The book of Hebrews is unique or unusual in two distinct ways. One difference is that it is the only book in the New Testament on which the author did not sign his name. This leads to a great deal of speculation within the Christian community. The second is difference is that it plays a critical roll in the debate over the doctrine of Eternal Security.
As it regards the authorship let me share this anecdote. Sometime ago Dr. Bob Jones, III, President of Bob Jones University came to Columbus, Georgia, to speak at our Church. Allow me to pause here to say that I consider Dr. Jones. III a defender of the faith and a friend though we differ on a few doctrines. God bless him. Dr. Jones arrived at the airport and I met him there.I am not now sure whether I asked him this question going from the airport or back to it. The question was, 'who wrote the book of Hebrews?' He replied that he felt that Paul did. I responded that it could not have been Paul. He looked at me quizzically and asked me who I felt wrote the book. To this I replied that it could not have been Paul because we know that Paul was a Calvinist and the writer of the book was a Arminian. Well, we both got a laugh out of this mere thought. This illustration seems to give us our first insight of how controversial this book is as to who wrote it and what it teaches. There have been and continues to be many fine Christian leaders, such as Dr. Jones and John Wesley who agree that Paul wrote Hebrews. This message is not about who wrote Hebrews. My humble opinion on this subject is this, I don't know who wrote the book, even after an honest study of this issue. My focus will be on the second difference, which is that this book contains probably the most controversial passage in the New Testament as it applies to the issue of Eternal Security. This controversy has made a major impact on a nationally known speaker, scholar, and author who used to believe what our Calvinist brothers believe concerning apostasy and Eternal Security. Mr. Clark H. Pinnock, in writing in his book, The Grace of God and the Will of Man, gives this testimony of what happened to him as he studied the book of Hebrews.
"I held onto this view (concerning his view on eternal security) until about 1970, when one of the links in the chain of the tight Calvinian logic broke. It had to do with the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, likely the weakest link in the Calvinian logic, scripturally speaking. I was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time and attending to the doctrine particularly in the book of Hebrews. If in fact believers enjoy the kind of absolute security Calvinism had taught me they do, I found I could not make very good sense of the vigorous exhortations to persevere (e.g., 3:12) or the awesome warnings not to fall away from Christ (e.g., 10:26), which the book address to Christians. It began to dawn on me that my security in God was linked to my faith-union with Christ and that God is teaching us here the extreme importance of maintaining and not forsaking this relationship . The exhortations and the warnings could only signify that continuing in the grace of God was something that depended at least in part on the human partner. And once I saw that, the logic of Calvinism was broken in principle, and it was only a matter of time before the larger implications of its breaking would dawn one me. The thread was pulled, a nd the garment must begin to unravel, as indeed it did." (1)
This book seems to be as controversial as any when it comes to theology especially as it pertains to the subject of Arminianism and Calvinism. Our Calvinist brothers always points to Romans 8-11 as the unbreakable chain of Calvinism. However, that chain has been broken many times, in many ways, by many people. In the last twenty or thirty years men like Robert Shank, Dale Moody, and Clark Pinnock broke from their Calvinist positions and lived to write about it. There are still others, from all denominations, who have stood firm armed only with Scripture and broke this so-called "unbreakable chain." As we heard from Dr. Pinnock's testimony above, the book of Hebrews seems to play a critical role on the last point in the doctrine of Calvinism called Perseverance of the Saints which is commonly known as the doctrine of Eternal Security. It would be important for us to investigate why this book was written. You too, like Dr. Jones and Wesley, may surmise that St. Paul wrote this book. Who wrote it is not the focus of this topic unless for some unknown reason, by knowing the author, it would give us the keys to understanding these warnings. The focus of this deliberation is "why did this author, whoever he was, write this book.? Was it to prove the superiority of Christ to the Old Testament sacrifices, or was this book written to counsel, exhort, and warn the reader with all his heart to remain faithful in and to Christ? Once this question is answered, Hebrews 6:4-6 will become clear in its meaning. In this paper I will be examining the Book of Hebrews as to the following, I. Why this book was written. II. An overview of the Book of Hebrews. III. Definitions. IV. An Examination Hebrews 6:4-6. I. Why this book was written? The question of why this book was written must be considered in conjunction with 6:4-6. A. Many say that the writer was trying to establish the superiority of Christ in His atoning work. They point to passages that reference the concept that Christ is superior, ie,1:1-14. Some point to other chapters, such as Chapters 7-9, that reference His high priestly office. There is no doubt that such can be drawn from these passages.
