Friday, September 23, 2011

Once Enlightened--A Study of Hebrews 6:4-6

A friend of mine texted me asking that I do a blog post exegeting Hebrews 6:4-6, which reads,

4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

In this series I will exegete the passage to the best of my ability, explaining what I think it means and what it does not mean. And I'll do so without isolating it from the rest of Scripture as so many often do, while not simply saying it can't mean what my friend thinks it means because of such and such other passages. So with that introduction, let's begin with the first clause of the passage.


"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened..."

The word "enlightened" is φωτίζω (phōtizō) and its form here means to be given light, to be shined upon, or to be imbued with knowledge. In Luke 11:36 it's used to describe what happens when an oil lamp casts its rays on something. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul uses it to say Christ will illuminate the things hidden in darkness. John uses it in Revelation 18:1 to say he saw the earth illuminated by the Lord's glory.

Many people have assumed that what the author of Hebrews means when he refers to this kind of person as having once been "enlightened" is that such a one has been saved, has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. One of Thayer's definitions is, for example, "to enlighten spiritually, imbue with saving knowledge." Thayer bases this definition on John 1:9 where Jesus, the true light, is said to "enlighten (phōtizō) every man." One might object on the grounds that obviously not every man has been saved. Of course, perhaps John means "all kinds of men," though it is worth pointing out that he just got done saying the Lord shone in the darkness but the darkness didn't comprehend it. One might ask, How could the darkness fail to comprehend a light they did not see? I'll leave that debate for another day.

However, what one discovers is that this salvific idea of being "enlightened" is not how the word is typically used. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, in verse 15 he said to them, "I too [have] heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints." Yet, having just spoken of their faith, he nevertheless goes on to pray this:

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (phōtizō), so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

So although Paul's readers already have saving faith, Paul nevertheless prays that they would be enlightened, that is, to have knowledge of what is in store for them. Clearly we can't assume that to be "enlightened" (phōtizō) must mean "to be saved."

What's more, in Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul says his mission is to "bring to light (phōtizō) what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made konwn through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." Paul is not talking about "enlightenment" in the sense of coming to saving faith; he's talking about revealing--bringing to light--something that was in times past hidden.

Consider also 2 Timothy 1:10, in which Paul says that the gospel "now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought to light (phōtizō) life and immortality through the gospel." Paul isn't saying that life and immortality equal being enlightened; he's saying life and immortality were revealed, having been planned "from all eternity" (v. 9).

So there really is no warrant for assuming that the author of Hebrews uses "enlightened" to mean imbued with saving faith. More consistent with how the word is used elsewhere would be that the people to whom he refers have been made aware of the gospel, have had it revealed to them. They have been taught it. Perhaps the rest of the passage will tell us that he means something more; time will tell as I continue in the next posts in this series. Before we look at the rest of the passage, however, let's see if there's anything more we can gleam from the author's use of the word "enlightened."


Perhaps the word's use again in Hebrews 10:32 can tell us something, where the author tells his readers, "remember the former days, when, after being enlightened (phōtizō), you endured a great conflict of sufferings." By itself, this doesn't really tell us whether or not their enlightenment is equal to their salvation. It does, however, seem to hearken back to verse 26 where he says, "if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."

"See," one might say, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, so that means there once was a sacrifice for those who received the knowledge of truth, but they lost it." Au contraire. For one thing, I think this is a strained understanding of the text. It's not as if Jesus' sacrifice for sins no longer exists when one who receives the truth goes on sinning. It's just something which they can no longer claim for themselves. What's more, the author doesn't say there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins, he says "a sacrifice for sins"--period. So I don't really think it's even reasonable to read the passage this way.

What makes more sense is, because Jesus is the final sacrifice, and because no one will be forgiven apart from faith in Him, one who rejects Him has no alternate recourse, no other means by which he or she can be forgiven. If one rejects the only atonement for sin, there remains no other sacrifice for sins. There's nothing else, no one else, to turn to. So this really doesn't say anything about whether or not someone who "receives the truth" has been saved.


But what of the word "receive" with regards to this "knowledge of the truth?" Does it mean to "believe" it? Not necessarily. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul says, "if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive...a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough" (NIV). Paul would have much harsher words (his words are, nevertheless, a criticism) were he saying his readers were believing a different gospel, but he's not. In saying they receive a different gospel, he means that they give ear to it. They listen to it preached. They put up with it. They hear it.

In Colossians 4:10 Paul speaks of Barnabas' cousin Mark, "about whom you received instructions." Here, their receiving instructions has nothing to do with accepting or believing. Rather, they literally received instructions. They were given instructions. Similarly, John says in 2 John 1:4, "I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father." Again, receiving here says nothing of John's response to the commandment. It simply means that they were commanded. They were given a command.

So being "enlightened" seems to be equivalent to "receiving the knowledge of the truth," and receiving the truth appears to mean little more than being told about it, listening to it, being taught about it. Whether or not they believed it, whethere or not the truly trusted in Christ alone as the sacrifice for their sins, is another question. But the context might give us a clue as to how to answer that question.


I've seen Hebrews 6:4-6 appealed to frequently, but rarely have I seen someone actually put these verses in their context. Of course, the context is Hebrews as a whole, but I think the immediate context is enough to demonstrate what "enlightened" here means, beginning with verse 11 of the previous chapter:

5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 6:2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 6:3 And this we will do, if God permits. 6:4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened...

We're going to look at verses 4 through 6 in greater depth later in this series, but for now, consider the author's opening point. He tells his readers that they have had long enough to develop a mature understanding of the gospel. So long, in fact, that they should be teachers by now. Yet, they "have need again" to be taught "the elementary principles." What is the author saying? He's saying they've once been taught the basics of the gospel, but need to be taught it again because they haven't matured.

