Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 6

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Hebrews 6:1 . Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, as a builder leaves the foundation to complete the superstructure, let us go on to perfection, which he calls here, teleióteta, perfection in knowledge and grace, a growing perfection in faith and love, progressing to the measure of the fulness of Christ, and the glorious liberty of the children of God. It is a principle constantly maintained, that our progress in grace should be associated with our knowledge of the truth. The lips of a christian should be fountains of wisdom and grace; he should not, as in the verses above, be always fed with milk, when he ought to be a teacher of others.

Hebrews 6:4-6 . For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, by a course of religious instruction. Αδυνατος is not always understood in an absolute sense, but as designating a thing very hard and difficult to be done. So the LXX translate Deuteronomy 17:8. If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment. Thus also some of the old German versions read, A thing that can hardly be. They had tasted of the good word, sweeter than honey, or the honey comb; and felt the powers of the world to come. On this subject the rabbins laboured under much darkness. They do not allow that any happy spirit can attain the beatific vision till after the final judgment. By the falling away we do not understand homicide, adultery, or idolatry, for those sinners, after penance, might be restored to the peace of the church; but an abjuration of Christ, and accounting him accursed, as the jews do: this doubles the difficulty, by rejecting the remedy.

Hebrews 6:7-8 . For the earth, the well-cultivated farm, here adduced to exemplify the glory and beauty of the faithful in the church, that drinketh in the rain, and is revived by the warmer suns, matures the harvest and the vintage, for the faithful under the smiles and blessing of God, shame by contrast the state of apostasy under the figure of land bringing forth briars and thorns, and is nigh unto cursing, to be stubbed up and burned. Our Saviour gives us a similar idea of the barren branches of the vine, which are gathered and cast into the fire. John 15:6.

Hebrews 6:9-10 . But, beloved, though we thus speak of some few who have denied the faith, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation; and that your incessant persecutions shall not be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The love ye have showed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, demonstrate the charity that dwells in your hearts; and the issues attendant on this divine principle are eternal salvation. What words of healing, after the severity of excision from the church of God.

Hebrews 6:11-12 . The full assurance of hope. The completion, the plenitude, the consummation, the persuasion, and the full persuasion of hope. The Greek, plerophoria, implies the certain knowledge of a thing. These are the principal readings in versions of authority. The word is rendered to the same effect in Col 2:2 , 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2Ti 4:5 ; 2 Timothy 4:17. Faith regards the promise, but hope goes farther, having attained the seal and earnest of our future inheritance. This is the highest and happiest state we can attain on earth, and the best guardian against all apostasy and relapse. Be not then like those base souls who draw back, but be followers of all the faithful, who through faith and patience wait for the advent of Christ, who shall give them the kingdom.

Hebrews 6:13-18 . When God made promise to Abraham, in the land of Mesopotamia, before he left Haran, it was that he would bless him and give him a son. But when Abraham had patiently endured twenty five years, to the birth of Isaac, and when Isaac was grown, that he could carry a burden of wood sufficient for the altar on which he was to be offered up, then God, willing to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, that he would surely immolate his Son on Calvary, confirmed it by an oath. Genesis 22:16. That by two immutable seals of the covenant, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. The Lord is not as man, that he should lie, and this is the rock on which we build our hope.

Hebrews 6:19 . Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, which entereth into that within the veil. The promise, the oath, and the love of God, are to the soul what an anchor is to the ship. Our faith stops not at the vestibule, but penetrates within the veil; and as the ship, safely moored, holding by her single anchor, is regardless of rocks and shoals, tides and tempests, so in the storms of life the vessel of the church rests secure on the love and truth of God. And though our anchor, like that of the ship, be not visible, we ride safely in the current, being supported by the arms of everlasting love.


The glory of the christian faith being laid as the foundation, eclipsing that of the law, St. Paul proceeds to illustrate the perfection to which we should all most diligently aspire. This admirable foundation is here compressed in six essential points. Repentance towards God for our sins, which turns away his wrath; and faith in Christ, by whom we obtain righteousness and life. These two comprise regeneration, or true conversion. The next complete is baptism, then administered to adults as they came into the church, and to their households, followed by the imposition of hands for a blessing. This was an ancient hebrew and patriarchal custom; for Jacob put his hands on the sons of Joseph, and blessed them on their presentation. This custom was most sacredly observed in the primitive church, and often repeated when ministers were sent on a new mission. Acts 9:15. The churches of Ethiopia still preserve this ritual.

The doctrine of the resurrection and of eternal judgment comprise all the hopes, and the sanctifying cautions of the christian faith. This is a good beginning, a divine foundation, but we must go on to perfection. We must get all these good things realized in our hearts, or we are in danger of falling away in the day of crisis. The man of knowledge, the man of doctrines and exterior profession, is by no means prepared for the fiery trial.

To excite a horror of apostasy, the apostle exhibits with a fine pencil the glory and privileges of the regenerate. They who are built on this good foundation have been enlightened with the radiance of sacred truth. They have tasted of the heavenly gift, the nectar of divine consolation and spiritual comfort. They have received the anointing of the Holy Ghost, in the power to cry, Abba, Father, and in many endowments of edifying gifts. They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands, as above. They tasted of the good word of God as the daily food of the soul; for so the promises are justly called, being replete with good to man. They are the marrow and milk of the gospel, to nourish the soul with the health of eternal life.

They experienced the powers of the world to come; the exceeding greatness of God’s power in raising Christ from the dead, seating him at his own right hand, and raising the church to a state of fellowship with him in his eternal glory. Hence to be partakers of this power is to feel the firstfruits and earnests of eternal glory in our hearts. In this description all the epithets are used, and all the characteristics are employed, requisite to describe a very high and advanced state of regeneration. Hence, to fall from it into gross and dire apostasy, implied a moral impossibility to renew the apostate to repentance; but thank God, not absolutely so.

The grand and only sure remedy against apostasy is to go on to the full assurance of hope unto the end. This state Tirinus expounds of the attainment of eternal glory; and Metrezat of holiness, or the being made perfect, as St. Peter prays for the suffering saints. Heaven is our hope, which hope we have in Christ as an anchor to stay the soul; and the full assurance of this hope simply cannot be less than the highest state of sanctification.

Instead therefore of drawing back, we must follow those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. When God called Abraham, he gave him promises; but when Abraham had offered up Isaac his son, God confirmed them with an oath. Genesis 22:16. These, the promise and the oath, are the two immutable things which support us as a rock, and an anchor. We must therefore conform to the conditions, giving the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. May the Lord bring us into that happy state, that through watchfulness and prayer we may be saved from all relapses, for which there is an advocate, and from those more awful apostasies from which there seems no recovery.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.