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“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. 7
“For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (NKJV).
The next part of the text that we are going to explore is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. There are some disputes among Bible scholars, and this has raged for a long time. I was in seminary 38+ years ago, and we had a very serious discussion about this passage. But the writer is dealing with spiritual maturity. He is encouraging us to grow up and be deliberate in living out our faith in Jesus. He is encouraging the Jewish readers to stop wavering between Judaism and Christianity; pick one and live by it. This writer, Paul, as far as I can tell, is persuaded that Christianity is the way to go.
In this passage, he will deal with two (2) types of insecurities, and he will force us to move forward or simply leave us behind. You see, he is about to wade into the deep end of the pool doctrinally, and if we are wavering or immature, we are going to get bogged down and confused and miss the story. Let this verse resonate in your mind, and if you get it, it will reframe how you read the Old Testament:
John 5:39 NKJV, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
He was speaking this to the Pharisees, and Jesus was telling them that the entire Torah, Psalms, Proverbs and Prophets were about Him; Jesus is the subject of the Old Testament. Paul will jump to that, and we must be able to understand what he is saying. One of my favorite commentators, Guzik, really lays out this passage we are about to explore, very well.
- Impossible, verse 4
The word impossible here is the same one used in other passages in Hebrews to explain that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18); Impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6); Impossible for the blood of goats to take away our sins (Hebrews 10:4). These things simply cannot happen; ever. Whatever He is about to instruct us in is impossible, and He is emphatic in the impossibility thereof. Sometimes we miss these nuances and miss the emphasis that is implied in the text.
- Important Words and Phrases, verses 4-5
Enlightened – a Greek word that explains the idea of a light source shining on someone.
Tasted – a Greek word that means to test something in a real sense. Jesus ‘tasted death’ (Hebrews 2:9) for everyone. Jesus died. This person experienced the heavenly gift, salvation (Romans 6:23).
Partakers of the Holy Spirit – this Greek phrase is a unique term in the New Testament referring to sharing the Holy Spirit; actually, receiving and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit.
Tasted of the good word of God – experienced and saw the goodness of God’s Word working in them.
The power of the age to come – this was a way of experiencing God’s supernatural power. These persons had experience with God’s supernatural power firsthand.
When one adds these together, these are people who have been saved. They saw the new light, they tasted it and experienced it, like Jesus experienced death; they have the Holy Spirit in them and fellowshipped with Him; they saw God’s Word at work in their lives and saw God’s supernatural power for themselves. The one conclusion is that they are saved. They surely had fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and that only comes to the saved.
- Immature Issue, verse 6
The falling away refers to two ideas here:
One is that if there is a return to Judaism and the rituals and practices thereof once you are saved, there is still no hope. There are still no other answers. Jesus is still it. Remember the verse in John 5:39; all the Torah, all the sacrifices and the laws are designed to point one to Jesus. There is no ‘new’ repentance here. It is a pointless act of going backward, and this did happen. Some did not return to Judaism; they just left like Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). Yes, even saved people can abandon the faith and return to the world.
The other idea of falling away has to do with losing one’s salvation: if you turn away from the salvation that you have and have experienced, you can never return and be saved again if you were able to lose it. The only way to do that is for Jesus to come and die again. That is not going to happen. Thus, if one were to become lost again after one had been saved, there would be no hope and no more redemption. The idea that one can be saved, lose it, and then get it back is a Biblical myth. At best (worst, if you really think it out), you could lose it but never get it back.
Both lead to immaturity. In one case, you are saved but never actually know if you are saved; there is no sure-footed foundation upon which to build a life for Jesus. And in the other, you found the only answer for salvation but were not satisfied. You have nowhere else to go, so you will remain immature until Jesus returns. Maturity requires that we repent and accept that security in Jesus that we have on one hand; and if we are saved, we stop looking for answers elsewhere. Growth and maturity in Jesus require security. We will explore this next time.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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