In his preface to his book on Hebrews, Dr. Homer Kent says, "This remarkable letter contains the only full discussion in the New Testament of Christ as the believers' high priest." (2) He continues, "The masterful and systematic demonstration of Christ's superiorities is unmatched by any other New Testament writer." (3) Dr. F. F. Bruce says, "The purpose of our author's exegesis of Old Testament Scripture, as of his general argument, is to establish the finality of the Gospel...He establishes the finality of Christianity by establishing the supremacy of Christ, in His person and in His work." Other writers such as Henry Ironside, William Newell, and William Barclay seem to concur with these views in their own ways.
The concept of Christ's superiority is not being questioned. Without Christ and His atoning work there would be no hope of salvation for us today. The doctrines of Christ are well established in the rest of the New Testament. His atoning work on the cross of Calvary is the grand theme of the entire New Testament. (4) His sacrifice was well certified in other books of the Bible.(5)B. Could it be safely advanced that this epistle was not written just to establish the superiority of Christ, but also to establish the grave danger of rejecting the way of salvation which Christ provided? Was the author using this important doctrine, which is the very foundation of Christianity, to exhort the Hebrews, Christians and warn them of the great loss it would produce if Christ is denied? I think so.
In his commentary on Hebrews, Henry Williams confirms this concept when he says, "We are justified, then, in regarding the Epistle as designed specially to confirm the believing Hebrews in their faith, to guard them against the danger of apostasy, and open to them the superior glory of that dispensation under which it was their privilege to live."(6) In point six, "the design and general argument of the Epistle," of Barne's Notes on the New Testament, it says: "The general purpose of this epistle is, to preserve those to whom it was sent from the danger of apostasy." (7) Later in this section he goes on to say that their danger was not totally because of persecution, some of which was taking place, but "it was that of being affected by...relapsing again into the religion of their fathers, and of apostatizing from the gospel; and it was a danger which beset no other part of the Christian world. To meet and counteract this danger was the design of this epistle." (8) So we see that both of these writers agree with the concept that it was to establish the grave danger of rejecting Christ.There is more still. The Abington Bible Commentary says this, and I quote at length:
"The supreme peril of the church under the stress of persecution was the peril of relapse, and the primary object of the Epistle to the Hebrews is to face this peril and stem the tide of desertion. There is hardly a chapter in the Epistle which does not contain an appeal or a warning to those whose faith was faltering. The writer continually points to the suffering of Christ as an example to be followed and urges his fellow Christians to be stead fast, that they too may be perfected through suffering. Even Jesus had to learn obedience "by the things which He suffered," and His followers must be scholars in the some stern school. Suffering is always hard and cruel, but out of its soil there springs up the harvest of righteousness. Nor does the writer hesitate to warn his readers in the harshest terms about the danger that comes from the compromise of faith." (9)Therefore, we conclude that the author of this epistle was speaking against the danger of relapsing back to the old religion from which they came whether Jew or Gentile. The hazard of rejecting the superiority of Christ's atonement for the old paths where real. The author used the superiority of Christ to rebut this apostasy, and not to re-teach the doctrines of Christ. II. At this point I would like to give an overview of the Book of Hebrews. I perceive that much can be said about this book on the subject of Eternal Security. We realize that our Calvinist friends have problems with many Biblical concepts like the human responsibility and God's desire to save all people. The concept being taught in this book gives our friends still another problem. What is clearly being taught here in Hebrews is the concept that a Christian could possibly fall from grace. This concept is the doctrine called Apostasy. If one stops and thinks about Apostasy, human responsibility, and God's desire to save all people, we can see God's dynamic interaction with man and the world. This interaction then could be called the heart and soul of the Arminian thought. The message of this book is clear to all: keep the faith! That is the dynamic God wants from these Christians.
Most agree that there are five basic warnings given in this book. It is interesting to note that because of three of these warning Martin Luther wanted to drop this book from the New Testament canon.(10) Martin Luther wanted to drop the book, but our Calvinist friends would rather deny real Apostasy and thereby twist the message of the book. God in His sovereignty has overruled both.
What is striking about this book is that the writer never wanders far until he issues another warning. As we look at these warning passages, I will endeavor to cite the more important segments of these passages as they relate to this topic.
