“Even Though I Speak in This Way….” – Calvanism
Hebrews 6:4-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
ANDDDD, here we are again. The third time in the letter to the scattered Hebrew believers, the writer mentions apostasy. Greek “aphistemi” a departing from God and abandoning what one once believed and experienced in Christ. It involves a disowning of Christ, departure from the Body of Christ and the Christian faith. Scripture, especially here in Hebrews issues real and urgent warnings about this grave possibility, designed both to alert us to the deadly danger of apostasy and its consequences and to motivate us to persevere in faith and obedience.
Why was the writer warning these things? A few reasons, they were scattered and not gathering regularly. (Heb 10:25-26) They were persecuted by the Roman government and other Jews, and as seen from last week they were not maturing in their faith.
The divine purpose of these warning passages must not be weakened by the view that states, “The warnings are real, but the possibility of actual apostasy is not”.
An examination of the above phrases will show that the writer refers to those who are sincere believers. The phrase “it is impossible” denotes absolute impossibility. It has been contended, that it denotes only great difficulty. But the meaning is that “the thing could not be done;” that it was not merely very difficult, but absolutely impossible. The word – “impossible” occurs only in the New Testament in the following places, in all which it denotes that the thing could not be done; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27, “With men this is impossible;” that is, men could not save one who was rich, implying that the thing was wholly beyond human power. Luke 18:27, “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – referring to the same case; Acts 14:8, “A man of Lystra, impotent in his feet;” that is, who was wholly “unable” to walk; Romans 8:3, “For what the law could not do;” what was absolutely “impossible” for the Law to accomplish; that is, to save people; Hebrews 6:18, “In which it was impossible for God to lie;” Hebrews 10:4, “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin;” and Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” in all of these instances denoting absolute impossibility.
These passages show that it is not merely a great difficulty to which the apostle refers, but that he meant to say that the thing was wholly unfeasible; that it could not be done. And if this be the meaning, then it proves that if those referred to should fall away, they could never be renewed. Their case was hopeless, and they must perish: that is, if a true Christian should apostatize, or fall from grace, “he never could be renewed again,” and could not be saved. Paul did not teach that he might fall away and be renewed again as often as he pleased.
For those who were once enlightened – The phrase “to be enlightened” is one that is often used in the Scriptures, and may be applied either to one whose understanding has been enlightened to discern his duty; or more commonly to one who is truly converted. It does not of necessity refer to true Christians, though it more suggests the idea that the heart is truly changed, and that it is more commonly used in that sense.
And have tasted – To “taste” of a thing means, according to the usage in the Scriptures, to “experience,” or to “understand” it. The expression is derived from the fact that the “taste” is one of the means by which we ascertain the nature or quality of an object. If I asked you if you have ever tasted a hot pepper, you would know without a doubt know whether or not you have tasted a hot pepper.
Hebrews 2:9 English Standard Version (ESV)
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
The idea here is, that as Jesus had experienced death, they had “experienced” and tasted the heavenly gift and had learned its nature.
1 Peter 2:3 “If so be that you have tasted that the Lord is gracious”
The heavenly gift – The gift from heaven, or which pertains to heaven. The expression means some favor or gift which has descended from heaven, and may refer to any of the benefits which God has conferred on man in the work of redemption. It might include the plan of salvation; the forgiveness of sins; the enlightening, renewing, and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, or any one of the graces which that Spirit imparts. The use of the article, however – “the heavenly gift,” limits it to something special, as being conferred directly from heaven, and the connection would seem to demand that we understand it of some “special” favor which could be conferred only on the children of God. It is an expression which only “may” be applied to sincere Christians.
And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost – Partakers of the influences of the Holy Spirit – for it is only in this sense that we can partake of the Holy Spirit. We “partake” of food when we share it with others; we “partake” of pleasure when we enjoy it with others; we “partake” of spoils in war when they are divided between us and others. So we partake of the influences of the Holy Spirit when we share these influences conferred on His people.
This is not language which can properly be applied to anyone but a true Christian; and though it is true that an unpardoned sinner may be enlightened and awakened by the Holy Spirit, yet the language used here is not such to be employed to describe his state. It is too clearly expressive of those influences which renew and sanctify the soul. It is as elevated language as can be used to describe the joy of the Christian, and is used in that sense here. The understanding then that this of the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.
The word “gift” is elsewhere used both for that of redemption generally but most frequently, for the gift of the Holy Ghost 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift”
They have become also partakers of the Holy Ghost, not merely been within the range of his influence, but actually shared it; and tasted. By the powers are to be understood as in:
Hebrews 2:4 English Standard Version (ESV)
4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.
To the ones in which the gift of the Holy Ghost was manifested, the Church.
