Summary: In this day of modern preaching on eternal security, does a Christian ever reach the place of backsliding and becoming apostate? Let’s study it out.

Heb. 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

It is needless to say that the passage here Heb 6:4-6 has given occasion to much controversy, and that the opinions of commentators and of the Christian world are yet greatly divided in regard to its meaning.

On the one hand, it is held that the passage is not intended to describe those who are true Christians, but only those who have been awakened and enlightened, and who then fall back;

and on the other, it is maintained that it refers to those who are true Christians, and who then apostatize.

The contending parties have been Calvinists and Armenians; each party, in general, interpreting it according to the views which are held on the question about falling from grace.

Let us look closely at the examination of the words and phrases in detail:

• observing here, in general, that it seems to me that it refers to true Christians;

• that the object is to keep them from apostasy;

• and that it teaches that, if they should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew them again, or to save them.

That it refers to true Christians will be apparent from these considerations:—

(1.) The mass majority of Bible readers regard it to be Christians.

(2.) The context demands such an interpretation. The apostle was addressing Christians.

• He was endeavoring to keep them from apostasy.

• The object was not to keep those who were awakened and enlightened from apostasy,

• but it was to preserve those who were already in the Church of Christ from going back to perdition.

The kind of exhortation appropriate to those who were awakened and convicted, but who were not truly converted, would be to become converted; not to warn them of the danger of falling away.

Besides, the apostle would not have said of sinners that they could not be converted and saved.

But he did say that about Christians, that they could not be renewed again, and be saved, if they should fall away—

• because they rejected the only plan of salvation after they had tried it,

• and renounced the only scheme of redemption after they had tasted its benefits.

• If that plea could not save them, what could?

• If they neglected that, by what Other means could they be brought to God?

(1.) The mass majority of Bible readers regard it to be Christians.

(2.) The context demands such an interpretation. The apostle was addressing Christians.

(3.) An examination of those phrases will show that he refers to those who are sincere believers.

The phrase "it is impossible," obviously and properly denotes absolute impossibility.

• Some scholars think that it denotes only great difficulty.

• But the meaning which would at first strike all readers would be, that the thing could not be done; that it was not merely very difficult, but absolutely impracticable.

And if this be the meaning, then it proves that if those referred to should fall away,

• they could never be renewed;

• their case was hopeless, and they must perish:—

that is, if a true Christian should apostatize, or fall from grace, he never could be renewed again, and could not be saved.

Paul did not teach that he might fall away and be renewed again as often as he pleased.

he meant to teach, that if a man should once cast off true religion, his case was hopeless, and he must perish:

• And to these Christians he was preaching with this great warning:

• he meant to guard them against the danger of apostasy.

For those who were once enlightened. The phrase "to be enlightened" is one that is often used in the Scriptures, and may be applied either to one whose understanding has been enlightened to discern his duty, though he is not converted,

or, more commonly, to one who is truly converted.

Ps 19:8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes.

Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of knowledge, holiness, and happiness;

• And those which follow, are referring to true Christians.

And have tasted. To taste of a thing means, according to the usage in the Scriptures, to experience, or to understand it.

• taste is one of the means by which we ascertain the nature or quality of an object.

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