For it is impossible to restore again to repentance 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, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned (Hebrews 6:4-8, ESV).
How troublesome this passage is for many Christians! Yet, as we delve into this portion, we will see how much more troublesome it is for those in our churches who are unregenerate. He warns them of the dangers of settling for something less than full commitment to our Lord and his Word.
To read this at first glance, this passage seems to affirm that one may genuinely lose their salvation. Notice the words used to describe these individuals: they have tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come. These individuals seem like Christians, do they not? After all, does not Psalm 34:8 say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” These individuals have tasted and have seen the Spirit’s work and Word — why issue this warning? These individuals are missing a crucial ingredient to the Christian walk: a persevering faith.
Hebrews 3:14 tells us, “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (ESV). We will demonstrate our faith in Christ by persevering. Jesus even said in Mark 13:13, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13b, ESV). Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Through Christ’s atoning work, he has completed that salvific work “for all time those who are being sanctified.” Those who are truly his will persevere. Those who are not truly his will not persevere.
How frightening it is to think that we could be under the influence of the preaching of God’s Word, be surrounded by those who are worshiping and praising our Savior, and even seen and been a recipient of the good things of God that come from associating with his people — and then to turn away from these undeniable evidences. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) noted in his book Religious Affections:
Many people heard the Word of God, but what they hear has no effect on them and neither their natures nor their behavior is changed, because they are not emotionally affected by what they hear. They hear of God’s infinite goodness and mercy; they hear of the great works of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness; they especially hear of the unspeakable love of God and Christ, and of the great things that Christ has done and suffered; they also hear the commands of God, His gracious counsel and warnings, and the gospel’s sweet invitations. They hear all these things, and yet they remain as they were before, with no change in their feelings, because they are not emotionally affected by what they hear.
Hebrews 6:7-8 gives an important analogy in helping us understand this difficult passage:
For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned (Hebrews 6:7-8, ESV).
Does this not remind us of Jesus’ words in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:18-23? Four types of soils receiving the same type of seed, yet only one type of soil could receive that seed and bear fruit. Charles Ryrie correctly tells us, “Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.” While the Christian will not always be fruitful, nor will their fruit always be evident to me nor be to the degree I expect it — but persevering faith as well as the fruit of that faith will be present.
On Wednesday, July 18, our church will offer you a time to diagnose your spiritual health. Don Whitney, professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, wrote an incredibly helpful and penetrating book entitled Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. When we go to our physician, he asks us numerous questions in order to give a proper diagnosis of our physical well-being. These questions are penetrating and personal — yet he must ask those questions because he is qualified to help remedy whatever problems may arise.
Why is it we put so much trust in an earthly physician and fail to come to our Great Physician, Jesus Christ, so he may probe and prod our spiritual condition? We must continually ask ourselves these ten questions:
• Do you thirst for God?
• Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
• Are you more loving?
• Are you more sensitive to God’s Presence?
• Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
• Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
• Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
• Do you still grieve over sin?
• Are you a quick forgiver?
• Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?
How do we answer these questions? These questions will help gauge whether we are moving on to maturity in Christ.
As you sit here this morning, has the Holy Spirit shown his light on your heart? If so, what is he showing you? Are you settling for the basics in your spiritual walk? Do you know the basics? If so, are you comfortable where you are spiritually, or do you desire to strive toward the Holy One who is Jesus Christ?
(This is a portion of a sermon I preached on July 1, 2007, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click on the link in the sidebar: “Why Settle?”)