Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

This is one of the difficult passages in the New Testament to interpret. Many people have wondered what it means, with likewise as many different ideas. The sentence is rather long and complex. We can start by looking at the simple sentence: “It is impossible to restore to repentance.” The author links this idea to the previous verses with the word “for.” The impossibility of restoration is related to the failure to mature in the faith. If we are not going forward, we will be tempted to go backwards.

The target of this saying are “those who have once been enlightened.” The light of the gospel has come upon these people but they have failed to grow. The author gives examples or descriptions of what this enlightening involved for this type of people. 1) They tasted the heavenly gift. This could refer to the gift of new life and salvation. 2) They shared in the Holy Spirit. They have experienced the power and peace that comes from the Spirit. Their experience has been real. 3) They have tasted of the goodness of the world of God. They know the Bible to be true and have experienced how the preaching of it transforms lives. 4) They have also tasted of the coming future. They have experienced heaven on earth. This is an extensive list. These people are not casual observers but have been intimately involved in the life of the church. The problem is that they have turned their backs on all this and have “fallen away.” This was not accidental but it could happen gradually. Any fire will burn out without fuel and attention. That is why Paul wrote to Timothy to keep fanning into flame the gift of God in him (2 Timothy 1:6).

The reason it is impossible to restore people like this is because “they are crucifying once again the Son of God.” They are spurning and mocking what Jesus has done on the cross for them. They have rejected the only way of salvation. this is a strong warning for the readers of this letter who were tempted to go back to the old ways. They basically burn the only bridge to God by turning their backs on the Son of God.

The difficult word in these verses is “impossible” or “inability.” Is there ever hope for people who backslide? The Bible has many stories of people who return to God. That is the point of many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. The problem is when a person keeps walking the wrong way. The author is using strong rhetoric to warn his readers about the danger of walking away.

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