The Impossible Repentance of Hebrews 6

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:4-8(ESV)

In Hebrews 5, the writer was trying to describe the priesthood of Jesus when he interrupted himself saying that he could not explain the priesthood in more detail because they would not understand it. The topic was not so complex that they could not understand it but they had not grown in the knowledge of God and could not grasp it though, by now, they should have been spiritually mature. In chapter 6 he told them to leave the elementary principles, the ABCs, and press towards maturity in the knowledge of God’s word. Within this exhortation to maturity is a warning of remaining immature and not growing in knowledge of God’s word.

Some Christians who fail to mature may leave Christ and be unable to return to Him He says it will be “It is impossible for them to repent.” This is a frightening concept: one who is alive but cannot repent of their wickedness and turn to God. Who is this person who cannot repent?

This is not the unbeliever who never knew God nor cares for Him. This is a Christian who left the faith.

  • He was “once enlightened.” This has the idea of spiritual illumination. In John 1:9, Jesus who came to the world to give light to man. Paul, in Ephesians 1:17-18, describes conversion as the eyes of our understanding being enlightened that we may know our hope and our inheritance. Hebrews 10:32 uses “enlightenment” to described the Christian’s conversion. This person has seen through the darkness of sin by the truth of the gospel and knows the hope and glory of the child of God because he obeyed the gospel and became a child of God.
  • “have tasted the heavenly gift” The word “taste” literally means “experience.” We have a taste of the heavenly gift, our salvation, while on earth. We know peace when our sins are cleansed, love of our brethren, and our love towards God. When we read about the love of the brethren in the New Testament towards one another (sharing, selling possessions to take care of needs, daily exhortation) and the selfless, joyful, and heartfelt worship to God we have a taste of that heavenly gift. We may have been to a singing, worship service, or time with our brethren where we have had a taste of what was to come.
  • “have become partakers of the Holy Spirit” We do not understand everything about how the Father, Son, and Spirit dwell within us but must leave that to God. Romans 8:9-11 speaks of the relationship with have with God through the Holy Spirit. We have become partakers of God in that we have put off wickedness and put on holiness.
  • “tasted the word of God” The word “tasted” is the same as used above. Peter tells us to desire the pure milk of the word if we have tasted the Lord’s graciousness, 1 Peter 2:2-3. We have know from God’s words of love and warning what we needed to do to become children of God and submitted to it.
  • “[tasted] the powers of the age to come” A knowledge of the power of God and of His ultimate triumph over Satan and the world of sin and the destruction of the world. This knowledge urges us to be faithful, 2 Peter 3:11.

When this person falls away it is impossible to renew him to repentance. The word “impossible” doesn’t always mean “cannot” but is sometimes used to describe something that is not acceptable or is extremely unlikely. In this case it is impossible for the Christian who forsook Jesus to return to Him because there is nothing that we can tell him or use to appeal to him that he doesn’t already know. He willingly turned his back on all that is good and holy in order to be in this condition. He has crucified the Son of God again and put Him to open shame. We do not physically crucify Jesus, but our rejection of Him is equal to that Jerusalem mob, Hebrews 10:29. His departure from the faith is a cause for people to mock Christ for Jesus must not have meant enough to the person to keep Him.

How can we reach this desperate condition?

We can become callused to sin. Israel was often condemned for their hard hearts and rebellion against God, Hebrews 3:7-13. The Israelites who forsook God could not enter the Promised Land and the Christian who forsakes God cannot enter His eternal kingdom, Hebrews 10:26-39. To become hardened to sin is to become callused. When our skin calluses, it is no longer tender and easily pricked. Guitar player’s fingers become callused by the strings and lose sensitivity. Hard labor with bare hands can cause them to become callused. When our heart becomes A young man walks into the desolate desertcallused, it is no longer easily pricked. When we continue to sin we can eventually numb our conscience and make it less resistant to the pricking message of the truth.It becomes easier to add other sins when we become hardened.

We can think that judgment is far away. Jesus told a parable of a servant who behaved wickedly but was surprised by a judgment that came quickly, Matthew 24:45-51. Peter wrote of people who would scoff mistaking God’s longsuffering for postponed judgment, 2 Peter 3:1-9. Instead, Peter wrote that the Christian must always be ready for judgment, 2 Peter 3:10-13. How often do we really think that judgment could be imminent?

Listen to false promises and false teaching. Paul warned Timothy of false teachers whose conscience was seared and numb like one whose skin has been seared by a hot iron and can feel nothing, 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

Some believe God would not condemn a person who claimed to be a Christian at one time. They think that once they were saved they would always be saved even if they didn’t follow Jesus later in life. Hebrews 10:26-39 plainly teaches that God has no pleasure in those who draw back from Him to return to sin. Paul warned the Thessalonian Christians, in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10, to remain worthy of the calling and escape God’s wrath. Peter warns, in 2 Peter 2:18-22, that it is  better not to have known Jesus than to turn away from being a follower. If one is “once saved always saved” then this statement would be meaningless.

How Can We Remain Faithful?

  • Growing in the knowledge of God and obedience
    • Hebrews 6:7-8 – Being useful in God’s service and not ensnared with worldly things.
    • Hebrews 6:9-12 – Diligent service, not becoming sluggish.
  • Remaining tenderhearted, not resisting the loving rebuke of our brethren.

Be serious about your walk with God and diligent to grow in the knowledge of God and His word and draw closer to Him. Failing to do this, you could drift so far from God that it would be impossible for others to draw you back.

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Categories: Christian Living, Forgiveness

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