Now, let us look at the first warning and exhortation. Hebrews 2:1-4 says, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation...confirmed unto us by them that heard him."(11) There is a principal taught in Bible schools and seminories about what to do when you come to the word "therefore" as you study Scripture. Simply look to see what it is therefore or why it is there. "Therefore" in this first warning "expresses a logical imperative: from the fact that Christ is greater than the angles it follows that the revelation delivered through the Son must be regarded with the utmost seriousness. The writer insists that adherence to the Christ tradition is the one thing that is necessary." (12) The practical conclusion is that these people, as do we, have a greater responsibility because they now possess Christ, as opposed to the older dispensations of prophets, angels or messengers, and sacrifies. How can we escape if we neglect and let slip what Christ has done for us? How, indeed?
We come now to the second warning and exhortation. It is found in Hebrews chapter three. Lets look at some of this warning. "Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant...But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence...and hope firm unto the end. Harden not your hearts...Take heed, brethren..." Let me pause here and point out that he calls them "brethren" which clearly signifies that he is talking to Christians. "Exhort one another daily...lest any of you be harden through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning or our confidence steadfast unto the end."(13)
We note that this warning was given to the "holy brethren" and "partakers of Christ" denoting a personal relationship with our Lord. Simply put, just as Israel under the leadership of Moses had to labor and follow to enter into that "promised rest," so must the Christians labor under the leadership of Christ to enter into the "promised rest." The condition of entering is to "hold fast" to their hope in Christ.
I. H. Marshall says this of the second warning: "He stresses the faithfulness of Jesus who, like Moses, was set over God's household, but this leads him to the thought that Christians are members of this household only if they display the same faithfulness, and from this there develops a comparison of the Church with Israel and salvation with the rest promised to the people of God."(14)Hebrews 4:1-16 holds the third warning and exhortation. Let's look at some of these. "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. ... let us hold fast our profession. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (15) This warning and exhortation has in mind Psalms 95 which reviews the transgression of His chosen people who after being wonderfully delivered from Egypt and escaping through the Red Sea. did not make it after all that God did for them. This chapter discusses the unbelief factor which lead to many individuals in Israel not receiving their eternal reward.
H. Orton Wiley has this to say: "Ancient Israel refused the highest that God had for them and perished miserably in the wilderness. The Hebrew Christians at this time were tempted to return to the law imposed upon them from without, and were not pressing on into the new covenant in Christ, in which through the Spirit the law would be written in their hearts and in their minds. With this Old Testament example before him, the writer warns them - and us, lest we too should fail through unbelief." (16)
The fourth warning and exhortation that we find is in Hebrews 5:11-6:20. I realize that Hebrews 6:4-6 will be my final focus of this address. Yet those verses help to make up part of the fourth warning and therefore demand a brief consideration here. As usual I will cite the more important phrases. "Seeing ye are dull of hearing... For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again ... let us go unto perfection, ... For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened...If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame ... And we desire that every on of you so shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: ...That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises...and so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."(17) This warning will be examined when we look at Hebrews chapter 6:4-6.We conclude with the fifth warning and exhortation. Let's look again at some of the more prominent passages found in this warning. We will be looking at Hebrews 10:19-39. "Let us draw near with a true heart ...Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering...Let us consider on another to provoke unto love and to good works:...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, ...but exhorting one another...For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins...He that despised Moses' law died without mercy...Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing...It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God....Cast not away therefore your confidence...Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." (18) Probably this is more sever in its warning then Hebrews 6:4-6. We see clearly that these warnings and exhortation are to believers. We get this idea of the first person plural as "brethren" (vs. 19) and "us" which includes the apostle himself as one of them(vs. 20, 22, and 23) and "we" (vs. 26) brings them into a sharp contrast with those who where not saved that may be mixing among them. These passages suggest clearly that they are saved. The lost cannot trample the blood of Christ under foot because they where never sanctified by it. The warnings are clearly to the Christians and not to some fictitious group of people who call themselves Christians and are active in the Church. If these people were not saved, Christ would not be warning them to continue in faith, but to come to grace in Christ Jesus. It is only logical that Christ should call the lost to repentance and warn the saved against committing apostasy. This overview then shows us that the dominant theme of Hebrews is warnings, exhortations, and encouragement for Christians to continue in faith. Chapter eleven agrees with this concept because it also illustrates the need for continued perseverance by showing these Hebrew Christians that others before them had to persevere in their faith to reach Heaven's "Canaan land." III. Before we finally arrive at Hebrew 6:4-6, we need to define some terms.
