One of the great arguments for the idea that a true Christian can stop being a Christian or lose their salvation (a.k.a. classic Arminianism – “I chose Christ, so I can reject Him too”) is found in Hebrews chapter 6, where we read…
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. Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV)
At first glance, that sure sounds like a Christian who has gone to the dark side. But consider, to be “enlightened” only means to have been taught. And to have “shared in the Holy Spirit” can simply refer to someone who experienced the Spirit’s convicting work.
But ultimately, we know that the people described never were Christians because of what the author says in the verses immediately following…
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. Hebrews 6:7, 8 (ESV)
It’s all about the fruit, at least that’s what Jesus said (Matthew 7:15 – 17), and that’s what the author is saying here too. The people in question were clearly fruitless, not “produc(ing) a crop useful” and “bear(ing) thorns and thistles”. Therefore, they were “worthless and near to being cursed and…burned”. But according to Jesus, true Christians always bear fruit. Of course, it is never the bearing of fruit that makes us Christians, but when someone has truly come to know Christ, he or she always bears fruit.
The people of verses 4 through 6 clearly did not meet the biblical mark of salvation, as the recipients of the letter did, which we see in the next verse:
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things– things that belong to salvation. Hebrews 6:7-9 (ESV)
And on top of all this, of course, there is that wonderful truth in John 10, where Jesus said,
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29 (ESV)
When Jesus gives eternal life to someone, that person “will never perish” and no one can ever “snatch them out” of His, or the Father’s hand. That’s ultimately comforting, for though I am surely called to “hold fast my confession” (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23), my ultimate hope is in the One Who is holding on to me.
For Thursday, September 24th: Hebrews 7