Perseverance of the Saints Part 11: Can Apostates Be Restored?

[revised on 7/17/08]

Is Restoration Really Impossible?

After studying the warning passages in Hebrews the question naturally arises: can an apostate ever be restored again to salvation?  Is the repudiation of saving faith irrevocable and the condition of the apostate permanent?

In this series we have attempted to let exegesis guide our theology.  I would like for the doctrine of eternal security to be true for many reasons just as I would prefer to believe that there is no place of eternal fire waiting for all those who reject Christ.  However, I believe that hell is a terrifying reality and that genuine believers can fall away from the faith to their own eternal ruin because I find that careful exegesis force these truths upon us.  In dealing with the question of whether or not apostates can be restored, we must look beyond what we would most like to believe and concern ourselves only with what the word of God teaches.

We have found in Hebrews 6:4 that it is impossible for the apostate to be renewed again to repentance.  The Bible is clear that only through repentance can one be saved (Acts 2:38; 11:18).  Hebrews 10:26 tells us that there is “no sacrifice for sins” remaining for the apostate.  “The apostate has sins but no available sacrifice for his sins.  Having rejected the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, there is no other sacrifice to which to turn.”  (F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth, pg. 281)

Some have focused on the part of the warning which states, “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and exposed him to an open shame.”  Robert Picirilli notes that the “seeing” is provided by the translator as a transition showing cause and effect.  The literal meaning of the passage is “(they) re-crucifying to (or, for) themselves the Son of God and exposing (Him) to public shame.” (Grace, Faith, Free Will, pg. 222)  He later notes that some see in this passage the possibility of restoration from said apostasy.  He makes reference to Robert Shank’s suggestion that the passage should be understood as “It is impossible to renew them to repentance so long as they are crucifying…and publicly shaming Him.” (ibid. 223- emphasis mine).  Picirilli rightly points out that this view turns the warning into meaningless tautology:

Shank’s interpretation winds up saying that it is impossible to renew them to repentance so long as he persists in rejection- which is not much of a point since it is always impossible to bring anyone to repentance so long as he persists in rejection. (ibid. 224)

He then goes on to quote F.F. Bruce who calls this interpretation “a truism hardly worth putting into words.”  It makes far more sense to see the passage as speaking of the causal relationship between the act of apostasy and the result of that act (re-crucifying the Son of God and putting Him to open shame).

Apostasy and the Presumptuous sin of Numbers 15:30, 31

It is important to remember that the sin of apostasy described in Hebrews is an “eyes wide open” type of sin.  It is done with an attitude of arrogance and disbelief.  It is not a matter of doubting the truth of the gospel, but actively and deliberately repudiating that truth.  It is not an issue of struggling with sin and failing in that struggle, but fully and rebelliously surrendering to sin in a deliberate act of defiance towards God.  There is no way to accidentally slip into such an act and not realize it.  It is done deliberately and is an outright act of unbelief.

Forlines sees a connection between the sin of the apostate and the presumptuous sin that is described in Numbers 15:30, 31.  He writes:

I do not think there is any doubt that the writer of Hebrews meant to say that the ‘willful sin’ of Hebrews 10:26 was the same kind of sin as the presumptuous sin in Numbers 15:30, 31.  There was no sacrifice for the presumptuous sin.  There is an obvious connection between the words ‘There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins’ (verse 26) and the fact that there was no sacrifice for sins in the case of the presumptuous sins in Numbers 15:30, 31…Presumptuous sins were committed with a ‘high hand.’  They came from an attitude of arrogant, defiant, unbelief.  According to Numbers 15:30, 31, there was no sacrifice for presumptuous sins.  If, in fact, the sin of apostasy mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29 is to be equated with the presumptuous sin of Numbers 15:30, 31, that should settle forever the question of whether apostasy is without remedy. (The Quest for Truth, pg. 282)

Forlines is careful to distinguish between the presumptuous sin and “sins of ignorance”:

The Old Testament makes a clear distinction between sins of ignorance and presumptuous sins.  Sins of ignorance (also called “unintentional sins”) were basically sins of weakness.  The person who committed such a sin had better desires, but these desires were defeated.  The one committing such a sin was to offer a sacrifice (Num. 15:27-29)…Once we see the distinction between presumptuous sins and sins of ignorance in the Old Testament, it is clear that this distinction comes over in the New Testament.  It is evident that when Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34), He was considering the sins of those who crucified Him to be in the category of sins of ignorance.  In Acts 3:17, Peter said that the Jews had crucified Jesus through ignorance.  For that reason, they could be forgiven (Acts 3:19).  In describing himself before his conversion, Paul said, ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.’  In explaining how it was that he could be forgiven, he said, ‘But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief’ (1 Tim. 1:13).  It is clear that Paul was placing his sins of blasphemy and his persecution of the church in the category of sins of ignorance.  It was for that reason that they could be forgiven. (ibid. 282, 283)

And in the case of Peter he writes:

I believe that if Paul’s persecution of the church could be considered a sin of ignorance that surely Peter’s denial of Christ on the night of the betrayal of Christ should be considered a sin of ignorance (or weakness).  If that be true, the case of Peter would have no bearing on the question of whether there is or is not a remedy for apostasy. (ibid. 283)

We will return to the case of Peter shortly.  Forlines finds further evidence for the connection between presumptuous sins and apostasy in the description of the apostate teachers of 2 Peter 2:

Verse 10 of 2 Peter 2 sheds more light on the subject.  In this verse Peter describes these apostates teachers as tolmetes.  The KJV translates tolmetesas “presumptuous.”  The NASB renders it as “daring.”  The NIV translates it as “arrogant.”  Tolmetesoccurs only here in the New Testament.  Concerning its use here, J.A. Moyter explains, ‘The single occurrence of the noun (tolmetes) is clearly in the bad sense…, the arrogant man of 2 Peter 2:10 who brooks no restriction on self-will and recognizes no authority to which he will be answerable.’

It is clear that Peter is considering these false teachers to be guilty of the presumptuous sin of Numbers 15:30, 31.  The arrogant, defiance of these apostates gives a finality to their action.  Before they were saved they did not have this finality about their lost condition.  The presumptuous, daring, arrogant decision with which they committed apostasy means that it was done with finality.  This puts them in worse condition then they were before they were saved. (ibid. 284)

Practical Implications

I believe that Forlines has correctly identified apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10 with the unforgivable presumptuous sin of Num.15:30, 31 (though in the OT presumptuous sins might be any sin that is done in arrogant rebellion, whereas in Hebrews such a “sin” would pertain only to outright rejection of saving faith).  It would also be correct then to identify apostasy with the unpardonable sin described by Jesus in the Gospels. The important Biblical distinction between presumptuous sin and sins of ignorance will help us better understand what apostasy entails and what it does not entail:

I believe that we can rest assured that the person who comes to talk to us about his or her fears of having committed the unpardonable sin does not fit the description of the people described in 2 Peter 2:20, 21; Hebrews 6:4-6; and 10:26-29.  If there is concern to be restored to a right relationship with God, such a person has not committed apostasy. (ibid.)

It seems certain that the “sin unto death” described by John in 1 John 5:16-17 is the unforgivable sin of apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10.  This would suggest that one can, in certain situations, know that someone is an apostate without any hope of renewal since John instructs us not to pray for such types.  There is no need to pray for those who have sinned in such a way since there is no possibility for renewal.  Our prayers would therefore be a waste of time and would be better served towards those who have not yet committed apostasy.  This does not, however, mean that we can always tell when someone has committed irrevocable apostasy.  It only means that there are cases in which the apostasy could be obvious enough that we should not waste time praying for that person.  We need, however, to be careful not to make rash judgments concerning those who may seem to have committed apostasy.  Forlines gives us some good practical advice along these lines:

The people in the U.S. who have come to me with their fears have not said that, in their past, they had made a decision to denounce their faith in Christ.  The situation in Russia presented a different problem.  When I spoke on this subject there, some real concerns were expressed.  In a discussion period, someone said that he had known someone who under persecution had renounced his faith in Christ.  Later on the person had repented.

In order to evaluate a case like that we need to keep I mind the distinction between presumptuous sins and sins of ignorance.  It is not simply what a person does or says that determines the case.  Attitude is a decisive factor.  In explaining how he was able to get forgiveness for persecuting the church, Paul is certainly implying that if he had done what he had done “presumptuously,” there would have been no forgiveness.

We cannot imagine the suffering inflicted, in times past, upon some people in Russia [not to mention the early Christians] to get them to deny their faith.  Death was merciful in light of the severe torture to which some were subjected.  I think we should have to say that it was certainly possible for the lips to utter the words of a denial of faith that did not represent an arrogant, defiant, unbelief toward God.  If that be the case, the words of denial that the person uttered would not be equivalent to apostasy or shipwreck of faith.  It appears that there were some who spoke words of denial that did not in fact commit apostasy.  But I do not think that we can explain all cases that way…based on my experience in talking with people, I would caution preachers about jumping too quickly to the conclusion that the person who talks with them about having committed apostasy has, indeed done so.  I think it would be better to take it as a plea for help. (ibid. 284, 285)

Is There Another Type of Apostasy?

But is there perhaps a type of apostasy that can be remedied; an apostasy that does not constitute an outright repudiation of the faith from the heart?  There are several passages which speak plainly of the fact that those who live in sin will reap death and have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Rom. 8:12-13; Eph. 5:-7; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7-8).  These warnings are directed toward believers.  Is it possible that one can fall into a pattern of sin and rebellion without fully repudiating the Lord in their heart?

I think that the evidence is clear that believers are warned against living in sin with the consequence of such lifestyles being spiritual death and being cut off from God’s Kingdom.  Would such a lifestyle only be possible after one finally apostatizes from the faith?  The writer of Hebrews again and again warns his readers of the deceitfulness and terrible hardening affects of continued sin.  This hardening, if left unchecked, will ultimately lead to that dreadful act of apostasy from which there is no possibility of restoration.

