Home > New Testament > Hebrews 6:1-8, Part 2

Hebrews 6:1-8, Part 2

In my last post I briefly covered the background and theme of the book of Hebrews.  I also introduced the passage and covered some of the popular views.  In this final post I will lay out my position with a few practical thoughts at the end. 

The believers addressed in Hebrews would have been used to offering sacrifices if they sinned or fell way from Judaism under the old covenant system.  In other words, in order to be restored to the covenant community meant a sacrifice for sin.  However, Jesus has put away perpetual sacrifice with his once-for-all-sufficient sacrifice.  Jesus not only provided eternal salvation, but is the forerunner for their salvation by overcoming sin and temptation.  Thus, part of the writer’s concern is that these believers hold fast to Christ and move on in their Christian walk.  These believers were facing persecution and the temptation to return to Judaism.  If these saints (who have tasted the promises of the age to come) fall away (back to Judaism) and then want to be renewed to Christ (rededication) this is impossible.  It is impossible to fall away and then start all over.  Coming out of the old covenant system renewed relationship with God would mean starting all over (offering sacrifice); thus, it would be no surprise to find them trying to do the same thing as Christians.  However, this is impossible.  Once you have believed, you are a believer; therefore, if you stumble or become sluggish in your Christian life, don’t try to start all over, but move on and continue in Christ.  It is impossible to start over because in doing so you declare the once-for-all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ to be of no avail and crucify him up again leaving him to open shame.  In other words, it is impossible to go back and lay the foundation all over again (renew again to repentance), because it shows that Christ’s work was not adequate to move you on to maturity.  Jesus’ sacrifice would be left to open shame if these saints tried to be renewed rather than move on because the unbelieving Jew could point out that Christ’s sacrifice was not final, but perpetual (just like the old covenant sacrifices) because it is constantly needed to restore those who sin.  However, Christ’s final work at the cross is sufficient for salvation and sanctification.  You don’t need “start over” or “rededicate” yourself if you sin or become sluggish in your Christian walk.  Repentance is a one-time event when we believe and trust in Christ.  That doesn’t rule out a continual trust in God and confession and sorrow for sin, but once we become believers we begin to grow in Christ.  These saints had become stagnant in their growth and thought that they needed to go back to the elementary principles and start over.  However, the writer of Hebrews says that is impossible.  You are already a believer; you already repented; now move on and grow up in Christ.  If you try to go back you shame Christ and show that his work at the cross really was not good enough to sanctify you.  Hebrews 10:26-31 makes a similar point that there is no other sacrifice for sin.  In other words, Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that can permanently remove sin and sanctify you.  To reject this sacrifice and not move on is to trample under foot the Son of God, regard his blood as unclean, and insult the Spirit of grace.

The concern of the author is not to answer whether people that stray away can be saved again nor is his concern whether people can reject Jesus so many times that it becomes impossible for them to be saved, rather his concern is for their sanctification.  If you believe that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for salvation and sanctification then move on, even though you have sinned and become sluggish.  You cannot start over again; therefore, press on and grow up in Christ.  There is no need for continued renewal when you sin or become sluggish in your walk because Jesus has forever sanctified you, taken away your fear of death, and has tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:5-18).  It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews practices the very thing he preaches.  Even though these saints had become sluggish he does not go back (renew them in some sense) and teach them the elementary principles again (even though they are immature), rather he goes on and teaches them the deep things of the faith (Heb 7-10).  In other words, he states that it is hard for them to understand certain truths (i.e., Melchizedek), but he is going to teach them anyway because the solution to falling away is not “rededicating” your life or being renewed to repentance (when they first believed), but pressing on in your Christian walk.

To further support this thesis, the writer provides an example.  Hebrews 6:7-8 provides an illustration of what they are to do in light of his warning.  The essential characteristic of a believer is one that is moving on and producing fruit in accordance with belief.  The land represents the believer, the rain represents the blessings from God (everything they now have in Christ), and the good vegetation is the fruit from a believer’s life.  However, if the land that is cultivated does not produce good vegetation (no growth in the Christian life), but instead thorns and thistles, it is close to being burned up.  The good works come from the realization to move on and mature in the things of Christ.  The dead works come from becoming sluggish and failing to hear God’s voice.  Therefore, go on and produce fruit.  Do not ignore the Lord’s voice through Jesus (Heb 1:1-2), the apostles (Heb 2:1-4) or from above (Heb 12:18-29), rather heed the Lord’s call and move on and produce fruit in accordance with genuine faith. 

