Hebrews 6:4 – Out on a Limb

I think I’ve discovered a new Scriptural connection that clarifies Hebrews 6:4, which is as follows:

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if 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.”

I couldn’t understand who is addressed in this verse. Are they Christians or non-Christians? Is it possible to lose salvation?

Then I read Luke 11:24-26.

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes several other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

It’s a strange connection, but it fits perfectly. The key is the final condition of the man being worse than before. If these two scriptures describe the same reality, then the problem is solved.

I argue, then, that the “impossibility” of Hebrews 6:4 isn’t referring to a limitation of God but rather the futility of the non-elect to save themselves. Notice the demon leaves and returns at will – the natural man is not a sovereign entity, but is an open house for a stronger being to inhabit. (Jesus affirms this in v.21-22 – the strong man, though heavily armed, is always taken by the stronger).

But what of “tasting” and “sharing”? Don’t these things strongly suggest a Christian? The Jews who called for their Messiah’s blood to be on their heads had shared him for three years. They’d tasted the ex nihilo bread on the hillside. They’d seen Millennial power in the quieting of storms and paralytics walking and demons sent to the pit and the dead resurrected. They’d shared in the Holy Spirit of God who poured onto them on Palm Sunday and left them on Good Friday as quickly as he left Saul.

I have no trouble interpreting Hebrews 6:4 as describing non-Christians. (The best example is Judas. No pagan has ever gotten closer to the Most Holy God.)

Another hole in the boat of works salvation. We can’t do anything to gain or lose our justification.

One loose thread – there are demons in the equation. The natural man isn’t just natural. He has as much power over his life as soil has over the seed. He’s fertile soil for the supernatural. He’s the strong man who musters up his arms (v.21) but is inevitably overpowered.

See, when the demon leaves, the man cleans the house. But this only makes room for more spirits. The works of the natural man, especially those ‘productive’ works of self-righteousness, contain more and greater evil. Great spirits of pride enter in and live and refuse to share power, and the man is enslaved.

Preach Christ crucified. We’re cleaning our houses for demons. We’re fertilizing our soil for weeds. We need new houses, new soil.

Preacher, you will condemn people to hell with your words. Be careful that you condemn only those predestined to destruction, those who reject the crucified Son of God. Don’t condemn your whole church with soft sermons about “sharing” and “tasting.” God calls us to take and eat.

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~ by bradybush on December 7, 2009.

8 Responses to “Hebrews 6:4 – Out on a Limb”

  1. Argument: Brady, I still disagree based on the fact that Hebrews and Luke’s connection depend on the man rejecting the Holy Spirit, which is given to the saved, therefore opening the door to evil. Therefore, they have to have free will to reject the Holy Spirit. Are you therefore acknowledging free will?

    I disagree with your two assertions.

    1st assertion: The Holy Spirit is only given to the saved.

    In the sense of permanent, indwelling presence, yes. (John 14:16-17)

    But in Scripture the Holy Spirit comes upon unbelievers in influence, without a permanent indwelling. The best example is Saul.

    So we have to determine whether Hebrews is talking about indwelling or influence. It can’t be indwelling, because Ephesians 1:13-14 says that believers are marked with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing inheritance, which is given with belief.

    As well, Romans 8:9 says the believer has the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of Christ, and the unbeliever doesn’t. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit – these are all the same name of the third person of the trinity.

    The Spirit indwells the one who believes, and not the one who doesn’t believe.

    The one who believes will persevere in faith. John 6:39 and 10:27-29 are good proof texts for this.

    So therefore, the Holy Spirit only indwells those who have believed and will believe until the end. Every other spirit is counterfeit.

    Hebrews 6:4 can’t be talking about a believer, then, because the person has fallen away and can’t receive repentance, like Esau.

    2nd assertion: Free will is required to reject the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t believe in free will in almost any sense of the term. Free will is doing whatever you want, and it requires total sovereignty. Only God has it.

    But we do resist the Spirit, like Stephen accused the unbelieving Jews. The language of Acts 7:51 describes the same reality as Romans 1:18 – “suppress the truth by their wickedness.” We ignore, combat, resist, scorn, quench the Spirit with our sin.

    And we sin because we worship idols, usually ourselves. Free will debates never take into account self-worship. We’re created worshipers and can never not worship.

  2. I can see your point, but certain Biblical passages and preachers and theologians like Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias would disagree with the extremity of your statement, particularly the fact of not believing in free will in any sense of the term.

    Matt 18:7 “Offenses must come (sovereignty of God) but woe unto him through whom they come (responsibility of man).”

    Philippians 2:12-13
    Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (responsibility of man) for it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (sovereignty of God).