There are two terms that specifically need to be defined. These two terms are "Christian," and "Apostasy." When I looked up the word "Apostasy" in Wesley's Works, I found that Mr. Wesley more or less assumed that all understood what this term meant. As for that matter so did most other writers. The same thing was true with the term "Christian." Most authors assume that all know what a Christian is. But a few like Wesley do take time to define this term. A. When I tried to define the term "Christian" I conducted a very informal survey and asked about 15 people to define what makes a person a Christian? The answers that I got gave me the impression that most did not have a clear idea in their mind what makes a person a Christian. If I were to ask you this question, what would your answer be? The point is when dealing with our Calvinistic brothers, it is important to know what makes one person a Christian and another just a lost sinner. For the propose of this discussion it is important to find the answer to this question. It does not take much of a student of Scripture to figure out what makes a person a non- Christian. Such a person is called "lost," or simply a "sinner." He is such because he doesn't believe in Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He may engross himself in drunkenness, homosexuality, gambling, and wife and/or child abuse. He may be involved in trying to stop the proliferation of alcoholism, homosexuality, the lottery, and developing good family values. Mere deeds, good or bad, does not cause one to be a sinner or a Christian. Remember, a person who does not believe Christ as his personal savior, is a sinner, though he may be active in a church fellowship. This we all agree to, but the question is, what makes a person a Christian?
The term "Christian" is, used only three times in the scripture, twice in Acts and once in I Peter.(19) In all three cases it carries with it the idea of "Christ-followers." But this concept of "Christ-followers" fails to meet with the criteria of what a Christian is for our eternal security friends. Martin Luther was close to this when he defined a Christian a "Little Christ" - - a classic definition of the Word. Because of this problem of being a "Christ-follower" or a "little Christ's" we must farther define what makes a person a Christian or what is a Christian. Can we find a common meaning which both the Calvinists and Arminians espouse?Let's try this! One writer says "Faith" [is] "simply accepting God's word, believing it, and living in that light." (20) Will this definition fit our quest for common grounds with our Calvinist brothers on what is or is not a Christian? No, for they would argue that even t he Devil believes and trembles. Yet to hear them preach a salvation message they declare that one must believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior. In their own ranks this definition would be satisfactory. But as it relates to the subject at hand and with the Arminian believers this definition is totally unsatisfactory. Therefore, the problem still exists and that is to find an acceptable definition upon which all may agree. Maybe we need to try a more complex definition of what is a Christian. All agree that a Christian can be referred to as a saint. These terms can be interchanged doing no violence to our topic of the perseverance of the saints in our quest to find an acceptable definition of what is a Christian. John Wesley does provide us with a complex definition. Here is what he says.
"By saints, I understand, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God Himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive tree, the spiritual, the invisible Church; those who are branches of the tree vine, of whom Christ says "I am the vine, ye are the branches;" those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the holy Ghost, of the witness and the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant; those to whom all or any of these characters belong, I mean by the term saints." (21)Of course, I can agree with Wesley's definition of a Christian, but can our eternal security friends agree with it especially as it relates to the subject at hand? I answer "no." They will parse carefully what they mean by using the terms, "100%," "genuinely," "real," "true," and other such adjectives. Had Wesley used "genuine" in one of his phrases and believed in eternal security, his definition would be the standard. The only conclusion that can be made is that in the area of eternal security these brothers would rather die then give ground to the so called Arminians.
