The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 6

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.  To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end it will be burned.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”  And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

  • Hebrews 6:1-20

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 6:1 ‘lack of growth’: “I like the story of the little boy who fell out of bed.  When his Mom asked him what happened, he answered, ‘I don’t know, I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.’
“Easy to do the same with our faith.  It’s tempting just to stay where we got in and never move.
“Pick a time in the not-too-distant past.  A year or two ago.  Now ask yourself a few questions.  How does your prayer life today compare with then?  How about your giving?  Have both the amount and the joy increased?  What about your church loyalty?  Can you tell you’ve grown?  And Bible study?  Are you learning to learn? …
“Don’t make the mistake of the little boy.  Don’t stay too close where you got in.  It’s risky resting on the edge.”

  • Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name

Hebrews 6:1-8 ‘for growth as a Christian’: “In order to their growth, Christians must leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ.  They must not lose them, they must not despise them, they must not forget them.  But they must not rest in them, they must not be always laying the foundation, they must go on, and build upon it.  Though some of them were but weak, yet others of them had gained more strength; and they must be provided for suitably.  He hoped they would be growing and so be able to digest stronger meat.  Several foundation-principles, which must be well laid at first, and then built upon. 1. Repentance from dead works… 2. Faith towards God3. The doctrine of baptisms… 4. Laying on of hands… 5. The resurrection of the dead… 6. Eternal judgment…”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

Hebrews 6:3 ‘we will do so’: “We must keep going forward.  There is no such thing in the Christian life as standing still, and we dare not turn back.”
Hebrews 6:4-6 ‘those enlightened’: “Some say that enough is said here to represent one who is a Christian externally but not enough to give the portrait of a true believer.  But if the Holy Spirit intended to describe Christians, I do not see that he could have used more explicit terms.  If these people are not believers, who is? ‘fallen away’: “There is a vast distinction between falling and falling away.  Falling away is not to sin temporarily.  A Christian may go astray.  But if he repents, there is mercy for him.  To fall away would be for the Holy Spirit to entirely go out of a man – for his grace to cease entirely.” ‘impossible – back to repentance’: “What else can avail, if already the great things of salvation have been defeated?  It would necessitate the upsetting of the whole kingdom of nature and grace.  I f grace is ineffectual, if grace does not keep a person, then nothing is left but that he must be lost.  What is this but to say in a roundabout way that grace will do it?”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 6:9-20 ‘their hope’: “[The author] declares the good hope he had concerning them, v. 9.  There are things that accompany salvation, things that are never separated from salvation.  … God had wrought a principle of holy love and charity in them, v. 10.  Good works and labour proceeding from love to God are commendable; and what is done to any in the name of God shall not go unrewarded.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Reflections on Hebrews 6 ‘God’s Pursuit of Us’: “In saving men God is but doing again (or rather continuing to do) the same creative work as at the beginning of the world.  To Him each ransomed soul is a world wherein He performs again His pleasant work as of old.
“We who experience God in this day may rejoice that we have in Him all that Abraham or David or Paul could have, indeed the very angels before the throne can have no more than we, for they can have no more God and can want nothing apart from Him.  And all that He is and all that He has done is for us and for all who share the common salvation.  With full consciousness of our own demerit we may yet take our place in the love of God, and the poorest and weakest of us may without offense claim for ourselves all the riches of the Godhead in mercy given.  I have every right to claim all for myself, knowing that an infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children.  He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.
“What a difference it makes when we cease being general (a dodge, incidentally, for pseudo-humility and unbelief) and become pointed and personal in our approach to God.  Then we shall not fear the personal pronoun but shall with the friends of God relate it to the One who gave it and claim each one for himself the Person and work of the Triune God.  Then we shall see that all that God did was for each of us.”

  • A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man

My Thoughts

I have said it many times in posts and in teaching Sunday school.  Once you are an adopted son of the most high God, God will not let you go, but there are many who hang around for the season.  Rev. Spurgeon takes the author of Hebrews description and says that it perfectly matches what a true Christian should be, but the description is all experiential.

Have you ever body surfed in the ocean?  You can stand in waste deep water and watch others do it.  You can splash around or jump as the waves crash upon you.  But you are not a body surfer until you let go and jump with the wave at the right time so that the wave lifts you and takes you toward the shore.  I have used the same analogy with rappelling.  You can get the gear on.  You can watch what is happening.  You can become thrilled by how people descend from a great height, suspended by a rope, but you will never know what it is like to rappel until you click your D-ring onto the rope with the necessary loop and then step over the side, trusting your life to the rope.

The church is filled with people that watch from the sidelines.  They may get their toes wet in the ocean.  They may get into the harness on the side of the cliff.  But do they trust the wave or the rope?  I believe that some can fail to trust Jesus but remain as a hanger-on for decades, working as a church leader, and having perfect attendance, even giving a tithe plus special offerings.  In a way, they are trying to work their way into Heaven, intellectually believing in Jesus, experiencing wonderful things, but knowing that something does not feel right.  Thus, if one of these “falls away,” it can lead to them never returning.  What they felt while serving God did not satisfy them, because they never had God in their heart.