The case of Peter may serve as an example.  We have determined that Peter did not commit apostasy as described in Hebrews, but it seems clear that Peter did commit some form of apostasy since Jesus speaks of when he shall be again “converted” or “turned back.” (Luke 22:31, 32).  There was a sense, then, in which Peter turned from the Lord.  Why else should he need to be converted again?

Perhaps there is an apostasy from which one can be restored.  But it may be that these passages are warning against a life characterized by sin because such a life will soon lead to apostasy.  So when Paul speaks of not inheriting the Kingdom of God, he is speaking of what will happen if sinful living persists to the point of apostasy.  One who sows to please the flesh will surely reap spiritual death and eternal destruction, but only if one does not repent. Therefore, the dreadful consequence looks ahead to what will inevitably transpire if sin is not dealt with.  Sin is extremely dangerous because if one persists in it and does not fight against it, apostasy and spiritual death lie just around the corner.

James reminds his Christian readers [brothers] that, “if one should wander from the truth and someone bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)  What does James mean here?  Is he suggesting that one who wanders away from the truth can experience a spiritual death and yet be restored again?  Or is he merely saying that the wandering saint is being rescued from the spiritual death that surely awaits him if he persists in sin and continues to wander to the point of outright apostasy?  Either interpretation seems possible.

And what of 1 John 2:11, 15?  John plainly tells us that anyone who hates his brother is in darkness and does not possess eternal life.  Is it impossible then for a Christian to ever hate?  Such a conclusion seems very unlikely.  Don’t these passages then tell us that spiritual death results when a believer hates his brother? But again, John may only be speaking of persistence in hate which is characteristic of unbelief.   While a Christian may hate his brother, he will not persist in that hatred unto spiritual death.  Rather, he will yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess his sin and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.  Persistence in hatred would then indicate that one has become an unbeliever.

In Romans 11:23 we are told that the unbelieving Jews (branches) may yet be grafted in again if they do not persist in unbelief.  Many have concluded from this that apostasy can be remedied.  However, it may be that these Jews would fall into the same category as Paul before his conversion.  They had been broken off due to their rejection of the Christ but that rejection may be the result of ignorance which would therefore make restoration possible.  However, Paul does not hold out hope for those Gentile believers who have been grafted in by faith in Jesus Christ.  He tells them that they should not be arrogant, but afraid because if they fail to continue in God’s grace they too will be broken off.  Paul says nothing of the possibility of their being grafted in again.  Perhaps this is because for them being broken off could only result from outright apostasy from which there is no possibility of restoration.

What then of Peter’s second “conversion?” His turning back may simply be a description of his repentance.  If what we have concluded about the nature of apostasy is true, then this would further confirm that Peter’s denials did not constitute apostasy.  If he had committed apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10, it would have been impossible for him to “turn back.”

But what about those who have gradually stopped living according to their faith without outright repudiation of that faith?  Is it still possible to become an apostate of sorts without repudiating the faith in quite the same prideful way as described in Hebrews 6 and 10?  Some of the passages above could fit comfortably with such a concept and at least two more passages come to mind that might make room for such an apostasy:

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you- unless indeed you failed the test? (1 Cor. 13:5)

Paul’s words seem to suggest that one could abandon saving faith without being fully aware of it.  For this reason, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith.  It seems possible then that a believer can slowly slip away from the faith while clinging to the false hope that he or she is still saved.  In other words, a believer may begin to cling to the world and indulge the sinful nature more and more until his faith is no longer characterized by true trust and surrender to Christ as Lord and Savior.  For this reason, we are admonished to examine ourselves and be sure that we are living in faith.  If our lives do not reflect the walk of faith, then we have no grounds for presuming to be in saving relationship with Christ (Rom. 8:12-14).  We cannot assume that Christ’s grace continues for those who desire to live for themselves, even while claiming to believe on Christ (Titus 2:11-14).  To be in the faith means more than just head belief.  It is a faith that affects our lives and attitudes.  It is dangerous business to assume that the grace of God allows for us to live any way we want as long as we continue to give lip service to the Lord:

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. (Titus 1:16)

If we examine ourselves and find that our profession of faith is nothing more than mere profession, then we have “failed the test” and as a result, Christ is not in us.  If Christ is not in us then we are surely lost (Rom. 8:9).  Is there any hope of restoration from such an abandonment of saving faith?  Paul does not explicitly affirm the possibility of restoration, but his words seem to suggest the possibility.  There is reason to examine ourselves.   The reason would seem to be for the purpose of returning to the faith and re-committing ourselves fully to the Lord.

So perhaps this would constitute an apostasy that can yet be remedied.  This would then not be the same as the apostasy described in Hebrews 6 and 10 which seems to be characterized by an attitude of arrogance and deliberate unbelief.  In either case we need to guard ourselves against complacency in our walk with the Lord.  If we begin to take God’s grace for granted and make room for sin and rebellion in our lives, there is no guarantee that we will not continue down that path to our own destruction, and even to a point of making restoration impossible.  We should heed well the words of the inspired apostle:

Grace and knowledge be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence…Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification form his former sins.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:2-11-emphasis mine).

There are several things to note in this passage.  First, God gives us the power we need to persevere in saving faith.  It is not something we can do of our own strength.  Second, the walk of faith should not be stagnant.  It should be a walk of continual growth and maturity.  If we are not maturing in our faith then we are putting ourselves at risk of falling away from that faith.  Third, Peter makes it clear that those who do not persevere and mature in their faith were truly forgiven of their past sins though they have forgotten the significance of their initial cleansing.  Therefore, Peter is not just speaking of false professors who had never experienced saving faith.  Fourth, only by continuing in the maturity of faith does one make his calling and election sure, avoid stumbling [falling] and gain the certainty of entering the eternal kingdom of Christ.

It may be wise then to make a distinction between apostasy and irrevocable apostasy based on these passages.  There is certainly an apostasy that cannot be remedied if our exegesis of the Hebrews warning passages is correct.  However, it also seems that there may be a lesser apostasy.  This apostasy is not lesser because spiritual death does not result, but because there may still be hope of restoration through repentance and re-commitment to Christ in saving faith.

Conclusion:  The evidence seems clear that apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10 is a deliberate act of rebellious unbelief.  It is done with all the heart in an attitude of arrogance and defiance.  Occasional doubts or struggles with sin do not constitute such apostasy.  Rather, it is the act of willfully walking away from Christ and completely rejecting the truth of the gospel once embraced.  This apostasy is without remedy since “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”

There are passages that seem to suggest that there is a type of apostasy from which one may yet be restored.  However, some of these passages may also be understood as warnings against the sinful lifestyles that will inevitably result in apostasy if those sins are not dealt with through confession and repentance.  They may be emphasizing the dangers of sin by looking ahead to the most dreadful of consequences if that sin is persistently ignored and surrendered to.  Still, there are a few passages that may yet describe an apostasy from which one may be restored again to faith and salvation.  This apostasy could be described as no longer living according to the faith one professes (1 Cor. 13:5; Titus 1:16).  It would, for this reason, fall short of the outright rebellious abandonment of faith described in Hebrews 6 and 10.

Sin can lead to apostasy by hardening the heart to the point of unbelief.  That is why sin is such a dangerous thing and should never be trivialized in the life of the believer.  If believers persist in sinful living and refuse to repent, irrevocable apostasy may be just around the corner.  This “sinning” could be the unrepentant indulgence of the flesh, or the gradual tolerance of false teaching.  There is still hope of restoration and repentance prior to the decisive act of willful unbelief.  We can therefore be sure that if one desires to repent and be restored to right relationship with the Lord that irrevocable apostasy has not yet occurred.

While there will be cases of outright apostasy that we can observe and conclude with certainty that apostasy has occurred, there are other times where it will not be so easy to determine whether irrevocable apostasy has taken place.  We should hold out hope for the one who appears to have committed such apostasy as long as some doubt remains concerning the genuineness of the act.

Go to Part 12

Go to Part 1

Related Post: Does Scripture Describe Two Types of Apostasy?

For a solid alternative view from an Arminian scholar, see Brian Abasciano, My Argument for Apostasy Not Being Irremediable in Hebrews 6

61 thoughts on “Perseverance of the Saints Part 11: Can Apostates Be Restored?

  1. Good post Ben, and challenging to me as someone who has traditionally held more of the Shank view.

    I clearly understand the definition of Presumptuous/Defiant sins, and how one can’t (or won’t) turn from those types of sins. However, it seems like the words used to describe “repentable sins” are inadequate. Ignorance and weakness are really two different things. This is not a criticism of your argument at all, I’m just saying that none of the label words clearly captures the idea of exactly what defines this type of sin. Maybe that’s just because this category manifests itself in many different ways.

    For example in Peter’s case what he did could be called weakness, but it wasn’t ignorant. He did what he did deliberately, and after declaring Jesus was the Christ. He did what he did because he was scared. The same is true with your Russian examples.

    A different situation comes up with David and Bathsheeba. David knew very well what he was doing, one doesn’t accidentally commit adultery. And David wasn’t scared, he was selfish. But his sin was a type of weakness too – weakness of the flesh.

    On a separate issue….You quote Forlines who argues that a person who has fears can be assured that he has not committed the “unpardonable sin” because the individual’s concern indicates a desires to renew his relationship with God. This makes me wonder about the situation with King Saul. In his case he committed sins that were deliberate, but also might be called weakness. He also demonstrated both fear and a desire to renew his relationship with God. Yet God removed him from the throne, and presumably he was lost. In Saul’s case it seems that he wanted to repent, but it was still too late.

    Unrelated Side note: it looks like the auto generated mp3 at the bottom defends the Calvinist view of losing salvation. 😉 didn’t listen to it, but assume that’s the case looking at the blogroll at

  2. Hey Kevin,

    I don’t like “sins of ignorance” either. I don’t think it conveys the meaning very well and can easily be misunderstood. They are not “oops” sins in the sense that we really had not intentions of doing them. They are sins that are not done with a Spirit of absolute unbelief. I think Forlines comes very close to capturing the nature of sins of ignorance when he states that “The person who committed such a sin had better desires, but these desires were defeated.” But maybe this definition is not always adequate.