I think we can see that the popular notion of rededicating your life to Jesus (for salvation) is simply unbiblical.  In the New Testament the idea presented is not one of constant rededication, but one of belief and maturation in Christ.  You are either a believer or a non-believer; you are either growing in Christ or not growing at all.  I realize that it is possible for a person to think they are saved when they are not, but if you are a believer and are experiencing a rough time in your spiritual life, do not rededicate your life, but move on, grow up, and continue to persevere in Christ Jesus.

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Categories: New Testament
  1. Kevin Pannebaker
    April 21, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I think you might be on to something here! I’m shocked there haven’t been any other comments to this point regarding a passage that’s so controversial.

    I’m going to go back and read what you have to say again to make sure I’m getting everything, but at first glance, I don’t have any qualms about your interpretation. It seems to make good sense of what the author of Hebrews is trying to say.

  2. Chad
    April 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    Kevin,

    I am a bit surprised as well that there are no comments in response to my position. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Chad

  3. Kimberly
    May 9, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    So, are you saying that if someone is born again (I truly accepted Christ as my savior when I was in second grade, grew in the Lord and then experienced doubt due to circumstances in my life during my highschool years) and then grows away from Christ that they don’t need to rededicate their life but just continue forward, even though they had several years of not believing and doubt? Or, are you saying that I wasn’t born again when I accepted Christ as my savior in my early years because if I was truly a Christian I would have never strayed or disbelieved?

    I am struggling with this – I have recently rededicated my life and am working on learning more of Gods word and working on my relationship with God. Am I unable to do so because I strayed and I have lost my salvation? Is once saved, always saved not true? Or again, was I not truly born again in my early years and therefore I need to become a Christian again (even though I have rededicated my life, asked for forgiveness and am trying to live a God inspired life…..am I not saved because I missed some step?)

    Wow, I am really confused – am I out of the family of God due to a technicality that I missed?

    Thanks for any insight.

  4. Chad
    May 9, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Kimberly,

    Thank you for reading the blog and I appreciate our comments.

    First, let me say that with my post I am making no judgments in regard to your salvation or anyone else. I don’t know if you truly believed or not when you were in second grade. Only God knows your heart. Second, I am sorry if I have caused any confusion and I hope I am able to clarify a few things. Third, not knowing your situation in detail I don’t want to make any presumptions, so if I am really off base with my response (at least in regard to your situation) please tell me. With that said let me lay out a few points from Scripture that may be helpful.

    1.) You are correct that the Bible clearly teaches eternal security; however, the doctrine of eternal security is never divorced from perseverance in the faith. Salvation is not a matter of walking down an aisle, praying a prayer, having an emotional experience, or remembering a specific date, but salvation has to do with repentance from sin, trust in Christ for forgiveness, and continued growth and perseverance. We should not ask when did I believe, but am I still believing and growing in Christ. For example, in the gospel of John, the disciples saw Jesus turn water into wine and they believed (2:11, cf., 2:22), then some of the disciples looked in the tomb after Jesus rose from the dead and believed (20:8). So when did the disciples believe? They believed and continued to believe. Belief is an ongoing process. Perseverance is a key biblical concept because it challenges us to ask whether I believe now and will I continue to believe even in light of the most difficult times. Paul in his final letter from prision did not point to his conversion on the Damascus road as the surety of his salvation, but recalled his perseverance in the faith and completion of the race as the concrete demonstration that he was in fact a servant of the Lord. Even in light of some of the most severe trials and tribulations, Paul was found faithful on that last day of his life. For Paul the mark of a believer was whether or not they had kept the faith (2 Tim 4:6-8), not whether they could recall a specific day of salvation.

