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 the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6, verses 4-6.
More REALLY tough verses to understand. The keys are in the previous verses, specifically where the author mentions the basics of the faith and the grace of God to continue to live them out.
Repeat after me: you cannot lose your salvation. You can’t undo what Jesus did for you. He still died and rose. He is still God, and is still alive and interceding for you, and He is still the only Savior and the only way to heaven. There’s nothing you can do to undo any of that. But you can recant it.
My NIV concordance says that there are two common interpretations of these verses. One talks about Christians who recant and the other talks about immature Christians who are in danger of apostasy. I prefer door number two, Monty. We CAN recant and renounce our belief in Jesus. Indeed, the community of atheists is rife with people who have done just that. I suspect most of them have been hurt somehow and choose to blame that hurt on God. Still, it is a conscious choice to un-believe and to state your un-belief. God gives us the free will to do that and He respects our choices at all times because He wants to be the God we choose instead of the one we feel we are forced to believe in.
Yet I don’t think this is what the verses are talking about. Instead, I think the verses are talking about those who are in danger or recanting. It’s a subtle difference, based in having made the choice to desert the faith and contemplating making that choice. But it matters. I think the author is writing to dissuade vulnerable believers from recanting and turning away from the nascent Christian faith they experienced.
After reading the verses and those related to it, I think, more and more, that the author is saying how convincing, compelling, and impactful is being part of God. Once you truly experience God, you won’t want to be pulled away from him or willingly give Him up. When a person is filled, even for a brief time, with the presence of God, the choice to not believe in Him becomes illogical and inconceivable. We may never experience such a moving experience ever again, yet even a brief time in the presence of Christ can be more than enough to change us forever. Everything in life that comes after that moment pales, and many people spend the rest of their lives moving in positive directions made possible by their encounter with Jesus.
We can’t undo that moment. We can’t lessen Jesus even when we try our hardest. We can’t do, say, or think anything that will make Him less perfect, less God, less of a Savior. The only thing we can do that can affect our relationship with Him is reject Him and break off the relationship. Even doing that doesn’t stop Him from trying to reach us again and again. Even rejecting Him doesn’t stop Him from providing for our needs, showering us with blessings, or being less than He is. Only at the moment of death, when it’s too late to turn back, could we experience the spiritual consequences of rejecting Him.
I wonder if the author was writing to people in the Hebrew community who were being pulled in different directions. I wonder if he was writing to show them that nothing else they have heard or could experience could ever equal the presence of Jesus Christ that comes with believing in Him. This side of heaven we may never know; this side of heaven, more learned people will debate these verses, and we’ll likely find disagreement over the fine points. Yet it’s undeniable that holding fast to the faith is an act of choice and a mature one at that. It takes adult talent and experience to cling to God when the world tells us to reject Him. People back in Bible times fought the same spiritual struggles that we fight today. It only makes sense the author of Hebrews would address that.
For further reading: Luke 2:14, Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews 5:12, Hebrews 9:14, John 3:25, Acts 6:6, Acts 2:24, Acts 17:24, Acts 18:21.
Lord Jesus, I’ll admit: living in this world makes it tough to cling to You. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Thank You for clinging to me, for always proving Yourself as my Savior, and for saving me from myself.