The Study of Salvation
By James T. Bartsch, WordExplain.com
"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." ( Hebrews 6:19-20)
This is the tenth and final installment of a larger treatise entitled,
Does Hebrews 6:1-8 Teach Us We Can Lose Our Salvation?
by James T. Bartsch
In this series of articles, we have addressed the question of whether or not Hebrews 6:1-8 teaches us we can lose our salvation.
(1) We have identified the background of the book of Hebrews. These were Jewish Christians who were being pressured, under duress, to revert to Judaism. If they did so, they would add the keeping of the Law to their faith in Jesus Christ.
(2) The writer had touched on many truths about the Messiah in the first five chapters of his document. He regarded these as "elementary" teachings, and did not wish further to rehearse them. He wished for his readers to press on to maturity (Heb. 6:1). He would have much more to say about the Messiah, chiefly about His high priestly ministry (Heb. 6:20) based on a New and Improved Covenant (Heb. 8:7-13).
(3) The writer did not wish again to lay a foundation of repentance from dead works, the necessity of faith toward God, instruction about washings, instruction about the laying on of hands, instruction about resurrection, or instruction about future judgment (Heb. 6:1-3).
(4) The people whom the writer described (Heb. 6:4-5) were genuine Christians. The five characteristics the writer enumerates all describe Christians. However, he acknowledges that they were being tempted to apostatize, that is, to fall away from their previous profession of faith in Christ alone (Heb. 6:6). I take this to mean (and this is key) that they were being tempted to add Judaism and the regulations of the Law as a necessary requirement in addition to faith in Jesus Christ.
(5) If, in fact, these Hebrew Christians do revert to Judaism in addition to trusting in Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for them to repent of their error (Heb. 6:6). The writer does not say they will lose their salvation. It will be impossible for them to repent of their error of adding Judaism to their faith in Christ. This will have a negative impact on their usefulness to Jesus, their present and future ministry, and their potential for earning rewards.
(6) The writer uses agriculture to illustrate the point he is making (Heb. 6:7-8). Those who do not revert to Judaism will be like fruitful, productive ground that is blessed by God (Heb. 6:7). Conversely, those who add Judaism to their faith in Christ will be like unfruitful earth that bears thorns and thistles, is nearly cursed, and is fit only for burning (Heb. 6:8). This is not to be mistaken as hell-fire, but as a cleansing burning, similar to that described by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:15). These unfruitful Christians, who are contaminating their faith and their works with the keeping of the Law demanded in Judaism, do not lose their salvation, but sadly compromise their fruitfulness and their productivity on behalf of the Great King and His Kingdom. There will be a sad loss of reward and useful ministry both now and, presumably, in the future.
(7) Of what is the writer convinced with regard to his readers? He is convinced of better things concerning them – things that accompany salvation. His confidence is based on the fact that God is a just God who will not forget their past and present ministry on behalf of the saints. He is convinced they will not revert to Judaism (Heb. 6:9-10).
(8) What does the writer desire for his readers? He desires them to be just as diligent as they once had been. He wants them to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end. He wants them to avoid sloth, but rather to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises of all that God and Christ have in store for them in His coming Kingdom (Heb. 6:11-12).
(9) What hope do we as Christians have? The writer extended this hope not only for Christians in general, but for these specific Hebrew Christians who were struggling to resist the pressure of reverting to Judaism. The writer went back to the promise God had extended to the patriarch Abraham long before Judaism became a reality. That promise included land for Israel and conquest of her enemies, but also a blessing of all the nations of the earth, both through the nation of Israel and through the Church. This promise of God, reinforced with an oath provides strong encouragement for us to take refuge in the hope that we have. This hope is an anchor for the soul, and it enters within the veil into the very presence of God. We are ushered there in the person of Christ, the Great High Priest who has entered heaven as a forerunner. And since He is a priest forever after the classification of Melchizedek, He has an eternal priesthood that represents both Jewish and Gentile peoples.
Conclusion: In answer to the question, "Does Hebrews 6:1-8 teach us we can lose our salvation?" the answer is decidedly "NO!" It does not. In fact the passage crescendos into a remarkable essay on the hope of the Christian based on the superior priesthood of Jesus, the Great High Priest!
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB 1995.)
Updated February 28, 2022