The Impossibility of Renewal
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 6. We are looking at some verses of Scripture that would seem to indicate that one might lose his salvation. One purpose in looking at these passages of Scripture is to answer the questions which some of you had in relation to an advertisement that appeared in the local newspaper here some time ago listing these passages of Scripture as teaching that one can fall from grace. Another purpose, actually the primary purpose, is to interpret these passages of Scripture in the light of their context. It is not only important for us to know the truth related to the security of the believer or the lack of it as the case may be, but it is important for us to learn to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Differences In Interpretation

Notice, please, Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 1:

Hebrews 6:

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3And this will we do, if God permit.
4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

Let us recognize that chapter 6 of the book of Hebrews, as well as chapter 10 at which we will be looking, are two passages of Scripture admittedly difficult of interpretation. I use those words very, very carefully. There are problems with any interpretation that might be suggested to either of these two passages of Scripture. If you are familiar with what has been written on them, you will know that among conservative, fundamental Bible scholars there is a great difference of opinion. Of course, we aren't even considering any liberal interpretation. We reject at once any liberal interpretation because the liberalists do not accept the inspiration of the Word of God. I am speaking of those scholars who accept the inspiration of the Word of God and believe that the Word of God is true from cover to cover. Among that group of people, there is a difference of interpretation.

One of the things that we are considering is what relation these passages of Scripture have to the security of the believer. I would like to dispose of that first by saying to you that this passage of Scripture has nothing to do with what we commonly refer to as “falling from grace.” It has nothing to do with what we commonly refer to as “losing one's salvation.” The reason is that if it does, then this passage of Scripture teaches that if you lose your salvation, you can never get it back again. I do not know anyone who believes that you can lose your salvation who does not also believe that God will accept the individual again and restore to him eternal life if he meets the conditions.

I say to you that this passage of Scripture could not refer to the lack of salvation on the basis of the fact that if it does, salvation could never be resumed again, on the basis of Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 4, where you will notice:

Hebrews 6:

4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

That says very plainly that if you lose your salvation, you can't get it back if this verse of Scripture is talking about salvation. So we dismiss at once the idea that this verse of Scripture has anything to do with salvation.

Let us set our minds at ease. Even if it is possible to lose your salvation, this passage of Scripture has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Recipients Of The Letter

Having made that general statement, let us endeavor to learn, in a measure at least, what this passage of Scripture is talking about. The first thing we would like to suggest to you is that it is important in your study of anything in the book of Hebrews to keep in mind the people to whom this book is addressed. That's the only way you'll be able to understand it; keep in mind the people to whom it is addressed.

Let me say, first, that this book is addressed to Christians, people who love the Lord, people who have had an experience of grace in their hearts, people who belong to the Lord, born-again people. This book is addressed to them in part, and when you read the book of Hebrews, you need to be able to tell from the context if it is addressed to such born-again people.

Then, the book of Hebrews is addressed to the Jews who were facing their last chance before God's final judgment on them as a nation. They were facing their last chance to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah. You remember that the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., and the Jews were scattered to the four corners of the world. Before that final destruction came, God made a last appeal. This appeal is made in Hebrews.

With that thought in mind, you will notice that the book of Hebrews is addressed to two other classes of people. It was addressed to people who had given intellectual assent to the information that was given, and they were carefully considering the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. They had not made up their minds fully; they had not made any decisions either inwardly or outwardly, but they were interested. Paul addressed a part of this book to them, and that is the reason you will find many exhortations in the book of Hebrews about going on, about finishing the job, about taking that final step.

Then there is another class addressed in the book of Hebrews, and that class of people are those who had given secret assent in their hearts to the truth that they had learned. They were convinced in their minds; they had even given assent in their hearts, but because of the tremendous persecution that would be theirs if they made any public avowal of their faith in Christ, they were waiting about the decision. So you find the writer of the book of Hebrews encouraging them to come out and not make any secret about their faith and to run with patience the race that was set before them, keeping their eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. As you read the book of Hebrews, remember that you must keep in mind the particular group of people Paul might be addressing at that particular time.

Special Opportunities Of The Hebrews

Now there is one other general thing I would like you to keep in mind, and that is that God dealt with this generation of Hebrews as he dealt with no other group of people. He gave them opportunity, and He gave them insight as he gave no other group of people. Now wait just a moment; don't jump to conclusions. I'm not saying that God was going to make any special concession for them, that God was going to save them and make it a little easier for them than anyone else. I'm not saying that. But I am saying to you, and the language will bear it out, that God dealt with them in a very special way, presenting them with special opportunities as He did no other people.

