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Eternal security, also known as “once saved, always saved,” is the belief that from the moment anyone becomes a Christian, they will be saved and will not lose salvation. Once a person is truly “born of God” or “regenerated” by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nothing in heaven or earth “shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God” (Romans 8:39), and thus nothing can reverse the condition of having become a Christian. Is this true? Hebrews 6:4-6 is a major proof text either way.
Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then [after that] have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame.
Fall Away, Forsake, or Turn Away: (Gr. parapiptō) The sense of parapiptō is to fall away or forsake the truth.–Heb. 6:6.
Renew, Restore, or Bring Back: (Gr. anakainizō) The sense of anakainizō is to cause change to a previous state, to start anew.–Heb. 6:6.
On this text, M. R. De Haan in Studies in Hebrews correctly observes,
If that is not a description of true, born-again believers, then language means nothing, and we cannot understand anything in the Word of God anymore. Five marks of the believer are given:
- They were once enlightened.
- They had tasted the heavenly gift.
- They were partakers of the Holy Ghost.
- They had tasted the good Word of God.
- They had knowledge of prophecy.
Hebrews 10:26-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 For if we [Paul and the born-again Jewish Christians] go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
This clearly states that one can lose salvation. Paul says “we,” meaning that he includes himself and the born again Jewish Christians that he is writing to, both needing to remain faithful, which suggests that they have the free will to be unfaithful.
Albert Barnes on Hebrews 6:4-6
Hebrews 4:4. For it is impossible. It is needless to say that the passage here (Hebrews 4:4–6), has given occasion to much controversy, and that the opinions of commentators and of the Christian world are yet greatly divided in regard to its meaning. On the one hand, it is held that the passage is not intended to describe those who are true Christians, but only those who have been awakened and enlightened, and who then fall back; and on the other it is maintained that it refers to those who are true Christians, and who then apostatize. The contending parties have been Calvinists and Arminians; each party, in general, interpreting it according to the views which are held on the question about falling from grace. I shall endeavor, as well as I may be able, to state the true meaning of the passage, by an examination of the words and phrases in detail, observing here, in general, that it seems to me that it refers to true Christians; that the object is to keep them from apostasy, and that it teaches that if they should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew them again or to save them. That it refers to true Christians will be apparent from these considerations. (1.) Such is the sense which would strike the great mass of readers. Unless there were some theory to defend, the great body of readers of the New Testament would consider the expression here used as describing true Christians. (2.) The connection demands such an interpretation. The apostle was addressing Christians. He was endeavoring to keep them from apostasy. The object was not to keep those who were awakened and enlightened from apostasy, but it was to preserve those who were already in the Church of Christ, from going back to perdition. The kind of exhortation appropriate to those who were awakened and convicted, but who were not truly converted, would be to become converted; not to warn them of the danger of falling away. Besides, the apostle would not have said of such persons that they could not be converted and saved. But of sincere Christians it might be said with the utmost propriety, that they could not be renewed again and be saved if they should fall away—because they rejected the only plan of salvation after they had tried it, and renounced the only scheme of redemption after they had tasted its benefits. If that plan could not save them, what could? If they neglected that, by what other means could they be brought to God? (3.) This interpretation accords, as I suppose, with the exact meaning of the phrases which the apostle uses. An examination of those phrases will show that he refers to those who are sincere believers. The phrase “it is impossible” obviously and properly denotes absolute impossibility. It has been contended, by Storr and others, that it denotes only great difficulty. But the meaning which would at first strike all readers would be that the thing could not be done; that it was not merely very difficult, but absolutely impracticable. The word—ἀδύνατον—occurs only in the New Testament in the following places, in all which it denotes that the thing could not be done; Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27, “With men this is impossible;” that is, men could not save one who was rich, implying that the thing was wholly beyond human power. Luke 18:27, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God”—referring to the same case; Acts 14:8, “A man of Lystra, impotent in his feet;” that is, who was wholly unable to walk; Rom. 8:3, “For what the law could not do;” what was absolutely impossible for the law to accomplish; that is, to save men; Heb. 6:18, “In which it was impossible for God to lie; Heb. 10:4, “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin;” and Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” in all of these instances denoting absolute impossibility. These passages show that it is not merely a great difficulty to which the apostle refers, but that he meant to say that the thing was wholly impracticable; that it could not be done. And if this be the meaning, then it proves that if those referred to should fall away, they could never be renewed. Their case was hopeless, and they must perish:—that is, if a true Christian should apostatize, or fall from grace, he never could be renewed again, and could not be saved. Paul did not teach that he might fall away and be renewed again as often as he pleased. He had other views of the grace of God than this; and he meant to teach, that if a man should once cast off true religion, his case was hopeless, and he must perish; and by this solemn consideration—the only one that would be effectual in such a case—he meant to guard them against the danger of apostasy.
