Lose my Salvation? Not Really Saved?
These passages are somewhat controversial, misunderstood, and too often contorted to fit into preferred theological boxes. Box one: These verses teach that people can lose their salvation. Box two: These verses describe people who were not really saved. I disagree with both of these boxes and see no need to stimulate myself with the first box which doesn’t even make sense in the whole of Scripture nor in the light of God’s nature and His salvation, and there is no need for the second box that seems to explain away what it doesn’t want to admit is clearly there. These are two unnecessary boxes that simply bring too much unnecessary baggage to the passage.
Let’s remember the context. This is a letter written to Jewish believers who are starting to drift, to slip, and for some, to harbor hearts of unbelief and doubt. The internal evidence tells us this. Also, let’s keep in mind that this letter is actually a sermon. It is a sermon where the preacher is encouraging, teaching, reminding, exegeting, instructing and warning.
There it is: Warning.
As 21st century believers, sermons with serious warnings do not rank high on the list of contemporary church growth strategies. However, it is here in this sermon in Hebrews 6:4-9. The biblical means of warning and calling our attention to something important is thoroughly biblical whether contemporary culture likes it or not.
Hebrews 6:4-9 is a warning to believers.
It is a warning that if they drift away and turn back then they will move from a life that is blessable to a life where much will become burnable. (see Hebrews 6:7-8 cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15, 2 Cor. 5:10)
Now I know that verse 4 is written with genuine believers in mind because it describes them as those who have been “enlightened,” which means exposed to the light (see 2 Cor. 4:4b), have “tasted of the heavenly gift,” which taste means experienced—this word is used of Jesus in Hebrews 2:9 where it says, “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man”—and have become “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” partake means partnered, or shared in (see John 14:16-17). It is also says in verse 5 that they have “tasted the good word of God,” (see Rom.10:17) “and the powers of the world to come” (see Rom. 8:11). It is undeniably clear with these many levels of description who the writer is warning—this warning is for genuinely saved believers. Contorting this to mean that they were not really, or not truly, or not actually saved is just not being honest with the text.
So, it is says in verse 4 that “it is impossible…” for these saved people as we just affirmed above, “…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.” (6)
The key in verse 6 is the word again. If box 1 is true that people can lose their salvation, then these verses clearly mean that they can never get it back or be saved again. Try explaining that one. If you lose your salvation, you are finished, no way back? I know that people who hold to the position of box 1 do not believe that. And if box 2 is correct, that this text deals with the not really saved, than why would it be again, if according to their box they never really had it at all?
This warning is clearly written to believers. And it has nothing to do with losing salvation and it also has nothing to do with almost Christians or the not really’s.
The warning is quite simple without all the baggage.
This warning is written to drifting believers on the verge of going wayward. “If they shall fall away…” is parapesontas, which means to slip aside, to deviate. The whole Hebrews sermon is dealing with this.
So here is the bottom line:
If a true believer walks away, deviates, they cannot expect to return later to get a salvation restart. It is impossible “to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” The latter here described is an impossibility.
Jesus said, “You must be born again…” Jesus did not say, “You must be born again…again…again…and if you deviate for several years and come back then you can be born again…again…again ad infinitum.”
Therefore, the life of a true believer who chooses to live apart from true fellowship due to “falling away” will have to be prepared to give account for a wasted Christian life. Of course forgiveness through rededication is possible but it is not going to be a fresh salvation start with the renewal of a kind of first time repentance. There is much that will be lost in their life as a believer. You simply can’t start over again from a first time salvation perspective.
For instance, the life I lived before I was Christian is under the blood and forgotten. I will not stand accountable for any of it. However, the life I now live before God must be cultivated for fruitfulness which is the picture in Hebrews 4:7. If I choose to deny or walk away from Him as a truly saved man, then my life will only “bear thorns and briers” and will be “rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (verse 8 cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15) This is not a good picture. This is clearly a wasted life as a believer.
Our fruit is either good and useful as a believer, or useless and burnable. If we deviate as true believers, than it is useless, and eventually it will be burned away and we will lose the eternal rewards. (1 Cor. 3:12-15)
The warning here in Hebrews 6:4-8 is that I cannot disobey Christ now, to later return and expect to be saved all over again, that is, to get a clean slate like at the beginning when I was first saved. I can be forgiven and restored to fellowship, but clearly I will also be fully accountable as a believer at the judgment seat of Christ for how I lived when I lived in willful disobedience as a wayward believer.
Listen, we are called to live a life God will reward.
We can live a life that is blessable or burnable. This is the pulse and meaning of this exhortation here. If you are truly saved and walk away, you are wasting your new life and the final rewards that only God will give.
Now on the positive side, the writer of Hebrews is convinced of these believers he originally wrote to. He is convinced that they will make the right choice as believers. He writes after the warning in verses 4-8, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (Hebrews 6:9)
What about you and I? As believers, will our lives be blessable in things that accompany salvation in the end, or burnable in things marked by falling away?