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"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

...ote-marker-28-1">^ John Owen. Exposition of Hebrews. Hebrews 10:28-29
  • ^ Mounce, Expository Dictionary. p. 620.
  • ...

    Hebrews 6:4-6, Apostasy and Calvinism

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    Hebrews 6:4-6 – It is impossible to restore them again to repentance

    Heb 6:4-6 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, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.

    (This post is taken from a section in my commentary on chapter 17 of the 1689 Baptist Confession, so there are some things here that have been previously argued for, as for example the positive case for the doctrine of Perseverance).

    This is arguably one of the most difficult and notorious passages in Holy Writ. There is no consensus on its interpretation. I have consulted many commentaries and articles on this passage and I come to it knowing that I don’t have all the answers. But I also come to it with presuppositions in mind. I am unashamed to say that the Bible does in fact teach the Perseverance of the Saints, therefore this passage cannot be describing the actual apostasy of a regenerate believer totally from the faith. It may be a warning about true believers, it may be hypothetical, but what it cannot be is say that some true and regenerate believers will in fact fall away completely from the faith. I have argued that even in the book of Hebrews itself, the doctrine of Perseverance and the perfection of the work of Christ on behalf of the elect is taught. I have consulted the following articles and commentaries and will cite from some of them freely in the following discussion:

    The passage does not say that regenerate believers apostatize:

    • John Calvin. Commentaries. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Hebrews 6:4-9. Can also be found at here.
    • John Gill. Exposition of the Entire Bible. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Hebrews 6:4-9. Can also be read at here.
    • Arthur W. Pink. Exposition of Hebrews. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Chapters 24-27. His commentary on Hebrews 6 can be found here.
    • Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994). Chapter 40.
    • John M. Frame. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014). Chapter 44.
    • J. Ligon Duncan III – Falling Away? (Sermon)
    • Mathew Poole - English Annotations on the Holy Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6here.
    • William Burkitt – Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. Commentary on Hebrews 6here
    • Albert Barnes - Notes on the New Testament. Commentary on Hebrews 6here. He accepts that the descriptions describe a true Christian, but rejects that it is possible for a true Christian to apostatize.
    • Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, David Brown – Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6here.
    • Matthew Henry – Complete Commentary on the Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6here.
    • Bob Utley – You Can Understand The Bible (Not that explicit). Commentary on Hebrews 6here and here.
    • John Owen – Exposition of Hebrews. Commentary on Hebrews 6here.
    • Steven J. Cole – Lesson 17: When Repentance Becomes Impossible (Hebrews 6:4-8).

    The passage describes regenerate believers who have fallen away:

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

    ...he Bible also speaks of us inheriting and receiving the consummated Kingdom of God and eternal life (Jas. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:50; Matt. 25:34; 19:29; 1 Pet. 3:7). It is not that we now do not have eternal life, but we will experience eternal life in all of its fullness and be in the Kingdom which was prepared by God for our sake from eternity past. Ephesians 1:11-18 is a long section in which Paul tells us that the Spirit is the guarantee that we will indeed acquire possession of the inheritance, which is the Kingdom to come (cf. Matt. 25:34). So that Christ might be magnified not only in this age but in the age to come. Hebrews 6:12 calls us to endurance and faith so that we may have the full assurance of hope until we inherit the promises. All the promises of God, which are in Christ, are the believers’ also (2 Cor. 1:20). This does not only speak of the consummated Kingdom, but also of our eternal life, eternal happiness, and joy, our fellowship with the Triune God in harmony, our resurrection, worldwide peace, cleansing us from every bit of sin, living in perfect righteousness before God, etc...

    1 Peter 1:4 speaks of “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for” us. This is our complete redemption. Our resurrection and finished sanctification are what Peter has in mind here (1 Pet. 1:5, 9, 13). Romans 8:17 speaks of us being co-heirs with Christ. That which He has inherited, we may also share with Him in it. For example, as He sits on the throne of the Universe ruling everything, so likewise Ephesians 2:6 says that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. As He received glory after His suffering, so likewise the believers will be glorified and honored by God for their suffering for His sake (e.g., Rom. 8:18, 21, 29).