For those who were once enlightened. The phrase “to be enlightened” is one that is often used in the Scriptures, and may be applied either to one whose understanding has been enlightened to discern his duty, though he is not converted (comp. Note John 1:9); or more commonly to one who is truly converted; see Note on Eph. 1:18. It does not of necessity refer to true Christians, though it cannot be denied that it more obviously suggests the idea that the heart is truly changed, and that it is more commonly used in that sense; comp. Ps. 19:8. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of knowledge, holiness, and happiness, and there is no impropriety here in understanding it in accordance with the more decisive phrases which follow, as referring to true Christians.
And have tasted. To taste of a thing means, according to the usage in the Scriptures, to experience, or to understand it. The expression is derived from the fact that the taste is one of the means by which we ascertain the nature or quality of an object; comp. Matt. 16:28; John 8:51; Heb. 2:9. The proper idea here is, that they had experienced the heavenly gift, or had learned its nature.
The heavenly gift. The gift from heaven, or which pertains to heaven; comp. Note John 4:10. The expression properly means some favor or gift which has descended from heaven and may refer to any of the benefits which God has conferred on man in the work of redemption. It might include the plan of salvation; the forgiveness of sins; the enlightening, renewing, and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, or any one of the graces which that Spirit imparts. The use of the article, however—“the heavenly gift,”—limits it to something special, as being conferred directly from heaven, and the connection would seem to demand that we understand it of some peculiar favor which could be conferred only on the children of God. It is an expression which may be applied to sincere Christians; it is at least doubtful whether it can with propriety be applied to any other.
And were made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Partakers of the influences of the Holy Spirit—for it is only in this sense that we can partake of the Holy Spirit. We partake of food when we share it with others; we partake of pleasure when we enjoy it with others; we partake of spoils in war when they are divided between us and others. So we partake of the influences of the Holy Spirit when we share these influences conferred on his people. This is not language which can properly be applied to anyone but a true Christian; and though it is true that an unpardoned sinner may be enlightened and awakened by the Holy Spirit, yet the language here used is not such as would be likely to be employed to describe his state. It is too clearly expressive of those influences which renew and sanctify the soul. It is as elevated language as can be used to describe the joy of the Christian and is undoubtedly used in that sense here. If it is not, it would be difficult to find any language which would properly express the condition of a renewed heart. Grotius, Bloomfield, and some others, understood this of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. But this is not necessary and does not accord well with the general description here, which evidently pertains to the mass of those whom the apostle addressed.
Hebrews 4:5. And have tasted the good word of God. That is, either the doctrines which he teaches, and which are good, or pleasant to the soul; or the word of God which is connected with good, that is, which promises good. The former seems to me to the correct meaning—that the word of God, or the truth which he taught, was itself a good. It was that which the soul desired, and in which it found comfort and peace; comp. Ps. 119:103; 141:6. The meaning here is, that they had experienced the excellency of the truth of God; they had seen and enjoyed its beauty. This is language which cannot be applied to an impenitent sinner. He has no relish for the truth of God; sees no beauty in it; derives no comfort from it. It is only the true Christian who has pleasure in its contemplation, and who can be said to “taste” and enjoy it. This language describes a state of mind of which every sincere Christian is conscious. It is that of pleasure in the word of God. He loves the Bible; he loves the truth of God that is preached. He sees an exquisite beauty in that truth. It is not merely in its poetry; in its sublimity; in its argument; but he has now a taste or relish for the truth itself, which he had not before his conversion. Then he might have admired the Bible for its beauty of language or for its poetry; he might have been interested in preaching for its eloquence or power of argument; but now his love is for the truth; comp. Ps. 19:10. There is no book that he so much delights in as the Bible; and no pleasure is so pure as that which he has in contemplating the truth; comp. Josh. 21:45; 23:15.