So there's nothing in the context that suggests that what's being discussed is the sort of person who, once saved, then falls away. Rather, what's being discussed is the sort of person who has been taught the basics of the gospel, but has not matured. And this is consistent with how the words "enlightened" in verse 4, and "receive" in chapter 10, are used. They were taught the gospel. It was revealed to them. The context suggests nothing beyond that.


I'm about to wrap up, and in the next post in this series we'll look at what is meant by "tasted of the heavenly gift." For now, however, we have no reason to believe "enlightened" means anything more than simply having heard the truth. Indeed, the context suggests that's all it means. In fact--and I'll end on this--consider what the author says very shortly thereafter:

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.

So, even though the author had just finished admonishing his readers for their lack of maturity, and had just gotten done talking about people like them but who go on to fall away ("even though we speak like this"), he is "convinced of better things in [their] case." That is, their lack of maturity would concern him, but he doesn't believe his warnings apply to them because he is convinced that "better things" apply to them.

Better things than being "enlightened," better things than "tasting of the heavenly gift." Better things than being made "partakers with the Holy Spirit." Better things than having experienced all of this but "yielding thorns and thistles" (v. 8). What sorts of things? "The things that have to do with salvation."

You see, all those things he had just said of his readers are true both of them and those who might later fall away, but the author is convinced that "better things," "things that have to do with salvation," are true of his readers. It follows, then, that all those things he just finished talking about, while true of those who are saved, nevertheless aren't enough to tell us someone is saved.


  1. tbolson76

    Go back to Hebrews 3:1 & 3:12, he is clearly talking to Christians, people who are already saved. Then in Hebrews 3:14 he goes on to say, "IF we hold firmly til the end the confidence we had at first".
    So, obviously if we do not hold on to the end, we will not share in Christ.

    In verse 6:4 it says, "have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"
    If you have partaken of the HS, you obviously have been saved. An unsaved person cannot experience the HS.

    (you went on to say) - It follows, then, that all those things he just finished talking about, while true of those who are saved, nevertheless aren't enough to tell us someone is saved.

    Exactly, they are not enough to tell us someone is "ultimately" saved on the day of Judgement, because they must endure to the end.

    Hebrews 6:9 he is confident of better things for them because - verse 10: God will not forget their work and their continued work. verse 11: he wants them to show the same diligence "to the very end" in order to make their hope sure(their hope of salvation)
    verse 12: they should imitate those who through faith AND patience inherit what has been promised. Notice it does not say faith alone, but FAITH & PATIENCE are both needed to inherit the promise.
    Verse 6:15 - after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

    So clearly, Paul is telling his readers who have once been enlightened and have tasted
    of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, that they need to remain faithful and endure to the end to be saved!! For IF they
    do not REMAIN FAITHFUL, they may fall away and not be saved.

    The question is? What are those things that have to do with salvation? Those things are following the sermon on the mount and enduring to the end. Notice back in Heb 5:9 "He is the source of salvation to all who OBEY Him."

  2. I tend to agree with Anon/TBOlson76, but I'll withhold comment on those further portions until you get to them.

    I will however point out, in regard to the material you've already covered:

    1.) the meaning of received does usually involve willful acceptance of it (exceptions noted), and the context nearby does point in that direction of meaning here;

    2.) your own evidence of the meaning of enlightenment indicates God was acting toward a positive result in the people. Relatedly, there would be no point to the Hebraist's critique if people of the sort he is critiquing were only incidentally enlightened by accident of standing near those whom God really intended to enlighten (as it were); and there would be less than no point to the critique if God (directly if also through agents) enlightened people whom He authoritatively chose not to empower to be able to receive the light. It is one thing to critique a person for making himself blind by squinting shut his eyes; it is another thing to critique a person for being blind when God has authoritatively chosen that such a person will never have the capability to see.

    3.) I find the finale rather strained. Surely what expects better of his readers about, is not being partakers of the Holy Spirit!--which you yourself had to qualify with "falling away afterward".

    It isn't the enlightening and the tasting of the good things of God and being partakers of the Holy Spirit that the author expects his (initial) audience to do better than, but he expects them to do better than to fall away after having partaken of the Holy Spirit: something he considers quite possible to happen (although he expects better of his readers than to fail like that.)


  3. @tbolson,

    I didn't deny that the author was writing to people who are already saved. Quite the contrary, I pointed out that the author is convinced that they ARE saved. However, Hebrews 3:14 actually works against your works-based brand of salvation, because what the text says is not that "we will not share in Christ" if we do not hold fast until the end. Rather, it says that if we DO hold fast until the end, we already HAVE become partakers of Christ. Unless I'm wrong (which is certainly a possibility), the text speaks of having already become partakers of Christ, in the past tense, and if we do not hold fast until the end, it demonstrates we never partook of Him.

  4. @Jason

    1) What evidence do you have that "received" usually involves acceptance--in the sense of believing, or at least salvifically believing--of what was received? I looked for such evidence and did not find it.

    2) I'm not suggesting that the people whom the author is critiquing were "only incidentally enlightened by accident of standing near those whom God really intended to enlighten." I'm saying they WERE enlightened, in that they had the truth made known to them. And certainly God HAS enlightened people whom He authoritatively chose not to empower to truly believe in that light, and they are judged by it. John 6 is a perfect example. So your #2 doesn't seem persuasive.

    3) I have not addressed what being partakers of the Holy Spirit means. But I stand by my meager attempt at exegesis. The author says he is convinced that better things apply to his readers than all things he just got done saying about those whom he's saying are in danger of falling away, things which accompany salvation, and thus those things he just talked about are not necessarily things which accompany salvation. And I'm not suggesting that falling away ISN'T possible for someone who is a partaker of the Holy Spirit. More to follow when I get to those portions of this passage.

