Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And this we will do if God permits. 4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews 6 has always been a tough passage for me to get my head around. I have always kind of ignored it or hurried past it in my reading. After doing some research, I found that I am not alone in my difficulties with the passage. The father of the reformation, Martin Luther took a rather low view on Hebrews. Many other theologians have done all kinds of theological gymnastics with this passage to either affirm that one can lose their salvation or that one can not. After meditating on this passage and praying, I think that God has given me a bit more clarity then I had before.
First of all I noticed that the book of Hebrews is written to the Jewish-Christian community. It’s intent was to provide to the Jews a deeper understanding of their own faith and how Christianity is the necessary ends to that faith. For the first 6 chapters, the writer of Hebrews has been showing to the Jews that Jesus is better than angels, the prophets, Moses, the priests, and the law. Jesus is the completion of all of God’s work. It is in Jesus alone that we can find salvation. Jesus is our high priest who washes away our sin with His blood.
Chapter six then begins with a call to move on from the basic teachings. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to move deeper in understanding. But before we can move into a deeper understanding we are given a very strong warning. That warning is to not forsake or leave the truth of the gospel, which is salvation through faith alone not of works. A Jew who has heard the gospel and experienced the community of believers but then decides that they must return to the sacrificial system of the old testament can not be saved because there is no other way to salvation other than Jesus. Someone who hears the good news and yet looks for salvation in some other way will not find it. It is impossible for anyone to be saved apart from Jesus. The Jews who were going back to the sacrificial system could not be saved by that system because that system can not save. It is as if those people are saying that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was not good enough. By going back to the sacrificial system of the old testament, they are putting Jesus to shame.
This passage is a warning to the Jews who are reading this book before moving ahead. It is like a giant sign post saying, “Warning: Don’t turn back.” So the question is, can someone who once had salvation lose it? I don’t think that the point of this passage is to even ask that question. Instead it is a warning that there is no way to salvation apart from Jesus. There is no way for someone to be saved from their sins other than Jesus. So don’t turn back on that teaching and expect something else to save because it is impossible for you to be saved by anything other than Jesus. The warning is this, Jesus is the only way. Another way to put it is this way, don’t hear the gospel and then think you can be saved any other way because you cannot. Jesus is the only way.