“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted of the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him [Jesus] to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessings of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
In parts 1, 2, and 3, we discussed (among other things) the meaning of being “enlightened,” those who have “tasted the heavenly gift,” as well as those who have “shared in the Holy Spirit.” In part 4, we went on to discuss, perhaps we could say, the basic intent of this passage, which we concluded to be that of motivating us in the proper direction. Admittedly, this can be a very hard passage to deal with — especially if you are not well grounded in the Word of God. You must be, if you are going to survive a passage like this, and, how many people do you know who would just love to use it to justify themselves into thinking that if they somehow worked “hard enough,” then they would merit “keeping” their salvation? But no, the passage is not teaching that.
Studying it over carefully, I think we must come to the conclusion that it is not teaching that a person can lose their salvation. This would be inconsistent with the rest of Scripture, which clearly teaches otherwise. For example, in John 10:27-29, we read that Jesus taught, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Two dozen or more other passages could easily be cited. Among these are Galatians 5:4, which says, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” The point is this: a person can not “earn” their favor with God! If they do, they “fall” from God’s grace in the sense of losing God’s favor that causes blessings to come into their lives. In other words, as a result of their pride in thinking that they somehow “merit” God’s favor through their works, God actually permits real and tangible blessings to be removed from their lives (this could be their health, for example, or any other tangible blessing that you could think of — job, relationships, you name it). This is a shame but a true teaching of the Scriptures (there are literally dozens and dozens of passages that could be cited here. In time, we will hopefully be able to go into them all).
Remember, this passage (in Galatians 5:4) was addressed to those who zealously sought to be justified before God! It was not addressed to lazy people, but to the Galatian church — they were the chief “princes and leaders” among the zealous workers of the day! How zealous were they? Very zealous, we read! After having received Christ purely by faith through grace (in accordance with Ephesians 2:8-9 which I discuss below), then they somehow “slipped” in their faith (which can amount to a renunciation of it), and suddenly — because of fear and pride — desperately wanted to find favor with God again — not realizing that they had already possessed it in full, as a result of their faith alone! How many of us have done the same thing? We “slip” in our faith, not realizing that our attempts to find favor with God are actually a renunciation of the faith which God so values in us!
Here, Paul is saying to them, essentially, “When you seek to do good works in order to earn God’s favor, you actually lose that favor!” This being the case, it would be a shame, then, to preach and teach Hebrews 6:4-8 out of its proper context. Rather than motivating people to find rest in God’s love and unconditional acceptance of them, it could then (wrongly) motivate them to trying to “keep” their favor with God through a “works” type of theology. But this is all wrong. Ephesians 2:8-9 addresses this issue plainly, when it says that our salvation is completely a gift from God, through faith alone, “not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Then watch out for those who teach that you can lose your salvation. They may try to teach you that you are saved by “grace through faith alone,” in an attempt to make their theology “fit” the verses which so clearly teach that (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, and others), but by then saying that you have to work hard in order not to lose that salvation, they deny the very verses that they sought to support in the first place! Beware! Galatians 5:4 is clear: you will actually lose God’s favor, if you try to work for it — whether that be working to keep your salvation, or working to get it in the first place (it amounts to the same thing).
Then rest in the Lord. And you will find His favor. Learn to rest diligently in His love, because He does indeed love you (I am speaking to Christians). But if you have not yet put your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, this is an entirely different story. This passage is addressed to Christians, not non-Christians. By learning to rest in God’s unconditional love towards you, you will begin to fulfill the teaching of John 15, which talks about the Christian’s need to “abide in the vine” in order to bear fruit. This is not a works contest! Far from it. Those who will truly be rewarded on that day, with rich and overflowing blessings, will be those who simply trusted God with child-like faith, and learned to wait upon Him for His direction.
Have you learned the secret of abiding in God’s unconditional love for you, without having to strive for His approval? By doing do, you will truly reap a harvest! God will be the One to work through you — all of your achievements will truly bring Him the glory, because it will truly be His work through you, not as a result of your own attempts to earn His approval (a warped theology, at best).
Many of you are trying to please God. That is a good thing. The purpose of this passage, really, is to try and “keep us on that same road” of wanting to please Him — not from a sense of having to strive to earn His approval, but rather, in order to simply please Him because He is our great God and Father who deserves all the respect, and all the service, that we could possibly give to Him. If we begin to scorn Him, or His people, in any way whatsoever, don’t be surprised, then, if judgment begins to fall on us! It will — but not to condemn us to hell, but in order to drive us back into His loving arms, from which we cleverly managed to “escape” perhaps through pride and a sense of self-reliance, but where we have truly always belonged, and where God so desperately wants us to be!