Is Hebrews 6:4-6 about true christians?

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Question / Comment - Is Hebrews 6:4-6 about true christians?

I was reading your thoughts on the difficult and questionable scriptures that "appear" to claim a true Christian can lose (I prefer to say forfiet) their salvation.

My observations of your arguments find many loopholes in your assessments. And I think you do great injustice to the Word of the lord. (But in the end He alone is our judge)

One point however. Regarding Heb 6 and the reference that it "is impossible"? You make no effort to address the conditions of that which the inspired word spoke of. Clearly, only a true Christian, and a mature one at that could be equated. But what you missed is that the author did not say it was impossible, if they fall away (the word is not apostacy, but a lesser condition such as merely slipping away) to be renrewed "UNTO REPENTANCE".

My understanding is that the writer was exhorting these Hebrew converts to Christ. They were clearly tempted to fall away from Christ. The point was not to argue if they could lose eternal life, but to see the remedy for overcoming their temptation to falling away.They needed to follow a path that is deeper than only repenting. They were to "go on unto perfection" which means maturity. To do that they needed to see past the cross, at look unto Jesus also as the finisher of their faith. (Heb 12:1-2) At the cross our faith is authored, but only as we look at Jesus now functioning as our High Priest and seated at the right hand of God, ever living to make intercession for us, can we find the confidence to go on, and hold on, unto the end. (1 Pet 1:9).

JPN Reply:


thanks for your thoughts. As you have already read how I view the Heb 6 passage, it is pretty obvious that I don't agree with your interpretation of it. To be honest, I don't think it fits the passage context at all. But having said, that, I'm not about to say that "you do great injustice to the word of God" because it is a difficult passage which has been debated for many centuries and you're free to have and express a different opinion as you have.

You said that I didn't make any effort to explain the conditions of the passage (and in doing so you give no explanation of the conditions yourself but just leap to a "clearly, only a mature Christian can be spoken of"!!!). But I don't understand why you said that in the first place. I certainly didn't intent to write an essay but my point 2 was about these "conditions" mentioned. And no, I don't believe it is about a Christian at all... Here it is again:

"(vs 4-8) Now you probably think that they must have been true Christians for it says they were enlightened, tasted the word of God, and had partook of the Holy Spirit. But all these words can still be true the unsaved individual who has come to a knowledge of the truth, seen the power of the Holy Spirit, and felt the convicting and drawing of the Holy Spirit in their life. Judas was an extreme example of this. He knew all there was to know having followed Jesus for three years. He had experienced the Holy Spirit’s power having been among the twelve sent out, two by two, to cast out demons and heal the sick. Yet he was never truly saved! Jesus own testimony about him confirms that he was not a true sheep that would be kept safe to the end. (John 17:11-12, John 13:18) None of the key words for truly saved individuals such as ‘saving faith’, ‘eternal life’, ‘born again’, ‘redeemed by his blood’, ’saved’, ’salvation’ are used in this passage. In ‘Hebrews verse by verse’, William Newell quotes R.A Torrey on this passage saying ‘there is a quickening short of regeneration’. In other words, this passage speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit within the lives of these people that occurs before and leading up to salvation. But these people do not receive salvation, and openly rejecting it, they go back to the mud even if for a while they looked like the real thing!

Further to what I wrote above, here is another reason why I don't agree that "mature Christians" or true Christians at all are in view -

Heb 6 is consistently contrasting true believers that press on (Heb 6:1-3) with those that fall away and the warnings that it gives to them (Heb 6:4-6). Concerning those that looked like Christians for a while before becoming apostate it says:

  • They CANNOT find repentance for their actions: "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened...if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance." This cannot be said of true Christians.
  • They are "crucifying the Son of God all over again"
  • They are likened to "land that produces thorns and thistles (which) is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." Not again the contrast in verse 7 (explanation of true salvation like those in Heb 6:1-3) to verse 8 (an explanation of those who do not have true salvation, crucify the son of God again, and are cursed and judged by fire. Again - verse 8 is another description of those he was mentioning in verses 4-6. This CANNOT be true born again Christians because "there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1) and they will not be cursed. It is a description of apostates.
If there was any remaining doubt, I believe this is dispelled in verse 9 as I mentioned in my study. To my mind at least, this clearly shows that the writer of Hebrews didn't have true Christians in view when he wrote verses 4-6. Here is verse 9:

"But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we speak this way."

And, as I wrote in my study:

"Greater evidence of the fact that these people were not saved is given in verse 9. Things change in this verse, for now He is speaking to those truly saved (calls them BELOVED). He says that even though he speaks like this concerning THOSE types of people, He is convinced of better things concerning YOU. Things that accompany SALVATION. In other words, the people he was talking about in verses 4-8 didn’t have salvation (and their open rejection testifies to this as well). But he has confidence in the beloved because they are saved! And this will show in their life through their perseverance."

So anyway, I don't know if that will help. Maybe I am banging my head against a wall! It makes sense to me anyway and I can only do my best to try explain how I see it. Having said that, it is, and will continue to be, a passage that Christians debate and disagree on. Hopefully that can happen while at the same time, we remember that we are on the same team.

All the best
His reply to JPN's original reply with JPN's new reply in blue underneath (anyone following this?)

