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Title of this study:
Hebrews 6:1-6 - Don't these verses prove that salvation can be lost?
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Pastor Douglas Shearer
There is perhaps no passage of scripture more troubling for Christians than Hebrews 6:1-6. Can a Christian lose his salvation? A straight forward reading of Hebrews 6:1-6 seems to suggest that, yes, a Christian can indeed forfeit his salvation; that, yes, salvation is not an iron-clad certainty. But that interpretation conflicts with other passages of scripture that suggest quite the contrary. What’s the answer? The point I will be making here is that Hebrews 6:1-6 does not address the issue of salvation at all; but it nonetheless underscores a very sobering truth - a truth much needed among a generation of Christians apparently addicted to “easy believism,” and “greasy grace.”
Let’s now take a good look at Hebrews 6:1-6.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
And this will we do, if God permits.
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.
The whole purpose of the Book of Hebrews can be summed up in the six words I’ve highlighted in the middle of verse 1.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ (i.e., the basics of the faith), let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God...
“Let us go on unto maturity” - meaning “Let’s grow up.” The problem with so many Christians - here in the Book of Hebrews it happens to be Jewish Christians, but it could just as easily be Gentile Christians - is that, though for many years they’ve known the joy of being pardoned from their sins, they haven’t grown up. There’s been no real change in their lives. They’re Christians, but they’ve never gone on to maturity; they’re still babes in Christ.
Let me show you what I mean. Let’s back up just a little - into Chapter 5 - and read Hebrews 5:8-14 - because these verses help to set the context for Hebrews 6:1-6. The author of Hebrews is just getting started with an explanation of the Melchisedecian priesthood; it’s an extraordinary teaching - a glorious teaching - meant to reveal the deeper riches God has laid up for us in Christ; but in the middle of his explanation he suddenly and quite unexpectedly breaks off. Let’s look at the passage in question - beginning with verse 8...
Though he were a Son (speaking here of Christ), yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Here’s the break! The author would like to go on; but he doesn’t; he stops himself - and pay close attention to what he says:
Of whom (i.e., Melchisedec) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered (i.e., difficult to explain), seeing ye are dull of hearing (i.e., hard to teach).
For when by this time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God (i.e., the basic doctrines of the faith); and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one who uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongs to them who are of full age (i.e., who are mature), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
First, let me clear up the meaning of the phrase “even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Do you see it there in verse 14? It’s not a phrase which suggests mysticism; we’re not talking here about a “word of knowledge” or a “prophetic word” or a “word of wisdom.” That’s not what this phrase means. It’s a colloquial expression meaning “put into practice what you’ve learned” - or, stated a little differently, “walk out the truths you’ve been taught.”
Let’s read verse 14 with this change.
But strong meat (i.e., the teaching on Melchisedec) belongs to them who are mature, even those who have put into practice what they’ve learned - and who have walked out the truths they’ve been taught.
The author can’t continue with his teaching on Melchisedec because his students are too immature. They haven’t grown to the point that they can handle difficult teachings. And why? Because they haven’t yet put into practice the little they have learned. That’s the meaning of Hebrews 5:11-14.
For example, it’s one thing to know that the “fruit of the spirit” consists of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control; but it’s quite another to have cultivated those virtues in your own life - so that you’re actually walking them out.
Let’s take one of those virtues to illustrate the point I’m making - self-control: there are many Christians who know that “self-control” is the mark of a genuinely mature Christian - that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Why is it, then, that so many of those same Christians can’t seem to break themselves free of ...
Why is that? It’s because they’ve never grown up. They’ve never put into practice the little they have learned. They’ve never truly appropriated for themselves the grace of God and made use of it. They know the truth, but they’ve never walked it out.
Let’s take another of those virtues - joy: There are many Christians who know that joy is a mark of a genuinely mature Christian - and that it’s a joy which transcends whatever circumstances beset them. Why is it, then, that so many of those same Christians are so often “on a bummer” - so frequently depressed and anxiety-ridden? Why is it that they can’t seem to put a smile on their faces.....
Why is that? It’s because they’ve never grown up. They’ve never put into practice the little they’ve learned. They’ve never truly appropriated for themselves the grace of God and made use of it. They know the truth, but they’ve never walked it out.
This, then, is the immediate context of Hebrews 6:1-6. In short, the issue here is a stubborn refusal to grow up - to press on to maturity - to stop being a baby; to stop making excuses.
Let’s now read again the whole six verse passage that Hebrews 6:1 begins.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ… (What follows here is a list of some, though not all, of the basic doctrines of the faith)
...let us press on to maturity;
...And this will we do, if God permits.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance...
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