Q&A: Biblical Reliability and Hebrews 6:4-6

By Brian G. Chilton

The following is a question submitted to Bellator Christi.com. If you would like to submit a question, fill out the form at https://bellatorchristi.com/submit-a-question-to-bellator-christi/, and your question may be featured in a future article or podcast.
Biblical Reliability and Hebrews 6

Question:

Dear Brian,

“I have a question that has been deeply troubling me for a while now, and I would like to ask someone with a better understanding of God and the Bible. I read on crossexamined.org that when you were “called into the gospel ministry at 16 years of age” but “left the faith in 2000 due to personal issues and doubts that he had to pertain to the reliability of the faith”. You also said that you “did not completely become an atheist, [but you] did become what [you call] a “theist-leaning-agnostic.” The link to the article I am quoting is https://crossexamined.org/7-reasons-came-back-christian-faith/ . This spoke directly to me because I found myself in a similar situation recently. You see, I was having a lot of doubt about the reliability of the Gospels (mainly, I was concerned that they could have been a myth) and for a couple of days, I called myself an agnostic (I said things along the lines of “I can’t know whether or not the Bible is true!” and “I don’t trust the Bible!” even though I desperately wanted to believe that Christianity was true). After I found that there was a book that dealt with this specific doubt, I immediately wanted to call myself a Christian again. Then I read Hebrews 6:4-6, however, I became afraid that this is impossible. Could you please explain to me the meaning of this passage and tell me whether or not you dealt with this specific problem and, if you did, how?”

-Rachel.

Response:

Rachel,

Thank you for your question. I would like to respond to your question in two parts. First, you are correct. I was in the camp of a theist-leaning-agnostic for some time. I was negatively impacted by the work of the Jesus Seminar, particularly their book The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Most troubling was the fact that no one could seem to offer a reasonable response to the Seminar’s charges.

However, I later came to realize that there was the good historical basis for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Many documents outside the Bible (both from the Christian community and the non-Christian community) verify the core details of Jesus’s life. Liberty University professor extraordinaire Gary Habermas has argued that five minimal facts of Jesus’s life can be proven: 1) Jesus died by crucifixion (verified by i) Josephus, Jewish Historian Antiquities 18, chapter 3; ii) Tacitus, Roman Historian Annals 15.44; iii) Lucian of Samosata, Greek satirical writer, The Works of Lucian, Vol. IV “The Death of Peregrin” (scroll down to 11); iv) Mara Bar-Serapion, A Letter of Mara, Son of Serapion (scroll down to just after footnote 19); v) and the Talmud); 2) the disciples had real experiences with whom they though was the risen Jesus; 3) the lives of the apostles were radically transformed; 4) the core gospel message was taught very early after Jesus’s crucifixion; 5) and that James and Paul were radically transformed after Jesus’s resurrection even though they were formerly skeptics.

From there, I learned that due to the over 24,000 documents of the NT, with over 5,000 of them dating between the first three centuries, and numerous citations from early Christian writers, the NT can be verified with a certainty greater than 99.5%. Couple this with notion that the church had no power to gain, no money to make, and advocated sexual purity outside marriage and fidelity within marriage in lieu of the fact that these devout Jewish believers would leave behind certain aspects of their former way of living, there are no reasons why the early church would want to make this stuff up. They literally had nothing to gain on this side of eternity. So, in my opinion, the evidence is clear-cut. The NT is reliable.

Second, you mentioned some confusion over Hebrews 6:4-6. Let me first quote the passage before engaging it. The writer of Hebrews notes that “it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt” (Heb. 6:4-6, CSB).

The writer of Hebrews is directing this letter to Jewish Christians who are thinking about adopting their former ways of life within Judaism. They were not necessarily going to reject Christ. Rather, they were tempted to add regulations to their own Christian beliefs. Others may have been tempted to reject their faith altogether. There are at least four interpretations of these verses as they are quite controversial.

  1. The fallen were disingenuous Christians who had rejected Jesus and reverted to Judaism.
  2. The fallen were individuals who had heard the gospel but had not become true believers.
  3. The fallen were those who were not progressing towards maturity, addressing sanctification rather than justification.
  4. The fallen teaching is a rhetorical device describing the possibility rather than the reality. 

The first interpretation does not seem to hold because of the confidence that the writer holds in salvation (Heb. 6:9). The second likewise does not seem to hold because the language of “those who were once enlightened” indicates those who were saved. Likewise, the third does not hold because the writer is describing the salvific experience. Therefore, of the views presented, it seems like the writer of Hebrews is using a rhetorical device as he describes a possible scenario, but not one found in reality. The writer of Hebrews, whomever it was, was a person of great intellectual prowess. In the end, Hebrews is actually arguing for a person’s assurance of salvation. Just as it would be impossible for a person to re-crucify Christ, it is impossible to “renew to repentance those who were once enlightened” because the person has already been enlightened.

