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 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.
Here is found one of the more serious warnings in the epistle.
This passage of Scripture has caused a great deal of difference
of opinion. It has troubled a vast number of God's children, who
have not been well instructed or thoroughly grounded in the truth.
The statement: "It is impossible ... if they shall fall
away, to renew them again unto repentance" does not have
reference to those who have grown cold in their Christian experience.
It does not have reference to those who have been unfaithful in
service. Nor does it have reference to those who may have failed
in time of temptation. For all these there is hope. The righteous
advocacy of Jesus with the Father is abidingly at hand to meet
the sins of such as are known to them, and who confess them in
The passage is a solemn warning for those who had once received
the truth of the gospel and had confessed Christ as Saviour, and
were now departing from the living God by casting away their confidence
The Hebrews were 'partakers of the heavenly calling.' They had
confessed Christ their Apostle and High Priest. They could call
to remembrance the former days in which, after they were illuminated
they endured a great fight of affliction. Then they were made
a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions. Then they had
taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves
that they had in heaven a better and enduring substance.
The pressure of persecution brought to bear upon them, hindered
their progress in spiritual growth. They were sluggish, 'dull
of hearing.' (5:11)They were absenting themselves from the assembly.
(10:25) Not only were they growing cold in their Christian experiences,
they were in danger of departing from the New Covenant truths
and returning back to Judaism. To return to Judaism was to give
Arthur Pridham in his book 'Notes and Reflections on the Epistle
to the Hebrews' says: "But to return to Judaism was to give
up Christ, to fall from grace, and place themselves anew beneath,
not only the general curse of the Law, but that special imprecation
which had bound the guilt of Jesus' blood to the reprobate and
blinded nation of His murderers. They had confessed already to
the fruitlessness of the former things, the vain conversation
received by tradition from the fathers. They had made public avowal
of the impotency of all other means of blessing, when they made
confession of the cross of Christ. To fall away from that and
to return again to mere external religiousness by a departure
from the living faith of the Gospel, would be to give up God.
For God is in the living Person of His Christ and can be found
no longer among the shadows of the former things."
Because of the grave danger to 'draw back' (10:38) the apostle
repeatedly warns his hearers. He had warned them of the sin
of neglect. "We ought," said the apostle, "to
give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard,
lest at any time we should slip away from them." (2:1) He
had also warned them of the sin of unbelief. "Take
heed, brethren," he warned, "lest there be in any of
you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."
(3:12) Now he warns against the sin of apostasy. "It
is impossible" is found in 6:18; 10:4; and 11:6 where it
can only mean impossible. What they fall from is largely intimated
in the descriptive terms which are applied to them before their
fall. Note the five fold description applied to them"
They were once enlightened
They had tasted of the heavenly gift
They were made partakers of the heavenly gift
They had tasted of the good Word of God
And of the powers of the world to come.
To fall away they would relinquish and despise the light of life,
the heavenly gift, the Holy Ghost, the good word or promise of God,
and the powers of the world to come.
They were once enlightened, literally, 'once for all enlightened.'
The phrase indicates that the enlightenment ought to have sufficed
to prevent them from falling. The word translated 'once,' meaning
'once for all,' is found in 9:7, 26, 28; 10:2;12:26,27. They were
enlightened through the revelation of God in Christ, the true light,
and through the power of the Spirit. The word 'enlightened' in the
Old Testament Septuagint is usually translated 'taught' or 'instructed.'
They had tasted of the heavenly gift. The meaning of the
word 'tasted' is: 'have consciously partaken of.' Compare Hebrews
2:9 and 1Peter 2:3. The heavenly gift is the Holy Spirit. This is
distinctly specified in the next clause: 'partakers of the Holy
Spirit." The phrase 'heavenly gift' emphasizes the heavenly
quality of this gift.
They had tasted the good Word of God: that is, the gospel
of Christ as preached, "which at the first began to be spoken
by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him"
To the Word is attached life (Acts 5:20);
spirit and life (John 6:63);
salvation (Acts 5:20;
cleansing (Ephesians 5:26);
and the impartation of the Spirit (John 3:34; Acts 5:32; 1044;
Eph 5:17 and Heb 2:4)
They had tasted of the powers of the world to come. The
word 'world' is literally translated 'age.' This is the present
age in which we are living. The age to come is the millennial age.
These Hebrews had tasted of the powers of the world to come. They
had tasted the Word and had seen the attesting miracles. Compare
2:4. These attesting miracles will again be performed in the Millennial
Age when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to set up His kingdom on
For those who had such experiences and would relinquish all, it
would be impossible to renew them again unto repentance. To fall
away, literally means 'to deviate,' 'to turn aside'. (Compare Ezek.
14:13; 15:8) Conversant with all the things aforesaid and then give
them up was to fall back to what they were before the light of God
shone on them in the Gospel. To renew such again unto repentance
is pronounced to be impossible. The reason for this is explained.