And the powers of the world to come. Or of the “coming age.” “The age to come” was a phrase in common use among the Hebrews, to denote the future dispensation, the times of the Messiah. The same idea was expressed by the phrases “the last times,” “the end of the world,” &c. which are of so frequent occurrence in the Scriptures. They all denoted an age which was to succeed the old dispensation; the time of the Messiah; or the period in which the affairs of the world would be wound up; see Notes on Isa. 2:2. Here it evidently refers to that period, and the meaning is, that they had participated in the peculiar blessings to be expected in that dispensation—to wit, in the clear views of the way of salvation, and the influences of the Holy Spirit on the soul. The word “powers” here implies that in that time there would be some extraordinary manifestation of the power of God. An unusual energy would be put forth to save men, particularly as evinced by the agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart. Of this “power” the apostle here says they of whom he spoke had partaken. They had been brought under the awakening and renewing energy which God put forth under the Messiah, in saving the soul. They had experienced the promised blessings of the new and last dispensation; and the language here is such as appropriately describes Christians, and as indeed can be applicable to no other. It may be remarked respecting the various expressions used here (Heb. 4:4-5), (1.) that they are such as properly denote a renewed state. They obviously describe the condition of a Christian; and though it may be not certain that any one of them if taken by itself would prove that the person to whom it was applied was truly converted, yet taken together it is clear that they are designed to describe such a state. If they are not, it would be difficult to find any language which would be properly descriptive of the character of a sincere Christian. I regard the description here, therefore, as that which is clearly designed to denote the state of those who were born again and were the true children of God; and it seems plain to me that no other interpretation would have ever been thought of if this view had not seemed to conflict with the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.” (2.) There is a regular gradation here from the first elements of piety in the soul to its highest developments; and, whether the apostle so designed it or not, the language describes the successive steps by which a true Christian advance to the highest stage of Christian experience. The mind is (a) enlightened; then (b) tastes the gift of heaven, or has some experience of it; then (c) it is made to partake of the influences of the Holy Ghost; then (d) there is experience of the excellence and loveliness of the word of God; and (e) finally there is a participation of the full “powers” of the new dispensation; of the extraordinary energy which God puts forth in the gospel to sanctify and save the soul.
Hebrews 4:6. If they shall fall away. Literally, “and having fallen away.” “There is no if in the Greek in this place—“having fallen away.” Dr. J. P. Wilson. It is not an affirmation that any had actually fallen away, or that in fact they would do it; but the statement is, that on the supposition that they had fallen away, it would be impossible to renew them again. It is the same as supposing a case which in fact might never occur:—as if we should say, “had a man fallen down a precipice it would be impossible to save him;” or “had the child fallen into the stream, he would certainly have been drowned.” But though this literally means, “having fallen away,” yet the sense in the connection in which it stands is not improperly expressed by our common translation. The Syriac has given a version which is remarkable, not as a correct translation, but as showing what was the prevailing belief in the time in which it was made, (probably, the first or second century), in regard to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. “For it is impossible that they who have been baptized, and who have tasted the gift, which is from heaven, and have received the spirit of holiness, and have tasted the good word of God, and the power of the coming age, should again sin, so that they should be renewed again to repentance, and again crucify the Son of God and put him to ignominy.” The word rendered “fall away” means properly “to fall near by anyone;” “to fall in with or meet;” and thus to fall aside from, to swerve or deviate from; and here means undoubtedly to apostatize from, and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity, or a going back to a state of Judaism, heathenism, or sin. The Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is material to remark here that the apostle does not say that any true Christian ever had fallen away. He makes a statement of what would occur on the supposition that such a thing should happen—but a statement may be made of what would occur on the supposition that a certain thing should take place, and yet it be morally certain that the event never would happen. It would be easy to suppose what would happen if the ocean should overflow a continent, or if the sun should cease to rise, and still there be entire certainty that such an event never would occur.
