A Discussion of Ideas Concerning 
the Interpretation of Hebrews 6:4-8

Objection to the BCBSR interpretation:

I have some questions about Hebrews 6.  I have read the articles on your web site including Kenneth Wuest. Although I agree that interpretation of Hebrews 6 can make one be led to  believe that these Hebrews were not saved it just doesn't fit in properly  with what the scripture is teaching, as I see it.

I see these Hebrews as being saved.  My reasons are:

1.  The book of Hebrews is about the superiority of Christ.  It is not about salvation.

2.  These Hebrews were spiritually immature and needed guidance for growth in the salvation that they already possessed.

3.  Hebrews was written to holy brethren. (evidence of salvation) v. 3:1

4.  The writer  is confident of  their salvation. v. 6:9

5.  v. 6:4,5 are identifiers of the events that took place in these true believers and not false believers.  It is a review of what has already happened in their lives. It may even be an encouragement or a reminder of what has happened in their lives.  It could be getting back to basics.

6.  v. 6:6 is to the immature saved Hebrew.  It is not about about loosing salvation.  It is about the futility of sacrifices and about pressing onward to maturity.  The verse is a hypothetical example of a situation that can not happen.  It is like saying, "It is impossible for a person, once saved, if he turns the clock back [which cannot be done], to get saved again.  Therefore, let us go on to deeper knowledge."  I don't think this would be said to the unsaved.  If it was to the unsaved it makes the verse very difficult to understand, because it would appear that the writer is telling the unsaved that they are in danger of being lost for ever (which can't happen).

7.  If these Hebrews are "unsaved" it appears that the writer is concerned only with turning them from going back to sacrifices.  If they were not to go back to sacrifices but continue on with Jesus they are false believers still in need of salvation (Like Judas). If they were unsaved then the concern should be salvation and not sacrifices.  Therefore, I feel that the writer understands that he is talking to saved Hebrews.

I would appreciate your comments.

In Defense of the BCBSR Interpretation:

It's good to see someone doing serious Bible study. I can understand your position to a degree, having already considered those ideas long ago. But having studied the whole book and making sure that my conclusions are consistent not only with Hebrews but also with the whole New Testament, I have to say with conviction that I have come a different conclusion, which I've written on the web page and which I'll elaborate upon here.

The theme of Hebrews is really about faith in Christ. It treats both the object of faith - Christ and his works, and it treats quality of faith issues such as confidence and perseverance. An overview of these issues can be viewed at http://www.bcbsr.com/books/heb.html which shows verses running throughout the book of Hebrews dealing with endurance of faith and confidence of faith.

It teaches that there is indeed a deficient faith as the conditional clause in Heb 3:14 says, "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." And indeed Jesus himself said that "he who endures to the end will be saved." Much of Hebrews is describing the quality of faith that saves as does other places in the Bible such as Romans 4 where Paul speaks of Abraham's faith: "he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness." For one's quality of faith enters into God's crediting to us the righteousness of Christ. But a faith which is non-application oriented doesn't save. We see in Hebrews that if one's faith is not confidently enduring, such is also not saving faith.

Those who have been born of God are identified not simply by what they call themselves, but by their behavior. The book of 1st John is all about that fact, and it speaks of how to identify those born of God. (See also http://www.bcbsr.com/books/1jn.html) The author of Hebrews is writing to Hebrew Christians. But he does not assume that all his readers have necessarily been born of God, unless their behavior is consistent with that of a child of God, as Hebrews 3:14 indicates. At times, like in Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 he does deal with nominal Christians of whom Jesus also speaks when he says, "They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." Luke 8:13 Such do not have their faith rooted. And so also Paul ran into false Christians in the church of Jerusalem when he says, "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4 Yet in Acts 15:5 these Hebrew Christians were called "believers" - for Luke was simply writing of what people were called, but Paul was writing what they really were. And furthermore wasn't 2nd Corinthians written to Christians also? So why does he say, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 He simply does not presume that people who go to church and call themselves "Christian" are necessarily in the faith if their behavior is inconsistent with that faith.

