on Hebrews 6 :6
If they shall fall away - Και παραπεσοντας And having fallen away. I can express my own mind on this translation nearly in the words of Dr. Macknight: "The participles φωτισθεντας, who were enlightened, γευσαμενους, have tasted, and γενηθεντας, were made partakers, being aorists, are properly rendered by our translators in the past time; wherefore, παραπεσοντας, being an aorist, ought likewise to have been translated in the past time, Have fallen away. Nevertheless, our translators, following Beza, who without any authority from ancient MSS. has inserted in his version the word si, if, have rendered this clause, If they fall away, that this text might not appear to contradict the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But as no translator should take upon him to add to or alter the Scriptures, for the sake of any favourite doctrine, I have translated παραπεσοντας in the past time, have fallen away, according to the true import of the word, as standing in connection with the other aorists in the preceding verses."
Dr. Macknight was a Calvinist, and he was a thorough scholar and an honest man; but, professing to give a translation of the epistle, he consulted not his creed but his candour. Had our translators, who were excellent and learned men, leaned less to their own peculiar creed in the present authorized version, the Church of Christ in this country would not have been agitated and torn as it has been with polemical divinity.
It appears from this, whatever sentiment may gain or lose by it, that there is a fearful possibility of falling away from the grace of God; and if this scripture did not say so, there are many that do say so. And were there no scripture express on this subject, the nature of the present state of man, which is a state of probation or trial, must necessarily imply it. Let him who most assuredly standeth, take heed lest he fall.
To renew them again unto repentance - As repentance is the first step that a sinner must take in order to return to God, and as sorrow for sin must be useless in itself unless there be a proper sacrificial offering, these having rejected the only available sacrifice, their repentance for sin, had they any, would be nugatory, and their salvation impossible on this simple account; and this is the very reason which the apostle immediately subjoins: -
Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God - They reject him on the ground that he was an impostor, and justly put to death. And thus they are said to crucify him to themselves - to do that in their present apostasy which the Jews did; and they show thereby that, had they been present when he was crucified, they would have joined with his murderers.
And put him to an open shame - Παραδειγματιζοντας· And have made him a public example; or, crucifying unto themselves and making the Son of God a public example. That is, they show openly that they judge Jesus Christ to have been worthy of the death which he suffered, and was justly made a public example by being crucified. This shows that it is final apostasy, by the total rejection of the Gospel, and blasphemy of the Savior of men, that the apostle has in view. See the note on Hebrews 6:4 (note).
on Hebrews 6 :6
If they shall fall away - literally, "and having fallen away." "There is no if in the Greek in this place - "having fallen away." Dr. John P. Wilson. It is not an affirmation that any had actually fallen away, or that in fact they would do it; but the statement is, that "on the supposition that they had fallen away," it would be impossible to renew them again. It is the same as supposing a case which in fact might never occur: as if we should say, "had a man fallen down a precipice it would be impossible to save him," or "had the child fallen into the stream he would certainly have been drowned." But though this literally means, "having fallen away," yet the sense in the connection in which it stands is not improperly expressed by our common translation. The Syriac has given a version which is remarkable, not as a correct translation, but as showing what was the prevailing belief in the time in which it was made, (probably the first or second century), in regard to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. "For it is impossible that they who have been baptized, and who have tasted the gift which is from heaven, and have received the spirit of holiness, and have tasted the good word of God, and the power of the coming age, should again sin, so that they should be renewed again to repentance, and again crucify the Son of God and put him to ignominy."
The word rendered "fall away" means properly "to fall near by anyone;" "to fall in with or meet;" and thus to fall aside from, to swerve or deviate from; and here means undoubtedly to "apostatize from," and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity, or a going back to a state of Judaism, paganism, or sin. The Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is material to remark here that the apostle does not say that any true Christian ever had fallen away. He makes a statement of what would occur on the supposition that such a thing should happen - but a statement may be made of what would occur on the supposition that a certain thing should take place, and yet it be morally certain that the event never would happen. It would be easy to suppose what would happen if the ocean should overflow a continent, or if the sun should cease to rise, and still there be entire certainty that such an event never would occur.
To renew them again - Implying that they had been before renewed, or had been true Christians. The word "again" - πάλιν palin - supposes this; and this passage, therefore, confirms the considerations suggested above, showing that they were true Christians who were referred to. They had once repented, but it would be impossible to bring them to this state "again." This declaration of course is to be read in connection with the first clause of Hebrews 6:4, "It is impossible to renew again to repentance those who once were true Christians should they fall away." I know of no declaration more unambiguous than this. It is a positive declaration. It is not that it would be very difficult to do it; or that it would be impossible for man to do it, though it might be done by God; it is an unequivocal and absolute declaration that it would be utterly impracticable that it should be done by anyone, or by any means; and this, I have no doubt, is the meaning of the apostle. Should a Christian fall from grace, he "must perish." he never could be saved. The reason of this the apostle immediately adds.
Seeing - This word is not in the Greek, though the sense is expressed. The Greek literally is, "having again crucified to themselves the Son of God." The "reason" here given is, that the crime would be so great, and they would so effectually exclude themselves from the only plan of salvation, that they could not be saved. There is but one way of salvation. Having tried that, and then renounced it, how could they then be saved? The case is like that of a drowning man. If there was but one plank by which he could be saved, and he should get on that and then push it away and plunge into the deep, he must die. Or if there was but one rope by which the shore could be reached from a wreck, and he should cut that and cast it off, he must die. Or if a man were sick, and there was but one kind of medicine that could possibly restore him, and he should deliberately dash that away, he must die. So in religion. There is "but one" way of salvation. If a man deliberately rejects that, he must perish.