    2.) Paul clearly teaches that God’s will for our life is our sanctification, which is becoming more like Jesus (Rom 8:29; Eph 4:13; Col 3:101 Thess 4:3). While we are positionally sanctified (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1) there is a process of sanctification where we must grow in Jesus through reading the Word, prayer, fellowship, etc. Obviously our life may have times of difficulty, but the question becomes is our life characterized over the long haul by a life devoted to Christ? Many people would say that their life over the long haul characterizes a life devoted to Christ, but this is why we must examine ourselves in light of God’s Word and be part of good church where we are challenged with the Scriptures (2 Cor 13:5) because we can fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. To love Jesus means to be fully consumed with serving and knowing him. Paul makes it very clear that the Christian life is not rules, or steps, or formulas, but knowing Jesus (Phil 3:10). Do I truly know Jesus and has my life been characterized by this desire to know my Savior? We must be careful to make sure that we are not fooling ourselves. For example Judas walked with Jesus for over three years, but never truly believed. Even Demas believed, but then loved the present world. We can talk the talk and even maybe walk the walk, but do we really believe and does our life truly characterize a passion and deep love for Christ?

    Kimberly, if you believe and trust in Christ for salvation then you are saved and part of the family of God. I would not try to figure out whether you were saved when you were younger (for only God really knows) or whether you recently believed for the first time (perhaps you did), but I would ask do I believe now and pray that God would continue to solidify you in your belief. Pray that God would truly make known to you himself through his Word and all that you are in Christ. Believe and continue to believe until the day you die and when you face difficulties in your life do not think you have lost your salvation nor think you must rededicate yourself and start all over, but, rather, cling to the cross of Christ, look to Jesus, reckon in your mind who you are in him, meditate on the precious promises found in him, keep believing, and persevere by faith in Jesus (this sentence summarizes what I think the writer of Hebrews is saying in 6:1-8).

    On a personal note your situation sounds similar to mine. I “trusted” Christ at an early age (2-3 grade) and lived a very moral life. I knew a lot about the Bible, went to church, and did many good works and by all indications I was growing in Christ. However, later on in my teenage years I followed the things of the world and quickly proved that I truly did not know Jesus. For about five years I become immersed in drugs and did some really horrible things. However, God was gracious to my soul and saved me. Did I rededicate my life; I don’t think so because looking back at my life I don’t think it really was characterized by a genuine love for Jesus. Even though I did many good things, knew a lot about God and the Bible, my life at its core was bent toward selfishness and pride. I don’t remember the day I was saved, but what I do know is that I believe now and, Lord willing, will continue to believe until the day I die or until Jesus comes again.

    I hope my statements make sense and offer some clarification. If you have any other comments are questions please feel free to express them. In the meantime, I will be praying for you that God will give you peace in your heart with regard to your salvation and that he would encourage and strengthen your faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through his Word.

    Chad

  5. Kimberly
    May 10, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Chad:
    Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to give your thoughts – they are so truly appreciated. I am still hitting some block walls and keep searching in Gods Word for the answers. For example, while I strayed I doubted that God was real, studied various religions, discussed with many in an academic situation about the human desire to have a Higher Power and that desire lead to beliefs in things that were not true, but things that gave comfort. As I am sure you are aware, it is easy to find “academic” falsehoods to try and disprove God which I know Satan happily provides….it is much harder to act on blind faith, but once one does and truly believes, WOW, what a change!

    Another issue I am dealing with over the last few days during my search on rededication (or the need for rededication) is unpardonable sin (this one is really worrying me). Did I completely loose my salvation during my stray from God? The fact that I believed religion was man made and the belief in God helped people with their need for a Higher Power but was false and the fact that I discussed this with others….did I comit blasphemy and am I completely lost despite my desire to walk with God and live a life pleasing to Him?

    One thing I must say….God has planted the desire to read His Word and learn as much as I can and I hope that is a sign that He hasn’t given up on me yet. 🙂

    Kimberly

  6. Chad
    May 10, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Kimberly,

    I would offer two thoughts in response to your comments.

