For once people have been enlightened-when they’ve tasted the heavenly gift and have had a share in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age-it’s impossible to restore them again to repentance if they fall away, since they are crucifying God’s Son all over again, on their own account, and holding Him up to contempt.
In its original context, it was written to a church facing some severe persecution, so this was written as an exhortation and encouragement to them to persevere in the faith. This section has this stern warning that falling away, whatever the author means exactly by that, is very bad. Worse than whatever persecution they are facing.
One thing to be very careful of is to not misuse a passage such as this to judge or manipulate others. The author also shows that it is impossible for us to know someone’s heart. Only God really knows our hearts. May we always keep that reality before us. So we as frail humans go by what we do see outwardly, the fruit of someone’s life. And if it appears a brother or sister has turned away from faith in Christ, hopefully we care enough for them to lovingly pursue them and be the kindness of Christ to them. For God shows kindness to all, even the unthankful, and we are to show mercy just as He shows mercy.
Regeneration, an awesome spiritual word we don’t hear much these days, refers to the action only God can perform of transforming one’s heart. There is no way a third party can actually witness this. “We see the results, witnessing what seems to be a powerful, spiritual surrender or a quiet dawning of Gospel-understanding that leads to a refreshing newness. The change in perspective, the altering of character, and the gradual transformation of lifestyle point to a deeper reality, a regenerate condition of the heart.” Yet we still see through our imperfect lenses. So may we look to God and judge our own hearts, not others.
May this passage inspire us to be aware of encouraging one another in our faith and in our pursuit of drawing closer to God everyday.
Kind of interesting, a study done a while back showed that two of the main reasons for people dropping out of the church are (1) From a process that neglects long-term development in the faith after a person has converted, and, (2) If new members were introduced to Christianity through a manipulative process. Among those surveyed, “87 percent of those now inactive came to their point of decision through a church member who used manipulative monologue.”
P.S. If you’re a nerd like me and wanna read more about this passage from some of those scholarly scholars, I love George Guthrie and Scot McKnight. They have different views on this passage, but both so very good.
In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria