Hebrews 6:4-12 – “It is Impossible…” (Part 2)

Have some in the congregation actually drifted away to the point of apostasy? Chapter 6 and chapter 10 both have strong words of warning against apostasy.  It is possible that some have, but the writer’s intention may be to drive the point home well enough that the readers do not recant their faith when the difficult persecution comes.  This is a rhetorical strategy, to describe the worst case imaginable, then show how the reader has not gone quite that far yet.

Thanks, Derri

For example, I might tell my students, “you will fail Greek if you do not study for the exam!” to encourage them to study, although I know that none of them will fail the exam because I have fully equipped them for success.  Some might struggle more than others, but I have given them the necessary tools to pass the exam.

Does the text say that it is impossible for them to repent?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  The word “impossible” does mean “not able,” but it can also mean “not capable.” Louw and Nida gloss the word, “pertaining to being impossible, presumably because of a lack of power to alter or control circumstances.”  I might use this word to describe my chances of breaking the world record in the pole vault.  It is so unlikely, so out of the range of my capabilities (not to mention the principles of science!) that I can call it “impossible.”

As we work through the passage this will become more clear, but what we seem to read here is that those that do recant and reject Jesus in a public way are not able to repent, because they are no longer capable of repenting. This is not necessarily the “unpardonable sin,” but it is a sin that is so deep and so destructive to the person who commits it that they are no longer capable of making act honest act of repentance and be restored to fellowship.

The reason that it is impossible is that the individual has “once for all” been enlightened, the same phrase used to describe Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice for sin.  Just because it is impossible for a man, it does not mean that God cannot move that person to repentance and bring them back.  He very well may let a person go, but if He wills he can bring them back.

The two most powerful words in the Christian faith are …”but God.”

12 thoughts on “Hebrews 6:4-12 – “It is Impossible…” (Part 2)

  1. I find the idea of losing your salvation very unsettling. I am a firm believer in eternal security and it is something that I find comfort and rest in. Although I do not believe that we should continue in our sin that grace may abound, I do believe that because of our fallen-ness we are going to make mistakes and we are going to fail but Jesus paid it all on the cross. When we fall He picks us back up draws us back to Him. I agree with the statement that “just because it is impossible for a man, it does not mean that God cannot move that person to repentance and bring them back. He very well may let a person go, but if He wills he can bring them back.” God in His infinite mercy and omniscience has the power and will to bring anyone back to Him and to repentance. Since God is sympathetic He will not let us fall. Hebrews 4: 15-16, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need.” God is also our helper. Hebrews 2:18, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” God understands our struggles and temptations for He was also tempted. God’s word also promises that He will provide a way out of our struggles and temptations for He is faithful. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Through it all, I believe that nothing can separate you from God once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. In our finite minds some sins are hard to find pardonable but there is no sin that is too “big” or great for God. If it is in His will, He will bring people to repentance and back to Him.

  2. Im reminded of a semi-famous song by the GBC alummi rapper Beacon Light called “Big God”. In this song Beacon raps about how the biggness of God is bigger than anything in the human realm can ever understand or comprehend.Thus leading to we can only generalize in a near foolish attempt to understand His ways. I do not know if I am fully on board with the once saved always saved like were talking about…I also find it very hard to get on the track of God’s will forceing me to come back and repent. However in that very same token I whole heartedly believe that the will of God is 100% un-escapeable. God’s will “haunts”, for lack of a better term, us for the full duration of our life. His persuit of us never ceases thus we have every chance till the end of our time to ask for redemption. But it is HIs ever failling presance that makes us repent not his imposeing will. If we are ment to be saved by Gods will then even if we falter at somepoint we will come back…

    • I can’t believe you just quoted Clahassy….still, it is a great point.

  3. hey that’s my cousin flapping away in the choir album cover! coolio, good album too

    • I forgot about that. It is a favorite, and touches on the topic of the post. A kind of passive recommendation of that band.

  4. I like the thought that the author of Hebrews saying this is a strategy technique. I believe I like that thought because I do not want to think that people can lose their salvation, it really makes my heart hurt to think that is possible. “The consequence of apostasy from Christ is that “it is impossible… to be brought back to repentance,” (Heb. 6:4-6). How horrifying to think that it is stated in the Bible that we could not have our salvation if we walked away. But, do we think that this would be in the sense, I have walked away from Christ and never sought him out again? Or is it that I have walked away and I am pleading for God to forgive my ways at the end of my life and I still will never have Him again? I just cannot think of God in that light. I view him as a merciful, all forgiving Savior. I do not think that He would deny His child a home again. “The danger of apostasy from faith in Christ begins with “drifting,” which in Hebrews 2:1 is described as not paying due attention to the message of who Jesus Christ is and what he has achieved,” (Jobe, pg.135). I think this would apply to the people who just go to church and walk out and never build a relationship. There needs to be some spiritual discipline when trying to grow, there has to be a relationship with God. If there is not a relationship with Him, did you ever really receive Him?

