Several of the common verses pastors use to convince people they can lose their salvation are found in Hebrews 6:4-6.
These verses say,
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
By understanding these verses in context, we will discover they have nothing to do with loss of salvation.
Let’s break these verses down piece by piece.
Those who have once been enlightened refer to the Jewish (Hebrews) people who have been enlightened to the person and work of Jesus, specifically his identity as the Messiah confirmed by his miracles (Hebrews 2:3-4) and his establishment of the new covenant of grace (Hebrews 9:15-17) where God remembers sins no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17-18), since Jesus was the full, final, and forever sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 1:3; 2:9; 7:27; 9:28).
The heavenly gift is referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit which was given to the Jewish believers in Acts 2:1-38 as a sign to Jewish unbelievers. The same gift of the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 10:45-47 when the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles. This, too, was a sign to Jewish unbelievers. Peter refers to this outpouring of the Spirit among the Gentiles in Acts 15:6-8 as a time when God showed the Jews that God accepted the Gentiles.
The Spirit gave gifts to the body of Christ. One of these gifts was the gifts of tongues, which was the ability to speak in a language one could not speak for the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus being the Messiah and his resurrection from the dead to an unbeliever.
The gift of tongues by the Spirit was a sign for unbelievers so they would believe in Jesus, his being the Messiah, his work on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead (2 Corinthians 14:22).
The Jewish people were eyewitnesses of the miracles of the Holy Spirit. They saw the power of the Spirit through Jesus when he performed his miracles. They saw the power of the Spirit through the apostles, which are recorded in the book of Acts.
Through being eye witnesses of these miracles, they tasted of the Holy Spirit, they shared in the Holy Spirit, and they tasted of the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.
The powers of the coming age refer to what life will be like when God’s kingdom comes to earth and Jesus reigns as King. The miracles by Jesus and the apostles will be the norm in the kingdom of God when we live on the new earth - the home of righteousness.
In God’s eternal earthly kingdom there will be no sickness, no hunger, no death, no sorrow, no pain. There will only be peace and joy!
These Jewish (Hebrew) people had experienced glimpses of the powers of the age to come when they saw the miracles performed by Jesus and the Apostles (Hebrews 2:1-4). Yet they were falling away from what they had seen and experienced.
They were falling away from Jesus as the Messiah. They were falling away from his resurrection. They were falling away from the new covenant of grace which he established through his blood and which the writer of Hebrews was seeking to convince them of.
They were at a crisis of faith.
Would they embrace Jesus as the Messiah, the coming King?
Would they embrace the new covenant of grace where all their sins are forgiven and where God remembers sin no more and where righteousness and holiness come by faith in Jesus, who was the full and final sacrifice for sins?
Or, would they fall away from the new covenant of grace by seeking forgiveness, righteousness, and holiness through the dead works of the Law of Moses such as ceremonial washings and sacrificing animals?
To depend upon the Law of Moses would be to reject Jesus as Messiah and to reject his establishment of the new covenant of grace through his blood, thus subjecting him, the Son of God, to public disgrace and crucifying him all over again.
Not only had the generation of Jesus called for his crucifixion, subjecting him to public disgrace (John 19), but the generation the writer of Hebrews was writing to was rejecting Jesus too.
Repentance was a common practice in Judaism, the Law of Moses. Repentance for the people of Israel meant to respond to God’s gracious kindness by turning away from their rebellion to God and the law and turning back to God for forgiveness, healing, and restoration, then committing to obey the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Repentance after the cross of Jesus was no longer turning back to God over and over again for forgiveness and committing to obeying the law of Moses. Repentance was now turning away from the Law of Moses and turning to the cross of Jesus, his blood, his once-for-all forgiveness.
Repentance was now turning from the old covenant of law and turning to the new covenant of grace...a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22). This final, one-time-repentance, would come through faith in Jesus where they would receive God’s full and forever forgiveness, where God remembers sin no more, and where they would know God personally in a close, intimate relationship (Hebrews 7:18-19).
It was impossible for the Jewish people to be brought back to repentance if they rejected Jesus because the Law of Moses, the source of their repentance, had been replaced by the new covenant and was now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13; 10:9-10)
Through the death of Jesus, the law had been abolished (Ephesians 2:14-15)...canceled (Colossians 2:14-17).
How do you come back to something that no longer exists...that has been abolished and canceled?
It can’t be done...it is impossible!
As seen in context, Hebrews 6:1-4 is not referring to a believer in Jesus who has fallen into sin and, consequently, lost his salvation. Instead, it refers to a Hebrew, a Jewish person, who has witnessed the person and work of Jesus, who has received the full revelation of the new covenant of grace established in the blood of Jesus, and who is now at a crisis of faith.
Will this Hebrew reject Jesus through unbelief by returning to the law for forgiveness, righteousness, and holiness before God, which was impossible now that the law had been abolished, canceled, and replaced by the new covenant of grace?
Or, would this Hebrew accept by faith the person of Jesus as the Messiah and his work through his blood to establish the new covenant of grace?