To renew them again. Implying that they had been before renewed or had been true Christians. The word “again”—πάλιν—supposes this; and this passage, therefore, confirms the considerations suggested above, showing that they were true Christians who were referred to. They had once repented, but it would be impossible to bring them to this state again. This declaration of course to be read in connection with the first clause of Heb.2:4, “It is impossible to renew again to repentance those who once were true Christians should they fall away.” I know of no declaration more unambiguous than this. It is a positive declaration. It is not that it would be very difficult to do it; or that it would be impossible for man to do it, though it might be done by God; it is an unequivocal and absolute declaration that it would be utterly impracticable that it should be done by anyone, or by any means; and this, I have no doubt, is the meaning of the apostle. Should a Christian fall from grace, he must perish. He never could be saved. The reason of this the apostle immediately adds.
Seeing. This word is not in the Greek, though the sense is expressed. The Greek literally is, “having again crucified to themselves the Son of God.” The reason here given is, that the crime would be so great, and they would so effectually exclude themselves from the only plan of salvation, that they could not be saved. There is but one way of salvation. Having tried that, and then renounced it, how could they then be saved? The case is like that of a drowning man. If there was but one plank by which he could be saved, and he should get on that and then push it away and plunge into the deep, he must die. Or if there was but one rope by which the shore could be reached from a wreck, and he should cut that and cast it off, he must die. Or if a man were sick, and there was but one kind of medicine that could possibly restore him, and he should deliberately dash that away, he must die. So in religion. There is but one way of salvation. If a man deliberately rejects that, he must perish.
They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh. Our translators have rendered this as if the Greek were—ἀνασταυροῦντας πάλιν—crucify again, and so it is rendered by Chrysostom, by Tyndale, Coverdale, Beza, Luther, and others. But this is not properly the meaning of the Greek. The word ἀνασταυρόω—is an intensive word and is employed instead of the usual word “to crucify” only to denote emphasis. It means that such an act of apostasy would be equivalent to crucifying him in an aggravated manner. Of course this is to be taken figuratively. It could not be literally true that they would thus crucify the Redeemer. The meaning is, that their conduct would be as if they had crucified him; it would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outweighs any other deed of human guilt. Yet the apostle says that should they who had been true Christians fall away and reject him, they would be guilty of a similar crime. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there, they would have joined in the cry “crucify him, crucify him.” The intensity and aggravation of such a crime perhaps the apostle meant to indicate by the intensive or emphatic ἀνὰ in the word ἀνασταυροῦντας. Such an act would render their salvation impossible, because (1.) the crime would be aggravated beyond that of those who rejected him and put him to death—for they knew not what they did; and (2.) because it would be a rejection of the only possible plan of salvation after they had had experience of its power and known its efficacy. The phrase “to themselves,” Tyndale renders, “as concerning themselves.” Others, “as far as in them lies,” or as far as they have ability to do. Others, “to their own heart.” Probably Grotius has suggested the true sense. “They do it for themselves. They make the act their own. It is as if they did it themselves; and they are to be regarded as having done the deed.” So we make the act of another our own when we authorize it beforehand or approve of it after it is done.
