Hebrews 6: Restoration for fallen Christians
This is a study on Hebrews 6, for Christians who feel condemned because of something they have done even after accepting Christ. So often the guilt and remorse of such a one is unbearable. Know that if your sin weighs heavily on you because of a sense of offending Holy God, that indicates that your heart is not hardened. There is hope.
Often this passage of Hebrews is used to quash that hope just when it is most needed. I intend to show that that was not the writer’s purpose at all; quite the opposite.
The goal: Christlikeness
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
And this we will do, if God permits.
To move on in Christ we need to lock in the basics and then press forward into maturity. Maturity does not merely involve agreeing intellectually with dogma, it involves Christlikeness, shown by having both power to love and a sound mind. It’s about Kingdom character, obedience, and effectiveness. It enables us to fulfill our destiny in Christ.
Those who have fallen
Now the case of believers who have fallen.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;
but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, whose end is being burned.
This is one of the hardest passages of Scripture, and a first reading would seem to indicate that there is little hope for a fallen Christian. To sin against one’s salvation is a serious thing. There is nothing more serious.
First, let’s deal with judging others who have sinned. We do not know the secrets of others’ hearts. We do not know how knowingly and willingly a person sinned (see 1Tim 1.13). We don’t know the level of maturity they were operating from, or where they had come from in life. Be careful about eschatological judging. Be careful about breaking a bruised reed or quenching smoldering flaxen, because that’s something that Scripture explicitly says Jesus would not do.
If someone has sinned seriously, he is “close to being cursed”. Let’s not nudge him over the line, lest we be judged guilty of a soul. Our goal should be restoration, not condemnation. (2Cor 2.7-8)
How to recover
And we should be just as careful with ourselves.
But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.
First, it is crucial to understand that it is not the writer’s intention to destroy hope of recovery. Rather, he extends it! His purpose was only to warn against falling in the first place. And that’s a very different thing.
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.
This verse is not a throwback to works-salvation. The writer is not saying that God has a scale where he weighs our good deeds against our bad. Otherwise, no one could be saved at all! Rather, it reflects back on heart motivation. The fruit, not the root, of salvation is good works and love of the Name. One mistake, and even seven times seventy mistakes, does not negate the free gift of salvation, if it that mistake is repented.
But still, there’s a high impediment the writer has erected back in verses 4-6:
it is impossible to renew them again to repentance
This is the crux of the matter. Can the heart that has turned away from God be restored? Let us not minimize either the difficulty or the peril here. We know that repentance will bring forgiveness, but Esau sought repentance even with tears, and did not find it. And here the author says it is “impossible”. But before we shut the book and close the case, consider well what Jesus said:
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God – Lk 18.27
For with God, nothing will be impossible – Lk 1.37
The first verse comes from the Rich Young Ruler pericope. Jesus had just said that those rich in this world’s things can virtually never enter the Kingdom of heaven. They have idols set up in their hearts which prevent God’s reign there. But when His disciples interpreted that to mean that no one could possibly be saved, Jesus had to put His comment in correct context by giving “the rest of the story”. Things that should be impossible, according to man’s understanding, are indeed possible by God’s higher power and wisdom. Yes, even the rich man can be saved, if he trusts in God for salvation rather than his riches.
The second case has to do with Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary of her coming impregnation with Divine seed by the Holy Spirit. We can agree that Almighty God becoming a human baby was the epitome of the impossible, and even of the absurd, from man’s point of view. Yet God’s power to save is so strong that He could do even this, and His love is so great that He did. God trumped “reasonable” natural limits. He resides above nature, and bringing His transformative power into Creation is the very thing He delights in doing.
So while man may see no hope for renewal, there yet remains hope in God. John had God’s power and perspective in mind when he penned:
If our heart accuses us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. – 1John 3:2
The key to restoration is re-embracing God’s kind intentions and keeping power toward us. The path back is tried and true:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach),
because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.
For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. Rom 10.8-11
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It’s a matter of getting our hearts true and sincere before God once again, then letting Him do the work that only He can do. This is not a performance issue. It is a matter of coming to the end of ourselves and trusting again in the Author and Finisher of our salvation.
(continued on Page 2)
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