“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, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 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.” (Heb. 6:4-6)
This portion of Scripture has caused many to scratch their head due to spiritual blindness, misinterpretation, and erroneous teaching. Therefore, we need to rightly divide this portion of Scripture. (II Tim. 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”) “Rightly dividing” means to teach the truth directly and correctly. To do that we must understand the context.
I believe Paul was the human instrument the Lord used to pen down the book of Hebrews. Even if he was not the one the Lord used, it is still God’s Word written to the early Hebrew professors of Christianity. When Christ died on the cross, the veil in the temple was rent, opening up the Holy of Holies and putting an end to the old Hebrew economy. The new covenant was now in force, yet the Hebrew nation repaired the veil and continued their worship, though it was only in form, for the Lord no longer met with the people in the Holy of Holies in the temple. Thus, this epistle was written to the professors of Christianity because some of them were thinking about going back to the OT economy and its shadows, which would cause those who did so to leave the real--Christ.
Paul had said, “Let us go on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1) by leaving the principles of Judaism. His strong warning of Heb. 6:4-6 is a result of his fear of apostasy (falling away from truth) of those who did go back.
There is no doubt to whom Paul is referring here. Notice his use of the word “those” in verse 4 while he had used the word “us” in verse 1 and “we” in verse 3. “Us” and “we” refer to Paul and the professors to whom he was writing. Paul always gave benefit of doubt to a person who said he was saved but he always called for examination because he knew many of the professors, even in the early church were not saved. “Those” refers to those who had professed Christ as Lord but were not saved. These were not your ordinary everyday “professors.” In fact, they were a class who had enjoyed great privileges.
1. They “were once enlightened.”
“Enlightened” means to give light or knowledge by teaching. This means that as these Hebrews listened to the message of the NT, the Holy Spirit enlightened their minds and hearts to clearly understand the message. They had been filled with saving knowledge and had a clear understanding of the gospel. The scales had been pulled from their eyes. (II Cor. 4:3-4: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.) “Once” means once for all--they did not need any more understanding to be saved. They just needed repentance and saving faith granted so they could obey the gospel by repenting and believing unto salvation.
2. They “tasted of the heavenly gift.”
“Tasted” means to have a personal experience. A person can taste food and never eat it. Thus, you experience it but it never gives you one bit of strength. “Heavenly gift” = refers to the ministry of the Holy Ghost of John 16:8 (“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”) whereby they became acquainted with the gospel. It is called “heavenly” because it comes from heaven and leads one to heaven, which Judaism could not do. Tasting does not include eating, much less digesting and turning into nourishment what is tasted. Those described here had, to a certain degree, understood and relished the revelation of mercy. And like the stony ground hearers they received the word with a short lived joy. Also like the children of Israel at Kadesh Barnea, they saw the land and had the very fruit in their hand but they turned back.
3. They “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”
“Partakers” in context means to have with, to go along with a companion and refers to being under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the work of reproval--Holy Ghost conviction. This word is a different Greek word from Col. 1:12 (“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”) where real Christians are spoken of. This word in context here does not mean these are saved. In fact, the tense indicates that the Holy Spirit did not come on the inside to live. The Holy Spirit could have chosen a word and tense that said the Holy Spirit came on the inside, but instead He chose a word that said these people have been under the influence of the Holy Spirit. They were convicted but did not experience completed conviction.
4. They “tasted the good word of God.”
They only “tasted” but did not eat the Word of God. This means they experienced that God has been faithful to His promises and they enjoyed, as much as a lost man can enjoy, the blessings and advantages which flow from promises fulfilled. Sinners can enjoy messages and enjoy studying the Bible after the seed has been planted in their soul and yet not be saved.
5. They tasted “the powers of the world to come.”
The early church had been personal witnesses of the miracles of Christ, and also of the wonders that followed His ascension, when many glorious manifestations of the Spirit were given. These “professors” had experienced these manifestations as well as the “processors.” Lost men, who have been enlightened in a good service, know he is in the midst of the power of the world to come. These “professors” Paul is referring to were no ordinary “professors.”
6. Now the warning.
If they shall fall away it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. “Fall away” means to turn aside or to deviate from the right path which is the “narrow way” which leads to the “strait gate.” (Mat. 7:13-14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”) Paul presents a hypothetical case warning these Hebrew professors not to “fall away.” These “professors” were at the very threshold of salvation but if they turned back and totally abandoned the light they had, they would never be brought to the place they were again. The Holy Spirit would quit dealing with them and they would be lost forever. This kind of turning back refers to a willful rejection--knowing what you are doing. Therefore, if a man comes to this kind of conviction (experienced these five things) and willfully turns back, he will never find repentance.
The phrase “crucify the Son of God afresh” becomes a reality when one confirms the judgment of the actual crucifers, declaring that he, too, has made a trial of Jesus and found Him not to be the true Messiah, but a deceiver and therefore, worthy of death. This puts Christ to “open shame” which means to bring disgrace and dishonor on Him. If one, who has been exposed to this kind of work of the Holy Spirit (the five things mentioned in these verses), departs from the truth (turns back) he declares Christ to be an imposter, thus exposing Him to disgrace and dishonor, making a public example of Him. This person does more to dishonor Jesus Christ than His murderers did, because they never professed Jesus to be the Christ. Therefore, these would be irreclaimable if they fall away.
These verses are not teaching that a person can be lost after they have been saved. That doctrine is foreign to the Scriptures. Also these verses are written for us (II Tim. 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”) even though not to us. Do not try to discount Scripture because it does not fit your theology, just rightly divide it.
This is only a condensed message concerning these verses. If you would like to receive tapes or cds on the book of Hebrews, please let us hear from you. They are free for the asking. We love you and are your friend.
THE PERSUADER - Jan.-March, 2007