To summarize, Rachel, I would say that if you placed your faith and trust in Christ and have received his salvation, making him the Lord of your life, then you are saved. We all have moments of doubt, even John the Baptist did (Matt. 11:3). But, Christ will take us, doubts and all, and shape us into the person he wants us to be by his marvelous grace. Rest in his assurance and find peace in his promises.

Blessings,

Brian G. Chilton

 


Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian is a full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

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10 replies
  1. bob says:

    Rather than address Rachel’s question or Brian’s answer to her, perhaps I’ll just throw my story into the mix…?
    I was a bible believing Christian from age 17 to my early 40’s. Around 2000 I came to the conclusion that I never had a good reason to believe in God in the first place (I won’t bore you with the details) and I became an atheist.
    During the past 18 years as an atheist, I have not once felt like, “oh no…what have I done?”, with regard to my de-conversion. I have remained confident that my conversion to Christianity so many years ago was an entirely emotional reaction to the encouraging of those Christians around me, and was not a decision based on facts, evidence, or good reasoning – though while I was a Christian, I was usually quite confident that my faith in God was entirely justified.
    .
    So, I guess for the very few Christians who actually seem to care about the “spiritual condition” of former believers like me, you have to decide for yourself: Was he truly “born again”, and if so, did he “lose his salvation” – or – was he never “truly saved” in the first place?
    Of course, the answer to those questions will depend on the particular doctrinal beliefs that different Christians hold, especially the eternal security doctrine, or “once saved always saved”…I guess.
    .
    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

    Reply
  2. TGM says:

    “…even though I desperately wanted to believe that Christianity was true” (Rachel)
    .
    If Christianity were true, I could understand a desperate desire to adhere to the system, such as it were. But I cannot think of a single reason why someone should want it to be true, let alone “desperately”. You might want eternal life, but why, oh why, would you desperately want to live in a world where you were condemned by your nature to eternal torment unless you accepted very strange facts about the world? Why would you desperately want to live in a world where a man had to be tortured on your behalf? Why would you desperately want to live in a world where there were demons seeking to corrupt you, where you were expelled from paradise, where God’s judgment ruled your every behavior? Do other Christians desperately want this?
    .
    Why wouldn’t you desperately want a religion of eternal peace and happiness with no strings attached to be true?

    Reply
    • TGM says:

      Haha. Thanks. My point was obviously tangential to the article’s purpose, but it’s such a perfect illustration of a mindset, either of the subject, the author, or the laity in general that I could not let it pass. Because it truly is remarkable.

      Reply
    • Mark Heavlin says:

      “If Christianity were true, I could understand a desperate desire to adhere to the system, such as it were.”
      .
      Christianity is TRUTH about the reality we currently find ourselves living in.
      .
      .
      “But I cannot think of a single reason why someone should want it to be true, let alone “desperately”.”
      .
      Yet this is the very world in which we find ourselves currently living because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
      .
      .
      “You might want eternal life, but why, oh why, would you desperately want to live in a world where you were condemned by your nature to eternal torment unless you accepted very strange facts about the world?”
      .
      You are not condemned by your nature. GOD has provided a way out in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.
      You are condemned by your choice to reject the FREE GIFT that is Salvation through Jesus’ Virgin birth, death, and resurrection. Even logically, Accept and believe what seems like some set of strange facts and gain ETERNAL LIFE or reject the set of strange facts and choose instead ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Seems like a pretty easy choice to make based just on straight logic.
      .
      .
      “Why would you desperately want to live in a world where a man had to be tortured on your behalf?”
      .
      A man who was also GOD, and gave of himself freely so that all may be saved and none perish. But again this is the world as we know it to be.
      .
      .
      “Why would you desperately want to live in a world where there were demons seeking to corrupt you, where you were expelled from paradise, ”
      .
      Again this is the world we find ourselves currently living in.
      .
      .
      “where God’s judgment ruled your every behavior?”
      .
      You as a created human being were given “FREE WILL” by the Creator. Otherwise, we are all just puppets on a string or moist robots. This does NOT restrict the Creator in any way from requiring certain things from his creation. He is after all by definition the owner. But he has given us the choice to accept or reject Him.
      .
      .
      “Why wouldn’t you desperately want a religion of eternal peace and happiness with no strings attached to be true?”
      .
      Sure wouldn’t everyone. Absolutely. This is NOT the world in which we currently find ourselves living in. It was that way before Adam and Eve sinned against GOD and it will be restored in the second creation. However; there can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. Not my rule but the Creator’s.
      .
      .
      In conclusion; I think that you have gotten yourself entirely too wrapped up into knots over the word “desperately”. How we all would “like” the world to be is of little consequence to the actual reality of the way the world currently exists.

