5:11-6:20 Part 2

Hebrews 5:11-6:20 (Part 2)

 

In Hebrews 6 the writer essentially instructs his readers to do three things:

·         Grow up (vv.1-3) – Don’t be satisfied with the basics of Christianity…keep striving toward maturity

·         Watch out (vv.4-8) – These are the most difficult verses in chapter 6 (and maybe in all of Hebrews!) to interpret…be on guard against being led away from the truth…

·         Keep on (vv.9-20) – Don’t grow weary of doing the right things…

 

No chapter in the Bible has disturbed people more than has Heb. 6. It is unfortunate that even sincere believers have “fallen out” over the doctrine of “falling away”! Scholars have offered several interpretations of this passage: (1) it describes the sin of apostasy, which means Christians can lose their salvation; (2) it deals with people who were “almost saved” but then backed away from trusting Christ; (3) it describes a sin possible only to Jews living while the Jewish temple was still standing; (4) it presents a “hypothetical case” or illustration that could not really happen. While I respect the views of others, I must reject those ideas just listed. I feel that Heb. 6 (like the rest of the book) was written to believers, but this chapter does not describe a sin that results in a believer “losing salvation.” If we keep the total context of the book in mind, and if we pay close attention to the words used, we will discover that the main lessons of the chapter are ones of repentance and assurance.[1]

 

Grow Up (6:1-3)

They key phrase in these three verses is “…let us press on to maturity…” in the middle part of verse 1.  Wiersbe translates the phrase, “…let us be carried forward to maturity…”  Actually, this phrase is not talking so much about our effort as our being in a position where God causes us to mature.  Like a plant does not grow itself, it grows as the natural result of having appropriate levels of nutrients, moisture, light, and temperature.  Like a baby does not grow itself, it grows as natural result of eating, sleeping, exercising, and being cared for by loving parents.  So Christian maturity does not come as a result of our effort, it comes as a result of our yielding ourselves to God, receiving God’s Word, and allowing God’s Spirit to reshape us into the image of Christ.

 

To do that, we must move beyond the basics.  That’s what the phrase “…leaving the elementary teachings about Christ…” in verse 1 means.  In this verse the phrase “elementary teachings” translates the word arche (as opposed to stochea in Hebrews 5:12).  The word carries the idea of moving beyond the beginning of something.  Some see this word as representing the opposite of the word translated “maturity” (teleios) which carries the idea of perfected or completed.

 

In the last part of verse 1 and verse 2, six elementary doctrines or beliefs are listed which they must move beyond if they were to reach maturity.  Warren Wiersbe has an interesting perspective on this passage:

Instead of going ahead, however, these believing Jews were tempted to lay again “a foundation” that is described in vv. 2–3. The six items in this foundation do not refer to the Christian faith as such, but rather to the basic doctrines of Judaism. Facing the fires of persecution, these Hebrew Christians were tempted to “fall by the wayside” by forsaking their confession of Christ (4:14 and 10:23). They had already slipped back into “babyhood” (5:11–14); now they were prone to go back to Judaism, thus laying again the foundation that had prepared the way for Christ and the full light of Christianity. They had repented from dead works, referring to works under the law (9:14). They had shown faith toward God. They believed the doctrine of washings (not baptism, but the Levitical washings; see Mark 7:4–5 and Heb. 9:10). Laying on of hands refers to the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16:21; and every true Jew held to a future resurrection and judgment (see Acts 24:14–15). If they did not move forward, they would be moving backward, which meant forsaking the substance of Christianity for shadows of Judaism.[2]

 

In a certain Asian tribe there is a common curse which the members of this tribe pronounce on someone with whom they are displeased...the curse goes like this:  "May you stay in one place forever." [Brian's Lines, J/A, 1996, p.17]  Unfortunately, that is what happens to many of us in our spiritual lives...we don't grow, mature, progress as we should...

 

Watch out (6:4-8)

Verses written against a background of persecution...original recipients of Hebrews facing severe persecution because of their faith in Christ and were being tempted to abandon the faith and return to Judaism...to encourage them to hold on and not fall away, the writer reminds them of two important things...and these things are important reminders to us as well...

 

Remember the privileges you have as God's people

1.   Some scholars attempt to deal with the difficulty of this passage by saying the writer is not talking about true Christians ...they say the people being described in vv.4-5 are those who have only come close to salvation but never entered into salvation...

