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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Hebrews 6

 

 


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Verses 4-6

Hebrews 6:4-6

The Renewal of Those Who Fall Away.

The words of the Apostle in the text are very strong and very startling, and I can easily believe that they have often caused pain and misgiving to Christian minds.

I. I conceive that in the text the Apostle is speaking of no less a sin than that of utter apostasy from the Christian faith. The whole tenor of the epistle indicated an anxiety in the writer's mind lest those to whom he was writing should be deceived as to the greatness of their privileges as Christians, and should be led to despise them. And if he had this fear, is it any wonder that he should speak very plainly and boldly concerning the spiritual danger which those persons incurred who had been baptised, and who fell away?

II. Allowing this, however, we are perhaps still inclined to think a passage harsh which declares it impossible for a person who has fallen, no matter into what sin it may be, to be renewed unto repentance. There is no such thing in the world, which Christ redeemed with His own most precious blood, as a human soul who may not be saved from the wrath of God if only he be willing to be saved; and if in any case there is an impossibility, it is an impossibility of man's own making, and not one arising from the decree of Him who wills not the death of a sinner. The Apostle did not mean to imply that God would mark with unavoidable damnation those who had apostatised from the faith of Christ once professed; but he did mean to warn his disciples that apostasy involved such an awful fall, resulting as it did, and casting shame upon the sacred sufferings of Christ, holding up with ridicule to the scoffing enemies of our Lord that cross whereby they professed to have been saved, that any one who did so turn his back upon Christ would find, to his cost, that to return to the place from which he had fallen would require little short of a miracle. Impossible it would not and could not be to God, but practically so improbable was it that any one who so fell would ever rise again, that it was only charitable to speak in the strongest terms imaginable of the danger incurred, and the consequent necessity of steadfastness in the faith.

Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, vol. iii., p. 368.


Falling Away from Christ.

There is no passage in the whole Bible of which the cruel enemy of souls has taken so much advantage as this. Tertullian tells us, that because of these verses the Church at one time rejected the whole Epistle to the Hebrews, and denied its inspiration so fearful and so contrary to the general spirit of God's words did they consider them. And at this moment it would be affecting to count up all the real children of God who are being made absolutely miserable, and who are in danger of letting go all their confidence and all their hope, simply because of these terrifying words.

I. Let us endeavour to distinguish between what it is to "fall" and what it is "to fall away." To fall is to pass into a state of sin after we have once known the grace of God. And it is of two kinds. Sometimes it is a gradual declension, an almost imperceptible shading off into a cold, prayerless frame of mind. When Christ is not in the heart, and the heart is not in Christ—that is a fall, a deep, dangerous fall. That was the fall of Laodicea. Sometimes a fall is a rapid rush down a precipice into an act, or even into a habit, of positive sin. That was David's fall. Now God forbid that we should hide or extenuate the amazing peril of either of these two states; for both lie in the road which leads on ultimately to reprobation. But still in neither of these states has the soul yet fallen away.

II. To fall away is to go on in sin till you let Christ go altogether. It is to cease to acknowledge Him to be a Saviour at all. It is to be in the state of deadly hatred to Jesus Christ that we would rather He did not exist; and if we had the opportunity, we could do exactly what the Jews did, so hateful is He to us. To fall is to offend God; to fall away is to abandon God. To fall is to sin, and be unhappy; to fall away is to sin and be happy. To fall is to leave Christ; to fall away is to forsake Him for ever. To fall is accompanied with a secret hope and wish and intention to come back again; to fall away is to be resolute that you will never return. To fall is the act of a deceived heart; to fall away is the perversion of the whole man. To fall is guilt; to fall away is apostasy.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 5th series, p. 125.


References: Hebrews 6:4-6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 75; T. B. Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 149.


Verses 4-20

Hebrews 6:4-20

Exhortation.

I. The danger of apostasy. The Hebrews had become lukewarm, negligent and inert; the Gospel, once clearly seen and dearly loved by them, had become to them dim and vague; the persecution and contempt of their countrymen, a grievous burden under which they groaned, and with which they did not enjoy their fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Darkness, doubt, gloom, indecision, and consequently a walk in which the power of Christ's love was not manifest, characterised them. What could be the result but apostasy? Forgetfulness must end in rejection, apathy in antipathy, unfaithfulness in infidelity. The whole Church of God, as an, actual, outward and visible community, even the innermost circle of Apostles, and still more the innermost sanctuary—the heart of the chosen believers—must be constantly kept in the attitude of humble watchfulness, and we must continually remember that faith is in life.

II. The children of God are born again of incorruptible seed, and they can never die. They that believe in Jesus, who really, and not in word only, trust in the Saviour, are born of God, and they cannot sin, because the seed of God abideth in them. The severe rebuke of the Apostle ends in words of strong encouragement. Fulness of hope is to characterise the believer. To look unto Jesus only, to see Him as our light and life, our righteousness and strength, is the fulness of faith; and to wait for the fulfilment of the promises at the coming of our Lord Jesus is the fulness of hope.

A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. i., p. 308.


