Can you loose your salvation after you have been saved? This is one of the most contentious issues among Christians today. Many have lost confidence in God saving them because they feel they gone so far that He cannot reach them again. It is so interesting that we tell people that before they were saved that God loves them as they are and that He can turn their lives around without rejecting them. So they open their hearts to God and get saved. Then some time later that same person tells you that he fell into a sin and the next thing they hear is that God will judge them if they are not careful. We tell them that keep themselves or they will loose their salvation.
The real question is: Did they get their salvation by works or by faith? Will they loose the salvation they got faith by their works? We have subtly told them their works is greater than faith and the grace of God. Jesus said in John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.” The major reason many speak of us having temporal salvation is because misinterpretation of scripture. This had put many under condemnation and oppression that Christ died to take from. One of such places misinterpreted is Hebrews 6.
It is important to know that the book of Hebrews was written to the Jews and the content was peculiar to their situation at that time though we could learn from them. Paul the Apostle in his letters to the churches in Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica and other places would start in his usual format “Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the grace of God, to the brothers in Christ at …” In each of those letters he addressed issues and encouraged the brothers in their faith. But in the book of Hebrews it was different. He just stared by letting them know that God who used to speak to them by the prophets has now spoken through his son Jesus. He moved through the chapters explaining and comparing Jesus to the law, angels and Moses.
In Hebrews 4 he talked about a falling away which many people have wrongly predicted for many Christians. The falling away is not from God’s salvation, it is falling away from God’s rest just like the Israelites fell from God’s rest in the desert (Hebrews 4:10-11). Because Christ has finished the atonement for our sins once and for all, having made us righteous, justified, and holy in his sight we can rest from our meaningless labors and rituals to make ourselves right with God.
It is attempting to save you from a life of meaningless works. It seems to be directed more towards believers, though indirectly including Jewish unbelievers , in hopes that, after explaining Jesus’s perfect work, these hebrews would repent of their dead works (Hebrews 6:1).
He is not dealing with the greater sin of denying Jesus as in Hebrews 10:26 but dealing with people in general who are working in vain. They are falling from God’s rest and into dead works otherwise known as useless rituals (rituals required by old testament law to purify the sins of the people). They do this because they do not understand that Jesus’s sacrifice was once and for all.
The author is saying its impossible to renew them to repentance from these useless rituals “so long as” (a phrase often missing in translations) they continue to crucify Jesus again and again. Meaning, by offering their sacrifices repeatedly they are showing that they don’t understand that Jesus’ sacrifice defeated sin once and for all.
All their dead works will be worthless, unneeded, and burned. They will gain no reward from them and will have never enjoyed God’s rest in this present life. However, he reaffirms the believers that God will not fail to reward their love as they continue to trust Him.
These Jews were being persecuted for their faith and some were falling back to judaism and renewing the burden of the law. They were continuing to offer their animal sacrifices and perform their useless ceremonial rituals despite the fact that they somewhat believed in Jesus.
Paul explained in Hebrews 8:13 “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” He was screeming to them “Hey guys, God has sifted mountains, he’s no longer in Sinai but now in Zion”
Just before the passage of study (Hebrews 5) however, he was addressing these Jews saying, I wish you could eat of the mature things in Christ, “the word of righteousness,” and not lay again foundational basic teachings about Christ and oracles of God which is repentance from dead works. For we have received a better covenant.
Hebrews 6 “1Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”
What Repentance from dead works?
Other translations, such as the good news translation, define it as useless rituals. The meaning behind it is a work (in the sense of a dutiful labor) that is not worth anything (has no life in it). Although its not wrong to say its sin, the context of the letter suits the meaning better as saying useless rituals. He refers to the old covenant system of atonement for sins. This includes sacrifices, cleansing rituals, washings, observance of sabbaths and special days, circumcision, observing the law, etc… These were once required by God, but now with the coming of Christ, these old rituals have all been done away with and are now obsolete and worthless.
Those works are not useful to believers again. He said in Romans 6:11 “And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
The key here in Hebrews 6 vs 1 is the phrase ‘acts that lead to death,’ condemnation/ shame/ guilt/remembrance/awareness of sin.’ The word ‘death’ in new covenant is usually referring to condemnation.
The death God was referring to was not primarily physical death, but the death of the soul through condemnation – “But if the ministry that produced death – carved in letters on stone tablets – came with glory, so that the Israelites could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face (a glory which was made ineffective),Corinthians 3:7
He uses the words death and condemnation interchangeably. So when we read the verse talking about dead works, he is talking about sacrifices that continually remind you of your sin and bring condemnation.
Hebrews 10:3 “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.” As long as man was sin-conscious, he produced more sin. Those sacrifices could not save but only provide a temporal cover. The author of Hebrews was telling them to repent and move from those acts that lead to death.
“not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites or baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”
Instead of putting our faith in these meaningless labors, we are to put our faith and trust in God, believing that he has supplied us with an adequate righteousness, and rest from our work just as He did. The following statements are not new covenant teachings but are all addressing ritual requirements and basic teachings of the old covenant (the elementary shadows of christ).
