For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Heb 6:4-6
Adam Clarke on Heb 6:4-6
“Verse 5. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened]
Before I proceed to explain the different terms in these verses, it is necessary to give my opinion of their design and meaning:
1. I do not consider them as having any reference to any person professing Christianity.
2. They do not belong, nor are they applicable, to backsliders of any kind.
3. They belong to apostates from Christianity; to such as reject the whole Christian system, and its author, the Lord Jesus.
4. And to those of them only who join with the blaspheming Jews, call Christ an impostor, and vindicate his murderers in having crucified him as a malefactor; and thus they render their salvation impossible, by wilfully and maliciously rejecting the Lord that bought them.
No man believing in the Lord Jesus as the great sacrifice for sin, and acknowledging Christianity as a Divine revelation, is here intended, though he may have unfortunately backslidden from any degree of the salvation of God.
The design of these solemn words is evidently, First, to show the Hebrews that apostasy from the highest degrees of grace was possible; and that those who were highest in the favour of God might sin against him, lose it, and perish everlastingly.
Secondly, to warn them against such an awful state of perdition, that they might not be led away, by either the persuasions or persecutions of their countrymen, from the truth of the heavenly doctrine which had been delivered to them. And, Thirdly, to point out the destruction which was shortly to come upon the Jewish nation.
Once enlightened-Thoroughly instructed in the nature and design of the Christian religion, having received the knowledge of the truth, chap. x. 32; and being convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and led to Jesus the saviour of sinners.
Tasted of the heavenly gift]
Having received the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins, through the Day Spring which from on high had visited them; such having received Christ, the heavenly gift of God’s infinite love, John iii. 16; the living bread that came down from heaven, John vi. 51; and thus tasting that the Lord is gracious; 1 Pet. ii. 3, and witnessing the full effects of the Christian religion.
Partakers of the Holy Ghost]
The Spirit himself witnessing with their spirits that they were the children of God, and thus assuring them of God’s mercy towards them, and of the efficacy of the atonement through which they had received such blessings.
Verse 5. And have tasted the good word of God]
Have had this proof of the excellence of the promise of God in sending the Gospel, the Gospel being itself the good word of a good God, the reading and preaching of which they find sweet to the taste of their souls. Genuine believers have an appetite for the word of God; they taste it, and then their relish for it is the more abundantly increased. The more they get, the more they wish to have.
The powers of the world to come] dunameiv te mellontov aiwnov.
These words are understood two ways:
1. The powers of the world to come may refer to the stupendous miracles wrought in confirmation of the Gospel, the Gospel dispensation being the world to come in the Jewish phraseology, as we have often seen; and that dunamiv is often taken for a mighty work or miracle, is plain from various parts of the gospels. The prophets had declared that the Messiah, when he came, should work many miracles, and should be as mighty in word and deed as was Moses; see Deut. xviii. 15-19.
And they particularly specify the giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to the lame, and speech to the dumb; Isa. xxxv. 5, 6. All these miracles Jesus Christ did in the sight of this very people; and thus they had the highest evidence they could have that Jesus was this promised Messiah, and could have no pretense to doubt his mission, or apostatize from the Christian faith which they had received; and hence it is no wonder that the apostle denounces the most awful judgments of God against those who had apostatized from the faith, which they had seen thus confirmed.
2. The words have been supposed to apply to those communications and foretastes of eternal blessedness, or of the joys of the world to come, which they who are justified through the blood of the covenant, and walk faithfully with their God, experience; and to this sense the word geusamenouv have tasted, is thought more properly to apply. But geuomai, to taste, signifies to experience or have full proof of a thing.
Thus, to taste death, Matt. xvi. 28, is to die, to come under the power of death, fully to experience its destructive nature as far as the body is concerned. See also Luke ix. 27; John viii. 52. And it is used in the same sense in chap. ii. 9 of this epistle, where Christ is said to taste death for every man; for notwithstanding the metaphor, which the reader will see explained in the note on the above place, the word necessarily means that he did actually die, that he fully experienced death; and had the fullest proof of it and of its malignity he could have, independently of the corruption of his flesh; for over this death could have no power. And to taste that the Lord is gracious, 1 Pet. ii. 3, is to experience God’s graciousness thoroughly, in being made living stones, built up into a spiritual house, constituted holy priests to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God; see 1 Pet. ii. 5. And in this sense it is used by the purest Greek writers. See several examples in Schleusner.
It seems, therefore, that the first opinion is the best founded.
Verse 6. If they shall fall away] kai parapesontav
And having fallen away. I can express my own mind on this translation nearly in the words of Dr. Macknight: “The participles fwtisqentav, who were enlightened, geusamenouv, have tasted, and genhqentav, were made partakers, being aorists, are properly rendered by our translators in the past time; wherefore, parapesontav, being an aorist, ought likewise to have been translated in the past time, HAVE fallen away. Nevertheless, our translators, following Beza, who without any authority from ancient MSS.
has inserted in his version the word si, if, have rendered this clause, IF they fall away, that this text might not appear to contradict the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But as no translator should take upon him to add to or alter the Scriptures, for the sake of any favourite doctrine, I have translated parapesontav in the past time, have fallen away, according to the true import of the word, as standing in connection with the other aorists in the preceding verses.”
Dr. Macknight was a Calvinist, and he was a thorough scholar and an honest man; but, professing to give a translation of the epistle, he consulted not his creed but his candour. Had our translators, who were excellent and learned men, leaned less to their own peculiar creed in the present authorized version, the Church of Christ in this country would not have been agitated and torn as it has been with polemical divinity.
It appears from this, whatever sentiment may gain or lose by it, that there is a fearful possibility of falling away from the grace of God; and if this scripture did not say so, there are many that do say so. And were there no scripture express on this subject, the nature of the present state of man, which is a state of probation or trial, must necessarily imply it. Let him who most assuredly standeth, take heed lest he fall.
To renew them again unto repentance]
As repentance is the first step that a sinner must take in order to return to God, and as sorrow for sin must be useless in itself unless there be a proper sacrificial offering, these having rejected the only available sacrifice, their repentance for sin, had they any, would be nugatory, and their salvation impossible on this simple account; and this is the very reason which the apostle immediately subjoins:-
Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God]
They reject him on the ground that he was an impostor, and justly put to death. And thus they are said to crucify him to themselves – to do that in their present apostasy which the Jews did; and they show thereby that, had they been present when he was crucified, they would have joined with his murderers.
And put him to an open shame.] paradeigmatizontav
And have made him a public example; or, crucifying unto themselves and making the Son of God a public example. That is, they show openly that they judge Jesus Christ to have been worthy of the death which he suffered, and was justly made a public example by being crucified. This shows that it is final apostasy, by the total rejection of the Gospel, and blasphemy of the saviour of men, that the apostle has in view.”