Wednesday, 24 October 2018
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 6:4
To understand what is stated here, the context must be considered. The letter is written to Hebrew Christians, not to the Gentile-led church. The letters of Paul which are prescriptive for the dispensation of grace are found from Romans to Philemon. Secondly, the temple was standing at the time of the letter to the Hebrews as can be determined from other verses within the letter. Thirdly, the layout of the Bible reveals that by placing Hebrews where it is, it is actually specifically directed to the Hebrews of the end-times, after the church age. The letters of Hebrews, James, and Peter all come after Paul’s letters, and are all specifically directed to end times Jews. The study is long, but when seen laid out, it does become clear. With this understanding, the words of this verse are not directed to the Gentile-led church age, nor to individual salvation. Paul’s letters clearly and definitively show that one cannot lose their salvation. As nothing in Scripture contradicts another passage, then the context must be understood to show what is being relayed. With this knowledge at hand, the words can then be properly evaluated.
“For it is impossible.” The words themselves call to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” However, some things are, in fact, impossible with God. He cannot violate one of His own attributes. He is righteous and He cannot, therefore, commit unrighteousness. Such is the case with all of His attributes. What Jesus was referring to were things which are not logically or morally impossible for God. Such is the case with spiritual matters like salvation. Man cannot save himself through his own merits, but man can be saved through the merits of Christ.
“…for those.” The words are not in the singular, but are rather in the plural, “those.” This will continue throughout the next three verses. It is speaking about a collective whole.
“…who were once enlightened.” This is a metaphor which is used in Hebrews 10:32 where it is again in the plural. There it applies in a general manner to all who are addressed. Here it is speaking of a certain group who have been enlightened. From this, the words will explain what that enlightenment means.
“…and having tasted.” To “taste” something in Scripture is to experience or understand that thing. In Hebrews 2:9, Jesus “tasted” death for everyone. He experienced death, but it was also something that was, at least in the case of believers, something that could be tasted vicariously. Some will never taste death because He died on our behalf (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
“…the heavenly gift.” There is a parallelism with the words here, and the words of chapter 2. In verse 3, it speaks of salvation (tasted); and in verse 4, it speaks of gifts of the Holy Spirit (the heavenly gift). The heavenly gifts, those of the Holy Spirit, are the proof of salvation. These were imparted to the Jews of Acts 2. In verse 2:38, Peter, while speaking to the Jews of Israel (not the Gentile-led church) promised that they would likewise receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus. This is something that occurred differently (in order and in requirement) in Acts 8 with the Samaritans, and in Acts 10 with the Gentiles in Caesarea. The author of Hebrews is writing to this same group of people, the Hebrews, to instruct them in how to properly understand what reception of this gift then means to them as a collective group.
“…and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They (the collective whole, but not necessarily every one of them) tasted of the gifts of the Spirit because they had partaken of the Holy Spirit. Those who so tasted can only mean true believers. When we partake of something, we participate in that thing. The Holy Spirit is the Gift, and the Gift itself is what bears the heavenly quality.
This is the state of things so far in the first of these three rather complicated verses. “Those who have tasted the heavenly gift” are those who have understood the message which they heard – whether they collectively accepted it or not. They have, in their mind, all the knowledge sufficient to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ. Theirs is no longer a problem with comprehending the message, but the collective heart hasn’t been touched – something which must occur.
Those “who have shared in the Holy Spirit” are those who have seen the effective power of God displayed in the lives of the converted among them. They may have personally witnessed the miracles and power of Jesus and/or the apostles, or they may have seen the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in the conversion of another – they “have shared in” this experience. This does not necessarily mean that all of those in this collective have received the Holy Spirit personally.
Life application: When reading the Bible, it is good to pay attention to the context. Who is being addressed? Under what circumstances are the words being written? Are the words speaking about individuals or a group of people? Does the verse stand alone, or is it a part of a greater whole? Keeping things in context is a great way of keeping you from forming a pretext. Stop, think, read commentaries by sound theologians, and ask the Lord to direct you as you consider what is being said.
Heavenly Father, how wonderful it is to have shared in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By faith in Christ, and what He has done, we are granted Him as the guarantee of our redemption. In You, a guarantee is more than just words. It is an absolute assurance that will never be walked back on. Thank You for the surety we possess, even when we fall short in our walk toward glory. Amen.