      Reply
    • Arthur says:

      You’ve missed the entire intended purpose of the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures as a whole and chosen to create a stick man of these Christian fundamentals.

      – God will not force you to be with him in Heaven unless you choose him, and leave behind your sinful nature. Hell is torment because it lacks the presence of God. The coming Heaven is a paradise because it is a place built by God for those that chose to believe in him and be saved.

      – Death through sacrifice is the price paid for Sin. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel was permitted to perform sacrifice of cattle on behalf of their sin. God however saw the unending cycle of sin, repentance, restoration. His plan for the New Covenant had already been predestined. Jesus, God’s Son in the flesh had chosen to come down live, then die in the place of the sacrifice so that we would never have to sacrifice ever again. God provided salvation through Jesus Christ which was extended to anyone.

      – Your vision of “eternal peace” where we get what we want without rendering ourselves in return is unrealistic and seems incredibly selfish. This would assume that God is someone who listens to what we want. We destroy the world he creates, fight and kill each other, and choose to disregard the importance of God’s sovereignty and Word in pursuit of our own importance and you expect that we be rewarded?

      Reply
  3. Susan Tan says:

    The Word is the truth but it isn’t everything. It could be some Christians make an idol out of the Bible but we’re not suppose to idolize anything because God sits on the altar of His people’s hearts. He is the only one that is supposed to be enthroned there.

    The Word is the truth but Christians worship in spirit and truth. The Holy Spirit is the one who activates God’s Word which is seed in our hearts. But there is still attention we must give to our own hearts to keep the world from hardening and planting various roots on us like the root of bitterness designed to separate us from God. So we need humility and love and to desire all the spiritual gifts to start to manifest the Fruit of the Spirit.

    People with an epileptic spirit have been known to be cured of it upon regularly reading God’s Word so as they reflected on God’s truth the Spirit supernaturally worked on them to remove that evil spirit of epilepsy.

    Spirit could precede truth in some people because Jeremiah was touched in His mother’s womb. Why God picked Jeremiah and what talent He saw in him that He wanted to use but God is also a creative genius so some picks may just be arbitrary decisions of His that He makes in His infinite wisdom to create and rule this world until the whole world comes into a deeper understanding and His Kingdom is established. He was the Gardener in the Garden of Eden wasn’t He? And people are just these people earthen vessels that sometimes receive His Spiritual seed.

    Spiritual birth is not easy. It must be promoted and protected at all costs.

    So don’t doubt. Seek to know God or else you could end up spiritually barren dominated by sin, roots of bitterness, evil spirits, etc.

    But many of the great psychiatrists know that spirituality is at the very heart of self actualIzation. What these psychiatrists don’t know is how to actualize. You have to go to God in the Bible and more spiritually literate and knowledgeable people to learn that.

    There are people that report being born again and also experiencing a second experience with
    God called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    So don’t fight it. Don’t be oppositionally defiant. Get along with God and pray to Him for an earnest deposit of faith then tend to your own soul like a tender planting from God and see what He does with and for you. Then you will be ingrafted Into the Body of Christ and he will give you a tutor that works with you over time to become more and more spiritually enabled until one day you can say
    ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me ” and build others and yourself up with that spiritually powerful idea.

    Thanks be to God that He cared enough about this world to leave genuine seekers a self help manual to find their way to Him through spiritual darkness.

    Lord, your Word is a lamp unto my feet.

    I still have the be determined to locate and follow Him using that lamp and that requires His Spirit which really does exist and manifests in this world even today.

    Reply
  4. Susan Tan says:

    Great song and story on YouTube video called “Tell your heart to beat again” by Danny Gokey.
    Some of the greatest most powerful sermons are songs because they transcend time
    and transmit God’s messages to people.

    Everyone knows John Wesley better than his brother Charles because he started Methodism. But who reads his sermons? Not very many today. But they are still listening to many of Charles’ hymns in church today transmitting God’s prophetic messages to people through song. Songs are every bit as much poetic prophecy as the psalms were in David’s day.

    Christian musicians and singers get up and move in God’s spirit quite literally every day when they sing praise songs to Him.

    That IS the spirit manifesting in action.

    That is divine evidence that God exists unless you are letting another false spirit talk to you and deny that evidence which is the witness of your own senses.

    Ask the singers. I am sure they will confirm that they feel spiritually moved during worship songs. There really is no denying another person’s experience because unless you have walked in those other people’s shoes you cannot quantify their experience.

