Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hebrews 6 - Do Not be Sluggish

LINK: Hebrews 5:11 - 6:20


And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence 
so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 
so that you will not be sluggish 
(same Greek word as "dull" in 5:11), 
but imitators of those who through faith and patience 
inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:11-12, key verse in chapter)

In Hebrews 5:11, the writer did not go into a deeper explanation of the priesthood of Christ because he did not think the Hebrews were spiritually mature enough to hear it. They had become dull of hearing. Dullness is a "condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual development" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Hebrews 5:11-14, p. 294). 

They had been believers for quite a while and should have been able to teach the Word and help others grow, but they still were like newborn babes who needed milk fed to them instead of solid spiritual food.  The phrase "not accustomed" (apeiros) in 5:13 is better translated  "inexperienced in" the Word of righteousness. It is not about knowing the Word of God intellectually but about application of it in day-to-day life. (This is why I think it is SO important to have regular application of God's Word with other like-hearted believers who will hold you accountable for that application and join in the joy of seeing God's blessings as you apply it. It is important to walk away regularly with an "I will" statement in order to "experience" the "living and active" Word of God.) 

Apparently, the Hebrew believers were not doing this, and they were not distinguishing between good and evil and true and false ideas and doctrines. 

Instead of belaboring the fact that they were spiritually immature, the writer calls them to press on toward spiritual maturity. It can be likened to them needing to go from learning their ABC's to reading the classics! 

The writer lists six foundational doctrines of Christ in which they should already be grounded (6:1-2):

Our relationship with God:

Repentance - changing one's mind about sin 
Faith - believing in Jesus and believing Him for all things
Our relationship with the local church:
Baptism - symbol of spiritual cleansing and proclamation of one's identification with Christ 
Laying on of hands - sharing of blessing (Luke 24:50; Acts 19:6) or setting apart a person for ministry (1 Timothy 4:14)
 Our future with God:
Resurrection of the saved and lost - John 5:24-29; Acts 14:14-15; Revelation 20:4-6, 12-15
Final Judgment - Acts 17:30-31
It was imperative that they know these foundational ABC's to keep them from falling away and to keep moving forward toward maturity! 

"Falling away" in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a controversial subject! Can an enlightened believer lose their salvation? Some try to say the writer is talking to those who were not true believers, but the passage's wording makes it overwhelmingly clear that they were (6:4-5; 10:32; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Hebrews 2:9; 3:1, 14). Some say you can lose your salvation, but the greatest argument for that is at the end of this chapter (6:13-20) and other verses in the New Testament (John 5:24; 10:26-30; Romans 8:28-39). 

Warren Wiersbe proposes that the writer was presenting a hypothetical scenario to prove his previous point that a true believer cannot lose his salvation. He expounds upon the writer's argument in the context of spurring them on to spiritual maturity:

Let’s suppose that you do not go on to maturity. Does this mean that you will go back to condemnation, that you will lose your salvation? Impossible! If you could lose your salvation, it would be impossible to get it back again; and this would disgrace Jesus Christ. He would have to be crucified again for you, and this could never happen.
In Hebrews 6:4, the writer changed the pronouns from “we” and “us” to “those.” This change also suggests that he had a hypothetical case in mind.
Whatever approach you take, please keep in mind that the writer’s purpose was not to frighten the readers but to assure them. If he had wanted to frighten them, he would have named whatever sin (or sins) would have caused them to disgrace Jesus Christ; but he did not do so. In fact, he avoided the word apostasy and used instead “to fall by the wayside” (see Gal. 6:1 for a similar word). 
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Heb 6:1, p. 297)

The Greek verb form in 6:6 for "fallen away" is parapipto. Para means "alongside" (the word for the Holy Spirit is paraclete) and pipto means "fall" together it means "to fall alongside." 

True believers who are progressing in their faith will bear fruit (6:7-10; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-26). These are the "things that accompany salvation" in Hebrews 6:9. And the writer commends the Hebrews for being fruit-bearers in Hebrews 6:10 (1 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Revelation 2:2), but he urges them to diligently press on to full maturity and the enjoyment of the rich inheritance from God we read about in Hebrews 4. 

Abraham is the example mentioned in 6:12 that we are supposed to imitate. We can read God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:16-17. This was the promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham's offspring. That offspring is JESUS (Remember the Scarlet Thread of Redemption running from Genesis - Revelation?)!!!!

A promise is based on God's faithfulness and not man's failures. The writer used Abraham as an example of faith and patience so the Hebrews would not lose heart (which seems to be something they were thinking of doing) and to encourage them to keep on running (Hebrews 12:1-2). God is faithful to His promises, and we are part of Abraham's promise because we are Abraham's spiritual seed (Galatians 3:29)!  We can put our hope in and find eternal refuge in Jesus like the Old Testament "cities of refuge" (Numbers 35:9ff and Joshua 20) and cling to Him as the anchor of our souls! He will keep us from being tossed "to and fro"! Did you know that 66 pictures of anchors have been found in the catacombs of the early church? 

Finally, Jesus "enters within the veil" is referring to the second veil in the temple that leads into the Holy of Holies in which the High Priest only entered once a year. We know that when Jesus died, that veil was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38 Luke 23:45). Through our GREAT High Priest, we have access into the very presence of God through His death on the cross:

within the veil—two images beautifully combined: (1) The soul is the ship: the world the sea: the bliss beyond the world, the distant coast; the hope resting on faith, the anchor which prevents the vessel being tossed to and fro; the encouraging consolation through the promise and oath of God, the cable connecting the ship and anchor. (2) The world is the fore-court: heaven, the Holy of Holies; Christ, the High Priest going before us. so as to enable us, after Him. and through Him, to enter within the veil. 

Estius explains, As the anchor does not stay in the waters, but enters the ground hidden beneath the waters, and fastens itself in it, so hope, our anchor of the soul, is not satisfied with merely coming to the vestibule, that not content with merely earthly and visible goods, but penetrates even to those which are within the veil, namely. to the Holy of Holies. where it lays hold on God Himself. and heavenly goods. and fastens on them. “Hope, entering within heaven, hath made us already to be in the things promised to us, even while we are still below. and have not yet received them; such strength hone has. as to make those that are earthly to become heavenly.” “The soul clings, as one in fear of shipwreck to an anchor, and sees not whither the cable of the anchor runs—where it is fastened: but she knows that it is fastened behind the veil which hides the future glory.
(A Commentary, Critical And Explanatory, On The Old And New Testaments: Volume 2, Heb 6:19, p. 455)
As promised, you get to learn all about Melchizedek tomorrow in Hebrews 7! 


This passage is a charge to my soul this morning! We must constantly be pressing on toward maturity. He does not want us to be "fat babies" who feed on milk and always let others feed us! He has given us a promise and oath. We can bank on God's faithfulness to His promises and press on! YAY! 


Are you pressing on toward maturity? What is your plan for growth? 


Lord, thank You that You are 100% behind our growth toward maturity. Help us to rely 100% on You for our growth. We do not want to be "Fat Babies"! Amen. 
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