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"Prove all things..." 1Thess 5:21

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Hebrews 6:4-6

by Daniel J.M. Galpin

Heb 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 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.”

A very controversial passage in Christian circles, but why? There are basically two camps: once saved, always saved and those that believe Christians can lose their salvation and gain it again, which can be a never ending cycle or a rare cycle, depending on the person. Nonetheless, the process is repetitive. I was raise in the former and know many personally in the later. If we come to Scripture with preconceived notions or doctrines taught by many Christian traditions, then this verse is troublesome. However, if we come to Scripture and let Scripture speak, the verse is not controversial.

Hermeneutics 101, acknowledged by both camps, is the method by which one interprets Scripture. Both sides of the salvation issue agree we are to let Scripture talk and thereby gain its intended meaning. Both sides have their proof text (that support their views). Both agree, Scripture is harmonious and without error. So why the conflict? Both sides have their view of who God is and they limit Him to their understanding of Him, which is in part understandable, we only know in part and we see through the glass darkly (1Cor 13:8-12). Anyone, apart from Christ, or any group that claims to know all truth is a liar! Run from them!

So then, how can we know the answer to this passage? With the below mind set, read the passage, or any passage for that matter, and let Scripture speak!

  1. The Word of God is from God via men inspired by God, (2 Tim 3:16), therefore Scripture is without error;
  2. The Holy Spirit is a Christian's number one teacher (Jn. 14:26), although we must test the spirits (1 Jn 4:1) because Satan and his messengers can appear as messengers of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Thereby, what we think is the Spirit leading cannot contradict other Scripture or it's not the God's Spirit doing the leading;
  3. Put aside preconceived ideas of who God is, how we image Him to be or what we think He must do; He can do anything He wants, He is after all God;
  4. Do not hold to what you've been taught by your Christian traditions, if it contradicts Scripture. This was the error of the Pharisees (Mt. 15:3, 6);
  5. Dip into the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words. This can by done with a Bible concordance or Bible software, some of which are free to download online. It's like any other dictionary, except the words in Scripture have been assigned numbers and you lookup the numbers;
  6. Pray and ask God for His meaning of what He wrote. Seek His wisdom (Jas. 3:15-17). He is the author and who better to know what was meant by what He wrote, then God Himself!
  7. Accept the Word of God as written, with the faith of a child (Mt. 18:3-4), knowing God is the perfect parent who wants us to know Him better.
  8. Also know God can do anything He pleases (Ps 115:3) and is far beyond our limited understanding (Isa 55:9).

As for the proof text used by both sides, to mention them would require more time and explanation allowed by the point of this article, it would in fact, require a book to be written. Therefore we will address the main points of both sides of the debate. Once saved, always saved says that at any point in time, if one confesses Jesus as Lord, one is saved. The other side says you get saved, fall away, that is become unsaved again, then repent and get saved and the cycle repeats as necessary. Which is true? Are either true? I believe Heb. 6:4-6 answers the debate clearly.

On the surface, it appears neither side is correct. Once a saved person falls away (not once saved always saved), that person cannot be saved again (salvation is not a repetitive cycle). We need to dig deeper to confirm this: get into the Greek and make up your own mind with much prayer. I've included the definitions with the Greek numbers.

Now reread Heb 6:4-6 with the definitions of the words in parenthesis and bolded for clarification:

Since Scripture means what is says and says what it means and does not contradict, neither side is correct because this passages says a saved person can denounce Christ and walk away, and if they do, they cannot be saved again: taking Hev 6:4-6 literally, means the saved can become unsaved and never be saved again. The question now is, does other Scripture support this conclusion? We must have harmony within Scripture. This passage does not say one loses their salvation for a lack or failure to meet God's holy standards, but rather, one exercises freewill to willfully walk away. While I cannot address, in depth, the different views of salvation based on freewill vs election and eternal security here, I will show accepting Heb. 6:4-6 literally does not contradict either of those views and is consistent with the believer's security of salvation outlined in the Bible. If you wish more detail on the harmony of freewill and election, see "Freewill, Election, Harmony."

