Hebrews 6:1-6

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

AN APPEAL AND WARNING (CONTINUED)

INTRODUCTION:

 

I remind you that Hebrews was written to Jewish people who were professing faith in Christ, some of whom were apparently contemplating abandoning Christianity and returning to Judaism.

 

We are in the process of seeing that Christ’s ministry is more excellent than the Levitical priests’ ministry (4:14 - 7:28). We have previously seen that Christ is better than angels and that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses.

 

Hebrews 6 and 7 is a continuation of the subject that Christ has a more excellent ministry than the Levitical priests.

 

It has been shown that believers should hold fast their confession (4:14-16). Furthermore, the office of high priest has been described (5:1-4), and it has been revealed that Christ is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:5-10). Then follows an appeal and a warning begun in 5:11 which continues through 6:12.

 

After this warning Christ will be shown to be the believer’s forerunner within the veil (6:13-20).

 

In this message, we are continuing our consideration of an appeal and warning to the readers. We are looking in this message at Hebrews 6:1-6 .

 

This appeal and warning was begun in 5:11 and continues through 6:12. In 5:11-14 we have seen that the readers need to be certain that they have been genuinely born again. Although they have been saved long enough to be teachers of others, they are spiritually insensitive. Their need for spiritual milk rather than for solid spiritual food demonstrates that they are unskillful in the word of righteousness.

 

They need to understand where they are in their Christian lives and then move on from there to maturity in Christ. There is no need to lay again a foundation of Judaism; rather, they need to go on to maturity in Christ.

We see that –

    I.     THE READERS MUST LEAVE THE ELEMENTARY TEACHINGS ABOUT THE MESSIAH – 6:1A

 

Hebrews 6:1 a – Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ. . . .

 

Therefore introduces a strong inference and means wherefore or for this reason and refers to the fact that these believers to whom Hebrews is written need to move on in their Christian lives.

 

Leaving describes let us go on, and its tense indicates that the time of their leaving takes place before their going on. When used figuratively as it is in this verse, leaving means giving up or abandoning.

 

What is to be left is the principles of the doctrine of Christ.

 

Christ is the Greek term which is equivalent to the Hebrew term Messiah, and both mean Anointed One.

 

The appears before Christ in the Greek text, which means that the reference is to the Christ, the Messiah, or the Anointed One.

 

Here the doctrine means the word and is used in the sense of the subject (or the matter) under discussion and is particularly the subject under discussion of the beginning of the Messiah.

 

What is to be left is the subject under discussion of the Messiah or the word of the elementary teaching of the Messiah.

 

It is not referring to the elements of salvation; instead, it is referring to Old Testament Judaism, the proper teaching of which prepared the way for the entrance of the Messiah.

 

It is not to be confused with the abuses of the teaching of the Old Testament brought about by the scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.

We also see that –

  II.     THE READERS MUST GO ON TO PERFECTION – 6:1B

 

Hebrews 6:1 b – Therefore . . . let us go on unto perfection. . . .

 

Let us go on is an exhortation suggesting that believers should move on, and unto perfection indicates what they are to move on to.

 

Perfection is completion or maturity in contrast to an elementary stage of knowledge. In other words, these are saved people.

 

Abandoning Christianity and going back into the things of the Old Testament which anticipated or pointed toward Christianity is not the answer for their present difficulties. However, going on to full maturity in Christ is the answer.

 

Christ or Messiah has already come. Believers need to stop looking back to Judaism; instead, they need to be both looking ahead and going on to Christian maturity.

 

Too many Christians are content to praise God for their salvation but are unwilling to discipline themselves in the study of the Scriptures and to pursue godliness.

Next, we see that –

III.      THE READERS MUST NOT LAY AGAIN THE FOUNDATION OF JUDAISM – 6:1C-3

 

Hebrews 6:1 c – . . . Let us . . . not (be) laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.

 

Not laying again means that believers are not to lay down the same foundation which has already been laid because that foundation is still there.

 

The truths taught in Old Testament Judaism have not changed.

 

The difference is that the Messiah has now come, and people are no longer to be involving themselves in building the base or foundation when the erection of the actual building has already begun on that foundation.

