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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hebrews 6

 

 


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Verse 1

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Therefore - Wherefore: seeing that ye ought not to be still 'babes' (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Leaving - getting further than elementary "principles." 'As in building, one must never leave the foundation; yet to be always labouring in "laying" it would be ridiculous (Calvin).

The principles of the doctrine , [ ton (Greek #3588) teen (Greek #3588) archees (Greek #746) logon (Greek #3056)] - 'the word of the beginning;' i:e., the discussion of the first principles of Christianity (Hebrews 5:12).

Let us go on , [ feroometha (Greek #5342)] - 'let us bear ourselves forward:' with active exertion press on. Paul classifies himself with his Hebrew learners. Let us together press forward.

Perfection - the matured knowledge of those "of full age" (Hebrews 5:14) in attainments.

Foundation of - i:e., consisting in.

Repentance from dead works - namely, not springing from the vital principle of faith and love toward God, so counted, like their doer, dead before God. This repentance from dead works is therefore paired with "faith toward God." The three pairs of truths enumerated are designedly such as JEWISH believers might have partly known from the Old Testament, but had been taught more clearly as Christians. This accounts for the omission of distinct specification of some essential first principles of Christianity. Hence, he mentions "faith toward God:" not explicitly faith toward Christ (though included). Repentance and faith were the first principles taught under the Gospel.


Verse 2

Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

The doctrine of baptisms - paired with "laying on of hands," as the latter followed Christian baptism, and answers to confirmation in Episcopal churches. Jewish believers passed, by an easy transition, from Jewish baptismal purifications (Hebrews 9:10, "washings"), baptism of proselytes, John's baptism, and legal imposition of hands, to their Christian analogues, baptism, and the subsequent laying on of hands, accompanied by the Holy Spirit (cf. Hebrews 6:4; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:14-17). [Baptismoi, plural, including Jewish and Christian baptisms are to be distinguished from Baptisma, singular, restricted to Christian baptism.] The six particulars specified had been the Christian Catechism of the Old Testament. Such Jews who had begun to recognize Jesus as the Christ immediately on the new light being shed on these fundamental particulars were accounted as having the elementary principles of Christ's doctrine (Bengel). The first and most obvious elementary instruction of Jews, would be teaching the typical significance of their own ceremonial law in its Christian fulfillment (Alford).

Resurrection ... - held already by the Jews from the Old Testament: confirmed with clearer light in Christian "doctrine."

Eternal judgment - fraught with eternal consequences either of joy or of woe.


Verse 3

And this will we do, if God permit.

Will we do. So 'Aleph (') B f, Vulgate, read. But A C Delta, 'let us do.' "This," i:e., 'go on unto perfection.'

If God permit - for even good resolutions we cannot carry into effect, except through God 'working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure' (Philippians 2:13). Without God's blessing, the cultivation of the ground does not succeed (Hebrews 6:7).


Verse 4

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,

We must 'go on toward perfection;' "For," if we fall away, after having received enlightenment, God will not "permit" - it will be impossible to renew us again to repentance. But see Luke 18:27.

For those -`in the case of those.' For those - `in the case of those.'

Once enlightened - once for all illuminated by the Word of God, taught in connection with 'baptism' (to which, in Hebrews 6:2, as once for all done, "once enlightened" here answers) (cf. Ephesians 5:26). This passage originated the subsequent application of 'illumination' to baptism. Illumination was not supposed inseparably to accompany baptism. Chrysostom says 'Heretics have baptism, not illumination: they are baptized in body, not enlightened in soul: as Simon Magus was baptized, but not illuminated.' That "enlightened" here means knowledge of the truth appears from comparing [ footisthentes (Greek #5461)] "illuminated," Hebrews 10:32, with the corresponding Heb. 6:26 , "knowledge of the truth."

Tasted , [for themselves: geusamenous (Greek #1089)]. As "enlightened" refers to sight, so taste follows (1 Peter 2:3).

The heavenly gift - Christ given by the Father: revealed by the enlightening word: bestowing peace in the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; John 4:10; John 6:32; 2 Corinthians 9:15): answering to "baptisms" (Hebrews 6:2 : cf. Acts 22:16) and "the Son of God" (Hebrews 6:6): distinct from "the Holy Spirit" in the next clause, who also is "the gift of God" (Acts 8:20).