When I use the term "Christian," it will be understood as agreeing with all of the above definitions. These definitions will be applied to Hebrews 6:4-6, and for that matter, all of the book of Hebrews.B. What about the word "Apostasy"? Is there a common definition of "Apostasy" that both the Calvinists and Arminians can accept? Mr. P. W. Barnett says, "Apostasy is the antonym of conversion; it is deconversion." (22) Still Robert Mattke writes that apostasy "expresses the idea of abandonment of the faith." (23) He continues by saying "In classical Greek the term signifies a defection or revolt from a military commander. Following in its wake came shame, disgrace, infamy, and reproach or censure." (24) As we apply this to early Church history Mr. Mattke says "its apparent that in many instances the persecutions produced a harvest of apostasy." (25) Let's look at what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say on this subject. If anyone knows the real definition of apostasy, it ought to be them. "The word itself in its etymological sense, signifies the desertion of a post, the giving up of a state of life; he who voluntarily embraces a definite state of life cannot leave it, therefore, without becoming an apostate." (26) Dr. Richard Watson, a famous Methodist scholar and theologian, defines apostasy as "a deserting or abandoning of the true religion." (27) He makes an interesting point by saying that an apostate should not be mistaken as a heretic. The difference is that a heretic abandons various parts of the faith, but an apostate renounces the faith. He concludes by saying, they (or apostates), "after having been Christians, voluntarily relapsed in to Paganism." (28)
From these definitions we can only conclude that apostasy means that people can fall from faith and grace, to such an extent that they may lose their salvation. To call apostate a person who has attended church and was never saved is strange, to say the least. This is an illogical conclusion which means that all lost people are apostates. This is the melancholy logic that is foisted on this subject all the time. This idea that they where never saved to begin with, in the case of apostasy, is indisputably illogical and makes no sense Biblically. A sinner is a sinner, and an apostate is a Christian who give up his promise of the Heavenly Canaan land for the pleasures of sin. Indeed II Peter 2:21 gives the true picture of what an apostate is when it says, "For it had been better for them not to have know the way of righteousness, then, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."Before we move on to the final point of Hebrews 6:4-6, let's review what we had thus far observed. First, we found that while there are scholars who teach that Hebrews was written to establish the superiority of Christ, there are others who feel that the main reason for this writing is to warn and exhort these Christians against the perils of apostasy. Simply put, Dr. Williams said it is "to guard them against the danger of apostasy."(29) Second, as we surveyed this book, we found that this conclusion was correct. We established that after every discussion of Christ's superiority there were warnings. A prime example of this is when Christ's superiority over the angels ends in the first chapter, the second chapter starts with the warnings to hold firm the faith. Even in a non-warning passage such as chapter eleven we find the exhortation to continue in faith. This the author shows by giving the examples of what past believers received by tenaciously believing even in time of hardness. We find no other Scripture that equals this definition of faith. As Dr. Moody observed after a discussion of this passage he says: "with perseverance the promise will be inherited." (30) Third, we defined two words that have been abused in this debate, "Christian" and "Apostasy." We considered Wesley's definition of a Christian and concluded that if had he used the word "genuine" the Calvinists would agree with him on his definition as it concerns the subject of eternal security. A person who believes on Christ as their savior is the simplest definition for a Christian. We also found t hat an apostate is a person who has become "unconverted." An apostate lost his salvation in simple terms. We conclude that if a person was never saved to begin with, he could only be called a sinner. It is only logical that an apostate is different from a mere sinner who attends Church. IV. In this context, we will now consider Hebrews 6:4-6. We know now that it was aimed at Christians. The real question now confronting us is this: what do these verses teach in view of the total context of Hebrews? Or, to put it differently, do we beak with the context and say that these verses apply to those within the Church who were never really saved? If we conclude that they where never saved or weaken the severity of the warnings, then we must say that the context of Hebrews was written to exhort and encourage the lost not to lose what little they never had, and not to Christians to continue steadfast in the faith. There is no defense for the latter question.
Let's look at this passage, and consider it on a verse-by verse basis.Vs. 4 "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, Vs. 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, Vs. 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." This passage was found in the fourth warning and exhortation. The passage itself speaks of an awful event. In all likelihood this passage among Christians is at least as controversial
as the question of abortion is to the Christian and the world. Dr. Dale Moody says that this passage suffers most "from the sacred art of Scripture twisting."(31) Robert Shank says of the subject of eternal security that it is like the blacksmiths sign that announces all kinds of fancy twistings and turning are done here. This passage suffers from the classical the art of twisting into it or out of it what our eternal security friends want it to say. It is, therefore, not my intent to twist but to clearly speak in terms that we may all understand.A. Allow me to give a general overview of the logic that our Calvinist friends use concerning this passage. There are essentially four theories that our Calvinistic brothers use to defend their faith in eternal security. These are: the professors-not possessors theory, the disqualification theory, the scarecrow theory, and, the hypothetical theory. The professors-not possessors theory basically teaches that Hebrews 6:4-6 are professed believers who have never "really" been saved nor do they posses salvation. This passage then is "referring to those who have been to Christian truth, and may even have shown some apparent evidences of conversion, but these are abortive (like the seed sown on the rocky ground). The apostasy is explained as the settled and final rejection of Christ."(32) Friends, the people that this theory is talking about are simply guilty of not believing. They had nothing to reject. How could they be guilty of apostasy if apostasy means "unconversion"?
