If Hebrews 6 isn’t on the “This Makes Me Uncomfortable” list for most Protestants…well, it ought to be. And this is triply so for those who hold to the Calvinist “TULIP,” for that flower loses a few petals in this chapter that seem pretty difficult to glue back on. But this post is about how Hebrews 6 impacts the Protestant idea of sola fide, so we will only glance at these other issues as we cruise past them.
As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of God’s message and the powers of the world to come and yet in spite of this have fallen away—it is impossible for them to be brought to the freshness of repentance a second time, since they are crucifying the Son of God again for themselves, and making a public exhibition of him. (NJB)
This passage should by all rights give Calvinists the jitters, because if that description of one who falls away can fit anyone besides the elect, then I’m an Ent. (Note: I am not an Ent). On the Calvinist understanding the reprobate never receive a share of the Holy Spirit. Only the elect do. And the reprobate cannot be said to have tasted the gift from heaven on the Calvinist’s terms either. The upshot is that this passage demolishes the L, I, and P of the TULIP. That leaves them with TU, and the T has serious problems of its own. In charity we shall give them the U, though: Calvinists aren’t completely wrong.
But I digress.
There are two points I would like to take away from Heb. 6:4-6. First, it is part of the major context for 6:10 (which we shall examine momentarily). Second, the gist of that context is that the passage is a discussion of the afterlife of believers in terms depending upon their behavior in this life. In short, we are told that they can lose their reward if they fall away. And this of course is only just. But what about the other side? What about the believers who persevere in the end? The answer to that is found in Heb. 6:10:
God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the holy people of God.
What is this saying? It is saying that God rewards the faithful based upon what they have done. That is the other side of the 6:4-6 coin, where we learn the consequences for them of falling away. In short: for good or for ill our deeds play a crucial role in determining our last end. And this fact demolishes the Protestant’s ideas about sola fide. This of course is perfectly in keeping with what St. James wrote: faith without works is dead. Saving faith is a gift from God that is accompanied by love for Him and our neighbor. If we do not love God, or if we do not love our neighbor, then we make our faith a lie (see 1 John 2:3-11).