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Fixing Our Thoughts on Better Things

Hebrews 6

Jim Davis

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 his writing.

There is the possibility of drifting away from God.

Hebrews 2:1-4
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.

Hebrews 3:12-13
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 deceitfulness. (NIV)

There is a possibility of turning from the truth.

Hebrews 10:26-30
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 people." (NIV)

There is a possibility of throwing away your confidence and losing what God has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-39
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.

Hebrews 12:12-15
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.

Hebrews 10:32-34
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. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:4
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 spiritual.

Hebrews 6:1-6
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.

Hebrews 6:4-6
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.

Matthew 12:30-33
"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 to salvation.

Mark 3:28-29
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 mud." (NIV)

Jude 1:12-13
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 forever. (NIV)

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.

Hebrews 6:7-8
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.

Hebrews 6:9-12
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 God.

Hebrews 6:13-18
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.

Hebrews 6:17-20
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 alive.

Conclusion:

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)

 

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