So, if I understand this better now, Hebrews 6:4 isn't talking about one walking away from the faith but one trying to replace The NEW Way with the old way?
Actually, it has less to do with INDIVIDUALS than with the whole MOVEMENT that had been happening among "the people of God". But yes, the focus is upon what it was that was being suggested by Israel's return to the sacrifices in order to somehow maintain the deliverance brought by Christ.
The case presented by the writer was not meant to be examined in an individual sense. I say this because it was written as to a group: "those who have once been enlightened". Isn't it ironic how this verse has been used to focus on specific "bad things" that will cause individuals to "fall away", when in fact the suggestion is clear that those who "fall away" are trying to become more "holy" or more "godly" or more "forgiven"?
The writer of the letter wasn't presenting a possibility, but an IMPOSSIBILITY. In other words, he built his case upon THEIR misunderstanding of Christ, not upon HIS understanding. HE wasn't saying that enlightened ones could fall away, but instead was accurately articulating THEIR confusion in the matter as he was showing how their return to the sacrifices was saying exactly that. How so? Simple, each and every sacrifice makes the DEMAND that that those who need them have fallen away and need renewal.
But still my question needs an answer... do you think it is possible for one who has been saved / received Christ as savior, to decide to reject Him later... to turn away from God's salvation?
Those who have been truly enlightened and made partakers of God's Spirit DO NOT fall away, because they are kept by THE ONE who has made the sufficient once-for-all sacrifice. It is a fallacy from the get-go to think that our "acceptance", our "believing", our "receiving", or our "decision" is what brings us to Christ in the first place. It is THROUGH faith, which means that it is NOT our "doing" of anything, but is instead the MIRACULOUS work of God. If we did not decide ourselves into Christ what makes us think we can decide ourselves out?
Truth be told, our lives would demand that we have been turning away from God's salvation on a pretty regular basis ... that is, if we were to take everything into consideration. But who we are has nothing to do with who we were, it has to do with the life of Christ who is, in reality, OUR LIFE.
Jim,i almost wonder if the "falling away" that hebrews talks about stings so much because of all the apostate teaching
Falling away from what? Falling away means what? Why mention falling away? What good would that have done to use a phrase like that?
I think you're straining too hard to keep the phrase within the context of our contemporary "apostate teaching"! In what context, though, is one found to be "fallen away" into sin (And yes, I mean fallen away into sin!)? In a world based upon laws and principles and rules there is always sin. But are we of this world any longer? No!!! "In it but not of it". Our life is found in the new reality of the risen Christ in which sin has no bearing because there is no more sin to deal with in the new creation.
This was the whole point of Hebrews. It is why I think using the phrase "fallen away" was so appropriate. Why do I say that? Because the insistence of being trapped back in a life where sin must be dealt with is the total contradiction of everything Christ came to do. It has to do with the internal conflict found of the reasoning that says both that "Jesus dealt with all my sins" and "But I must also deal with my sins".
So, which is it? We often waste a lot of time trying to "convince" people of this truth when true confidence must come from the Spirit within. When those who have the Spirit are trying to re-adopt the principles of the old life back into the new life the most effective way to get the point across is to simply argue their case WITH them until it becomes obvious TO them that the old principles are actually violating the reality of Christ.
Let's face it, what is it that has actually pushed us into trashing so many of our former teachings? Isn't it because we finally realized how bogus and law-filled our former "grace beliefs" were? Did we actually come to hold to the freedom of Christ because somebody convinced us it was true, or because something inside us just couldn't hold on to the BS anymore? How did we come to realize it was BS? Because we followed the insane logic through to its conclusion and it was made so plain that there was no life in it. And then the simple life and reality of Christ ALONE became so obvious to us.
The insane logic that was being adopted by the Jews left them back in the former place of their bondage to sin, the same bondage that Jesus was supposed to have delivered them from.
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.Hebrews 6:1-9
"BUT, BELOVED, WE ARE CONVINCED OF BETTER THINGS CONCERNING YOU"
"Better things". Is it mere coincidence that the consistent use of "better" in this letter referred to the overwhelming superiority of Christ? I don't think so.
Are you following this? The writer was arguing THEIR legalism WITH them. He wanted to take them BEYOND the "elementary teaching about the Christ" and on into "maturity" - or completeness. Of course, we've been taught that the elementary principles are about the gospel. They are NOT. These elementary teachings had to do with the understanding of Christ - and the things of Christ - AFTER THE FLESH.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we HAVE KNOWN CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 2 Corinthians 5:16
Don't get fooled by the sound of such "spiritual" topics, because they are easily incorporated into the fleshly mind. Don't think so? Why else would the writer want them to LEAVE these things BEHIND?
- "not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God"
Why is this fleshly? No, no, it has nothing to do with "repentance from dead works and of faith toward God", this is referring to the fleshly attempts to RE-LAY the foundation - which was all wrapped around the sacrifices of the LAW. Doesn't this sound exactly like most of the "evangelism" and "dedication" practices of our modern religious groups?
- "instruction about washings and laying on of hands"
Academic technicalities regarding rituals, etc.
- "the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment"
Oh, now, this has got to be "spiritual", don't you think? Once again, doesn't this fit with MOST religious discussions and sermons? If you want to stir up some heavy-duty religious guilt-ridden and/or self-righteous arguments just fire this up. I mean, consider the fact that the Pharisees as a whole held to the "resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment".
