Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Elder C. H. Cayce on Hebrews 6:4-6


I have often been asked of my interpretation of this somewhat enigmatic passage found in the epistle to the Hebrews, and have just as frequently directed people to this short article by Elder C. H. Cayce available on primitivebaptist.net. I believe he does a good job of explaining the passage in a way that is clear, and non-contradictory. 

Cayce's Commentary

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

This language is often quoted by those who believe in the possibility of final apostasy in their effort to substantiate that theory. The argument is made that the expression, "if they shall fall away," implies that it is possible for one to so fall away as to be finally lost. Or, that it, at least, implies a possibility that they fall away, and that therefore they may fall; and if they do fall, it must be a final fall as it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Instead, however, of the apostle teaching the possibility of apostasy in this text, he is plainly teaching the very opposite of that theory. To our mind it is one of the strong statements in support of the God-honoring and soul-cheering doctrine of the final preservation of all the saints to glory.

Considering the Possibility of Apostasy

In the first place we wish to notice, briefly, what the idea that he is here teaching the possibility of apostasy would involve. If, for argument's sake, we grant that it is possible for one to fall away, the apostle tells us it is impossible to renew him again unto repentance. The apostle Peter (II Peter 1:5-6,7,9-10) says, "And beside this," -that is, beside what God has done for you which made you partakers of the divine nature-"giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." If Paul is arguing the possibility of final apostasy in (Hebrews 6:4-6), then they fall in that sense when they fail to do the things commanded, or admonished, by Peter. If they fail to add either virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness or charity, then they fall away, and Paul puts up an eternal bar to their ever entering eternal joys by saying it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Why would it be impossible to renew them again unto repentance? "Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." The Son of God was crucified once for them, and has given them the divine life, they have been made partakers of the divine nature, or partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the heavenly gift and the good word of God and the powers of the world to come; and now, after all this has been done for them, if they fall away the Son of God must be crucified again. If they fall away they cannot be renewed again unto repentance; the death of Christ in their behalf was a failure, and He must now be crucified again and make another effort in their salvation.

Apostasy Puts Christ to an Open Shame

But the Son of God can never be crucified again; His death was not a failure; so instead of it being possible for them to fall, it is impossible for them to do so. Again, if they fall away after all has been done for them which we see has been done, then the Son of God is put to an open shame. Why and how would He be put to an open shame? If one of them should fall away, it could be said, "Here is one for whom Christ died, shed His blood for him, suffered for him, was buried for him, arose for him, ascended to the Father and interceded for him, made him partaker of the Holy Ghost, gave him to taste of the heavenly gift and the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and all this has failed to land him safely in glory-he has fallen away at last-and the Son of God, therefore, put to an open shame." But the Son of God will not be put to an open shame. Therefore, they cannot fall away. This is just what the apostle is teaching - that they cannot fall away.

The Language is Hypothetical - An Impossible Opposite

The language is in the form of a hypothesis. This is one of the strongest ways of establishing the truthfulness of a proposition. To prove the truthfulness of the proposition the impossible opposite of the original, or true, proposition is supposed, and the result of the supposition argued. This failing, then the proposition reverts back to the original, and the truthfulness of the original thereby established. So, upon this mode of reasoning the proposition supposed is "if they shall fall away." This is the impossible opposite of that which is true; but supposing it is true, the reasoning is that Christ must be crucified again, and that He would be put to an open shame. But Christ cannot be crucified again, and cannot be put to an open shame; and as He cannot be crucified again nor put to an open shame, then the supposition cannot be true that one may fall away, and the original proposition is established.