Made partakers of the Holy Spirit - distinct from, though inseparably connected with, "enlightened," "tasted of the heavenly gift," Christ: answering to "laying on of hands" after baptism, then generally accompanied with the impartation of the Holy Spirit in miraculous gifts.


Verse 5

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

Tasted the good word of God - distinct from "tasted OF (genitive) the heavenly gift." We do not yet enjoy all the fullness of Christ, but only a taste OF "the heavenly gift;" but believers may taste the whole of God's "good word" (accusative) of promise already. The promise of Canaan to Israel typified "the good word" of God's promise of the heavenly rest, (Hebrews 4:1-16.) Therefore immediately follows "the powers of the world to come." As 'enlightening' and 'tasting of the heavenly gift,' Christ, the Bread of Life, answers to FAITH, so "made partakers of the Holy Spirit," to CHARITY, the first fruit of the Spirit; and "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," to HOPE. Thus the triad of privileges answers to the Trinity-Father, Son, and Spirit-in their respective works toward us. "The world to come" is the Christian dispensation, viewed in its future glories, though already begun in grace. It stands in contrast to the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2), which is disorganized, because God is not its spring of action and end. By faith Christians make the world to come a present reality. "The powers" of this new spiritual world, exhibited in outward miracles partly, and then, as now, especially consisting in the Spirit's inward influences, are the foretaste of the coming inheritance, and lead the believer to seek to live as the angels, to 'sit with Christ in heavenly places,' to set the affection on things above, and not on things on earth, and to look for Christ's coming. This "world to come" thus corresponds to "resurrection of the dead and ... eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:2), the first Christian principles which the Hebrew believers had been taught by the Christian light thrown back on their Old Testament (note, Hebrews 6:1-2). "The world to come," which, as to its "powers," exists already in the redeemed, will pass into a fully realized, manifested fact at Christ's coming (Colossians 3:4).


Verse 6

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

If , [ kai (Greek #2532) parapesontas (Greek #3895)] - 'And (yet) have fallen away' (cf. a less extreme declension, Galatians 5:4). Here a total apostasy is meant. The Hebrews had not yet so fallen away; but he warns them that such would be the end of retrogression, if, instead of 'going on to perfection,' they should need to learn again the first principles (Hebrews 6:1).

To renew them again. "Once" (Hebrews 6:4) already made anew, now they need 'renewal' over "again."

Crucify to themselves - `are crucifying to themselves' Christ, instead of crucifying the world unto them by the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14). So Hebrews 10:29.

The Son of God - His dignity marks the heinousness of their offence.

Put him to an open shame , [ paradeigmatizontas (Greek #3856)] - 'make a public example of' Him, as of a malefactor suspended on a tree. What the carnal Israel did outwardly, those who fall away from light do inwardly: they virtually crucify again the Son of God: 'they tear Him out of their hearts, where He fixed His abode, and exhibit Him to the open scoffs of the world as something powerless and common' (Bleek in Alford). The Montanists and Novatians used this passage to justify the lasting exclusion from the Church of the lapsed. The Catholic Church always opposed this, and re-admitted them on repentance, without re-baptism. Persons may be in some sense 'renewed' yet fall away finally; for "renew ... again" implies that they have been ONCE RENEWED but not that 'the elect' can fall away (John 10:28). A temporary faith is possible, without one thereby being of the elect (Mark 4:16-17; John 8:31; John 8:35; John 15:2; John 15:5-6).

God's grace is not limited, as if it were "impossible" for God to reclaim even such a rebel so as yet to look on Him whom he has pierced. The impossibility rests in their having known in themselves once the power of Christ's sacrifice, yet now rejecting it: there cannot possibly be new means for their renewal afresh: the means provided by God's love they now, after experience of them, deliberately and continuously reject: their conscience being seared, "twice dead" (Jude 1:12), they are past hope, except by a miracle of God's grace. 'It is the curse of evil eternally to propagate evil. The bar to repentance is in the apostate's present attitude toward God, not in his past history, nor in God's attitude toward him. He who abides not in the Christian experiences which he had objectively, was, at the very time when he had them, not subjectively true to them; otherwise, on the principle, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance" (Matthew 13:12), he would have abided in them, and not have fallen away' (Tholuck). Such a one was never a Spirit-led disciple of Christ (Romans 8:14-17). The sin against the Holy Spirit, though similar, is not identical with this; for that may be committed by those outside the church (as in Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:31-32); this, only by those inside.


