This post will summarize Hebrews 6:4-6 and provide basic application. Readers interested in a detailed defense of these statements are encouraged to consult “An Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6.”
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb. 6:4-6)
Contrary to popular belief, this passage does not teach that one may lose their salvation. All theological argument aside, this is proven by one very simple observation: salvation is not mentioned in these verses. The passage does teach that genuine Christians can lose their faith. If we wish to assert that losing one’s faith results in a loss of salvation, he must demonstrate that from other Scripture. The idea is simply not found here.
On the other hand, the passage actually supports “once saved always save.” Note that if the believer falls away (we are taking the references “enlightened,” “tasted” and “shared” as qualifying genuine Christians) that they cannot be brought back to repentance. That is, they cannot be restored to the confession they once held. The issue, then, is not the loss of salvation, but the loss of one’s confession and, by extension, the loss of one’s fellowship with the church.
The author of Hebrews presses his point in 6:6-8 with this illustration:
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (6:7-8)
The Christian under discussion is compared to a crop of farmland. If it is well tended, it is expected to bear fruit, but if it bears weeds instead, the farmer has no choice but to burn the land. The purpose of this burning is not to destroy it, but to allow him to start over. The fire does not, then, represent Hell. It represents God’s discipline (cf. Heb. 12:1-11).
This passage teaches that the consequence of falling away is not Hell but rather God’s discipline in our lives. As the author of this book says in Heb. 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This passage is actually teaching the same thing that Paul said on I Corinthians 5:5, “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Let us, then, strive to hold fast the confession of our faith!