Impossible To Bring Some People To Repentance?

The Bible makes it clear that God’s people continue to struggle with sin throughout their life. Several passages point this out to us:

Psalm 38:4-For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

Psalm 39:8-Deliver me from all my transgressions; Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.

Psalm 40:12-12    For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me.

Psalm 130:3-4-3    If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?4    But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

The Apostle John goes so far as to say that if a Christian denies that he has sin, then he is a liar (1 John 1:8)!

God, in His mercy, has provided a plan of redemption for the erring Christian. When Christians repent of sin and confess such to the Lord in prayer, they are forgiven (1 John 1:9).

What then are we to make of passages such as this one from Hebrews?

Hebrews 6:4-6-4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6  if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

This passages speaks to the impossibility of renewing “to repentance” Christians who “fall away.” Does this mean that it is impossible for a Christian to be forgiven of sin if they fall away?

Let’s study.

The Christians

The first thing I would like to call to your attention is the fact that the ones under discussion in this passage are clearly Christians. The words of this passage make this conclusion certain.

First, these persons are those who were “once enlightened.” The word translated here as “enlightened” is used later in Hebrews.


Hebrews 10:32-But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:

Paul is here reminding the Christians how they had suffered for the Lord when they had been “illuminated” or “enlightened.” The obvious reference is to when they had been saved from sin. This is especially interesting when we see that the phrase “enlightened” came later to have reference to one who was baptized into Christ.

As Barclay tells us:

“Christians have been enlightened. This is a favourite New Testament idea. No doubt it goes back to the picture of Jesus as the light of the world, the light that enlightens everyone (John 1: 9, 9: 5). As Thomas Bilney, the sixteenth-century Protestant martyr, said: ‘When I heard the words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” it was as if day suddenly broke in the midst of a dark night.’ The light of knowledge and joy and guidance breaks in upon men and women with Christ. So entwined with this idea did Christianity become that enlightenment (phōtismos) became a synonym for baptism, and to be enlightened (phōtizesthai) became a synonym for to be baptized.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter To The Hebrews, 66 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

Second, these disciples had “tasted the heavenly gift,” an unmistakable reference to the blessing of forgiveness (the word “heavenly” describing the type of gift under consideration).

Third, these disciples had become partakers of the Holy Spirit. Since the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), then this is another clear indicator that these people had been saved from sin.

Fourth, they had “tasted the Word of God,” an allusion to their acceptance of God’s Word. To “taste” often carried the idea of experiencing something.

Finally, the persons under consideration here had tasted the “powers of the age to come,” probably referring back to Hebrews 2:1-4 (where the “powers” had reference to the miraculous displays of evidence which confirmed the truthfulness of the Gospel).

There is no doubt that these individuals under discussion are Christians. I stress this point because some in the religious world hold to the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Yet this passage makes it clear that such a teaching is clearly opposed to the Word of God.

The Context

The context of the passage speaks to us about the situation of these Christians, and why they had departed from the Lord.

The Hebrew Christians were under great stress and persecution to renounce the New Testament Of Christ and return to the Old Testament of Judaism. As such, Paul encourages them to consider why the New Testament is superior to the Old. Christ is superior to the angels and to Moses (Hebrews 1-3); the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 4-7); the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament (Hebrews 7-10); the saints who died in the Old Testament foresaw the superior New Testament (Hebrews 11); and the promises of the New Testament are superior to those of the Old (Hebrews 12-13).

Despite these facts, there were Christians who had succumbed to the pressure of family and friends and had renounced the Lord. They had turned their backs on their Christian obligations and church family, even forsaking the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25). They were insulting the Spirit of grace and treading underfoot the Son of God Who had died for them (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Throughout time, people have often allowed the people and things of this world to seduce them away from the Lord. I am reminded of what Paul wrote to Timothy regarding Demas:

2 Timothy 4:10-for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

Notice that the passage is clear that these are Christians who have turned from the Lord and have retuned to the world. These, Paul tells us, are impossible to renew to repentance.

The Crucifying

The passage does indeed make it clear that some disciples may never be renewed to repentance.

However, that is not the end of the story.

The text makes it clear that they could not be brought to repentance as long as they continue to recrucify the Son of God!

The tenses of the verbs used in this passage are very important.

As one author has pointed out:

“However, there is another possible interpretation that does not require a hypothetical case. You should note that the words crucify and put in Hebrews 6: 6 are, in the Greek, present participles: “while they are crucifying … and while they are putting him to an open shame.” The writer did not say that these people could never be brought to repentance. He said that they could not be brought to repentance while they were treating Jesus Christ in such a shameful way. Once they stop disgracing Jesus Christ in this way, they can be brought to repentance and renew their fellowship with God.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Confident: Live By Faith, Not By Sight-Hebrews NT Commentary, 1296-1307 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO; David C. Cook)

The reason why they are not able to be renewed to repentance is because they are continuing in their sinful inclination to crucify Jesus again. How are they doing this? By turning away from the Lord and going back to their old lifestyle!

As long as the apostatizing Christians want to continue in their wickedness (by continuing to desire the comforts and pleasures of the world more than their faithfulness to Jesus), they could not be brought back to repentance.


From this study, please notice the following with me.

First, the apostates described in Hebrews 6 are clearly Christians. They had obeyed the plan of salvation and been granted the blessings and benefits as members of the Lord’s church.

Second, these Christians (under extreme temptation and persecution) had decided to renounce Christ and turn their backs on Him and the Christian community.

Third, it was impossible to renew them to repentance as long as they continued wanting to live in sin.

Their fellow Christians did try and bring them to repentance (as they should have-cf. Hebrews 3:12-13; cf. James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1).

The problem in this case was not that God would not forgive such a person; it was that they could not be brought to repentance as long as they wanted to continue living for the world.

As long as any erring Christians wants to continue to value the sinful world more than Christ, it will be impossible to renew them to repentance.

Jesus’ death on Calvary, burial, and resurrection is the Good News by which we are saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He has decreed that those who hear His Word (Romans 10:17), believe in Him as the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of their sin (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (Matthew 10:32-33), and are baptized into Him (Mark 16:16) will receive the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). When we sin as Christins He will forgive us as we continue tor repent and pray (1 John 1:8-:2:2).

Why not turn to the Lord today and be saved?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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