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Your Questions, Our Thoughts

Doesn’t Hebrews 6:1–8 teach loss of salvation? 

This challenging passage seems to say that believers can fall away. When they reject faith, they re-crucify and shame the Lord Jesus, and it is impossible for them to be renewed to repentance (Heb. 6:4–6).

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in Jesus who had begun to experience persecution for their faith. Some were considering abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism without Jesus. The warnings are given to let them know that the mark of genuine salvation is endurance in the faith (Heb. 3:6, 14).

The elementary teaching they are to leave is not the foundational principles of the Christian faith but the Old Testament preparation for that faith. One of the phrases used to describe that foundation is “cleansing rites” (6:2), referring to Old Testament ritual washings (although it is sometimes mistranslated “baptisms”). They are told to press on to “maturity” (6:1), a word better translated as “perfection,” referring to the standing believers receive when they trust in Jesus.

The writer fears they understood Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy but did not necessarily comprehend His spiritual provision (see 2 Peter 2:20–22). Maybe they had “tasted the heavenly gift,” meaning they had experienced the Holy Spirit’s conviction but not His indwelling (see Matt. 27:34). Possibly they tasted God’s Word and God’s power because of their presence in the community of faith but not by personal experience.

These doubters must consider whether they were genuine in their faith in Jesus, and if not, they must put their trust in Him (Heb. 6:4–6). Moreover, the author is convinced that, once considered, they will recognize their own genuineness of faith: “Dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation” (Heb. 6:9).

I’ve known believers who for years seemed to have a genuine faith in Jesus, yet recently they have denied it. Also, some biblical passages seem to teach loss of salvation. How do you explain these issues in light of eternal security?

Eternal security is the doctrine that teaches that Jesus gives the assurance of salvation to all who come to Him in faith. Here are some suggestions that have helped me understand the difficulties posed by people who seem to deny their faith and helped me to keep assured of my salvation. First, we need to interpret our experiences through the Scriptures and not the other way around. Scripture says that the Lord Jesus will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5), that He holds us securely in His hands (John 10:28–29), and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).

Second, often passages that seem to refer to loss of salvation actually refer to loss of rewards. For example, Paul says that he disciplines himself so that after preaching to others, “I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). This refers to disqualification from either receiving rewards or the privilege of proclaiming the gospel.

Finally, we need to remember that people who seem to abandon the faith may have never known the Lord at all. Scripture notes, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19). It’s why the Lord Jesus will tell some at the final judgment, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:23).

Many believers teach eternal security. But when I think about how sinful I am, I frequently worry that I could lose my salvation. What should I think about this?

We should always strive to think biblically about these issues. While some biblical passages might have led good and godly people to believe that salvation can be lost, in my opinion the clear teaching of the Bible is that we can have assurance that we are secure in our salvation. Our assurance and hope lie in what Jesus has done, not in our own goodness. John 6:37–40 reminds us that the obedience of the Messiah Jesus keeps us safe.

One key aspect of His statement concerns His commitment to obey His Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 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” (John 6:38–39). If the Lord Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, even just one time, then He would not be who He claimed to be. The Lord Jesus staked His entire identity on always doing the Father’s will. And what is one specific desire of His Father? Jesus tells us: “that I shall lose none of all those he has given me.” Our confidence in the Messiah Jesus’ obedience to the Father should give us certainty that if we have come to Him in faith, He will keep us absolutely safe.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.

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