The falling away, aphistemi, after such enlightenment and such experience means total apostasy from the faith. This appears from the expressions that follow, and still more from those in the connected passage:
Hebrews 10:26-27 English Standard Version (ESV)
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Such an utter apostasy was possible to these Hebrew believers oscillating between Church and synagogue (in our case, the world): they might be so drawn at last into the atmosphere of the latter as, with the unbelieving Jews, to reject and so to themselves recrucify, the Son of God.
The force of “recrucify to themselves” is illustrated by Galatians 6:14, where Paul says that he so glories in the cross of Christ that through Christ the world is crucified to him, and he to the world; i.e. all fellowship between him and the world is broken off. So here, implies the breaking off of all fellowship with what a man is said to crucify. “They crucify again the Son of God, repeating what their fathers had done formerly when they gave him over to the death of the cross; and this, be it observed, still more culpably., since it is after personal experience proving him to be “the Son of God.” And they not only make him as one dead to themselves: they also expose him to the reproach and mockery of the world.
What is said of those who do this, that even unto repentance it is impossible to renew them. Such falling away after such experience precludes the possibility of repentance. On such persons the powers of grace have been exhausted. There is a correlation between the state here described and the consequence of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in speaking of the unpardonable sin:
Matthew 12:31 English Standard Version (ESV)
31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Luke records the saying as spoken, not to the Jews on the occasion of their attributing Christ’s works to Beelzebub, but
Luke 12:10 English Standard Version (ESV)
10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
Vers, 7, 8 – For land which hath drunk in the oft-coming rain upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whom it is also tilled, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned
The “land which hath drunk,” is the subject in v.7-8, the unproductive land as well as the fruitful soil is said to have received, and not only received but imbibed in abundant supplies of rain. Its failure is its own fault, and it is regarded as responsible for it, and deserving of its final fate. This exactly illustrates the case of those who “fall away” after not only receiving abundantly, but also taking in so as to be filled with the “gracious rain” of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 5:4 English Standard Version (ESV)
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
It is to be observed that the land, though bearing thorns instead of fruit, is not spoken of as yet under the final curse, but only near to it, so as to avoid even a remote suggestion that the Hebrew Christians had actually reached the hopeless state. But, unless fruitfulness should ensue, they are warned of the inevitable end by the fate of thorns and thistles, which is to be burnt
Romans 11:21-22 English Standard Version (ESV)
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
Calvin’s predestinarian views compelled him and his followers to do violence to the plain meaning of the passage. Holding the doctrine of the indefectibility of grace, which involved that one really regenerate cannot fall away, and that consequently one who falls away cannot have been really regenerate, he had to explain away these descriptive Scriptures of the grace enjoyed, as meaning only a superficial experience of it. Only dogmatic prejudice can suggest such a sense of this Scripture. We cannot fail to see in the whole accumulation of these verses an intention of expressing the very reverse of an apparent experience of saving grace. The depth of the experience is, in fact, a measure of the hopelessness of the fall.
There are steps to falling away:
We fail to take the Word of God, His truths, exhortations, warnings, promises and teachings with the utmost seriousness. God says what He means and He means what He says
We do not gather with the brethren- Heb 10:25-26 these are directly connected. I am so tired of American individual Christianity. You make time for the things you love
We fail take sin seriously enough- get radical
We fail to obey God- this is that spirit of lawlessness
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father”. Many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do mighty works in Your name? And then I will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness”
Lawlessness- doing things according to your law, and not God’s law
We fail to separate from the world and vacillate between the world and the church; and through the deceitfulness of sin we become increasingly tolerant of sin in our lives.
Hebrews 3:13 English Standard Version (ESV)
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Encourage and warn each other DAILY to continue to run the race.
After the heart is hardened, we reject God’s way, ignore the voice of the Spirit, grieve the Spirit and put out His fire. This is a rejection of the Spirit of grace. He is the Holy Ghost, not Casper the friendly ghost
But, even though I speak this way, I am persuaded of better things for you! The very state of mind of those who entertain such fears is a sign that they are not of those to whom this text applies. They cannot have entirely fallen from grace, if they have the grace to repent and long for pardon.
11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Do not be sluggish- the same word is used in 5:11 where they were spiritually dull and did not want to listen, careless and negligent in their use of the precious grace of God. Be disciplined, grow up, and mature in the faith.
The church of Laodicea was apathetic and lukewarm. They were lazy and secure in their own judgment.
We can have an assurance of faith when we walk in the light as HE is in the light, more and more (not less and less). We have assurance when we obey His Word. We have assurance when we are convicted of our laziness, sin, disobedience and we subsequently repent. Conviction is a good thing
But be imitators of those who through faith and patience, (patience here in the Greek meaning a brave, long suffering endurance), inherit the promises. Imitate with diligence and longsuffering endurance the saints who have gone before us. Read Hebrews 11
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