Meditations in Hebrews 6: 30. A Second Repentance?
Heb 6:4-6 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, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance
Multi-warnings: Remember, our writer has been warning again and again of the possibility of drifting away from God, of allowing your heart to be hardened, and moving back into unbelief. He did this,
- first of all, by pointing out how great our salvation was (Ch.2),
- then by reminding us of the failure and consequences of the Israelites in respect of the Promised Land (Ch.3),
- then by explaining there is a ‘rest’ still to be taken by faith (Ch.4),
- and finally by portraying Christ as our high priest who is there for us and understands us (Ch.5).
ALL of this teaching has this background motive, to encourage his readers not to allow themselves to drift away from the Faith.
Real Conversion: In our present passage, he now gives a warning that if you drift away from the Faith it is impossible for there to be a second repentance. Let me explain that. When a person comes to Christ – truly comes – as we have noted before, repentance, true repentance, must be an ingredient inf the coming about of their salvation. A true awareness that they are lost and need Christ to save them is an absolute essential for the new birth to follow.
The outcome is clear cut; they are clearly born again, new people, and the new life that then follows is clearly utterly different from what it was before. There is a new purpose, a new direction, a new power, a new love. It is all utterly new and it all came about following repentance. Without that repentance, that utter conviction, the Holy Spirit would have been unable to do His work of transformation. His guidance, His direction, and His teaching will only be received on ground that has been cleared through repentance. Now this, in the light of our heading over this study, I might call in this context the ‘first repentance’.
A Possible Second Repentance? The question that those who support the ‘once saved, always saved’ position has to be, do you believe in the possibility of a second repentance? Salvation only flows to and in a life of repentance. It is pure semantics, I would suggest, to say that a person is saved when they have purposefully moved into a place of apostasy where they utterly deny any belief and may even mock their former position. Speaking of such people our writer says, “It is impossible for those ….. if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.” (v.4,6) Note the word impossible. Now in what follows the writer explains what “falling away” entails and then why a return is impossible.
What has to be rejected: First of all then, what “falling away” entails. He speaks of a) “those who have once been enlightened, b) who have tasted the heavenly gift, c) who have shared in the Holy Spirit, d) who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and e) the powers of the coming age.” (v.4,5) Now let’s look at each of these, but let’s look at what they mean but also actually how each one can be used to encourage us.
a) Enlightened: the reality always is that the person who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit, comes to see the reality of who they are and who Jesus is and what he has done for them. They come to see these truths – they are enlightened. Now when we look back we should remind ourselves of just what took place, the wonder of the revelation we received that brought us to Christ.
b) Tasted heaven: the truth is of course that something of heaven comes down to us – Jesus the Son of God, the Holy Spirit who we’ll come to in a moment, the goodness and love of God that is revealed to us. Once we came through to Christ, this is what we experienced. Again we need to remind ourselves of the reality of this experience; we were not merely enlightened but suddenly everything appeared new, it was like heaven was shining down on us.
c) Shared in the Holy Spirit: being born again’ is a work of the Spirit, being led by Him is a work of the Spirit, being filled is a work of the Spirit. These are not make-believe things, they really happened and we have been transformed and we should not take that for granted but remind ourselves of it again and again.
d) Tasted the goodness of the word of God: from being a dead book, the Bible came alive. There were times when it spoke to us, there were times when it almost shouted the truth at us. We saw the reality of God and His dealing with His people and the wonder of the life of Jesus. It was all there before us on the pages of the Bible, and it thrilled us. Dare we pray for it to do that again?
e) Experienced the power of heaven for the future: previously we had been fearful of death but as we received the revelation from God, as we tasted something of the wonder and goodness of heaven, as the Spirit and the word came alive, so we found ourselves with a strange reassurance about our eternal future, knowing that the present is but a glimmer of the future. Dare we thank Him for that reality and let Him bring it to us afresh?
And Us? Now I wonder how you respond to this list? Are these realities for you or do they suggest that in fact you have not actually ever been born again because each of these things – which should be familiar to every real Christian – are in fact alien to you? Have you been convicted that you need to know the reality of this path, truly coming to Christ through real surrender?
It may be that these things are now somewhat of a shadow of what they have once been. If that is so then the writer’s calls are calls to you to renew your knowledge of Him so all these things become a reality again. The fact that you are reading these words would suggest that you are NOT someone who has fallen away, however shallow your present experience of Him may be. But the warning is there that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, (etc.) if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.”
I think we’ll pause there because there is perhaps much yet to say about the reasoning of this which we’ll go into in more depth in the next study. The challenge of the book is to face the reality of our Christian lives in the light of each of these experiences and ensure they are realities for each of us today. May they be real.