Paul Employs This Technique Elsewhere

The apostle uses the same manner of reasoning in (I Corinthians 15:13-15). "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." He goes on with the same manner of reasoning in verses 16, 17 and 18. But what professed Christian will argue that Christ was not raised from the dead? We all believe with all our hearts that Christ was raised from the dead. But Christ was not raised if there is no resurrection of the dead; that is, if our bodies are never to be raised from the dead, then Christ was not raised. In this place the apostle again supposes the impossible opposite of that which is true-he supposes there is no resurrection of the dead, that our bodies will never be raised, then argues the result of that position, which is that Christ is not raised, their preaching was vain, the faith of the saints was vain and the apostles were false witnesses. All these things were true if there is to be no resurrection of our bodies. But is it true that the apostles were false witnesses, the faith of the saints vain, the preaching of the apostles vain, and the body of Christ not raised-are these things true? No, a thousand times, no. Then if they are not true, the supposition upon which they rest cannot be true, and the truthfulness of the original proposition is established, that there is to be a resurrection of the body. The reasoning here is precisely the same, upon the same hypothesis, as that in (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Apostasy Is Further Opposed Later on in Hebrews 6

How could it be true that the apostle is teaching the possibility of final apostasy in verses 4, 5 and 6, when other language in the same chapter is so clearly in opposition to that idea? It cannot be. He begins to argue, as we have seen, by showing the result if any should fall away; all this argument showing conclusively the truthfulness of the proposition he starts out to prove-the certainty of the final salvation of all the saints. Though he argues thus, he says in verse 9, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." He is persuaded better things of them than that one of them will ever be finally lost, because the original proposition is true, all God's people are finally saved. Although he would reason upon a hypothesis, though he would thus speak, yet he is persuaded the supposition is not true. Dear child of God, are you not also persuaded of the same thing? Are you not persuaded that the apostle was correct in his reasoning, and that not one of the Lord's little ones shall ever perish?

Apostasy is Contrary to the Promises of God

Now, remember that "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29). "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Titus 1:2). If they are heirs according to promise, and the promise is eternal life; and God, who made the promise, cannot lie, then not one of them will ever perish. See what a glorious promise God has made, and confirmed that promise with an oath, as recorded by Paul in (Hebrews 6:17-20):

"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth to that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." 

God's counsel is immutable (this is one of the two immutable things), and it was His counsel or design that they should never perish. It being His counsel or design that they should never perish, He promised them eternal life. God's promise is immutable, because it is impossible for God to lie. So His promise is another one of the two immutable things. As God's promise is immutable, and as He promised them eternal life, not one of them will ever perish. God has not only made the promise, but He has confirmed that promise with an oath. He could swear by no one greater than Himself, because He is greater than all, so He sware by Himself. Then if one of these to whom He has promised eternal life, and confirmed the promise with an oath, should ever perish, then God has not only failed to fulfill His promise, but has also sworn falsely. Oh, horrible thought that men would go so far in their self-righteous esteem and arrogant presumption as to argue a doctrine that would bring our blessed and holy and merciful and loving Benefactor so low! "Oh, shame, where is thy blush?" Our God is faithful and true. His promises are all sure-they are immutable, He will not-He cannot-fail to do what He has sworn to do. He has sworn by His holiness that He will not lie unto David, and David impersonated or represented Jesus in this, and that promise He swore He would not lie about was that His seed or His children should endure forever.

God's Children are Eternally Safe, Though Tempest Tossed In This Life

Oh, how safe, how secure, how sure is the final salvation and future happiness of all the Lord's little children. They are poor and tempest-tossed and tried pilgrims here, only sojourners, as it were, in a strange land. But cheer up, dear ones, hold up your heads; no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper. Jesus has conquered the last enemy for you, and even though you pass through the dark scene of death your sleeping dust will one day obey the heavenly voice of King Jesus and come forth again. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:4). Your blessed, sweet hope is an anchor of the soul and is sure and steadfast. It will never give way; it will sustain you in the hour of death, and on the other side of the dark river that sweet hope will be swallowed up in the reality, for then we "shall see face to face."

Our dear father passed away trusting in and resting on this blessed hope. The last discourse we ever heard him deliver was on the subject of this blessed hope. It was sufficient to sustain him in life, and sustained him in his last hours, and it is sufficient for us all.

May heaven's richest blessings be showered upon every one who may read these lines, is our humble prayer. Again we ask all the dear brethren and sisters to remember us at the throne of grace.

