Fixing Our Thoughts on Better
Envisaged in the book of Hebrews is the possibility of missing God's
grace. (12:15) A constant warning emanates from almost every page of the
book of Hebrews. It is a warning that we must be careful lest we forsake
God. This is something that many of the Hebrews are on the verge of doing.
This message permeates the writer's thoughts. Listen to the concerns in
There is the possibility of drifting away from God.
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what
we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken
by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its
just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to
us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and
various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to
his will. (NIV)
There is the possibility of turning away from God.
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving
heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily,
as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's
There is a possibility of turning from the truth.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received
the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful
expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies
of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the
testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think
a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot,
who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified
him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said,
"It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his
There is a possibility of throwing away your confidence and losing
what God has promised.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly
rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of
God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
"He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will
live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those
who believe and are saved. (NIV)
There is a possibility of missing the grace of God.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled,
but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and
to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no
one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble
and defile many. (NIV)
Facing Difficult Times Requires Spiritual Maturity
Difficult times require spiritual maturity. Failing to grow spiritually
will leave us unprepared to face the spiritual battles ahead. The sure
way to become faithless is to fail to grow up spiritually.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the
light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other
times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized
with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted
to the point of shedding your blood. (NIV)
These verses give us special insight to the Hebrews plight as Christians.
We see why they might drift away. We see why they might become hardened
and bitter in their troubles. We can see why they would have a tendency
to "shrink back" from the battle. We can see why they might turn from the
truth. We can understand why they might be tempted to turn their backs
on God and miss out on his grace.
However, it wasn’t the enemy without that posed their greatest threat;
it was the enemy within. It was their lack of spiritual growth that posed
their greatest threat. If we were to take the chapter divisions out of
Hebrews, it would become extremely obvious that the first six verses of
chapter six are inextricably connected to the last verses of chapter five.
There is a smooth logical transition. The writer concludes chapter five
with the admonition, " . . . though by this time you ought to be
teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's
word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" (Hebrews 5:12
NIV) Now the writer warns them of the seriousness of their failure to grow
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about
Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance
from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms,
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, if they fall away, to be brought back to
repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all
over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (NIV)
The word "Therefore" in 6:1 makes the clear connection that their failure
to grow was their greatest obstacle to facing their difficulties. The word
"therefore" reveals that the author is making a point in chapter 6 based
upon what he previously said in chapter five. The point is that they must
get beyond first principles if they hope to grow up in Christ.
First principles certainly provide the foundation of our faith just
as sure as the ABC’s provide the foundation of every book written. Nevertheless,
we need more than first principles when we enter into spiritual battle.
We need spiritual maturity.
It is amazing how many sermons revolve around first principles about
repentance and baptism. Faith is another favorite topic for sermons among
first principle Christians. How many sermons have you heard on baptism?
How much discussion has been invested in the subject of laying on of hands.
The subjects concerning the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment
are also favorite topics among the first principles. These first principles
were things we learned before becoming Christians. They were the basics
we had to embrace to become a Christian. The danger is not that we have
forsaken the first principles; the danger is that we refuse to seek deeper
knowledge that will allow us to build a solid life upon the foundation
first principles provide.
Sometimes I think first principles seem to provide a safe retreat for
us as we seek to avoid the real battles of life. It is easier to fight
over first principles than it is to enter into the real spiritual struggles
we face when we are threatened with persecution. I am amazed at how many
authors come to Hebrews 6 and retreat to a defense of the first principles
the Hebrew writer is telling us we must leave behind. Often, so much time
is dedicated to defending a set of doctrines that the real subject under
consideration is overlooked.
The central focus of Hebrews 6 is the lack of spiritual growth. The
lack of spiritual growth threatens to render their lives fruitless. For
faith to become fruitful it must grow.
The Danger of Failing to Grow
If we refuse to grow as Christians, we may reach a point where growth
is no longer an option.
