This past Sunday we had a great discussion in Sunday School around Hebrews 6. The discussion centered on the identity of those who were warned about falling away. I think there are three possibilities to consider.
1) They were believers who were tempted to turn from the things of God and return to Judaism and abandon the tenets of Christianity. They were saved but if they return to Judaism they would now be considered “carnal” Christians because they are not following Christ.
2) They were believers who had come to Christ but who would lose their salvation if they returned to Judaism. They would forfeit eternal life if they were to abandon what they had possessed.
3) They were unbelievers who had seen the power of God, they had experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and they had heard the truth. But they had not committed themselves to Christianity and when persecution came they were looking for a way out instead of enduring to the end by keeping their eyes of the promise of God of eternal life.
My understanding is that the third group is in view here. The reason I lean in that direction is I don’t think the other groups are scriptural realities. If I accept this first group than I must ask does becoming a Christian make a difference in a believer’s life and does it make a difference how a believer lives after he is converted. Or we might ask, is sanctification a necessary part of salvation? Does the life of a believer matter? I think scripture says it does. If I accept the second group I would have to ignore clear teaching that God saves the sinner and then keeps him with the same power.
Can a person receive Christ, clearly understand the truths of the righteousness of his life, the substitution of his death, and the justification of his resurrection and it not affect your behavior. Can a person have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and transformation be absent? I don’t think so.
We must remember here that a return to Judaism would be a repudiation of Jesus Christ. The Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah. Their rejection was so total that they crucified him and God moved past them to bring Gentiles into the vine. Their trust was in the law, festivals, and ceremonies but not is Jesus.
In my opinion, the theme of Hebrews 6 is perseverance. Perseverance is simply steady persistence and continuance in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. My conviction is that those who are genuinely saved will persevere in the faith. I don’t think that believers fall away because the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables them to continue, persist, and endure difficulties to continue.
That does not mean that believers do not occasionally experience times of dryness and seasons of darkness. But these times are rare, they are temporary, and they are not total. A believer cannot walk away from Christ and have any assurance of salvation. And anyone professing to be a believer and then falls away and returns to a previous behavior may indeed cross the line so that future repentance may be impossible.
The writer of Hebrews urgently makes these warning because of the seriousness of what some in the church were contemplating. They can return but they need to realize what it means, if they do. It means they were never converted and further salvation may be impossible for them.
While our understanding of these truths maybe different, it is always beneficial to search the scriptures to find truth. For that I am grateful.