In my study series – The Six Great Warnings – each warning is getting closer to eternal condemnation. Our study this week is a warning for those who are set on not being attentive to God’s word. Those who have no desire to receive God’s word put themselves in a position not to gain salvation.
This week’s study is going to cover Hebrews 6. The key verses I focus on will be from Hebrews 6:4-6. Salvation is going to be the primary focus of this study. We will answer what is salvation? With this scripture comes a question that some believers may struggle with answering. Can believers lose salvation?
The Will of God
Hebrews 6 opens with the writer speaking about leaving the discussionof the elementary principles of faith. Salvation is a very serious subject that requires one to be attentive to God’s word. When we talk about salvation, it is a step in the direction of talking about God’s will. What is the will of God?
To answer this question, we will first take a look at what the writer of this epistle stated in Hebrews 6:17-20. The writer speaks of God’s determination (His will) towards the “heirs of promise”. The heirs of promise are all who believe in the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:16 is the promise that whoever believes in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus said that He is the bread of life and those who come to Him will never hunger nor thirst (John 6:35).
In John 6:39, Jesus said that the will of the Father is that He should lose nothing given to Him by the Father. The will of the Father is that all that Christ gain be raised at the last day. This is salvation – the salvation of being delivered from sin.
God’s Seal of Salvation
To show the seriousness of His promise, God made an oath to seal His promise. An oath that the writer states Good made on two immutable things. Immutable: not capable of or susceptible to change.
So, what are the two immutable things that God has made an oath on?
1. Christ— His death, resurrection, and ascension.
2. The ascension of Christ and giving of the Holy Spirit.
We have spoken about Christ already being a promise so let’s touch on the promise sealed by the Holy Spirit.
In John 16, Jesus warned His disciples about His going away— His death and resurrection. Jesus talking about His death caused the disciples great dismay. To their dismay, Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away (John 16:7).” Why was it to their advantage that Jesus would go away?
Jesus said to the disciples, “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” Who was the Helper that Jesus spoke of? Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension led to the giving and receiving of the Spirit.
What does the giving of the Holy Spirit mean for believers? Let’s take a look at that Jesus said the Spirit plays in our life.
Jesus said to the disciples that the Spirit would guide them into all truth. Jesus added, “for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come (John 16:13).” Even more, we will see in John 16:14, Jesus said, “for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
So what is it of Christ that the Spirit declares? What are the things to come that the Spirit declares? The Spirit leading us into all truth is the truth of Salvation. The Tribulation Saints will one day sing out the praises, “Salvation belongs to our God” (Rev. 7:10).
Salvation belongs to God and it’s been sealed by Him! God has sealed His promise of everlasting life in His kingdom. Now, keep this in mind as we move into this next section.
Can Believers Lose Salvation?
In Hebrews 6:4-6, we read, “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
There is a question that arises from these verses. Some believers may wonder, does this mean it is possible for believers to lose salvation? Do you think believers are in possible danger of losing salvation?
Let us remember: the targeted audience of this epistle were those that had not heeded the gospel (Heb. 2:1). So, the writer of this epistle was not targeting the sincere believer . The reason why sincere believers aren’t targeted is because we have received the word of God. With that in mind, why would the writer switch to telling believers they will lose salvation?
My answer: the writer did not tell believers they can lose salvation. Many will get hung up on the writer saying “if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.”
We need to determine who is “they” that the writer is speaking of? He is speaking of those that were “once enlightened” and became “partakers of the Holy Spirit”. The enlightened and the partakers of the Holy Spirit are sincere believers. So, yes, the writer is talking about sincere believers.
Now, what I want to draw your attention to is the writer saying “it is impossible”. The writer is speaking to a wild impossibility for sincere believers. What the writer is saying for example is this: it is impossible for the sun to be out at 12 midnight. Our days are 12 hours in most places so if the sun is out at midnight, what happened at 12 pm?
The sincere believer has already been born again through the shed blood of Jesus. Because sincere believers are born again, it is impossible to renew our soul.
Salvation is sealed
Now, someone might say, believers can still sin. This is absolutely the truth! Does this mean that the believer can lose salvation because we can still commit sin? Well, let me ask this question: will God not show mercy to those that seek mercy and forgiveness from Him?
In 1 John 1:9, John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Was this notion a notion made up by John? Absolutely not.
In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asked Jesus a question about forgiveness. Peter asked, “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The number seven was a number given according to their tradition. Now, lets look at Jesus’ response to Peter’s question.
