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The title of this article comes from the song, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." This song speaks of the lifelong commitment to follow Jesus that salvation requires. The words "no turning back" refer to the believer's resolve to persevere until the end. However, I have used these words to describe what the Bible teaches about Christians who forsake God. The Scriptures are quite clear. Once a believer abandons his faith, there can be no turning back, no chance for repentance.
This passage has been bent and twisted in every direction in order to avoid the obvious. But, I think it is crystal clear the writer went to great lengths to show he is speaking of a genuine born-again Christian. But, the important point is that once a believer "falls away" it is impossible to be restored through repentance. Notice, it does NOT say it is impossible to fall away, but to be restored again after falling away.
Despite the list of qualifications in verses 4 & 5, some still claim that these people were never really born-again. However, the writer used the words "renew" and "again." Both of these words mean something done a second time. It is saying that they cannot be restored to their former state. This makes no sense if the writer was speaking of an unbeliever. Who would want to be restored to a former state of unbelief? To be "renewed again to repentance" means to be restored again to the condition of "being enlightened, tasting again the heavenly gift, made partaker again of the Holy Spirit, tasting again the good Word, and the powers of the coming age." It is to be restored again to a condition before having "fallen away."
The other angle, is to claim that this statement is hypothetical, but impossible. Yet, the word "impossible" does NOT refer to "falling away," but to being restored again, after falling away. If he was speaking hypothetically, then what is the purpose of the illustration that follows?
7 For ground that drinks the rain
which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for
whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;
Is it only hypothetical [but impossible] that some soil does not produce fruit? Is it only hypothetical [but impossible] that such ends up being burned? The illustration indicates that he was speaking of a real danger to these Christians.
2 Tim 2:12-13
Many of the early Christians were faced with the choice of denying Christ, or being persecuted or martyred. Soon Christians we know will be faced with the same dreadful choice. Either deny Christ by taking the Mark of the Beast, or suffer for Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us. Verse 13 tells us why. If a Christian no longer believes the gospel and denies Christ, AND, God is always faithful, we are faced with the ultimate paradox. God would be denying Himself if the Holy Spirit remained in an unbeliever. God has no choice but to deny the apostate. Notice here that the catalyst that drives this paradox is a Christian's abandonment of his faith. Again, this is the consistent teaching of the Word of God.
Here apostasy is compared to Esau's situation. Salvation is compared to a birthright. The point is that once "sold," it can never be recovered. It is impossible.
When the writer mentioned the "root of bitterness" he was recalling the covenant the children of Israel made with the Lord just before Moses' death. God delivered Israel out of Egypt and gave them His Law through Moses. The Israelites made a vow to the Lord to obey His Law, and keep His covenant.
There is no question in my mind that the writer of Hebrews is referring to this passage when he wrote about the "root of bitterness." And what is this "root of bitterness" in the above passage? It is the willful turning away from God. What is the consequence? Look at verse 20 above.
Some might object to this teaching as using fear tactics when we warn Christians that they may depart from God permanently if they continue in their sin for the long haul. Some people respond to the love of God, while others are motivated by fear. If it takes fear to turn a wandering brother or sister around, then so be it.
In Hebrews 3 we saw the process which leads to apostasy. However, there is one passage that speaks of the final condition of someone who has completely departed from God through unbelief.
The wilful sin mentioned in verse 26 is not just any sin. Rather, it is a particular sin; it is the act of unbelief when one completely departs from God. This is in contrast to verse 23, where we are commanded to "hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." The writer described the apostate's complete and utter denial of Christ, forsaking the blood covenant, and intentionally blaspheming the Spirit. According to verse 26, there remains no chance of repentance once someone has blasphemed the Spirit that indwelt him. "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." In other words, Christ's blood no longer covers him.
Was the person mentioned above really saved? Verse 29 says that he was sanctified by the blood of the covenant. This is pretty strong language that can only describe a genuine Christian. Yet, his end will be with the unbelievers, enduring the fiery wrath of God.
It is clear from this passage that a Christian cannot "lose" his salvation. "Losing" implies something involuntary, or accidental. Departing from God is a deliberate act made when someone's heart has been so hardened by continued sin, he no longer believes the gospel
The idea that a saved person can forsake God and be lost is repulsive to many Christians. But, the thought that such a person is eternally damned without any possibility of repentance strikes fear into the heart of believers. And it should. Because, it was intended to do just that. But, properly understood, it should not cause Christians to worry that they might have at some point lived in sin and forsaken God without realizing it. One who has departed from God through unbelief will no longer have any desire to restore his fellowship with God. He is a reprobate. The longing Christians have to fellowship with God, and the guilt we feel when we sin, are the direct results of the Spirit's working in our lives. God is longsuffering. He knows we are weak and frequently fail Him. But, the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from all sin. Our continued faith in the gospel is still counted for righteousness. An apostate, who has totally forsaken God, will have no desire to fellowship with God. He might have remorse, and he certainly will live in fear. But, he will know in his heart of hearts that he can never turn to God. Look at Judas. He committed suicide. Why? There was no hope for restoration.
If you have a loved one or friend that claims to be a Christian, yet is living in continual sin, don't give up hope. But, you need to warn them where this path can ultimately lead.