QUESTIONS TO THE CHURCH (Part 3: Falling Away)

If the Bible has taught the world anything it is that God loves mankind and wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4). Wanting to redeem the lost in sin sits at the core of God’s message. This is why humanity has the Bible. Why God sent His Son. Why God gives people the opportunity to repent. As such, God has not designed His message to be complicated (1 Cor. 14:33; James 3:16-17). Sadly, those that would exploit and have their way have made God’s Word confusing for many. People read a passage in Scripture and the verses contradict what they have been told, so they get frustrated and feel pressured to choose between what the Bible says and what they want to believe and what other people want them to believe. More times than not, people take the path of least resistance and hope for the best. However, there exist the few who make an honest search for truth.  

One of the few made a textual inquiry and asked me to explain Hebrews 6:4-6. The passage reads, “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” (KJV). Break it down. The individuals who received this writing were (a) once enlightened (i.e., they were Christians); (b) they tasted of the heavenly gift; (c) they were partakers of the Holy Spirit; (d) they tasted the good word of God and powers of the world to come; and then (e) deliberately forsook the Saviour to return to the shadows of the old order. The passage obviously depicted Christians falling away from God. However, if a person has been taught that Christians cannot fall away from God this passage would obviously present some problems for the reader.

The Hebrew penman wrote to warn the saints, probably at Jerusalem, of the threat of Judaizing teachers. Some, unfortunately, had already returned to the religion of their fathers, with consequent rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, and had put themselves beyond redemption. Hebrews 6:6 affirmed that apostasy exists and happened when people forsook the faith. However, in other passages, God assured that if sinners confessed their sins, He would graciously forgive and cleanse them from all unrighteousness (Gal. 6:1; 1 John 1:7-9). Why then in this case was no forgiveness promised, or the possibility of repentance mentioned? In fact, the Hebrew writer said it was “impossible…to renew them again unto repentance.” – The answer can be found in the nature of the apostasy of these people to whom the writer addressed.

The apostates of Hebrews 6:4-6 were not the type of sinners to turn away for reasons of hurt feelings, ignorance, or indifference, which is often the case today; it went much deeper. Their rejection of Jesus eliminated the possibility of salvation through Him, and their salvation became hopeless. They believed the Law of Moses was the only proper system of religion and believed that a future messiah would come, more popular to the Jews than Jesus of Nazareth. Their sad situation resulted from no failure on God’s part, but from an unwillingness on theirs to comply with God’s plan.

The common parallel in the modern time might equate to one who turns away from Christianity and embraces Atheism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some other religion that rejects Christ as the Son of the only living God of this world. A person who rejects all knowledge of God has no hope. As long as such people hold to their loyalty in false religions, they have no hope. They must let it go in order to be saved.

Those people who maintain an interest and respect for the true God of this world and the Word of His Son, Jesus Christ, still retain hope of redemption (John 3:16-18). Those of the first century had the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the apostles’ preaching to guide them. Those that rejected the miracles, the testimony of the disciples and apostles had no hope of salvation because they severed themselves from the source of salvation (Heb. 2:1-3).

Today, Christians have the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If people seeking redemption now push aside the Word of God, they separate themselves from the one thing that could save them (John 17:17; James 1:21). Sinners can always be renewed again unto repentance, but not if they ignore the Word of God (Heb. 10:26).

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