Assurance and Perseverance in Hebrews 6:1-8

from Servants of Grace’s Sanctification Series by David Jenkins


The controversy surrounding Hebrews 6:1-8 seems to stem from the meaning of several key words such as “instruction about washings” (vs.2), “enlightened” (vs.4), “fallen away” (vs.6), and “restore again to repentance” (vs.6), The heart of this post will focus on explaining the meaning of these key words in not only their proper context, but how they fit in the context of the Book of Hebrews as a whole. After explaining the key words in their context, I will then propose a solution to the difficulty of this passage, which is that Hebrews 6:1-8 meets the people of God at their greatest need with the Gospel by wooing His people to draw not away from but deeper into the Gospel for greater assurance and confidence in their salvation. Today we will lay the exegetical foundation and tomorrow we will explore solutions to the difficulty of this passage.

Comparison/Contrast on Hebrews 6:1-8  “Instruction about washings” (vs.2)

F.F. Bruce teaches that this phrase “instruction about washings” is not about Christian baptism. He notes that the word translated washings is in the plural in the Greek (baptismoi), the Greek noun employed in the New Testament for Christian baptism, but baptismos which in its two indubitable New Testament occurrences refers to Jewish ceremonial washings.[1] Dr. Guthrie agrees with F.F. Bruce noting the same that the plural baptisms in the Greek makes the interpretation problematic regarding “washings” being about Christian baptism.[2] Dr. O’Brien agrees with Dr. Guthrie and F.F. Bruce that “instructions about washings” is not a reference to Christian baptism but about various Jewish practices of washing.[3]

I agree with the explanations offered by Drs. Guthrie, O’Brien, and F.F. Bruce. In the Old Testament Levitical system, there were many ceremonial cleansings, which were outward signs of heart cleansing (Ex. 30:18-21; Lev. 16:4, 24, 26, 28; Mark 7:4, 8). The New Covenant called for an inner washing (Titus 3:5) that regenerated the soul.

“Enlightened” (vs.4)

F.F. Bruce explains that this phrase “enlightened” means the light of the gospel has broken in upon these people’s darkness, and life can never be the same again; to give up the gospel would be to sin against the light, the one sin, which by its very nature is incurable.[4] Dr. Guthrie agrees with this interpretation, but adds to the discussion by explaining that those who were “enlightened” refers to their initial exposure to the gospel or early instruction in Christian doctrine.[5] Dr. O’Brien agrees with F.F. Bruce and Dr. Guthrie, but expands on what both men have written noting that “enlightened” means that one may enjoy something of God’ grace at the beginning without the completing grace of perservance.[6] I agree with the explanations offered by Drs. Guthrie, O’Brien, and F.F. Bruce. Being enlightened describes the initial entrance into Christian community through explanation of the Christian faith (Heb. 10:32).

“Fallen Away” (vs.6) –

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