A Gracious warning against apostasy

Vaclav's picture

“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)

These words, possibly written by the apostle Paul, were addressed to Hebrew Christians. They are a stern warning against apostasy.

John Calvin believed that these Hebrew Christians had not abandoned Christ, yet, since Hebrews 6:6 says “if they fall away” (Geneva Bible).

Here’s what Calvin said about the reason why the apostle wrote the strong warning against apostasy to the Hebrew Christians: "the danger was pointed out by him in time, that they might be on their guard...Satan stealthily creeps on us...so that when we go astray we know not that we are going astray".

Calvin saw in this passage that the apostle used the strong warning against falling away “in time, that they might be on their guard.” In other words, this is a warning used by God – as a means of grace – to instill the fear of God into the Hebrew Christians so they would take heed and not fall away.

Aware he is using strong language, the apostle didn’t want the Hebrew Christians to get discouraged and despair. So he gave them a big hug in verse 9 and beautifully encouraged them by saying he is sure they are beloved of God and are safe and secure in Jesus: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.” (Hebrews 6:9 ESV)

Here’s an illustration: When I cross the road, I hold my son’s hand, and I say to him, ‘Son do not let go of my hand! Because if you let go you may be hit by a car and die!’ What response am I expecting from my son?

A firmer grip of my hand.

He knows I am holding his hand, but I want him to have a certain respect for the road, and I want him to grip my hand more firmly and not let go. That’s what God does with his children when he warns them. He holds us tight and won’t let go of us to the end, but by warning us he wants us to respond with holding tight to him to the end, and not fall away. Therefore believers in Jesus “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5 Geneva Bible). God holds us by his power and we hold him by faith.