The reason I am saying that is that it is highly questionable whether anyone in this age could be guilty of the sins against which Paul warned the Hebrews of that particular generation. For example, it is questionable whether anyone today would be guilty of the sin that is described in Hebrews, chapter 6. It is questionable whether anyone today could be guilty of the sin described in Hebrews, chapter 10. I mention the two together because when we are able to get to Hebrews, chapter 10, you will see quite a similarity between the two passages of Scripture.

With those general thoughts in mind, which I hope will be thought-provoking and not too confusing, I am going to suggest that we look at this paragraph which we have read, verse by verse, and find out exactly what it says. The important thing in relation to any passage of Scripture is not to try to prove that it proves a certain thing, but rather to find out what it says. Then, if it proves that particular thing, amen! If it doesn't, amen! Of course, that second “amen” is sometimes hard for us to accept. We may find that the passage of Scripture doesn't prove what we always thought it proved, and we hesitate to say “amen” to that. If we think that it does prove what we're trying to get across, we would say, “Oh, goody! That's good! I'm really glad about that. That's another argument on my side.”

Necessity Of Growth

Let's forget the arguments and see exactly what this passage of Scripture says. We will begin with the first verse of chapter 6:

Hebrews 6:

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

This verse begins with the word therefore and, as we have suggested to you, when you find therefore in any passage of Scripture, you should always ask, “Wherefore?” What does that therefore refer to? Glance back at chapter 5, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 12.

Hebrews 5:

12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

What Paul is actually saying here is, “You people ought to be teachers. With all of the information and the training and the background that you have, you ought to be teachers. But you're not even able to digest strong meat yet. You're still on the bottle, so certainly you can't be teaching. Since that is true, there needs to be something done. Therefore, let us leave certain things. Let's go on a bit deeper here. Let's go on a bit farther.”

Advance To Maturity

When we speak about the word leave here, we're not speaking about rejecting. We're not saying these things are wrong, that we'll have nothing more to do with them. What we are suggesting is that they are foundational. It's time to go on to something else. And so we want to notice the things from which these people are to go on. He said, “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ…” Let us keep in mind this is a Jewish book, and the translation of the word Christ should really be “Messiah.” When we speak of Jesus Christ, we don't always think of Him as the Messiah of the Jews, that the word Christ literally means “anointed One.” It means the “Messiah.” So let us leave the principles of the teachings of the Messiah. They are basic. Let us go on to something else. Let us go on unto perfection.

The word perfection here is “maturity”—not the idea of sinlessness; not the idea of blamelessness. Rather, “let us go on unto maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.”

Evidently, these people had taken two steps. They had repented of their dead works. Their dead works were their empty, formal worship and their empty efforts of legal worship. They laid those aside; they turned aside from them. That's the meaning of the word repentance . And of their initial faith towards God, Paul said, “Don't just talk about faith in God.” The Hebrews had been known for their faith in God for centuries upon centuries, the only people who were really worshippers of one God.

Ceremonial Washings

Then you'll notice in the second verse, “and of the doctrine of baptisms,” and here we hear of and see the word baptism . Some people say that means that baptism isn't even for this age. Oh, how careful we have to be in our interpretation of the Word! The word that is translated “baptism” here really should be washing . What he is referring to here is the custom of the Hebrews in relation to their worship of washing their hands in water so many times. For example, when the priest went into the tabernacle for worship, there was the great big laver; and he would wash his feet in the laver, and then he would go on to the sacrifice of the animal. And on certain occasions and in certain instances, the priest would have to bathe completely, entirely. Washing—that is the idea. Those were ceremonial washings.

Those ceremonial washings had become such a big thing in the lives of the Jews, emphasized out of all proportion to their importance, that when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth, and His disciples, busy for Him, sat down and just ate their food without any ceremonial washings, it disturbed the Pharisees. They said, “Why do your disciples eat with unwashed hands?” They were not criticizing their lack of sanitation. They weren't referring to the idea that maybe they didn't wash their hands before they ate. They were referring to ceremonial washing. “Why didn't your disciples wash their hands ceremonially before they ate?” The Lord Jesus Christ said, “That is in the past.”

