Hebrews 6: Close Only Counts in Horseshoes
Hebrews 6: 1-8
Have you ever considered the fact a Jew who became a Christian at the time of Jesus and in the early days after Pentecost, became a completed Jew. Christianity has its roots in Judaism and is based on the fulfillment of the Jewish faith. In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, Jesus said to her: “You worship what you do not know; we (Jews) know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. “ Jesus, the God-Man was a Jew. He said in the Sermon on the Mount, He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it, every jot and tittle. He came to complete the promise made to Abraham and to the nation which would come through the descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. The revelation of the Savior to come was made through the Jewish nation, the Word of God was deposited in them. Then the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. In fact when the Samaritan woman said I know the Messiah is coming; how did she know this? She knew it because the Word of God revealed to the Jews told her so. Jesus then told her: “I who speak to you am He.” Judaism is not a false religion; it is an incomplete one. It stopped at the Malachi and a veil fell over the New Testament even though the last Old Testament prophet showed up in the New Testament to make a way for the Messiah. He was John the Baptist. They were so close- but close only counts in horse shoes.
The writer had compared those who were not spiritually mature as babies in Hebrews 5. They were spiritually immature and were not making any progress. They were unskilled in using the Word of God and had trouble discerning good from evil. A baby will put anything into their mouth, and an immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and put into their mind mistruths which are not scriptural.
Hebrews 6 begins with a call to spiritual maturity. The first danger sign was drifting from the Word. The result of drifting, when hearts go astray is doubting the Word of God. This is what occurred to the whole generation of Israelites who were delivered out of Egypt by God’s Mighty Hand, but failed to enter the rest of the Promised Land and spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness where they died. They had become dull of hearing, slow to learn and did not go on to spiritual maturity.
THE PERIL OF NOT PROGRESSING
This is the heading of this chapter in the New King James version. The author calls believers to spiritual maturity: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection….” Leaving the elementary principles is moving past the ABC’s. We were taught our ABC’s in kindergarten and the first grade. This was in order for us to learn how to read, for reading is the basis for education and moving on. Our education did not keep repeating the learning of the ABC’s each year. It built upon the foundation so we could grow up, learn science, math, history, etc. In other words we use the basics to go on to better things.
The author then lists six foundational truths of the Christian life, which were also foundational truths in the Jewish faith. If the readers of this epistle went back to Judaism, they would be abandoning the superior for the inferior, the complete for the incomplete, and the mature of the immature. Let’s look at this list: Repentance of dead works and faith toward God. These two are linked together. You cannot have faith toward God until you have repented of your sins. Repentance is a change in direction as a result of a change in your thinking. Repentance begins with a change of one’s mind. Once you have repented, you can begin to exercise faith toward God. (You may think I have decided to follow Jesus. But it was the Father who drew you and the Father who through the Spirit convicted you and the Father who accepted your true repentance. Salvation is all of God.) Once Jesus had offered Himself as a sacrifice all the works which had been performed before were a foreshadowing of things to come- were no longer necessary. They were dead works. Works which come from the flesh, self-efforts are dead works. The works we must do are the works which God has ordained for us, once we have been saved and have become Christs’ workmanship. These are the works both Paul and James said would accompany true faith. Faith and repentance are the two sides of the same coin.
The next two foundational truths deal with baptisms and laying on of hands. Notice baptisms is plural. Baptism means to dip or immerse. It was a word used to describe the process of dying a cloth, by immersing the cloth into a dye. The cloth would then absorb the dye changing its color and becoming something it was not before. It also referred to cleansing with water. The plural use refers to the ritual cleansing the Jews practiced which was symbolical of being cleansed of your sins. There is only one baptism, one Lord, one faith. Laying on of hands could symbolize a couple of things: being set apart for a work and this is what happens when we are saved; we are sanctified or set apart unto God. There was also the laying of hands on the head of the lamb offered for a sacrifice; this was symbolical of laying one’s sins upon the lamb. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin and sins of the world. All my sins have been laid upon Him. His sacrifice was once and forever. It is eternal. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
The last two elementary truths which both Christianity and Judaism believe are: the resurrection of the dead and the final judgement. The resurrection of the dead in Judaism is not clearly defined. In the New Testament we see two distinct resurrections: the resurrection of the saved and the resurrection of the lost to eternal judgment. The lost are judged for their sins, the saved are not judged for their sins have been paid for by the Blood of the Lamb.