Verse 7

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:

The earth - rather (no article), 'land.'

Which drinketh in - not merely receiving it on the surface: those who enjoy, objectively, Christian experiences, in some sense renewed by the Holy Spirit; true of those who persevere, and those who "fall away."

The rain that cometh oft upon it - not merely falling over, or toward it, but falling and resting upon, so as to cover it [the genitive, ep' (Greek #1909) autees (Greek #846): not the accusative]. The "oft" implies, on God's part, the riches of abounding grace ('coming' spontaneously and frequently); on the apostate's part, the perversity whereby he does continual despite to the Spirit's oft-repeated motions. Compare "how often," Matthew 23:37. The heavenly rain falls both on the elect and the apostates.

Bringeth forth - the natural result of 'having drunk in the rain.'

Meet - such as the master of the soil wishes. The opposite of "rejected" (Hebrews 6:8).

By whom , [ di' (Greek #1223) hous (Greek #3739)] - rather, 'for (i:e., on account of) whom;' namely, the lords of the soil; not the labourers, as the English version-namely, God and Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9). The heart is the earth; man, the dresser; herbs are brought forth meet, not for the dresser, by whom, but for God, the owner, for whom, it is dressed. The plural is, the owners, whoever they may be; here. God.

Receiveth , [ metalambanei (Greek #3335)] - 'partaketh of.'

Blessing - fruitfulness. Contrast God's curse causing unfruitfulness, Genesis 3:17-18; spiritually, Jeremiah 17:5-8.

From God. Man's use of means are vain unless God bless (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).


Verse 8

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

That which rather (Greek, no article), 'but if it (the "land," Hebrews 6:7) bear' [ ekferousa (Greek #1627), not so good as tiktousa (Greek #5088)]; "bringeth forth," Hebrews 6:7; said of the good soil.

Briers , [ tribolous (Greek #5146)] - 'thistles.'

Rejected - by God, after having been tested [ adokimos (Greek #96)]. Reprobate. Nigh unto cursing - verging to being given up to its own barrenness by God's just curse. "Nigh" (near) softens the severity of "it is impossible," etc. (Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 6:6). The ground is not yet actually cursed.

Whose - of which (land) the end is [ eis (Greek #1519) kausin (Greek #2740)] unto burning, at the last judgment. As the land of Sodom was given to "brimstone, and salt, and burning" (Deuteronomy 29:23); so as to the ungodly (Matthew 3:10; Matthew 3:12; Matthew 7:19; Matthew 13:30; John 15:6; 2 Peter 3:10). Jerusalem, which so resisted the grace of Christ, was then near unto cursing, and in a few years was "burned." Compare Matthew 22:7, an earnest of a like fate to all abusers of God's grace (Hebrews 10:26-27).


Verse 9

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

Beloved. Appositely introduced: LOVE prompts me in the strong warnings I have just given; not that I entertain unfavourable thoughts of you; nay, I anticipate better things of you ('the things which are better'); that ye are not thorn-bearing, nigh unto cursing, and doomed unto burning, but heirs of salvation in accordance with God's faithfulness (Hebrews 6:10).

We are persuaded - on good grounds: by proofs [ pepeismetha (Greek #3982) stronger than pepoithamen]. Compare Romans 15:14. A confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this letter.

Things that accompany , [ echomena (Greek #2192) sooteerias (Greek #4991)] - 'things that hold by;' i:e., are linked unto salvation (cf. Hebrews 6:19). In opposition to "nigh unto cursing."

Though , [ ei-kai (Greek #1499)] - 'if even we thus speak.' 'It is better to make you afraid with words, that ye suffer not in fact' (Chrysostom).


Verse 10

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.

Not unrighteous - not unfaithful to His promise. Not that we have any inherent right to claim reward; because:

(1) a servant has no merit, as he only does what is his duty;

(2) our best performances bear no proportion to what we leave undone; (2) our best performances bear no proportion to what we leave undone;

(3) all strength comes from God; but God has promised of His own grace to reward His people (already accepted through faith in Christ) for good works: it is His promise, not their merits, which would make it unrighteous were He not to reward their works. God will be no man's debtor.

Your work - your whole Christian life (John 6:29).