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, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their
loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him
to public disgrace. (NIV)
The Hebrews had shared in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit guided teachers
brought them to Christ, but now they are turning their backs on the Spirits
instruction. They are seeking to find refuge in the Jewish ordinances,
which is to blatantly turn their backs on Christ. They are dull of hearing
and they are resisting the instruction of God’s Spirit. They are reaching
a point where they can’t discern between good and evil. (5:12-14) They
need to be taught all over again, but this will be impossible if they refuse
the Spirit’s instruction.
Refusing to grow is paramount to resisting the Holy Spirit’s instruction
to glorify Christ. When Christ was alive a person could turn his/her back
on him and be forgiven, but if one turns their back on the teaching and
ministry of the Holy Spirit there is no other means to be saved for only
the teaching of the Holy Spirit can lead us to Christ today.
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does
not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy
will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be
forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either
in this age or in the age to come. "Make a tree good and its fruit will
be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized
by its fruit. (NIV)
The Holy Spirit seeks to lead us to Christ, but when we turn our backs
on him and speak against him there is no other means of coming to Christ.
God can do no more than he has done through Christ; there is no other means
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of
men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (NIV)
What more can God do?
They have been enlightened
They have tasted the heavenly gift of Christ
They have shared in the Holy Spirit
They have tasted the goodness of the word of God
They have tasted the power of the coming age manifested in signs, miracles
and the resurrection.
Yet, they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and holding
him up to open shame.
Turning our backs on God’s Spirit is a sin unto death. It is one thing
to fall into sin through weakness, and another thing to persist in sin.
1 John 5:15-18
And if we know that he hears us-- whatever we ask-- we
know that we have what we asked of him. If anyone sees his brother commit
a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him
life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin
that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All
wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. We know
that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born
of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (NIV)
These warnings run consistently throughout the New Testament.
2 Peter 2:20-22
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome,
they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would
have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than
to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that
was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to
its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the
These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with
you without the slightest qualm-- shepherds who feed only themselves. They
are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without
fruit and uprooted-- twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming
up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved
2 Timothy 3:8-9
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these
men oppose the truth-- men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith
is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as
in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. (NIV)
Motivation for Spiritual Growth
They are encouraged to maintain their commitment in light of God’s
judgment. In light of their tendency to give up they are warned
about the judgment of God. The writer is concerned that their unfruitful
lives will fall under the judgment of God. Regardless of their difficulties
they must remember that God's judgement against their sin is far greater
than the persecution they are suffering.
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. (NIV)
Then the writer hastens to express his confidence in them to encourage
them to be patient. He is persuaded better things of them and encourages
them to make their hope sure by imitating those who have patiently endured.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are
confident of better things in your case-- things that accompany 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, in order to make your
hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who
through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)
Patience is absolutely essential to bear up under the trials of life.
Patience is impossible without hope. Hope that God will work things out
is based upon his unchanging word. God worked his will in Abraham's life,
he kept his promises, and this is a sure sign that he will do the same
for each of his children.
They are encouraged to imitate those who through faith and patience
inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 11 expounds on this in
more detail. For the present the writer uses Abraham as an example. They
are encouraged to base their confidence upon the immutable promises of
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. Men 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
offered to us may be greatly encouraged. (NIV)
The fulfillment of God's promises culminated in Christ's appointment
as our high priest. This crowning proof that God's promises are valid.
However, God promises did not stop at the cross, they continue today. They
give us something to anchor our lives to during the storms of life.
Men 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 offered to 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 Jesus, who went before us,
has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the
order of Melchizedek. (NIV)
They are encouraged to look back to learn the lessons of faith. They
are encouraged to look ahead to Christ for hope. We begin to understand
that faith looks back and draws courage; hope looks ahead and keeps desire
The best thing we can do while waiting for God to work his will is to
feed deeply on God's word so that we will be enabled to grow spiritually.
2 Peter 1:3-8
His divine power has given us everything we need for
life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own
glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious
promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature
and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this
very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness,
knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and
to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing
measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in
your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)