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.
Last week’s column focused on God’s chastisement of Christians who had not grown in knowledge and spiritual maturity as they should (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). Before delving into the spiritually deep topic of Christ’s high priesthood, the divinely inspired Hebrew writer rebuked some in the early church for not moving past “the basic principles of the oracles of God” and “the elementary doctrine of Christ” so they could “go on to maturity.” This is a problem which persists even today. A sizable number of life-long churchgoers, who have heard sermon after sermon for years and own Bibles, nevertheless find themselves hard-pressed to provide Bible-based answers even the most basic doctrinal questions, let alone inquiries into theologically deeper topics.
Perhaps one reason for the current lack of biblical knowledge among so many professed Christians lies in the popularity and acceptance of one of Calvinism’s basic tenets, the perseverance of the saints, also known as “once saved, always saved.” The Presbyterian creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith, sums up this doctrine by stating, “Those whom God hath justified and sanctified, He will also glorify; consequently, the regenerated soul will never totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” In other words, once you get saved you’ll always be saved, no matter what.
I’m reminded of the observation made by the narrator in John Grisham’s novel, The Last Juror, who in the novel attended all the different churches in the county and observed how Baptists “held firm in ‘once saved always saved.’” As Grisham’s narrator put it, “This was apparently very comforting for several backslidden Baptists I knew in town.” There is a sense of comforting security in knowing that as far as salvation goes, “once you’re in, you’ll stay in no matter what.” It results in what usually happens when we get comfortable and secure in anything in life: we stop trying as hard. Our diligence decreases.
Have we gotten too comfortable in our religion? Could that be that the reason behind many churchgoers’ lack of spiritual growth in spite of years of church attendance? God seems to think so. Why else would he, immediately after exhorting the early church to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” direct the Hebrew author to write the warning quoted above in Hebrews 6:4-6? Take careful note of the passage. It quite clearly refutes the Calvinistic doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” It speaks of people who had been clearly saved (“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”). These same people were said to “then have fallen away.” Concerning them, the book of Hebrews clearly states that “it is impossible…to restore them again to repentance.”
Why? “…since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Later in Hebrews 10:26-29, he elaborates by speaking of Christians (“we”) who “go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth.” For such people, God says “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Comparing them to those who had received capital punishment for setting aside Old Testament law, God asks us, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” Apparently, those who sin purposefully and unrepentantly basically find Jesus contemptuous and nullify his sacrifice on the cross while, in a sense, crucifying him all over again.
Friends, do you see how necessary it is to grow spiritually?