“The laying on of hands,” is not referring to believers praying for healing or impartation, it is referring to how the sinner would lay his hands on the animal sacrifice and transfer his sins into the animal. Leviticus 1:4
“Instruction about cleansing rites or Baptisms as some translations put is” refers to the cleansing rituals the priests would perform. Hebrew 9:10, Mark 7:4 The “resurrection of the dead” was a basic understanding of the Jews. See Daniel 12:2
Mark 12:26-27 “And as for the dead being raised, In the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
Eternal judgement was also a concept the Jews would have understood in terms of the old covenant. You can see Ecclesiastes 12:14
The author is trying to get them to move on from these “basic principles” and into the fullness of the new covenant.
Entering God’s Rest
The law could never clear your conscience of debt. If it could have cleansed you once and for all, would you not have stopped offering sacrifices? For you would have been totally forgiven and set free from guilt and would no longer need to earn justification with God. But those sacrifices always remind your of your failures, because they never cease being offered.
So now Christ’s perfect sacrifice cleanses our conscience of “dead works” or “acts that lead to death.” It means since we know we are right with God, our consciences no longer feels guilty for our sins and we stop performing repetitious offerings and sacrifices to cleanse our guilt. This is pleasing to God. He does not want our vain sacrifices anymore or our cleanings and offerings. Why? Because he already covered us once and for all with his son! Now that Jesus has come these old systems only serve to mock what Jesus did. This is the Spirit of the Anti-Christ. It is not until we give up on these dead works, that we can serve God in a way he desires.
Earlier in Hebrews 4, the author says the same thing when he is talking about entering God’s “rest.” Keep in mind he uses the word “fall,” comparing to the Israelites who fell from God’s rest in the desert. In the greek the word ‘to fall’ means “to be left wanting, to suffer need, to fall short.” In this context its talking about missing the rest of God for dead works. Let’s read Hebrews 10:11-12.
So can we see why he asks us to repent from dead works? If Christ paid for my sins completely with his own life but I still think that by offering my animal I can somehow do a better job, that depletes the gospel of its power and calls what Christ did worthless! This is the experience for many believers who tie their salvation to good works.
vs 6 it says “and who have fallen away, as long as they continue to crucify the Son of God to their own detriment by exposing him to public ridicule.”
He is saying this is an impossibility so long as these conditions are true. Now let’s address what it means to fall away.
Hebrews 4:10 “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”
To fall is to miss the complete rest of God. These Jews were falling from God’s rest and into dead works. Why? Because they have not understood Jesus’s once and for all sacrifice and the result is they have guilty debt-filled consciences. Sound familiar?
Galatians 5:4 “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated
from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
Now let’s look back at his disturbing scripture. The author says its impossible to renew them to repentance.
What repentance is he talking about here and throughout the book of Hebrews? Not repentance from transgressions per say, but repentance from useless rituals.
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.”
That is why it is so important that we understand what Jesus’s sacrifice did for us so we don’t continue wasting our energy to complete something he already finished.
Crucifying the Son of God All Over Again
“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
What is “to their loss?” Because they don’t understand the lasting effect of Jesus’s sacrifice, they are still in their guilt. And in doing these insulting rituals, they are treating the blood of Jesus as a common thing, as if it were no more valuable than the blood of their own sacrifices which only cleansed sin for a year. What a disgrace, the Son of God dies for your sins and that can’t even cover your sins as well as an animal!
Hebrews 6:7-8 says “For the ground that has soaked up the rain that frequently falls on it and yields useful vegetation for those who tend it receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is useless and about to be cursed; its fate is to be burned.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. When we submit ourselves back under the law, our confidence before God shrinks away like Adam and Eve. And just like Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, so we try to cover ourselves with outward deeds and rituals. They fell from God’s rest in the garden and would toil to produce thorns and thistles.
A warning from Israel’s history
Let’s also consider the Israelites who fell in the desert for 40 years, which this passage is well-known for presenting.
God gave them a promise in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 “Then when the LORD your God brings you to the land he promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you – a land with large, fine cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with choice things you did not accumulate, hewn out cisterns you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – and you eat your fill, 12 be careful not to forget the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, that place of slavery.
They failed to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. They chose to work it out instead of entering God’s rest. God has to chose one work over the other, either the work of his son to save you or your work to save yourself. Paul said in Philippians 3:4-9 “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh…,
Now Let’s read it one more time just to highlight the truth of the scripture in context.
They are falling away from God’s rest by ignoring that which cleanses their consciences. The result is painful toil, striving, and dead works. And these works annually remind them of their sins, they don’t remove their debt.
Now, even though dead works will be destroyed, the person himself, if he is a believer, will be saved. You could parallel them with the Israelites described in Hebrews 4. So the lesson is this like the Author wrote to the Hebrews: Don’t put your trust in the acts, good deeds, rituals or ceremonies. Look to Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith. We are not justified by our works but by faith in Him.
If we submit to the laws then we will fall from grace. To fall from grace means we see ourselves as the Israelites who didn’t believe God that He was giving them houses, lands, cities, vineyards they did not build or cultivate. Our salvation is about all that God has made available in Christ. For we are been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Let us cease from our labour and enter into God’s rest.