Concerning spiritual immaturity Jesus teaches that it is often difficult to tell the difference between an immature plant he planted and that which the devil planted. (See the parable of the Wheat and Tares http://www.bcbsr.com/survey/pbl6.html)  And so also in Paul's letters to the church at Corinth which demonstrated a great deal of immature behavior. He warns them as I showed in 2Cor 13:5 and other places as in 1Cor 6:9,10 "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Many today deceived about these kind of things think that there is not necessarily any correlation between ones behavior and their salvation status. John also writes on this deception saying, "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil." 1John 3:7,8 So also does the author of Hebrews warns.

Should Christians live in fear? Yes indeed. That is what these authors teach. You certainly don't get the impression from the author of Hebrews not to worry about God's wrath. "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Heb 10:26,27 But if the message is to just presume that you're saved regardless of your actual behavior, then there is no basis for such fear. That simply is not what the Bible teaches as I've shown and I can elaborate even further on these facts.

Furthermore, Romans was written to Christians in Roman, yet if we read Romans 2 it speaks to Jewish unbelievers. So who it's written to may not be who it's speaking of. Notice in particular that the passage in Hebrews 6 speaks in the third person, not in the second person. It speaks of "they" falling away, but "we are confident of better things in your case". As you point out in verse 9. But you might have failed to realize that the "you" in verse 9 is not the same as the "they" in preceding verses.

Notice also he continues in verse 11 saying, "We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure."

The way it works is that although it is true "once saved always saved", how can we be sure we are in that category to begin with? Our assurance of salvation should be proportional to the degree to which are behavior is consistent with that for a child of God. And thus Peter also writes, "be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall." 2Pe 1:10

Concerning your 6th point you speak of "turning back the clock", and the idea that this is just a hypothetical but impossible scenario. It doesn't seem to me that it reads that way. He speaks not about turning back the clock, but rather having gained certain experiences and knowledge and after that fall away from the faith and the resultant consequences. The more we know and have experienced, the more we will be held responsible for. Concerning having experienced miracles but then rejecting the truth Jesus says, "I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." There were indeed people who fell away, such as Judas and others. And Jesus speaks in the parable of the sower acknowledging this fact. People do fall away from the faith, that is a fact, not simply a hypothetical scenario. And so Hebrews and other books in the New Testament deal with the issue and speak of the consequences in fearful terms, such as in 2Peter 2:20,21 "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them." But if a person was going to hell before "knowing the Lord", then how can turning away end him up in an even worst situation?  (See 2Peter 2 interpretation) The Bible advocates fear concerning this kind of situation.

Coming to saving faith in Christ may be likened to the people of Israel wandering through the desert on their way to the promise land. In fact this analogy is used in 1Cor 10 and in Hebrew 3 saying that they did not enter his rest in the promise land because of unbelief.  Why does he speak of unbelief if he's speaking to "believers"? And indeed he is exhorting his readers - Christians, as does Paul in 1Cor 10 warning them of God's wrath. Some are in the desert developing saving faith, and others are already in the promise land, but Christians should not be presumptuous about where they are, but rather fear God and make sure their behavior is consistent with their faith. Those in the desert have no guarantee that they will eventually enter the promise land. Those who, like the Jews, come to the edge of the promise land and turn back will die in the desert without any chance of entering in the future. That is what Hebrews 6 teaches.

Notice also that Hebrews 6:7,8 speaks of different types of fruits. This is again consistent with what Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall recognize them." And what Peter writes concerning those who fall away in 2Pet 2:20-22 "Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."" Again this would be indicative of nominal Christians who fall away.

Concerning your 7th point I would say that the author is not simply concerned they have the correct object of faith, but that they have a quality of faith that saves. For many can claim they believe the right thing, but may not do so in the right manner and thus be unqualified. As I pointed out the whole book of Hebrews deals with these issues, and not simply chapter 6. It deals with both the object of faith and the quality of faith acceptable to God for salvation.

Those are some ideas to chew on. Thanks for the opportunity to share these ideas.

Steve Amato
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015