Hebrews 6:4: A Brief Exposition
There are many verses in Sacred Scripture that bring various perspectives about the life and position of the believer. One such verse is Hebrews 6:4-6, which states the following:
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, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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 (NASB).
There are those who make the case that if one who claims they are saved, and they who have fallen away were not really Christian. One such podcast, making a connection with the Book of Hebrews and connecting it with the Lord’s Supper mentions that the verbs (i.e., actions) of those who the author of Hebrews has addressed are in this past tense stating that “they tasted, but they did not eat.” The author then completes his thought by expressing the following statement
“…So church members who forsake the ministry of the word and the sacrament really fall away from something important, the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit united to these means. So, dangerous thing.”Michael Horton (2018). Does Hebrews 6:4 Teach We Can Lose Our Salvation? Core Christianity. Retrieved from https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/episodes/losing-your-salvation-in-hebrews-6
In the notes concerning the show he also writes the following paragraph:
There is a difference between tasting and eating. When we come to worship and we hear Christ Himself say, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, I will give you rest,”when we’re baptized, when we come to the Lord’s Supper, Paul says “This bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? This cup that we bless is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” And so, [the question is], are you really participating by faith? Are you really receiving Christ with all of his benefits? Or are you just receiving the means, going through the motions but rejecting the reality offered to you? The real thing that should be encouraging to people is [Hebrews chapter 6] verse 9, “Though we speak in this way yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things, things that belong to salvation.”Michael Horton (2018). Does Hebrews 6:4 Teach We Can Lose Our Salvation? Core Christianity. Retrieved from https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/episodes/losing-your-salvation-in-hebrews-6
In the general context of Hebrews the author, in the last part of chapter five, has just given the Jewish believers an admonishment stating that they ought to be teachers, but because they are “dull of hearing” they need a recap of the doctrines they were taught previously (Heb. 5:11-12). The author then explains they need milk, like an infant because they are still not accustomed to solid food (v. 13). The author then tells them what the solid food is, that they would have their senses constantly trained to discern truth from error (v. 14). It is on the heels of this thought that chapter six begins.
The author at the beginning of chapter six stated the Jewish believers needed to press on to maturity, not laying a foundation of repentance from dead works to serve a living God (the audience the author was addressing was already standing on this foundation of repentance) (Heb. 6:1). He then mentions some of the doctrines they discussed: The washings (more likely the washings refer to identification: being sanctified by Christ and His Holy Spirit; c.f. 1 Cor. 6:7; Tit. 3:5), laying on of hands (perhaps an ability to manifest the Holy Spirit for the common good that came by this practice (c.f., 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6)), the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (eschatological teaching) (v. 4). The author then expressed that they would continue to teach these things as God permitted them to do so (v. 5).
Then the author of Hebrews then began to lay out an argument by telling the Jewish believers it is impossible (lit. “not possible”) to have been illumined by the truth of God’s word, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ, have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit and made alive in Christ (i.e., the powers of the age to come) and fall away to renew them again to repentance (due to the fact they believed the message of the Messiah and His work for them) when they crucify themselves to the Son of God putting Him to open shame. The author then gives an example found in the culture with farming. When rain falls on soil that is tilled and cultivated, it brings forth vegetation that is useful to all, and this results in a blessing from God (v. 7). By contrast, the author brings up if the ground produces weeds and things that are not beneficial then they will be cut down and burned (v. 8).
The intent of the author of Hebrews is not making a case for saints forsaking the ministry of Lord’s Supper in this text (matter of fact the term “Lord’s Supper” is not even mentioned here). He is making the case for effective works among God’s saints. The author of Hebrews is telling them to leave the elementary teachings of Christ and press on to maturity (this word in Greek is τελειότης (teleiotes), and this is associated with being full grown or complete). In addition, the author of Hebrews affirmed they are saved from God’s wrath. They know the elementary doctrines of Scripture, and now the deeds they were to do were to be fueled by the doctrines they were assured. The Jewish believers were to be effective in their serving others, and in the end, this would result in a reward from God at the proper time. However, those who are believers who do not labor well, end up giving a “black eye” to the message of the gospel, their works become ineffective to all who are around and ultimately will result in loss of rewards from God.
This point the author of Hebrews is making is underscored in the proceeding verses noted below:
9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:9-12 NASB emphasis mine).
The author of Hebrews says to the “beloved” (this word is only used for believers) concerning them and the things that accompany (or belong to) salvation that God will not forget their work as they have ministered to His saints. The author then expressed his desire: That they continue to be diligent due to the realization of their assurance, and not to be sluggish (the Greek word is νωθρός (nothros), which in this context lit. means “lazy”), not to fall away and thus be ineffective to the service of the Lord, but to imitate those saints who labored knowing they were destined to inherit these promises God made to them.
These verses, in context, are not discussing how a believer can lose their salvation nor is the author discussing dangerous territory if a believers do not take the Lord’s Supper (in fact from the text the author of Hebrews, in context, is making a case against this, nor is this verse discussing the consequence of denying the Lord’s Supper, which is not mentioned). This passage is meant to be an encouragement to the Jewish believers to continue to be effective in their labor for the Lord, not to slack, but to be diligent. In this work, the one who labors well honors the word of God and will be rewarded by God in the future.
Let us take the wisdom of God through the author of Hebrews to heart. Let us be effective for Him. In this, we serve our brothers and sisters in the faith and ultimately be rewarded for our service, for His glory. Amen.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!