    David’s case is a difficult one. He was definitely acting deliberately. From the story we find that David got himself into trouble by not being where he belonged at the time; “David stayed at Jerusalem” while he should have been out to battle with his men (2 Samuel 11:1). That was David’s first mistake and led to his encounter with Bathsheba. He was neglecting his duty which demonstrates to me that David’s spirit was probably not quite right.

    The Bible doesn’t tell us what was going on inside David, but he was definitely having some sort of spiritual struggle. He was in a state of spiritual weakness and in that state he sinned greatly, compounded that sin, and tried to cover it up. He was certainly in the process of hardening his heart to the point of no return. No doubt the Spirit had convicted him numerous times and yet he hardened his heart to the Spirit’s voice. It took the rebuke of a prophet to get David to snap out of his self-induced spiritual stupor. It may be that Nathan’s rebuke was David’s last chance to respond. If he had ignored the prophet and continued in his defiance he may have reached the point where God could no longer reach him.

    In either case, David did repent, which would indicate that he had not yet reached the point of no return. Though he hid his sin and resisted the Spirit, there was something inside of him that longed for restoration, but his desire to indulge in sin overcame it. Thankfully, Nathan’s rebuke came before David’s right desires were completely smothered by sin and rebellion.

    David, then, would serve as an example of one who seemed to have committed apostasy in some ways but had not yet done so. That is why we need to exercise extreme caution in trying to diagnose actual instances of apostasy.

    I personally do not see any evidence of genuine repentance in Saul. Saul’s “repentance” seemed to be only a desire to maintain the kingdom and look good in front of his people. It does not seem to have been a repentance that was concerned with restoring a right relationship with the Lord (1 Samuel 15:30). Saul had demonstrated a pattern of disobedience as king of Israel (1 Samuel 13:8-13). So Saul’s rebellion began early and it is not clear that he ever truly repented for his acts of disobedience. It seems that Saul may be a far clearer case of apostasy based on continued disobedience and refusal to genuinely repent of his actions.

    Great thoughts. Not sure if that helps, but I do think that David, Saul, and Peter can all fit within the framework of sins of weakness vs. the sin of outright apostasy.

    God Bless,

  3. Ben,

    Thanks again for your posts. I know it takes a lot of time to compile, and yours are always very well written. My question/comment to you is this – is it possible for someone who professes to be a Christian to be lost? Perhaps I misunderstand the point of your post, but it seems to imply that sin leads to hardness of heart, and left unchecked a hard heart leads to a renouncement of Christ, and thereby salvation. I haven’t thought much along those lines, but in studying along with you, aren’t we breaking our rule of letting scriptural exegesis define our theology?

    For instance, when dealing with 1st Corinthians 6:9-10, you said:

    “Perhaps there is an apostasy from which one can be restored. But it may be that these passages are warning against a life characterized by sin because such a life will soon lead to apostasy. So when Paul speaks of not inheriting the Kingdom of God, he is speaking of what will happen if sinful living persists to the point of apostasy.”

    It doesn’t appear to me that he is concerned about some possible future state of the Corinthians, rather, Paul was deeply concerned about their immediate spiritual state. People who continued to sin in their attitude and manner in taking the Lord’s Supper were said to be “sick or asleep”. I don’t see from 1st Corinthians 11 where they were full blown apostates.

    In looking at that 1st Corinthians 6 passage, Paul is reprimanding them for their un-Christlike attitude in taking one another to court. They should choose to be defrauded themselves before even trying to take things from others, especially brethren. He continues that line of chastisement by reminding them that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom. Notice here he names not one group of people (apostates) but groups of people – each characterized by one major sin. Those sins are what separate us from God- a life characterized by wickedness and parts of the heart unchanged by the gospel. The rich young ruler could follow most of the Law, but when he failed to love God more than he loved his possessions, we know his fate. He failed to follow the “Greatest commandment”, Loving the LORD your God with all your heart…

    Was he an apostate? He seemed very sincere in his service up to that point. Was all of his life given over to God? No. It doesn’t take full apostasy to be lost.

    An integral part of becoming a Christian is crucifying the flesh and its sinful desires. This involves, but is not limited to, repentance of existing sins and mindsets that are “earthly”, lest we find ourselves walking as “enemies of the cross of Christ”. Many Christians are content to give up several things for Christ, but not all. Most, but not everything. Those who try to cling to adultery and the cross at the same time will not be saved. Those who cling to alcohol and the cross will face the same fate. I know too many Christians who say “God is my best friend”, yet their daily lives are filled with earthly desires and there is no discipline or spirituality in sight.

    Matthew 7 also addresses people who still claim to follow Jesus, but ignore obedience to his teaching. Will the only people lost on judgment day be those who have renounced the name of the Christ? I think that is not the case, if Matthew 7:22-23. Many will call Him Lord, and have some level of allegiance to Him, but overall their wicked lifestyle denied Him.

    While I will continue to read over your post several times, I think we should be careful about reading into other texts our assumptions about how to make one passage fit. I know you aren’t trying to do that, but it seems we are skewing some other clear concepts.

    From my understanding, sin separates us from God, not just the eventual denouncement of our faith.

    Thanks again for the dialogue, and I look forward to your response!

  4. Steven,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I think apostasy as described in Hebrews is without remedy. I think 2 Pet. 2:20 and John 15 are probably describing the same event. I am still open to the idea that unrepentant sin causes spiritual death even though outright apostasy has not yet occurred, but that position is not without problems.

    It would suggest that every time we sin we are cut off from Christ (though some would say only certain sins would cause this). This would mean that a Christian essentially forfeits eternal life every time they sin until they repent. If we say that one does not spiritually die right away, but eventually if repentance doesn’t follow, then we need to wonder how long one can go without repenting before spiritual death results.

    This does seem to undermine salvation by faith. It also makes grace seem quite ungracious since God immediately cuts us off from Christ whenever we sin (and I see no Biblical evidence that one who is cut off from Christ after putting saving faith in Him can be grafted in again.

    Maybe this is not what you are suggesting. I do believe that there are those who claim to be believers who are not. Many believe they are Christians who have never really come to saving faith in Him.

    Those sins are what separate us from God- a life characterized by wickedness and parts of the heart unchanged by the gospel.

    Again, how often must we sin and how long can we go without repenting before our lives are considered “characterized” by wickedness? There are very difficult distinctions to be made and I think we need to very careful since there is an area of subjectivity here.

    For now, the safest course of action, in my mind, is to affirm that salvation is by faith and is only finally lost through unbelief. The walk of faith includes confession and repentance when we sin, and discipline from the Lord when we are straying from Him. It is important to note that when we are experiencing the discipline of God for our sins, we are still His children and “accepted” by God (Hebrews 12:5-7). For this reason I find it very hard to accept a doctrine that would suggest that salvation is lost immediately when we sin, or that one cannot be resistant to God’s spirit to the point of needing discipline and still remain a child of God.

    Again, maybe I am misunderstanding your comments. I am anxious to hear what else you have to say about this.

    God Bless,

  5. Ben,

    Thanks for the remarks. I must confess that I don’t have all the answers, but the Word surely has the solutions to all of our questions. Let’s dig in 🙂

    Amos 5:12-15

    “For I know your transgressions are many, and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor at the gate. Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”

    Also, from Ezekiel 18:21-23; 26

    “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

    “When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die.”

    First off, in looking at those passages, I think its important that we establish that God wants everyone to be saved. He has no pleasure in the death of anyone, and it is His desire that people shape up their lives and follow His lead. God is not looking for ways to strike His covenant people down right and left, rather, He is gracious to all, as the prophet Jonah accurately noted.

    These passages also bear relevance to our discussion in that they show what separates people from God, and how God views the remedy for the current separation. In both cases God is going to punish people for their transgressions, iniquities, lack of observing His statues, and general unfaithfulness. It is not that they are no longer his covenant people in Amos, on the contrary, God shows what a shame it was that their unrighteousness resembled that of the nations around them, in spite of His relationship to them (chapters 1 and 2). Do not our sins, when left unchecked, rise up before God as did the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:20-21) Will not the Judge of all the earth do right, by removing our candlestick when we refuse to repent, and continue a life of immorality? (Revelation 2:21-23) God is He who searches the mind and heart, and will give everyone according to their deeds. He is just in doing so.

    “For three transgressions of Judah and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept His statutes…”

    In both texts (and in the whole book of Amos) the people are condemned for their conduct, their lifestyle. Is there a remedy for their horrible condition?

    God tells them to seek Him so that they will live. This seeking is represented in the change of their lifestyle of unrighteousness. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Even though their condition was condemnable, it was not without hope. They continued to offer sacrifices and worship to the LORD, yet with a life full of unrighteousness, their worship and service was meaningless. They looked forward to the Day of the LORD, but they would be surprised when it came (Amos 4:18). Yet in spite of all of that, there was still hope to be found in repentance – in a recognizable change; a return to spirituality.

    Now to your comments.

    “Again, how often must we sin and how long can we go without repenting before our lives are considered “characterized” by wickedness? There are very difficult distinctions to be made and I think we need to very careful since there is an area of subjectivity here.”

    Truly a subjective question. I can’t tell you the exact moment that God condemns someone to hell, but i CAN tell you that sin will be the cause of it. What makes me an adulterer? I’d think my wife would figure once would be enough for her. Should I tell her it takes me years of adultery before God views me as such? I know you wouldn’t feel comfortable with that either. Cain was a murderer after the first time. The first sin sent Jesus to the cross, and everywhere in the scripture it is spoken out against. How are we who are dead to sin going to live any longer in it?

    “For now, the safest course of action, in my mind, is to affirm that salvation is by faith and is only finally lost through unbelief.”

