A study in Hebrews 6, Part 1

This is a multi-post study on Hebrews 6:1-8, a passage that many people have found confusing and concerning. Our goal in this series is to “handle the word of truth accurately” (2 Timothy 2:15) in order to come to the correct understanding of the passage. You can follow the whole series here.

Passage summary

With the beginning of chapter six, the author moved on to a topic that he realized would be difficult to understand. He prefaced this in 5:11-14 with a scolding that his readers should have been past basic truths in their spiritual maturity, and he intended to help them get there (6:1-3).

The meat of this passage is in verses 4-8. Essentially the writer stated that, for a person who has come close enough to God to be described in these four ways (“once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age“) and then to “have committed apostasy”, it is impossible for him to be brought back to repentance, because it is the same as re-crucifying Christ, causing Jesus public shame from those who are looking on.

The writer finished with the analogy of a field and crop to bring home his point: the field that produces thorns and thistles is fit only to be burned, but the field that produces a good crop for the farmer is blessed.

The theological impact of this passage

Many people use this as the key passage to either question the doctrine of eternal security in salvation or blatantly teach that salvation can be lost. They interpret these verses to mean that if a person (usually a close friend or loved one, or even themselves) has been saved, but then turns his back on God (usually because of something he has done that the questioner considers horrendous or unforgivable, such as suicide or divorce), that person could lose his or her salvation.

Unfortunately, those who understand the passage in this way usually miss the fact that, if this interpretation is true, the person in question would have lost their salvation forever, because the writer is clear that “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”

The proper understanding of this passage could answer this fear of loss of salvation for many people and be used for answers rather than questions.

My presuppositions

It’s important to identify our biases when coming to the Scriptures, especially in difficult passages such as this one. This helps us be honest with ourselves, and frequently causes us to work harder to find the truth.

I come from the standpoint that salvation cannot be lost for any reason. This is based on the clear Scriptural teaching that salvation is a gift of God (Romans 6:23), a result of grace from God (Ephesians 2:8), and based on an unbreakable promise by God (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Based on my presupposition, I would expect to find that the writer is either teaching about something other than salvation or is using a hypothetical situation or hyperbole concerning salvation to make a different point.

What are your presuppositions? What do you expect it to mean before we get into the study? Has this passage caused problems for you in the past?

About the Author

Daniel Goepfrich

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