I was taught in seminary that if you ever come up with a totally new view while studying Scripture, you should study harder. It’s not that pastors never have new thoughts, but after 2000 years of Bible study, a genuinely new thought is sometimes hard to come by.
After my sermon last week on Hebrews 6, where I presented five views on the passage, then argued for one of them, I had a few people ask me, “Are you the only one who holds that view, pastor?” Or, they said, “I’ve never heard that view before!”
So I thought that this week, I’d share with you at least two other respectable, conservative, evangelical Bible teachers who share my view of Hebrews 6 (remember: I taught that Hebrews 6 speaks to believers who are in danger of losing their heavenly rewards due to their disobedience and lack of faith).
First, there’s a great book out there called The Believer’s Payday, by Paul Benware. Full disclosure: Dr. Benware was one of my Bible teachers at Cairn University (previously called Philadelphia Biblical University). The book is a wonderful study on what the Bible has to say about the judgment seat and a believer’s rewards.
In one chapter, Dr. Benware discusses several of the warning passages in Hebrews, including Hebrews 6. Allow me to offer a lengthier quote from this book to demonstrate how closely our views line up:
“The writer has deep concerns about his believing friends who have become ‘dull of hearing’ (5:11) and appear to be spiritual babies who were drinking ‘milk’ and not eating ‘meat’ (5:12-14). (Note that their need is not for spiritual life through regeneration but to grow in the life they already possess)… They were, however ‘enlightened’; that is, they were regenerated people… Such an enlightened believer can fall away (6:6). An unbeliever cannot, of course, fall away, because they have never been in that place where they can fall away. The falling away has nothing to do with a departure from justification but a wandering astray from the path leading to maturity (6:1) and reward… If believers harden themselves in their sins of disobedience and unbelief (cf. 3:11–4:1) to the point that no fellow believer ministering to them can bring them back to a walk with Christ (cf. 3:13; 10:24, 25), then they face forfeiture of reward” (pgs. 161-162).
There are a few nuances in Dr. Benware’s view which differ from mine, but for the most part, we seem to see eye to eye when it comes to Hebrews 6.
Another writer I’ve found that argues a similar viewpoint as my own is David L. Allen in his commentary, Hebrews, in the New American Commentary series. I’ve read through a dozen or so commentaries in preparation for this sermon series, and it is—in my humble opinion—the best of the lot (not just because of his view on Hebrews 6!).
On page 389, after an extremely thorough discussion of the grammar and theology of Hebrews 6, Dr. Allen writes, “Three things seem clear in the New Testament. First, genuine believers are eternally secure in their salvation… Second, there is no question that apparent believers who are not yet genuine believers can commit apostasy… Third, Christians can commit serious sin without being disqualified from eternal life.”
He goes on to summarize his findings by writing, “Such decisive refusal to press on to maturity through obedience places them in jeopardy of having God refuse to permit them to press on to maturity, with a consequent loss of blessing, growth, and usefulness in this life, and loss of rewards in the eternal state… The Loss of Rewards view best explains the immediate context of failure to press on to spiritual maturity [and] the description of those in Heb 6:4-6 as believers” (pg. 393).
So there you have it. At the very least, I hope this demonstrates that your pastor isn’t advocating a rogue view with no historical or contemporary support, but stands in line with other reputable Bible scholars and teachers. This does not make my theory on Hebrews 6 correct; you will have to judge my view on my exegesis and theology, which you can find in my sermon last week. But it lends support to the plausibility of my view if others have come to the same place on their own as well.