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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Book Review: The Reign of Grace, by Abraham Booth | Main | Sola Gratia - Grace Alone »

    Hebrews 6:4-9 (revisited)

    from a previous blog article:

    Hebrews 6:4-9
    4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
    5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
    6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
    7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
    8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
    9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation.

    Invalid interpretations of this passage in Hebrews chapter 6 has resulted in much confusion on the issue of the perserverance (or preservation) of the saints. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:

    Question/Comment: "I have been thinking about Hebrews 6:4-6, and I am still struggling to be more impartial with it…. I recall that you have talked about these verses, but I am still struggling…

    Response: Besides my own remarks, there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian — as a self-centered rebel — when there is no warrant for it.

    Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."


    Likewise, Hebrews 6 says that whoever satisfies the listed conditions and then withdraws from the faith cannot repent again. Since this is what it says, then this is what it means. Now, we can argue about whether these conditions completely define a believer. We could argue from the example of Judas, who exercised the very powers of the world to come, but Jesus knew from the beginning that he was "a devil." He was never truly converted. However, even this discussion is unnecessary, since it is irrelevant to the main point of the passage. Even if it describes a believer, does a believer actually withdraw? Does it ever happen? The passage does not say. The only mention of this topic points toward the other direction: "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation" (v. 9). The writer was convinced that at least the original readers would not suffer the fate that he describes. What is it then? The passage cannot be used to support Arminianism, since even the relevance is absent.

    I could say, "If God dies, then the earth will also disappear," or something to that effect. The statement is certainly true. But will it ever happen? Is it even possible? It would be pure lunacy to infer from the statement, "Therefore, it is possible for God to die." The statement does not address the topic at all. Now, we could argue that the words "if God dies" contain a categorical error, rendering the phrase meaningless, but other than that, the statement makes an important point, that God is the sustainer of all things, and that all things continuously depend on him. This is what it implies, and one cannot read more into it unless he does so by force.

    Part of the difficulty in confronting Arminianism, then, is to overcome your own Arminianism — whatever of it that remains in your heart."

    Posted by John Samson on May 2, 2009 03:07 PM

    Comments

    I totally agree with you against Arminianism on this and anything else. Therefore we must look deeper for the meaning of Heb 6. 4-9.
    You say “Likewise, Hebrews 6 says that whoever satisfies the listed conditions and then withdraws from the faith cannot repent again”.
    I suggest that in fact it says “whoever satisfies the listed conditions cannot be brought back (passive, not active) to repentance as long as (present participle ‘parapesontas’) they are stumbling in their recrucifixion of…”… “Such land (i.e such a person) is near to (but not quite at) the point of being cursed, but it will be burned by fire (not to destruction since land cannot be destroyed, but all its ‘legalist’ produce will be burnt as stubble)”
    I believe this is a passage about the futility of true Christians reverting (as in Galatia) to any form of neo-nomianism, with the warning that those who do revert will find that all their laborious neo-nomian works will be destroyed by fire (they will have no reward, although they themselves will be saved since Jesus will not lose those entrusted to him).
    It is not necessary to read this passage (though many do) as being about near-Christians making some definitive ‘apostasising’ stand. The greek word for that would be ‘aphistemi’ as is used in Heb 3.12 of the OT Jews. The greek word actually used here (parapipto) is about ‘stumbling alongside’ (ie while going in the direction of faith, not going totally against it, as in apostasy). This would well describe true free-grace Jewish Christians who were under tremendous pressure to renounce their faith and who might weakly give in (as Peter did three times, and as any of us would also do, but for the grace of God).
    I go further - to maintain that Heb 6 is about near-Christians rejecting Christ is actually to suggest the semi-pelagian position whereby (i) Jesus brings us to the point of choice and that it is then up to us to choose wisely, and that (ii) if we choose wrongly, we will not get another chance!! That is not the reformed view - even though Calvin (bless him!) did advocate this semi-pelagian interpretation of Heb 6!

    Richard

    What always gets me is that people keep turning to Heb 6 instead of Heb 10:26-29, which is far more powerful and clearer.

    Okay, now we've heard what the text doesn't intend to say, but what IS the intention and meaning of it?

    John,

    good response.

    I would add that by Biblical standards, this is not a "true" statement:

    "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it is a duck".

    I would point to Joseph after many years as an Egyptian Prime Minister. He was so duckesh he fooled his Jewish brothers!

    Jesus said it His way which when it is Jesus saying it, it must be Truth:::>

    Mat 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

    Why does the reformed church give so much glory to men that wrote things like Canons, Westminster confession, etc these things in my opinion have become worshipped in the reformed church and yet God teaches in the word that he will not share his glory with a man,so why do we give these flaud works so much power? what is wrong with what God has given us in his word.

    earl,

    In answer to your question, nothing is wrong with God's word. It is our only authority in all matters of faith and practice. You are quite mistaken. Where in this post was even a confession mentioned, let alone exalted to Biblical status? Sounds like you simply have an ax to grind.

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