    Acts 3:18-20
    But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer (sovereignty of God). 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,(responsibility of man) that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

    Ravi Zacharias even went to the point of stating this: “Anyone who denies sovereignty is unbiblical. Anyone who denies responsibility is unbiblical. The Bible writers hold both of these truths, albeit in tension, but they hold them in balance.”

    Did you listen to the mp3 titled “antinomy” I sent to your gmail? That’s where you can hear some more of this discussion.

  3. And I would agree with Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias as long as they’re arguing biblically. I just don’t use the term “free will.” It doesn’t seem helpful to me. We’ve just borrowed it from a humanist philisophical debate that we’re really no part of. You get huge debates on it because nobody can decide what it means.

    The Bible says we’re either slaves to sin or slaves to Christ – this makes the “free” in “free will” irrelevant.

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse responsibility, either. But whereas they would probably argue we have a moral responsibility for our sin because of the percentage of free will allotted us by God, I would argue with the language of Romans 9 – responsibility for sin is mine simply because the clay can’t question the potter. All my steps (and missteps) have been determined from before creation. I always do pre-ordained things. But I bear the responsibility for doing all that was pre-ordained because I’m created, in no position to question my creator.

    Zacharias and I agree that there is tension, but he frames it as polar opposites. I picture it like the tension between a giant iron ship and a fridge magnet. The sovereignty, the prevenient grace of God in election and salvation is so huge that my actions seem miniscule by comparison and deserve miniscule attention. It’s most helpful to speak and teach in the language of sovereignty, to get the ego out of the equation.

    So your “work” in Philippians 2 is tiny, and God’s “work” is massive. In John 6:28-29 they ask Jesus what works they should do to get eternal life, and he says “The work of God is this: to believe in the one whom he has sent.” Jesus used simple words like “look,” “eat,” and “believe” to illustrate the simple reality of accepting a pre-ordained situation. All the work’s been done, including the preparation of your heart. You can see – now look. You are hungry – now eat.

    Before atoms came into existence, he decided to save me and planned to the microsecond each day of my life, planning that I should be saved at a young age, wander from God and be returned to God around 23. I did nothing to seek him, and I did and do everything I can to resist him. There’s no tension between God’s will and my positive action. I attribute every good thing that I do to God, not out of false modesty, but out of a Spirit-revealed realization of my helplessness.

    The language of “you and God” in opposite tension may be helpful to some, but the more I know God, the more he engulfs free will.

  4. I have a couple questions:

    1. If, as you suggest, this passage is speaking of unbelievers, then why should they be held accountable?

    2. Does it make sense for them to, after being false converts in the first place, and then falling away from their beliefs, to then be entirely without hope of redemption? If they were unbelievers, then what is there to fall away from? And why would it make sense to talk about them being brought back to repentance, if they weren’t there in the first place?

  5. Nice nice!!! I really like your last line. The more that God works in me to bring about His Kingdom, literally His reign, in my life, whether it be my social life, my marriage, my work life, my thought life, or my spiritual life, the less free will I possess because doing things contrary to His way is merely odd…it’s not the person that I am.

  6. Hmmm…

    1. The short answer is Romans 1-3.

    My longer answer is from John 15:22. Jesus says this: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” Paul says elsewhere in Romans that he would not have known what sin was without the Law, but the Law was added that sins would be revealed.

    The Word brings condemnation. It seems strange, but God both hardens people’s hearts against the Word and holds them accountable for their hardening. Furthermore, he often couches the Word in metaphoric language, so that it cannot be understood without special revelation. It’s like a triple judgment – you can’t understand, you won’t understand, you must understand.

    Hebrews 6:4 refers to those crucifying the Son of God AGAIN, signifying those who crucified him first – the natural men, the ones doomed to destruction. Those of whom Jesus says in John 3:19, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

    2. I think the “impossible” there is to stress the futility of what the natural man always does, which is behavior modification. That is, a man can do anything to clean out his heart, but if it isn’t a new heart given by God, it’s impossible to get clean.

    To answer the question, yes. Their hope for redemption is in the election of God alone. If God says it’s impossible, there is no hope. So it’s not that “impossible” means God cannot redeem that person, it’s that he will not. They’re not elect. Nothing they do will change that.

    The end of chapter 6 uses the word “impossible” again in something that God can’t do: he can’t break his promise. So as sure as God will bring Christians to heaven, he will send non-Christians to hell. The promise that secures us condemns the world.

    Now as for the “fall away,” that’s probably the most difficult part, along with “repentance.” But given the above, I trust this isn’t twisting it too much:

    The Hebrews’ understanding of salvation up until this point was to worship Yahweh by keeping the Law of Moses. And in the Law of Moses, the requirement for salvation was repentance. God counted their repentance as evidence of their faith in his revealed Word, and credited it to them (individually and corporately) as righteousness.

