Some questions about Hebrews 6:4-6

Here are some questions from the “Ask a question” section shared with us by Christservant:

Dear brother in the Lord!

Some questions were brought up during fellowship time after the Sunday service , and I hope that by God’s grace, you can help me understanding the following verses:

(Hebrews 6:4-6) “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.”

The questions are as follows:
1- Who does the inspired writer of Hebrews talk about in these verses? Believers or non-believers?
2- If believers, do these verses mean that it is impossible for the believers to be renewed again to repentance, and they may fall away and lose their salvation?
3- If non-believers, how could they have been enlightened, have tasted of the heavenly gift, have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come?

May the Lord keep blessing you and your ministry!
Christservant.

Thank you, sister, for these very interesting questions. Indeed, this passage is one of the most deep passages that need a clarification from the Word of God in order to be understood in the context of God’s eternal plan.

First, let me make a short introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews. This Epistle was written to Hebrews who knew the whole Old Testament system of Levitical priesthood and sacrifices mentioned in the Epistle. Just as it is in the case of all communities where there are professions of faith in Christ, there were among these Hebrews people who made a profession of faith in Christ after being convinced with their mind that He is the Savior Messiah, and others who were truly born again through a real saving faith, and others also who were there among believers to give a wholly new character to the Gospel, making it similar to the Law and thus making the New Covenant like the Old Covenant by forcing the believers to think that they need to follow the ceremonies and ordinances of the Law in order to be saved. The Holy Spirit addresses all these issues in this Epistle. For instance, the Epistle begins with an emphasis on the fact that the Son of God is not a simple angel as some of the Hebrew recepients of the Epistle thought; He is much higher than the angels, and in fact He is the One whom angels worship, God Himself. Later, the Epistle addresses the issue of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. And the passage that you quoted also treats one of the issues in this Hebrew community about which I will talk in my explanation.

Well, just like all the Christian communities, these Hebrews were persecuted. The true believers among them “both sympathised with prisoners and accepted with joy the plunder of” their “goods, knowing that” they “have for” themselves “a better substance, and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34) For our Lord clearly said that no one can truly be His disciple if he doesn’t give up all his own possessions and is still attached to the world (read Luke 14:26-35). There were also others who were very well convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, and yet they were under the danger of denying Him under the pressure of persecution, as they had not really cut their attachment to the world and to the legalistic way of thinking. So in the case of persecution, you have two general possibilities: 1. Christians who stay firm, never denying the Lord and bearing all the heat of persecution with the joy of the Holy Spirit; 2. Other Christians who deny the Lord. In this second group, you may find Peters and Judases… In other terms, in this second group, there are people who in a moment of weakness and under the danger of death or big loss will deny the Lord, but their heart is still with Him, and they will quickly repent of what they did and sincerely ask the Lord to forgive them, relying only on His love revealed on the cross, just as Peter did. Others will deny Jesus as they already do not really have a saving faith in Him, and they will fall away and never really repent. The first question that may come to one’s mind would be: “Then why should I bear the persecution? I just deny the Lord under the pressure, and then repent like Peter, and the Lord will forgive me and all will be well with me!” The trap here is that as soon as one says this in his heart, he has fallen in the sin of apostasy and has denied faith, proving that he never really believed in Jesus with a saving faith. Why? Because a real child of God NEVER thinks like this. Sin and denial of the Lord are not possible options for a true Christian. If someone thinks sin is a possible option of escape for him, then his repentance is not true, and he will continue in denial and never really turn back to the Lord with true repentance; and this is what happened with Judas, as we all know. Indeed, this is the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin of refusing to truly believe and repent, although we know with our mind for sure that this is the truth that the Holy Spirit is telling us!

In brief, a main topic of the Epistle to the Hebrews is: the perseverance of the true believers. In other terms, those who are real ones will surely persevere in faith until the end, or else they prove to be false ones and are never saved.

Now, in the light of the above explanations, let’s answer the questions that you shared with us, and you will see how much the passage is clear, as I already introduced you to the context of what was happening back then.

Let me quote the passage again:

“For it is impossible to renew again to repentance those once enlightened, and who 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] works of power of [the] age to come, and have fallen away, crucifying for themselves [as they do] the Son of God, and making a show of [him].” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

And allow me to quote another similar passage from Hebrews, as it talks about the same topic:

“For where we sin wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries. Any one that has disregarded Moses’ law dies without mercy on [the testimony of] two or three witnesses: of how much worse punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him that said, To me [belongs] vengeance; I will recompense, saith the Lord: and again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing falling into [the] hands of [the] living God.” (Hebrew 10:26-31)

And now, let’s answer the questions:

1. Who does the inspired writer of Hebrews talk about in these verses? Believers or non-believers?

Believers.

Well, with all the wrong ideas and teachings that we hear today, many will make a severe objection to what I said here: “Believers??! But believers would never fall away from faith! How can you say ‘believers’? Are you an Arminian who says that once saved we are not always saved, but that we may fall away? Are you a Roman Catholic who says that we should keep ourselves in the Grace of God, or else we may be lost and we may never reach Salvation even though we are believers?! What are you saying here? What are you exactly? Where do you come from??”