There is no logical reason for these theories except this: "THC." In some illegal drugs there is a chemical called "THC" that negatively affects the thinking functions of the brain. These theories came about in order to protect one, if not all, five points of their beloved Calvinist dogma. Because of this they are not thinking clearly concerning this passage. Therefore, in a real theological sense of the word they have been theologically drugged. They too, have a "THC" imbalance meaning "Too-much Hyper-Calvinism."B. The last position or theory to be discussed is the saved-lost theory . This theory more than the first four, clearly agrees with the teaching of Hebrews 6:4-6. It is at harmony with the context of this book, and the definitions of a Christian and Apostasy. Therefore, it is probably less of a theory and more of a fact, that a Christian can commit Apostasy and be hopelessly lost. "For it is impossible for those who where once enlightened." Enlightened is the first of the five aorist participles used in verses four and five. The word once in the Greek is hapax means 'once and for all,' which "points to something complete."(38) Dr. Kent says that enlightened is the same word for illuminated in 10:32. He continues, "the same participle is used in 10:32, with no hint that there was any thing i nadequate or tentative about their spiritualenlightenment. Normal understanding of the passage in 10:32 as well as 6:4 would lead us to assume real enlightenment by regeneration." (39) Dr. William Newell seems to agree with Kent. He says, "This 'enlightenment' then, about Christ, was the same which those finally saved received."(40) John Wesley says that enlightened is "an expression familiar with the Apostle, (he believed Paul wrote it) and never by him applied to any but believers." (41) From this we can only conclude that the person "once enlightened" were regenerated and believers in Christ as their personal savior. They are "true" Christians. "And have tasted of the heavenly gift ." Let me say at the beginning that "taste" here does not reflect that idea of a mere sampling. Dr. Kent says that this "verb itself did not mean a mere sampling, but a real experience, as its use in Acts 10:10 attests. The writer of Hebrews has already used "tasted" in the sense of "experienced" in 2:9, where Christ "tasted death." (42) Dr. Kent says that "surely the meaning is that He actually experienced it." (43) Dr. Kent strongly suggests that Christ Himself is meant by heavenly gift. Dr. Newell feels that taste here does not mean a real complete personal experience. He counters this with the example of the Samaritan woman when our Lord tells her "whosoever drinketh" will have eternal life. Dr. Newell therefore concludes that they did not have a real experience because they only tasted and did not drink. Is not drinking an experience? When Christ tasted death for us, did he just die a little? When the Psalmist says in 34:8 "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;" as well as I Peter 2:3 "If so be ye have tasted that the lord is gracious," means that these people are commanded to just sample it? Did the reality of this passage get too hot for Dr. Newell? Dr. Henry Williams says that this "term expresses the intimate knowledge which is derived from personal experience." (44) Again we can only conclude that these persons are born again Christians. "And where made partakers of the Holy Ghost." The word "partakers," according to Thayer, can also be translated as sharing. "Partakers" is the same word that was used 3:1 when the apostle writes, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." Here there is no dispute that those who are sharers or partakers are Christians. Speaking on 3:1, Dr. Newell says that the "Holy Brethren" in this verse, "is not a reference to brethren by race, but to those believing on Christ ...'sanctified in Christ Jesus.'"(45) Newell continues by saying that "these Hebrew believers are saluted as 'partakers of a heavenly calling .'" (46) Here Dr. Newell sees partakers as being Christians. Yet this same writer belittles the same word "partakers" in 6:4 by saying this. "Note at once, it is not said that these were sealed with the Spirit, as were those at Pentecost, and in Samaria, and in Ephesus, who were "sealed unto the day of redemption;'" (47) His observation is very good but his logic is very poor. If we apply his reasoning, Jesus lied when He said that "whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Instead Jesus should have said "whosoever believeth and is sealed." This is a high-handed theological twist by Dr. Newell. To say that because the words 'drink' and 'sealed' are not used thereby means that they are not real Christians, is to say that they must always use these two words when referencing a saved person. If his logic is applied then Crispus, those that believed after Paul's sermon on Mars Hill, Lydia, and the Philippian Jailor are not saved because the words drink and sealed are not used. That is totally illogical to say the least, nor do the scriptures admit to Dr. Newell's notion. I don't think that he really wants to defend this kind of twisted logic.
