“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if 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.”
The inspired writer of this text had been discoursing on the subject of a progression in the knowledge of divine things in the school of Christ, and under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, through the gifts bestowed upon the church; but he found some of the Hebrew saints who had been so long under Moses as a schoolmaster that they were exceedingly dull to comprehend the perfection of the gospel, for the old schoolmaster, the law, made nothing perfect. Like the pupil in school always studying the alphabet, dwelling on the form and sound of the letters, but never instructed in combining them to spell words or to express sentences, or like children accustomed to be fed on milk, but never having their senses exercised to use meat. The principles or elements of the perfection of the gospel of Christ, such as repentance from dead works, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, all these had been set forth in the types of the law and predictions of the prophets, but as the types were only shadows of good things to come, the body or substance being Christ, as set forth in the gospel, therefore he says, leaving the principles of the doctrine which were in the types, as the first rudiments or first lessons given, Let us go on to perfection; like the child in school who, after learning his letters, is exercised in spelling, and from lesson to lesson, until perfected in the use of letters; and as the living child, when sufficiently nurtured on milk, should be fed on stronger food until he is able to digest the strongest meat, so these Hebrew saints, in the a, b, c of their religious instruction, under the law as their schoolmaster, had learned that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins; and as they had been accustomed to offer their sacrifices for sin year by year continually, because the law could make nothing perfect, so they seemed to still cling to the impression that under the gospel new foundations of faith and repentance would still require to be made, and they were dull to comprehend the absolute perfection of the mediatorial work of our High Priest, who by one offering has perfected forever them that are sanctified. The foundation of our faith and repentance, and of eternal salvation, is permanently laid, and “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” And in demonstration of this plain position he argues the impossibility of any new foundation for salvation; for to lay another foundation would require that Christ should come again in the flesh, be crucified again on the cross, and so put to open shame. Having once assayed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and cried on the cross, “It is finished,” and ascended in triumph to the skies, believing that he had forever saved his people from their sins, if it should prove possible that his mediatorial work had failed to accomplish what he intended and designed, and he had to come back and do his work over again, this would be a blemish that would put him to an open shame. But observe, the apostle does not intimate that it is possible either for the saints to fall from this foundation already laid, or that it is possible that any new foundation should be laid, but he says, “It is impossible,” “if they [the saints] shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance.” And to prove the impossibility shows that it would require what is altogether impossible, namely, that Christ should again be crucified, and so put to an open shame. Some, in commenting on this text, have supposed that Paul intended to convey the idea that there was a liability that some of those described may fall away, in order to harmonize their understanding of it with the certain preservation of all the saints in grace to glory, have assumed the position that persons may experience all these things and only be “almost Christians;” but if there be a saint on earth who has any further or additional evidence, we never met with him. Beside the absurdity of being almost a child of God, almost born of God, almost begotten of God; a child of the devil, though almost a child of God; they find no such logic in the Bible. Let us examine these evidences, and if any who read this on examination shall find that they have additional or more reliable evidences, we desire that they will immediately inform us.
“Those who were once enlightened.” Are the dead enlightened in regard to spiritual things? tell us, ye that were sometimes darkness. We read that, In him, Christ, was life, and the life was the light of men. Hence light and life are synonymous terms, as used in the text. Those who were once enlightened are those who once were quickened by the light of life and immortality, while all others are held in chains of darkness, having eyes, but see not. The only way in which a sinner can be spiritually enlightened is this: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”
“And have tasted of the heavenly gift.” Christ is the heavenly gift; he is the true bread which God has given for the life of the world; he that eateth of this bread hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.
“And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” Is it possible for any to partake of the Holy Ghost who are not born of the Spirit? Is there any other way possible for men to partake of the Holy Ghost? “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” Can we then partake of the Holy Ghost, partake of the divine nature, and not be quickened by it? Is not this partaking of the Holy Ghost the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father? Does not this Spirit seal all the children of God as such, and bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God? Are not as many as are led by the Spirit of God the sons of God?
“And have tasted the good word of God.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” Has any sinner ever tasted the good word of God without being quickened by it? Never.
“And the power of the world to come.” A foretaste of heaven, the earnest of an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Without being born again we cannot have the faith of the Son of God; without that faith no man can enter within the veil or taste of the power of the world to come. Paul had a taste when he was caught up to the third heaven, but whether he was in the body or out of the body he could not tell.
Now if all these do not constitute reliable evidence that they who have experienced them are the children of God, tell us, ye who know, what more is required? Well, having these indisputable evidences that ye are the children of God, if it were possible that you should lose all this, do you know of anything else that could save you, without involving the preposterous idea that Christ should come again in the flesh, and suffer again, and do all the work of redemption over again? Then the absurd doctrine that sinners can pass from death to life, have all these evidences of a gracious state, fall away, or fall from grace, as it is called, and then get religion again, or be restored to a gracious state, is what this text declares to be simply impossible, and that impossibility he proves by the fact that it would require a second Christ, a second crucifixion, a second redemption, all of which would tarnish the unsullied glory of Christ and put him to an open shame. Arminians may fall from works for want of grace, but for saints to fall from grace for want of works is impossible.
May 15, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 365 – 369