What exactly DOES Hebrews 6:4-6 mean, anyway?

**I’ve said this before, but this time it will be enforced. Any and all further comments that do not deal DIRECTLY with the text of this post WILL BE DELETED. I will not give any thought to how long the comment is or how long it took to type it. And don’t try to post some long comment, with Hebrews 6:4-6 tacked on peripherally. This is final**

When dialoging with Arminians and others who teach that a person can be “lost” after they have been truly born again, one of their pet passages is Hebrews 6:4-64 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.

Now, at face value, it does sound like the writer of Hebrews (hereafter referred to as “The Writer”) is saying that a person can be saved and then fall away to the point that they cannot be saved again. But is that really what Writer is saying? No, it isn’t, and we will see why.

The first thing we must do in order to study this passage properly is to get rid of the chapter and verse divisions and any paragraph formatting. While these tools help us to find where certain passages are located, they were not in the original manuscripts and can, more often than not, interfere with our understanding of Scripture. What happens, many times, is our mind sees the numbers, separates Scripture from Scripture, and we put up mental walls around the texts and chop them up into separate thoughts, rather then seeing the constant, continuous flow of thought the writer intended. We also tend to chop paragraphs apart from each other, instead of seeing that the author was writing one long paragraph (for example, Ephesians chapter 1 is actually one long paragraph, rather than a bunch of smaller ones).

That said, in order to understand what The Writer is saying in Hebrews 6:4-6, we actually need to go back and start at chapter 5, verse 12 and read through chapter 6, verse 8. So, here is Hebrews 5:12-6:8, with no breaks–

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 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, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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. 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; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

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Quotes (757)

“For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among the nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” – Amos 9:9

Every sifting comes by divine command and permission.  Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job.  Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, “I will sift the house of Israel”.  Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive.  Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord’s floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to His own glory, and to thine eternal profit. 

The Lord Jesus will surely use the fan which is in His hand, and will divide the precious from the vile.  All are not Israel that are of Israel; the heap on the barn floor is not clean provender, and hence the winnowing process must be performed.  In the sieve true weight alone has power.  Husks and chaff being devoid of substance must fly before the wind, and only solid corn will remain.

Observe the complete safety of the Lord’s wheat; even the least grain has a promise of preservation.  God Himself sifts, and therefore it is stern and terrible work; He sifts them in all places, “among the nations”; He sifts them in the most effectual manner, “like corn is sifted in a sieve”; and yet for all this, not the smallest, lightest, or most shrivelled grain, is permitted to fall to the ground.  Every individual believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, a shepherd would not lose one sheep, nor a jeweller one diamond, nor a mother one child, nor a man one limb of his body, nor will the Lord lose one of His redeemed people.  However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

Quotes (749)

Man has become so fallen that he cannot keep the law. Sooner might the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, than he that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well (Jeremiah 13:23); but what man cannot do, by reason of the perversity of the flesh, God performs within him, working in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. Oh, what amazing grace is this, which while it forgives our want of will, also removes our want of power!

And, dear friends, is it not a wonderful proof of grace that God does this without destroying man in any degree whatever? Man is a creature with a will,—a “free will” as they sometimes call it,—a creature who is responsible for his actions; so God does not come and change our hearts by a physical process, as some seem to dream, but by a spiritual process in which he never mars our nature, but sets our nature right.

If a man becomes a child of God, he still has a will. God does not destroy the delicate machinery of our nature, but he puts it into proper gear. We become Christians with our own full assent and consent; and we keep the law of God not by any compulsion except the sweet compulsion of love. We do not keep it because we cannot do otherwise, but we keep it because we would not do otherwise, because we have come to delight therein, and this seems to me the greatest wonder of divine grace.

See, dear friends, how different is the Lord’s way of working and ours. If you knock down a man who is living an evil life, and put him in chains, you can make him honest by force; or if you set him free, and hem him round with Acts of Parliament, you may make him sober if he cannot get anything to drink, you may make him wonderfully quiet if you put a gag in his mouth; but that is not God’s way of acting.

He who put man in the Garden of Eden, and never put any palisades around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but left man a free agent, does just the same in the operations of his grace. He leaves his people to the influences that are within them, and yet they go right, because they are so changed and renewed by his grace that they delight to do that which once they loathed to do.

I admire the grace of God in acting thus. We should have taken the watch to pieces, and broken half the wheels, and made new ones, or something of the kind. But God knows how to leave the man just as much a man as he was before his conversion, and yet to make him so entirely a new man that old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

And this is very beautiful, too, that when God writes his law in his people’s hearts, He makes this the way of their preservation. When God’s law is written in a man’s heart, that heart becomes divinely royal property, for the King’s name is there, and the heart in which God has written his name can never perish.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

HT: Pyro

Quotes (510)

spurgeon!

“Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp” – Hebrews 13:13

Jesus, bearing His cross, went forth to suffer without the gate.  The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be singular, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master.  Christ was “not of the world”:  His life and His testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world.  Never was such overflowing affection for men as you find in Him; but still He was separate from sinners.  In like manner Christ’s people must “go forth unto Him”.  They must take their position “without the camp”, as witness-bearers for the truth.  They must be prepared to tread the straight and narrow path.  They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and His truth next, and Christ and His truth beyond all the world.  Jesus would have His people “go forth without the camp” for their own sanctification.  You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world.  The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may cost you many pangs, and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all.  No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ:  Jesus reveals Himself so graciously, and gives such sweet refreshment, that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest.  The highway of holiness is the highway of communion.  It is thus we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “without the camp”.  The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation.  A moment’s shame will be well recompensed by eternal honor; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are “forever with the Lord”.

– C.H. Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

Quotes (422)

Thou art my hope in the day of evil (Jeremiah 17:17)

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters”, but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! Say not so, thou who are walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotton bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

– C.H. Spurgeon