    If by unbelief you mean that they don’t believe God will punish sin, then ok. If by unbelief you mean they never take God seriously and thereby never really change, ok. But if you mean unbelief as in they no longer believe God raised Jesus from the dead, or that Jesus was the Christ, then I disagree. I can not tell you when God has had enough of someone’s sin, but every time I see someone in error, is it not right to say “Go, and sin no more.”?

    Sorry if I’m rambling!


  6. Ben. This is an excellent post. While it is clear in the context of your article, I think you should make it more obvious at the beginning that the assumption is that people can fall away from faith. I think they can as do you.

    I have asked similar questions as I know of people in this position. And it may not even be that they deny the truth of Christianity, rather that they find the life hard and have said they are no longer going to live for God and instead live their life how they choose. And while one may not know the state of everyone’s heart, I wonder whether these choices can be made in terms of rejecting God rather than disbelieving doctrine.

    Going on to your second situation where ongoing sin and refusal to repent can led someone into a position where they choose apostasy and will no longer choose Christ, I think this is a viable position to take from Scripture. Admonition to take hold of faith, to secure one’s faith, to not give up the race, all fit with this position. It is not that God is insecure in anyway, rather that we have to persevere. Things outside of us cannot separate us from God but if we reject him then we separate ourselves. That is why sin is so dangerous. Not just because of its negative effect on us and others in terms of natural consequences or punishment, but because followed thru it will lead to death.

    A useful verse that relates to this issue is Proverbs 29:1

    He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,/
    will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

  7. Hey guys,

    Great thoughts. I think I may have changed my position somewhat as a result of some comments here, a conversation I have had with another Arminian via e-mail, and a few more Scriptures that have come to mind.

    I am leaving for a weekend work event later today and will not be back till Monday. I will try to elaborate and interact with these comments then.

    God Bless,

  8. Hello Ben,

    Hello Ben,

    I was at a seminary bookstore this weekend, and was looking at a book called: “Four Views on the Warning passages in Hebrews” edited by Herbert Bateman (isbn – 0825421322). Are you familiar with this book? It looked very good, unfortunately I had a bunch of other books that I was picking up that day. If you are familiar with it, what did you think of it?


  9. Robert,

    I have not read it but hear it is very good. It is on my wish list but I have not had the money to buy books in a long time, and it seems that it will be quite a while before I will again. If you do buy it and read it, let me know what you think.

    God Bless,

  10. Here is an interesting quote I just ran across today concerning the very early Christian belief that hardheartedness leads to apostasy from faith and salvation (though it is not the main point of the quote):

    “Therefore, even in the New Testament, the apostles are found granting certain precepts in consideration of human infirmity [after quoting portions of 1 Cor. 7:1-9, 25] They did this because of the incontinence of some, lest such persons, having grown hardhearted, and despairing altogether of their salvation, might become apostates from God. Therefore, it should not be wondered at that also in the Old Covenant the same God permitted similar indulgences for the benefit of His people.”

    Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.480, quoted by David Bercot in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, pg. 472-emphasis mine.

  11. Ben, I enjoyed this post and will be sending it out to others. I do not buy into the hypothesis theory on Hebrews 6.4, nor do I believe that one can ‘high-handedly’ rebel against God and seek forgiveness. Thanks for the great perspective on this issue.

  12. Ben,
    A thorough essay revealing keen insight, thank you. A couple of thoughts come to mind that may be of interest to you (or not).

    As for the concept of irretrievable apostacy, what do you think about the depth of spiritual life mentioned in Hebrews 6? It sounds to me that the apostate who has no more to look for from Christ is the one who turned away from all Christ had to show. As you said in the post, not from ignorance (or inexperience), but with eyes wide open and a history of incredible experience. If such a one turns from all that Christ has offered and that the apostate has experienced, what is left to sweeten the pot to effect his return? Another spike through the body, a few more lashes on the back? If he’s turned his nose up at the best Christ has to offer, then nothing remains for Christ to offer.

    I think, incidentally, that is the same principle which applies to the fallen angels, and which damned them irredemiably. They turned in full view of God, and so what hope is there in God for them?

    The principle is in play for the Pharisees, Sadduccees and priests in regard to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as well, but perhaps to a lesser degree. One cannot accidentally blaspheme the Holy Spirit, he does so with knowledge and intent (John 3:2). When one attributes to the devil what he knows in his heart is from God, he blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

    Ignorance is not bliss, but at least it leaves room for improvement! I think there is always hope for one who turned from Christ while still substantially ignorant or infantile. I think you do see 2 Corinthians 13:5 accurately as an invitation to get right rather than a dismissal for apostacy.

    Your consideration of the dangers of sin to the saved was just excellent. I didn’t notice a citation of 1 Tim 1:19, though (did I miss it?). I’ve always taught that sin is like a torpedo to the ship of faith. Take enough hits without diligent repair and that ship is bound to sink.

  13. slw,

    I think that your comments regarding the level of experience with God and irrevocable apostasy are dead on and strongly supported by the context of those warnings (Heb. 6:4-5; 10:26).

    I did not reference 1 Tim. 1:19 but it is likely dealing with the same thing as you suggest. It does seem like the use of “shipwreck” to describe the ruin of one’s faith would denote total loss and probably imply that there is no hope of restoration.

    God Bless,

  14. Ben,

    I am in need of assurance and some light shed on my spiritual situation. In my reading of Hebrews 4,10, I agree that there are those who fall away in such a way as to be beyond repentance and restoration. I see the passage addressing true believers. My problem is that I’m worried about my own condition.

    Several years back, while on a college study abroad program, I was dealing with great doubts about my faith and God’s existence as I was experiencing new cultures for the first time and taking classes from secular professors. At one point on the trip, I told God, “I can’t believe in You anymore” and subsequently lived in the world and in sin. That time came back to haunt me as I was reading through Hebrews again recently. I don’t know if it would help, but after I returned from the trip, I got involved again in a campus ministry and have been involved in ministry since that time. I basically returned to my faith that I had before the trip. I did identify myself as a Christian before the trip and was baptized at age 18. Well, now I’m struggling with doubt about my salvation, thinking that despite of my current service for God, in the end I’ll be considered an apostate. In light of all you know about N.T. theology, what’s your perspective of my status? If it’s favorable, is it still doubtful? Or is it crystal clear that I’m not beyond hope? I want to have complete clarity on this matter. Is there any definitive answer?


  15. Bill,

    You mentioned Hebrews 4 and 10, but this post was primarily focused on Heb. 6 (though 4 and 10 are related). It is in Hebrews 6 that it is said that the apostate cannot be renewed to repentance. Did you read the post? I only ask this because I think that the post itself would address much of your concern. Below is a link to a conversation I had with someone with similar questions (Samuel). The link will take you to his question and then if you keep reading you will see my answer and follow-up answers to more questions. Rather than repeat what I have already written here, I will just direct you to that discussion. If you still have questions then please e-mail me and we can discuss this further privately.

    God Bless,

  16. What this means is that the apostate really has no reason to repent once more for those sins if he slips back into a sinful habit. The Christian life truly is a “tightrope walk” over the Lake of Fire because one act of apostasy is enough to condemn the individual for all eternity. And if you find yourself back in the same situation you were in BEFORE you believed and there’s no repentance, then perhaps you really can’t do any better than sin.

  17. Darryl,

    Please be sure to read the post before leaving comments. If you had read the post you would have realized that your comments are criticizing a view that this post does not advocate.

    God Bless,

  18. I think what the second “lesser” apostasy is is just what I have always called “back sliding” and while backsliding is not apostasy, it does lead to it eventually. I think what the author fails to note is that all of the verses and passages are talking about the same sin, just at different stages. I do not believe that someone can just forget that they used to trust in Jesus and be lost, because we have the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us, but we are to constantly do spiritual checkups, to make sure we are not moving toward the point where we reject Jesus as savior, regardless of whether it is arrogant or not. It’s a process, not several spearate types of apostasy, apostasy is only final when a person departs in unbelief. Some would see it as unfair, but there literally is no limit to how much we can sin. The key is not the amount of sins, but the attitude we have when we sin. If I am sinning because I simply lack the courage or will to cease, then that is always automatically forgiven. An apostate will not care that he sins, or he will rationalize his sins, actually denying that he does them. John tells us that the opposite of confession (acknowledgment) of sin is denial of it, i.e. ” if we say we have no sin…” etc. It is dangerous to go too far with the apostasy doctrine, because we run the risk of producing a bunch of scared immature believers that constantly question whether or not they are truly saved, and we also run the risk of producing Christians that believe they have no security at all, and must work to remain saved. Jesus is the savior, so we must not give all the credit to man for coming to Jesus or for remaining saved. God will not simply sit by and watch His son or daughter fall away without drawing them and chastising them first.

  19. Hi Ben, I’ve written here before in above posts. At the expense of sounding foolish I am still really struggling with this issue. I’ve read around 6 commentaries on this issue and none of them really address what I consider some of the most important questions to someone such as myself who either due to their makeup, or attacks from the enemy struggle with.

    The first is what exactly is the falling away? Ellingworth’s commentary describes it as a separation from the community of believers and from worship. Other such as Bruce define it as apostasy. But what does it take to commit this act of apostasy? Must one like Owen says, formally renounce all Christian beliefs, and practices, and the saving work of Christ? Is it this the author has in mind or could it also be something lesser such as a period such as I had where I fell back into into the world and it’s debauchery, stopped going to church, and surrounded myself with worldly, secular friends?

    The second issue is what exactly does the phrase “restore to repentance mean?” It would seem that most commentaries leave the impossibility on the part of God in that God will not restore that person to repentance (as opposed to it being human agency). But what exactly does that mean? Does that mean that the apostate will never seek to return to God to be forgiven, or does it mean that even if the sinner does return to God to be forgiven that God will not restore him to the state of affairs he had before where he was allowed to repent and be forgiven? The reason I ask is because that is precisely what the example of Esau in chapter 12 is teaching. If “restore to repentance” is referring to a state of affairs then I can see how Esau was not allowed back. He was trying to repent but God wouldn’t allow it. However, if it means in a more literal fashion that you will never come back to repent then it creates problems with the example of Esau.