Freewill and Hebrews 6:4-6

If we have freewill, to become saved, to be consistent with a freewill, it must also possible to use the same freewill to denounce the faith (become unsaved) or we do not have a freewill after salvation. Therefore taking Heb. 6:4-6 literally, would not contradict the freewill of individuals, both before or after one is saved. Those who believe we choose salvation would present verse such as the following, but not limited to these:

Election and Hebrews 6:4-6

Salvation by God's election is because, in man's use of freewill, we would all rejected God as Adam did. Therefore in God's mercy, God choses some to be saved, those being the elect. The above conclusion regarding Heb. 6:4-6 does not contradict such a view, for God protects the elect from denouncing Christ. However, those holding this view will question and deny such, because who God has elected, no man can un-elect. This issue is addressed next when addressing one's eternal security. The verses immediately below only address becoming saved by God's election and are not limited to these:

Believer's Security and Hebrews 6:4-6

Regarding the eternal security of the believers regardless of how they became saved, freewill or election, does not contradict the literal interpretation of Heb. 6:4-6. We cannot lose our salvation due to a lack of performance to God regarding His holy standard nor have our salvation taken away from us. Freewill is not limited and the elect cannot be un-elected, they will not denounce Christ because they are protected by God, however, understanding who the elect are and denying if a person can be saved, but not elect, is important to understand. We can however, willfully give up our salvation. 

Willful Surrender
1Tim 4:1 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;"
2Thesss 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition”
Heb 3:12 "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
Heb 10:26 "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,"
2Pet. 2:15, 21 "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness... For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them”
2Pet 3:17 "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness."
Rev 22:18-19 "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Matt 25:25-30 "And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matt 12:31 "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men."
Election Protection
Matt 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."
Mat 24:22-24,31 "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not; For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect... And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Eph 1:4-5,11 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will... In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will
2Th 2:13 "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth"
Salvation, Not Taken Away
Joh 10:27-29 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Rom 8:38-39 "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Salvation Not Lost
Matt 5:18-19 "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Eph 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Salvation Once
John 15:6 "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Heb 10:26 "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,"
2Pet. 2:15, 21 "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness... For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them”

Peter's Denial and Hebrews 6:4-6

Assuredly the question of Peter's denial will arise in the mind of some. The question is, did Peter deny who Christ is, the Son of God, or deny knowing the person Jesus? There is a big difference! One is to refuse association with or to while the other is to abandon what one believes. We know Peter knew Christ is the Messiah, he declared it. Likewise, Peter never denied who Christ is, rather only that he did not know the person Jesus, therefore, Peter never abandoned his faith in Christ, rather in fear denied association with Him. Look at the text and meanings of the words.

Peter knew who Jesus is:
Matt 16:16-17 "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
Peter denied being with Jesus:
Matt 26:69-70 "Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest."
Mar 14:67-68 “And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.”
Luke 22:58-60 "And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew."
Peter denied knowing Jesus:
Matt 26:72-74 "And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew."
Mar 14:70-71 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
Luke 22:57 "And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not."
Deny vs Fall Away (Apostatize)
APOS'TATIZE
To abandon one's profession or church; to forsake principles or faith which one has professed; or the party to which one has been attached.
DENY
1. To contradict; to gainsay; to declare a statement or position not to be true.
2. To refuse to grant or give
3. To withhold.
4. To disown; to refuse or neglect to acknowledge; not to confess.
5. To reject; to disown; not to receive or embrace.
6. Not to yield to self-desire

Therefore it is not a contradiction of Heb. 6:4-6 when Peter repented: he never disowned his faith in Christ, but rather is association with the person Jesus and he showed his repentance boldly as Scripture testifies, including two letters which the Holy Spirit wrote by him.. 

Conclusion

To some much there may appear as splitting hairs, however, it is rightly dividing the Word of God. God's Word cannot contradict itself, nor is it wrong. The simple truth is we CANNOT deny Heb. 6:4-6 nor make it say something it does not clearly say or we are guilty of misrepresenting God's Holy Scripture. Many try to creativity fit this passage into their doctrinal viewpoint. I merely took it at face value and saw that other Scripture supported its direct meaning: one can be saved and willfully walk away, but never return to the faith.

Read and study it for yourselves: Heb 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 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.”