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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 6

 

 

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Introduction

Hebrews 6:1-20. Though not without misgiving the writer has resolved to advance to "perfection"—i.e. to the exposition of Christian truth in its higher development, and to take for granted the knowledge of the bare elements. But he thinks it well at the outset to remind his readers of those elements, apart from which there can be no progress in religion. The subjects which he regards as primary are arranged in three pairs: (a) Repentance and faith; men must learn the meaning of these before they can even enter on the Christian life. (b) Baptisms and the laying on of hands; for by these rites the new spiritual gifts are imparted. The plural "baptisms" may refer to the double consecration by water and the Spirit, or it may suggest that Christians have to learn the difference between their own rite and heathen or Jewish "baptisms." (c) Resurrection and judgment: the two great facts which gave meaning to the Christian hope. The writer proposes, with the help of God's grace, to advance beyond these preliminary truths (Hebrews 6:3); if his readers have forgotten them, all his labour is thrown away. Conversion is an experience that cannot be repeated. Those who have once experienced the Divine gift of forgiveness, who have been renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit, who have realised the value of God's promise and shared in the higher activities of the Christian life, cannot be restored if they fall away. They have rejected Christ just as truly as the men who crucified Him, and have shamed Him before the world by their apostasy. It is with men as it is with waste land that has been reclaimed. The land that proves fruitful will become ever richer, while that which yields nothing but weeds, in spite of all the labour spent upon it, has to be given back again to the waste.


Verses 1-8

Hebrews 6:1-20. Though not without misgiving the writer has resolved to advance to "perfection"—i.e. to the exposition of Christian truth in its higher development, and to take for granted the knowledge of the bare elements. But he thinks it well at the outset to remind his readers of those elements, apart from which there can be no progress in religion. The subjects which he regards as primary are arranged in three pairs: (a) Repentance and faith; men must learn the meaning of these before they can even enter on the Christian life. (b) Baptisms and the laying on of hands; for by these rites the new spiritual gifts are imparted. The plural "baptisms" may refer to the double consecration by water and the Spirit, or it may suggest that Christians have to learn the difference between their own rite and heathen or Jewish "baptisms." (c) Resurrection and judgment: the two great facts which gave meaning to the Christian hope. The writer proposes, with the help of God's grace, to advance beyond these preliminary truths (Hebrews 6:3); if his readers have forgotten them, all his labour is thrown away. Conversion is an experience that cannot be repeated. Those who have once experienced the Divine gift of forgiveness, who have been renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit, who have realised the value of God's promise and shared in the higher activities of the Christian life, cannot be restored if they fall away. They have rejected Christ just as truly as the men who crucified Him, and have shamed Him before the world by their apostasy. It is with men as it is with waste land that has been reclaimed. The land that proves fruitful will become ever richer, while that which yields nothing but weeds, in spite of all the labour spent upon it, has to be given back again to the waste.

Hebrews 6:5. powers of the age to come: the reference is to those "spiritual gifts" (cf. 1 Corinthians 12 ff.) which were supposed to mark the Christians as the people of the new age. The whole passage is of great importance as the classical expression of a belief widely prevalent in the early Church. It was assumed that in the act of baptism the convert was absolved from all bygone sins, and entered definitely on a new life. The great change could not be experienced a second time, and the lapse into any grave sin after baptism admitted of no repentance, and was followed by exclusion from the Christian fellowship. This doctrine was the subject of a long controversy in the early Church, and the Catholic system of confession and penitence grew out of the attempt to mitigate it.


Verses 9-12

Hebrews 6:9-12. The writer is afraid that in pointing out the danger of apostasy he may have spoken too harshly. He assures his readers that, by their past fidelity and their kindness to brethren in need, they have proved the genuineness of their religion. Only they must persevere as they began, holding fast to their hope until it reaches fulfilment. It was by this constancy, maintained all their life long, that God's servants in the past won the reward that He had promised.


Verses 13-20

Hebrews 6:13-20. The mention of God's promise suggests the thought that it is absolutely sure, so that we may hold to it without misgiving. When God made His promise to Abraham He sealed it by an oath. Just as in human affairs men are bound to a decision when they have passed their oath, and so called on some higher power to witness (Hebrews 6:16), so God swore by Himself, since He was Himself the supreme power. His gracious will was thus confirmed by the twofold bond of His oath and His promise (Hebrews 6:17 f.). The hope He holds out to us is our only refuge, and it is a refuge which cannot possibly fail us. It is like an anchor to which the soul can trust itself without reserve amidst all perils and changes; for it is fastened to "that which is within the veil"—i.e. it connects our earthly life with the world of eternal realities (Hebrews 6:19). And as the High Priest passed through the veil of the Tabernacle to represent the people before God in the holy of holies, so Jesus has entered on our behalf into that heavenly world. He is the true and eternal High Priest, for He belonged to no transient Levitical order, but to the higher order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19. anchor of the soul: in ancient literature the anchor is frequently employed as the emblem of hope. Our author adopts the current image, and applies it to the Christian hope of salvation.

By a skilful turn of thought the writer has come back from his long digression to his main subject—the unique character of the priesthood of Jesus. The argument itself proceeds along the lines of an allegorical exegesis, and to our minds appears artificial, and at some points hardly intelligible. But the mode of presentation does not affect the essential truth and grandeur of the thought. The writer feels that the one aim of all religion is to give men access to God, and that Christianity is the highest religion because it alone has adequately achieved this aim. Christ is the true High Priest, through whom we can draw near to God, and His priesthood is different in kind from that of mere ritual religions. It has nothing to do with descent from a given stock or performance of certain functions, but is inherent in His own personality. And as He is a priest of a new and higher order, so He exercises a ministry which effects in very truth what the ancient forms of worship could only suggest in symbol.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-6.html. 1919.

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