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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 6

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Verses 1-8

True or False

Hebrews 6:1. The writer continues in the first part of this chapter his exhortations of the concluding verses of the previous chapter. He wants to have his readers realize that they should not ‘stick’ in “the elementary teaching about Christ”. By that he means everything that was said about and by Christ in relation to His coming to the earth. You may think of the announcement by John the baptist and also of the preaching of Christ Himself. It goes without saying that everything that is said in the Bible, regarding this issue, is God’s Word and thus important, but it is nevertheless related to the Old Testament and to the reign of Christ over His earthly people.

However, because of the rejection of Christ, a completely different situation emerged and on this issue the writer wants to focus the hearts of the believers. He wants them to “press on to maturity” or, as it also can be translated ‘to press on to perfection’. The ‘perfection’ is the knowledge of Christ in relation with the place He now takes, glorified in heaven.

The words “press on to” refer to the spiritual growth of the believer to that ‘perfection’. That means that you make Him being in glory the object of your faith and the purpose of your life. Then you will certainly not be willing to go back to the tangible religion, but you will surely want to go on, with the desire to learn to know more of Him and the wonderful results of His work.

Therefore, what you read in the second part of Hebrews 6:1 and in Hebrews 6:2 does not refer to Christendom but it refers to Judaism. The writer doesn’t want to go into detail again about this issue, for they knew that from their past as Jews.

Therefore they also knew about “repentance from dead works”. That implies the repentance from works that were done by their own will, independent of God. Furthermore about “faith toward God” they did not have to be taught again anymore. They were familiarized with that from an early age. Repentance and faith are not specifically Christian truths. They were and are needed in all ages in case a sinful man wants to come into connection with a Holy God.

Hebrews 6:2. The “instruction about washings” (and absolutely not, as it is translated in the NKJV: the doctrine of baptisms!) indicates the statutes that God gave to Israel, regarding the washing with water. That concerned matters or people who were defiled through contact with sin, that they may be used again in the service of God (e.g. Numbers 19:18).

The doctrine “of laying on of hands” refers to what they had to do for example at the sacrifices. The laying on of hands means to identify with, in this case with the sacrifice (e.g. Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 4:15).

The Jews were also familiarized with the doctrine “of resurrection of the dead” (John 11:24) like they were with the doctrine “of eternal judgment” (Isaiah 14:9-1 Kings :; Isaiah 38:18Isaiah 66:24).

All the characteristics mentioned are thus not that much Christian, but on the contrary typical Jewish. Therefore the writer wants to leave all that.

Hebrews 6:3. When he says “and this we will do”, he doesn’t mean by that that he will get back later on this. No, ‘this’ refers to ‘to press on to maturity’ of Hebrews 6:1. “If God permits” he wants to take the readers with him in spirit to heaven, to the Lord Jesus in glory.

Hebrews 6:4. He consciously expresses himself like that to be dependent of God’s strength, because the spiritual condition of some Hebrews did not allow him to carry out his plan at this moment. That’s because there were people among his readers (and there still are) who accepted Christendom only outwardly, while inwardly they have not changed at all.

They exerted a wrong influence on the true believers, who, due to that, also became dull in following the rejected, though glorified Messiah. Therefore the writer addresses all of them in general terms. Thereby I underline that the impossibility to be renewed again to repentance, only refers to those who only outwardly partook of the privileges of the Hebrews 6:4-Deuteronomy :, but inwardly had no new life.

All characteristics that are mentioned in the Hebrews 6:4-Deuteronomy : are outward characteristics. They apply to all confessing Christians, thus both to the true Christians and to the Christians who are Christians only in name. With Christian who are Christians only in name there is knowledge, joy, enlightenment, privileges and power, but no spiritual life. Those are people
1. who have tears like Esau (Hebrews 12:17),
2. who are willing to die the death of the righteous like Balaam (Numbers 23:10),
3. who want God fearing people praying for them like Pharaoh (Exodus 8:8) and Simon
4. he magician (Acts 8:24),
5. who prophesy like Caiaphas (John 11:49-1 Thessalonians :),
6. who love to hear the Word of God like Herod (Mark 6:20)
and who are still no more than sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

“Once been enlightened” means that they received light about the Person of Christ, His work, His glorification, but that it only refers to an intellectual enlightenment, while the light had not enlightened their conscience.

“Have tasted of the heavenly gift” means that they have received a certain taste of what God gave in Christ, possibly also from the heavenly position that Christ, the Messiah now takes. However, they have not eaten of it and they did not identify themselves with it.

“Have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” are those who find themselves on the territory where the Holy Spirit works. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Holy Spirit also dwells in the person.

Hebrews 6:5. ”Have tasted the good word of God” means that they understood how precious the Word is, though it doesn’t have to mean that through that they were made alive.

“The powers of the age to come” are the miracles that will take place in the coming age, when the triumphing Messiah, the Son of God, will completely destroy all powers of the enemy. The Hebrews did see such miracles when the Lord Jesus was on earth and also during the early days of Christendom.

