When I first encountered Hebrews 6, I remember being confused and scared. I had always believed “once saved, always saved.” I thought it was impossible for you to lose your salvation, but that seems to contradict the plain sense of this difficult passage.
Hebrews 6 seems to teach there may be those that genuinely believe and participate in the life of the church, and still irrevocably fall away to such an extent that some will not repent of their sin. Here’s the really disturbing part:
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. (Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV)
To be in this blatant unrepentant state is damning, and will end in fire (cf. Hebrews 6:8). Despite this dire warning the author is quick to reassure the original readers that he or she believes that they are saved–through their faith and patience and good works.
Although this passage can be disconcerting, I suppose that if it is disturbing to you or me, it’s a good sign we haven’t fallen into that state of permanent rejection of God.
I’m reminded in this passage that we never look to ourselves for assurance of our salvation, but rather to the promises of God for those that believe.
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12, ESV)
For what it’s worth, here is a passage from the Anglican liturgy that helps me when I have my own doubts:
Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.
Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our
sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2
What do you think of this passage? Where do you find your assurance of salvation?