Sunday, July 8, 2018
Does Hebrews 6:4-6 Teach That Apostates Cannot Be Forgiven?
The text of Hebrews 6:4-6 has been a source of brewing controversy among various Christian circles as to its meaning. It certainly is thought-provoking in a solemn sense. In fact, it has put believers into a state of needless panic over it seemingly teaching that people who depart from the truth of the gospel are beyond the reach of obtaining reconciliation with God. Nevertheless, we know beyond a reasonable doubt that Hebrews 6 cannot be enforcing such an idea, considering that Scripture exhorts us to spiritually assist backsliders in coming to repentance (Galatians 6:1).
What may serve as an antidote to this apparently problematic passage of Scripture is the recognition that the audience to which this epistle was originally dedicated was Jewish. It was primarily addressing Jewish Christians who were thinking of reverting to Old Testament Judaism in the face of upcoming persecution. In short, the author goes on to demonstrate Christ as being superior to the Old Covenant and to urge them to fervently hold fast to the gospel. They were in need of spiritual edification (Hebrews 6:1-3).
This epistle goes in depth concerning various types, shadows, and how they are fulfilled in the New Testament. It describes Christ as being greater than Moses and the angels. It affirms Him to be our Sabbath and High Priest. The author affirms Christ to be greater than the temple and its sacrifices. He is the fulfillment of the Law, which cannot save us. Its customs are powerless. Jesus established the New Covenant. The Jewish Christians were encouraged to continually remain faithful to the Lord and endure upcoming persecution for His sake (Hebrews 10:23-39).
So, it is abundantly clear that the author was not trying to say in Hebrews 6:4-6 that God will not forgive the sins of apostates who humbly return to Him. Rather, those who persistently seek the Law as a means of justification are only destining themselves for eternal condemnation. These people are inexcusable because they already know and understand the truth of the gospel. The sacrificial alters have no power to redeem us. The priesthood cannot atone for our iniquity. Jesus Christ already made full atonement for our sin (Hebrews 10:10-14). We are to trust in His work alone for salvation. Those who attempt to reinstate Old Covenant practices are putting Christ to an open shame. They are rejecting the sufficiency of His work. The same can essentially be said of other forms of apostasy, as well. Those who repent of sin, however, can receive mercy from God.