    As it stands, it's very clear to me based on the context that the author is not intending to describe someone who is saved and falls away, but someone to whom the truth is revealed but may not have yet truly believed and been saved.

  5. "and thus those things he just talked about are not necessarily things which accompany salvation"

    Let me rephrase that: "and thus those things he just talked about are things which might apply to someone who hasn't, in fact, experienced salvation."

  6. tbolson76 - by the way, the blog is not accepting my google account for some reason so I have been forced to go by anonymous!!!

    Chris said: However, Hebrews 3:14 actually works against your works-based brand of salvation

    Where did I say they were earning salvation?? You are putting words in my mouth so to speak.

    You are separating faith from obedience, when they are bascially the same thing, two sides
    of the same coin.

    Notice John 3:36 - Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. In this verse the opposite of belief(faith) is not unbelief, it is disobedience.

    Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

    Hebrews 4:6 - Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.

    So obviously obedience is a component of faith, just as disobedience is a component of unbelief.

    Hebrews 4:11 - Let us therefore strive to enter that rest,(NIV says, let us make every effort) so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

    Here Paul is encouraging them to STRIVE to enter God's rest. Faith involves our active,
    ongoing, obedient participation (cooperation), or it is not saving faith.

    So you may ask, is this not earning salvation??

    No, this understanding of Scripture does not teach salvation by works. Such a doctrine would, of course, be quite opposed to NT teaching (Ephesians 2:8-9). What this understanding does acknowledge and affirm, however, is that God can and does call us to act in order to receive–as opposed to earn–His grace. And lest this be misunderstood, or dismissed off-hand, consider the Lord’s practice while He walked the earth.

    Jesus told the ten lepers, “‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’” “And so it was,” we read, “that as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14). Did these men receive cleansing by works? Certainly not! Walking hardly cures leprosy. Was their healing a gift from God? Certainly it was! Yet, would they have received cleansing had they not acted? It seems unlikely–“‘But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?’” (Luke 6:46).

    Jesus commanded the blind man, “‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.’” “And so,” we read, “he went and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9:7). Did this man receive his sight by works? Who would dare affirm such a thing? Was his healing a gift from God? There can be no doubt. And, yet, the Lord put a condition on His grace. The Lord wanted the man to do something – a disturbing doctrine to many Protestants, but a common doctrine in the Bible (e.g. Exodus 14:13-16; 2 Kings 5:10; Philippians 2:12-13). And, what this newly-seeing man told those who questioned him could almost be the words of a newly-baptized believer: “‘…I went and washed (compare Titus 3:5), and I received…’” (John 9:11).

    God offers the gift of salvation to humanity, contingent only on submissive obedience to His commands: to believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. This does not demean His grace, nor deny that salvation is a gift–after all, since when does telling a child to pick up and unwrap a gift change the fact that it is a gift? By way of another analogy: were a man to offer you a briefcase containing one million dollars, stating that the money would be yours if you would but reach out and take the briefcase, and you took him up on the offer, who would afterward assert you had tried to work for the money? No one. Everyone understands your act of reaching out and taking the briefcase as simple compliance with a simple condition–and
    a very gracious one at that. So much for so little!
    So it is with God’s plan for salvation: “He who believes and is baptized (so little) will be saved (so much!)…” (Mark 16:16).

  7. As much as I'd love to get into a debate over Sola Fide, and as much as I reject your contention that the message you're advocating is not works-based, for now I'll apologize for inappropriately bringing that element into this discussion. Please forgive me.

    In the meantime, I'll reiterate what I said but which was not addressed in your recent comment:

    "what the text says is not that 'we will not share in Christ' if we do not hold fast until the end. Rather, it says that if we DO hold fast until the end, we already HAVE become partakers of Christ. Unless I'm wrong (which is certainly a possibility), the text speaks of having already become partakers of Christ, in the past tense, and if we do not hold fast until the end, it demonstrates we never partook of Him."

    This comports with 1 John 2:19 which says that apostates demonstrated that they were never really partakers of Christ to begin with.

  8. 1 John 2:3-11
    By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

    Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    How are these Jews to be "renew(ed) again to repentance" if they have never been repentant?

    Also, who is the Hebrew writer speaking to?

    I can see quite clearly your a Calvinist.

  9. 1 John 2:3-11 is in 100% accord with Protestant doctrine: that obedience is the evidence, not cause, of our salvation. I'm not sure what challenge this is supposed to present.

    Are all outward showings of repentance outworkings of true repentance? Is repentance apart from true faith in the atoning work of Christ saving repentance? The idea that the kind of person the author describes cannot be renewed again to repentance serves no challenge to Reformed doctrine.

    The author of Hebrews is writing to Jewish Christians who initially appeared to accept the gospel but have not matured, and while the author is convinced that they are saved, he says it is possible to claim to accept the gospel but not truly have become partakers of Christ.

    Yes, I am a Calvinist.

  10. It is my experience that Once a Calvinist, always a Calvinist. Only the power of God through the Holy Spirit will change your mind to see the truth of God's word. I will pray for you.

  11. Thank you for your prayers, I am in constant need of them. Please know you're welcome to email me at if you want to talk.

