We do not like the word ‘impossible.’ We like to think that all things are possible. Here is what some have said. Tommy Lasorda is quoted as saying, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in man’s determination” (brainyquote.com). Roger Clemens is quoted as saying, “I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in” (ibid). Michael Phelps is quoted as saying, “I think everything is possible as long as you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything” (ibid). Venus Williams, “In life, there is no such thing as impossible, it’s always possible” (ibid). Selena, “If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away, and always believe that the impossible is possible” (ibid). Miley Cyrus, “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible” (ibid).
The Bible is sometimes misused to support this idea. Philippians 4:13 is not about winning football games, bending metal bars and tearing thick phone books. It concerns being able to live the Christian life no matter the circumstances in life (cf. Philippians 4:11-12). Wayne Jackson comments that “all things” means all things “consistent with Christ’s will” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 412). Matthew 19:26 is not about man being able to do anything. It is not about God’s making everything possible for man. It concerns salvation of the rich (cf. Matthew 19:23-25). Tom Wacaster comments, “Yes, it is literally impossible for a camel to go through a needle’s eye. It would take the help of God to accomplish such a feat. In the same way, it is impossible for a rich man to be saved, were it not for the help that God provided him in overcoming the love of money, in teaching that man the proper use of riches” (Tom Wacaster, The Majesty of Jesus, Vol. 2, p. 249).
In the book of Hebrews we are warned that in God’s plan, and according to His nature, there are some things that are impossible.
1. Impossible to Renew
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
What does this teach? Does this teach that one who has fallen, after becoming a Christian, cannot be forgiven even if he repents? Some have feared that this is the case.
However, such an interpretation seems to conflict with other passages. Many passages encourage us that we can repent and be forgiven (e.g. Luke 15:11-32; Luke 17:3-4; Acts 8:22-24; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; James 5:19-20; 1 Corinthians 5:3-6 cf. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 John 1:9).
This may be teaching that so long as one continues to live in sin that it remains impossible to renew them. Wayne Jackson comments, “Under the present circumstances it was impossible to bring these apostates to repentance. Why? Because they kept on crucifying (a present tense participle) the Son of God afresh, and they kept on putting (present participle) Him to an open shame. These present participles represent action that is simultaneous with that of the verb (renew). In other words, as long as they maintain their hateful attitude toward the Son of God, they cannot be renewed to repentance (because He is the motivation for repentance)” (Wayne Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, pp. 142-143).
This may be teaching that there was nothing left for them under the old system. Gary Workman comments, “The writers point in Hebrews 6:4-8 is that the Jewish sacrificial system cannot spiritually renew his Hebrew-Christian readers, if they should happen to go back” (ed. Devin Dean, Studies in Hebrews, p. 696). Tom Wacaster comments, “If these Christians abandoned the system of Christianity and went back under the old system of things, it would be impossible for them to be brought to repentance and salvation under that system” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews, p. 219).
This may refer to a willful choice and a hardened condition. Jeff Archey comments, “One has made the conscious decision to leave Christ” (ed. Devin Dean, p. 132). Robert Milligan comments, “Hatred has taken place of love in his heart, and esteeming the blood of the covenant where with he was sanctified an unholy thing, he tramples it under his feet in contempt, and if it were possible he would even crucify again the Son of God, and expose him to public reproach” (Robert Milligan, p. 223, cf. Hebrews 10:24-31).
2. Impossible for God to Lie
“It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
It is against His nature to lie. His word is trustworthy (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13).
Evidence of His trustworthiness is found in His promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13-15 cf. Genesis 22:17-18). He kept His land promise (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:15-18; Numbers 34:1-15 cf. Joshua 21:43, 45; 23:14; 1 Kings 4:21). He kept His promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:17 cf. Stars – Deuteronomy 1:10; 28:62; Sand – 2 Samuel 17:11; Isaiah 10:22). He kept His seed promise to bless all nations (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18 cf. Acts 3:25-26).
This should give us hope. This hope is like an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19-20). Neil Lightfoot comments, “Hope is to the believer what the anchor is to the ship. Hope sustains and braces the Christian in the midst of all his trials; but when hope fails, he is left to drift aimlessly and falls victim to the merciless ocean” (Quoted by Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews, p. 235). “We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll / Fastened to the rock which cannot move / Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love” (Song: We Have An Anchor by Priscilla J. Owen).
3. Impossible that Bulls and Goats Take Away Sins
“It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
The annual sacrifices never ceased according to the law (cf. Leviticus 23:27, 29; Numbers 29:7, 11). There was no once for all sacrifice.
Christ’s sacrifice was a once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:12). It did not need to be repeated year after year (Hebrews 9:24).
Animal sacrifices were required by God under the Mosaic system (e.g. Leviticus 1-7, 16, 23), and apparently even before (e.g. Genesis 4:1-5 cf. Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 8:20; 12:7; 12:8; 13:18; 22:7-8; Job 1:5; Exodus 18:12). These sacrifices reminded men of their sins (Hebrews 10:3), and were “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). It is true that God counted those of old forgiven when they offered these sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 19:22; Numbers 15:25-26, 28). However, the blood of these animals really in and of themselves had no power to remove sin.
A much greater sacrifice was needed to save humanity (Hebrews 10:5-7 cf. Psalm 40:6-8). Royce Frederick has written, “The blood of Christ flows both ways from the cross. It flows forward to all who obey the gospel today, and if flows backward to the godly people who died before the cross” (article: The Blood Flows Both Ways by Royce Fredrick, International Gospel Teacher). We are redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). His blood was also for those who lived under the previous covenant (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15; 11:39-40). He willingly offered Himself (John 10:18; Matthew 26:52-54; Philippians 2:5-8). No animal ever willingly offered itself.
4. Impossible to Please Without Faith
“For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Twenty-five characters are set forth in Hebrews 11 as examples of faith. These men and women were not sinless. However, they did live by faith.
Living by faith means more than mental assent. It includes “diligently seek(ing) Him.” It includes trust (Hebrews 11:7), obedience (Hebrews 11:8, 17, 30), courage (Hebrews 11:23, 27), and endurance (Hebrews 11:15-16; 12:1-2). It includes living a life which pursues peace and holiness (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 12:14). May we so live.