[Post 2 of three projected posts]
In our first post, we looked at the idea that these verses teach that one can lose his or her salvation. This view is based on the words, “if they fall away,” which is taken to mean that one who is truly saved, can “fall away” and ultimately be lost. I had a Boston Church of Christ elder tell me that he believed that one could be a child of God and be in hell at the same time.
We examined that view. However, those verses clearly state that if one could lose salvation, he or she could not be saved again. Such a thing is impossible.
Well, then, if the writer wasn’t teaching the loss of salvation truly had, what was he teaching?
In the study of any Scripture, there are three things to keep in mind:
Kind of like the old saying that the three important things in real estate are location, location, location.
However, this is much more serious than that somewhat light-hearted, though often true, statement.
There really are three things to consider in “context.”
1. What does the verse actually say?
This probably has more to do with “content,” but still is in the context of what the verse actually says. We saw that in the first post.
2. What does the surrounding context say?
That is, what do the verses around a particular verse say. What does the paragraph or chapter say? On this, remember that verse, paragraph and chapter divisions are not “inspired” by the Holy Spirit. While perhaps making the study of Scripture “easier,” they often obscure the meaning because they break up the writer’s thought in ways that it shouldn’t be broken up.
3. What does the Bible itself say?
That is, what is the teaching of the entire Bible on a given subject? One or two verses on any subject cannot and do not give us a complete understanding of that subject. John 3:16 isn’t all the Bible says about the love of God. Ephesians 1:4 isn’t all the Bible says about election. Acts 2:38 isn’t all the Bible says about baptism. Acts 2:4 isn’t all the Bible says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and tongues. Matthew 7:1 isn’t all the Bible says about “judging”. Etc., etc.
What is the “context” of Hebrews 6:4-6?
Though it’s recipients aren’t named, it’s apparent that the book was written to Jewish Christians, who would have understood all the Old Testament references in the book. These Hebrew believers were apparently suffering persecution because of their faith. The Temple was still standing in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system was still being followed. These believers were being tempted to desert Christ and go back to their old religion, to the old way of doing things.
The Book of Hebrews warns them not to do that.
Further, in 5:11 (NKJV), the writer sort of scolds them for not having matured to the point where he could teach them some things hard to explain. He told them that they really needed to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God, v. 12, though they had been saved long enough that, he wrote, by this time you ought to be teachers, v. 12.
“First principles” are those things which a person just saved or just coming to salvation begins to understand.
However, the writer doesn’t take them back to those things. In 6:1, he begins …leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], NOT LAYING AGAIN THE FOUNDATION OF REPENTANCE FROM DEAD WORKS AND OF FAITH TOWARD GOD [emphasis added].
In other words, he doesn’t take them back to the point of their first being saved. He wants them to “go on,” not “start over.”
in v. 3, he makes a startling statement: and this we will do if God permits.
A lot of people seem to treat salvation kind of like a hat. You put it on and if the wind blows it off, you just retrieve it and put it back on. So, they “get saved” and if they “lose” it, they’ll just “get saved again.” However, the salvation of our souls is a lot more serious than that. Our “advancement” in the things of God, even our very entrance into them, is in the hands of God. It’s not something to be thought of lightly or taken for granted.
You see, salvation is indeed “of grace,” so that no one need despair. However, It is of “sovereign grace,” so that no one dare presume.
v.4, For it is impossible….
The reason the writer didn’t “take them back” is because that’s impossible. There is no “redo” in salvation. There is only “forward”.
Our Lord spoke of the new birth. Both testaments say that the just shall live by faith, Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17. But life is more than just about “birth,” though that’s obviously essential. My wife and I are looking forward, next Tuesday, Lord willing, to flying to Montana to meet our new granddaughter, who has just been born. We’ll also see her big brother, whom we have met. But he won’t be just a new baby. He’s about three years old. He’s grown.
Our other grandchildren were once just babies. But now two of the boys are teenagers and the others aren’t far behind. I kid my daughter that in 10 years or so, she can look forward to being a grandmother. 🙂 I hope mom and I are still around to see that.
They’ve all grown.
The writer to the Hebrews tells his readers that they’re not still to be “newborns,” they’re supposed to grow, develop, mature.
In the context of Hebrews, “falling away” isn’t about denying the Lord, or of walking away from the things of God. It’s about “standing still,” not progressing, not growing, not “living.” We might paraphrase it as “falling by the wayside.”
The writer told his readers,
“It’s time to grow up.”