    I am very familiar with the interpretations on Esau’s repentance that suggest that the repentance was referring to Isaac, but in my mind the the most convincing are the one’s such as Ellingworth, O’brien, and Bruce that say that it was rather that Esau was seeking a chance to repent, but there was no chance granted to him. I find this very confusing because it would seem that by seeking a place to repent, Esau was actually repenting(like me), which is the very thing that 6:4 says that an apostate is unable to do. However, he was rejected which makes me feel that I myself could be rejected. Perhaps, I like Esau have found no chance to repent.

    I remember that from before that you hold to an eschatological view of Esau in chapter 12 but I haven’t read this in a single commentary. But it would seem that an eschatological view would have to be taken in order to relieve the tension.

    I personally just want some peace. My walk with Christ is very troubled and this blog is the closest thing I’ve found to an answer. I’d be extremely grateful if you would dialogue with me some more on this subject. Thanks again

    William Samuel

  20. There can be no doubt that apostasy is irreversible. There would be no point in issuing a warning, if it were not so, because all the person would have to do would be to realize he or she made a mistake, and turn back. The reason they can not turn back, is not an intellectual reason, they simply are not allowed to repent again, because the Holy Spirit has ceased to convict them of their sins. We can not simply repent and turn to Christ of our own volition, we need to be regenerated and convicted first, and without the Holy Spirit in our lives, this would be impossible. The believer who repents has not yet committed apostasy, hence the warning in Hebrews and 2 Peter, etc. The goodness of God leads us to repentance, so for someone to not be able to repent, they would have to have ceased to listen to and experience the goodness of the Holy Spirit. I used to struggle with apostasy, because many times in my youth I “said the sinner’s prayer” and responded to altar calls galore and was baptized so much my skin was wrinkly, but I never really BELIEVED to the point of a change. Later, after I had truly believed, I discovered the Hebrews 6 passage and was scared to death. I wondered if one of my many salvation experiences had led to true salvation, and that by not following through, I had apostatized. What I didn’t realize then was that a true salvation experience comes A. after truly and fully hearing and understanding the gospel, which I apparently did not and B. after knowingly, willingly and as a course of trust deciding that without Jesus, I would perish in hell for all eternity. .My so called salvation experiences had been mostly emotional responses to charismatic preaching, peer pressure to go to the altar or a general feeling of being bad, and needing to feel better about my self. There are a lot of religions which have a system of “repentance” an confession of sins, but they are still not teaching the truth. The truth is that unless your trust is completely and SOLELY in Jesus, salvation has not taken place yet.

  21. William,

    I will leave it to Ben to answer you more comprehensively, but I really think that Esau seeking a chance to repent is exegetically much less likely than him seeking for Isaac to repent/change his mind about giving him a blessing. For that is exactly what happens in the OT passage. Esau does not look for a chance to repent there. As you mention, Esau did repent in a way. He did not seek for a place for himself to repent, but a place of repentance in Isaac. You could think of finding a place of repenetance as finding a place for his repentence to be accepted. That would seem to be how it must be taken by those who take the view as having to do with Esaus’ repentance. But that is a less direct connection since it speaks of not finding a place of repentance rather than not finding a place of acceptance for repentance. But with the idea of Isaac’s repentance, there is a direct carry over — he found no place of repentance (in Isaac). And that is what we see in the OT text. He sought for Isaac to change his mind about blessing him. That is what he sought with tears in the OT text, which is he backgorund of the Heb 12 reference.

  22. Well, here’s the bottom line on the whole issue. John 3 16 says “…WHOSOEVER believes has eternal life” Hence, if you believe (trust) in Christ, you are not an apostate. Those who once believed, and then became apostates WILL NOT and CAN NOT believe, or else John 3:16 would be a lie. Y’all have a good night now…

  23. William,

    I agree with Arminian on this one. I did mention in the ??Questions?? section that this could have more of an eschatological reference, but also mentioned the view that Isaac is the one who would not change his mind about the blessing as Arminian notes. I will try to find the spot where I said that and reproduce it below.

    Also, it seems that you have suggested that Ellingworth means that a loss of salvation is not in view, but that does not comport with all that he has to say on the subject.

    God Bless,

  24. I think it’s entirely possible that the author of Hebrews is teaching us that because Esau sold his birthright, God allowed Jacob to steal his blessing. If we take the text as is without implying a deeper meaning, we would have to admit that there is a mistake in the New Testament. I personally have never met an affirmed apostate that regretted or reneged on their rejection of Jesus.

  25. William,

    Here is what I had written (below). I think either interpretation fits the context and takes care of the supposed problem,

    Considering the context of the passage, and the overall view of apostasy throughout the epistle, I think the example of Esau poses no real problem to the view of apostasy I have described as consistent with the inspired writer’s view. It seems to me that Esau is used as an example, in that passage, for three reasons. First, he is used to show that the inheritance of salvation is precious and should not be treated lightly (as Esau despised his birth right). Second, to show the great disparity in value between salvation in Christ and the emptiness of Judaism without Christ (contrasting the value of Esau’s birthright with a bowl of soup- also the need to endure suffering for the sake of something greater, just as Esau should have endured his hunger a little longer for the sake of preserving his birth right, cf. 12:1-4). Third, to show that once salvation has been despised, it cannot be recovered. Esau’s tears were not tears of repentance, but tears of regret for forfeiting his inheritance once that became a reality to him. In that sense, we might see it in an eschatological sense for the apostate. His tears will come when he stands before the Lord and fully realizes what he has lost. I think the eschatological emphasis really fits the context, as the writer emphasizes final salvation throughout the epistle. Also, the “repentance” could refer to Isaac, and not Esau. In that sense, it would mean that Isaac would not change his mind (repent) and give Esau the inheritance he lost.

  26. Matthew,

    That is possible. It could also simply be that since Esau despised his birthright in giving it to Jacob for a bowl of soup, he should not have been surprised when he did not later receive it. Perhaps “despising” his birthright was not only selling it but taking it for granted, not believing that he could really forfeit it by telling Jacob he could have it for a bowl of soup.

  27. Hi Guys, thanks for the thoughtful replies. Here’s what Ellingsworth actually said:

    “It is therefore preferable, both on linguistic grounds and in the light of the purpose of Hebrews, to understand Esau in Hebrews as seeking in vain the possibility of repentance, even though this involves acknowledging that the author’s pastorally oriented interpretation strains the meaning of the story in Genesis. Second to understand “UEtavoiag”…Eaqev of Esau being unable to make Isaac change his mind(Hering) does violence to the grammatical structure of the passage, in which there is no explicit mention of Isac, and also to it’s meaning”

    This is from Peter Obrien in the Pillar New Testament Commentary:

    “The expression ‘for he found no possibility/opportunity for repentance’ does not mean that Esau ‘could find no way of reversing the decision,’ supposedly because of Isaac’s inability to change the situation (Gen. 27:34-40). Rather, it is a technical phrase that signifies ‘an objective possibility of repentance granted by God.’ Here in v 17 it functions as a parenthesis. It underscores the ultimate seriousness of Esau’s rash and thoughtless rejection of God’s gracious gifts……”

    Ben, Ellingsworth does equate it with a loss of salvation. Sorry I wasn’t clear on that before. From what I remember this also is in line with what both Bruce and Lane have written as well.

    My confusion stems from this: If the apostate will never want to repent, (and he shows that he is an apostate by the fact that he never turns back to God), why bring up Esau as a metaphor for an apostate and show him seeking the possibility to repent only to have him rejected?

    I understand that it’s possible that the repentance Esau was seeking was in fact Jacob’s, but that doesn’t rest well with me with so many scholars are against it.

    Ben I understand the eschatological view, but have you read any scholars who hold to that?
    Thanks again

  28. William,

    Ellingworth is a solid scholar, but his reasoning for rejecting Isaac’s change of mind being in view is not. For it does not reckon with the way that the NT authors use the OT, which has been increasingly recognized by scholars, i.e., that their references to the OT often presuppose the whole OT context. A lot of research has confirmed this. And it is what we would expect of the NT authors as responsible interpreters of the OT. Indeed, the author explicitly indicates that he expects his readers to know the OT text (O’Brien even notes this). That alone invalidates the idea that he would not expect them to read his comments in line with the OT text.

  29. William,

    You could also approach this from a slightly different angle. Since you are so concerned with scholarly backing, note that most scholars think that Hebrews refers to as Esau seeking not repentance but the blessing. So the text is not saying that Esau sought to repent but could not. (Though I still think it more likely that the inspired author of Hebrews speaks of Esau finding no place for a change of mind in Isaac, in accordance with the OT context.)

  30. I think one reason that there is so much confusion about this is the use of the word repentance, i.e. μετάνοια (me-tä’-noi-ä ) and the reason this is so confusing is that it means a change of mind, and Esau WAS changing his mind. Although it does mean a change of mind, it should be noted that it wasn’t impossible for Esau to change his mind, but to find a PLACE of changing his mind, i.e. that his change of mind was rejected by God and by his father. In other words, he changed his mind, but his change of mind was invalid, because the deed was already done. If it had said “Esau tried to change his mind, but was unable to” that would have been absurd, since an attempt at changing one’s mind IS A CHANGE in and of itself. We need to focus on the word PLACE, and realize that it was his attempt at undoing what he did that was rejected, not that it was literally impossible for him to change his mind. The apostate, if this is indeed a picture of an apostate would reject Jesus, then on judgement day, try to change his mind, but would be rejected, and cursed, whose end is to be burned. I do, however, doubt that Esau’s situation is a good example of an apostate, because Esau was not cast into outer darkness, or even away from Israel or his family, and HE WAS GIVEN a blessing, just not the blessing he wanted. This passage deals more with the sovereignty of God than apostasy, as far as I can tell, but if we can apply it to an apostate, it seems clear that the apostate will NOT regret his actions, UNTIL he is to receive the blessing (i.e. heaven) and is rejected (i.e. cast into hell) Those people who sit around beating themselves over the head, wondering if they are apostates are simply not placing enough trust in Jesus, and are placing TOO MUCH trust in themselves, and in circumstances.

