There was a religious teacher, claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ, named Arius, who was from Alexandria, Egypt, and lived in the fourth century. Arius began to teach doctrine which denied the Trinity of God. In other words, he taught that God manifested himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but that each of these were not distinct Persons. He also taught that the Father created the Son. His basis for this hinged on one Greek letter - - - that's right, the iota, in the word homoiousious. Arius claimed that the "i" was not there and that the more correct word should be homoousious. The first Greek word, the one with the iota, means "of the same essence"; the second means "of similar essence". Big difference. The former is God's truth; the second is apostasy.
Hebrews 6:4-12 is today's text. (ESV)
4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.7For 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. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Arius was an apostate. Apostasy can be defined as this: revolt, abandonment or defection from faith. It generally takes two forms.
1. The first is an open rejection of Jesus Christ. This is the person described in today's scriptures, someone who has heard the gospel and perhaps even mimicked the Christian walk for a time. But, the seed of the gospel, God's truth, never truly took root in their hearts. (We see this described in Mark 4:4-7.) Instead, the seed died and the person ultimately rejected Christ. If you talk to people like this they can say all the right things. They can tell you how to receive Christ, how to live the Christian life, etc. They KNOW the truth, but they have not received it into their hearts. And, the dire warning of Hebrews 6 is that, chances are, barring a supernatural intervention from the Holy Spirit, they never will.
This describes SO many Americans and helps to explain why we have not had a major revival in this nation in generations. Americans have had tremendous exposure to the gospel.... and said, "no, thanks, we prefer other gods".
I think of how many millions around this globe who have NEVER heard the gospel! How they long to hear it! And, then there are those who have been blessed to hear, but whose response has been a slap in the face of God Almighty.
2. The second is the person who hears and who then insidiously masquerades as a Christian while convincingly teaching false doctrine, leading people away from the truth, away from true salvation, teaching them to embrace a fake Jesus. These are difficult to identify, without spiritual discernment. Arius was one such apostate.
Some use this passage as proof that those who have been transformed by the holy, incomparable power of the Holy Spirit to eternal salvation can somehow walk away from that. Note that verse 4 says "tasted". That word (Greek: geusamenous) draws an important distinction. It only occurs in Scripture in Hebrews 6:4-5.
I think about the first (and only) time I tried a cigarette. (Don't tell my mama now, lol!) My daddy was a big smoker, from age 9, and I loved him so! When I was 13 or so I determined to try to discover what all the fuss was about smoking. So, I secreted myself in the pink bathroom, after pilfering one of daddy's smokes, lit up, and inhaled. "GROSS!" Coughing, gagging, sputtering....I doused that foul thing with water, flushed the evidence and never went near those things again.
I had tasted a cigarette. I did not become, nor do I have ANY desire to become "a smoker". I had "tasted" and given that disgusting item a resounding "NO".
By contrast, when I met Jesus, I tasted and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see that "the Lord is good"! I then, "drank Jesus in" (vs. 7). Now that I think back, the Lord gave me that verse when I awoke this morning, me not consciously aware that I'd be studying this Hebrews passage today....isn't He wonderful! The verse is from Psalm 34:8. Here it is in its entirety (ESV).
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
You see? The believer not only tastes. He or she then sees. And, finally, he or she takes.
That's the difference between a believer and an apostate. The author of Hebrews gives this warning in verses 4-8 because it is impossible in this life to definitively separate the "wheat" from the "tares" (weeds) in any community of believers. (See Matthew 14:24-30.) But, God sees and God knows who are His.