Crucifying Christ Again

In Hebrews 6:4-6, the Scriptures give a startling perspective for any Christian who forsakes the Lord. Consider carefully these words:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

This message is powerful, for it invokes the image of a second crucifixion of Jesus. However, this time, rather than the enemies of Christ driving the nails into His hands and feet, it is one of His own disciples who puts the Lord to death. Surely, there could be nothing more unthinkable to a Christian than the notion of being personally responsible for putting Jesus through the ordeal of the cross again.

This passage utterly refutes the idea that it is impossible for a saved person to be lost. The whole book of Hebrews is a plea to early Jewish Christians who were in danger of forsaking Christ and returning to Judaism. Within that context, Hebrews 6:4-6 is unmistakably clear that these Hebrews were true Christians in every sense. There can be no doubt about their salvation or their election by God when the passage describes them as having "once been enlightened," having "tasted of the heavenly gift," having "been made partakers of the Holy Spirit," and having "tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come." Certainly, these terms are descriptive only of saved persons, and yet this same passage speaks of some of these very persons falling away from God. The Calvinist doctrine of "perseverance of the saints," "security of the believer," "impossibility of apostasy," or "once-saved-always-saved" is in direct conflict with this truth of Scripture. Calvinists should consider carefully this passage and ask themselves: Can a Christian crucify Jesus again and still be saved? If Hebrews 6:4-6 says that it is impossible for such an apostate Christian to be renewed to repentance, then is he still saved? The answer is an emphatic no.

In what way does an apostate Christian crucify Jesus again? It obvious that this figuratively represents the effects of a Christian's apostasy, for Christ will not come back again to be crucified in the flesh. This symbolic second crucifixion at the hands of an apostate Christian is an utter rejection of the Savior and thus of salvation itself. Just as physical death is the separation of the body and the spirit (Jas. 2:26), so also this second crucifixion is a separation of a Christian from the person and power of Jesus Christ. In other words, an apostate Christian makes Jesus dead to himself. This figure is fitting because apostasy is an open and public denial and denouncement of the Savior by one who previously made a public confession and proclamation of Him. In this way, the apostasy of a Christian will "put Him to an open shame."

The Scriptures frequently use the figure of crucifixion to represent a complete break with a former way of life. In Romans 6:6-7, the likeness of a Christian's death to sin and Christ's death on the cross is described by saying "that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." Similarly, Galatians 5:24 says, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." The apostle Paul used these terms to describe his own conversion to Christ, saying, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20), and "[T]he world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).

Thus, when a person becomes a Christian, he crucifies sin, the flesh, and the world, but when a Christian forsakes Christ, he crucifies Christ again. Just as a penitent sinner crucifies sin by forsaking the practice of sin, so also an apostate Christian crucifies Christ by forsaking the practice of Christianity. This is the point of Hebrews 6:4-6. A Christian who returns to a life of sin profoundly offends the Lord in a way that compares only with the evil deeds of those who nailed His flesh to the cross. Consider the piercing question of Hebrews 10:29 -- "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" The fact is that a Christian who crucifies again the Son of God is worse than those who crucified Him the first time. Those men acted in ignorance of the wisdom of God (1Cor. 2:8), and Jesus prayed for them, saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). However, apostate Christians know exactly who Jesus is, for they "have tasted the good word of God." They have no excuse when they crucify Jesus again.

Therefore, may we never forsake the Lord Jesus. If we are ever tempted to give up our faith in Jesus, then may our minds be turned back to the scene of the cross at Golgotha. Shall we crucify the Lord again? Shall we put Him to an open shame by rejecting Him as Lord and Savior? Shall we drive the nails through His hands and feet again? May it never be! He was crucified once for our salvation. May we never crucify Him again.

Stacey E. Durham


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