Hebrews 6:6. Each Christian shared in all these characteristics because he lived in a circle where these things were found. Even if there was no spiritual life, still each person experienced these influences. But it only applies to a person who has no spiritual life that he shall fall away from that circle with those characteristics. He could turn his back on that circle and return to his former circle of confession.

The people who are the issue here first belonged to God’s people who crucified the Son of God. Then they confessed this as a sin and became confessors of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. But now they were willfully and knowingly committing the same crime again by returning to those people, while they turned their back on Christendom with its glorified Lord. It is not about people that were acting in ignorance. For these people the Lord Jesus indeed prayed: “They do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

‘Apostates’ are those who were once enlightened and who acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, who also confessed His crucifixion as sin, but reverted that confession and consider Him as a betrayer whose crucifixion was justified. Those are not ignorant.

Many people in Christianity find themselves in the same position. They were made familiar with the truths regarding Christ, but they get around to, against their better judgment, deny His virginal birth just as His perfect life, His Divinity, His reconciling death and His physical resurrection. For such people it is impossible to be renewed again to repentance, which means to repent again from their current error. They knew the truth, they confessed it, but then rejected it again and now they were dull of it. This rebellion reveals a hardened heart that can never possibly repent.

Hebrews 6:7. The writer clarifies with an example from nature what it means to have the life form God or when this is missing in one’s life. The life of the confessor is being compared with “the ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it”. In the rain you see the ministry of the Word (which is compared with water, Ephesians 5:26). The condition of the earth becomes visible through the rain that often comes upon it.

The ‘rain’, that means the blessing from heaven, comes down upon the soul of the confessor in the form of a Divine light, the heavenly gift, the Holy Spirit, the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come. In the case of a true Christian the result of this ‘rain’ will be fruit for God in bringing praise offerings and the following of the Lord Jesus. In the case of the Christian only in name, the apostate, it appears that the rain doesn’t bring fruit out of his life. That’s because the earth contains nothing what could bring fruit: there is no new life, no indwelling Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 6:8. The Christian only in name never produces a profitable crop, for the earth is inferior. Out of him only thorns and thistles come forth, the results of the fall of man (Genesis 3:17-Job :). That stands in connection with sin, stands under the curse and will finally be burned in an eternal curse and fire.

Now read Hebrews 6:1-8 again.

Reflection: What similarities and differences are there between the true and the false Christian?

Verses 9-20

God’s Promise Is Sure and Steadfast

Hebrews 6:9. In the previous section the writer demonstrated insistently and seriously how terrible it is to belong to the Christian company outwardly, without being born again inwardly. When you have read it, you yourself might be almost doubting if it all is true. You might be going through the same as those to whom this letter was addressed originally. After all, they were facing so many difficulties, there was a lot of resistance and the promised blessing seemed so far away. But now you suddenly hear that the writer, as far as the readers of his letter are concerned, was convinced that he was dealing with true Christians.

The reason why he had written that way, was because of the dangers of apostasy under the pressure from outside. With his warning he was considering the few who were at risk of falling away. Still he gave his warning in general terms, because everyone should know that he is addressed. It should also make you deeply conscious that you will never make it by your own strength.

After the warning he now speaks about the fruits of the new life that were visible in the lives of these Jewish Christians. His conviction towards the genuineness of their faith was not because of great deeds they had done by faith, but because they had ministered their fellow believers in simplicity. Others will notice that with you too. He calls them “beloved” to make them feel his love for them. Even though he had to address them seriously about the fate of the apostates, as far as they were concerned he is convinced that they were connected to “better” things. The ‘better things’ are all things that are related to the heavenly position that the Messiah now takes.

Likewise he is, concerning them, convinced that they would surely achieve the “salvation”, that is the final goal of the journey that a Christian makes on earth. In that way he focuses their eyes on the liberation from earthly circumstances, in order to partake of the kingdom at the side of the Messiah in heaven.

Hebrews 6:10. It may be that the Hebrews were afraid that God had forgotten what they had shown towards His Name, i.e. what they had done to His honor. After all, they saw so little of His approval. It was appropriate, according to their Jewish way of thinking, that being faithful to God and defending the honor of His Name are rewarded by Him. But instead of the rest and welfare what they possibly were expecting, their life became even more difficult. The writer assures them that God is not unjust. He rewards what is shown towards His Name, although the reward can be postponed for a while. They had ministered to His saints and in that they had ministered to Him and they were still ministering Him. God is not unjust to forget that (Matthew 25:40).

Hebrews 6:11. The important issue for them now is to persevere in that with the same zeal that they had shown at the beginning. They became dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11). Therefore there could perhaps be also a risk of becoming dull of their works.

The exhortation for perseverance comes to each of them personally: “Each one of you.” It is wonderful to begin well, but there has to be shown the same diligence “until the end”. Again the attention is focused on the time that “the full assurance of hope” will be fulfilled. The end is the appearance of Christ for the establishment of His kingdom of peace, when He shall reign as the true Melchizedek, the King-Priest, and shall bless His people.