Jesus responded, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22).” In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus reiterated, as often as one repents of the wrongs to us, we should forgive them. Jesus taught that we should forgive in the manner of how God forgives us.
God is very patient with us as love is His nature (1 Cor. 13:4). God is also faithful as that is also His nature (Deut. 7:9), just as John said. I share this info because I want you to understand that God is not going to go back on His promise. While we may still transgress against Him, God is still merciful and forgiving.
What this means for believers is that salvation is sealed because God has sealed it. New Testament writers also shared this same thought on salvation being sealed.
In Romans 8:1, Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” In Ephesians 1:13, Paul wrote, “In Him (Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
In Hebrews 6:9, the writer stated, “beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” The writer’s confidence was only towards those who were of sincere faith.
The Salvation of Professed Believers
Now, some may still believe that the writer was talking about the falling away of believers. Those that believe this will contest that believers can lose their salvation. So, let’s address the hypothetical of God going back on His promise.
In recent weeks you have seen me speak about two types of believers: sincere and professed believers. The sincere believer makes confession with their mouth and believe in their heart. The professed believer will talk about faith but have not believed in their heart.
Is saying that you believe enough for one to receive salvation from God? Paul said that those who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart are saved (Rom. 10:9-10). I will reference John 3:16 again where Jesus said that one must believe in the Son. As I have said recently, you say you believe all day long but do you have faith in your heart?
If you don’t have faith in your heart, you are not saved. If you don’t have faith in your heart you cannot receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-25). (I am saving Simon the Sorcerer for an upcoming study). So, if you don’t have faith in your heart, you do not have salvation.
I believe that many people confuse professed believers as sincere believers. There are many professed believers that go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. There are many professed believers that shout to the mountain tops about Christ. Yet, there are many professed believers that Christ will deny because aren’t sanctified.
I say these things to make this clear: professed believer can’t lose salvation since they don’t have salvation.
Can a Sinner Gain Salvation
We have to remember that Jesus came to the world for the sinner! Jesus said that He came to call the sinner to repentance (Luke 5:32).
As there are different types of believers in the world, there are also different types of sinners. There are those who dwell in sin but desire to be set free from the shackles of sin. There are those who dwell in the shackles of sin but don’t realize their condition. Then, there are others that are in the shackles of sin and don’t mind it.
Our study next study will focus on those that sin willfully. You see, those that sin willfully are those that don’t mind living in sin. Those that don’t mind living in sin will always turn away from the word of God. If you’re always turning away from God’s word, how can you gain salvation? This actions makes it impossible for willful sinners to gain salvation.
While the door of salvation is shut to the willful sinner, it is not shut to those that desire to be set free of sin. The door of salvation is also not shut to those who may be ignorant of their sin. The word of God is directed to these sinners! We sincere believers today were once ignorant of our sin and then filled with the desire to be set free.
With every warning we have studied, the writer made it clear that one can turn from the way to condemnation. That being said, one has to make the choice to repent – to turn around.
The Reward of the Word of God
These thoughts now leads us to Hebrews 6:7-8. The writer wrote, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”
What comes to mind when I read this scripture is the word of God. I am reminded of a series of sermons I preached last year – The Harvest of God. One should receive the word of God and His word are to grow in us so that we can bear good fruit.
This scripture also reminds me of Isaiah 55:10-11.
The scripture reads, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
God’s word is Christ. Christ went out with a message to plant in the hearts of man. The word of God, when it is planted, is going to grow. When the word of God grows, it is going to grow into a tree of righteousness.
In John 15:1-2, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” God is a gardener that makes sure His planted seed is growing and not coming back void.
When teaching about Himself as the true vine, Jesus said to believers, “I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15:5).” Those branches that don’t bear fruit are believers that aren’t bearing fruit. Those branches being taken away does not mean that they lost salvation. As we have seen, sincere believers cannot lose salvation.
The branches that bear fruit are pruned by God to help bear even more fruit. The reward of the word of God is that it helps us to do true good in the world. By the Word of God we are saved and are able to help save others.
Now, for those that reject the Word of God, they’re not attached to Jesus. Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:6).
Do you see what the writer has warned of in our study this week? The warning is quite clear. If one chooses to keep neglecting the word of God, then they are in very great danger. There is no concern for sincere believers losing salvation because we cannot. However, there is a great concern for sinners to missing salvation.