  5. This whole issue is one I have struggled with for quite some time. It is difficult in a section that can be easily interpreted to be very literal or stretched out far beyond necessity. Even Jobes is very double sided on this issue, giving different sides of whether or not Hebrews 6 and 10 are truly speaking of apostasy. Some believe that the impossibility is simply for earth, while others believe the single act of walking away dooms them for life and what comes after. While the concept of death being the end point is terrifying, turning away from the Lord and exactly what that means is even more so.

    I think a very common issue it what defines completely “turning away” from the Lord. I have seen Christians remain “uncertain” for a time where they are exploring other beliefs and unsure whether or not to follow God. Does this count as turning away? Is uncertainty, in a sense, arrogance to the truth since God has made it “plain to all” (Romans 1:19). I do not entirely know the answer, beyond the fact that the idea of death not truly being the end of the deadline could be terrifying. The concept that God may yet work in hardened souls is a far more comforting one, but is it perhaps too comforting?

  6. I took two really important things away from this post, both of which showed me a different perspective and have changed the way in which I read the passage. The first thing I found rather intriguing is the use of the warnings against apostasy. Rather than reading it and taking it to mean literally that there have been those that have fallen away in such a manor, it may very well be being used to communicate and emphasize the terrible consequence that may occur if this did in fact happen to someone. Personally, I believe it to be a hypothetical illustration in order to further strengthen the message of the author.

    It kind of reminded me of a warning that a parent would give to their kid. For instance, a parent may tell their child that the child will shoot their eye out if they buy and use a BB gun. While this may be the case in rare situations, nevertheless it can occur. This worst-case-scenario is similar to the warnings against apostasy we see in Hebrews 6:4-6. Verse 9 further presents the case for the warning being hypothetical by indirectly urging the audience to take a step back, relax, and not worry too much. The author says that even though they are speaking of rather serious things, he thinks better of those who the book is directed towards and in a way is not worried about them falling away (Hebrews 6:9-12).

    The second important thing I took away from this post is the different interpretation or meaning of the word impossible. I typically have thought of something being impossible as not able to be done in any time or in any way by anyone, it just simply is not possible; however, I like that you added another definition saying that it could be interpreted as “not capable.” This really helps clarify the passage for me and helps me to understand it better. It is not that the act of returning to repentance itself is impossible altogether instead, it is simply impossible for man. God is capable of doing the impossible if He so chooses.

  7. The thought that a person becoming an apostate disqualifies them from returning to God’s family has never sat well with me. I was raised Wesleyan and whenever someone turned from the faith the response was always something that communicated ease in apostasy. Family members heard of others declaring a conversion to atheism and shrugged their shoulders and began praying for their return before their death for the sake of their eternal lives. Any time a friend or family member recanted their faith I felt as if they had not been experiencing the same thing I was, otherwise they would love to stay! On a side note, if you can’t tell I think I was a mini Calvinist at a young age in a Wesleyan Church which makes for interesting stories.

    I agree that the translation of Ἀδύνατον as incapable instead of impossible helps a lot. In my opinion, it would assist us in teaching this passage practically. My goal would be for others to understand these warnings as worst-case scenarios of each person’s heart, rather than God’s biggest pet peeve which results in a removal from the “club”. I believe our hearts would be extended to those who apostate if we made the small acknowledgment that this kind of denial is incredibly deep and is likely not a snap judgment. I return to the way I ended my comment on part 1, what then is the responsibility of the Church when it comes to equipping the people for hardships? And how are we doing at that?

  8. This point is very unsettling as a believer that our eternity isn’t secure. However, faith isn’t supposed to be comfortable. We as believers are not called to comfort, only to find comfort in him. A point that Jobes brings up is incredible. We as believers are called to repent for our sin. It is not merely enough to just repent we must also be transformed from that repentance. If we deliberately continue sinning after gaining the knowledge it is essentially equivalent to the same meaning as what Hebrews 6:4-6 states. Which says, “it is impossible for those… who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” There are ideas that when people remain uncertain and deciding on their faith it is also looked at as turning away from God. Which in this stance of the verse that this post stated raises a lot of troubles with certainty in this faith. However, there is hope in the fact that God works in the hearts of those that are hardened. He gave the Pharoah in Exodus continuous tries to unharden his heart before officially punishing him and the people. This and part 1’s whole idea of the posts is very hard for me to in any sense interpret the true meaning. I can only formulate my own opinions based on readings and most importantly what the Bible itself says. In my opinion I believe that we as believers have security in our faith as long as we are continually longing after a relationship with God. We are not lost when we make mistakes and sin, no one on this earth is perfect. We cannot believe the idea that once we make mistakes and lose sight of Christ we are out of chances of Heaven, this does not make sense of a God so loving and forgiving as ours. Countless verses throughout scripture speak on the forgiveness of God and how we are not lost in our transgressions but can come back to Him and further our relationship with Him.

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