"They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him
to an open shame." By falling away from the New Testament teaching
and turning back to the Old Testament sacrifices they would crucify
'to themselves' the Son of God. "The apostate crucifies Christ
on his own account by virtually confirming the judgment of the actual
crucifiers, declaring that he, too, has made trial of Jesus and
found Him no true Messiah but a deceiver and therefore worthy of
death." Vincent says, "They declare that Christ's crucifixion
has not the meaning or the virtue which they formally attach to
it." The words 'put to an open shame' literally means 'to make
an example of,' 'to make a public show.' compare Numbers 25:4, 'hang
them up' where it implies exposing to ignominy or infamy. By so
doing these Hebrews would render their hearts so hard that the ministry
of the Holy Spirit would no longer have its affect upon them. They
would be irrevocably lost.
6:7-12 ...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.
But, beloved, 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.
Following the solemn warning stated in verses 4-6, the apostle
shows the inevitableness of punishment by an illustration taken
from the soil. "The earth which drinketh in the rain (appropriates
the heavenly gift of rain) That cometh oft upon it, and bringeth
forth herbs (grass fodder) meet for them by whom it is dressed (to
the benefit of those who cultivated it), receiveth blessing from
God." "But that which ...'but if it' (R.V.) that is the
ground which receives the rain, beareth thorns and briers is rejected
unapproved, and is night unto cursing; whose end is to be burned."
This figurative illustration represents two classes of Christians
under equally favourable conditions, out of which they develop opposite
results. In the analogy present in nature, the abundant and frequently
renewed rain represents the free and reiterated bestowal of spiritual
enlightenment that comes from the hearing of the Word. On the one
hand, the earth receives rain, produces fruit and obtains blessing,
on the other, is a production of thorns and briers, which is rejected
and burned. The soil that produced fruit represents the hearer who
absorbed the New Testament truth and in spite of trial and test
produced the fruit of righteousness. The soil, which produces only
thorns and briers represents the hearer who received the New Testament
truth but it had no depth and therefore after a short season of
joy fell away from New Testament truth to the Old Testament sacrifices
and can look for nothing but certain judgment. Our Lord said in
the parable that some seed fell among thorns. He declared that the
thorns are the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches
which choke the Word. Anything that takes the place of Christ can
be the thorn. "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" giving up the Christ whom they
had confessed become thorns whose end is cursing and burning.
"But believed, we are persuaded better things of you, and
things that accompany salvation though we thus speak. The writer
refuses to believe that his readers will incur such a fate. The
word 'beloved.' only found once in this epistle, could be translated
'divinely loved ones.' He is persuaded better things of his hearers
than those of falling away and crucifying the Son of God. He is
convinced too that those things that accompany salvation are true
of them. The word 'persuaded' means 'firmly convinced.' Vincent
says: "The verb indicates a past hesitation overcome."
The word suggests that formerly the apostle had misgivings about
them but they were at length finally settled.
Notice the contrast between verses four to six and verse nine.
In the former we see the third person is used. "It is impossible
for THOSE" and "if THEY shall fall away'. In verse nine
the second person is used. " We are persuaded better things
of YOU." The emphasis is on "YOU" and it is in direct
contrast to 'THOSE" referred to in the solemn warning.
The faith of those addressed in verse ten and eleven was manifested
in their "labour of love." They had ministered to the
saints and were still manifesting this unselfish altitude. The apostle
commends his hearers who have shown both love and work towards God's
name. That does not look like crucifying Christ. God is not unjust,
as He would show Himself to be if He were forgetful of this.
Following the expression of the apostle's confidence in his readers,
we have his desire for them. There are three things he desires to
see exemplified in their lives: diligence, faith and patience. "We
desire strongly and earnestly that every one of you without a single
exception do show the same diligence to the full assurance to develop
your hope which is in danger of falling into full assurance unto
the end of the present season of trial with its happy consummation."
"That ye be not slothful or sluggish." They will become
slothful or sluggish if they lose hope but the followers or imitators
of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise. It should
be noted here that faith and patience go together. The word 'patience'
could be rendered 'long-suffering.' Compare with 2 Tim. 3:10 and
James 5:7. The word literally man's lengthy spirit' not easily out
of breath and the opposite of shortness of temper. Many people are
clear and strong in regard to their faith but they fail in respect
of patience. Vincent brings out the fact that the word 'inherit'
is a present participle meaning 'are inheriting.' He says: "Their
present faith and perseverance are now making for their final inheritance."
In verses that follow, the writer gives and example in the person
of Abraham. This father of the Hebrew race had manifested diligence,
faith and patience. The faith of Abraham is recounted in three great
chapters of the New Testament scriptures. Romans 4, James 2, Hebrews
6. In the first of these, the strength of faith is emphasized; in
the second it is practical character and in the third it is patient