They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh - Our translators have rendered this as if the Greek were - ἀνασταυροῦντας πάλιν anastaurountas palin - "crucify again," and so it is rendered by Chrysostom, by Tyndale, Coverdale, Beza, Luther, and others. But this is not properly the meaning of the Greek. The word ἀνασταυρόω anastauroō - is an "intensive" word, and is employed instead of the usual word "to crucify" only to denote "emphasis." It means that such an act of apostasy would be equivalent to crucifying him in an aggravated manner. Of course this is to be taken "figuratively." It could not be literally true that they would thus crucify the Redeemer. The meaning is, that their conduct would be "as if" they had crucified him; it would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outpeers any other deed of human guilt. Yet the apostle says that should they who had been true Christians fall away and reject him, they would be guilty of a similar crime. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there they would have joined in the cry "crucify him, crucify him." The "intensity and aggravation" of such a crime perhaps the apostle meant to indicate by the intensive or emphatic ἀνὰ ana in the word ἀνασταυροῦντας anastaurountas. Such an act would render their salvation impossible, because:
(1) the crime would be aggravated beyond that of those who rejected him and put him to death - for they knew not what they did; and,
(2) because it would be a rejection of the only possible plan of salvation after they had had experience of its power and known its efficacy.
The phrase "to themselves," Tyndale readers, "as concerning themselves." Others, "as far as in them lies," or as far as they have ability to do. Others, "to their own heart." Probably Grotius has suggested the true sense. "They do it for themselves. They make the act their own. It is as if they did it themselves; and they are to he regarded as having done the deed." So we make the act of another our own when we authorize it beforehand, or approve of it after it is done.
And put him to an open shame - Make him a public example; or hold him up as worthy of death on the cross; see the same word explained in the notes on Matthew 1:19, in the phrase "make her a public example." The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Their apostasy and rejection of the Saviour would be like holding him up publicly as deserving the infamy and ignominy of the cross. A great part of the crime attending the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, consisted in exhibiting him to the passing multitude as deserving the death of a malefactor. Of that sin they would partake who should reject him, for they would thus show that they regarded his religion as an imposture, and would in a public manner hold him up as worthy only of rejection and contempt. Such, it seems to me, is the fair meaning of this much-disputed passage - a passage which would never have given so much perplexity if it had not been supposed that the obvious interpretation would interfere with some prevalent articles of theology. The passage "proves" that if true Christians should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew and save them. If then it should be asked whether I believe that any true Christian ever did, or ever will fall from grace, and wholly lose his religion, I would answer unhesitatingly, no! (compare the John 10:27-28 notes; Romans 8:38-39 notes; Galatians 6:4 note.) If then it be asked what was the use of a warning like this, I:answer:
(1) it would show the great sin of apostasy from God if it were to occur. It is proper to state the greatness of an act of sin, though it might never occur, in order to show how it would be regarded by God.
(2) such a statement might be one of the most effectual means of preserving from apostasy. To state that a fall from a precipice would cause certain death, would be one of the most certain means of preserving one from falling; to affirm that arsenic would be certainly fatal, is one of the most effectual means of preventing its being taken; to know that fire certainly destroys, is one of the most sure checks from the danger. Thousands have been preserved from going over the Falls of Niagara by knowing that there would be no possibility of escape; and so effectual has been this knowledge that it has preserved all from such a catastrophe, except the very few who have gone over by accident. So in religion. The knowledge that apostasy would be fatal, and there could be no hope of being of the danger than all the other means that could be used. If a man believed that it would be an easy matter to be restored again should he apostatize, he would feel little solicitude in regard to it; and it has occurred in fact, that they who suppose that this may occur, have manifested little of the care to walk in the paths of strict religion, which should have been evinced.
(3) it may be added, that the means used by God to preserve his people from apostasy, have been entirely effectual. There is no evidence that one has ever fallen away who was a true Christian, (compare John 10:27-28, and 1 John 2:19); and to the end of the world it will be true that the means which he uses to keep his people from apostasy will not in a single instance fail.
(This view seems not opposed to the doctrine of the saint's perseverance. It professes indeed, to meet the objection usually raised from the passage, if not in a new mode, yet in a mode different from that commonly adopted by orthodox expositors. Admitting that true Christians are intended, it is asserted only, that if they should fall, their recovery would be impossible, It is not said that they ever have fallen or will fall. "The apostle in thus giving judgment on the case, if it should happen, does not declare that it actually does." And as to the use of supposing a case which never can occur, it is argued that means are constantly used to bring about what the decree or determination of God had before rendered certain. These exhortations are the means by which perseverance is secured.
Yet it may be doubted, whether there be anything in the passage to convince us, that the apostle has introduced an "impossible" case. He seems rather to speak of what "might" happen, of which there was "danger." If the reader incline to this view, he will apply the description to professors, and learn from it how far these may go, and yet fall short of the mark. But how would this suit the apostle's design? Well. If "professors" may go "so far," how much is this fact suited to arouse all to vigilance and inquiry. We, notwithstanding our gifts and "apparent" graces, may not be "true" Christians, may, therefore, not be "secure," may fall away and sink, under the doom of him whom it is impossible to renew. And he must be a very exalted Christian indeed, who does not occasionally find need of inquiry, and examination of evidences. Certainly, the whole passage may be explained in perfect consistency with this application of it.
on Hebrews 6 :6
6:6 And have fallen away - Here is not a supposition, but a plain relation of fact. The apostle here describes the case of those who have cast away both the power and the form of godliness; who have lost both their faith, hope, and love, Heb 6:10, and c., and that wilfully, Heb 10:26. Of these wilful total apostates he declares, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. (though they were renewed once,) either to the foundation, or anything built thereon. Seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh - They use him with the utmost indignity. And put him to an open shame - Causing his glorious name to be blasphemed.