  12. Matthew Henry has this to say of verses 1-8 "Every part of the truth and will of God should be set before all who profess the gospel, and be urged on their hearts and consciences. We should not be always speaking about outward things; these have their places and use, but often take up too much attention and time, which might be better employed. The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. Of these it is said, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Not because the blood of Christ is not sufficient to obtain pardon for this sin; but this sin, in its very nature, is opposite to repentance and every thing that leads to it. If those who through mistaken views of this passage, as well as of their own case, fear that there is no mercy for them, would attend to the account given of the nature of this sin, that it is a total and a willing renouncing of Christ, and his cause, and joining with his enemies, it would relieve them from wrong fears. We should ourselves beware, and caution others, of every approach near to a gulf so awful as apostacy; yet in doing this we should keep close to the word of God, and be careful not to wound and terrify the weak, or discourage the fallen and penitent. Believers not only taste of the word of God, but they drink it in. And this fruitful field or garden receives the blessing. But the merely nominal Christian, continuing unfruitful under the means of grace, or producing nothing but deceit and selfishness, was near the awful state above described; and everlasting misery was the end reserved for him. Let us watch with humble caution and prayer as to ourselves."

  13. As much as I appreciate some of Henry's work, my authority is God's word, not Henry's.

  14. I think Mr. Henry does a better job of exegesis without theological injection. Something I requested but have yet to receive. Thank you for the valiant effort. I appreciate the input from others. I will keep you in my prayers as well. 1 Timothy 4 agrees with both the Hebrew writer and Matthew Henry.

    "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron."(1 Timothy 4:1-2)

    P.S. Who do you think wrote Hebrews and why?

  15. "I think Mr. Henry does a better job of exegesis without theological injection. Something I requested but have yet to receive."

    This is incorrect. I injected no predetermined theology. But yes, I understand that when one already thinks he knows that Hebrews 6:4-6 means it's possible to lose one's salvation, he assumes that any reading to the contrary is an injection of predetermined theology. As James White says, those who claim they have no traditions are those most blinded by them.

    I lean toward Apollos as the author, for some reasons R.C. Sproul has outlined. But I'm not sure. I am convinced, however, that it's not Paul.

  16. A plain natural reading of the text does not allow that those being spoken to are not a part of the body of Christ, because they are spoken of as being partakers of the Holy Spirit. Whether by water baptism or "spirit baptism", they are nonetheless partakers. It says of them that if they fall away, they cannot be renewed again to repentance. This passage speaks nothing about them never having been saved. Simply that they are partakers of the Holy Spirit. Your "exegesis" is more a "reasoning" then a textual exegesis, although, I will say that my "exegesis" of it on my blog is also a rather poor example of explaining my theology by reasoning out a passage. I think the plain natural reading and a consultation of the commentaries lends to more adequate and biblical view, which disagrees with Calvin. This passage that every saved believer is at risk of turning away permanently from God. And in so doing turns to face Satan.

    I agree that it is not Paul, although I am more inclined to it being Barnabas, because of the way Barnabas writes, the style of his writing is more elegant whereas Paul's is more simplistic, or "layman style".

  17. Aaron, please do not skip ahead in the text yet. You asked me to exegete the text, and so that's what I'm doing--clause at a time. You're the one who asked me to do that; please don't insist that you know what "partakers of the Holy Spirit" means until I get there in my series. OK?

    As for the allegation that I've "reasoned" rather than "exegeted," that's an illogical statement. Exegesis requires reasoning. Besides, you can claim my exegesis is poor all you want and fail to offer even a sliver of evidence to support the claim. That's certainly your prerogative.

  18. Chris,

    Sorry for the delay, but I was working on the reply.

    Chris: {{3) I have not addressed what being partakers of the Holy Spirit means. But I stand by my meager attempt at exegesis.}}

    Likewise I'm holding off on discussing the term there, although I doubt your exegesis of it will fit its usage everywhere else in scripture. But we'll see.

    {{The author says he is convinced that better things apply to his readers than all things he just got done saying about those whom he's saying are in danger of falling away, things which accompany salvation}}

    The things he just talked about that accompany salvation instead of the things he talked about that do not accompany salvation are "bringing forth fit herbiage" in the former case and "bringing forth thorns and thistles" in the latter case. He expects better things from them than thorns and thistles, and he expects the having of salvation of them--which grammatically are two different (though related) things (just as bringing forth thorns and thistles are different from but related to the curse coming to a land which does this.)

    In order to make the "better things" refer by contrast to partaking of the Holy Spirit, and to tasting the celestial gratuity and the ideal declaration of God (none of which grammatically point in any way to the plural "betters" or kreittona in verse 9), you have to jump over an immediately preceding set of worse things--completely aside from whether it makes any sense to say that those who "become partakers of the Holy Spirit" are those whom God never empowered to accept the Holy Spirit (although I would say that's pretty important, too. {lopsided g})

    Part 2 next.

  19. Part 2,

    Chris: {{And certainly God HAS enlightened people whom He authoritatively chose not to empower to truly believe in that light, and they are judged by it. John 6 is a perfect example.}

    This was in reply to my contention against such an interpretation of Hebrews 6 that “there would be less than no point to the critique if God (directly if also through agents) enlightened people whom He authoritatively chose not to empower to be able to receive the light. It is one thing to critique a person for making himself blind by squinting shut his eyes; it is another thing to critique a person for being blind when God has authoritatively chosen that such a person will never have the capability to see.” i.e., you did not counter-challenge the challenge to the logic, but referenced a “perfect” counter-example.

    I will suppose that you’re primarily referring to 6:41-45, where the Jews are growling because someone whose mother and father they know called Himself the Bread from Heaven (a strongly divine claim in parlance of Hebrew worship at the Temple) and claimed to have come down out of heaven. Jesus tells them they shouldn’t be growling among themselves (which would be silly if they didn’t have any empowerment from God to do better), and re-iterates what He said before, that no one can come to Him unless the Father Who sent Him draws (literally drags) that person, yet Jesus will raise that person up on the last day.

