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Verse 1 of this chapter is not properly translated in the Authorized Version, and it should be evident that we must never leave "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." Divine principles and sound doctrine must be unalterably the vital basis of all Christianity. But the New Translation reads rightly, "Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of the Christ, let us go on (to what belongs) to full growth, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, of the doctrine of washings, and of imposition of hands, and of resur-rection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do if God permit."
Though Christ had come, and the glory of God had been so revealed in Him, yet Jewish believers, being zealous for the law, were as yet babes occupied with those things that formerly pointed to Christ, -the sign-posts of Old Testament doctrines, - rather than with Christ Himself. This could give no perfection, or mature growth. Let us not turn back to engage our attention with the signposts but go on to where the sign-posts direct us, the full knowledge of Him in Whom all perfection is found. The teaching of the Old Testament is a foundation for the more vital teaching of Christianity. The law itself called for "repentance from dead works," by the very fact of its condemnation of evil. It called for "faith toward God," but it did not reveal "the glow of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It had its ceremonial "baptisms and laying on of hands," - formal cleansings indicating the need of moral cleansing; formal identification with the offering of animals, etc. (Cf. Leviticus 1:4), typical of a vital identification with Christ in His great work of atonement. "The resurrection of the dead" was a well-known doctrine. Law itself demanded such a doctrine, for its claims of justice and equity were not met in the brief span of man's earthly existence: there was an accounting yet to be made. (There was however no teaching nor understanding of a "resurrection from among the dead," that is, of the distinct resurrection of saints at the coming of the Lord.) "Eternal judgment" too is a doctrine that law required and bore witness to, for if the authority of Cod is despised, His wrath against such rebellion must he consistent with His very nature; it must be eternal. These then are elementary principles preparatory to the revelation of the Person of Christ.
But the apostle acids a most serious condition as to "going on to perfection," - "this will we do, if God permit." Faith has in it a maturing energy and will go on to full growth. But there are other conditions in which God will not permit this "going on to perfection." This is elucidated in verses 4 to S, where the case is plainly one of mere profession without actual faith, a profession deliberately abandoned in defiance of every clearly witnessed truth which had once been outwardly embraced. In so solemn a case, God will judicially harden, and allow no recovery and therefore no progress.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." Let us note this well, that here is a class of persons whom "it is impossible to renew again to repentance." These are not merely ignorant souls who have been linked with some denomination, then lost interest in it. Nor are they true believers who have become lax in their ways and have "left their first love," needing to he restored to the joy of their salvation. But they are those once privileged with all the outward blessings of a Christianity that at that time was pure, fresh and vigorous, and have known its precious truths; then have callously, deliberately refused it.
First, "they were once enlightened," but though mentally enlightened, the light had not penetrated the heart. Secondly, they had "tasted of the heavenly gift." But in tasting they had not eaten; and having tasted they knew what they were refusing. Thirdly, "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost." The word for "partakers" may be rightly rendered "companions," and implies that they had intimate association with the manifest power of the Spirit in the early church; but in spite of so great witness, had not "received the love of the truth," so thatRomans 5:5; Romans 5:5 was never true of them: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." They were partakers in an outward sense merely, never had the Spirit of God indwell them. Fourthly, "and have tasted the good Word of God." Here again, tasting was not receiving, no actual assimilation of it, no "drinking in" (Cf. vs. 7). The fifth of these privileges which gave them such responsibilities is that they had tasted "the powers of the world to come." Miraculous powers had accompanied the institution of Christianity particularly in Jerusalem, - powers that have their place properly in the Millennial age: they had witnessed these, so that any desertion of Christianity in this case could only be deeply culpable guilt.
Their "falling away" therefore in verse 6 is their turning deliberately against the marvelous and clearly attested truths they had once professed to embrace. This is apostasy. There remains no possibility that such souls as this will be "renewed again to repentance:" so rebellious a stand against known truth incurs the judicial blinding of God. We must not however infer that this is true of every case of profession of Christianity, which may be given up. For today there are no such marked public evidences of the truth of Christianity as in those early days. Present-day Christendom has compromised its purity: its freshness and vigor have gone. Its corruption and division are in great contrast to its inception in the blessed power and liberty of the Spirit of God. Yet there is still solemn warning in these verses. If one has actually known the truth of Christianity and the reality of its being of God, then deliberately to turn against the Lord Jesus is to seal his own doom. This is, in personal attitude, to "crucify the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame," - to willingly give approval to His crucifixion and rejection by the world. This would compare with the "sin against the Holy Ghost," which is never forgiven.
"For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." As these two types of earth differ fundamentally, so is the line drawn between true believer and false professor. To "drink in the rain," the earth must be pliable and porous. Where the plow has done its cultivating work, the implanted seed will respond to the gentle rains and bear fruit. So the stirring work of the Spirit of God prepares by true repentance that which is then called "good ground," and the fresh water of the Word of God is taken into the soul, bearing fruit and receiving blessing from God.