 

The time for the foundation is past; believers should not go back to working on it again; instead, they need to work on the building and complete it. The tense of laying indicates something which goes on continuously. Hence, some Hebrews were still laying a foundation.

 

When negated as it is in this verse, it means that an activity already in progress needs to be stopped. Thus, this exhortation is understood to mean let us stop laying or let us not continue laying.

 

Again suggests once more or anew.

 

The problem is that the foundation has already been laid; it does not need to be laid another time.

 

To lay this foundation again would constitute returning to Judaism and abandoning Christianity, and the only reason one would really do this would be because he had concluded that Christ and Christianity were not what he had thought they were and was completely rejecting or repudiating both Christ and Christianity with no intention of ever changing his mind. He was repudiating the idea that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

 

This foundation is then described by several phrases in verses 1 and 2.

 

All of these refer to things which were characteristic of Judaism as foundational to Christianity.

 

Although at first glance some of these things may appear to be characteristic of the New Testament, all are best understood as Old Testament truths.

 

It should not be surprising that nearly all of these things are also found in New Testament Christianity because the Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament.

 

Regarding the relationship of the Old and New Testaments, someone has wisely said that “the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.”

 

First, they were no longer to be laying a foundation of repentance from dead works.

 

Repentance is literally a change of mind or a remorse, and it is particularly a change of mind from dead works which the writer intends.

 

These works are described as being dead.

 

From dead works is literally away from dead works.

 

It is not necessary to lay a foundation of changing one’s mind regarding dead works.

 

Although he depended on these prior to receiving Christ as his Savior, he no longer depends on them now.

 

Judaism was filled with works which are regarded as dead now that Christ has come and has fulfilled the Old Testament types.

 

He is also no longer to be laying a foundation of faith toward God.

 

Faith is trust, and faith toward God suggests trust in God or trust exercised toward God.

 

In Judaism trust was in God generally; but in the New Testament trust is placed particularly in God’s revelation regarding Jesus Christ and His provision for salvation.

 

Hebrews 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

 

The next foundation believers should no longer be laying is the doctrine of baptisms.

 

The doctrine is the teaching or the instruction.

 

Baptisms is not the word ordinarily translated baptism in the New Testament; instead, it is a word for washings and refers to the symbolic washings that the priests would go through rather than referring to believer’s baptism found in the New Testament era.

 

Believers no longer need symbolic cleansing because they have actually been cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

A fourth foundation believers should no longer be laying is the laying on of hands.

 

It is reminiscent of the laying of the hand upon the head of the burnt offering in Leviticus 1:4 as well as other sacrifices where the laying on of the offerer’s hand signified the offerer’s identification with his offering and his acceptance.

 

This is also characteristic of Judaism.

 

Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. Now that He has died, these sacrifices taught in the Old Testament no longer need to be offered. Jesus paid for sin once and for all time.

 

A fifth foundation believers should no longer be laying is the resurrection of the dead.

 

Judaism believed that the dead would rise again.

 

Finally, believers should no longer be laying a foundation of eternal judgment.

 

Judaism believed in an eternal judgment.

 

However, it is time to move away from all of these things, and it is time to go on to maturity in Christ.

 

Hebrews 6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

 

And indicates a continuation of the thought of the previous verses.

 

This refers to the contents of verses 1 and 2, i.e. of leaving the principles of the doctrine of the Christ or of the Messiah, of going on to perfection, and of not laying again a foundation which no longer needs to be laid.

 

Will we do indicates the writer’s resolve.

 

If is if indeed, if only, or supposing that; and God is God the Father.

 

Permit suggests allows.

 

If God allows one to go on, he must.

Finally, we see that –

IV.      TO RENEW TO REPENTANCE THOSE WHO HAVE COMPLETELY ABANDONED CHRISTIANITY IS IMPOSSIBLE – 6:4-6

 

Verses 4-6 are not the simplest verses to understand in the New Testament, but they must be taken in the light of Scripture, which clearly teaches that someone is eternally saved when he places his trust in Christ as his Savior and will never lose this salvation under any circumstances.

 

Whatever verses 4-6 mean, they do not contradict the fact that the Bible teaches the eternal security of the believer because God the Holy Spirit was not confused when He inspired the Bible. So, these verses do not mean that someone may lose his salvation.