    It’s an answer to reassure them that He isn’t trying to put Himself in competition to or replacement of God, and that He (as the Son) is loyally subordinate to the Father, even though He is making serious claims to be the visible presence of God Himself among them. Along the way Jesus quotes from Jeremiah 31 concerning the Day of the Lord to come when God will make a new covenant with the house of Israel (after He has destroyed rebel Israel!) which will be in their hearts, unlike the covenant they broke (and so were destroyed for breaking): a covenant where no one will have to teach their neighbor to know YHWH anymore, for all shall know Him from the least to the greatest. This is evidence that Jesus is contending with the rabbis in the audience here, not the Jews in general, although there is a contextual pickup in the earlier part of this conversation to the refusal by Jesus to be crowned king by proto-zealots: people who would not be interested in the salvation of Gentiles like the oppressive Romans!

    Nowhere in this chapter does it say that God enlightens people with the truth whom He chooses never to empower with being able to accept the truth. At most Jesus only explains that some people reject Him because they aren’t being dragged to Him yet. Jesus’ reply at vv.35-40 is to the multitude who followed Him there from the aborted attempt to crown Him king the night before (whom Jesus was trying to avoid), i.e. the proto-zealots who were only interested in the salvation of elected Israel. At verse 41, the rabbis in the audience (and maybe the audience more generally) start growling at the claims of divine authority and identity He is making, so Jesus shifts to talking to them instead.

    From a narrative and thematic harmonization perspective, this chapter has nothing to do with God choosing that some shall never even be empowered to be saved; but it does have something to do with Jesus replying to those who expect and desire only the elect to be saved. It’s true, of course, that those who refuse to munch/chomp on the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man will not have eonian life in them (a phraseology chosen by Jesus in retort to the rabbis’ tactic, attested elsewhere several times in the Gospels as well as in rabbinic literature, of insulting His statement by reducing it to the grossest absurdity--well, yes, if you insist on putting it that way...!) But that doesn’t mean some people will never eat and drink the Son of God.

    Since the perfect counter-example doesn’t actually work on closer examination, we’re back to my challenge of the logic of the interpretation. {g}

    Part 3 next.

  20. Part 3,

    JRP: {{1.) the meaning of received does usually involve willful acceptance of it (exceptions noted), and the context nearby does point in that direction of meaning here;}}

    Chris: {{ 1) What evidence do you have that "received" usually involves acceptance--in the sense of believing, or at least salvifically believing--of what was received? I looked for such evidence and did not find it.}}

    I didn’t say the meaning of the term usually involves salvifically believing, but that it does usually involve willful acceptance of that which is being given. I do think the context of the verse suggests that what such people are willfully accepting are important (and even specially important) to salvation, but that’s another part of the discussion. {lopped g}

    As to evidence for what I did actually say, namely that “Received”/”accepted” usually involves acceptance/believing what was received/accepted, and (as I also indicated) that it typically involves the giver intending for the receiver to actually receive it:

    Part of the problem is that two different words are interchangeably used, which become translated as “received” or “accepted” in English.

    One word is simply “get”, which in an actively active sense (so to speak, as in reaching out to get) would be “take” or “obtain”, but in a more passive sense would be “accept”. The sense is only passive relative to the doer of the action being accepted, though; it is entirely possible to actively accept something, and the word tends to imply this by being a modification of {lambo} “to-get” anyway.

    The other word is {dechomai}, which is a more formal word having to do with how guests are treated (broadly speaking with metaphorical extensions). So it has the sense of “admitting into the presence”, or “recognize” in an affirmative sense, or favor.

    Both terms are invariably positive in relation to that which is being verbed, although someone can lambo or dechomai the wrong things. Dechomai is always intentional (unless the term is being used for metaphorical purposes perhaps), and lambo usually is even when accepting what someone or something else is doing.

    Part 4 next.

  21. Part 5,

    Here is a list of other usages in the NT, with {lambo_} and its cognates treated like an English word. (So for example “lambos” afterward would be equivalent to “gets” “takes” “receives”, not to a Greek masculine noun suffix.) The strong majority of examples would be actively active (so to speak), but I have chosen numerous examples from the minority set where the subject of the verb might be considered more passive.

    Matt 8:17; Christ lambos our infirmities--but He does this in the context of actively curing the sick.

    Matt 10:8; as the disciples have gratuitously lambo’d so should they give. They are not receiving this gratuitous grace as though sunshine is bouncing off or heating a rock, though; they’re personally receiving it in agreement with it. (If not, they’d be sinning!)

    Matt 13:20/Mark 4:6; the rock ground seed represents people who hear the word and lambo it joyously but shallowly. Even though they lambo it shallowly, they still agree with it enough to rejoice in it, and are actively processing (shallow though that may be) what is being given.

    Matt 19:29; those who give up things now for Christ shall be lamboing a hundredfold of the same in this life. The giving up isn’t accidental or incidental; the lamboing isn’t either: even though the disciples aren’t taking or seizing a hundredfold, they’re still actively invested in receiving it.

    Matt 20:9ff; in the parable of the generous landowner, those he hires lambo a daywage apiece. Their acceptance of this is entirely intentional, even though they are receiving the action of the landowner. (And even though they complain about His generosity!!)

    Matt 21:22; the disciples are requesting and lamboing favors, whatever they may ask faithfully for. This is no merely incidental reception, but something they are positively and approvingly interacting with.

    Matt 21:34/Mark 12:2; the servants of the landowner in the parable are sent to lambo his produce from the tenants. They aren’t taking it, and the tenants are expected to give it, but neither are the servants neutrally involved in the event.

    Matt 25:16ff; the slaves lambo the talantons. They sure as heck don’t take them (although the lazy slave tries to flatter his master as being like a robber-chief who goes out and takes things!) Neither, to say the least, are they neutral to the transaction.

    Matt 27:24; Pilate lambos water to wash his hands. Someone no doubt gave him the bowl, but Pilate was in agreement with having it and actively participated in its reception.

