Verse of the Day

Monday, February 22, 2016

Does Hebrews 6:4-6 text mean Christians can lose our salvation?"

In light of the many scriptures that make it abundantly clear that salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5), Hebrews 6:4-6 also confirms that doctrine.
The first method I use to aid in understanding any book of the Bible is determining both the writer's intended audience and the purpose of the author's message.  ask, "To whom was the book written?" and, "For what purpose was the book written?". 

Concerning the book of Hebrews, most Bible commentaries agree with the following:

  • The book of Hebrews was written by an Apostle and mainly written to Hebrew believers. 
  • The audience, Jewish Christians, needed to read this message to understand how the Lord Jesus Christ, in comparison to Judaism, was much better than anything the old covenant had to offer. 
    •  These believers were under persecution, and as a result, some were thinking about returning to Judaism. The message was written to warn them not to turn away from their only hope (assurance) of salvation.

Chapter 6 begins with the word, "Therefore" in the King James Version. Most of the time, this word indicates that the modern-day reader needs to search further, usually in the prior chapter(s), to determine the context in which the text exists and to better provide a framework within which the reader can use the text in the sense of Christian application. In Chapter 5, the writer speaks about the office and duty of the high priest and how that job is abundantly filled in Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14 and others). This text was written to the Jewish Christians of that day because they wanted to return to the familiar activities of The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) provided by the old covenant - the learning framework within which their entire life existed prior to conversion.

Chapter 6 urges these new converts to make forward progress - to grow in their faith. They had already learned of the first lessons of the Christian Message. With that foundation established, they were not to simply remain in that knowledge and work solely on what has already been completed in their lives; they were to instead move forward just as a young baby progresses from drinking only milk to eating more complex foods as supported in context by Chapter 5, in verses 11-14. The writer rebukes these new Christians regarding the minimal progress they have made in the knowledge and application of the gospel.

In verse 6 (of Chapter 6) we are introduced to a hypothetical statement, "IF they shall ..." (or in the NASB in verse 4, "For in the case of ... "). This text introduces the reader to the idea that this type of argument, that a true Christian can fall away, is a false premise. John 10:28 specifically states, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." No one, including myself, can snatch me out of the had of God. The conclusion of this idea, that Jesus would somehow need to be sacrificed again and again, is senseless. Simply put, it's crazy talk. We know this isn't true as we can read in Hebrews 9:28. The text points out the impossibility of this happening. When looking up Strong's word number 102, we get the idea of "things that are impossible". The author writes in such a way that demonstrates a false statement by showing an unattainable result follows if one accepts the argument. The writer even goes on to say in verse 9 that even though they speak in such a way (".. though we thus speak."), they are, "... persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation."

We may not speak today in the vernacular of the following commentary, but I feel that it offers the Christian an understanding response to the question of losing one's salvation:

The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for Hebrews 6:1-8)
While many interpretations can be found on these verses, I believe the Bible only supports two regarding salvation: (1) unbelievers rejecting Christ have no salvation, and (2) that it isn't possible for a believer to lose his/her salvation. After all, Ephesians 2:8, emphasizes that " grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" Salvation isn't ours anyway; it's God's gift to us through the selfless crucifixion death of His son Jesus Christ.

A few final and critical
points from verses 4-6:
  1. This is about hypothetical "enlightened" people - so this is not about any Christian ever.
  2. If it even were possible, this person's position would be absurd (being enlightened) after denying the truth of the crucifixion. (continued unbelief)
  3. This enlightened one never truly accepted the work of the cross after hearing and then falling away.
  4. To sin = to fall way.  In order to maintain a relationship (think about David when he said the "joy of thy salvation" Psalms 51:12), with God = to repent from sin.  Repenting is only possible if a person recognizes (believes) the truth of the crucifixion.
  5. The point of these verses is NOT about a Christian losing his/her salvation. Instead, the focus of the verses is to highlight the impossibility of a person denying the truth of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection (substitutionary atonement) and still, somehow, coming to repentance in spite of that very denial. Re = to do again. In order to repent, you must have already asked for forgiveness at least once. 
  • While I didn't reference the following book for this blog post, I do recommend, "Eternal Security", By: Charles F. Stanley.
  • Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Strong's Bible Concordance, NASB Lexican via Bible Hub