 

The reader should remind himself of the foundation for eternal security clearly taught in the New Testament. Although we could look at many verses which teach this, I will only direct your attention to two: John 3:16 and John 5:24 .

 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

Since we now have everlasting life, it will never end, and we will not perish in hell.

 

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life [He already has everlasting life; and if he could possibly lose it, it would not be everlasting!], and shall not come into condemnation [i.e. into judgment does not come]; but is passed [i.e. has been passed] from death unto life.

 

The Scriptures clearly teach the eternal security of someone who has been genuinely saved. Since the Scriptures cannot contradict themselves, there can be no loss of eternal life in Hebrews 6 .

 

Furthermore, the change of person in the pronoun we in verse 3 to those, they, and them in verses 4-8 is instructive. It suggests that the writer does not include himself in this group. He knows that he himself is saved, but he is also aware that some of his readers may not be.

 

He is not dealing with the unscriptural concept that some genuinely saved persons may lose their salvation. He is dealing with the Scriptural concept that some who are genuinely unsaved, but who profess Christ, may conclude that Christ and Christianity are incorrect and that Christ deserved to be crucified and consequently fully, completely, and finally reject Christ and Christianity.

 

Those, they, and them in verses 4-8 are also clearly distinguished from you, your, and ye in verses 9-12.

 

In verses 9-10, the writer writes,

 

Hebrews 6:9-10 – (9) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

(10) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

 

Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.

 

For introduces the reason it will do no good to lay this same foundation again.

 

It is impossible gives the verb (i.e. is) and an adjective (i.e. impossible) describing the subject of the verb. However, it does not indicate what the subject of this verb is.

 

The sentence continues through verse 6, and the subject of is in verse 4 is the phrase in verse 6: to renew them again unto repentance. Thus, the main thought expressed in verses 4-6 is to renew them again unto repentance is impossible.

 

Impossible means that something cannot be done.

 

What is impossible to do is to renew them again unto repentance from verse 6.

 

The text does not indicate for whom this is impossible, but it is best understood as being impossible for humanity to do rather than for God to do. At the same time, God will cut them off from the possibility of their ever trusting Christ as their Savior.

 

It is impossible from the standpoint that these persons have taken up a set position against Christ, believing that He deserved to die; and, even if God would allow them to change their minds, they are not about to do so. They have finally and completely rejected Jesus as their Messiah.

 

Impossible cannot be softened to mean difficult as some would do. This would be impossible.

 

For those refers to those people who were once enlightened, . . . (who) have tasted of the heavenly gift, (who) were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, . . . (who) have tasted the good word of God, . . . (who have tasted) the powers of the world to come, (and who) . . . have fallen away.

 

All of these things, rather than just one or two of them, must be true of all of those persons under discussion, i.e. of every one of those people about whom it is stated that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.

 

Who were once enlightened suggests who were once illuminated. It is a term which literally means to give light to, to light up, or to illuminate. When used figuratively as it is in this verse, it means to enlighten, give light to, or shed light upon.

 

In other words, they understood the gospel message; but they did not necessarily exercise saving faith in it. They may have had a head knowledge rather than a heart knowledge of the gospel.

 

The light with which they were illuminated is the light of the gospel.

 

Not only have these people been enlightened, they also have tasted of the heavenly gift.

 

To taste means to partake of or to enjoy when used literally; and, when used figuratively as it is in this verse, it means to come to know something.

 

These people have come to know the heavenly gift. In other words, they have been the beneficiaries of some spiritual truth.

 

Furthermore, they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.

 

Partakers are sharers, participants, or companions. The same term is translated fellows in Hebrews 1:9 .

 

What they shared in was the Holy Ghost, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

 

Whether they were genuinely saved is open to question. They had at least been close enough to Christianity that they were able to enjoy some of the benefits of God’s blessings.

 

Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.

 

Have tasted is the same word already used in verse 4 meaning literally to taste, to partake of, or to enjoy; and, when used figuratively as it is in this verse, it means to come to know something.

 

What they have come to know is the good word of God.

 

Word means what is said, a saying, or an expression.

 

They have come to know that the word of God is good, i.e. beneficial, useful, or perhaps even right.