    Matt 28:15; the soldiers lambo silver to spread the story that the disciples stole Christ’s body. They’re clearly very involved in receiving that silver.

    Mark 12:40/Luke 20:47; those who devour widow’s houses and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers will lambo the greater condemnation. They may not want to receive it, but Christ will make dang sure they get it!--Christ intends them to have it.

    Part 6 next.

  22. Part 6,

    The sample list continues:

    John 3:11, 32-33; people do not lambo Christ’s testimony even though He and others give it.

    John 3:27; JohnBapt indicates that Jesus lambos from heaven the authority to be baptizing.

    John 4:36; the one who reaps (whether Christ or His disciples) lambos wages as well as gathering fruit for life eternal. The wages are not incidentally or trivially received.

    John 5:34; Christ does not lambo His testimony from men; He lambos it from the Father (and maybe from the Spirit). But He is actively involved with lamboing it, and certainly agrees with it.

    John 5:41; Christ does not lambo His glory from men; He lambos it from the Father. But He is actively involved with lamboing it, and certainly agrees with it.

    John 5:43; Christ’s opponents, misunderstanding Him (apparently willfully so), do not lambo Him yet.

    John 5:43; if someone comes to Christ’s opponents in his own name, they will lambo him. Positive approval and acceptance (although misdirected).

    John 5:44; Christ’s religious opponents lambo glory from one another. Positive approval and acceptance (although misdirected).

    John 6:7; two hundred daywages is not enough for everyone in the 5000 (plus familes) to lambo even a little food. Their receipt of this food is not trivial or accidental or incidental.

    John 7:23; a man may lambo circumcision on the Sabbath. This could happen as a baby, of course, and so be incidental to the intention of the boy receiving it, but the context indicates a grown man as the parallel example. The one circumcising absolutely intends, either way, that receiver of it shall get it!

    John 7:39; disciples lambo the Holy Spirit. Their acceptance is not incidental or accidental or neutral. (Also John 14:17 and 20:22.)

    John 10:18; Christ lambo’d this precept (to lay down His life and lambo it up again!) from His Father. Christ is hardly neutral or rejecting in doing so.

    John 12:48; he who repudiates Christ and is not lamboing His declarations, is judged on the last day by the word Christ has spoken. Not lamboing Christ’s declarations is presented in context of willfully acting otherwise against Christ. There is nothing incidental about it.

    John 16:14-15; the Spirit/Paraclete shall be lamboing everything that is given to Christ by the Father in order to give it to the disciples. Positive agreement and interaction again.

    John 18:3; the slave of the chief priest lambos a squad to arrest Christ. He may have been given the squad instead of actually rounding up the squad, but he still is actively and intentionally receiving and working with it.

    Part 7 next.

  23. Part 7,

    The sample list continues:

    Acts 3:5; the crippled man expects to lambo something from the apostles. His attention and expectation is not neutral, even though he doesn’t know (or is wrong about) what they’re going to give him. When he does receive it, he totally cooperates with it.

    Acts 7:53; the Jews lambo’d the Law as ordained by angels, but did not keep it. This was no incidental acceptance of the Law, even though they broke it subsequently: Stephen’s point is that they accepted the Law as being super-important.

    Acts 9:25; disciples in Damascus lambo Paul at night in order to smuggle him out of the city. Context isn’t clear whether they went to get Paul or Paul was brought to them, but it doesn’t matter--they're very actively involved either way.

    Acts 16:24; the jailer lambos a command to imprison Paul and Silas, and acts in accordance. The jailer’s reception of the command from the chief magistrates is treated as being distinct from the giving of the command by the magistrates, and his reception is far from being incidental to him.

    Acts 20:24; Paul lambo’d the dispensation to certify the gospel of the grace of God. He didn’t reach out and take it, but he sure agrees with it and is acting intentionally and positively in regard to it!

    Acts 20:35; the proverb “it is better to give than to lambo” might mean “receive” or “take”, but even if it means “receive” it would make little sense if the reception was only incidental to the receiver.

    Acts 24:27; Felix lambos a successor. This is one of the few examples where intention may not be a factor. But Felix was also doing this in interaction with the Imperial system (not as a rebel against it), and was probably still on duty when his successor arrived so that there was an orderly and personal transfer of the governorship over the region.

    Acts 25:16; it isn’t the custom for Roman officials to hand over a man to anyone without having first lambo’d a position from the man’s defense. This is very far from being an incidental reception of anything, and the accused person (Paul in this case) would definitely intend for the government to get it!

    Acts 26:18; Jesus Christ commission Paul to open the eyes of the Gentiles so that they may lambo forgiveness of sins. No one could ever imagine that their receipt of this is only supposed to be incidental to them.

    Rom 3:9; those who work with God in planting and harvesting lambo wages from God. This is not incidental.

    Rom 7:8, 11; Sin, lamboing an incentive through the precept, produces in Paul all manner of coveting, thereby deluding and killing Paul. “Sin” is treated, for purposes of illustration, as a personal agent here (and might mean “the Devil”). The terminology of the metaphor actually suggests sin actively takes advantage of the holy and good precept in order to mess with Paul. That may not be literally true, but the language is still used that way for emphasis.

    Rom 8:15; Paul’s congregation lambo’d a spirit of adoption as sons, not a spirit of slavery. Positively accepted and appreciated.

    Rom 13:2; those who oppose the (good) policies of the government oppose God and shall lambo condemnation. They are not incidentally involved in this, even if they don’t want the condemnation; and God certainly intends that they shall get it.

    2 Cor 11:24; Paul lambos the forty lashes minus one rather than disavow His faith in Christ. He could have chosen to recant instead and avoid the chastisement, so he was actively involved in having it.