Beliefs Basic To The Jews

That's what Paul is talking about here. He is saying, “Now, let's not go over all that again. Don't go all through laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, of the doctrine of washing, and of laying on of hands.” This is a reference to the individual's laying his hands on the individual sacrifice when he brought it in Hebrew worship.

“And of the resurrection of the dead”–that's something the Jews have always believed. They've always believed in eternal judgment. These things are basic; they're elemental. That is the thought. And what the apostle is saying to these Jews is, “Those things are already settled. Let's not keep going over them and over them and over them again.” It was as though he said to them, “You've come pretty far, but let's not stop there. You've come pretty far, but you haven't come far enough.” Immediately that sets the context for this passage of Scripture. This passage of Scripture is not talking to Christians. It is not talking to people who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. It is talking about people who have come pretty far, but who have not come far enough.

What I have suggested to you up to this point, practically all fundamental, Bible-believing, conservative Bible scholars agree with. They agree that this is the interpretation up to this point, but here is where the line of diversion comes. I mention this difference to you because these men love the Lord, and they study the Word, and the difference is not important. There is a possibility they are right. I don't think they are, but there's a possibility they are, and I want you to see what is their interpretation of this part of Scripture.

More Than An Intellectual Grasp Of Truth

The vast majority of individuals feel that these people only had an intellectual grasp of the thing—only an intellectual grasp, that's all. And so you just dismiss it like that and say, “They just almost took it, but didn't.” But I think, and I'm not alone in this though certainly we are in the minority, that it is far deeper than this–far deeper than an intellectual grasp. I believe that God worked a special miracle in the minds and the hearts and the lives of these Hebrews of this generation and gave them something deeper than a mere intellectual grasp of this truth. And I'm not satisfied at all to dismiss this passage of Scripture and say, “It's a mere intellectual thing.” I think it was deeper than that.

Let me show you what I mean. In verse 4, we read:

Hebrews 6:

4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,…

This word enlightened elsewhere is used of people who are born again, not just people who had been intellectually awakened and have tasted the heavenly gift. Now the heavenly gift is eternal life. These people have tasted the heavenly gift. We would pause long enough to emphasize that elsewhere in the Word of God, wherever Christians are born again, they are spoken of as having drunk of the heavenly gift. There is a vast difference between tasting and drinking, and we make that distinction because we want you to see that this was a special class of people with a special need at a special time.

Then, notice in the last part of verse 4, “…they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” That means they were partakers with the Holy Spirit. I'm not convinced that just because you sit under a message and say, “Well, I believe that's true,” you are partakers of the Holy Spirit. I'm not convinced of that at all. I don't think that is true. These people were treated in an unusual way. They were made partners of the Holy Spirit, and they had tasted the good Word of God. They just tasted it, that's all. They didn't digest it. They didn't grow from it. They tasted it.

Preview Of The Millennium

In the fifth verse, “they had tasted of the power of the world to come.” Now the word world there should be translated “age.” “They had tasted of the age to come.” Literally, what this means, though I do not understand it, and I do not see how it could be done, is that God projected these particular Jews into the Millennium which is yet to come upon the earth. He projected them into the Millennium and gave them a taste of what it was going to be like to live on the earth when the Lord Jesus Christ reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That's what it means. I don't know how it could be done, but that's what it means. I would far rather say something and say that is what it means, whether or not I can explain how it's done, than to dismiss it and say, “Well, it's just an intellectual approach to the problem.” He projected them into that age and gave them a taste of what it would mean to live in that age.

In verse six, he said, “If they shall fall away…” And the suggestion is if they turn their backs on this thing, if they turn away from it, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, “seeing they crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh.” The word afresh is not in the original text. That's part of the translator's work. That verse of Scripture simply means that there is no more hope, because even after all of this wonderful revelation of truth, they rejected Jesus Christ. And if Jesus Christ is rejected as the Son of the living God, then there is no more hope for anyone because He is the only way to salvation.

Conclusion

Back to the question which was the reason for this discussion. I do not know anyone who loses his salvation in the commonly accepted sense of the word. Someone who is saved may seem to reject Jesus Christ. He never rejects Jesus Christ. He goes into sin, and his fellowship is broken, but he still loves the Lord. He's still burdened about sin, and eventually he wants to get back to the Lord. The thing I want you to see is that this is an entirely different situation and, I am of the opinion, a situation which existed in that generation that could not be repeated in the age in which we live.


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