 

They have also tasted the powers of the world to come.

 

By powers the writer means outward expressions of power or deeds of power. These are miracles or wonders of the coming world.

 

The world to come is the coming age.

 

The thought is that these people had witnessed certain miracles, and they knew them to be miracles.

 

Hebrews 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

 

And appears in the Greek text at the beginning of verse 6 but was not translated into the English text.

 

If they shall fall away is literally having fallen away. It is the translation of a participle which has been translated as a condition. However, it is functioning in the Greek text as a noun, as another direct object of renew along with several others in verses 4-5, and means (those who) have fallen away. Taken together, the thought is, To renew unto repentance those who were once enlightened, . . . (who) have tasted of the heavenly gift, (who) were made partakers of the Holy Spirit and, . . . (who) have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age, and (who or but who) have fallen away (is) impossible.

 

There is really no difference in meaning between translating it as a condition and translating it as one of several direct objects. This is because all of these people professing salvation in the Book of Hebrews, including genuinely saved believers as well as some who have not yet been genuinely saved, have been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come; but only unbelievers can be said to have fallen away. It is their falling away which distinguishes them as unbelievers from the real believers.

 

To fall away means to fall beside, to go astray, to miss, or to commit apostasy.

 

The context of Hebrews suggests that the falling away is the complete and final rejection of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.

 

It is the result of having an evil heart of unbelief (cf. Hebrews 3:12 ).

 

Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

 

What is impossible is to renew them again unto repentance where to renew means to restore.

 

Again is once more or anew.

 

Unto repentance is unto a change of mind, unto a remorse, unto a turning about, or unto a conversion.

 

The reason it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance is indicated by the phrase seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame.

 

Seeing they crucify . . . afresh suggests because they are crucifying or because they are crucifying again.

 

To themselves is for themselves and suggests as far as they are concerned.

 

The Son of God is the Lord Jesus Christ and serves as a reminder that He is the Messiah.

 

John showed the Jewish thinking on the subject of the Messiah being the Son of God in John 20:30-31 where he stated that his purpose in writing the Gospel of John was that his readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

 

And put him to an open shame is also used to indicate cause in the sense of because they are putting him to an open shame.

 

To put to an open shame may mean to make a public example of such as by punishment. However, it may also be understood with no idea of punishment in the sense of to expose, to make an example of, or to hold up to contempt.

 

It means that this person has judged that the things he has heard and seen about Christ are not so, and it means that he is agreeing with those who crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and has concluded that Christ really deserved what happened to Him on the cross. It is not just a hypothetical situation. Although this individual has been taught the truths regarding the Messiah, He treats Christ’s crucifixion with contempt instead of embracing it for himself.

 

It is true that a believer would never do this as has been indicated by the teaching of Hebrews 3:6 and 14, but someone who has gone along with Christianity for a while but who has never been genuinely saved would turn his back on Christ and would conclude that He had been justly crucified.

 

One is reminded of the parable of the sower and the soils and especially of the seed sown upon stony ground which sprang up quickly and then, when difficulty came, was no more to be found.

 

Thus, if somebody were to do these things, it would show that he was never saved in the first place.

 

As far as an unbeliever is concerned, this may actually happen.

 

However, although there is certainly a warning here for saved people as well, this verse is only hypothetical for those who have been genuinely saved. If they were to reject Christ, they would forfeit their Christianity. However, as Hebrews 3:6 and 14 indicate, those who have been truly saved will never reject Christ and will never conclude that He was justly crucified.

 

This verse also serves as a warning for those who would finally and completely reject Christ as their Savior by advising them that any such decision will be final. They will never have an opportunity to change their minds, not that they will care, however.

 

There is no other means by which they may be saved. If they reject God’s only way of salvation, it will be impossible for them ever to come to repentance.

 

There is no way that this verse teaches that someone may be saved, then lost, and then saved again; instead, it is a case of deliberate and willful apostasy where someone has a full understanding of Christ and the salvation He has provided but completely and with finality rejects both Him and His offer of salvation and wants nothing further do with either of them.

 

This person thus removes Christ from his life forever.

CONCLUSION:

 

Be certain that you are genuinely saved.