Theology With The Good Reverend

As I have revealed in the past, I am an ordained minister-- as such, from time to time, I feel that I should post about some of the theological questions that the Church feels it must try to answer. I hold that my view may be incorrect, however, I fully hold that the answers can't be known until we can actually ask God.

“4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

-Hebrews 6:4-8
Hebrews chapter 6 contains a passage that is very controversial among Christians. Interpretation of this passage has differed greatly, and as such, has caused a great division in the Church. When interpreting any passage, one must look also at the context for which it was written, as well as what other passages say about the same subject.
The letter to the Hebrews is mainly filled with doctrine. The main point of the letter is to show Christ’s Person. The audience of this letter was Jewish Christians, and while its primary message was for them, it is still applicable as it addresses a key issue, the fact and development of one’s relationship with God. (Hebrews A Devotional Commentary)
The Author of Hebrews is unknown. There is much speculation as to who the author is, and some of those named are: Paul, Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Philip and Priscilla. The reason the book of Hebrews was included in the Bible is that it was believed that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter, and that if he did not write the letter, then there would be a gap in his epistles, which Mr. F.W. Grant referred to as a double Pentateuch, with the first seven on developing the Christian’s position before God, and the last seven dealing with developing our shared relationship with God. The first set of epistles would be Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians (with Philemon) and Philippians. The second set of epistles include: Thessalonians, Corinthians, Hebrews, Timothy and Titus. It is important to note that Hebrews would be the third book in this “Pentateuch,” corresponding with Leviticus, which is similar to Hebrews. (Hebrews A Devotional Commentary)
It is believed that Hebrews was written sometime between AD 63 and AD 66, as it appears that the temple was still standing at the time the letter was written, but that they day was approaching.
The purpose of Hebrews was to lead Jewish Christians into a better understanding and knowledge of Christian truth. The author intended to show them that Christianity is the final and complete religion, and nothing else is to come.
This passage contains no regular verbs; they are participles, which are infinitive, implied verbs. Key words for the passage chose are as follows:
Hebrews 6:4-8 has primarily to do with the issue of salvation, more specifically, it deals with whether or not someone who has truly fallen away from God, whether saved or not, could ever become saved. This passage indicates that if someone truly does fall away from God, they can not be brought back to repentance. When trying to figure out just which group of people, saved or unsaved, the passage is referring to, it is required that the language used, as well as previous scripture, be used in interpreting the meaning of this passage.
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened . . . if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance . . .” The sentence was shortened after the first comma to show how it would read without the examples of what they have been through. Looking at just this sentence, it is important to note that it merely says enlightened. The passage does not give a clear, irrefutable, unequivocal term that is usually used to describe salvation. It does not read it is impossible for those who have been saved by grace. Nor does it use such words as justification, sanctification, new birth, regeneration, new creature, or in Christ, or other such terminology. It merely states that they are enlightened, which means that they are aware of the existence of Christ. The description is not of an ordinary person who is aware of Christ, but of someone who has had high spiritual experiences, but still falls away. This passage refers to people who have deliberately refused to rely on the sacrifice of Christ; it is a state of a willful renouncing of Jesus’ atoning work.
“. . . who have tasted the heavenly gift . . .” Note here that the word used is “tasted,” it does not say that they drank of the heavenly gift. It is possible to taste something, and not drink it. This does not conclusively mean that because they tasted, they are saved.
“. . . who have shared in the Holy Spirit . . .” At first glance, it is almost conclusive that the people being referred to in this passage are Christians. There are ministries of the Spirit other than that of indwelling. It is possible to share in the spirit by responding for a time to His drawing power, power used in the intent of leading one ultimately to Christ. The word “shared” implies something done in company with others. It is also significant to note that it does not state that they were “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit.
“. . . 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God . . .” They heard the word of God, and responded to it, but failed to combine it with faith, and thus did not enter into salvation.
“. . . and the powers of the coming age . . .” This refers to the miracles performed by Jesus during his time on earth. It is also indicative of what happened during the time of the exodus from Egypt, as well as what is to come, where people will see these miracles and still refuse to come to repentance.
“. . . then have fallen away . . .” From the context of the rest of Hebrews, those who fall away are not genuine believers. 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” When trying to figure out how one could have expierianced all of the evidence for God and not have embraced salvation in Christ, one needs only look at the example of Judas. Everything discussed thus far about the passage was part of Judas’ experience, but he never actually became saved. Jesus himself called Judas “devil” in John 6:70, “Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’” Jesus knew Judas’ condition from the beginning, though he managed to fool the other disciples to the last.
“. . . it is impossible . . .” This one pretty much speaks for itself. Hebrews 12:16-17 gives a good example. “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. Esau couldn’t repent, because his heart was too hard. All the while he wanted things to go better, he still refused to submit to God’s terms. The more you reject the teachings of the gospel, the more you become immune to it.
“. . . to renew them again . . .” it is the opportunity for receiving salvation, not salvation itself that can be lost. 2 Thessalonians 2:11, “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
“. . . to repentance . . .” the author fears that there are those in his audience whom are participating in the church, witnessing for him, but still haven’t repented. Because they have turned from the light, they are enemies of, not members of, the people of God.
“. . . because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” To crucify Jesus again would mean that the person continuously and maliciously spurns Christ, not just careless disregard. It is significant to note that it is in present tense, which means that those who have fallen away are actively and continually crucify/subject to disgrace, the Messiah.
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it. . .” This first bit describes both lands used in the second part of the passage, but two different outcomes are given.
“. . . and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.” The rain comes first; the land does not produce the crop by itself. Similarly, we can not produce good works without God.
“But land that produces thorns and thistles . . .” Fruitfulness is a test of the genuine nature of a plant/tree. The rain that falls from heaven is corresponds to the word of God, and if the land produces fruit then it is seen as good land. If however, it produces thorns and thistles, or becomes barren, then the land is bad, and nothing of benefit will grow there.
“. . . is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.” The land does not withstand God’s test. No where in the other uses of this type of wording does it refer to a believer, and in Titus 1:16, it describes someone who does not have eternal life.
“In the end it will be burned.” There are some who believe that this process of burning is for purifying purposes, however, this would not fit with the rest of the passage. The type of burning here is more in tune with the idea of eternal destruction. Eternal Destruction being the fate for all who are not saved.
Other passages that deal with the subject of eternal security:
Romans 8:35-39: “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Everything about this passage suggests that there is nothing that can separate you from Christ once you are in his care.
Other New Testament passages are Jude 24, 25, Ephesians 1:3-4, 1 John 2:19, 1 Peter 1:5, Philippians 1:6, 2:13, 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Ezekiel 11:19, 36:27.

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