Hi Mr. Gordon

Thank you for your reply. Yes we disagree and that is fine - like Paul said we still "see through a glass darkly".

I have no idea how anyone can interpret the phrase "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" and claim it does not refer to a true believer. I wish you could have heard my teaching I gave this morning about that text.

If the passage only said "made partakers of the Holy Spirit" and nothing else then I would probably agree that it refers to a born-again Christian. The fact is, it says a lot more. As I have pointed out verse 9 indicates that these people are not the "beloved" who have "salvation". There is a pre-conversion ministry of the Holy Spirit where He convicts, leads (John 16:8-11), even "sanctifies" those that are not yet saved (1 Cor 7:14). It is in this way that I believe the passage speaks when it talks of "tasting" or "partaking" of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit know doubt worked great miracles through Judas when he went out two by two but this did not mean that he was truely born again. That is why R.A Torrey says "there is a quickening short of regeneration". They are those that receive the word with joy, for a while believe (they have experienced the Holy Spirit's conviction and "tasted" of the things of the Lord), but in time of temptation fall away." (Luke 8:13)

Check on the term "fall away". Most commentaries claim it refers to "apostasy". But the word is not apostasy, but simply means to slip or slide.

I have and I don't believe you are correct. There isn't one Bible version that would translate it as slip or slide. The Greek word used in the passage is "parapipto". It is used in the New Testament in this passage only. I will quote from William Newell's "Hebrews verse by verse" - "Parapiptno is compounded from para, "alongside"; and piptein, "to fall - literally, to fall alongside" Thayer defines it as "to deviate from the right path, to turn aside, to wander. In scripture, to fall away from the true faith, from Christianity."

The key to that text is the context, and following the main point of the epistle. The epistle's main point is all focused on the present day ministry of the Lord as our High Priest. Heb 6 opens by exhorting us to "going on unto maturity" in truth and doctrines. The writer encouraged them to see that the Lord is now a Priest after the order of Melchesdec, (and he says it was a message that was hard for him to teach because they were dull of hearing). The exhortation was to see not only the cross but past the cross, where Jesus finished our faith, and is seated at the Father's right hand.

It is true that Jesus as our High Priest is a theme of Hebrews. But it is not the only theme. There are serious warnings given throughout the book of Hebrews about falling away and going back to Judaism. One such warning is in Heb 3:12 where it speaks of those with an unbelieving heart that "fall away" from the living God. The Greek word from which our "apostacy" comes (apostenai) is used in Heb 3:12. Apostacy was a very real theme of the book of Hebrews! The writer continually warns the reader of such. As the majority of the audience were Jewish, there was intense pressure to leave the Lord Jesus and return to Judaism. Hebrews 6:4-8 returns to this theme!Heb 6 does indeed start by speaking to Christians and exorts them to press on to maturity. But this is in DIRECT CONTRAST to those in verses 4-8 because in verse 3 it introduces the thought that there are some who God will NOT permit to go on! More on that later.

I believe the Hebrew epistle, which is the only NT writing that addresses this feature of Jesus as our High Priest, (Heb 5:10-13) is an exhortation to the church, (bonafide believers) who might simply slip back (as simple as backslide) and think they are failures. Instead the writer begs them to understand that they can not be renewed through mere repentance. The text does not say they can not be renewed. It simply encourages "them" to go on unto maturity", to be renewed, by leaving off those basic doctrines, including repentance, and see a deeper revelation of Jesus.

Again, you take one theme of Hebrews and try make the passage fit with that theme. Jesus as out High Priest is NOT the only theme of the book of Hebrews. The issue in Hebrews 6 is a lot more serious than you are making it. It is not just "encouraging them to go on to maturity and see a deeper revelation of Jesus." It is saying that there are some that cannot go on because God will not permit them to! (vs 3,4) It is saying that some are "rejected" (vs 8) and it is impossible for them to go on. To quote Newell:

"In the awful word REJECTED of verse 8 lies the secret of the impossibility of renewing to repentance those that "fall away"... It is not that God is not able to renew them but - awful fact! that He is unwilling; that these are "rejected". God rejected them, for there was no response, but the contrary, to His infinite love in the "heavenly gift" of Christ, which they had tasted."

And again, these people have no desire to repent. They have "tasted" of the truth and the workings of Christ and have rejected it - so they are rejected. It is a solem passage. And it does speak of apostasy. Thank the Lord however that true Christians are given the comfort of verse 9 and 10.

Point here is that while repentance satisfies God, it will not satisfy the soul (as it pertains to the conscience) A true believer, if they fall into some sin, can repent and repent and repent, but often, instead of victory, they are hindered with a sense of shame, guilt and condemnation , and as a result do not serve God with the same confidence.

I agree with everthing that you have said in this paragraph concerning a Christian, but, as mentioned above, it doesn't apply to those mentioned in Heb 6:4-8.

Anyway, thanks for considering my thoughts. I wish you well in your study and desire to righly divide the word of truth. There is a reward for those who diligently seek God. So partake of the meat of God's word and be exercised in the word of righteousness to discern between good and evil.

Yeah, thanks. And I wish you all the best in your studies as well. Though we disagree on this passage, I'm sure that we would agree on 95% of the book of Hebrews so that is always important to remember.

All the best.