    Hope this helps someone reading. Spiritual mysteries are the deepest. So be sure to consult got more in the Bible and study what it says against what is happening in this world and listen to Danny Gokey and get inspired.

    You don’t have to listen to the boring sermon all the time. Sometimes the inspired music that comes from the Spirit of God in people’s hearts is enough to hear and know God exists.

    Reply
  5. AnonymousOne4JesusChrist says:

    Dear Susan Tan,

    I am quoting you here: “The Word is the truth but it isn’t everything. It could be some Christians make an idol out of the Bible but we’re not suppose to idolize anything because God sits on the altar of His people’s hearts. He is the only one that is supposed to be enthroned there.”

    You become santified by the Word of God. Which is the Truth.

    John 17:17 KJV  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    If I understood your statement correctly. I DISAGREE !!!! Of course so does the bible Jesus God’s Word. As we shall see. You can’t have truth without Jesus you can’t have truth without the word. They are one in the same.

    A study on the word greek logos and how the greeks understood it and how God’s word opened it up to them is astounding. John couldn’t have expounded on the greek word logos. That wisdom came straight from God himself through John. This is the greatest wisdom you will ever hear or read upon. It is living breathing words.

    (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)
    For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

    The greek word for the word quick in that verse means to live, life, alive!!!!

    John 17:17 KJV  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    HIS WORD IS TRUTH. Interesting cause JESUS IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. The comforter ( Holy Spirit ) guides unto all truth which is the bibld God’s word.

    I share this with you in love. As you have dangerously came close to stating the very words Pilot stated to Jesus ” What is Truth” Of which my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ summed it up for him.

    (John 18:37 KJV)
    Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

    Susan Tan said “The Word is the truth but it isn’t everything.”

    It is everything!!!! The word of the bible is JESUS CHRIST GOD IN THE FLESH from the beginning to the end and from everlasting. His Words shall not pass away. God shows us He is God by showing the beginning from the end.

    The Holy Spirit guides you to HIS WORD which is all truth. Jesus is the word. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the Life. The word is life. The word is truth. In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the word was God. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD. It is part of the full armour of God. Heaven and Earth shall pass away but HIS WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY. His name is called the WORD OF GOD.

    It is everything!!!!

    John 17:17 KJV  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    The word of the bible is JESUS CHRIST GOD IN THE FLESH from the beginning to the end and from everlasting.

    (John 1:1 KJV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
    (John 1:3 KJV)
    All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
    (John 1:14 KJV)
    And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
    (Revelation 19:13 KJV)
    And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

    Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD

    (Matthew 4:4 KJV)
    But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

    (Deuteronomy 8:3 KJV)
    And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

    Interesting cause all these words are prophetic. It is how God proves to man that He is the one and only true God. By determining the beginning from the end. In other words He is the only one who can tell the future and with extreme precision to the point if you take math to it , it becomes beyond human comprehension.
    As He states in HIS WORD.

    (Isaiah 46:9 KJV)
    Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

    (Isaiah 46:10 KJV)
    Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

    (Isaiah 48:3 KJV)
    I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.

    (Isaiah 48:5 KJV)
    I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

    His Words shall not pass away.

    (Matthew 24:35 KJV)
    Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

    The Holy Spirit guides us to all truth which is His words.

    Joh 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 

    John 17:17 KJV  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    It is part of the full armour of God. In short and simple terms the full armour of God which protects us from the spiritual battle we are in with darkness is faith, the word of God and Praying always.

    Ephesians 6:11-18 KJV  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  (12)  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  (13)  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  (14)  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  (15)  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  (16)  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  (17)  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  (18)  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

    The very sword of the Spirit is The word of God.

    (Ephesians 6:17 KJV)  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

    Again you are santified by the word , cleansed and washed clean.

    (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
    (Ephesians 5:26 KJV)  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

    I could go on and on but to deny Gods word in any way is to deny the power of God. To deny Gods word is to deny truth.

    Once again God determines beginning from end, no one can do this but him so you will know. Jesus wears a vesture dipped in blood and His name is called THE WORD OF GOD.

    (Revelation 19:13 KJV)  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

    Jesus is the very word of God. From everlasting. The word can not be seperated from Him.

    John 17:17 KJV  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    (John 4:23 KJV)
    But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

    (John 8:31 KJV)
    Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

    There is so much more then what I just shared about the word and how extremely important it is. But I leave you with these two verses:

    (John 17:17 KJV)  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    (John 8:32 KJV)
    And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

    Reply
    • Susan says:

      Thank you for the correction. I may have over analyzed and drew too sharp a distinction between spirit and truth as separate concepts when they are both related to each other.

      Reply

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