught that she could lose her salvation if she sinned. She was convinced that based upon her teaching and these verses that she was eternally doomed to Hell. Is that not what the verse says? I mean, according to these verses, if you lose your salvation there is no way to get it back. Now the only thing one who teaches that you can lose your salvation could say to this girl (I am speaking hypothetically.) is, “Sorry. Too bad. There is no hope for you.” Either that or they would have to say the Bible is in error.
So, I spent time with her, showing her that this passage was written to people who heard the gospel, but had not placed true saving faith in Jesus. Then I took her to passages that spoke of the security true believers have in Christ. It took some time and more searching on her behalf, but eventually she came to a life changing decision. She believed she was truly saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. The change in her countenance was obvious. She beamed with joy and excitement.