    Part 8 next.

  24. Part 9 of 9,

    I understand that the point to answering the question is that the verse seems a challenge to the persistence of believers in salvation, which in turn (especially in the context of Calvinism) is a factor of God’s persistence in saving those He chooses to save.

    Obviously, I agree Calvinists are entirely correct to insist on that persistence of God unto salvation!--and not a secondary persistence but one God chooses to enact while we are yet sinners and know nothing of God (not one God only chooses to enact after we have properly signed up, though of course that’s included. {g})

    But I also agree with the Arminians, even the hardcore Arminians here, that the Hebraist is talking about those who have already (on their side of things) engaged in their salvation.

    I don’t think this means that the persistence of God unto salvation is threatened, though. There are various qualifiers in the text that I think a Calvinistic Christian could in principle accept without becoming Arminianistic or (like myself) Universalistic.

    1.) Strictly speaking the Greek says that it is impossible for those who do such-n-such to be renewing themselves to repentance. (This is easy to miss thanks to all the clauses and phrases in the “such-n-such” portion. {g}) But all God’s elect were once in that state anyway! It wasn’t impossible for God to lead them (us) to repentance in the first place, and the text never says here it is impossible for God to do it again. (I consider the number of those God elects for salvation from sin to be all sinners, but the principle still holds for any lesser fraction of sinners.)

    2.) The Greek implies that is impossible to renew them to repentance so long as they (a present action) keep crucifying to-themselves the Son of God and (a present action) making a show of Him (i.e. presenting Him for scorn in the colloquial meaning of the term). Saint Paul was doing that before, and God led him to repentance and to salvation from his sins: a man who, if he didn’t write EpistHeb, was closely connected with the author. Of course so long as he did that (or they do it) their minds are set against repentance. But then, they couldn’t bring themselves to repentance in the first place.

    3.) The tension here (Arm or Calv either one) turns largely upon the understanding that the situation is hopeless for such people. But the text (as noted above) doesn’t involve an impossibility of repentance in the hopeless sense being worried about; and doesn’t say that the punishment being threatened is hopeless either. If the Hebraist elsewhere talks about hopeful punishment for at least the elect (which Calvinists do agree he does, chapter 12 being the most obvious), then this may easily be an example of it: a serious warning to be avoided, and which the Calv elect would be empowered to avoid but which they might choose impenitently not to. This wouldn’t imperil their final salvation from sin, but would lead to the kind of chastising the Hebraist talks about later.

    This exegetical solution would be strengthened if in at least one related set of verses the Hebraist references the salvation of God’s elect from sin, despite them being severely punished; and I would argue from referential citations (to Deut 32) that this is exactly what happens at Heb 10.

    Such an exegetical solution would be strengthened further in proportion to the extent good arguments can be made that coming eschatological punishments aren’t hopeless either; which I would say are quite numerous in scriptural testimony (Deut 32 being a sample), but won’t argue here.


  25. Jason, please confirm that all your comments have been posted. I think you may have missed step 4. Please also give me one digestible point to respond to first. I cannot manage a response to 8 separate posts' worth of comments at once.

  26. Opps! Yep, I missed part 4 (and apparently part 8, too).

    Part 4,

    The word in question at Hebrews 10:26 is a {lambo} variant, {labein}, a verb form treated as a noun for a prepositional phrase {meta to labein} literally “after the to-be-getting” (with “the on-knowledge of the truth” being what is gotten). The form is definitely active according to the concordances I have at hand. (verb-noun 2 Aorist Active, according to; articular infinitive (with meta) according to NASV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Edition, for example “after John was arrested”; an active verb in the same basic sense as “sinning voluntarily” just previously according to Knoch’s, corroborated by s4a although the verbs are of different construction and tenses otherwise of course--s4a details that the only similarity of construction they share happens to be Active, actually.)

    2 Cor 11:4, the Corinthians occasionally lambo a different spirit than what they have lambo’d, or (by grammatic extension) lambo a different gospel which they have not dechomaied (i.e. different from what they previously formally received), both of which are presented as parallel to someone coming to preach a different gospel which we (Paul and the apostles) have not preached. Paul’s main complaint here is that they put up with this, and even accept it--thus problems with the Stepmom Sleeping Guy for example!--which he is sarcastically comparing to their annoyance at his critiques of them. They are sometimes being led astray just as Paul is worried about in verses 1-3 (which is his justification for being fussy about them.) The context indicates either way that they are actively receiving different gospels sometimes just like they actively received the apostolic gospel; otherwise Paul would have no ground for his complaint even for purposes of sarcastic comparison.

    Colossians 4:10, the congregation previously lambo’d instructions regarding Mark and are expected to dechomai him as a result if he visits. Paul treats them as though he already knows the accepted and believed those instructions (not as though he merely sent them instructions without knowing whether the instructions were received), otherwise he would be complaining that they did not dechomai the prior emissaries!--or (if he was agnostic about the situation) he would be letting them know that he sent instructions by another messenger who should have arrived by the time they get this epistle (so they can check with him).

    2 John 1:4, John compares the faithfulness of the elect lady and her children (v.1) walking in truth to be in accord with the commandment the group has lambo’d from the Father. The context is definitely about faithful response to the commandment, not merely that the commandment was given or sent. (This one is especially bizarre that you would say it “says nothing of John’s response to the commandment”, since John is praising the woman and her congregation for their great response to the commandment! Obviously a faithful response to the commandment is the whole point of the statement.)

    All three of your examples feature active acceptance as part of their narrative context; and two of your examples connect this acceptance with formal reception.

    Part 5 next.