  31. Thanks Arminian and Matt. Matt I agree with your point as it is precisely this that I communicated above. It may well be that I am placing too much trust in myself. However, it is what is it and I am doing my best to understand this difficult part of scripture.

  32. William Samuel,
    John 5:39 sais ” Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40: And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

    Dearest William I fear this applies to you too. Mathew discerned where you are at perfectly. In your last reply you even agreed with his assessment of your real problem, but you admitted that you do not want to deal with the real problem. This is exactly what the Pharisees did, they where only interested in working out in their human understanding the law of God and have a certain peace of mind that if they can live within that and trust in the animal sacrifices they will be fine.
    You are seeking to get some peace of mind by figuring-out this doctrine and feel secure in the knowledge of this doctrine! That peace will be nothing like the peace of Christ! Even if you will be able to cobble together a doctrine that will give you peace of mind, that you did not commit the unforgivable sin, will you, the day when you stand before Jesus, plead your case like a lawyer? I am sure you know, the only one that can plead your case is Christ! As long as you place any trust in yourself you will never know a true assurance of salvation, because you cannot be saved.

    Dearest Ben,
    At this point I would like to add a few comments to the discussion.
    It seems to me that we humans would like everything nicely packaged, so we can know exactly what we must do. Would we not like to know exactly what sin(s) will cause us to be apostate without remedy?
    I believe it may help us, if we understand that Salvation is not some sort of commodity. It just seems to me when the doctrine of Salvation is discussed it tends to come across like it was a commodity. I am not suggesting that you see it as such.
    However, if we keep in mind that Salvation is Jesus Christ, we can remind ourselves that our Salvation is a relationship with Him! While we are abiding in Him and He in us, we are saved! Now relationships as we all know are generally complicated, admittedly in our relationship with Christ it is only us that are complicated.
    God has shown me that it is very hard to come to that place of no return regarding our relationship with Christ and therefore our salvation. However He has also shown me that it is quite easy to cross that line of not being able to be reconciled to God. This is how I see it. From God’s perspective I know, as the scriptures testifies, God will leave no stone unturned to bring us back into a relationship with Him. His immeasurable love, patience, grace and mercy are so indescribably vast that considering this possibility form this angle it is very difficult to break off our relationship with God past the point of no return. However from man’s perspective, I fear it may be rather easy. Do not the scriptures say, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling! O how often I have repented of making light of God’s grace! I also know that just by me not being willing to surrender a certain doctrine, I would have become a Pharisee. For a long time I used to think God’s judgement was quite severe when He did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land because of him hitting the rock, now however I have come to see God treated Moses with great mercy, for Moses to do this thing after he had seen the glory of God and known Him like no man before him was not good.
    So for an unbeliever to commit the unforgivable sin and not be ever reconcilable to God is far harder than for a believer, the greater our revelation of our Saviour the less it takes to come to that place, for to whom much is given, much is required.

    One more point!
    How many sins did Adam have to commit before his relationship with God was broken?
    We all know the answer to that question, so why should it be different for us today? Every sin will separate us from God, the only difference today is that we readily can repent and be restored to the Father because of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Does this mean we lose our salvation every time we sin? Remember this is a relationship, if one were to die in that place, yes he would find himself not with Christ. However God would not let us die in that place without having given us many opportunities to get right with Him by seeking Him in repentance! So to always worry about being lost and saved and lost and saved again is really moot for the true believer, for He will gladly repent when His loving Heavenly Father reveals to Him some sin, knowing that he would never let us die in sin, unless we continually insisted in it without being willing to repent. However if our security for our salvation is in the doctrines of the Bible instead of a living relationship with Him, whom these doctrines reveal, then we surely will be concerned about the possibility of losing our salvation through every sin we commit, for this is too heavy a burden to bear knowing human nature. So the doctrine of once saved always saved will become the soothing balm to calm the conscience! Having their very security for their salvation tied to this doctrine, will cause them to defend it with teeth and nails!
    By the way Ben, I agree with you in your example with David. Nathan may well have been David’s last opportunity for repentance! Does this not perfectly show the love of God how He will go after us and seek to bring us to the place where we will realize our sin and seek through repentance to be restored to Him!

    In the love of Jesus


  33. With all due respect, the above comment sounds like double talk. The idea that only a lost person would feel they were in danger of committing apostasy, or that they might have done it is absurd. The passages in Hebrews, and in John 15 and Revelation, etc. are there as a warning, and they are meant to make SAVED people try themselves, and make sure they really are saved. To “rest in eternal security” is a lie, there is no such creature in the word of God. Our security is in our trust in Jesus, and that trust is proven by our works. When sin becomes the rule, not the exception, we MUST examine ourselves, and repent, lest we find ourselves denying Jesus and going after the flesh, and the world’s falsehoods. My brother was a Christian as far as I know, and he was led astray by some Mormon friends who took advantage of him at a time of weakness and doubt. He finally ended up denying the basic tenants of the Gospel, and is now fully and proudly Mormon. Had he been eternally secure, he would not have ceased to trust in Jesus and begin trusting in man.

  34. Dearest Mathew,
    I am sorry, but I do not follow where you see me making such statements, would you care to elaborate and copy and past the passages where you saw them?

    By the way, though I would not quite use the same words as you, I can say amen to what you wrote, except I am not sure what your post is referring to!

    In Jesus Love

  35. Rudi, i hear you but. If the Bible were saying that it’s possible that my repentance will not make any difference to my outcome, if I have already crossed the line, then no amount of trusting in Christ will make any difference.

    That’s why I was really trying to understand what it means.

  36. @ Rudi, perhaps I misread your post, sorry. I once met a man on the internet, on my You Tube channel that claimed he was an apostate,and that he knew it and had tried to repent, but was not allowed to. No matter what I said to this man, he just chided me and said I was in denial and was teaching false doctrine. I was confused by this man’s almost religious insistence that he was an apostate, and then I looked at his channel. His whole life seemed to revolve around pleasure and fun, and it was little wonder to me that he wanted to think of himself as un- saveable, because if he was un- savable, that meant he could just live his life however he wanted to. He didn’t believe in hell, or in the Bible, so I was led to believe that he had just been a “good church goer” and had apostatized from what he thought was Christianity, but was never truly saved. It became clear to me after having dealt with this man that A. he was never saved and B. I was not an apostate. Apostates are not intellectually incapable of repenting, they simply can not, because the way we repent is not intellectually, but spiritually. The Holy Spirit must draw us to Christ, and He must convict us of our sins, and cause us to see our need for Christ. So, someone who realizes that they are in sin, and on their way to hell, and that the only hope they have is to trust in Jesus, is being drawn by the Spirit, and we know that those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. So, an apostate CAN NOT be regenerated, and will die convinced that they are ok and will get to judgement and try to repent, but no place will be found for them to do so.

  37. Dear William,
    until you come to a place where you realize that God deserves your repentance even if there was no chance of ever being forgiven, your repentance will not be a true repentance, and this would be the reason for not experiencing God’s forgiveness, not because you have crossed that line of no return! Just remember, this is the reality, none of us deserve God’s forgiveness! Gos does not forgive us because we deserve it when we repent of our sins, no He forgives us only through His unfathomable mercy for Christ sake!
    I myself remember a time of falling into a very grievous sin and the agony of soul I went through,(by the way, when you realized you made a mistake after having returned into the wold, have you yet gone through an agony of soul over your sin?) until God revealed to me my pride! I too thought He could not forgive me anymore. However it was not Him that could not forgive me, it was I !I was so disgusted with myself that I could not forgive myself. However God revealing to me His immeasurable grace, and seeing that He had already forgiven me, who was I to think I could not forgive myself. Did that not prove I was seeking to live the Christian life in my own strength?!

    In God’s love through me extended to You


  38. Dearest Mathew,
    thank you for your clarification. I appreciate it.
    I do enjoy reading your posts, it seems you are tired of beating around the bush and say things as they are.
    Amen to that.

    In our Saviors Love

  39. Rudi,

    Good comments. I think we are basically on the same page. I wonder if Matthew misunderstood you to be advocating once saved always saved when you wrote,

    “So the doctrine of once saved always saved will become the soothing balm to calm the conscience!”

    Your following comments seem to make it clear that you were simply describing why some believe the doctrine while disagreeing with it yourself,

    “Having their very security for their salvation tied to this doctrine, will cause them to defend it with teeth and nails!”

    God Bless,

  40. Trying to understand this post. I fear I have turned away from Christ…I heard a message and thought that God wanted me to change my way of dress – to dress more Amish (I’m all about modesty). Anyway, I didn’t want to so I asked the Holy Spirit to leave me alone and said, If this is what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want to anymore.

    Now, I realize that the way I dress is not where my salvation lies, but it did bring me to a crossroad…that I failed. Does this mean I am apostate? I am a mom now, and pray daily that my child will never experience the fear I have.

    If anyone has any word of encouragement, please post. I have sought forgiveness for my rashness to God, but I fear so much…and I know that Perfect Love casts out fear, so maybe I have no more hope.

  41. Sally,

    I would recommend that you read this exchange I had a while back with someone with a similar question named William Samuel. The discussion starts here:

    To answer you quickly, if you desire again to have a relationship with Christ you do not fit the description of an apostate that cannot be renewed to repentence in Hebrews. I believe the Bible describes two types of apostasy ( You would fit into the first group that can be renewed. You have nothing to fear as far as I am concerned. I pray that God will grant you the peace you need to move forward in Him. If you still have questions, feel free to ask.

    God Bless,

  42. Ben,
    I really appreciate your comments and will take a look at what you have linked. Today the sun is shining outside and my dismal outlook is uplifted…but come the gloomy days of winter, my heart fails and I become a most disparaging individual.