Labour of love. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta f, Vulgate, omit "labour of" [ tou (Greek #3588) kopou (Greek #2873)], which crept in from 1 Thessalonians 1:3. As "love" occurs here, so "hope," Hebrews 6:11; "faith," Hebrews 6:12; as in 1 Corinthians 13:13 : the Pauline triad. By their love he sharpens their hope and faith.

Ye have showed - (cf. Hebrews 10:32-34.)

Towers his name - your acts of love to the saints were done to those who bear His name, and so for His name's sake. The distressed condition of the Palestinian Christians appears from the collection for them (Romans 15:26). Though receiving bounty from other churches, therefore not able to minister much by pecuniary help, yet those somewhat better off could minister to the greatest sufferers in their church in various ways (cf. Acts 2:45; Acts 4:34-35; 2 Timothy 1:18). Paul, as elsewhere, gives them the utmost credit for their graces, while delicately hinting the need of perseverance, a lack of which probably began to show itself.


Verse 11

And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

And , [ De (Greek #1161)] - 'But.'

Desire , [ epithumoumen (Greek #1937)] - 'earnestly desire.' The language of fatherly affection, rather than command.

Every one of you - implying that all had not shown the same diligence as some of those whom he praises in Hebrews 6:10. 'He cares alike for great and small, and overlooks none' (Chrysostom). 'Every one of them,' even those diligent in showing LOVE (Hebrews 6:10), needed exhortation to show the same diligence, with a view to the full assurance of HOPE unto the end. They needed, besides love, patient perseverance, resting on hope and faith (Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 13:7). Compare the "full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22; Romans 4:21; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Unto the end - the coming of Christ.


Verse 12

That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Be not , [ geneesthe (Greek #1096)] - 'become not.' In Hebrews 5:11, 'ye have become dull [ noothroi (Greek #3576), "slothful" of hearing];' here he warns them not to become "slothful" absolutely-namely, also in mind and deed. He will not become slothful who keeps always the end in view: hope is the means.

Followers , [ mimeetai (Greek #3402)] - 'imitators:' so in Ephesians 5:1, Greek; 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Patience , [ makrothumia (Greek #3115)] - 'long-suffering endurance.' There is the long-suffering of love (1 Corinthians 13:4), and that of faith (Hebrews 6:15).

Them who ... inherit the promises - not that they have actually the perfect inheritance, which Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39-40 explicitly denies, though the dead in Christ have, in the disembodied soul, a foretaste of it, but 'them (enumerated in Hebrews 11:1-40) who in every age have been, are, or shall be, inheritors of the promises:' of whom Abraham is an illustrious example (Hebrews 6:13). The promise in the Gospel is singular: in respect to the patriarchs, plural (Galatians 3:16). For the "promise" is one perfect whole in Christ now come: but under the Old Testament many promises were given in successive steps and times. The promise of salvation in Christ is already realized; the promises of the restoration of all things and final glory are yet future.


Verse 13

For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

For - Reasonableness of resting on "the promises" as infallibly sure; for they rest on God's oath: instance of Abraham. 'Consolation, by the oath of God's grace, to those whom, in Hebrews 3:1-19; Hebrews 4:1-16, he warned by the oath of God's "wrath." The oath of wrath did not primarily extend beyond the wilderness; but the oath of grace is in force forever' (Bengel).


Verse 14

Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

Multiplying ... multiply - Hebraism for superabundantly multiply.

Thee. The increase of Abraham's seed is virtually an increase of himself. Paul's argument refers to Abraham himself: therefore he quotes Genesis 22:17, "thee," instead of "thy seed."


Verse 15

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

So - relying on the promise.


Verse 16

For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

For confirmation. Greek order, 'Of all contradiction (among) them an end unto (with a view to) confirmation (of one's solemn covenant: as God's) (is) the oath.' So [ antilogia (Greek #485)], 'contradiction,' Hebrews 12:3; 'gainsaying,' Jude 1:11. This shows:

(1) an oath is sanctioned even in the Christian dispensation;

(2) the limits to its use are, that it only be employed where it can put an end to contradiction in disputes, and for confirmation of a solemn promise.


Verse 17

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

Wherein - i:e., Which being the case among men, God, in accommodation to their manner of confirming covenants, added to His word His oath: the "TWO immutable things" (Hebrews 6:18).

