Today let’s read Hebrews 6.
The book of Hebrews contains sections of teaching punctuated by warnings not to turn away from following Jesus. When we read verses 4-8 today, we were reading the scariest and most difficult to interpret warning section in Hebrews. It’s the scariest, in my opinion, because it says “It is impossible for those… who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance” (vv. 4, 6). It is the hardest to interpret because the description of the person who fell away sounds like a genuine convert to Christ. They “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” (vv. 4b-5). So it sure seems like someone lost his or her salvation in this passage.
Given these things, there are different ways of interpreting this passage. Some chalk it up to a hypothetical situation–if it were possible to fall away from Christ, such a person could never be saved. Others believe that it does describe someone who lost his or her salvation. I believe the author is describing someone who looks like a genuine Christian in every possible way but never truly came to know Christ. Why do I think that? Verse 9: “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.” The last phrase, “things that have to do with salvation” is a contrast to verses 4-8. Those things in verses 4-8, then, describe things that are not salvation. They look like it but are not genuine. The warning is about being careful not to fake your faith. If you see all the transforming power of Jesus in operation in the church but you pretend to follow Jesus instead of actually trusting him, then you turn away, you won’t ever come back to Christ and find genuine salvation.
Notice, though, how much ink the author of Hebrews spent reassuring the readers of their security in Christ. That’s what verses 9-20 are all about. The author of Hebrews knew that his warning was scary but he did not write it to shake the faith of true Christians. He reminded them of the evidence of their genuine faith in verse 10, how they had shown love in tangible ways to others. This is evidence of God’s transforming work of faith in their lives and “God is not unjust” so he won’t ignore the real evidence of a person’s conversion on the day of judgment.
The author of Hebrews wrote this chapter to stimulate us to keep following Christ and serving him: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (v. 12). But he did not want the believers to think that their salvation was dependent on their good works. Verses 13-18 describe how our salvation is tied not to our good works but to the unshakable promises of God. Just as he swore by himself to Abraham and delivered on that oath (vv. 13-15) so he also has promised to save those of us “who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us” (v. 18). This hope is secure, like an anchor, according to verse 19 because it is tied to Jesus our high priest (v. 19).
In this life you will have ups and downs. You may have moments of strong, deep faith and other moments of questioning. You will have moments of victory over sin and other moments of defeat. Don’t put your confidence in these things. Look at the output of your life for evidence of real faith–yes, but remember that our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” When we stand before God, it is his work on our behalf that will carry us into God’s presence. Given that, we work to glorify God with the time we have on this earth because of the confidence he gives us by grace.