    Galatians 3:29 tells us that we are children of Abraham based on the fact that we are in Christ. As Gentiles that he was largely writing to, it would have been crazy to say that non-Jews are children of Abraham. But that is not so with Christ. As He was a true Jew, so whoever is in Him, i.e., whoever is represented by Him, is also a Jew through Him. All Christians are children of Abraham not because they are physical descendants of Abraham, but because they are united to Christ, the true child of Abraham, and through Him, they are also children of Abraham. It is in light of this that Paul calls believers the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16. This is likewise the case of the believers, both Jewish and Gentile being the Israel of God. As they are in Him who is the Servant of the LORD in Isaiah, who is called Israel (Isa. 41:8; 49:1-7), so likewise as they were through Him children of Abraham, they are also the Israel of God. This is also seen from Ephesians 2:11ff, where we are told that believing Jews and believing Gentiles, have become one new man. That would be the New Israel or Spiritual/True Israel. We were made citizens of “the commonwealth of Israel” in Christ (Eph. 2:12-13, 19).

    From Ephesians 2, Paul continues the discussion underhand concerning believing Jews and Gentiles. In Ephesians 3:6, Paul speaks of a mystery, something that was hidden, but now revealed. This mystery is the fact that the believing Gentiles belong to the same body as the believing Jews, that is, they belong to the commonwealth of Israel. They belong to Abraham to whom the promises of God were made concerning having offspring as the stars of heaven. The believing Gentiles will inherit along with t...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

    ...I was not there when God created the world, but I believe that He created everything ex-nihilo in six days. I was not there when the Christ rose from the dead, but I believe that based primarily on the written Word of God and the testimony of the Spirit to that Word.

    Saving faith trusts in God’s promises. Because we know that God is “the God of truth” (Isa. 65:16), that He is the God Who saved us from our sin, the God Who adopted us to be His children, we believe and expect that which is not yet fulfilled. We believe that our Lord Jesus will come in glory, take us up to Him, reward us and take us into the New Heavens and New Earth to rule with Him. Hebrews 6:12 calls us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” We should hold fast “our hope without wavering”, why? The Author bases this on the fact that “he who promised is faithful” (see also Heb. 11:11). When God promised Abraham that his descendants will be as the stars of heaven, the Scriptures then say that “he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:5-6). It is interesting to notice that the object of faith here is not the promise, but the LORD Himself. The saints of old are described as those who “all died in faith, not having received the things promised” (Heb. 11:13). They, obviously, believed in these promises because they “considered him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11).

    In summary, saving faith is based on truth, it is founded upon God and His Word, it is Christ-centered, it is a working faith, it is a preserving faith, it is a Word-of-God-accepting faith, and it is a promise-believing faith.

    The Object of Saving Faith

    Now we come to the object of our faith. In who or in what do we place our trust and confidence? Our Confession strictly seen, dedicates this paragraph to the objects or contents of saving faith.

    The Word and Promises of God

    The first thing mentioned is the Word of God in the words:

    By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself, and also apprehendeth an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world, as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed; and also acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come

    By faith, we accept the Word of God to be just that—the Word of Almighty God. It does not mean we accept the Bible by blind faith, but it means we accept it based on the authority of God speaking therein. See chapter 1 of the Confession for more on this. That we receive the Word of God as the Word of God is simply submitting our intellect to God. We believe that the Bible is perfectly consistent with reality and speaks about reality as it is when properly interpreted. That saving faith accepts the Word of God as it is, does not mean that believers do not have difficulties with the Bible, but it means that they should not doubt the truthfulness of the God speaking therein.