We must understand the word 'partakers' or 'sharers' as meaning the real thing: a Christian. Dr. Kent says, "to dilute this expression is inconsistent with the author's employment of the term elsewhere. The statement thus asserts a sharing of the Holy Spirit, and in the Christian context of this epistle, it refers to sharing of the Spirit's indwelling presence. Normal understanding of the phrase would lead to the conclusion that such persons are viewed as regenerated, not merely exposed to the Spirit's convicting power but unresponsive to it." (48) Dr. Samuel Wakefield agrees with this point saying "They 'were made partakers of the Holy Ghost:' which evidently means, in the language of the New Testament, to receive the Holy Ghost in his sanctifying and comforting influences." (49)"And have tasted the good word of God." Dr. Kent says that this "refers to the experiencing...the Word of God in the Gospel and finding it good." (50) Dr. Wakefield says that they "heartily embraced the word of truth, and realized the saving power of the Gospel dispensation." (51) Dr. Williams says that "they had the clearest inward testimony of the reality of His grace, and the blessedness of His salvation." (52) What more can be said of a "true" believer in Christ? From verses four and five we can only conclude that the people who the apostle is speaking of are saved people. This, then, is a warning that might spare their souls from eternal damnation if they take heed. Lost people are normally not talked about in such terms. "If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." This is probably one of the most severe and difficult verses in Scripture to grasp. Verses four and five clearly teach that the persons talked about are Christians. Verse six concludes with a real warning to real Christians. Dr. Wakefield says that the "apostle makes no supposition at all; for there is no "if" in the original. His words are 'and have fallen away.'" (53) The NASB also agrees by saying "and then have fallen way." From this we can truthfully conclude that a true believer is meant here and thereby setting forth the possibility of apostasy. There is no hypothetical supposition here. Fall away means "to fall away utterly" (54) according to Lenski. Dr. Kent says that "fall way" can "hardly refer to sins committed through weakness, for which Scripture gives many examples of restoration in both Old Testament and New Testament...Hence the normal understanding of these descriptive terms in the light of the author's own usage elsewhere in the epistle, is of those who are regenerated and then repudiate Christ and forsake Him." (55) These are true, real, possessing, genuine, and 100% Christians. They fell utterly from the saving grace of God. This is not a mere loss of rewards, or personal piety. This fall was not caused by some weakness of the flesh or an adulterous afair. This sin was the rejection of Christ and all that was accomplished on the cross of Calvary. As Dr Kent says, "It is not a question of needing to be saved again." (56) The rejection of Christ by these apostates amount to recrucifying him as surely as the Jews did the first time. You don't reject Christ's work of salvation and inherit eternal life with Him. Again Dr. Kent says that "no strong reason exists for not employing the common meaning here. The author's point is that those who experience all that Christ provides and then turns away from Him in a settled and final way are really joining the ranks of those who crucified Jesus...by renouncing Christ, they bring more public shame upon Him than if they had never believed at all."(57) We can simply conclude that if these Christians continue to insist on this rejection there will be no hope for them. They will have lost their salvation. I have quoted from Dr. Kent at large in this last section. We can certainly agree with his interpretation of this passage. What is so interesting is after he honestly gave the correct meaning of these verses we find him unable to let go of his Eternal Security position. He calls this warning hypothetical. Why? Because he believes in the Eternal Security of the believer. He sees eternal security as a cardinal doctrine of the faith. To deny this doctrine to a Calvinist is like denying the faith. The only problem is that no where in the scriptures do we find the terms "once saved, always saved," "once in grace always in grace," "once a child of God always a child of God," "ye can never lose your salvation," or "ye are eternally secure," when speaking of the children of God. No such phrases are found in the Greek, much less any other translations. Eternal Security can only be rationalized if you embrace all five points of Calvinism. Like many other Calvinists, Dr. Kent is honest, but he simply can not bring himself to accept the truth. Many there are today who have been brainwashed to this doctrine. Yet God has aroused the hearts of many to reject this doctrine because God's truth is the only counter drug to stop "THC."