    I come from a mostly Calvinist background (which may be strange given my strong opinions on modesty 🙂 ). However, when I am turning over scripture and seeking the Lord, I know there are godly men and women on both sides of this “Eternal Security” debate. Hence, I came to your blog to seek another side of the Hebrews warnings; I’ve not been disappointed.

    This year, to help me understand God’s Love, I’ve determined to note God’s mercy…perhaps, the fact that I’m gaining more knowledge about this aspect of God’s character, the Accuser is planning to attack me more. I’m not sure.

    Thank you again,

  43. Man, I don’t mean to seem insensitive to you, and believe me I know where you are coming from, but honestly I don’t know where people get this stuff. Apostasy can only be understood as a mature Christian, as it says in Hebrews 5. If you aren’t sure that you want to be a Christian, then you probably are or were not whenever you made that statement to God that you spoke about, i.e. being more modest. Salvation, for one thing is a decision we make, it is not based on emotions, or on a sinner’s prayer, or personal taste. Salvation is one thing, and one thing only, that being a decision to trust in Jesus and His works and Godhood to save us from eternal hell.

    Telling God in an angry or haphazard fashion that you don’t want to be a Christian because you would rather not dress like am Amish person is just an emotional reaction to something you most likely misunderstood, and it was made either before you began to truly trust in Christ, or when you were a very immature and young believer and were still walking mostly in the flesh. Unless you made a conscious decision to reject Jesus as Lord and savior, and ceased to believe He was either real or that He alone saves, then you are not an apostate.

    The thing people also either don’t or won’t get about apostasy is that you will not fear eternal hell as an apostate, because to become an apostate means to permanently dis invite the Holy Spirit from your life, and that brings spiritual death. The spiritually dead person is not subject to God’s call to repentance, therefore if He is not calling and convicting, you would feel no desire to even investigate the matter further. If you don’t believe me, ask God.Jesus says that anyone who comes to Him, He will in no way cast out. If this is true, then the fact that you are still coming to Him in repentance proves you are not an apostate! Also note that faith is granted, as is repentance, and while that does not mean what Calvin says it means, i.e. only that some are granted it, and some aren’t, God WILL NOT GRANT repentance, faith or conviction to someone who is twice dead, and plucked up by the roots. Such a person as Peter tells us is a blatant, wanton sinner with no regard whatsoever for the will of God. They are spots at our feasts, they love deception and have nothing but lust and desire for sin, all the time. Does that sound like you? No, of course not. So, be of good cheer, there is still hope. Peace in the name of Jesus the Christ, amen! Now, smile!!

  44. Dearly beloved Sally,
    It is clear that you do not fall in to the Hebr: 6 category , however it is also clear that you have not been restored as yet either !
    You say that you thought that God wanted you to change your way of dress! But then you said that because you did not want that, you told the Holy Spirit to leave you alone.
    However, regardless of whether it was just what you thought, or if it was the Holy Spirit telling you, what this situation revealed was that
    you are not willing to follow Him at all cost!
    I have come across many people that have walked with God to a point where God brought them to a place where they chose to disobey Him because ultimately they where only willing to go thus far and no further. They have found ways to either justify in God’s word their choice and therefore believing themselves to still be in the faith, or just thank and trust God for His great mercy for He understands our infirmities (The O.S.A.S. group are more prone to fall into this one)! Remember the Bible tells us that most of Christ’s followers left Him back then, only when His sayings became too hard.
    See your understanding that salvation is not in how we dress, though this is right, it does not address your not being willing, if it were, to dress like a clown for Him who actually being God allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross before a multitude, not dressed as a clown, but completely naked, for you!
    To be truly restored unto our Saviour you must answer the question, are you really willing to follow Him at all cost, for as it stands at this moment according to your own confession, this is not the case, but this is the only possible response such Love as His deserves!

    I thank God for the fear you are experiencing because without it you would have fallen into one of the two categories I have listed above! He is seeking to draw you back to Himself.
    Dearly beloved of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ has proven His love for us! It is now up to us to respond to such love in a way that proves our love for Him!
    Is not our obedience at all cost the only proof we can offer!

    With the Love of Christ

  45. Here’s a question I don’t think anyone has asked. Who does it benefit for people to sit around and wonder and live in fear about whether they are apostate or not? Is God glorified by a believer whose life has become nearly fruitless, because of fear and confusion? How would a lost person, an apostate benefit from knowing that they were apostate and headed to hell? Would they go about saying “hear ye, hear ye, I was once saved, now I am lost, so don’t follow me!”? Did Esau live his life after he sold his birthright in fear and regret, or did he go about business as usual, UNTIL he was to receive the blessing, then try to undo what he had done?

    The whole thing seems a little far fetched to me, i.e. that someone who has rejected Jesus as savior would then sit and worry about it, and live in fear. For one thing, the human mind is not capable of processing the revelation that one is going to burn day and night, forever and ever, so the mind would have to come up with some rational and logical reason for this not being the case. Also, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON here who has expressed a fear of apostasy has stated that they know they are apostate, and that they are headed to hell with no hope. No, they are in fact quite hopeful that this is not the case. If someone living in fear of the possibility of apostasy only affects themselves, then again, I ask, what purpose does it serve for God to cause them to have that uncertainty? I know people who have definitely turned from Jesus and they are all quite proud of their decision. One lady was an internet teacher and one day she announced that she no longer believed that Jesus was the truth, and had returned to her former religion of Buddhism. I see no evidence that she regrets her decision, and she now boldly calls Christians fools for not embracing Buddhism and vegetarianism, etc. The whole reason someone becomes an apostate is because they were saved, knew Jesus, experienced His love and power, and then made a conscious decision to no longer believe in Him. Why then would they wake up one day and say “oh no, I WONDER IF I might have possibly committed apostasy??!!” That’s like someone who goes through 4 years of college to become a journalist suddenly saying “oh no, I wonder if I became a journalist or not!!??” Such a willful person would not regret rejection of Jesus, because it would be a rejection on such a fundamental level as to allow no room for a desire to renege. Becoming apostate is a decision within one’s self to say “There is no Jesus, He is a lie, He doesn’t exist” or “Jesus is real, but not God, and not the savior of the world” Or in the case of the cult member, “Jesus is just one of many prophets, but by no means the only way to heaven” To do this causes the Holy Spirit to leave that person, and since He has been blasphemed, never return to them. Without the HS drawing man, man is in a state of natural rebellion, and is incapable of seeing his need for Jesus.

  46. Dearest Matthew,
    you make some good points.I would like to add to your rhetorical question.

    “Is God glorified by a believer whose life has become nearly fruitless, because of fear and confusion?”

    I would answer yes, in all those cases that their fear caused them to realize that their relationship with Christ is broken and sought Him with all their hearts in repentance and are reconciled with Him again !
    So I see it as Gods grace seeking to reveal to them their true state.

    Matthew, in your post you seem, I trust unintentionally, to imply that an apostate is only someone that stops believing in Christ and goes back to the world or some other religion. Would you not count the Pharisees that rejected Christ as apostate ? Did they not continue in “their” faith?
    I see by far the greatest majority of apostate are people in the Church believing themselves to be believers but have gone only so far with Christ ( just as most people that followed Christ in His time) and turned back. Not back into the world but prefer a culturally acceptable and comfortable life, having plenty of theological options to choose from to justify their ” position” , or should I say their “not following Him at all cost”!
    To think oneself in Christ but in reality being far away is a far worse place to be in than the person that has fears and anxiety about their relationship with God. How hard is it for them to see their true state, just like the pharisees, they are secure in the doctrine instead of being secure in Him whom the doctrine is seeking to reveal to us,John 5:39 !

    As you said in your second last sentence, Hebr.6 is really the same thing as the sin against the Holy Spirit and all I am seeking to point out is that most apostates are within the church, they have not left what we see of it !

    In Jesus love


  47. Rudi. I would say no, the Pharisees who blasphemed the HS were not apostates, they were a completely different class of people altogether. The Pharisees who blasphemed knew full well that Jesus was the Messiah, and chose of an evil and Satanic heart to reject Him, hoping to keep their authority and power over Judaism. Such a willful and wicked person is damned because they know without a doubt that Jesus is Lord, and still say He is evil. The apostate knew Jesus as savior, and then because of doubt, sin and temptation by false doctrines chose to cease to believe and replace Jesus with some worldly philosophy. While the end of these two is basically the same, i.e. hell, the apostate has a scale on which he/she slides into apostasy, and on which he/she may still repent, but the blasphemer of the HS has committed a single act of wickedness that is unforgivable, and no amount of repentance can avail, even if he could repent, which without the HS he of course can not. Apostasy is not usually a single event that takes place and is over, it usually involves a struggle. Faith is as much a choice as it is a feeling, if not more, so while a person may experience feelings of doubt and anger toward Jesus, they are not apostate until they have abandoned all trust in Jesus and have grown cold.

  48. Rudi. Also, note that we all rejected Jesus to one extent or another in our lives. Atheists reject even the possibility of there being a God, and are often quite hateful and angry at us for witnessing to them, but later many of them repent. An apostate must know Jesus as savior first and fully before rejecting Him.

  49. I think the most tough to deal with out of the big three is the example of Esau. “he found no place for repentance though he sought for it with tears.” Really?

    I’ve heard every explanation of this from it being his fathers repentance to he was seeking the blessing to “he wasn’t truly repentant, haven’t you read the original story?” And you know what baffles me? I couldn’t find a single commentary that takes our posters stance that it’s supposed to be an eschatological example of the apostate as the judgment. Every conservative commentary I have read says basically, “it was too late for sorry.” if you know one I’d love to know

    So the people who post on here asking questions like “what’s the point of living in fear about this” don’t really get that it can make certain people, myself included very uneasy that there comes a point when it’s too late for “sorry.”. Especially considering that the example that was given was a very temporal NOT eschatological one (though I find that very attractive). All I know is that Hebrews plus any inclination to OCD makes for a very troubling time.

