How are believers to interpret Hebrews Chapter 6 verses 1-4?
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Heb 6:4–6.
The church is made up of believers and unbelievers alike. Some of the unbelievers are elect that have yet to be regenerated and converted, others, reprobate. Apostasy and ‘falling away’ must be seen on two heads:
- Falling away eternally
As Jesus said, ‘all that the Father gives to me will come to me and I will lose none’. John 6:37
The elect will persevere. This goes back to the covenant made between the Godhead, outside of time, God the Father giving God the Son a love gift in the elect. Jesus fulfilled His end in his passion, guaranteeing the pact.
What do we say to the Arminian who holds to the idea that this passage in Hebrews shows that believers can have the spirit of God and yet, fall away? Let us look at a few facts.
Argument number 1:
‘those once enlightened’
The distinction between those who have been actually regenerated and those who are cerebrally enlightened are not one and the same. Many people who sit beside us in church are actual members of the church and have confessed Christ and have had the sign placed on them and yet, remain unregenerated. So, enlightenment must be seen in these two fashions.
Fiducia, Ascentia and Notitia.
The above items are present in all true believers. However, these components have as well, internal and external distinctions. That being, these components MUST be carried about, for the true believer, by the Holy Spirit. It is the gas that makes real what the scriptures show are in all the faithful. A man can have faith in earthly things; He can have ‘faith’ in faith. He can ascend to mathematical propositions and he can possess much knowledge of God and the scriptures and yet, still be unregenerate.
Ascentia and Fiducia
Ascentia is a mental assent to a proposition.
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. James 2:19
The demons believe, they are not saved. So there is a difference to belief. One saves and the other doesn’t.
Fiducia is more than mental acknowledgment. It begins with a supernatural transition in thinking. It changes the way the mind perceives. God unlocks the sight. He gives us the ability to trust in Christ, a giving over to it, a complete believing and acceptance of Him. Compare how you see Jesus now to prior to your regeneration. It is a horse of a different color!
James says that Faith without works is dead….
Mental assent does not produce a work that is faith based. Mental assent takes muscle and sweat. It is by the sweat of the brow, that a work is performed outside of the HS’s enabling. Does God approve of this kind of work? No, without a mediator, all our works are but filthy rags before Him. From a secular standpoint, is it better for men to be in service of some sort? Absolutely. From a humanistic standpoint, any type of service like this is better than none-it helps fellow humans-that in itself is a good thing, don’t you agree? It is at the basis of this unsanctified work that is the problem. Most of these people seek prestige or status from this service. The believer is humbled that God would use him.
Faith is not necessarily synonymous with belief, as previously mentioned, the demons believe…..
Faith is justifying!
Practically speaking, one of the ways that faith is made effectual to the elect is through the preaching of Gods word. Where does the preaching occur? Generally, normally in Gods local congregations!
Hebrews 11:3 says: “ By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
In the same way, faith comes to men by the preaching of Gods word. Romans 10 describes how this happens:
Rom 10: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
“A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above.” John 3:27
Again, in conclusion: our faith is not a blind faith. God calls men to himself using the word of God. The gospel is revealed verbally. The external call goes out; this portion of the call is to all mankind-it is not discriminating. Alongside this call is the internal call of God-this portion of the call is only efficacious to the elect of Christ. It accomplishes what God has set it out to complete. Jesus Himself said, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me and I will lose none”.
The Holy Spirit and regeneration makes it effectual. When I say it is effectual, I mean that God imparts the wisdom and knowledge to understand these biblical truths at a level that is more than intellectual (fiducia); it hits deep into all of our senses. It enables the mind to solve the equations. The Holy Spirit defines these truths and settles them deep within our beings. They are enlightening. They are a balm to our soul. It is truth and this truth surely sets us free!
We cannot produce faith ourselves, nor can we “drum it up at will.” Rather, faith comes as Christ speaks His rhçma-word within.
Argument number 2:
‘have tasted of the heavenly gift’
Is it strange to believe sitting in the local church is not a heavenly gift? Breaking bread with God’s people. Being loved on by Christ’s people. Hearing the word preached. Praying? All of these things are heavenly gifts that the unbeliever externally partakes of. Is it not better for the unregenerate world be in church and hear God’s word? Is this not a gift and sign of mercy?
Judas was a member of the church. He walked with Christ. He partook of the Holy Spirit in that he cast out demons, performed miracles in Christ’s name. However, he was not in the internal aspect of the Covenant of Grace. He sat in the external side of the church, yet, look at the work Christ allowed him to do.
Argument number 3:
‘Were made partakers of the Holy Spirit’
A few examples:
Balaam a midianite partook of the Holy Spirit, yet died in his sins. Numbers 24:1-2
Saul received the Holy Spirit. 1 Samuel 11:6
The Spirit departed from Saul. 1 samuel 16:14
Simon Magus believed and was baptized. Acts 8:9-24
Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. Acts 5:1-11
God inspires special activities, in accordance with each man´s calling. Many examples of this occur in The Book of Judges, where it is said that “the Spirit of the Lord took possession” of those men whom he had called to rule the people [Judges 6:34]. In short, in every extraordinary event there is some particular impulsion. For this reason, Saul was followed by the brave men “œwhose hearts God had touched” [1 Samuel 10:26]. And when Saul´s consecration as king was foretold, Samuel said: “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall be another man” 1 Samuel 10:6]. And this was extended to the whole course of government, as is said afterward of David: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that day forward” [1 Samuel 16:13].
