“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.”
An inquirer living in Arkansas has been perturbed by this text and has asked us to give our views upon it. It is often the case that Satan takes advantage of the believer's ignorance of the meaning of Scripture in order to torment one with it. The word tells us that Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Cor. xi. 14.) This is one of the many guises assumed by the adversary of our souls in order to plague us with doubts as to the genuineness of our hope and of the security of our salvation. However, whenever Satan uses Scripture to worry us, he never gives the true interpretation, but always wrests it from its content and context to suit his own ends. At the start, let us be sure that the word of God is never at any time nor in any place inconsistent with itself. The Scriptures are one harmonious whole and are to be so accepted. If it is made to appear that one passage contradicts some other passage, it is because the contradiction is in our own minds. When rightly seen in the light of the Holy Spirit, the word is discovered to be in complete harmony. It is a fundamental point of Bible doctrine that those for whom Jesus died are safe for time and for eternity. Their salvation cannot be affected by anything they do or say. Since salvation from sin and all its consequences is effectively accomplished in the sacrificial atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ entirely independent of the believer's will or efforts, therefore the believer's being effectually kept in the way of salvation to be ultimately housed in glory, is also entirely independent of the believer's will or efforts. Since salvation is wholly by grace, the free and unmerited favor of God whose divine justice has been completely satisfied in the cross of Christ, the preservation of the believer all along the way to future glory is likewise wholly of grace. Therefore, the true child of God cannot fall out of the Savior's atonement, cannot perish from the presence of the Almighty God whose eternal Son paid the precious price for that child's redemption. This is exactly what the apostle is proving in this sixth chapter of Hebrews. The writer describes those who cannot fall away as follows:
1. Those who were once enlightened.
2. Those who have tasted of the heavenly gift.
3. Those who were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.
4. Those who have tasted the good word of God.
5. Those who have tasted the powers of the world to come.
It is utterly impossible for the above described characters to fall away from the effective work of salvation accomplished for them by the Son of God. To be enlightened is to be lighted up within one's self by the revelation that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that only by him must we come to God. To be thus illuminated is to be shown by the teaching, not of men, but of the Holy Spirit, that salvation is wholly by grace through Jesus Christ and entirely without the works of the law on our part. The light, which in the beginning shown out of darkness, shines at God's command in the sinner s heart to illuminate him, thus opening the eyes of his understanding to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom to know is life eternal to the one thus illuminated. It is to know by revelation, as did Simon Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Can such an one ever fall away, and perish from that salvation? It is plain to be seen that such falling away is impossible. If such a thing could be, it would require a fresh crucifixion of Christ to renew that one again to repentance: and if the first crucifixion was not effective to secure such a character from falling away, would there be any assurance that a second crucifixion would be any more effective? To say that such an one could fall away would be to put Christ to an open shame. Why? Because, if such could fall away after having been saved by Christ, would it not be an admission that his shed blood was spilt in vain? Therefore; to even think of such a thing, much less to say such a thing, as that one once illuminated or enlightened to know the truth can fall away, is to blaspheme the holy Son of God. Those who “have tasted of the heavenly gift.” Believing is eating. Hence, tasting is believing. Peter tells us that if we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, let us desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby. (1 Peter ii. 2, 3.) Tasting that the Lord is gracious comes by way of our believing that his grace saves us, and believing comes by faith and faith is the gift of God. Where the Spirit quickens the dead sinner into life through Christ, that one believes by the operation of faith within his soul that he is saved by free and sovereign grace. Jesus Christ is God's unspeakable gift to his lost and ruined children in Adam. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. - John iii. 16. Can it be possible, then, for these who have tasted of God's heavenly gift of his Son to them, to ever fall away? No. If such could be, it would mean that Christ would have to die again, thus confessing his first work not to have been efficacious, thus putting him to the open shame of having failed in what he came to do.
Those who “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” After the close of the earthly life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and after his ascension into heaven the Holy Ghost was sent upon the believing church in such a way that they were baptized in the Holy Ghost. The Spirit was in them and they were in the Spirit, completely immersed in this third Person of the Trinity and completely filled and indwelt by this Holy Person. From the day that this Holy Ghost came from heaven to dwell in the people of God in this grace age and until this day in which we are now living, each and every true believer, as well as the whole invisible church collectively, has been dwelt in by the Holy Ghost so that all who constitute the true body of the Lord Jesus Christ are partakers of the Holy Ghost. Can any such fall away from this security? If such could be the case, there is no such thing as salvation or security anywhere in the universe. Even to think such a thing makes a true believer blush for shame to think of the scandal that would be upon the cross of Christ could he have failed in his perfect work.
Those who “have tasted the good word of God.” The word of God is the Scriptures. The believer finds nourishment for his soul in the word of God, the word of God becomes his food. Such an one cannot live by mere earthly bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The Scriptures are the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and for the thorough furnishing of the child of God unto every good work. The Scriptures through faith make one wise unto salvation. They are for the believer's teaching, for his correction, for his reproof and for his instruction in the way of righteousness. Hence, if one is taught doctrine through the Scriptures, if one is corrected or reproved or instructed by them in a saving and in a living way, then such an one must be a child of God or the Scriptures would not have that salutary effect in his life. To have the Holy Spirit take the biblical record of Jesus and open it out unto our understanding is to taste the good word of God. Can it be thought for one moment that such can fall away from the saving power of God that holds them and be lost from it? No. Again, we repeat that if such could fall away, nothing short of a repetition of Christ's work could save them. Such cannot be, because by the one offering of himself; Jesus has forever perfected them that are sanctified. (Heb. x. 14.) Hence, the impossibility of their ever falling away. There is a world of difference between falling on the deck of a ship and falling off the deck of a ship. If one falls off the deck of a ship, he is drowned;, if one falls on the deck of a ship, he may hurt himself, but he cannot be lost from the ship. Just so, in the believer's life and walk there are many stumblings, but he always falls ON the Rock that saves him, never does he fall OFF it.
Those who have tasted the powers of the world to come. There is another world coming other that this one we are now in. We are looking for it, longing for it and are hastening on to it: a new creation, a new earth and a new heavens in which shall dwell righteousness forever. Those who are by God ordained unto this glorious new world of glory already have tasted of the powers of it in their soul's experience here. Believers have received the earnest, or foretaste, of that coming world. Peter, James and John in the mount with Jesus saw Christ transfigured before them, saw Moses and Elias appear with him, heard the voice of God acclaim Jesus his only Son whom they were to hear. Thus did these three disciples taste in the transfiguration scene the powers of the world that is coming at some future time when the redeemed shall be gathered from the dead and into it. What a glorious prospect is before them who fear and reverence God Almighty through his Son and by the Holy Spirit! These have a good hope through grace: hope that is both desire and expectation, kindled within them as an earnest, a God-given pledge, of that which shall be fully and forever theirs some day. As surely as God has implanted in our hearts the foretaste of that, better world, so surely he will not disappoint the hope which he has wrought. God cannot deny himself, he cannot go back on his own work. It is he and no one else, who has begun the good work in his people and he will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ, unto that day when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven in person to take his ransomed people home. Can it be thought for one moment that these can fall away, these who have already tasted in their soul's present experience of grace, the powers of the world to come? No, never. Such are kept by the power of God unto the decisive hour when his judgments shall be made known in bringing forth truth unto victory, when it shall be sung by all the angels and by all the redeemed: ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’
The writer in Hebrews, sixth chapter, instead of teaching that those once saved are in danger of falling away, is proclaiming just the opposite, the utter impossibility of their, falling away; because if they could fall away, it would necessitate Christ's dying again and would be an open or public confession that his first work was a failure. There is no failure in him. He is declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead. Nothing can pluck us out of his hands. Doubtless, he went forth weeping, bearing precious seed, in the time of his incarnation in the flesh, but he will without fail come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Have we not already had a taste of the glorious and wonderful power that is to characterize the world yet to come? Does not the taste make us yearn longingly for the fullness? “If such the sweetness of the streams, what must the fountain be?”
We hope that if our inquirer who asked us to write upon this subject has had any doubts about the safety and security of God's elect from ever falling away, that such doubts may be banished by a faithful perusal of the word of God. Christ answered the tempter by quoting the word of God, and there is no better way to vanquish the tempter when he comes against our souls than by the sword of God. Satan fears “Thus saith the Lord.” May all doubting souls be blest to wield against this adversary the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.
Elder H.H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Vol. 101, No. 5 - May 1933