And put him to an open shame. Make him a public example; or hold him up as worthy of death on the cross; see the same word explained in the Notes on Matt. 1:19, in the phrase “make her a public example.” The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Their apostasy and rejection of the Savior would be like holding him up publicly as deserving the infamy and ignominy of the cross. A great part of the crime attending the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, consisted in exhibiting him to the passing multitude as deserving the death of a malefactor. Of that sin they would partake who should reject him, for they would thus show that they regarded his religion as an imposture and would in a public manner hold him up as worthy only of rejection and contempt. Such, it seems to me, is the fair meaning of this much-disputed passage—a passage which would never have given so much perplexity if it had not been supposed that the obvious interpretation would interfere with some prevalent articles of theology. The passage proves that if true Christians should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew and save them. If then it should be asked whether I believe that any true Christian ever did, or ever will fall from grace, and wholly lose his religion, I would answer unhesitatingly, no; comp. Notes on John 10:27, 28; Rom. 8:38, 39; Gal. 6:4. If then it be asked what the use of a warning like this was, I answer, (1.) It would show the great sin of apostasy from God if it were to occur. It is proper to state the greatness of an act of sin, though it might never occur, in order to show how it would be regarded by God. (2.) Such a statement might be one of the most effectual means of preserving from apostasy. To state that a fall from a precipice would cause certain death, would be one of the most certain means of preserving one from falling; to affirm that arsenic would be certainly fatal, is one of the most effectual means of preventing its being taken; to know that fire certainly destroys, is one of the most sure checks from the danger. Thousands have been preserved from going over the Falls of Niagara by knowing that there would be no possibility of escape; and so effectual has been this knowledge that it has preserved all from such a catastrophe, except the very few who have gone over by accident. So in religion. The knowledge that apostasy would be fatal, and there could be no hope of being saved should it once occur would be a more effectual preventive of the danger than all the other means that could be used. If a man believed that it would be an easy matter to be restored again, should he apostatize, he would feel little solicitude in regard to it; and it has occurred in fact, that they who suppose that this may occur, have manifested little of the care to walk in the paths of strict religion, which should have been evinced. (3.) It may be added that the means used by God to preserve his people from apostasy, have been entirely effectual. There is no evidence that one has ever fallen away who was a true Christian, (comp. John 10:27, 28, and 1 John 2:19); and to the end of the world it will be true that the means which he uses to keep his people from apostasy will not in a single instance fail.
Edward D. Andrews Note: If I were to stop there it would be theological bias on my part because Albert Barnes just laid out the best case that the author of Hebrews, Paul, said of Hebrews 6:4-6 that these verses are explicitly referring to true Christians, not those who are awakened and enlightened, then fall back. However, it is Albert Barnes that goes on to commit theological bias. If one state what a verse is referring to, what it is saying and then that jeopardizes a favored doctrinal view, such as eternal security (the holy one’s perseverance), so they go on to say, how can we interpret this so that it still supports my favored doctrinal view. The apostle Peter had this to say about Paul’s letters, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16) So, Albert Barnes started the next section of our excursion by saying aloud that his intention is to reign in what Hebrews 6:4-6 is saying and twist it until he gets it to support his doctrinal view.
[This view seems not opposed to the doctrine of the holy one’s perseverance. It professes indeed, to meet the objection usually raised from the passage, if not in a new mode, yet in a mode different from that commonly adopted by orthodox expositors. Admitting that true Christians are intended, it is asserted only, that if they should fall, their recovery would be impossible. It is not said that they ever have fallen or will fall. “The apostle in thus giving judgment on the case, if it should happen, does not declare that it actually does.” And as to the use of supposing a case which never can occur, it is argued that means are constantly used to bring about that which the decree or determination of God had before rendered certain. These exhortations are the means by which perseverance is secured.
Yet it may be doubted, whether there be any thing in the passage to convince us, that the apostle has introduced an impossible case. He seems rather to speak of that which might happen, of which there was danger. If the reader incline to this view, he will apply the description to professors, and learn from it how far these may go, and yet fall short of the mark. But how would this suit the apostle’s design? Well. If professors may go so far, how much is this fact fitted to arouse all to vigilance and inquiry. We, notwithstanding our gifts and apparent graces, may not be true Christians, may, therefore, not be secure, may fall away and sink, under the doom of him whom it is impossible to renew. And he must be a very exalted Christian indeed, who does not occasionally find need of inquiry, and examination of evidences. Certainly, the whole passage may be explained in perfect consistency with this application of it. Men may be enlightened, i.e. well acquainted with the doctrines and duties of the Christian faith; may have tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost in his miraculous influences, which many in primitive times enjoyed, without any sanctifying virtue; may have tasted the good word of God, or experienced impressions of affection and joy under it, as in the case of the stony ground hearers; may have tasted the powers of the world to come, or been influenced by the doctrine of a future state, with its accompanying rewards and punishments;—and yet not be true Christians. “All these things, except miraculous gifts, often take place in the hearts and consciences of men in these days, who yet continue unregenerate. They have knowledge, convictions, fears, hope, joys, and seasons of apparent earnestness, and deep concern about eternal things; and they are endued with such gifts, as often make them acceptable and useful to others, but they are not truly humbled; they are not spiritually minded; religion is not their element and delight.”—Scott.