    We do not regard the Bible as just another book. We love the Bible, we trust it. We apprehend “an excellency therein above all other writings a...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

    ...eaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) and “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21; cf. Matt. 12:28), yet He taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10 KJV). The Kingdom of God is already a present reality with the coming of its King, nonetheless, there is a future aspect of it which we still expect even if the Kingdom is already here. This is the tension of the Already-Not-Yet. The Kingdom of God is here, but it not yet fully here, i.e., not consummated. Eternal life is said to be a present reality (John 3:16), yet that is also an aspect of the Age to Come when the believer will be immortal in body and soul (Luke 18:30). The apostates in Hebrews 6:5 are said to have tasted the powers of the age to come, which most likely refer to the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles. These are things which are identified with the Age to Come, perhaps because they are means which God has given to the Church to bless her and conform her to the image which He has in mind, which will fully be realized in the Age to Come. The Christian believer finds himself in the time when the Age to Come, through the death and resurrection of Christ and through the outpouring of the Spirit, has already infiltrated this world, and the believer shares in its blessings. The following is a helpful diagram of the Two Age model and the Already-Not-Yet tension by Kim Riddlebarger:

    The Two Staged Kingdom

    The New Testament teaches that the Kingdom of God has come with the first coming of its King, yet, there is clearly a future aspect of the Kingdom of God. Amillennialists speak of the two stages of God’s Kingdom, 1) the Kingdom of the Son, and 2) the Kingdom of the Father. As with the general New Testament eschatology of the Two Ages, so in the same way is the revelation of the Kingdom of God in two stages and ages. This is part of the Already-Not-Yet tension of the New Testament. We know that the Bible teaches that the Kingdom of God is already here (Luke 17:21; Matt. 12:28; Rom. 14:17), yet we still expect the kingdom in the future (Matt. 6:10). We believe that the Kingdom is revealed in two stages. The first is what we call the Kingdom of the Son, which has infiltrated this Present Age through the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

    Matthew 13:36-43

    Matt. 13:36-43 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 

    In Matthew 13:36-43 the Lord Jesus explains the Parable of the Weeds and from here we get a glance at the two-fold coming of the Kingdom of God. In v. 38, the Lord Jesus explains that the good seeds are the sons of the Kingdom, these are the believers who receive the gospel and prod...

    Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

    ...nfession-Chapter-14:-Of-Saving-Faith-Commentary/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Of Saving Faith
  • Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation
  • Of Good Works
  • Of The Perseverance Of The Saints (A positive case for the Reformed doctrine and responses to passages such as Hebrews 6 and the like)
  • Of The Assurance Of Grace And Salvation
  • Of The Law Of God (Threefold Division of the Law, the Decalogue before Moses, a brief exposition of the Decalogue, ceremonial and civil laws, the abiding moral law under the New Covenant in the OT prophecy and the NT, Threefold Uses of the Law, The Law and the Gospel)
  • Of The Gospel, And Of The Extent Of The Grace Thereof
  • Of Christian Liberty And Liberty of Conscience
  • Of Religious Worship And the Sabbath Day (A case for the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Christian Sabbath)
  • Of Lawful Oaths And Vows
  • Of The Civil Magistrate
  • Of Marriage
  • Of The Church
  • Of the Communion of Saints
  • Of Baptism And The Lord’s Supper
  • Of Baptism
  • Of The Lord’s Supper
  • Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  • Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)
  • ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary and righteousness, but doesn’t require that they come through faith in Christ. So likewise it is ridiculous and unbiblical to think that one can have true faith without repentance. The response to Paul’s message of calling them to repentance was that “some men joined him and believed” (Acts 17:34). Paul clearly called them to repentance and faith. Faith and repentance describe conversion and are the two sides of the same coin. Conversion is our response to the call of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We turn to God through faith in Christ and we commit ourselves to obeying Him, rather than sin. In Hebrews 6:1 the Holy Spirit says that “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” is an “elementary doctrine of Christ”. It is something basic to Christianity. It is Christianity 101. We repent of our evil deeds and put our faith in Christ. These two go hand in hand.

