Can Christians lose their salvation?

Hebrews 6:4 (FOR) It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

I believe that the general thrust of Scripture teaches, Once Saved, Always Saved. You can find a number of sermons on that theme on this blog by searching for “Always Saved” not least from Philippians 1 “God’s started, so He’ll finish” and Romans 8, “Safe in God’s love.”

This warning passage from Hebrews 6 can appear difficult to reconcile to the idea of “Once saved, always saved.” Here is a summary of different interpretations of Hebrews 6:1-12,

1. Saved and Lost – Christians who commit apostasy can lose their salvation. But N.B. then they are lost forever and can never repent again. (Classic Arminian position) (The Message).

2. Those who abandon salvation are still saved but they can no longer be `renewed to repentance’ – they become deaf to the voice of God. They become castaways (1 Cor 9:27). They are saved but only as through fire (1 Cor 3). (R.T Kendall Once Saved Always Saved)

3. `Because’ or `while’? An alternative translation of the present participle is `while’ or `as long as’. They cannot be brought to repentance while they are crucifying the Son of God again.

4. Those who fall away or abandon salvation were never really saved in the first place. They `tasted’ but never entered into salvation. (Classic Calvinist position).
Compare with the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13. Fits well with Hebrews 6:7-8).

5. `For it is impossible’ refers to the whole of verses 4-6. i.e. The idea that a true Christan could fall away and then be restored again, that whole picture is impossible.

6. This is warning language, powerful because it is extreme, a `focal instance’.
c.f. `If you go in there they’ll eat you alive!’

7. `If they fall away’ – the whole situation is hypothetical. Although there is no word for `if’ here in Greek, the grammar does allow for this situation to be purely hypothetical.
The writer is confident that nothing like this has happened to his readers (Hebrews 6:9).
He switches from `you’ to some unspecified `they’ for verses 4-8.

I am not persuaded by interpretations 1-3 and argue in detail that interpretations 4-7 offer the correct understanding of this passage.

`FOR’ Verses 4-6 explain verses 1-3. “Let’s leave the basics behind. Since if a Christian ever did completely reject their faith (but nobody is saying one ever has or ever will, and God would never allow that) it would be impossible for them to repent again anyway. So there would be no point in going over the same ground of repentance all the time. So let’s go forward!”

a) We have a new relationship with God and He will never reject us: John 10:27; John 6:34-40.
b) We are born again to a new life. We cannot be “unborn again”: John 10:28; Romans 6:1-4.
c) God is able and has promised to keep us safe: John 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39.

This entry was posted in Hebrews.

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