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Discussion Guide - Warning Against Falling Away (Hebrews 6:4-12)

 

 

 

DAILY READINGS

Monday: Hebrews 5:11-6:12

Tuesday: Hebrews 3:7-14

Wednesday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Thursday: John 10:27-30; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Friday: Matthew 7:21-23

 

MAIN POINT

Christians should ensure that their faith is genuine.

 

SUMMARY

The author has discussed his readers’ immaturity (5:11-14) and offered a prescription for growing out of it (6:1-3). In the verses that follow, he paints a sobering picture of what happens when that medicine isn’t taken.

The alternative to “go[ing] on to maturity” (6:1) is the hopeless scenario described in verses 4-6: “it is impossible…to restore…again to repentance” those who experience the blessings of verses 4-5 and then fall away. Are genuine Christians in view here? Is he saying we can lose our salvation?

It’s worth remembering the example of the Israelites here: they saw God’s powerful works on their behalf and heard him speak (3:7-11; Exodus 19:16-20; 20:1, 18-21). But despite these blessings, they failed to persevere and experienced God’s wrath (3:16-18). To the author, they’re an example of how possible it is for someone to look like they’re part of God’s people without truly being part.[1] 

In 6:4-6, he seems to be making the same point. In effect, he’s saying: “It’s possible to experience all these things and yet fall short.” (Therefore, keep going! Don’t drift!) This fits with his illustration (6:7-8) in which two lands receive the same benefits (rain) but are blessed or cursed by God based what they do with those benefits.

So, no - genuine Christians don’t seem to be in view here. Even so, we can’t downplay this warning. There are people who once seemed passionate about Jesus who have gone on to renounce him altogether. We should be careful that the same doesn’t become true of us. A strong proof of genuine faith is endurance.

We also shouldn’t exaggerate this warning by worrying every time we sin that we’ve fallen into the hopeless territory of 6:4-6. The person being described is in a hardened state and no longer cares about God. If you love Jesus, and if sin bothers you, this passage isn’t describing you.[2]

Nevertheless, the author is confident that he hasn’t been describing any of his readers (vv 9-12). He bases this on the way they have loved God by serving one another, and he encourages them to continue on in faith and patience.

 

DISCUSS

Read Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. What kind of reception to the gospel does Jesus describe in verse 20? In verse 21, what causes this person to fall away?

Have you known someone who was once deeply involved in a church and then turned away from the faith? What caused them to walk away?

How can we ensure that verses 4-6 don’t describe us? What precautions should we take?

When it comes to persevering in our faith, how important is encouragement from other believers? Who can you encourage this week?

 

MEMORIZE

Hebrews 6:7 – “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.”

 

[1] Other examples include Judas, Simon (Acts 8), Demas (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10), and those described in Matthew 7:21-23.

[2] It’s not entirely clear in what sense repentance is “impossible” for these people. God is always ready to pardon those who repent (Jeremiah 18:7-8; Romans 10:13), so it can’t be that God is no longer willing. The author might have in mind the practical reality that people who spend time in the church and then leave are often the hardest ones to reach.

 

Click here for a printable version of this discussion guide.