The Lord Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, paid the sufficient price to satisfy God’s demand for justice against man’s sin. God’s justice has been once and forever satisfied. Eternal life is available to those who will receive God’s grace by faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The life that is provided to the believer at the moment of faith is forever life, not probationary life. Eternal life is just that, life that will never end. Those of us who have believed in Jesus Christ are saved forever and can never be lost. Our eternal salvation is not based on our living a sinless life, or on our ability to hold on to this life. God knows very well all who are “in Christ.”
“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (Jn. 10:28)
“I am the Good Shepherd and I know my own and my own know me.” (Jn. 10:14)
But there are passages in the Bible that seem at first glance to say that it is possible to lose our salvation. One such passage is Hebrews 6:4-6.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become 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 to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (Heb. 6:4-6)
Does this passage teach that a Christian can lose eternal life? To discover the true meaning of these verses, we must dig a little deeper into the Word of God. The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians to teach Hebrew Christians that they were to no longer be Hebrew Christians. They were to be simply Christians. These former law-keepers had left the constraints imposed upon them by the Old Testament Law and had received a brand new identity as Christians.
“Old things had passed away and all things had become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17b)
The “old things” involved all that was associated with the old Adam. In Adam all die, but believers have been “made alive” in Christ. In old Adam there was temporary life. They were destined to an eternal death. But now they had God’s eternal life. And a part of these “all things” to Jewish believers meant that they were no longer under the Mosaic Law. All of those ceremonial ritualistic shadows had led them to Christ. Now they were “in Christ.” The shadows revealed by the law had become reality. Jesus Christ had been foreshadowed by the shadow sacrifices of the old law system. By His death and resurrection, He became the real sin substitute (Heb. 10:1).
Having trusted in Christ, these Hebrews had become members of the body of Christ. They were now to concentrate on cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Their new goal, much higher than knowing and keeping the law, was to grow in knowledge of their Savior. They were to begin to understand and apply fresh new truth concerning their spiritual position in Christ.
A wonderful part of this new truth involved knowledge of the Melchizedekian priesthood. No longer were these Jews to serve God under their old fleshly high priests. As Christians, they were working under their new High Priest – a raised, eternal High Priest. Christ was to reign as a priest, not after the tribe of Levi, but after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7-10). The writer of Hebrews used knowledge of this special priesthood as a spiritual barometer to measure their lack of spiritual understanding.
“Called by God as High Priest according to the order to Melchizedek of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” (Heb. 5:10-11)
The writer wanted desperately for the Jewish Christians to understand that they now had an eternal Priest. They could be blessed by that knowledge. However, because they had not matured, they had not grasped the spiritual plan of God found in Melchizedek. They had become “dull of hearing.” This meant that they were not only having problems with the wonderful truth surrounding Melchizedek but were still struggling with truth which they had known before but because they had not used it, it had fallen away.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14)
“Solid food” is the deeper spiritual insight into the teaching of Melchizedek. “Milk” symbolized the simple truths which they should have learned early and used often.
The Corinthians, like the Jews in Hebrews, had been given sufficient time and teaching to grow up spiritually, but they had failed to do so. Because of this, they were also called “babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1-2). Paul taught the Corinthians that spiritual babies often acted like unbelievers. In fact, Paul had to write to them “as” to unbelievers.
Like the Hebrew Christians, they were to grow to maturity in order to become spiritually productive. A tremendous motivation to do this is the fact that they would all one day stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There they will be judged – not for the penalty of their sins – but for the way that they carried out the spiritual responsibility before God. (See “Growing Churches the Grace Way: Grace to Paul”.)
“For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
These “works” were to be built on the firm foundation of their faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-11).
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stone; wood, hay, and straw.” (1 Cor. 3:12)
Notice the two different kinds of building material named here. One group of material is combustible; the other is not. They represent the quality of the works that Christians will produce while on the earth. The fire of God’s judgment will one day purge believers.
“Each one’s work will become clear; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor. 3:13)
Works that are produced by God in us (the fruit of the Holy Spirit) will stand the test of the fire and remain. Works which are motivated by our flesh will be burned, resulting in a loss – not a loss of salvation but loss of reward.
“If anyone’s work which he has built on endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:14-15)
This truth not only applies to the Corinthian church of old, but to believers today. Remember, good works do not save us; we are saved by faith in Christ But God has foreordained good works in believers.
“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
Now back to the Hebrew Christians of our passage. The failure to “move on” by studying and understanding the deeper truths of the word of God had led to the spiritual immaturity.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” (Heb. 6:4-5)
There is no mistaking that the “those” in this passage are the same immature believers of chapter five who misunderstood the doctrine of Melchizedek. There is no doubt that they are believers.
“If they shall fall away, to renew them to repentance since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (Heb. 6:6)
What exactly did the writer mean by “falling away”? He did not mean falling away from eternal life in Jesus Christ. They were in danger of falling back into Judaism. They were in danger of falling from God’s grace back into Law (Gal. 5:1-5). By having one foot in their Judaistic roots and one in Christianity, they were in danger of staying in one place. They needed to move on! The answer to their dilemma was not a renewal of their salvation. They did not need to go back to the cross and be reborn again in order to have the capability of moving on. To do so would be to crucify Christ in their mind time and again, thereby constantly putting Him to open shame. It would be impossible for Christ to have died again and it would have been impossible for them to be saved again.
These believers needed to move on and produce fruit that was pleasing to God. The reason was that each one was going to stand before God at His Judgment Seat. Verses seven through ten are critical verses which add light to the true meaning of the passage because they continue the same thought.
“For the earth drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs (vegetation) useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God.” (Heb 6:7-8)
A fruitful earth receives blessing from God. It drinks in the rain and becomes fruitful. The opposite should also be clear. IF THE EARTH DOES NOT PRODUCE FRUIT, BUT PRODUCES THORNS AND BRIARS, IT WILL BE BURNED. This is a reference, not to the judgment of eternal hell, but to the Judgment Seat of Christ and to the fact that we are all going to pass through the judgment fire of God. Our works that are not fruitful or profitable to God will be burned.
And then the passage continues.
“But beloved, we are confident of better things of you, yes things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” (Heb. 6:9)
The “better things of you” does not refer to going to heaven or having eternal life. It refers to things that accompany salvation. Things like becoming teachers who are productive and believers who have their spiritual senses sharpened. These are to be the things that are to accompany our salvation, not earn it.
“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:10-12)
In order to produce such labor of love, such works (fruit), the child of God should not be concerned with losing eternal life, but should leave the elementary things of salvation and move on to the more complex truths of our faith, continuously growing to the point of being able to teach others. Let us move on to better things – the things that God has designed to accompany our salvation.