Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4–12 -- By: Scott McGee Coley

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 20:3 (Summer 2003)
Article: Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4–12
Author: Scott McGee Coley


Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4–12

Scott McGee Coley

Special Student
Southeastern College at Wake Forest
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587
B.A. Student in Philosophy
Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia 24502

One of the most puzzling passages in all of Scripture, Hebrews 6, raises the question, “Can a Christian lose his salvation?” Because it is a confusing passage, one should not base his view of eternal security upon this one section. Soteriology should be founded upon the canon of the entire Bible, which indicates that salvation once gained cannot be lost. Nevertheless, the passage in question has led to many different conclusions concerning the permanence of salvation, whether it can be lost, and if so regained, and by whose power. The following are the viable theories concerning this passage: First, the writer is speaking of people who have experienced real salvation and have lost that salvation; second, he could be speaking of individuals who have never been saved, but only a part of the church; or third, the writer only intended the apostasy as hypothetical and the people under examination are saved.1

Guthrie, who adheres to the theory that the apostate in question was never saved but only a part of the church, gives the illustration of one who is immunized by vaccine against a particular disease. A vaccine is a small dose of the disease which one is trying to ward off. In much the same way, it is possible in the spiritual realm for one to be “immunized” against Christianity “by being inoculated with something which, for the time being, looks so like the real thing that it is generally mistaken for it.”2

Erickson views this idea as difficult to accept: “The vividness of the description, and particularly the statement ‘who have shared in the Holy Spirit,’ argues forcefully against denying that the people in view are (at least for a time) regenerate.”3 F. F. Bruce, however, claims that the phrase in question does leave room for doubt as to whether or not the apostate’s salvation experience is genuine. He cites an example of one well-established member of the early church, Simon Magnus, who had heard the gospel, been baptized, and had, “presumably,” received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. (Conceivably those referred to in Hebrews could have met all the criteria laid out in verses 4 and 5.) Despite all appearances of a strong Christian faith, Peter refers to him as “in the gall of bitt...

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