Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crucifying the Son of God Again

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 06:04-06, NKJV).

If you at all care about your eternal destiny, this passage in Hebrews 6 (and others like it) must - and should - give you pause.

How does such a solemn warning about the impossibility of being renewed again to repentance reconcile with those other portions of Scripture that clearly teach what is known as "eternal security"?

Is it possible to lose your salvation?

How do you get born again, again?

The key to understanding the full import of these verses is to focus on the meaning of the following three key words: enlightened; tasted; and partakers. Each of these concepts singly, and in context, clarify exactly the nature of the warning intended by the writer. 
The word translated enlightened, is photizo (fo-tid'-zo) in Greek, and essentially refers to the light shed upon something through instruction or teaching. It is knowledge (not wisdom) gained, but not acted upon. It neither precludes subsequent action, nor implies it, but is a necessary precursor to either response. I may learn something, but take no action based on that learning. In that sense, I have been enlightened, but that is all.

The next key word is tasted, which is the Greek, geuomai (ghyoo'-om-ahee). While occasionally used to infer the act of eating, its primary connotation is to try the flavor of, to sample, or to test for satisfaction. It is the attempt to determine whether something is pleasant or satisfying before fully consuming it.

Partakers comes from metochos (met'-okh-os), and means sharing in the office of, or work, or dignity of something or someone. It signifies partnering at varying levels of intensity or commitment. It can be used to convey a range of involvement from a temporary convenience to a full-fledged allegiance. In and of itself in this context, partakers of the Holy Spirit it does not indicate what Christians refer to as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that occurs a true conversion, but only a recognition that He exists and might prove useful.

From these three words alone, it is clear that the individuals in view are not full converts to the faith of Christ, but only dilettantes hovering on the borders. They may be on the verge of saving faith, but have not yet stepped over the line. To stubbornly or self-deceptively remain in that state can be dangerous. The writer is warning those who have skirted the edge of belief, sampling the things of God, perhaps even voicing a certain level of commitment, but have not yet purposed in their heart of hearts to become Christian, to rely only on Christ for salvation and to fully accept Him as both Lord and Savior.

In that state, it is possible to fall away. The word used here is not apostasy, but parapipto (par-ap-ip'-to), with the difference involving the underlying motivation. Apostasy is the willful, premeditated turning away from God, and declaring oneself His determined enemy. It is what Satan has done. In contrast, falling away here refers to the eventual denial of faith because of something else, usually a perception that God has not filled His part of the perceived bargain.

Typically, this occurs when someone uses Christ for themselves, as a means to an end, rather than the ultimate object of personal faith. They are mercenaries, believing only as long as they receive the benefits that they have determined is their due.

I have seen this equation work itself out in a person's life, and it is tragic. What may have started out as apparently fervent belief devolves into open hostility and ridicule because Christianity has not proven to be the panacea mistakenly thought. Thorns, bitterness, disappointment, and the cares of this world eventually take their toll, and this self-centered, prideful falling away hardens the heart involved so that he or she can no longer come to that point of brokenness and contrition indicative of, and necessary for, real repentance.

At this point, their previously professed belief becomes vociferous antagonism, either in word or deed or both, and those around them may now use this falling away to conclude that Christ is not worthy, and His supposed power insufficient or meaningless. 

This eventuality is described in the harshest terms possible by the phrase, they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

That is precisely what happened on that blood-soaked hill of execution outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, when the Savior was made a public spectacle; humiliated, tortured, and executed excruciatingly as a vile criminal on Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

His enemies were merciless in their treatment of the One who came and died to save them. They mocked, cursed and spit upon Him, taunting Him in every conceivably evil way in order to undermine the world's perception of who He was, and from where He came. They reveled in their seeming power over Him, and rejoiced in their unreasoning hatred of One who did only good, and taught only truth, and who's sacrificial death was on their behalf, if only they would believe.

This is the outcome that the writer is warning against. Once it occurs in this way, there is no turning back, not because God refuses the person, but because the person arrogantly, willfully, and despicably refuses Him.

Those who selfishly use Christ for their own fleshly purposes, trying Him out, sampling Christianity to see if it is of sufficient earthly benefit, deny Christ's magnificence and majesty, and ultimately show their true motivation by public denial and mockery, just as those at the foot of the Cross who cheered His dying.

It is no accident that Jesus repeatedly warned His prospective followers about the dangers of shallow commitment. 

Unless you are His all the way, you may not be His at all.