Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 30, 1953
NUMBER 51, PAGE 6,10b

Hebrews 6:1-8

Felix W. Tarbet, San Pablo, California In studying the book of Hebrews one thing especially should be kept in mind. That is that this book is almost entirely devoted to showing the superiority of the gospel of Christ over the law of Moses. The differences between the law and the gospel are emphasized throughout this book.

There were many Judaizing teachers who were trying to persuade those early Christians to return to the law of Moses or to at least make Christianity a mixture of law and gospel. When Paul wrote of those who "would pervert the gospel of Christ," (Gal. 1:7) he had reference to those who were trying to force certain items of the law, including circumcision and the observance of "days, and months, and times, and years," (Gal. 4:10) upon New Testament Christians. In this connection, the Holy Spirit gave a warning to those who were returning to the law that is similar to this warning in Hebrews 6:1-8. He said: "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:3,4)

Notice that Hebrews 5 dealt with the high-priesthood of the Old Testament and pointed out that the priesthood of Jesus is much greater than the priesthood of the Old Testament. (Heb. 5:1-10) Then it was pointed out that the Hebrews had not grown in Christ as they should have, they were still babes in need of milk instead of meat. In fact, they needed to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God all over again. Their failure to grow had caused them to be in danger of falling back into the law of Moses from which they had come. (They were Hebrews or Jews.)

So, in Hebrews 6:1-8 they were admonished to grow — "go on unto perfection." (v. 1) They were admonished to leave the first principles — not to give them up, but to go on to higher things. If they would not grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ they would be easy targets for the Judaizing teachers. Even though they had been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come — they were in danger of falling — of yielding to the deceptive teachings of those who would have them to return to the law.

There can be no question but what Paul was speaking of this return to the law when he said: "Whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4) Let us notice some parallels between the book of Galatians and Hebrews 6:1-8.

1. In Galatians we read: "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you." (Gal. 3:1) They had thus been enlightened as had the Hebrews.

2. The Galatians were sons of God. (Gal. 4:6) Hence they had tasted the heavenly gift — salvation. So had the Hebrews. (Heb. 6:4)

3. The Galatians had received the Spirit. (Gal. 3:2) So had the Hebrews. (Heb. 6:4)

4. The Galatians had been "taught in the word." (Gal. 6:6) The Hebrews had "tasted the good word, of God." (Heb. 6:5)

5. Miracles had been worked among the Galatians. (Gal. 3:5) The Hebrews had also tasted "the powers of the world to come." (Heb. 6:5)

6. The Galatians were "turning again to the weak and beggarly elements." (Gal. 4:9) The context shows that those "weak and beggarly elements" were things of the law. The same idea is also found in Colossians 2:14-22. In verse 20 of Col. 2, the question is asked, "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances — ? The ordinances had been previously mentioned as the "handwriting of the ordinances." (v. 14)

The Hebrews were also in danger of falling away. (Heb. 6:6) This falling away was, specifically, to the law.

7. The Galatians were told that if they were justified by the law, "Christ is become of no effect unto you." (Gal. 5:4) The American Standard Version, says, "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law."

The Hebrews were told that they would "crucify to themselves the son of God afresh" if they fell away. (Heb. 6:6)

I believe that it can be easily seen that the falling away that the Spirit is talking about in Hebrews 6:1-8 is a falling away from the gospel to the law.

The part that gives most people so much difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:1-8 is the expression: "It is impossible — if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance." Of course, a person can fall away from Christ without going back to the law of Moses. But this passage in Hebrews has reference to those who have known the gospel; have received salvation, even worked miracles, but who return to the law. Such people cannot be induced to repent. It is "impossible to renew them again unto repentance."

There are numerous references to those who fell in other respects, but were even told to repent. Simon fell back, but he was told to "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God." (Acts 8:22) Surely Peter did not command Simon to do the impossible. The Corinthians were carnal. (1 Cor. 3:3) "To be carnally minded is death." (Rom. 8:6) Yet, after Paul's rebuke to them in the first letter, they "sorrowed to repentance." (2 Cor. 7:9) There are many more references which show that even if a Christian does sin, backslide, fall away, he can repent and be forgiven.

But if a person gave up Christ as being a sufficient sacrifice for his sins as people do when they return to the law, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." (Heb. 10:26) The wilful sin mentioned in this verse is also used in connection with the difference between the law and the gospel.

This one thing should be remembered. Repentance is an act performed by the sinner. The record does not say that God cannot forgive such a person — but that it is not possible to "renew them again unto repentance." Repentance is a change of will or a change of determination. If a person can be persuaded to turn away from sin by changing his mind, or will, he has been "renewed unto repentance."

"Godly sorrow worketh repentance.", (2 Cor. 7:10) If a person is really sorry for his sins, (has godly sorrow), he can most certainly be assured that he has not fallen away in the same manner as those mentioned in Heb. 6:1-8. Yes, such a person must repent and pray or be lost. But he can be saved.

The people, (if any are guilty today) who fall away as per Hebrews 6:1-8, will not be worried about their state. Such people do not have sorrow for sin. So long as a person has a conscience that is lively enough to cause him to turn away from his sins, (repent), he can be saved. He has not fallen in the manner described in Heb. 6:1-8.