    So “repentance” is shorthand for faith, especially pre-Christ. The Law was so visual that obedience to it looked like outward displays of penitence, restitution, etc.

    The author of Hebrews is then telling the Jews: “If you taste all the goodness of the New Covenant, including the fulfilling of the sacrifice and the supremacy and authority of Christ, and reject it, there is no going back to the Old Covenant. The Jews crucified Christ because they thought they were protecting the Old Covenant (Lev. 24:13-16 – kill blasphemers)

    It’s like a train switching tracks – if they’re not on track, they derail. If they keep riding the Old Covenant, they fall away from God. Faith in God is now faith in the risen Christ. There is no returning to repentance if they don’t accept him, because those who don’t accept him crucify them, even if they only look on, like Pilate.

    But that answer leaves one thing out – what about Gentiles of the church age who fall away? This applies to them too. They don’t practice the Law of Moses, but they do practice the Law of Christianity – sit in the church, hear the word preached, meet Christians, hear testimonies, go to Bible study, etc.

    Every life has a confrontation with the truth of God – and if a man rejects God after sitting in a Holy Spirit-filled church, what hope does that man have for repentance? All he was trusting to begin with was that just tasting God would be enough for salvation. If only he knew that he needs a new tongue, stomach and intestine! A wholly new appetite.

    It’s like Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4. She wanted one drink to eliminate her thirst. He wanted her to have unending satisfaction for an unending thirst.

  7. We should move this to the church forum – can we make a General Discussion forum?. There’d be formatting and I wouldn’t have to keep approving your comments.

  8. So it’s 4:43 AM and I just woke up to get a fresh start on this. For starters, I think there is a connection to the Sermon on the Mount. I know you are like “what!?” but let me explain that in the third paragraph.

    The second thing about it is Paul is using humor to convey his point. Hebrews 5:12-14 is discussing milk vs solid food for infants and the mature. In Hebrews 6 he begins with a “therefore” meaning he is fixing to explain a different way, similar to the way Jesus used “therefore” in the S.o.t.M. He uses the word “taste” in verse 4 and 5. He is still referring to the food in Hebrews 5! Now the question is, is he referring to the milk or the solid food? Based on the rest of the passage through verse 12, I tend to say it is those who tasted the milk.

    So the Sermon on the Mount connection. Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with the saying that the “…men who put My Words into practice are like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock…” He obviously wanted us to put His Words into practice, to do as He said, even the “be perfect” part at the end of Matt. 5. So those who have had the Word told to them, acknowledged it, and, as some Southern Baptists preach “said the prayer” but who later turned against that Word are the ones that Hebrews 6:4-6 is talking about. I base that conclusion on Hebrews 6:7-12.

    These are the ones Jesus is referring to in the parable of the soils. They are the ones who were sown with the Word, who began to put down roots, but the soil was shallow. They are the ones who were choked out of moisture because of the thorns around them. In other words, they are the ones who didn’t produce fruit.

    James tells us to “Be doers of the Word, not hearers only decieving ourselves.” Christ wants us to put His Word into practice. If we, who have the veil taken away from our eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14 – 4:3), who have tasted, literally put our tongue to it, but not swallowed, who have done things in and with the Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word and the powers of the coming age (His Kingdom) but did not continue following the Word, then it is impossible for us to be brought back into repentance (Greek also translates to “renewal”) because they have rejected God, even after seeing ALL that He has done with clear vision.

    These are those whose hearts are so hard, filled with self-centeredness and who are unwilling to give that up. They have rejected God after being exposed to His mercy. They refuse to produce fruit and produce thorns and thistles instead. In other words, the Spirit does not have free reign of their heart and through their actions they have shown the state of their heart: Christ is NOT their Lord.

    Should it seem strange to those of us who are true believers? Absolutely! We who have truly made Christ our Lord and are being changed by Him no longer want to give in to our old passions, because to do so is contrary to our new nature. Do we at times? Yes, but that is not a complete rejection of Him, and we quickly run back to Him and acknowledge Him as Lord. We have seen and understood that the New Life that He offers is good, and we have set our hearts on that New Life. We now produce fruit in that New Life by obeying the teaching with which we were entrusted. The person in Hebrews 6:4-6 has also seen that new life, been cleaned, accepted Christ’s redemption with their mouth, and then rejected the gospel with their heart. Their salvation has nothing to do with works, but the works do indicate the state of the heart and the mindset, upon which they will be judged.

    So are they saved? I think it is fairly clear they will be burned (Hebrews 6:8) Were they saved? No, they rejected Christ after being exposed to Him. Can they be saved? Im not sure, but I don’t think so. Romans 1:21 puts it clearly: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

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