It should be observed, moreover, that while there are many infallible marks of the true Christian, none of these are mentioned in this place. The persons described are not said to have been elected, to have been regenerated, to have believed, or to have been sanctified. The apostle writes very differently when describing the character and privileges of the saints, Rom. 8:27, 30. The succeeding context, too, is supposed to favour this opinion. “They (the characters in question) are, in the following verses, compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briars. But this is not so with true believers, for faith itself is an herb peculiar to the inclosed garden of Christ. And the apostle afterwards, discoursing of true believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as may be apostates, which is supposed of the persons here intended. He ascribeth to them, in general, better things and such as accompany salvation. He ascribes a work and labour of love, asserts their preservation, &c.”—Owen. Our author, however, fortifies himself against the objection in the first part of this quotation, by repeating and applying at verse 7. his principle of exposition. “The design,” says he, “is to show, that if Christians should become like the barren earth, they would be cast away and lost.” Yet the attentive reader of this very ingenious exposition will observe, that the author has difficulty in carrying out his principles, and finds it necessary to introduce the mere professor ere he has done with the passage. “It is not supposed,” says he, commenting on the 8th verse, “that a true Christian will fall away and be lost, but we may remark, that there are many professed Christians who seem to be in danger of such ruin. Corrupt desires are as certainly seen in their lives, as thorns on a bad soil. Such are nigh unto cursing. Unsanctified, &c., there is nothing else which can be done for them, and they must be lost. What a thought!” Yet that the case of the professor in danger cannot very consistently be introduced by him, appears from the fact, that such ruin as is here described is suspended on a condition which never occurs. It happens only if the Christian should fall. According to the author, it is not here denounced on any other supposition. As then true Christians cannot fall, the ruin never can occur in any case whatever. From these premises we dare not draw the conclusion, that any class of professors will be given over to final impenitence.
As to what may be alleged concerning the apparent sense of the passage, or the sense which would strike “the mass of readers;” every one will judge according to the sense which himself thinks most obvious. Few perhaps would imagine that the apostle was introducing an impossible case. Nor does the “connection” stand much in the way of the application to professors. In addition to what has already been stated, let it be farther observed, that although the appropriate exhortation to awakened, yet unconverted persons would be, “to become converted; not to warn them of the danger of falling away;” yet the apostle is writing to the Hebrews at large, is addressing a body of professing Christians, concerning whom he could have no infallible assurance that all of them were true Christians. Therefore, it was right that they should be warned in the way the apostle has adopted. The objection leaves out of sight the important fact that the exhortations and warnings addressed to the saints in Scripture are addressed to mixed societies, in which there may be hypocrites as well as believers. Those who profess the faith, and associate with the church, are addressed without any decision regarding state. But the very existence of the warnings implies a fear that there may be some whose state is not safe. And all, therefore, have need to inquire whether this be their condition. How appropriate then such warnings. This consideration, too, will furnish an answer to what has been alleged by another celebrated transatlantic writer, viz. “that whatever may be true in the divine purposes us to the final salvation of all those who are once truly regenerated, and this doctrine I feel constrained to admit, yet nothing can be plainer, than that the sacred writers have every where addressed saints in the same manner as they would address those whom they considered as constantly exposed to fall away and to perish for ever.” Lastly. The phraseology of the passage does not appear to remove it out of all possible application to mere professors It has already been briefly explained in consistency with such application. There is difficulty, indeed, connected with the phrase, παλιν ανακαινιζειν εις μετανοιαν, again to renew to repentance; implying, as is said, that they, to whom reference is made, had been renewed before. But what should hinder this being understood of reinstating in former condition, or in possession of former privilege? Bloomfield supposes, there may be an allusion to the non-reiteration of baptism, and Owen explains the phrase of bringing them again into a state of profession by a second renovation, and a second baptism, as a pledge thereof. The renewing he understands here externally of a solemn confession of faith and repentance, followed by baptism. This, says he, was their ανακαινισμος, their renovation. It would seem then that there is nothing in the phrase to prevent its interpretation on the same principle that above has been applied to the passage generally.]