References: Hebrews 6:5.—H. Batchelor, The Incarnation of God, p. 297; A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 3rd series, p. 261; C. Sheldon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 87; F. W. Brown, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 236; J. Morgan, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 166.


Verse 6

Hebrews 6:6

I, Various as have been God's dealings with the world, there is, after all, a terrible impartiality in His dispensations to His rational creatures. He can hear us all in the same court, and judge us out of the same books. He can see through the intricacies of His own diversified government. He can estimate every district and age of the world by the standards appropriate to each. And while the human nature of the Church is uniform, its trials must be nearly so. If we are not nailed to a cross with one apostle, we are, with every disciple of Christ, bound to carry a cross daily. When Christ was about to die He instituted a memorial sacrament of His passion, to show forth His death until He come. It would seem that there is, as it were, a fearful and satanic sacrament too of that same dread hour, by which it is still in man's power to reiterate and prolong His death until He comes to judge the long succession of His crucifiers. St. Paul delivers unto us the tremendous truth that there is in man a continued capacity of crucifying afresh the Son of God; a power to act over again all the scene of His torture, to league with the malignant priests and the scoffing soldiers to buffet the unresisting cheek, to bind the crown of thorns.

II. It must indeed be conceded that the crime to which St. Paul specially ascribes this fearful character is a peculiar one, and, in its full extent, not ordinarily exemplified. He speaks of deliberate apostasy from the faith of Jesus. But there is no one characteristic of direct and utter apostasy which does not, in its own degree, belong to those daily desertions of the cause of Jesus which ally the miserable votaries of the God of this world with the avowed enemies of Christ in every age. There are the apostasies of the social table, of the fireside and the market place, the refined apostasies of our own modern and daily life, as real as the imperial treachery of a Julian, or the cold-blooded abandonment of a Demas. To every one of these the same impress belongs: it may be branded more or less deeply, but it is branded on all; they are all alike rife with the spirit of Caiaphas' council-chamber; they are all echoes of the voice that cried aloud, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!" The tragedy of Golgotha has many actors: every generation, every land reiterates these multiplied crucifixions. Be assured that the man who rejects Christ now, when He is formally recognised by high and noble, would have been much more certain to have joined in crucifying Him in Judea.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 1st series, p. 49.


References: Hebrews 6:6.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 163; C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of the Cross and Passion, p. 283. Hebrews 6:9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 152. Hebrews 6:9, Hebrews 6:10.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 219. Hebrews 6:9-20.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 555; R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 124. Hebrews 6:10.—R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 307; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 392. Hebrews 6:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 282.


Verse 12

Hebrews 6:12

Indolence.

I. It can never be unnecessary to dwell upon the warfare of sloth in the body. Better any diligence than any sloth. Better the strenuous idleness of bodily exercise than the sluggish, purposeless lounging which is the alternative for many. Not even that absorption of the faculties in bodily energy, not even that devotion of precious hours to interests which perish with the using, is so fatal to faith as the stagnation of all the powers in a dull, monotonous idling. Do you ask why this meanest of all sloths—the sloth of the body—should be called a foe particularly of faith? I answer, without hesitation, First, because it is expectant of nothing; and, secondly, because this kind of sloth is peculiarly friendly to vices which are murderers of faith. These men are the plague-spots of society; in low life they fill its gaols, in higher life they secretly stain our very feasts of charity.

II. The charge, "That ye be not slothful," applies to minds also. There is in almost all of us a proneness to inattention. The eye passes over the line, reaches the foot of the page, arrives in due course at the end of chapter and volume, and nothing remains of it. There is also a general dreaminess and listlessness and vagueness. Often excess in study will account for this. Many a man is slothful in business just from over-business; just because he has not been (in the Christian sense) fervent also in spirit, serving the Lord.

III. Let us turn, then, to that kind of indolence of which the Apostle actually wrote this warning: "That ye be not slothful." We observe sloth (1) in dealing with Divine truth; (2) in the exercise of Divine communion; (3) in the region of Christian action. "God is not unrighteous," so runs the passage, "to forget your work and labour of love. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence unto the end. That ye be not slothful." It is thus, by a diligent, earnest continuance in well-doing—in other words, in a life of active charity—that the departed saints are to be imitated.

C. J. Vaughan, University Sermons, p. 126.


I. What is inherited? The promises. What promises? These must be the final promises, the promises which are embodied in the one word heaven. Many promises are fulfilled to us on our way there; but these are promises whose fruition is postponed till after death. What promises are fulfilled then in heaven? What is it that the Christian may, without fear or doubt, expect to find when he opens his eyes amid the scenes of the future world? (1) Freedom from sin. This at least. This, if there be nothing more; and this will be a great and glorious heaven in itself, for it will be a soul brought into harmony with itself and with its God and Saviour. (2) Another promise assures us of the end of sorrow. (3) Knowledge.

