Does Hebrews 6:4-6 mean that a person cannot become a Christian again?
Hebrews 6:4-6 has been a difficult passage for many Christians because they are concerned they can lose their salvation. They are worried that they will have to become a Christian again. Others are concerned that they cannot become a Christian again. What does this passage teach about salvation?
The Meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6
Our first goal is to understand the meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)
What is confusing about this passage to many Christians are five important words or phrases. An understanding of these words and phrases unlocks the meaning of this passage. The table below summarizes the meaning of these key words and phrases.
The message of Hebrews 6:4-6 is that there were some individuals who were associating with Christians. They had experienced life with Christians. They had been attending church, heard the Word of God taught, witnessed the baptism of true Christians, observed the joy, peace and thrill experienced by Christians but they, themselves, had never believed in Christ and given their lives to Him (Romans 10:9-10). They had experienced everything externally, but nothing had ever happened internally. They were observers only. Anyone who has had full knowledge and fully observed the joy of Christians and then rejects Christ, what more can be done? The answer is nothing! They had knowledge their sin but never accepted Jesus. What more can be done to bring them to Christ, if they finally reject everything? The answer is it is impossible to bring them back.
The Meaning of Hebrews 6:7-8
Christians often ignore Hebrews 6:7-8 in the process of trying to understand the meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6. The writer of Hebrews explains verses 4-6 with an illustration. That is why this illustration helps us understand v. 4-6.
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. Hebrews 6:7-8 (NASB)
In this illustration the rain falls to the ground and plants start to grow. The rain symbolizes the Word of God. This is similar to the parable of the sower of the seed. But in this illustration there are two types of plants that grow. Some plants are useful and the others are not. When we are told that the second kind of plants will be cursed and burned, we are to understand that these plants symbolize non-Christians. Now do you see the message of the illustration? The message is that if someone has been exposed to all the spiritual benefits and does not become a useful plant, then that person will be cursed and burned. That is, those who had been exposed and participated in all of the blessings described in verse 4-6 should have been useful vegetation; but if they are only thorns, then they will be cursed and burned.
The Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected Christ are good examples of individuals described in Hebrews 6:4-8. They heard Jesus teach and saw His miracles, signs and wonders which were performed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them He was God (John 5:18; 8:56-59; 10:31-33) but they rejected Him anyway. They had full knowledge about Christ but finally rejected Christ (John 12:37). At that point, what more can been done? Nothing, because they had seen and experienced it all.
Therefore, if someone says, “I turned away from God but I want to come back. Does Hebrews 6:4-6 mean that I cannot return to God?” The answer to the question has two parts.
The first part of the answer is that if a person wants to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, God will welcome them with open arms. In Jeremiah 29:13-14 God gives this promise,
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. “I will be found by you . . .” Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NASB)
That is, anyone who desires to have their sins forgiven and give their life to God is welcome. It is important to note that the evidence of true faith is a desire to give one’s life to God (Romans 10:9-10).
The second part of the answer is that those who reject Christ completely will never want to return to Christ. They have made their decision and it is final. They are going to hell. Therefore, anyone who wants to respond and accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, is not being described in Hebrews 6:4-8. Hebrews 6;4-8 describes someone who has finally and totally rejected Christ forever.
Suggested Links:Third Warning: Do Not Reject Christ, part 1 - Hebrews 6:1-6
Third Warning: Do Not Reject Christ, part 2 - Hebrews 6:7-20
The Often Forgotten Ingredient - Hebrews 6:1-12