C. H. C.


  1. I favor an interpretation relating to 70 AD for this passage. Likewise, the other warnings in the second, tenth, and twelfth chapters of Hebrews refer to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In none of the warning passages, including Hebrews 6:4-6, is loss of eternal salvation contemplated, of course—which would be impossible for any of the elect (John 6:39, 17:2). The warnings pertain to temporal judgment for forsaking the New Covenant and going back to Moses’s religion, which many persecuted Jewish Christians were being tempted to do, and Paul (the probable writer of Hebrews) exhorts them not to do so.

    The destruction of Jerusalem, for example, is prophesied in many places in the New Testament – e.g., the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, which is oftentimes misapplied to future prophecy. Much of it is prophetic (metaphorical) language pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem, not the Second Coming. And it includes sayings such as, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." This is not a reference to eternal salvation. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells His disciples of specific signs to watch for that portend the coming destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, many Jewish Christians did escape by doing exactly as Jesus commanded, and fleeing to the mountains.

    The warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 is quite similar to the passage in question. If we can discern the meaning of that, I think we can understand Hebrews 6:4-6. I would propose that we look at the verse that comes immediately before, verse 25:

    "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

    Pay particular attention to the phrase, "... as ye see the day approaching."

    What day is that? Is it the Second Coming of Christ? It cannot be, because numerous passages in the Bible tell us we don't know the day or the hour, and that there will be no specific warnings preceding it. Therefore, we cannot see it approaching. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul said that the Second Coming of Christ cannot happen until the man of sin is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10). This passage is obviously referring to the Second Coming, as the destruction of Jerusalem was of no concern to the Thessalonians. That prophecy was yet unfulfilled in Paul's lifetime. (It has since been fulfilled, as the "man of sin" refers collectively to all the popes of Rome.)

    Likewise, consider verse 6:8, that it is "nigh unto cursing" – that being the Jewish nation – but already it "is rejected." Indeed, we're told in Hebrews 13:8 that the Old Covenant is "ready to vanish away," which was fulfilled by the destruction of the temple. See also Galatians 4:21-31, which shows that the nation of Israel is compared to the rejected son of Abraham, Ishmael, under the bondage of the law; but the children of promise are compared to Isaac and are the spiritual seed of both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 2:28-29).

  2. Brother Don,

    First off, thanks for taking a moment to leave a thoughtful comment. While I agree that some of the Lord Jesus Christ's comments are best interpreted as having reference to the events of 70 AD, I am less sanguine about the extent of preterism’s utility. I do not believe your line of reasoning, that our lack of knowledge of the precise “day” of Christ’s coming, definitively negates that this “day” has reference to Christ’s coming. The contemporary Hebrew audience did not know the precise “day” of the coming destruction of Jerusalem either. So, if this argument is compelling, it likewise undermines that “day” has reference to the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem as well.

    While we may not agree precisely on what is intended by Hebrews 6:4-6, it seems that we are in agreement about the necessity to avoid interpreting this passage in a way that suggest that one can lose their salvation. That is clearly an obnoxious and unscriptural conclusion that should be avoided at all costs.

    God bless,

    1. Thanks, brother. I have some additional thoughts to supplement what I originally wrote. The weakness of interpreting this passage to treat of a hypothetical scenario is that does not fit the context of the epistle, in which Paul is clearly warning his audience.

      Significantly, I'd like to draw attention to the fact that the "thorns of briers" of Heb 6:8 can be found in Isaiah 5:6 - the prophecy here in Isaiah is that God's unfruitful vineyard (Israel after the flesh) will be trodden down, just like Jesus said of the earthly Jerusalem (Luke 21:24). Likewise, Jesus cursed the fig tree, that it should bear no more fruit, the fig tree being Israel after the flesh (consider Luke 13:6-9). Heb 6:4-6 assumes eternal life, because the people under consideration were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and such are sealed (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13), their salvation is 100% secure, with the earnest of God given (2 Cor 5:5). However, they would bring themselves under the (temporal) curses of the Law, which were about to be poured out upon Israel after the flesh - and to the uttermost, as also spoken of in Deuteronomy 28, because they crucified the Son of God.

  3. We really miss your updates and perspective of events, please consider doing some updates. Here's a softball to get things going on the blog:

    John MacArthur: The church is NOT Israel