THE ETERNAL SIN – Hebrews 6


For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 6:4‭-‬6 ASV

It is astonishing to behold the lengths to which people have gone in their writings to diminish the plain import of these words.

The Calvinistic concept of the impossibility of apostasy, or the final perseverance of the saints, has always been nothing but a delusion.

All efforts to resolve the matter by the judgment upon apostates to the effect that they were never really converted fail in the light of this passage, where there can be no doubt of the true conversion of them that later fell away.

This warning has both been unduly minimized and unduly exaggerated (as by them that say) the sin in question cannot be committed today.

The warning of this passage is a real warning against a real danger. On the other hand, our author’s meaning can be exaggerated to the point of distortion when he is understood to say that for sins committed after baptism there can be no repentance.

The most difficult word in this passage is “impossible,” which seems to perplex most of the writers. 

The apostle does not mean that it is impossible for God to renew a second time an apostate; but that it is impossible for the ministers of Christ (to do so).

Allow that God might indeed do what is here called impossible does no violence to truth, since all things are possible with God, except that he should lie or deny himself; and if the renewing of an apostate is not an action included in that exception, it would, of course, be possible with God.

But the practical impossibility still stands; and it appears likely that the state here described as “impossible” of renewal should be identified with the “eternal sin” of Mark 3:28.

The correspondence between the state here described and the consequence of “the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” suggests itself at once; our Lord’s words, in speaking of that unpardonable sin, being rightly supposed to point to obduracy in spite of experience of the Holy Spirit’s power.

THE ETERNAL SIN

A careful reading of Mark 3:28 and context reveals that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is designated as “an eternal sin,” thus one of a class of sins that are called eternal and which are without forgiveness.

In addition to the scripture before us, there are other New Testament passages bearing upon this important matter.

The Thessalonians were warned, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19); the pleasure lover was described as “dead while she liveth” (1 Timothy 5:6); willful sin after knowledge of the truth results in there being “no more a sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:26,27); “there is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16) for which there is not even any need or commandment that people should pray.

Certain Corinthians were spoken of as being in a state of “sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30); and Peter described a certain condition as being worse than lost (2 Peter 2:20,21); and the only condition that can answer to such a description is one from which recovery is impossible.

All of these words of the Holy Spirit, and including the strong words of the Saviour (Mark 3:28), speak of a condition from which there is no recovery in this life or in the one to come.

Yet in spite of terrible warning uttered here, no morbid fear should be allowed to fasten upon the soul as a result.

What is spoken of may be simply stated as spiritual death, having its everyday counterpart in physical, or natural death.

Once a man is truly dead, life cannot be breathed again into his body, death being final.

Just so, once a Christian quenches the sacred Spirit within his soul, that too is final, the destiny of that soul being then and there fully determined.

What then is THE SIN that can cause so fatal and final a result? The answer is ANY SIN engaged in, loved, and preferred over fellowship with God.

The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the sin judged by Jesus to have been terminal with the Pharisees; but in making it “an eternal sin,” Jesus clearly made room for the view that other sins as well could be just as disastrous.

The unpardonable or eternal sin is thus any sin that results in the death of the spiritual life; and therein lies the danger of all sin.

The counterpart is in the physical world where the fatal disease is the one inscribed on the death certificate and which varies with all kinds of circumstances.

The Christian attitude toward sin should therefore be like that of a mother’s concern over any threatened danger to a child. What mother could be indifferent to a splinter in her child’s knee?

She is aware that POTENTIALLY death is involved; and just so the Christian should move against the sin, no matter how slight or inconsequential it might appear.

The paranoic fear that some feel in thinking that they might have committed such a sin is unjustified as revealed by the analogy in the natural realm.

No person physically dead is concerned about his condition.

Thus, no person whose life has already been severed eternally from God could have any feeling of guilt, remorse, or anxiety. “Dead while living” is the apt description.

Fortunately for all people, the spiritual life is quite persistent and hardy; and it may be that relatively few even of those most hardened rebels against God, have actually gone so far as to reach the “impossible” state.

Peter’s description of the condition, cited above, does not affirm that those “who are entangled” in sins are in that “worse” state, but those who “are again entangled and OVERCOME.”

Then, O child of God, keep the holy fire alive. Just as the vestal virgins of the ancient Roman temple guarded the holy fire with their lives and constant vigilance, so Christians should alertly mind the sacred flame of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.

And then fall away poses the question of the true conversion of those that fell; were they really and truly born again Christians, or were they in some vital manner deficient, either of true faith or of possession of the Holy Spirit?

The more one studies this passage, the more it comes through as absolutely certain that those who, in this instance, are spoken of as falling away, were at first good Christians, genuinely converted, enlightened, partakers of the Holy Spirit, and having tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come!

If such a description as this does not indicate a truly converted Christian, as distinguished from one who is not really so, it would be impossible to imagine just how it could done at all.

The only thing one needs to give up in order to understand this is Calvinism; and why should any concern be felt over such a speculation as that of Calvin?

Angels of God sinned and were cast out of heaven (Jude 1:1:6; 2 Peter 2:4); Judas, an apostle, fell, and a genuine apostle at that, one who was commissioned to cast out evil spirits and raise the dead (Matthew 10:1-7); even THAT apostle “by transgression fell” (Acts 1:25); and all of the repeated warnings of the holy scriptures against falling – what are those, if they are not stern words designed to keep people back from real dangers?

If not what could be their purpose? “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Despite the obvious truth, the bias of Calvinism is discernible in half the commentaries one may read on this passage.

Hardly any passage of the New Testament having any bearing on the question has escaped some subtle distortion or outright contradiction.

Thus, it is attempted to make out that Judas was never “truly” an apostle, overlooking the fact that one cannot possibly “fall” from an eminence that he has not attained.

Again, Simon the sorcerer is usually represented as not having been actually converted; and to support it, the word of Peter to him are sometimes amended to read, “thou art STILL in the gall of bitterness” etc. (Acts 8:23)

Notwithstanding the colossal fact that the word “still” is not in the text; and not even the present tense is in it, as a glance at the Greek margin will show; for Peter’s words were actually, “thou WILT BECOME gall of bitterness,” etc.

And as for the question of Simon’s being saved or not, Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved“; and the inspired writer of Acts said, “Simon also himself believed and being baptized,” etc. (Acts 8:13).

Was he saved? If the word of God is true, he was saved.


He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.
Mark 16:16 ASV

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