It is impossible for those who 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, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (verses 4-6)
Oh, how difficult is this passage.
This is one of the places where we clearly need Scripture to help interpret Scripture. I am convinced from other passages that those who have truly received salvation in Jesus are held firmly by the Lord for all eternity (John 10:28-30, 6:39, Philippians 1:6). Ultimately, our future is not primarily dependent on us, but on him. He holds us. He won’t lose those given to him. He will surely complete what he has started. What Joy! What hope! What relief!
And yet, there is the somber, sober warning of this passage. To step back from the Lord, to actually fall away, puts us in a horrendously precarious position. Indeed, it is described as “impossible.” To be brought back to repentance is impossible.
So, what do we make of this? As I struggle with these words, here are several reflections:
· Don’t take your faith lightly. This is the key message. The goodness of our salvation is so great, so awesome. Don’t take a step backwards into its opposite. That would be a massive tragedy.
· Specifically, don’t back away from these four blessings of life in Jesus: (i) the heavenly gift (understand that your salvation is an invaluable possession, received from Almighty God himself); (ii) the Holy Spirit (his presence and power, filling us, coming alongside us as the divine Helper, Comforter, Counselor – this is an unfathomable blessing); (iii) the goodness of the word of God (the Lord’s “very great and precious promises,”together with his instructions and guidance, are life-giving – cling to them); (iv) the powers of the coming age (the Kingdom of God has broken into our experience, not yet in all its fullness, but already active in our lives). Don’t back away from these incredible blessings. Indeed, press into them fully.
· Repent. If you have sinned, rebelled, grown distant from the Lord, then repent. The impossibility of repentance is spoken of here as dire, as a curse. So, don’t settle into that place. Repent while it is still today, while you still have the possibility of stepping back into the forgiving embrace of the Father. If your heart is soft enough to repent, it’s not too late. Do it.
· Finally, I take hope, while life remains, in two added perspectives. The first comes with the word “impossible,” which is completely immovable from our point of view. Yet, Jesus tells us, when faced with a camel and the eye of a needle, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). So, I preserve hope here, even in light of this “impossibility.” The second comes from the writer’s immediately subsequent comment. He’s spoken these words to the Hebrews, presumably because they needed to hear them. But he then immediately says, “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case” (verse 9). I preserve this hope, too, for those I know and love, for any who are in danger of falling away.
Such a sobering passage. Be sobered, yet hold also to grace and hope.
The point, in it all, is to hold to the Lord.
Lord, keep my sights set on you. Keep me holding firm. Keep me praying passionately for those I love. I embrace the heavenly gift, yield to the Holy Spirit, submit to the word of God, and pray for your Kingdom to come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Reflect: In light of this somber charge, are there steps you need to take to more fully align with your Lord. What? When? How?