“we point out what special grace the Lord has bestowed upon the one, while not deigning to bestow it upon the other. When he wished to put Saul over the kingdom he
“formed him as a new man” [1 Samuel 10:6 p.]. This is the reason that Plato, alluding to the Homeric legend, says that kings´ sons are born with some distinguishing mark. For God, in providing for the human race, often endows with a heroic nature those destined to command.”
Zacharias Ursinus, in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, notes:
“The Holy Spirit left Saul who was one of the elect. Therefore he may leave others also. Ans. It was not the Spirit of regeneration and adoption which forsook Saul, but the spirit of prophecy, of wisdom, courage and other gifts of a similar character with which he was endowed. Neither was he chosen unto eternal life, but merely to be king, as Judas was chosen to the apostleship. It is still further objected: The Spirit of regeneration may also forsake the elect; for David prayed, “Restore unto me the joys of thy salvation.” To this we reply that the godly may, and often do lose many of the gifts of the Spirit of regeneration; but they do not lose them wholly: for it cannot possible be that they should lose every particle of faith, inasmuch as they do not sin unto death; but from the weakness of the flesh, not being perfectly renewed in this life. This the apostle John expressly affirms when he says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:19) David in his fall, lost the joy which he had felt in his soul, the purity of conscience, and many other gifts which he earnestly prayed might be restored unto him; but he had not wholly lost the Spirit of God.”
Likewise, Matthew Henry explains:
What occurred by the way, v. 9. Those signs which Samuel had given him came to pass very punctually; but that which gave him the greatest satisfaction of all was this, he found immediately that God had given him another heart. A new fire was kindled in his breast, such as he had never before been acquainted with: seeking the asses is quite out of his mind, and he thinks of nothing but fighting the Philistines, redressing the grievances of Israel, making laws, administering justice, and providing for the public safety; these are the things that now fill his head. He finds himself raised to such a pitch of boldness and bravery as he never thought he should be conscious of. He has no longer the heart of a husbandman, which is low, and mean, and narrow, and concerned only about his corn and cattle; but the heart of a statesman, a general, a prince. Whom God calls to any service he will make fit for it. If he advance to another station, he will give another heart, to those who sincerely desire to serve him with their power.
Furthermore, let us bear in mind the words of the Canons of Dordrecht who warn us of speaking about men cooperating with and then losing God´s regenerating grace (how can this view of Saul being regenerate be matched with what the Canons say here? Either one is right but not both together).
Canons of Dordt 3/4; RE Paragraph 8
Who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man’s regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man’s power to be regenerated or not.
For this is nothing less than the denial of all the efficiency of God’s grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe according to the working of the strength of his might (Eph. 1:19); and that God fulfills every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power (II Thess. 1:11); and that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).
Canons of Dordt 5; RE Paragraph 3 & 4
Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.
For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued preservation by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the apostle Paul: That, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him (Rom. 5:8, 9). And contrary to the apostle John: Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he can not sin, because he is begotten of God (I John 3:9). And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who hath 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).
Argument number 4:
‘tasted the good work of God’
See above treatments-all peoples who partake of the means of grace, yet are still unsaved
“And have tasted the good word of God; so as to relish comfort and sweetness in the doctrine and promises of the gospel through self-flattery; for these hearing of pardon of sin, and crediting it, are filled with joy by it; as a condemned malefactor, hearing of a general pardon, believeth himself to be one of the pardoned, and rejoiceth in it: see Matt. 13:20, 21; Luke 8:13. So did many of the Jews rejoice in John’s doctrine, John 5:35. And the powers of the world to come; thus some of them were affected with the powerful doctrines of the gospel, concerning the final judgment, as their natural conscience was wrought on by the Spirit in the word, that they feel it as it were begun in them, the sparks of the wrath of God having set their consciences in a light flame for their sins, as in a Felix, Acts 24:25. As on the other hand, being acquainted by the Spirit in the word, of Christ’s being a Redeemer, to save them from the wrath to come, and to instate them into happiness, beyond what is attainable on earth; self-love doth externally close with the revelation and apply it to itself, as Balaam did, Numb. 23:10. All these five instances are the workings of the Holy Spirit on corrupt nature for its improvement, and in their falling from these supernatural operations, they do sin in tanto against the Holy Ghost.
Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 832.
Argument number 5:
‘the powers of the world to come’
See treatments above-Judas as the best example
Argument number 6:
‘if they should fall away’
First of all, the elect cannot fall away, eternally. If they could, the statement would be completely true. This has to be speaking of the reprobate or the elect that is not yet regenerated and in this case, they had never arrived, actually. Those that DO fall away had arrived, by mental ascent only.
Argument number 7:
‘to renew them again unto repentance’
Consider the hardening of the heart, like the searing with a hot iron.
Argument number 8:
‘seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’
These show that the cross of Christ has no power in their case; the writer of Hebrews compares it to the re-crucifying of the savior time and time again. The cross shows no efficacy on their account-claiming Christ and confessing Him openly, partaking of the means of grace, is a direct assault on the sacrifice. Hence, bringing a larger portion of condemnation to those who sit under those means. On one hand, these unbelievers partake of the blessings of the means, and on the other, heap up a larger condemnation for even hearing on jot or tittle of the gospel.