2.   Even though would solve some problems in interpretation, can't bring myself to agree with that...seems to me these verses contain vivid description of some of the blessings/privileges we experience because we are Christians...in effect the writer was saying something like this to these first century Christians... "As you are buffeted by persecution and as your are tempted to renounce your faith to avoid suffering, remember all the privileges/blessings you would be renouncing."

3.   If you'll look at vv.4-5 you'll see five wonderful privileges we have as Christians...Christians--

--"have been enlightened" - There was ancient saying, "When Jesus comes, the shadows depart."...for Christians the darkness of guilt, fear, doubt has been shattered and the light of forgiveness, joy, peace shines in their lives...

--"have tasted of the heavenly gift" - The "heavenly gift" refers to God's gift of His Son for the forgiveness of our sins...("For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...")...to taste means to experience...they had experienced in their lives the gift of God's Son...

--"been made partakers of the Holy Spirit" - The word "partakers" means sharers...they shared in the Holy Spirit ...the Holy Spirit lived in their lives...

--"have tasted the good word of God" - That is, Christians have discovered and experienced the truth of God's Word...

--"have tasted ... the powers of the age to come" - Christians have experienced a foretaste of eternal life...

      What an incredible list of privileges we have as Christians! But not only are we to remember our privileges as God's people, we are also to...

 

Remember the responsibilities you have as God's people

1.   It is important not to read too much into or misread what is being said in v.6...the issue being discussed here is not salvation but fellowship with God...the true believer never needs to fear losing salvation...the Bible is quite clear about that...verse after verse speaks of the security of genuine Christians...

2.   Jesus said in John 10:27-29 - "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  My  Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

3.   So, when you read Hebrews 6:6 which says that for those who "...have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance..." don't take that to mean that a Christian can lose his/her salvation...even those Christians who do not believe in the eternal security of the believer, would not say it's impossible for someone who has fallen away to be saved...statement not about salvation but about fellowship...

4.   “Fall away” is not the Gk. word apostasia, from which we get the English word “apostasy.” It is parapipto, which means “to fall beside, to turn aside, to wander.” It is similar to the word for “trespass,” as found in Gal. 6:1 (“if a man be overtaken in a fault [trespass]”). So, v. 6 describes believers who have experienced the spiritual blessings of God but who fall by the side or trespass because of unbelief. Having done this, they are in danger of divine chastening (see Heb. 12:5–13) and of becoming castaways (1 Cor. 9:24–27), which results in loss of reward and divine disapproval, but not loss of salvation. [3]

5.   The last part of v.6 is the key to understanding this verse...look at what the last part of the verse which says..."...since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame..."...two very important things about the grammar of that phrase need to understand...

--word translated "since" in NASB can also mean "while"...

--the verbs "crucify" and "put" are in the present tense, meaning "are crucifying" and "are putting"...

      Putting all that together, the verse can be translated this way:  "It is impossible to renew to repentance those who have fallen away while they are crucifying to themselves the Son of God and putting Him to open shame."

6.   Verse does not say these people can never be brought to repentance...says they can never be brought to repentance as long as they continue refusing to repent...point is, it is impossible for someone to renew fellowship with God while  that person is in process of being openly and defiantly rebellious against God...

 

1.   Let me illustrate it this way...suppose two people are married ...they are husband and wife...but one of them chooses to be unfaithful to other, and as a result the relationship between the husband and wife is broken...even though they may still be married, their relationship cannot be restored until the one who has been unfaithful changes his/her behavior, seeks forgiveness, and works toward reconciliation with the other...

2.   Just as it's the primary responsibility of a husband to be faithful to his wife and a wife to be faithful to her husband, it's the primary responsibility of a Christian to be faithful to God...and if we are not faithful, our fellowship with God is broken...but if are faithful, wonderful things happen...the last part of this paragraph tells us the result of being faithful...the point of that little parable in vv.7-8 about the productive ground (which represents a faithful Christian) and unproductive ground (which represents an unfaithful Christian) is that as we are faithful to God we are also useful to God...

3.   V.7 says that faithful Christians are a blessing and v.8 says unfaithful Christians are "close to being a curse”...if want be blessing to your family, your church, your world, then be faithful to God...

                                                        

1.   From my earliest days, I remember my parents drilling into me one of life's most important lessons...that lesson is that along with privilege comes responsibility...the greater the privilege, the greater the accompanying responsibility...

2.   Think that's the basic message of this part of Hebrews...as God's people we are the recipients of great spiritual privileges...in response to those privileges, God expects us to be faithful and productive...may it be so in our lives...

 

 

 



[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (690–691). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (691). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (692). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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