Well… Believers.

And not all believers are TRUE believers. Many people followed Jesus as believers in Him, and were His disciples and they were baptized as such. While following Him, they heard Him teach many things that seemed “weird” for them, however they kept following Him… But time after time, they were beginning to feel that this Christ is not the one they wanted. And many professing Christians today want a Christ according to their taste… Suddenly one day these believers reached the top of their disappointment when Jesus said that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood, or else they would not have life in them… That was a strong one! That was disgusting! They objected: “This word is hard; who can hear it?” (John 6:60) and “From that [time] many of his disciples went away back and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66) Yes… These were disciples; these were believers… But not TRUE believers. Jesus said about them: “But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would deliver him up.” (John 6:64) These left Him at that time, while the one who would deliver Him up stayed until the end, but he finally fell away as well… What was there in what Jesus said that made these believers fall away and thus prove that they had never been true believers? It was this: That Jesus was talking about the living faith that relies only on the promises of God and on His Grace, never putting any trust on anything in the flesh! And THIS is what a false believer, a mere professor of faith, cannot accept.

Another place where we see believers who are not true believers is this one:

“As he spoke these things many believed on him. Jesus therefore said to the Jews who believed him, If ye abide in my word, ye are truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:30-32)

Those Jews believed Jesus. They were enlightened: they knew the truth. But they knew this truth mentally. They were enlightened mentally. Jesus told them that unless they truly abide in His Word, and not just on an impression that they have about Him, they would never truly be His disciples, and so they would never really know the truth by their hearts and wills, and they would never be free from the slavery to sin.

Just like his Lord Jesus Christ, the author of Hebrews is addressing all believers, and warning them that if they don’t abide in the Word of Jesus, they will never really know the truth and will stay in the slavery to sin.

Having clarified this first point, we pass to the second question:

2. If believers, do these verses mean that it is impossible for the believers to be renewed again to repentance, and they may fall away and lose their salvation?

Well, let me first tell you that those who use such verses to prove that a true believer may fall away and lose his Salvation — or worse: never be saved — contradict themselves, as they don’t believe that it is impossible for such fallen believers to repent again and be saved. That’s because the Bible is clear that the door of repentance is always open, as long as a person lives. The ironic thing is that those who deny the truth of the eternal security of a true believer do not only deny that it is impossible to renew apostates to repentance, but they even give them the option of being saved after they are dead, although this strongly contradicts the Word of God. So, in brief, even those who deny the biblical truth of eternal assurance or security agree with us that it is possible for true believers to repent again and avoid being lost forever, as that is what the Bible says in other passages, as we will see.

As I explained above, a believer who considers sinning and repenting back an option for him in order to escape the heat of persecution, is indeed doing the sin against the Holy Spirit! This believer will never truly repent, as he thinks he’s alright with God, as he is repenting. While true repentance is not something we do. It’s not this kind of regret that Judas also had. Judas really and sincerely regretted what he did, but his sorrow was not the one that leads to true repentance but to death (read 2 Corinthians 7:9-10). If Judas didn’t commit suicide, and if Jesus was not dead, I assure you that he could continue to follow Jesus, but that would not change his nature: he still was “a devil” (see John 6:70), i.e. a “son of perdition” (see John 17:12). And if someone is not a true child of God by a true faith, then he will never really repent. So how can you lead someone like this to repentance? He will always tell you that he’s OK with God, as he’s repenting!! You tell him that he needs to be born again, and he tells you that he IS born again!! Although he still thinks that sin and denial are possible options for him when persecution comes, and although he still didn’t break his attachment to the world…

You know? This is really serious! If we are still attached to the world and have never put ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, let us test ourselves seriously! This is not a light matter! “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7) “For we know him that said, To me [belongs] vengeance; I will recompense, saith the Lord: and again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing falling into [the] hands of [the] living God.” (Hebrews 10: 30-31) Man can fool humans like him and make them think he’s a true believer, but he can’t deceive God! If a Christian (N.B.: I am speaking about a professing Christian, and not about unbelievers) realizes that he’s not OK with God just for the fact that he repented after he sinned, and that ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse him from all sins, then this person is a true believer who never really denied the Lord and has never “trodden under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common, and has insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29). This believer is not putting his trust on his repentance, as repentance cannot save anyone. He’s putting his trust on the blood of Jesus Christ that can surely cleanse him from all sins. A false believer does not do this.

So the Bible is clear concerning the fact that whatever is your sin, you can rely on the blood of Jesus Christ and have forgiveness, while you may never be renewed to repentance if you keep putting your trust on your repentance, thus mocking God and considering sin and denial a possible option for you when persecuted or when having a hard time.

About the assurance of forgiveness for those who truly repent and put all their trust in Christ and on His blood, and not on anything or anyone else, read the following blessed words from the Word of God:

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. 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 righteous to forgive us [our] sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.(1 John 2:1-2)

Now this is clear! If you don’t say in your heart “I may sin and deny Christ, and then repent, and it will all be OK with me”, then whatever is your sin, you can rely on the blood of Jesus Christ alone and you will receive forgiveness.