But where the rain from heaven is not drunk in, the arid ground produces thorns and briars, - only abortive attempts at fruitfulness. So a heart untouched by the blessed work of repentance, not drinking in the pure Word of God, may make some show of Christianity for a time, but will in the end bring forth what is harmful rather than good. The thorns will be burnt, for they will not be allowed to remain to cause hurt and damage. But the person who produces them, actually choosing them in preference to the good he has known, must suffer the same dread judgment of God.
But if the first 8 verses are a solemn test of profession, and warning against a mere outward adherence to Christianity without reality, the remaining verses of the chapter are of the utmost, sweetest assurance and encouragement to the true believer. "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." How beautifully calculated is such a verse to appeal to all in whom faith is a reality. Faith will produce better things, things consistent with salvation. For those things produced by an apostate can never accompany salvation, proving that he never had known salvation.
"For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." The very nature and character of God is such that it is impossible for Him to overlook the evidences of true faith. On the one hand He is perfectly righteous to reject a profession that shows no faith, but on the other hand His very righteousness requires that He fully recognize every "work and labor of love" shown "toward His Name." Such motives of love can be the result only of faith in Him Personally: and the eternal assurance of the believer is vitally bound up with God's perfect righteousness. He can forget nothing that is the actual fruit of "love toward His Name." This was publicly seen in one's treatment of the saints of God. Persecution and reproach was at the time rigorous, and those who would persist in ministering to the welfare of the saints would expose themselves to the enemy's hatred. Thus faith was a necessity for continuance.
"And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." Diligence was there, but he desired it on the part of every individual among them: only such endurance would evidence "the full assurance of hope;" for if one would apostatize from Christ, he would prove himself utterly devoid of any assurance of the hope of Christianity. "The hope" is of course anticipation of the future, but with "full assurance,"-no element of uncertainty.
"That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Lax indifference to the glory of God's revelation in the Person of His Son is inexcusable. Others had avoided slothfulness, and had maintained faith and endurance; both New Testament saints (such as leaders mentioned in Ch. 13:7) and the grand examples of faith in the Old Testament, as seen in Ch. 11. Such faith is worth our wholehearted following; for the promises were given only to faith, and faith alone will inherit them.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." This quotation comes fromGenesis 22:15-18; Genesis 22:15-18. How manifestly it is intended to contrast withHebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:3: "As I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest." In this latter case the oath of God raises a solemn question as to those who in unbelief have questioned God's faithfulness. But here in Ch. 6 how strong an oath from the mouth of God assures Abraham of His unconditional blessing, because Abraham believed God. God swore by Himself. The entire glory of God then is involved in this great oath. Wonderful, unchangeable, absolute certainty! And if the fulfillment of the promise was long delayed, yet this waiting time would but prove the reality of the faith that believed God: "he patiently endured."
"For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife." Far more importance thus is attached to an oath than to merely the word of man. Thus, grace on the part of God deigns to make this solemn oath, to give us unshaken assurance of His blessing. Indeed, His word is fully as certain as His oath, but the very fact of His oath is condescension of tender compassion toward man, in desire for our fullest certainty. How marvelously gracious He is!
"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Let us note first that His counsel is immutable: there is absolute impossibility of change. The oath actually adds nothing to the Word, but only confirms it. But this beautifully displays the abundant goodness and willingness of God's heart to give every encouraging assurance to the heirs of promise. His Word is immutable, and of course His oath also is immutable: it is impossible for Him to lie. But this faithful consideration is for the "strong consolation" of the believer, who in dire need has "fled for refuge" to Him in whom alone is hope.
"The hope set before us" is heavenly in contrast to Jewish earthly hopes, - "an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." Let us observe that this hope allows no element of doubt, but involves rather the utmost certainty of anticipation. What an anchor of the soul! Stability, consistency, stedfastness will be ours in proportion as our souls lay hold upon the blessed reality of such hope.
A striking illustration of this verse was known in the days of sailing vessels. Particularly when the harbor entrance was narrow, a little boat called "the forerunner" would carry the anchor of the larger vessel into the harbor, and cast the anchor there. Then winding in the anchor cable, the vessel was drawn on a straight course into the harbor.
"Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." If the veil involves some measure of obscurity, yet we know the blessed One who has entered there, and this assures our being drawn unerringly there, the wind and the waves of circumstance being of little consequence in this regard. This One who in lowly Manhood on earth has proven unchangeable, faithful, stable, - Jesus - (Name of unspeakable sweetness!) is rewarded in Glory with the dignity of an official, unchangeable Priesthood, "after the order of Melchisedec." Thus, both in perfect grace and perfect faithfulness the interests of His saints are presently and eternally cared for.
It will be noted that the necessary digression of the apostle begun at Ch. 5:11 is now concluded, and he returns to the precious consideration of the Melchisedec Priesthood of the Lord Jesus.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25