The author of Hebrews says the foundation has been laid. You know your ABC’s, now move on toward maturity.
Now comes some of the most, (if not most) controversial verses in the New Testament. Hebrews 6:4-8 can cause a Christian worry and concern and leads to the question: Can I lose my salvation? Have I committed the unpardonable sin? Is salvation eternal? Can I have and know I have eternal security?
Here are the verses from the New King James Version:
“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 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.” (Hebrews 6: 4-8) NKJV It is impossible for these to be renewed again to repentance, if they fall away. He did not say it is difficult, or really hard – but impossible. Just as it is not possible, it is impossible to please God without faith.
To understand this passage we must look at the following words and understand their significance. The words we will look at from the NKJV and KJV are: if, fall away, renew (brought back, NIV) and repentance.
I want to focus our attention first on the word: if. It is important we understand this little word. I have looked at the definition and synonyms in English, Hebrew and Greek.
In English the word if is defined as a conjunction used to describe or introduce a conditional clause, a supposition. Synonyms include: presuming, supposing, in the event that.. For example: If this direction is North, then the opposite must be South. The inference is we are not sure this is north, but supposing it is north, then the opposite direction must be south.
In Hebrew, according to Strong’s Concordance, the word if is defined and described as a hypothetical participle. In other words it is introducing a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a supposed or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for investigation. We could also use the word – theory. (Evidence is then used to strengthen or weaken the theory or hypothesis.)
In Greek the word if is used to introduce something as true for the sake of argument. It comes from the word prostasis. Pro- meaning before or first- stasis meaning stand. Before we make a stand we assume something to be true for the sake of the argument.
All similar meanings which tells us the author is proposing a hypothetical situation for the sake of argument and investigating what the outcome would be if this statement was true. * If we make false assumptions we will deduce false conclusions.
What we want to understand is how the ‘if’ can supposition be proven false or true? It can be proven false by what we know to be true. If you know the truth, the truth will set you free. For example: in the case of if this direction is North, then the opposite direction must be South. Now put anyone in a windowless room, close their eyes and turn them around several times and ask them to point to the North. It would be only by sheer luck one could identify true North. How would one know North from South in this situation? By use of a compass.
What is our compass? The Word of God. Absolute truth with the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us. What does it tell me? Romans 8: 35, 38, 39. John 5:24. John 3:16. John 10:10-18. Hebrews 10:14. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us if we are in Christ Jesus we are new creature. We have been regenerated, re-gened. Also sealed. All of these verses are promises, from God’s lips to our ears. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path. We have a Guide, the Holy Spirit who will guide us in truth. These are some of the many verses in Scripture which tell us the TRUE BELIEVER CAN NEVER BE LOST. The Word of God tells us so- the Word of God is our true compass. Emphasis is on true. Having been made new once, and forever sealed, we do not need to be ‘renewed.’ Like our subscription to Southern Living has expired and must be renewed. It means you must pay the subscription fee in order to continue to receive Southern Living. But we have received Eternal Life- our subscription to Eternal Living never expires. If it expired, Jesus would have to pay the renewal fee again and we are told He made one sacrifice for all. He paid it all for all sins for all of time.
Look at the supposition here and figure out what the Word of God is saying is impossible- . What follows is the description of a person who is described in the following words:
- Once enlightened
- Have tasted the heavenly gift
- Have become partakers of the Holy Spirit
- To Have tasted the good word of God
- And the powers of the age to come.
Next comes the supposition: if they fall away. Fall away refers to those who have experienced all of the above (1-5) and then fall away. But if they fall away, not just backslide, but leave- I John 2 tells us they were never part of us, not true believers. It is impossible to renew this person to repentance. Renew means new, but qualitatively different. Here the supposition is: it is impossible for a person having tasted these things, when they fall away, to have a new and qualitatively different repentance. The assumption being- Jesus would have to die again in order to provide a renewing.
A word here about repentance and salvation. You cannot have one without the other. Salvation comes to those who are truly repentant. God, who knows the hearts of men, accepts the truly repentant. Ephesians 1: 6 tells us: “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us acceptable in the beloved.” Salvation is all of God. It is not on our decision alone, but rather God’s decision to accept us as truly repentant sinners. God, who looks at the heart, then makes us acceptable in the Beloved Jesus. Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin and they always go together.
To say He cannot keep someone to the very end- is to say Christ has failed. Hebrews 10:10 says, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.” Jesus paid it all. It is finished. A truly repentant sinner cannot be lost. Paul said he was persuaded, was convinced and was confident God who began a good work would and could complete it.