End of Excursion
2 Peter 2:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 For if, after they [born-agaain believers] have escaped the defilements of the world by the accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
If the born-again believer who has been made righteous through “the accurate knowledge the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” cannot lose their salvation, why are there so many warnings about their falling away or turning back? Again, many Bible verses show that those who have been saved; are still obligated to endure faithfully. (Matthew 24:13; Hebrews 10:36; 12:2, 3; Revelation 2:10) The Christians in the First-century showed joy when they saw that fellow born-again believers were enduring in their faith. (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3; 3 John 3-4) So, does it seem logical that God, through the Bible, would emphasize faithful endurance and warn of falling away (leaving the faith, leaving Christ) if those who did not endure and fell away would be saved anyway?
Ephesians 2:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not from works, so that no man may boast.
The complete provision for salvation for a born-again Christian is God’s grace. There is no way that any human can gain salvation on their own, regardless of how man good Christian works they may do. Salvation is an undeserved gift from God to all who put faith in the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let’s look a little deeper at Ephesians 2:8-9.
For by grace, you have been saved – By an undeserved gift from God. It is not by your Own merit; it is not because we have any claim.
Through faith – Grace bestowed the underserved gift of salvation through faith or with believing into Jesus Christ.
And that not of yourselves – Salvation does not proceed from yourself. The word rendered “that” – τοῦτο touto – is in the neuter gender, and the word “faith” – πίστις pistis – is in the feminine. Therefore, the word “that,” does not refer particularly to faith as being the gift of God but to “the salvation by grace” of which he had been speaking.
It is the gift of God – Salvation by grace is his gift. It is not of merit; it is wholly by favor.
Not from works – The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the ransom sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ.
James 2:14-26 is no contradiction with Paul here in Ephesians 2:8-9, it is a compliment. James makes it clear that faith is not just some head knowledge alone, but true faith is manifested in producing appropriate actions consistent with what one claims to profess. James here asks the question for his audience to ponder and think about to come to their conclusion as he states, can such faith save him?
Faith does not just begin and end at a mere profession of Christ. Good works in one’s life then must evidence it. These works are not done as a way to earn salvation but rather out of gratitude for a heart that has been changed by the power of Christ that made one a new creation in Christ. Good works are to be done out of the overflow of the heart that the power of God has redeemed through Christ. As he explains in verses 15-26, the answer to James’ question is that faith without works is not true saving faith.
Therefore, the fact that one does not act according to his words proves his words to be dead and false. It is dead in itself to just claim to have faith but have no works. The word that James uses for dead is nekros which means “inactive, inoperative.” (Vine 1996, 148) This believer’s mere lip service to faith without the outward expression of faith through works is inactive. James is making it clear that without works, his faith is dormant and dead and, therefore, proves that he truly does not have faith. Jesus himself said that many would be judged for the supposed claim of faith without works on judgment day with the parable of the sheep and the goats. – Matthew 25:31-46.
For the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26)
For the body apart from the spirit is dead. The Greek word (πνεῦμα pneuma) is commonly used to denote spirit, wind, breath, and life force. The meaning here is the obvious one, that the body is animated or kept alive by the presence of the (spirit) life force and that when that is withdrawn, hope departs. The body has no life independent of the presence of the spirit. The Greek pneuma represents the life force from God that was given to Adam and Eve, which is introduced into every child thereafter, and animates the human soul or person. As James 2:26 states: “The body apart from the spirit [pneumatos] is dead.”
So also, faith without works is dead. It is just as essential that faith and that works should be animated by faith as there is that the body and spirit should be united to form a living man. If good works do not result from faith, there is no true faith. No justification does not put a person on the path to salvation. There is no being declared righteous by God. If faith does not generate works, a truly Christian life, it is dead. It has no power, and it is worthless. James was not making some argument against real and genuine faith. In addition, he was not making an argument against its significance in justification. He was arguing against the idea Christians only needed faith alone to be on the path of salvation, and it need not come with good works. James argues that if there is genuine faith, it will always follow that good works are there. Just as you cannot have a body without the breath of life, you cannot have faith without works. It is only faith that can justify and save. But if that faith does not have works, it is not really faith. It is pseudo-faith, so there is no justification, no salvation. If the faith does not result in genuine Christian life, it is like the body without the spirit (breath of life). It is meaningless.