Hebrews 6:12. Therefore they ought not to become sluggish, what happens when earthly things will replace the heavenly ones that once filled their heart. Particularly by returning to a tangible religion the spiritual growth will be enormously delayed.

In order to exhort them to go on with zeal on the path they had chosen, the writer points them out to become imitators of those who had been in the same position like them. They knew the Old Testament, didn’t they? Well, there are enough examples there of believers who inherited “through faith and patience … the promise”. God had promised them something and they had trusted God that He would give what He had promised. And despite the time was expiring they remained to trust patiently on the promise. They received that promise as an inheritance, while they held on to the promise that God was surely going to fulfill it, even beyond death.

Hebrews 6:13. The great example of a person to whom God promised something and who was strengthened by God in his faith, is Abraham. The Jewish Christians were finding themselves in the same position like him. He also had to rest in the promises without possessing what was promised. God even confirmed His promise by swearing on an oath, in order to give Abraham full assurance.

It indicates that God surely knows how hard it is for His own to continue to trust patiently on the fulfillment of the promises. In order to empower further the assurance of the oath, the writer points out that God swore “by Himself”. There is no higher authoritative source. The highest authority Himself acts as guarantor for the execution of the promise.

Hebrews 6:14-Ezra :. You see that every possible doubt is being excluded. God already had promised a son to Abraham when he was still childless. Then Abraham had believed God (Genesis 15:1-Joshua :). That faith in God was what held him when God asked him to offer up his only son (Hebrews 11:18). For this reason God gave Abraham a new promise, that of a rich blessing and countless descendants (Genesis 22:16-Esther :). God supported that promise by the most powerful oath. Abraham has not seen that fulfillment, but the promise and the oath were sufficient for him to go on living and dying in faith, with the assurance that the fulfillment comes.

Hebrews 6:16. God makes every effort to convince His people that He will really do what He says. He adapts to what is common among people by swearing an oath. Among people an oath is an end of all dispute (cf. Exodus 22:11). In everything you see the extent to which He meets His people.

Hebrews 6:17. You see that again: He calls them expressly “heirs of the promise”. As if it is not enough that He as the almighty God has promised something, He confirms His promise with an oath. A promise is a declaration of an intention. An oath draws the attention to the person who puts himself openly and seriously behind the declaration. Because He knows how hard it is for His people to wait patiently for the fulfillment for a long time, He makes every effort to show “even more … the unchangeableness of His purpose”.

Hebrews 6:18. And as if all that is not enough yet, the writer points out that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Proverbs 19:21; Titus 1:2). God does not commit perjury. Therefore promise and oath are the guarantee of “two unchangeable things” for the fulfillment of God’s counsel.

From this knowledge and assurance “a strong encouragement” comes out. They were risking to lose courage and to give up. In that situation consolation is needed (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Then it is necessary to get your mind focused on the heavenly Lord and on the assurance that everything that is related to Him, will be fulfilled (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18).

The Jewish Christians had fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus; they had themselves been baptized and had condemned the sin of the people in the rejection of their Messiah. By doing that they took hold of the hope set before them and were looking forward to the coming of the King-Priest to establish His kingdom of peace. He is the hope of the glory to come (Colossians 1:27).

Hebrews 6:19-Proverbs :. This hope is like an anchor, by which the ship amidst the commotions, is still lying steadfastly in its position. The anchor lies behind the veil in heaven. Here the most vulnerable believer finds the strongest assurance of his faith without seeing anything of the fulfillment of the promise on earth. In heaven you see the Lord Jesus Who already entered there as the Forerunner of a long line of believers who will follow Him there. We are able to follow Him spiritually now already, but also there literally in future where He already has entered as the High Priest.

To the Jewish Christians the ‘forerunner’ is a totally new thought. In the Old Testament the high priest never entered into the sanctuary as the forerunner, but as the representative. He entered into a place where nobody could follow him. But Christ entered into the sanctuary and those who are His, follow Him into the sanctuary.

It is also encouraging while thinking of the anchor behind the veil, to think of the connection that you, who are on earth, do have with the Lord Jesus in heaven. An example I once read about, indicates that very well. When a big ship has to enter a small port, the anchor of that big ship is carried into the port by a little boat. Then the anchor is casted in the port and afterwards the ship pulls itself into the port by the cable that is attached to the anchor.

The assurance that we will enter into heaven lies in the fact that the Forerunner is already there. That is confirmed in the last line by the repetition of Psalm 110. In that way the attention of the Jewish Christians remains focused without diminishing on the Lord Jesus in heaven and on the future, for He is forever related with the heavenly sanctuary. By seeing Him continually in that way the Jewish Christian will be liberated from Judaism and be strengthened in the heavenly character of Christendom that he accepted.

Now read Hebrews 6:9-20 again.

Reflection: Write down all assurances that are written in this section, regarding the promises that God will fulfill and thank Him for that.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Hebrews 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/hebrews-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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