Concerning the eternal assurance and security of true believers, read the following:

“Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God.” (1 John 3:9)

A true believer who is born of God can never sin, i.e. he will never stop having the living faith and thus fall away. That’s the promise of God’s Word that makes the child of God rely on the powerful arms of Jesus who said:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of my hand. My Father who has given [them] to me is greater than all, and no one can seize out of the hand of my Father. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

End of the matter!! ASSURED we are in the powerful hands of the Good Shepherd. The essential is to make sure we are His sheep. That means we must make sure we don’t rely on ourselves, or on our repentance, or on our good works, or on any merit in us, but only on Jesus Christ and on His Grace. And this is what Hebrews says in the next verse after the verses that you quoted:

“But we are persuaded concerning you, beloved, better things, and connected with salvation, even if we speak thus. For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which ye have shewn to his name, having ministered to the saints, and [still] ministering. But we desire earnestly that each one of you shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience have been inheritors of the promises.” (Hebrews 6:9-12)

All true believers will persevere until the end.

So, to summarize the answer to this second question: Only those who mock God and turn the Grace of God to licentiousness (see Jude 4) will not be able to be renewed to repentance, as they are sinning against the Holy Spirit. While a true believer never falls away, as he only puts his trust on the blood of Christ for forgiveness, and not on anything in himself, not even repentance.

3. If non-believers, how could they have been enlightened, have tasted of the heavenly gift, have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come?

This is a very important point that many do not understand today. So let’s clarify it by the Lord’s Grace.

In the parable of the ten virgins (read Matthew 25:1-13), ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the Bridegroom who is Jesus Christ. All these are Christian believers. None of them is expecting to meet Muhammad or Buddha or whatever! They all are going with the expectation of meeting Jesus. All of them had lamps shining bright! Yes, indeed, shining, for in Matthew 25:8 we read that these lamps began to go out! All of them are virgins, it means looking pure outwardly, as if all of them were purified by the blood of Christ and were sanctified to Him! But… the big difference, the huge difference, was that five of them were prudent and wise, while the other five were foolish… Five of them, the prudent virgins, took oil in flasks along with their lamps, while the foolish took their lamps without taking oil with them. That oil is the truth and the essence of our faith; it is the Holy Spirit. The foolish virgins, just like the prudent, had the same confession of faith: they had the same light, the same lamps. But while the prudent had that confession in truth in their hearts (oil in flasks), the foolish had it only in their mind and outwardly. Both the prudent and the foolish were enlightened. But the foolish were only enlightened with their mind, while the prudent really had it in their heart and will.

What am I trying to clarify here? I am saying that the whole visible Church formed of all believers (true and false believers) is enlightened, and has the heavenly gift, and has the Holy Spirit in its midst (the oil that was present even in the lamps of the foolish, but not in their hearts), and the Word of God is preached by the whole visible Church (all the virgins were going to meet Christ, thus proclaiming His Good News, the Gospel), but only the true believers (the five prudent virgins) will not finally fall away! Only five of them will enter Heaven! Why? Because they are truly saved, they are truly born again, and it’s not just a mouth confession that they have.

Now, in the light of this clarification, I guess you will not have any difficulty to see how the author of Hebrews could say that those believers who fall away are indeed enlightened by their mind as they know the truth. Just compare the “enlightened” of Hebrews 6:4 with the “receiving the knowledge of the truth” of Hebrews 10:26. They are the same. When you receive the knowledge of the truth with your mind, your mind is enlightened. But if you don’t really have this knowledge in your heart and in your will, i.e. if you are not a new creation, do not have a new heart and a new will that hates sin and loves righteousness, then this enlightenment of your mind serves for nothing, just as the lamps of the foolish served for nothing without the oil. They all tasted what the light and the Holy Spirit are! They all tasted what the Word of God says, and they all knew with their minds what is the power of the age to come, but only the prudent really had it all in their hearts and wills.

Those who have the confession of faith in Christ should be very seriously careful! If it’s just an outward confession, they will be more severely judged! How can they keep crucifying Christ for themselves each time, when Christ was crucified once for all and has risen from the dead to sanctify for Himself a holy people?? How can they consider sin and denial a possible option? How can they make a show of the Son of God?! That’s a rebellion against the blood of Christ! That’s treading under foot the Son of God, and considering the blood of the Covenant as common, and insulting the Spirit of Grace, as that means relying on the flesh and considering sin a possible option.

This is indeed what the Epistle to the Hebrews is saying in the passages that we studied.

So let us persevere to the end, always trusting on the blood of Jesus Christ, and never putting our trust on anything in ourselves, not even on our repentance. True repentance relies on Christ alone by faith. So sin and denial are not possible options that a true child of God can choose during persecution, but we should be faithful. We should not sin. But if anyone sins, let’s remember again that there is no hope of forgiveness outside the blood of Jesus Christ.

Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

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