DIFFICULT PASSAGES – FALL AWAY (Hebrews 6:4)
Can someone who has “fallen away” be brought back to God?
I always believed they could and hence struggled with understanding the meaning of this scripture from Hebrews 6:4-6:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace”.
The above scripture however seems very clear and appears to suggest that an individual cannot be brought back, once fallen away.
So what could this passage mean and is it saying what it appears to suggest, regarding the impossibility of coming back?
Here are a few points to consider in attempting to understand this passage. To aid memory, remember points as WWW.
1) Wanderers can be Brought Back
A good way to understand this scripture is to see what the Bible says elsewhere regarding people who leave, and based on this, I would suggest a possible re-think, regarding our terminology.
In James 5:19 it clearly states that a wanderer from the faith can be brought back:
After writing to the Corinthians in his first letter Paul then applauds them for their Godly sorrow and response of repentance in 2 Corinthians 7. Clearly showing here that after having left to follow the world’s ways, someone (in this case a Corinthian) can still be brought to God.
2) Wrong Translation
The NIV is known to wrongly translate the word “skandalidzesthai” as fallen away when in fact it only means to stumble. The following scriptures all contain the Greek word “skandalidzesthai” to translate fall away (Matthew 13:21, Matthew 26:31, 33, Mark 4:17, Mark 14:27, Mark 14:29, John 16:1).
The word for fall away is the Greek word “piptein” or “aposkirto”. Having rendered the word wrongly it is likely that on occasions when the interpretation is referred to as fallen away, it is in fact someone who has drifted or wandered, which is still of course a serious predicament to be in.
The Greek word used here in Hebrews 6:6 is “parapitpo” and cannot be found anywhere else in the New Testament. This word would signifiy a more serious predicament than someone who has simply stumbled or drifted.
This may therefore indicate that to fall away is a final pronouncement given by God based on an individual’s persistent refusal to repent, despite God’s offer of grace.
I believe therefore that based on this we should use other terms as opposed to fall away/fallen away such as, drifted or wandered, and leave this final step and pronouncement (“fallen away“) to God only.
3) Without Remedy (Point no return)
God does indicate in Hebrews 10:26-27 that there is point at which a person will have gone too far and is without remedy.
And this eventual outcome for some is also referred to in Proverbs 29:1:
“Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”
This decision however is not ours to make, thankfully, and we should continue to seek to bring the wanderer back to God with whatever words or deeds God enables us to use to help them.
Any Thoughts, please send me a comment below.