    We cannot, simply on the basis that in some texts only repentance or only faith is mentioned, assume that the other is not required or the other is denied. For we tried to show that both faith and repentance are the two sides of one coin. There is no faith without turning away from sin and toward God. Likewise, there is no turning away from sin toward God without faith in Christ. Therefore, whenever we read of the call to repentance alone, we understand that faith is assumed and vice versa. When the Lord Jesus warned that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5), we see there the necessity of repentance for salvation, but we do not say that repentance is a work, or that faith is not necessary. We accept both as being the two sides of the one coin (conversion). Both are graces of the New Covenant. See also our discussion of these inseparable graces in the chapter on faith (see here).

    §4 Repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives

    1. As repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives, upon the account of the body of death, and the motions thereof, 1 so it is every man’s duty to repent of his particular known sins particularly. 2
      1. Ezek. 16:60; Matt. 5:4; 1 John 1:9
      2. Luke 19:8; 1 Tim. 1:13, 15

    Repentance is not an act once performed or a turn once taken. Rather, our whole life is to be a life of continual repentance from sin and turning toward God. This means that repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives because this body of death will always produce sin that needs to be repented of. So it is the duty of every Christian to repent of his particular known sins particularly and ask for forgiveness from God for his sins. We may also ask for forgiveness of unknown sins to us or which we do not remember, but the Confession specifically calls us to confess and repent of sins which we particularly and definitely know (we can point a finger to them).

    The very first point in Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was:

    1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.[13]

    The Bible and the Reformers thus taught that repentance was not something we merely did at the beginning, in conversion, but we repent—we turn away from sin and toward God every day. As we sin every day and confess our sins with repentant hearts. We make it our aim to repent every day from all known sins and to confess them to the Lord so that we may be forgiven (1 John 1:8-2:2). As we confess our sins to God, we at the s...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows - Commentary

    ...nything the Bible says or we believe in. The fact that it is to swear by any other name is seen in what the Lord said to Israel:

    Deut. 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

    Only in God’s name may they swear as only Yahweh they commanded to worship because calling upon Yahweh in an oath is a part of religious worship and not something merely secular. He is the highest authority, therefore, we should call upon Him. But even more importantly, because God Himself swears by His Name, so how much more should we? Hebrews 6:13 says:

    For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,

    Therefore, we learn here that we swear by that which is greater than us. Since there is nothing greater than God, God swears by Himself. In the same way, we, His rational creatures, should do when called upon to swear. Since there is, in fact, something and Someone greater than us. Therefore, we should swear by His Name and call upon Him alone in our oaths. To swear by another’s name is to essentially worship that person or thing.

    Our Lord Himself was put in a situation in which He swore an oath:

    Matt. 26:62-64 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

    The word adjure is defined by Webster as “To charge, bind, or command, solemnly, as if under oath, or under the penalty of a curse; to appeal to in the most solemn or impressive manner; to entreat earnestly.”[5] The Free Dictionary defines it as “To command or enjoin solemnly, as under oath”.[6] In short, Christ was called upon to take an oath before the authority of the Sanhedrin and He did not refuse because He knew that He was telling the truth. He was indeed the Son of God. Therefore, we see here that our Lord did not refuse to take an oath, but He did, in fact, take it because He knew what He was saying was the absolute truth. Other instances of oaths in the Bible are mentioned in the Scriptural references this paragraph.

    §3 The Weightiness Of So Solemn An Act

    1. Whosoever taketh an oath warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knoweth to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns. 1
      1. Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; . 30:2; Jer. 4:2; 23:10

    Taking an oath is a weighty matter for we are called God to examine our hearts and motives and to reward us accordingly. We should tremble as we consider the weightiness of so solemn an act and therefore, we should ...