James and Paul are not at odds with each other, as they both agree that the person needs true faith to be justified, declared righteous, and enter the path of salvation. Both James and Paul agree that to have genuine faith; one must have works as well that evidence a holy Christian life. Both believe the opposite of that is true too. If a Christian does not have a holy life, their faith is a mere facade. The entire New Testament makes these things clear. If we do not believe in Jesus Christ, we cannot be justified before God, and if our faith is not genuine, it is impossible to lead a holy life. Claiming that no works are necessary for having faith is like saying a dead body of a living man. It is just ridiculous.
When a person (a soul) dies (beyond clinical death), there is no longer any animating force or “spirit” within any single cell out of the body’s one hundred trillion cells. Many of us have seen the animation video in science classes at school, where the cell is shown to be like a microscopic factory with an enormous amount of work taking place. Therefore, no work is taking place within the lifeless body, as all of the cells animated by the spirit are dead. The body is not good for anything. This is the similarity that James is trying to draw our attention to, as a faith that lacks works is just as lifeless, producing no results and of no use as a corpse. The literal eye cannot see faith; however, works demonstrate that faith can be seen. When one is not moved to good works, it is clear that this one has no real faith. Alternatively, any Christian that is motivated to do good works, possesses a genuine faith.
We have spoken about works for many pages now. So, the next question is, what are some examples of works that should be evident in Christian life? The works are the fruitage of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23), and the Great Commission (Matt. 24:14; 28;19-20; Acts 1:8), as well as obeying such things as love your neighbor, helping those who need it if it is within your power, living a holy life, etc.
What about the Following Bible Verse?
John 6:37, 39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
This verse does nothing to undo the fact that born-again Christians have free will and can choose to reject Jesus Christ. It only says, Jesus will never cast the born-again believer out and that he will not lose any believers but it does not say that believers are unable to exercise their free will, choosing to leave him.
The argument that some make is that true born-again believers in Christ cannot lose their salvation. Their argument is that if anyone professing Christian rejects Jesus Christ, he simply was not truly a born-again believer in the first place. Their verse to support this is,
1 John 2:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, so that they would be revealed that they all are not of us.
This is not dealing with born-again believers as to whether they can lose their salvation or not; it is dealing with the antichrist.
1 John 2:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
The context for 1 John 2;19 is 1 John 2:8, which talks about the antichrist, not whether true believers can or cannot lose their salvation. It is not about whether believers were really believers at all; it is about the antichrist.
Passages That Cannot Be Overlooked
Romans 11:22: 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27: 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 10:12: 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Galatians 5:4: 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
2 Peter 2:20: 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
Colossians 1:21-23: 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[a] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Hebrews 3:12-14: 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Revelation 3:2-5: 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
Jude 5: 5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. [Italics added]
Matt. 24:13: 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Phil. 2:12: 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
Heb. 10:26-27: 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Eph. 2:8-9: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Heb. 5:9: 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, (Italics added.)
Jas. 2:14, 26: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Acts 16:30-31: “‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”
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 M. R. De Haan, Studies in Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 104–105.
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Hebrews, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 126–133.
 Antichrist: (ἀντίχριστος antichristos) The term “Antichrist,” occurs in the NT five times. From those five times, we gather this entity is “against” (i.e., denies Christ) or “instead of” (i.e., false Christs) Jesus Christ. Many antichrists began back in the apostle John’s day and will continue up unto Jesus’ second coming. (1 John 2:18) The antichrist is referred to as a number of individuals taken together, i.e., collectively. (2 John 1;7) Persons who deny Jesus Christ are the antichrist. (1 John 2:22) All who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ as the One and Only Son of God is the antichrist. (1 John 2:22; John 10:36; Lu 9:35) Some antichrists are apostates who left the faith and are now in opposition to the truth. (1 John 2:18-19) Those who oppose the true followers of Jesus are the antichrist. (John 15:20-21) Antichrists are individuals or nations opposing Jesus or trying to supplant his kingly authority. – Ps. 2:2; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 17:3, 12-14; 19:11-21.