Willing ... counsel , [ Boulomenos (Greek #1014) ... boulees (Greek #1012)] - 'willing ... will: the utmost benignity.

More abundantly - than had He not sworn. His word would have been amply enough; but, to make assurance doubly sure, He [ emesiteusen (Greek #3315) horkoo (Greek #3727)] 'interposed as Mediator with an oath,' coming between Himself and us: as if He were less while He swears, than Himself by whom He swears (for the less usually swear by the greater). Dost thou not yet believe, thou that hearest the promise? (Bengel.)

Heirs of (the) promise - not only Abraham's literal, but also his spiritual, seed (Galatians 3:10).


Verse 18

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Impossible ... to lie - `ever to lie' [ pseusasthai (Greek #5574): the Greek aorist] (Alford). His not being able to deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13) is a proof, not of weakness, but of strength incomparable.

Consolation - under doubts and fears; so 'encouragement.'

Fled for refuge - as from a shipwreck; or, as one fleeing to one of the six cities of refuge. Kedesh - i:e., holy = qadowsh (Hebrew #6918), implies the holiness of Jesus, our refuge. Shechem - i:e., shoulder, the government is upon His shoulder (Isaiah 9:6). Hebron - i:e., fellowship: believers are called into His fellowship. Bezer - i:e., a fortress: Christ is so to His people. Ramoth - i:e., high: Him hath God exalted with His right hand (Acts 5:31). Golan - i:e., joy; in Him all the saints glory.

Lay hold upon the hope - i:e., the object of hope, as upon a preservative from sinking.

Set before us - as a prize for which we strive: a new image-namely, the race-course (Hebrews 12:1-2).


Verse 19

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Hope is represented on coins by an anchor.

Sure and stedfast - sure [ asfalee (Greek #804): not disappointing] in respect to us: stedfast [ bebaian (Greek #949)] in itself. Not an anchor that will not keep the vessel from tossing; or unsound or too light (Theophylact).

Which entereth into that (i:e., the place) within [ to (G3588) esooteron (G2082)] the veil. Two images beautifully combined:

(1) The soul is the ship; the world, the sea; the bliss beyond the world, the distant coast; hope resting on faith, the anchor which prevents the vessel being tossed to and fro; the encouraging consolation through the promise and oath of God, the cable connecting the ship and anchor.

(2) The world is the forecourt; heaven, the Holy of holies; Christ, the High Priest going before us, so as to enable us, after Him, and through Him, to enter within the veil. Estius, 'As the anchor does not stay in the waters, but enters the ground hidden beneath, and fastens in it, so hope, our anchor, is not satisfied with merely coming to the vestibule - i:e., with merely earthly and visible goods-but penetrates even to those within the veil, to the Holy of holies, where it lays hold on God Himself, and heavenly goods.' 'Hope, entering within heaven, hath made us already to be in the things promised, even while we are still below, and have not yet received them; such strength hope has, as to make those that are earthly to become heavenly' (Theophylact). 'The soul clings, as one in fear of shipwreck, to an anchor, and sees not where the cable of the anchor runs-where it is fastened; but she knows that it is fastened behind the veil which hides the future glory; and that if only she hold on to the anchor, she shall in her time be drawn in where it is, into the Holiest place, by the hand of the Deliverer' (Ebrard in Alford).

Veil - the second veil which shut in the Holiest place. [The outer veil was called kalumma; the second, or inner veil, katapetasma (Greek #2665).]


Verse 20

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

The absence of the Greek article requires (Alford) 'Where, AS forerunner in behalf of [ huper (Greek #5228)] us, entered Jesus' (and is now; implied in the 'where' [ hopou (Greek #3699)]: "Whither" is understood, taken out of "where," Whither Jesus entered, and where He is now).

For us - implies that it was not for Himself He needed to enter there, but as our High Priest, representing and opening the way to us, by His intercession with the Father, as the Aaronic high priest entered the Holiest once a year to make propitiation for the people. The first-fruits of our nature are ascended: so the rest is sanctified. Christ's ascension is our promotion; where the glory of the Head has preceded, there the hope of the body, too, is called. We ought to keep festal day, since Christ has taken up and set in the heavens the first fruit of our lump, that is, the human flesh (Chrysostom). As John Baptist was Christ's fore-runner on earth, so Christ is ours in heaven.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 6:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hebrews-6.html. 1871-8.

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