Conception or Birth?
A daily devotion for December 14th
6 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen[c] 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. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
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. Hebrews 6:4-6
Here is the elaboration of an awful possibility. It is impossible to restore again to repentance these who experience certain Spirit-given blessings, if they shall fall away. The problem of the passage is: How can anyone experience all of this and not be Christian? If he is Christian, how can he fall away, without any hope of restoration? It is over these issues that the battle has waged hot throughout the Christian ages.
Can we take these expressions here as describing anything other than Spirit-produced, authentic Christian life? I would like to propose an explanation of this which has long haunted me. The Scripture frequently uses the analogy of human birth and growth to explain spiritual birth and growth. We have that even here. The use of milk by children is an analogy drawn from the physical life. Here is the question I would like to ask: Is it not possible that we frequently confuse conception with birth?
If the spiritual life follows the same pattern as the physical life, we all know that physical life does not begin with birth. It begins with conception. Have we not, perhaps, mistaken conception for birth, and, therefore, have been very confused when certain ones, who seemingly started well, have ended up stillborn? Is there in the spiritual life, as in the natural life, a gestation period before birth when true Spirit-imparted life can fail and result in a stillbirth?
Is there not a time when new Christians are more like embryos, forming little by little in the womb, fed by the faith and vitality of others? If this be the case, then the critical moment is not when the Word first meets with faith, that is conception; that is when the possibility of new life arises. But the critical moment is when the individual is asked to obey the Lord at cost to himself, contrary to his own will and desire. When the Lordship of Christ makes demand upon him and it comes into conflict with his own desire and purposes, his own plans and program.
If any man will come after me, said Jesus,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me, (Matthew 16:24). In grace, the Lord may make this appeal over the course of a number of years. But if it is ultimately refused, this is a stillbirth. The months, and even years, that may be spent in the enjoyment of conversion joy was simply Christian life in embryo. This is what Jesus' parable describes as seeds sown into unreceptive soil, only to spring up and then die off. The new birth occurs, if at all, when we first cease from our own works, and rest in Jesus Christ. That is when the life of faith begins.
If this step is refused and the decision is made to reject the claims of Christ to Lordship and control, there follows a hardening, blinding process which, if allowed to continue, may lead such a one to drop out of church, and in effect, to renounce his Christian faith. Though only God knows the true condition of the heart, if that occurs, the case, he says, is hopeless.
This brings us to the impossibility of return.
It is impossible to restore them if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. Why is it that God will not permit them to go on in understanding more truth? It is simply because they are repudiating the principle of the cross. They become, as Paul terms it in Philippians,
enemies of the cross of Christ, (Philippians 3:18). From that point on their lives deteriorate and they shame the profession they once made.
These are challenging words, Father, and I ask that I would be willing to follow you, even to the cross.
Life Application: Are we committed to lifelong, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ who lives with and in us as our Savior and Lord? Is our daily experience consistent with the light we have received? Are we being transformed by the renewing of our minds with Truth?
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