Yesterday, I got a text that read, 'Hiya, do you know what Hebrews 6v4-6 means?' My initial response was, 'Of course I do; I know what everything means.' (As a trainee English teacher, I feel the need to have a least one literary device per post. This is an example of hyperbole.) So, full of confidence, I dropped Hebrews 6 into Google and read the passage. The verses my friend was asking about were these:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.I don't know about you, but I felt slightly tricked. The beginning sounded so positive; I was sure it was going to have a happy ending. When I was reading it, I was expecting it to go a bit like this:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age to be separated from the love of Jesus. They will go to heaven, which we know is like Disneyland but without the queues.But instead, it dropped a bombshell. It tells us that 'it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened... and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance'" Initially I was a bit stunned so I reread the passage. Then, just in case I missed an important 'not' somewhere, preferably before the word 'impossible', I read it again. There was no missing not. (I did debate with myself whether I should pencil it in, but I didn't.) Then a load of questions flew around my head. ('What happened to "once a king and queen of Narnia, always a king and queen of Narnia"? Did Alsan lie?'; 'But what about people who grew up Christian, had a wobbly moment but now are committed to following Jesus?'; 'Who was right, then, Calvin or Arminius?') Needless to say, this passage left me somewhat confused.
The Bible suggests that at least the appearance of original salvation isn't everything. Philippians 2:12 talks about continuing to work out your salvation. There are loads of other verses, some of which I have compiled for you here, that talk about falling away. Even Paul voices a concern at becoming "unqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:27).
However, the Bible is clear that salvation is not based on what we do. It is based entirely on what Jesus has done, and it is a case of having to accept this gift. This is what really matters. The Bible also says this in a lot of places. So, Jesus saves, and that's where you have to put your confidence. Once you've done this, persevere in it and the evidence of your faith will be a life that bears fruit.
I don't think we should be surprised if we see people seem to put their faith in Jesus and, either pretty much straight away or over time, lose this. The parable of the sower warns of this. However, this does not leave us hopeless. James 5:19-20 tells us:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.This passage explicitly states that those who have turned away can be bought back to repentance. As a brother or sister in Christ to such a person, we are to bring them back to repentance. And as they say, prevention is as good as a cure, Hebrews 3:12-14 is also helpful:
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.The prevention and cure both involve the role of others. It is, therefore, so important to be in a community of believers that can encourage you. Find people that will encourage you and find those that you can encourage as well. Run the race, run it well, and may you be blessed in doing so.
- Who encourages you?
- Are the questions that come into my mind normal? Or are they an insight into a troubled psyche?
- What passages do you find worrying?
- tweet your questions to @thomasashmead
- Have a read of Hebrews 6:4–6 and Losing One’s Salvation. I found it pretty helpful.