For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened … If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; (Hebrews 6:4-6)
The fifth point of Calvinism is the “Perseverance of the Saints,” otherwise known as the principle of “once saved, always saved.” This idea is certainly not without controversy. There are many who believe rightly enough that we are saved “by grace through faith” and “not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they maintain that one must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) lest “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). They would also point out (and not without reason) that the idea of “once saved, always saved” is a license to continue in a sinful lifestyle. After all, once one has secured one’s permanent “fire insurance,” what is to keep one from sinning?
But the Scripture is clear on this point, i.e., the perseverance of the saints. The same grace that cannot be earned by works can neither be maintained by works. Of His sheep Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). His sheep are made doubly secure. Note the language that is used: “eternal life” – that is, life enduring without end; “shall never perish” – that is, life enduring that cannot be lost. Many other such verses could be cited that testify to the same.
Our verse confirms that, if it were possible that one could fall away (and Scripture teaches otherwise), it would be impossible “to renew them again unto repentance; seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh” (v. 6). As Jesus died upon the cross, He exclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His salvific work is complete; there is nothing left for Him to do. “But [Jesus], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Therefore, “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened” (v. 4) to “fall away” (v. 6).
The question will naturally come up: what about those who once claimed to be Christians and have now renounced their faith and reject God? The answer is really quite simple; they were never saved to begin with. Keep in mind that salvation does not come from “head” knowledge (some atheists know the Bible better than many Christians); salvation comes by grace, through faith, which results in a personal relationship with the Savior. The same goes for one who takes grace as a license to sin. The common excuse given is “I am under grace not law.” This shows a basic misunderstanding of Scripture and a low regard for the price of that grace. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Which ones? All of them!