However a Christian can sin himself or herself to death. There is a difference between a backslider and an unbeliever. But unfortunately many who witness the professed Christian who lives as an unbeliever see the hypocrisy and the enemy keeps the lost in darkness because we are not the light we should be. There are occasions where the Lord will take this sinner home rather than leave them here to defame his name. Why should God leave you here if you are wasting your life – doing nothing for Him and even worse, defaming His name. Ask Ananias and Sapphira about sin unto death. Ask the members of the church at Corinth about sin and sickness and physical death. (I Cor. 11:30)
Now back to these verses: If we put a true believer in these verses we are saying if a Christian, a true believer, falls away, it would be impossible to renew repentance and repentance is necessary for salvation. My conclusion is this hypothesis is false. A true believer, a Christian cannot fall away and lose his salvation have to be made new again. This would mean something had separated me from the love of God and someone or something had snatched me out of the Hand of My Savior. This is a false assumption for Scriptures which we have quoted assure us whom God saves and He saves to the uttermost. When Jesus Christ died for my sins 2000 years ago, all my sins were in the future, and He forgave every one of them. When I sin, I do not lose my salvation. I have a loss of fellowship which can be restored according to I John 1: 9. I do not have to be baptized again, I just need to wash my feet. It is a false argument a true believer can lose their salvation, for we have been told nothing can separate us from the love of God. And Jesus told us nothing can snatch us from His hand. If this assumption that we could be lost again was true- then Jesus would have to die again and this is not the case since we are told He died once for all.
The writer of Hebrews then introduces a short parable of two fields. Keeping to the understanding of the meaning of the Parables of the Sower and the Seed, the two fields represent two hearts, two souls. Here are two Jewish boy growing up next door to each other in first century Jerusalem. They are both taught out of the same Bible. Go to the same synagogue, go to temple for the feasts, the sacrifices, etc. They hear the same message of the coming Messiah. Perhaps they both go hear John the Baptist, as everyone was going out to hear him. They both got baptized – a baptism of repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah, not a baptism of salvation. (John explained his baptism was with water unto repentance, but there was One coming, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire.) But now Jesus has come and gone and is no longer around. The persecution is picking up and the Jewish Christians are being tested and persecuted. One of them stays committed to Jesus in spite of persecution, the other turns back to Judaism.
We know from the parable of the sower and the seed, there are two types of soils or hearts which we could say, like King Agrippa, were almost persuaded. The second soil we read in Matthew 13 received the word with joy. They were enlightened, they had tasted the good word of God. But there is a stone beneath the soil. A stony heart, not a new heart. And when persecution and testing come because of the Word of God, they fall away. There is also the soil which received the seed among the thorns. But the thorns are the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches which choke out the Word and they fall away. They produce no fruit and they shall be burned.
Peter tells us in his usual plain spoken language: “If they have escaped the pollution of this world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in the world and overcome they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: a dog returns to his vomit. And a sow is who is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Peter 2) Their nature had not changed. The dog is still a dog, not a lamb. The pig is still a pig, not a lamb. The pig had been ‘white-washed’ not washed white as snow. These have seen the light, had a taste of the good Word, but preferred darkness and had a greater appetite for sin- for their deeds were evil.
And John writes: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” I John 2
The apostate knows all about Christianity but has never been a real Christian. The backslider is a person who knows Christ, who loves Him but became cold in his love. We have all been guilty of backsliding. We will be disciplined by our Father. The Lord Jesus, Our High Priest will be our advocate and will restore our souls if we confess our sins.
An unbeliever who dies rejecting Christ loses their opportunity to be renewed. But it is impossible for the true believer to lose their salvation. They can lose eternal rewards, but never their salvation.
King Agrippa when challenged by Paul in Acts 26, did King Agrippa believe, said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian. (Agrippa reveals his political instincts in making a statement which will not cause him any problems.) To which Paul replied: “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” King Agrippa was an expert in Jewish customs and law. Head Knowledge
Almost persuaded. But Paul knew one must be almost and altogether like him. The heart is the mind, the will and the emotions. Agrippa had a knowledge in his head, but it with the whole heart, (mind, will and emotion) altogether one believes and is saved. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart God has raised Him for the dead thou shall be saved. Almost- but close only counts in horse shoes! It must be altogether- the whole heart.