There is a passage in Hebrews that has given believers problems for years. It is especially itchy for those who know that the Bible teaches that eternal life is, in fact, eternal. The passage reads, “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 fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Is the writer speaking of the perseverance of the saints and, therefore, the believers mentioned here were just pretenders, professing to be saved, but never really were? Or is it teaching that God preserves every sheep that He calls to Himself and they will never be lost (John 6:39)? Both positions are held by many.
Could the author not be speaking of believers who were not productive because they had remained babies way too long and just needed to grow up? I am in this category. The writer mentions those back at the end of chapter five…. the context…. believers who had been given sufficient time and teaching necessary to grow up to the point of becoming teachers themselves…but they had not. They were still in need of the milk of the word and not the weightier truths. He emphasized that everyone who partakes only of the milk becomes unskilled in the word of righteousness…. for he is a babe…. or we may say, still a babe. Solid food, the heavier truth, belongs to those of full age, who by the reason of the use of their senses exercised can discern both good and evil. His point is that these believers were mature enough to know the difference.
In chapter six, the writer mentions several of what he calls “elementary principles.” These are truths which every believer should learn early to the point of using them. The list includes the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (the doctrines of grace) and the doctrine of baptism. There are several different baptisms mentioned in Scripture, but only one real baptism (Ephesians 4:5). It is noteworthy that the writer of Hebrews considers food for young Christians…or baby food…to be the Bible’s teaching on baptisms, the laying on of hands (when should this ritual be used and why), the resurrection of the dead (there are different resurrections), and eternal judgment (ways that a person will face eternal judgment and differences in degrees of judgment) (Hebrews 6:1-3).
Building Christ’s Church
Christ has spiritually equipped each believer to play a part in the building of His church. Paul said: “As a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 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. If anyone’s work which he has built on it 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 Corinthians 3:10-15).
The entire basis for this judgment is found in the crucially important parable of our Lord in Luke 19:11-27. Our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ will fit perfectly the way we have used our tools given to us to build the church on the foundation of the identity of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18-19). This is why the nobleman’s words to his servants are so important. He told them in his absence to “do business until I come” (Luke 19:13). Now once again back to Hebrews 6.
The writer of Hebrews continued, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Heb 6:7-8). Our rewards for the work which we should have done will pass through God’s fire and the will be burned….and some will suffer loss….loss but not the loss of eternal security.
“But, beloved [speaking of Christians] we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:9-12). This passage is not speaking of believers failing to persevere, but believers failing to follow-through diligently with their work of faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3). A failure to discover and use one’s spiritual gift will result in loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. On the other hand, one’s understanding of the judgment to come may be motivation to seek great reward and blessings for a thousand years (Revelations 20:1-6). This is why Satan has continuously attacked and confused the meaning and importance of the gifts. Hope this helps.