    1.) I understand the challenges you faced in your life and rejoice that God has changed your heart. While the world would have us believe that our faith is worthless, our faith is not blind. As we read the Word of God we see God act in human history and offer the interpretation of those acts. Without faith it is impossible to please God, but that faith is never blind, but established and built on what God does and says (Heb 11:6). If we carefully read Hebrews eleven we see all the saints who trusted God at his Word and believed his promise despite never really attaining that promise, but persevered looking for something better. Even in the midst of great suffering they continued to believe the promises of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises found in the Old Testament. If these Old Testament saints were able to press on and trust in God under an old covenant that was temporary and incomplete; how much more judgment will fall upon us who have received God’s final revelation in Christ and now live under the new covenant (cf., Heb 2:1-4)? Let us by faith believe God at his word, knowing that our faith is founded on much more than speculation or false hopes.

    2.) In Matthew 12:22-32 Jesus cast a demon out of a man. The Pharisees attribute this miracle to Satan. Jesus rebukes them and states that because they have attributed his miracles to Satan, rather than the Spirit, they will not be forgiven in this life or the next life (i.e., the unpardonable sin). I do not believe that the unpardonable sin is a repeatable offense today. The entire context of Matthew 12:22-32 is that Jesus, the promised Messiah, has come and is performing miracles to show the restoration that would take place in him. Jesus is performing these miracles before the religious leaders and they are outright denying his work and attributing it to Satan. Because of their denial of Jesus’ work, which is present before them, he states that they cannot be forgiven in this life or the life to come. I often hear preachers try to make a modern application with passage by stating those that commit apostasy (i.e., fall away from the faith) cannot be forgiven, but that runs contrary to Scripture. If someone does sin and abandon the faith, but then trusts in Christ they will be saved (see my Hebrews post how it ties into this text and how both commit the same mis-interpretations and mis-applications). However, Jesus says you will not be forgiven in this life or the life to come. So, how do we reconcile the two ideas? The unpardonable sin was something that could only be committed by those living in Jesus’ day witnessing him perform miracles. They saw him, his work, and his ministry and flat out denied him. Because they denied him while he was physically on earth they will not be forgiven in this life (their present day) or the next life. Jesus makes similar statements in Matthew 11:20-24 where certain people did not repent at his coming. There is a greater judgment on them because Jesus was present before them and they outright rejected him. While there is a serious judgment on those who reject Jesus now (because God has completed his revelation in the Son) there is a greater culpability for those who lived in Jesus’ day and witnessed his miracles. I believe that is why there is a great blessing on those who have not seen Jesus in the flesh and believe because we have not personally and physically witnessed Jesus and his work (John 20:29). I do not believe the unpardonable sin can be committed in our day because Jesus is not physically performing miracles in our midst. Furthermore, if we take this text at face value we must deal with Jesus’ strong statements about no forgiveness in this life or the life to come for those who reject the Spirit. All of us have rejected the Spirit (prior to our salvation) and I doubt that any sensible preacher would try to make a modern day application with what I have said in mind.

    As I mentioned in my previous response I would not try to figure out what happened in the past with regard to your salvation, but believe now, trust in Christ, grow in him, and persevere to the very end.

    Chad

  7. Kimberly
    May 11, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks Chad! After reading your response, researching some more and praying, I can finally breath since I have come to the same conclusion. I seem to get myself worried and caught up in technicalities rather than celebrating the wonderful gift that God has provided me. I am ready to move forward, walk with Him and work on growing as a Christian….regardless of whether my commitment when I was younger was the true point of my salation or not, I am truly a baby in Christ right now, taking baby steps and learning big things! 🙂

    Again, you have truly been a blessing and I am so glad that God lead me to your site! Have a wonderful weekend….and know that you have helped to make my Mothers Day weekend a special one since I can just rejoice rather than tremble! 🙂

    Kimberly

  8. Kevin Pannebaker
    September 1, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Hi Chad!
    A message by John Piper was posted on the Desiring God website this week dealing with this very passage in Hebrews. It’s a great read – very thought provoking.
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/By Date/1996/971_When_Is_Saving_Repentance_Impossible/

    John MacArthur also touches on this passage in his recently published book, “The Truth War.” On page 64, he says, “That is the very essence of apostasy: hearing the truth, knowing what it is, professing to accept it, and then finally rejecting it. Because the final disavowal of the truth occurs with full knowledge and understanding, this is a fatal apostasy from which there is no hope of recovery. It is precisely the sin described in such chilling terms in Hebrews 6:4-6.”

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