  27. The missing Part 8,

    The sample list continues:

    James 5:7; there is some dispute about the textual transmission here, partly due to the usage of lambo: is the field lamboing the early and late rains? Is the farmer patient over the field until he lambos the early and late rains? Is the farmer patient over the field until he lambos the early and late fruit?! The pronoun is unclear as to what is lamboing, and the farmer would not be taking the rain (nor from the context would he be taking the fruit, as the point is to be patient like the farmer for the coming of the Day of the Lord), but he wouldn’t be neutrally receiving either the rain or the fruit.

    2 Pet 1:17; Jesus Christ lambo’d from God the Father the honor and glory of the voice. He didn’t take it from God the Father but He was actively and positively engaged in receiving it.

    Rev 4:11; those casting their wreaths before the throne declare “Worthy are You O Lord the Lord of us and the God of us to lambo the glory and the honor and the power!”

    Rev 5:12; the super-multitude around the throne say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Little Lamb, slain, to lambo the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

    Neither of those two examples involve the Persons taking such things from other people, but the Persons are definitely in agreement in receiving it (whether from created persons or from uncreated Persons!)

    Even I finally got bored detailing examples {amused g!}; but looking over the further material available I could easily give another list of examples this long or longer.

    In pretty much every case, the one giving the X to the Y fully intends for the Y to receive it (and not in a merely incidental way either); and in almost every case the Y receiving the X is positively and actively engaged in receiving it (even if poorly or shallowly so). In the few cases where one doesn’t apply, the other does.

    The overwhelming usage format indicates that we should expect the same at Hebrews 10:26: the people probably received it actively and positively (even if shallowly or recanting afterward), and the surrounding context indicates in strong terms the extent to which they received it; but even if they somehow didn’t receive it God intended that they should have it. It would be astonishing if someone tasted the good things of God and even partook of the Holy Spirit without the sovereign permission and empowerment of God to do so!

    It is of course possible to actively attend to something without accepting it, but that involves rejecting the something instead of receiving it--especially in a Near Middle Eastern culture (ancient or modern). And indeed that fits the context of the author at Hebrews 6, too: rejecting such freely given gifts would be bad enough, but accepting them and then rejecting them is the depth of ingratitude.

    Thus the analogy you skipped over to try to contrast the “better things” with the “ideal”(!) things of God, instead of to contrast the better things with things like “falling away” (which makes no sense unless there has been movement from positive and to negative) and “bringing forth thorns and thistles” and being “disqualified” (which implies having been qualified first) and being “near a curse, the fulfillment of which is into burning”. The land drinks the water and brings forth thorns and thistles as a result: that’s accepting but misusing the water.

    Part 9 would be next.

  28. Chris: {{Please also give me one digestible point to respond to first. I cannot manage a response to 8 separate posts' worth of comments at once. }}

    Entirely understandable, and most of that was bulk analysis to establish how a term is typically used in the NT.

    I'll post a topic map with summaries of the posts in a minute.

  29. Topic map for the posts:

    1.) Replying to your point (3) first. In short, my reply is that you skipped over the things the author was comparing to the "betters" he expected from his readers: he expects better things from them than bringing forth thorns and thistles and being close to a curse of burning judgment. (I also expect your exegesis of "becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit" will not end up panning out, either in theological logic or in regard to the term's usage everywhere else in the NT. But that's for later.)

    2.) In reply to my challenge about the logic of the interpretation (i.e. that it makes less than no sense for God to critique enlightened people whom He authoritatively chose never to be empowered to receive the light), you cited John 6 as a perfect counterexample (rather than reply to the charge of broken logic.) I checked over the narrative and thematic context, and found it less than a perfect example. Back to the charge of broken logic. {g}

    3.) I clarified that I didn't say the term usually involves salvifically believing, but that it usually involves willful acceptance of that which is being given and that the giver always intends for the receiver to get it in some thoroughly important fashion. I discussed the two terms typically used for "receive/accept" in the NT, and their etymology, which always first implies positive cooperative acceptance (although there can be rare exceptions to this.)

    4.)(accidentally skipped) I analyzed the contexts of the verse at Heb 10, and also your three suggested examples. My concordance and morphology tools at hand all agree that the verb form there is active, and the context otherwise explicitly involves willful action (i.e. voluntarily sinning after actively receiving the recognition of the truth). The form of the verb emphasizes how thoroughly they had received the recognition of the truth, even if they didn’t actually “take” it (in the sense of initiating and accomplishing the action). Your three suggested examples all involved very intentionally interactive receptions, too, in appreciative (if in one case misguided) agreement with what was being received. They not only don’t count as examples where the reception is only incidental on the part of the people, they count as examples in favor of the idea that the people are empowered to receive it (and are positively exercising that power).

    5 thru the first part of 8.) A long selection of relatively passive uses of the term in the NT, which turn out to be just like I said: most often the persons doing the receiving are positively and appreciatively engaged in doing so. (Including, for what it’s worth, a number of examples amounting to salvific belief.) I could easily adduce another list as long or longer. Even with the few exceptions, the doer of the action wants and expects the object of the action to be completely affected by the action (even if the object resists or doesn’t want it.)

    Second half of 8.) Summarizes the results of the enquiry, and recommends their application to Heb 10 and Heb 6. Reiterates that the context and the terminological application count against God not empowering the persons to seriously and appreciatively and positively receive the good things He is giving them. Observes that in NME culture, rejection after such trusted reception would be considered worse than never accepting it all, which fits the Hebraist’s choice of analogy. Complains again about skipping over that analogy to contrast “better(thing)s” to “ideal” gifts of God instead of contrasting them to rejection of those gifts.

    9.) Explains that the grammatic and thematic contexts can still easily apply these verses as warnings to persons among the Calvinistic elect. Which, not incidentally, would immediately avoid theological schism problems involved with becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit yet somehow not partakers of the Son.