Journal – February 13, 2022
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.
THE PERIL OF NOT PROGRESSING (PART 3)
Vs. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle had told them, to whom he is writing, that they were slow as to making progress in knowledge and in a suitable practice; therefore, he is revealing to them the danger they were now in continuing in that slothful condition. That they might be acquainted with their danger, and stirred up to avoid it, he gives them an account of those who, after a profession of the gospel, beginning with a nonproficiency in it, and to apostacy from it. The next thing in this description is that they were once enlightened. They were illuminated by the instruction they had received from the apostles and others, in the doctrines of the gospel, and the impressions these instructions had made by the Holy Spirit on their minds. This is the common work of the Spirit and is reckoned as happening. The Apostle would have us know that this is a great mercy, a great privilege, to be enlightened with the doctrine of the gospel by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit; also, that such a privilege, to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, may be lost, and end in the aggravation of sin, and the condemnation of those who were made partakers of it. Now when there is a total neglect of the due improvement of this privilege and mercy the condition of such a person is hazardous or inclining toward apostacy. Let us learn from this that there is a saving, sanctifying light, and knowledge which this spiritual illumination rises not unto, for through it transiently affects the mind with some glances of the beauty and glory and excellency of spiritual things, yet it does not give that direct, steady, intuitive insight into them which is obtained by grace. Neither does it renew, change or transform the soul into a conformity unto the things known by planting of them in the will and affections, as a gracious light does.
The second thing asserted is that they have tasted the heavenly gift. With respect unto God, as denoting the thing given, is nowhere used to imply the Holy Spirit. Since this is so, the sense in this place is determined. The Holy Spirit is signally the gift of God in the New Testament. He is said to be heavenly or from heaven. An objection may be made to this interpretation as the Holy Spirit is expressly mentioned in the net clause. But it is ordinary to have the same thing twice expressed in various words, to quicken the sense of them; and then the following clause be evangelical of this, declaring more fully and plainly what is here intended. It was the Holy Spirit that received all the carnal worship and ordinances of Moses, and that by the full revelation of the accomplishment of all that was signified by them, and appoints the new, holy, spiritual worship of the gospel, that was to succeed in their room. Thus, the Apostle warns those Hebrews that they turn not away from Him that speaks from heaven (Chapter 12:25), that is from Jesus Christ speaking in the dispensation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.
Let us inquire what it is to taste this heavenly gift. The word taste is used metaphorically. We taste things and then either receive or refuse them as we find occasion. That which is ascribed to these persons is that they had an experience of the power of the Holy Spirit, in the dispensation of the gospel and the instruction of spiritual worship by it, a privilege which all men were not partakers of. Observe that there is a goodness and an excellency in this heavenly gift, which may be tasted or experienced in some measure by such as never receive them in their life, power, and efficacy, They may taste of the word in its truth, not in its power; also of the outward order of gospel worship, not its inward beauty: also of the gifts of the Church, not its grace. Also observe, that a rejection of the gospel, its truth and worship, after some experience had of their worth and excellency, is a high aggravation of sin, and a certain presage of destruction.
The third thing said about these persons is added in these words, have become partakers of the Holy Spirit. This is placed in the middle of the privileges enumerated, two preceding it, and two following after, so that which is not root and animating principle of them all. Observe, that the Holy Spirit is present with many as unto powerful operations, with whom He is not present as to gracious inhabitations; many are made partakers of Him in spiritual gifts, who are never made partakers of Him in His saving graces.
Vs. 5 In the fourth place this is added, And have tasted the good word of God, there is a goodness and excellency in the word of God, able to attract and affect the minds of men, who yet never arrive at sincere obedience to it. Also, that there is an especial goodness in the word of the promise concerning Jesus Christ, and the declaration of its accomplishment. Last it is added, and the powers of the age to come. These powers were the gifts whereby those signs, wonders, and mighty works were then worked by the Holy Spirit; they had been worked either in or by these men, or by others in their sight, whereby they had an experience of the glorious and powerful working of the Holy Spirit in the confirmation of the gospel. Yes, I judge that they in their own persons were partakers of these powers, which was the highest possible aggravation of their apostacy, and that which peculiarly rendered their recovery impossible.
Vs. 6 If they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame. We may now see what it is the Apostle here intended when he says, If they fall away:
- It is not a falling into this or that actual sin, be it of what nature it may.
- It is not a falling upon temptation or surprise, for this falling away is premeditated, and is of deliberation and choice.
- It is not a falling by a relinquishment or renunciation of some, though very material principles of Christian religion by error or seduction. But it is a total renunciation of all the constituent principles and doctrines of Christianity. Such was the sin of them who forsook the gospel and returned to Judaism; this was accompanied by the open and public renunciation of the gospel. This is the falling away, a voluntary resolved relinquishment of and apostacy from the gospel, the faith, rule, and obedience thereof, which can not be done without casting the highest reproach and contumely upon the Person of Christ Himself. To renew them again to repentance. Upon their profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, they received the baptismal pledge of an inward renovation, though really, they were not partakers thereof. This state was their renovation, and from this they fell. It is impossible to renew them again, that is to bring them again into this state of profession by a second renovation and a second baptism. Since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame. They don’t do it really; they cannot do so; but they do it to themselves morally. By their apostacy they showed that they approved of the Jews in crucifying Him as a malefactor, After having professed to have had some knowledge and experience of the ways of Jesus Christ, they now openly profess that upon trial of them they find nothing in them for which they should be desired; now no man living attempt a higher dishonor against Jesus Christ than this. The sin of those who forsake Christ and the gospel, after their conviction of Its truth and profession of it, is in many accounts far greater than that of those who crucified Him.