    Definitely wish Esaus example wasn’t in there. 6 and 10 make complete sense in their logic. God won’t grant you repentance ( you’ll never again want to repent and therefore you won’t be forgiven.)

    Then 12 has to come along and turn it on its head “oh no no you may actually be trying to find a place for repentance, a way to undue what you’ve done but it will be too late for sorry.”

  50. Just want to apologize I I came off as flippant. This is Gods word and He will have it be as clear or as confusing as He wishes. As far as where I stand now. I just thank God for James 5:19. Though Hebrews 12 does leave me scratching my head

  51. Ben,

    Thanks for this post. I am like you really not wanting it to be possible for a believer to fall away but it seems that it can happen. I am just confused on the fact that sin can harden someone a lot to the point of no return. I feel all of us were extremely hardened by sin before we were saved but christ showed us all of it and the death behind it. It just seems silly to me that someone who is in christ would rebel after being with him. Can you think of any examples of people doing this??
    and that if they chose to rebel or just chose to be in sin a lot that Christ’s arm is to short to show them the way back?? I just kinda got freaked out about this whole thing because i cant think of a reason why strong Christians would forfeit their faith?? and i want to take ever precaution not to do that

    please help



  52. I don’t believe a sane person could know that their house is on fire and continue laying in bed. The bible says that Jesus will say to those who thought they were saved but really weren’t : “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, for I NEVER knew you. It is written : I take NO PLEASUREi n the death of the wicked, but rather they turn from their ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11 ; 18:23) Jesus said in John 6:35-40 that 1) Anyone who came to him would never be cast away and 2) None would be lost from his hand. There are many who think they have been saved, but the truth is, they are still trying to do it on their efforts.. They hear the gospel, but don’t really understand it. True, we can’t take God’s grace for granted, but it is solely by grace that one is saved, and it is solely by grace that one is kept.

  53. Stephen,

    Are you saying that you do not believe that true believers can fall away, and if they walk away it only proves that they were never true believers in the first place and never really saved either? I find that position to be very problematic in the face of numerous passages of Scripture that undercut such a view. I also find that the view, and your comments here, tend to undercut Biblical assurance as the following post demonstrates:

    God Bless,

  54. @ Stephen You display most of the commonly held misconceptions of the teaching of apostasy that OSAS believers do, and while I do not have the time, or frankly the patience to issue a lengthy rebuttal to you, I will touch on two things you took out of context.

    1. You said “Jesus said in John 6:35-40 that 1) Anyone who came to him would never be cast away” This verse is dealing not with apostasy, but only with what Jesus will do. Jesus will not cast anyone away who WILLINGLY comes to Him. So, you are erroneously concluding that since Jesus will not cast anyone away who comes to Him, this means apostasy is not possible. The problem is, the apostate is not being “cast away” he/she is WILLFULLY leaving the presence Of God by renouncing Jesus as savior (see Hebrews 10) and it is not any fault of Jesus if they leave.

    2. You said “None would be lost from his hand” which is not what the passage you quoted says. What it does say is this “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” What is clear from this passage is that one must believe (present tense) to be saved, thus this is in reference to eternity and the future judgement, NOT some sort of OSAS verse that indicates that one is somehow locked into being saved and unable to cease to be saved. You will never (that I am aware of) see a Bible verse that speaks of people having been saved (past tense) but you will see saved in the present infinitive tense as in “are being saved” so we must continue in faith to be saved and raised up on the last day. God will only give someone to Jesus if they have endured til the end and remained faithful to Jesus.

    The passage I believe you meant to quote was John 10:29 which states “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” Again, the picture of someone plucking us out of God’s hand is a picture of outside forces not being able to stop us from being saved. This is not speaking of us at some point in the future not being able to remove ourselves from Christ, just that no one or thing can remove us from Him or the Father. Learn to be a critical thinker, and to stop putting so much emotion into everything, and learn good solid Bible study rules, and most of all, pray, and resolve to hear what God is saying, rather than what traditions teaches, or what your itchy ears want to hear.

  55. William,

    I am sorry if you find such explanations as I have given unconvincing because you have not been able to find a commentary to agree. I have a feeling that many commentaries take the view that I take, though I haven’t really done an in-depth survey yet. Still, the point is not that a commentary agrees or disagrees, but whether or not the interpretation makes sense, and I am confident that it does. It also comports with the other warnings in Hebrews, along with promises like those given by Christ in John 6 that anyone who comes to Him would not be cast away. Your view would seem to have people trying to come to Christ and yet being rejected. That could only be true at the final judgment when it is too late. Like the goats who want to make their case that they belong to the kingdom, but their actions proved that they were not willing to come to Christ in life as He required, on His terms. But one doesn’t need to necessarily see this as eschatological either (though I think that view fits very well with the overall context).

    Esau wanted to be able to throw away and despise his birth right and still receive it. You can’t despise and reject your the birth right and then expect to receive it. That is the message of the passage and the reference to Esau. It is another warning not to turn away from the One who is speaking and return to a life without Christ. That would be rejecting and despising the birth right. One can’t receive the birth right without being joined to the Heir. You can’t reject Christ and yet benefit from what He alone can give, no matter how bad you may still want it.

    Esau sought for the blessings of the birth right without valuing the birth right itself. He valued a bowl of soup over the blessing of the birth right. Likewise, the apostate may desire the blessings of the birth right, but can never receive them without valuing the One through whom the blessings come. He values the temporal pleasures of this life above eternal blessings of the birth right. He can seek it with tears, but there will be no change regarding the blessing when the value of the birth right (or the One through whom it comes) has been despised and rejected.

    So I still do not see this passage as describing one who has a real change of heart being rejected by Christ (which again would contradict John 6). It is a “repentance” like that of king Saul when he offered the sacrifice before Samuel arrived. It was for the sake of saving face with the people, and not a real change of heart. He wasn’t sorry for his disobedience, but sorry about the result. It is the same with Esau and the apostate. There is no regret for rejecting Christ, only regret for the consequences. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,

  56. I used to struggle with Hebrews 6 as I backslid as an immature believer, back into fornication for a while. I only wanted to be married, found the struggle for purity difficult and I became unthankful over time, which led to me unwisely responding to the attentions of a man at work. It took a few months (although I spent the entire time in grief over my lost fellowship with God, and, yes, fear over judgement) to finally just repent and resolve to trust God.
    I read Hebrews 6 a little while after this, and was paralyzed with terror, that I’d done the unthinkable.
    However, I think it is important to bear in mind that Jesus himself speaks to those in his churches in the book of Revelation, those who are backslidden and some who appear to be in the sin of sexual immorality. He does not tell them that they are done for; rather, he exhorts them to repent, and that he disciplines those he loves, just as Hebrews 12 teaches.
    I know that those who had fallen into sin were his ‘servants’, for he refers to them as such in Revelation 3, and gives time for repentance. I thank God for his mercy! It’s been 13 years now, and, while I’ve gone through periods of not growing as I should, and battles with sin as we all do from time to time, I’m growing in Christ and walking with Him, never wanting to look back.There is nothing to go back to. I do believe that it is possible to become hardened in sin, especially if shame takes over and you put off repentance. It would be easy to talk yourself out of the shame through pride, and then just cast caution to the wind, hardening your conscience against the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

  57. To those who are getting caught up about Esau’s lack of repentance. I think his true heart is revealed if you read the story of esau in the OT. Then read the repentance of David and the repentance of the prodiCal son. Repentance is more than a change of mind As one person suggested. It really is a change of heart. Esau never acknowledged his sin, instead he got mad and Blamed Jacob. When he started crying his immediate reaction was not to humble himself, beg for forgiveness, recognizing his sin, and be so grieved that every ounce of him wants to turn from ALL sinfulness and to restore the relationship that has been broken and remain faithful until the end; instead after Esau started crying, got mad, and persisted in even more sin (this is not what authors of the Bible had in mind when theyes spoke about repentance). I don’t understand how people can even begin to think that Esau repented. Unless I am missing something, Esau’s (so called) repentance and biblical repentance are world’s apart.

  58. Steven, the problem with what you are saying is that it would cause us to ignore a serious warning in the Scripture. This warning is in the New Testament and it is addressed to believers with specific reference to Esau:

    “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:14-17

    We cannot get “caught up” with fornication or being a profane person which the Apostle equates to Esau selling his birthright for one morsel of meat. However you interpret this verse (unless you write it off as having no meaning for true Christians), it should not be ignored and can prevent some from falling into sin (as all the warnings are profitable).

    I do believe that a Christian can be restored as David was but please do not take that to mean you can trifle with sin. That is the fatal mistake I believe Esau made. He likely could have sold his birthright thinking that he could easily get it back and when he tried to get it back, he could not. A lot of people are living in unrepentant sin thinking that they can just make themselves right with God before they die and that is thinking just like Esau.

  59. JPC,

    I am not sure steven was dismissing the warning. I took him as saying that Esau could not be restored because his repentance was not genuine.

    Esau seeking repentance may also mean that he was seeking a “change of mind” from Isaac, not that he himself repented of his behavior. The application would be that If these Jewish Christians forfeit the promises given through Christ alone by returning to Judaism, they will find that there is no other way to receive them, regardless of how much they might desire to possess them or believe they have the right to possess them based on their perception of the promises made to Abraham/Isaac/Jacob (Israel), which are all fulfilled in Christ.

    Rejecting Christ means forfeiting the promises and “despising the birthright.” God will not “change His mind” about bestowing His covenant promises through Christ alone. The Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ, and there is no going back. They cannot have the covenant promises without Christ.

    I have argued for a slightly different view in other comments above, but believe both views are plausible (and possibly both are intended depending on the situation and temptation to fall away facing the believer). Regardless of what view we take, there is no reason to see this as God refusing to save the apostate who later desires to be reconciled again with God through genuine heartfelt repentance.

    God Bless,

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