Yet, Rev. Spurgeon has a point that for those who have a life-giving relationship with Jesus, they might stumble and fall away, not returning to the practice of the Christian religion, possibly leaving forever, but God’s mercy and grace can overcome their stumbling.

For a pastor, this passage of Scripture in Hebrews 6:4-6 and even through verse 8 is difficult to deal with.  When your job is to provide pastoral care, Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to correct, rebuke, and encourage.  Encouragement seems to be the pastor’s strong suit, because people do not like being corrected and rebuked.  I have only had one pastor ever correct and rebuke me.  I never went back to his church – thus why most ignore that requirement of a pastor.  There was some truth to what he said.  I had been a Deacon for three years, having just served as the chairman of the board, and I was burned out.  But the pastor never bought the fact that my family had a galloping sinus-type, flu-like infection, with one person or another being sick for 3-4 weeks, giving the crud to another person in the house every 3-4 days, and then getting it a second time each.  That did not stop him from telling me in no uncertain terms how sinful I was for “skipping church.”  All that rebuke for not attending church for a month, when we had excuses, signed by a doctor, at the ready.  We needed that for school and work.  Like I said, from the intent in the heart, there was an element of truth in what he said, but I felt he overstepped.  He showed no compassion.  It almost seemed like he felt he was the injured party when church attendance is between us and God.

So, seeing my reaction to rebuke, I can see how pastors back off from using it one on one.  Rebuking from the pulpit in a general sense also seems to not be done, and I feel it should be used at times.  When you are a medium size church and you lose 20% of your membership over 2-3 years, many of those that left being strong Christians, something is not right, and feeding the congregation warm milk and cookies is not the answer.  They need strong meat if they are matured enough to chew.  If they are not, it might be due to what Matthew Henry mentions just after what is quoted above, a case of apostacy.  The church has lost their focus on Jesus, and those foundational things that Henry mentions are ignored, making the church body worthless in spreading the Gospel.  They have in effect created their own idol and named him “Jesus” so that they can keep any more people from leaving the church.

And why do we have churches that become apostate?  Could it be that without Jesus as the center focus, without members that are on fire for Jesus, totally committed, totally trusting in Jesus, we lose the power that is described in the rest of the chapter.  We miss the Tozer quote entirely.  We miss the Joy, the Peace, the Love, the Hope, and yes, the Victory.  And how can we accomplish this?  It is the truth in Tozer’s last paragraph, we need to move our trust and faith in Jesus Christ from that general, impersonal belief category to the personal.  It needs to be a life or death situation in our hearts – because it is eternal life or death.

And another way to avoid becoming a worthless member of a worthless church is what Max Lucado talks about, and Matthew Henry talks about.  We need to grow.  We cannot stay a babe in Christ freshly reborn forever.  It does not work that way.  We must avoid barely getting in the bed or we will fall out of it.  If that is our attitude, do we really trust Jesus at all?

I heard someone say that their reason for not growing as a Christian was because these Christians that really get turned on fire for Christ have all kinds of bad things happen to them.  The inference was that Satan notices them.  But Satan attacks the newborn Christians too, and if they do not grow, Satan makes them useless, defeated, and worthless.

I cannot remember whose memoire of a Japanese beachhead it was or which beach, maybe Iwo Jima or Tarawa, maybe all of them, but the sergeant, or was it the commissioned officer, came up to the men lying prone on the sand.  As bullets were flying in every direction, he grabbed each man and yelled, “Keep moving forward.  Attack.  If you stay on the beach, you are going to die!”  The point was that for the enemy’s artillery forward observer, it only takes a few rounds to be fired at the beach to map out how to hit everyone who sits and cowers in fear, but if you risk getting hit by the bullets, you become a moving target, and harder to hit by the artillery shells.

To keep Satan from getting a bead on you, keep growing in the faith.  You will be harder to knock down, because you will have greater strength through Jesus, and you will not be a weak, fearful target that is not moving.  Read the Bible; study the Bible with others when possible; and pray, pray, pray.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How would you describe your spiritual appetite now: (a) ‘I’ll just nibble.’? (b) ‘A good meal now and then is nice’? (c) ‘I’m famished for all I can get’?  Why?
”2. When have you been spiritually lazy?  What got you going again?
“1. Where in your life does trust in God come hardest?  Easiest?  Why?
“2. What promises of God are your anchor?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

This chapter was split into two sections in the “Group Study” guide.  The first question 1 would be hard to answer honestly in a group setting, but maybe not.  I have met those who would have no problem admitting that they just nibble, yet those people rarely come to group Bible study sessions.  In group settings, you usually get those in the “b” and “c” categories.  Otherwise these reflections are good for group settings or solitary study.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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