Different Views of Hebrews 6:4-6

Hebrews warns us against apostasy. Can we say that those in the church that reject Christ have received saving grace?

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There are a number of warnings against apostasy in Hebrews. Now, a couple questions arise: One is, why does the writer of Hebrews keep addressing this, even though he says in chapter 6, "I'm persuaded better things of you." But with each of these, there are exhortations attached. He's saying, don't become like this, but rather, persevere. He calls them to persevere in a number of ways. He uses all of the examples in Hebrew 11 and then comes to the ultimate example of the faith in Hebrews 12, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and says, "You haven't even yet resisted to the shedding of your blood." So, he uses these to call people to persevere.

Another question, though, is the theological question of how we take this. And it's taken different ways by different schools of theology. For example, a Calvinist who would say, "Well, the elect, those who will be saved, will persevere. And so, if they don't persevere, they were never a part of God's elect." The Arminian would say, "Well, these people experienced salvation but they fell away, they lost it." And I think one is speaking from the standpoint of God, and one is speaking from the standpoint of human experience. And I think we have texts that address both kinds of perspectives; I think they're both in Scripture. But I think it's a warning to those who hold kind of a cheap version of, like, "Well, I prayed a prayer fifty years ago and, you know, I live however I want to, but now it's my ticket to heaven." That's not what Scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that we need to persevere.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.