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. 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. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

The chapter opened with a call to move on. But it is possible to go back.

We probably all know people who ‘ran well’ for a time (perhaps for a long time), but then they dropped out of the Christian race, and left the track. Were they not genuinely converted in the first place? Was it only profession without possession? God alone knows. It takes time for ‘fruit’ to show, and it is by our fruit we are known (7,8; see also Mt.7:16-20).

But verses 4-6 seems to refer to people who have had genuine Christian experience. What are we to make of these quite frightening words?

‘The writer is obviously not talking here about committing small sins, or about wandering briefly out of God’s will – which all of us do from time to time. Rather, the writer is talking here about the greatest and most fearful sin of all. That sin is this: to reject God’s light after having seen it; to reject Christ after having received Christ’s gifts and blessings. Those who do this are crucifying the Son of God all over again (verse 6). Such people no longer have a mind to repent. Their hearts have become hardened. God’s grace cannot touch them…Those who reject the salvation offered by Christ will find salvation nowhere else.’ (Tom Hale: ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.859).

I have italicised two sentences towards the end of the quote. They seem, to my mind, to get to the nub of the problem.

But although this chapter contains such a strong warning, the writer believes better things of his readers. We will see this next time.

PRAYER: Oh Lord, I know my own weakness. Strengthen me to keep putting one foot in front of another, so that I persevere to the end, and see you face to face.