Summary: 7 explanations of this passage. Why I rule them out, but with important truths that we can learn along the way.
The other options
As I said last time I came across 7 explanations of this passage. Having given some reasons for my choice, I want to look at the other options today. In part this is to explain why I rule them out, but there is also an important element of truth in most of them and I want us to grasp these truths and learn from them.
1. The people referred to were true Christians who sinned in some gross way and were condemned to eternal judgement with no hope of restoration.
The obvious reason why I dismiss this option is the weight of other Scripture that convinces me that I am in God’s hand and no one can pluck me from there. I don’t propose to dwell on this for too long. You have only to look at a passage like Rom 8:31-39 to realise that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I find it particularly sad that many have been lead to believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin and lost their salvation as the result of this passage. If v19 pictures our hope as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, how can s the earlier words ever have been intended to encourage hopeless despair – though they should certainly challenge us and make us examine ourselves. The security of this anchor is in marked contrast to the insecurity that many feel.
But where does this security lie? Of course it must rest in God, or it is no security at all. It enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus. And why are we safe if we are anchored there? Because our security rests on God and His promise – Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you. And the immutability of His counsel v17. In other words, God does not change His mind. He does not adopt us as His children one minute, to cast us off another. He does not give us eternal life to take it away again it later. If He did then adoption and eternal life would be meaningless terms or gifts and God would have completely mislead us but, as v 18 reminds us, it is impossible for God to lie.
Nu 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? The result of God’s oath and His faithfulness is that we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us v18. This passage isn’t meant to make us doubt, but to give us assurance!
But some will say that such a teaching of assurance encourages us to think that having been saved we can live as we please. The fear of falling away and loosing our salvation is a necessary spur to the patient endurance that this passage also teaches.
It should not be fear of eternal damnation that motivates us to serve the Lord, but love for Him. We should want to please Him, above all else, and never to cause Him pain – given all that He has done for us. Gross sin is just like crucifying Him again, and shaming Him publicly – before the heathen. As Nathan said to David after his sin with Bathsheba by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme 2Sa 12:14. But even then the Lord forgave David when he confessed his sin "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”