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, 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.
One of the more challenging texts is this remarkable passage which has created much confusion and stress for many interpreters and believers. For some it indicates how a believer loses their salvation. For others it is about backsliding and losing any hope of being used by God. While it is impossible to deal with the complexities of these verses I will make a few observations:
- This text is not talking about losing one’s salvation. The thematic focus of Hebrews is a “case study” built from his previous discussion about Israel’s failure to enter the Promised Land. This is not an issue of salvation but blessing. Hebrews 3 focuses on a people delivered from Egypt but because of the hardness of their hearts, failed to enter into God’s blessing; they failed to enter the Promised Land. Hebrews 4 speaks of entering into God’s rest which must be done by the same faith Israel exercised in Passover. The concern is falling away from God’s blessing. Since the writer indicates these believers have a great High Priest in Jesus (4:14-16), he does not question their salvation. He is reminding them of his initial concern of neglecting this great salvation they have been graciously given to them by God. If these believers neglect it, they may disqualify themselves from His richest blessing (Heb. 2:4).
- The nature of Hebrews 6:8 indicates those who fall away yield the wrong fruit. Instead of bringing forth vegetation that is useful for others, they bring forth things that are worthless. They are not useful to God.
- The condemnation is not being cursed but being burned. Jesus used a similar illustration in John 15 to indicate those who do not abide in him can do nothing (15:5). He also utilized the picture of fruitless branches that do not bear fruit are broken off, gathered up and cast into the fire to be burned (15:6). All this to indicate they have lost the opportunity to be useful to God’s kingdom work; it is not a reference to losing their salvation.
- The problem that it is impossible to restore a person to repentance is about losing God’s blessing due to a lack of faith. Israel hardened their hearts and tested God and saw his works for forty years (Heb. 3:7-9). The culminating incident was a failure to enter the Promised Land by faith. They were too intimidated by the people in that land and failed to trust God. That generation was given one shot to experience God’s riches blessing and they missed it. God did not give them a second chance. A similar picture shows up with Esau selling off his birthright to his brother. When he desired to “inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance even though he sought it with tears (13:15-17). His emotional “repentance” was not sufficient to get a second chance on securing what he failed to hang onto by faith.
- They are crucifying again to themselves the Son of God. This statement (6:6) captures their complete lack of faith in trusting God to keep His promise. Israel experienced the power of God in delivering them from the enslavement of Egypt but failed to trust God to bring them into the promised land. This lack of faith disqualified them from God’s richest blessings.
All that being said, the writer follows with this, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and the things that accompany salvation even though we are speaking in this way.” (Italics mine).
Sincerely in His grace, Pastor Brad.