Persevering And Falling Away: A Reexamination Of Hebrews 6:4–6 -- By: R. Bruce Compton
DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996) p. 135
Persevering And Falling Away:
A Reexamination Of Hebrews 6:4–6
* Dr. Compton is Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and yet have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance since they crucify for themselves the Son of God and hold him up to contempt (Heb 6:4–6).1
The warning passage in Hebrews 6:4–6 continues to be a notorious crux in New Testament interpretation. The difficulty comes in harmonizing the description in vv. 4–5 of those who have “tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit” with the statement in v. 6 about their “falling away” and not being able to be brought back to repentance. The juxtaposition of these verses has raised a number of questions. Are the experiences predicated in vv. 4–5 tantamount to salvation, or are they describing something that approximates salvation but falls short of it? If vv. 4–5 are describing salvation, is v. 6 describing the loss of salvation? Furthermore, why does v. 6 say that it is “impossible” to restore those who fall away, or is restoration possible? And, lastly, what precisely is the danger being warned about in these verses? Are those in view being threatened with the loss of reward or with eternal condemnation, with hell itself?
The purpose of this article is to survey the views found in the commentaries and related literature on this passage2 and to update the
DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996) p. 136
arguments for the view that supports both the eternal security of the believer and the need for believers to persevere in the faith.3
The various interpretations of this passage in contemporary literature may be conveniently catalogued under four views.4 The views themselves are generally distinguished according to their understandin...
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