John Wesley said of this passage, "Must not every unprejudiced person see, the expressions here used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting, be understood of any but true believers?" (58) He concludes his discussion, and so I do mine, of this passage by saying "It is impossible to renew again unto repentance those who were once enlightened' and have fallen away; therefore they must perish everlastingly." (59) I can only say Amen!
1. The Grace of God and the Will of Man, Clark H. Pinnock, ed. (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (1989, Rpt., 1995)) 17 One of the contributors to this book, Dr. Richard Rice, says that a "number of evangelical theologians have abandoned the traditional view of divine immutability." This is very unfortunate. God is unchangeable or how else can we trust Him for the way of Salvation? Where Dr. Pinnock stands on this issue is unclear. There are still other issues that Dr. Pinnock is off on. Even as an Arminian there are those fundamentals doctrines that must be accepted and believed if one is to stand for Christ.
2. The Epistle to Hebrews, Homer A. Kent, Jr.; (Winona Lake, Indiana, BMH, 4th ed, 1995) 9
3. Kent Jr. p 9
4. Matt. 20:28; I Tim. 2:6; and Gal. 1:13
5. John 1:29; Rom.4:24 and Rom.5:6-10; and 1Pet.3:18-
6. Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. Henry W. Williams, (London, Wesleyan Conference Office 1871) 31
7. Barns Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barne's,
9. The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Frederick Carl Eiselen, ed., (Nashville: Abingdon - Cokesbury, 1929.) 1295
10. Apostasy, Dr. Dale Moody, (Greenville, S.C., Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc.,
11. Hebrews 2:1 and 3
12. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 47a, Hebrews 1-8, William L. Lane. (Dallas: Word Book Publishers, 1991.) 37
13. Hebrews 3:5-6, 12-13
14. Kept by the Power of God, I. Howard Marshall, (Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1969.) 139-140
15. Hebrews 4:1, 11, 14, and 16
16. The Epistle to the Hebrews, H. Orton Wiley. (Kansas City, Missouri, Beacon Hill Press, 1984.) 123
17. Hebrews 5:11, 12; 6:1, 4, 6, 11, 12, and 15
18. Hebrews: 10:22, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31,35, and 38
19. Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Peter 4:16
20. Grace Unlimited, Clark Pinnock ed., (Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers, 1975.) 156
21. The Works of John Wesley, Volume 10, Thomas Jackson ed., (Salem, Ohio, Schmul Publishers, 1979.) 285
22. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, ed.., (Downers Grove, IL. Inter Varsity Press, 1997.) 73
23. Beacon Dictionary of Theology, Richard S. Taylor, ed., (Kansas City, Beacon Hill Press, 1983.) 44-45,
26. The Catholic Encyclopedia (Internet copy http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/01624b.htm)
27. A Biblical and Theological Dictionary, Richard Watson, (New York, B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1833.) 71-72
29. Williams, p 31
30. Apostasy, Dale Moody. (Greenville, South Carolina, Smyth and Helwys Publishing, Inc.,1991.) 45
31. The Word of Truth, Dale Moody. (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981) 354
32. The Epistle to the Hebrews, Homer A. Kent, Jr. (Winona Lake: Baker Book House, 1983) 111-112
33. "Are the Persons Described in Hebrews 6:4-6 Christians?" (Internet copy
34. Kent, p. 112
35. This theory was sent to me by Mr. Jeff Paton. He to has researched the subject of Eternal Security and found that there are people who use this theory in defense of this doctrine.
37. Kent, p113
38. Kent, p 108
39. Kent, p 108
40. Hebrews, Verse-by Verse, Dr. William R. Newell. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1995.) 185
41. Works, 9:248
42. Kent, p 108
43. Kent, p 108
44. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Henry W. Williams. (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1871) 176
45. Newell, p 73
46. Newell, p 75
47. Newell, p 187
48. Kent, p 109
49. Christian Theology, Dr. Samuel Wakefield. (Cincinnati: Walden and Stowe, 1869) 462
50. Kent, p 109
51. Wakefield, p 462
52. Williams, p 179
53. Wakefield, p 462
54. The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James,
R. C. H. Lenski. (Columbus, Ohio, Wartburg Press, 1946) 185
55. Kent, p 110
56. Kent, p 110
57. Kent, p 110
58. Works, 10:294
59. Works, 10:295