Do we think the writer of Hebrews was suggesting that the people simply needed to "grow" more? This is totally bogus!! I remember a couple of the groups I was in that the "pastor" had to admit he barely even understood the "baby stuff" referred to here, and therefore, the prospect of "maturity" seemed so overwhelming.
Remember, this was written to the Hebrews - the Jews. Their whole previous history was presented as being connected to the elemental principles of the world, for the law itself was the thing that kept them in infancy!! They viewed "truth" as being fodder for argument instead of as life itself, but it is all they could know of God under the law. The law was the thing that kept them in BONDAGE to the same kind of life found in the world around them - only having the authority of God behind it.
"Maturity" for the "people of God" was the passing into adulthood. Children needed to be supervised, adults didn't. Children viewed the world totally different than adults. The mere fact of the Hebrews being kept in custody as children under the law was the "immaturity" they had passed from at the coming of Christ. THIS is sense behind the suggestion of "maturity". It was their "completeness" as truly responsible people, instead of the "immaturity" or "incompleteness" of those who don't even understand the things they boast about.
It's one thing to tell a child to "grow up", because as being children they have much maturing to do. But to suggest to an adult that he needs to "mature" is an attempt to shock him back into reality, because of the fact that he IS grown up ... only not perceiving things from that reality. This is the same continuation of thought at passage just before this one:
Concerning him (Melchizidek) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
I know we like to use this "milk vs meat" analogy all the time, but the fact is that it's referring to the difference between the "immaturity" of those under the law and the "maturity" of those in Christ. It NOT talking about "levels of growth". The only reason that the discussion of Melchizedek was "hard to explain" was simple: the people had re-adopted the mindset of bondage in which they became "dull of hearing". Their "need" for milk has nothing to do with a need for the "simple truth of the gospel", it was instead painting the rather embarrassing picture of adults who have reverted to their previous "immature" state and now find themselves again "dependent" upon their previous interpretation of law.
The problem with this passage comes from the fact that we have read into it what we wanted to believe about it. Those who "need" milk (the infants)are not "accustomed to the word of righteousness" which refers NOT to the understanding of "principles", but of the true righteousness of God, which is found in Christ. Now, it's obvious that an infant can't chew meat, but these were ADULTS who were behaving like infants. By their reversion to the principles of law they had become dull to the reality of life in Christ. They were now caught up in their former practices of "dealing with their sins".
Somehow, we have let adults who are suckling on the nipples of the law define what it means to "discern good and evil". The fact is that those who are trying to be "responsible" by "dealing with their sins" through "Christian principles" know NOTHING of this discernment. Why? Because the dullness that comes from such a mentality only hides and distorts true goodness while pulling those dependent upon principles into a life of sin-cycles where absolutely everything becomes sin to their perceptions.
Only in Christ do we understand the true righteousness that is ours while at the same time we find ourselves repulsed by the sin that masquerades as "righteousness".
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
Catch the picture here, for it is so fitting to the meaning of the whole. It's a picture of true life and growth. The rain falls upon fertile ground and produces useful vegetation. The contrast to this is worthless ground that produces only thorns and thistles. The rain had fallen upon the ground and yet the "people of God" (as a whole) had become worthless. What if it was because the ground was not fertile? The writer uses the same picture here as found all throughout the "Scriptures". What was his intention? Did he want to make the believers worried and insecure? No, just the opposite.
But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.Hebrews 6:9
The writer was addressing those with ears to hear what the Spirit said. The more he presented the end of the logic that many of them were being lured into the more obvious it would become to those who would realize that they had ALREADY crossed over into the land of promise into the "rest of God" - who is Christ. "Those of faith", just like Joshua and Caleb, would discover that just because all were "claiming the name" did not mean that all were "of faith". They would hear the word spoken to them:
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate THEIR faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by VARIED AND STRANGE TEACHINGS (like reversion to the law); for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered OUTSIDE the gate. So, let us go out to Him OUTSIDE THE CAMP, BEARING HIS REPROACH. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:7-14
The encouragement? Don't look for the life within the camp - ie. the religious system - it is ONLY in Christ.
Later on in Hebrews you see him talking about greed and the story about the pot of soup and you might start tying in the message of the book to be sin=falling away
The story about the pot of soup had to do with despising the inheritance. The "greed" was produced by the same motivation that the Jews had reverted to: LAW. The message of the law is SIN, the end of sin is found in Christ.
or if we keep on sining there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.....Why scare them?
BECAUSE THERE IS NO MORE SACRIFICE FOR SIN!!! Only the bondage of law makes us consider we can find ongoing sacrifices for sin (like, confession, repentance, going to church, reading the Bible, etc, etc). Where is the mentality of "keep on sinning" justified? Under bondage to the law. Yes, I mean "JUSTIFIED" because that is exactly what the bondage of law is trying to do. Our ongoing attempts to keep trying to get forgiven only produce a "cycle of sin" in which our theology conveniently allows us to get by with sin under many, many different loopholes. It becomes more and more obvious all the time how our "Christian" doctrines actually build a way to get around various "sins" while ruthlessly condemning others.
If you're living as if you're still under the law then you need to have the hell scared out of you by realizing the absolute inability of all your conditions and principles and rules and laws and protocol, etc, etc, to "save" you. haha! Those who are trusting their own righteousness will discover the wonderful liberation when the walls of their religious justification come falling down them in utter despair.
Or by the verbage they use have them possibly misread them for saying they were believing the CORECT way in believing sin=falling away?
Maybe we misread it, but the Hebrews wouldn't have.