II. The conditions upon which the inheritance is secured. "Faith and patience." By faith. This is the key which opens the door of salvation to every one of us. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." We begin to live when we begin to believe. The first act of faith is like the first throb of the heart, or the first heaving of the lungs—it shows that there is life. But if faith unlock the door of salvation, it is not to be thrown away when once the door is opened. It is not merely a key, it is a principle which must abide with us for ever. The promises seem so manifold, so vast, so comprehensive, so royal, so infinitely surpassing our deserts, that they seem far too great and too good to be true. And we require faith in order to make our way to the perfect enjoyment of the promises. For it is only by bringing into view Christ and His love, the cross and its sufferings, heaven and its joys; in short, by bringing into view the powers of the world to come, and holding them in view, that we can overcome the present world. (2) But faith must have as her companion patience. This we must have, for as yet the blessing tarries. But if we have faith, we can well afford to have patience; for the end on which our heart is set is sure. It is hard to be patient when you know not whether you will ever reach your aim. There is something distressing about all labour and suffering when the result is dubious. How patient the mariner can be amid storm and calm if he knows that he will reach the haven at last. How patient the sufferer on his sick-bed if he knows that recovery will come at the end of all his pangs. And the Christian has a certainty before him, and if he hopes for it, then doth he with patience wait for it.

E. Mellor, In the Footsteps of Heroes, p. 248.


The tone of this verse, the graces which are chosen, faith and patience, the reference to those who are now in full possession of the promises, all show that it is addressed to those who are, or have been, passing through sorrow.

I. And these bereaved or afflicted ones are, above all others, enjoined not to be slothful. The word, which is a very strong one in the original, answers accurately to another word in our language, "dull." It implies a great difficulty of being moved, an inertness. Sorrow is, in its first stage, a thing which has very often much of the nature of excitement. The mind is high wrought. It resolves everything; it intends everything; it feels an extraordinary acuteness from that impassioned state; there is sure to be, some time or other, a reaction. Nature takes vengeance, and repays herself, for the inordinate demand which has been made upon her by a corresponding heaviness. The spirit, which was so ecstatic, can now scarcely lift itself. The whole world is tame and flat. There are many passages of mind through which persons go who are under affliction, one after another, and one stage is sure to be a stage of indolence. It is the most dangerous of the stages. Therefore God is so urgent with the afflicted ones—with afflicted churches, with afflicted believers—to be active—strenuously active. Of all the remedies for sorrow, next to the highest, the greatest is work.

II. Two points are held up for imitation in the blessed dead. The one is that by which they first obtained an interest in the promises, and the other is that by which they carried it on, "faith and patience." Do you ask me how these glorified ones have travelled so well, and arrived so safe in their quiet resting-places? I answer, They accepted, in all its simplicity, the pardon of their sins through the blood of Christ. They had their losses, but they took them gladly. They had their long hill to climb, but they treated it manfully. And so with them every word of God came true. Let us live as those that have a responsibility laid upon us—them to study, them to copy, them to meet.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1865.

References: Hebrews 6:12.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 312; G. Calthrop, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 361. Hebrews 6:15-20.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 367. Hebrews 6:17, Hebrews 6:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 893. Hebrews 6:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1352; R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 170; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 27. Hebrews 6:18-20.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 93.


Verse 19

Hebrews 6:19

The Anchor of the Soul.

Note a series of practical lessons.

I. The ship that is kept by an anchor, although safe, is not at ease. It does not, on the one hand, dread destruction; but neither, on the other hand, does it enjoy rest. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." Those who have entered the harbour do not need an anchor; and those who are drifting with the stream do not cast one out. The hope which holds is neither for the world without, nor the glorified within, but for Christ's people as they pass through life—rejoicing with trembling, faint yet pursuing. "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

II. But further: the ship that is held by an anchor is not only tossed in the tempest like other ships, it is tossed more than other ships. The ship that rides at anchor experiences rackings and heavings that ships which drift with the tide do not know. So souls who have no hold of Christ seem to lie softer on the surface of a heaving world than souls that are anchored in His power and love. The drifting ship, before she strikes, is more smooth and more comfortable than the anchored one; but when she strikes the smoothness is all over. The pleasures of sin are sweet to those who taste them; but the sweetness is only for a season.

III. When the anchor has been cast into a good ground, the heavier the strain that comes on it, the deeper and firmer grows its hold. As winds and currents increase in volume, the anchor bites more deeply into the soil, and so increases its preserving power. It is thus with a trusting soul; temptations, instead of driving him away from his Saviour, only fix his affections firmer on the Rock of Ages.

IV. The ship that is anchored is sensitive to every change of wind or tide, and ever turns sharply round to meet and resist the stream, from what direction soever it may flow. A ship is safest with her head to the sea and the tempest. In great storms the safety of all often depends on the skill with which the sailors can keep her head to the rolling breakers.

V. When the ship is anchored, and the sea is running high, there is great commotion at her bows. The waves in rapid succession come on and strike. Cast in the anchor when the sea is calm; you will need it to lean on when the last strain comes on.

W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 9.


References: Hebrews 6:19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv.,p. 129; J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 281. Hebrews 6:19-20.—J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 249; A. G. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 349; C. Stanford, Central Truths, p. 102.


Verse 20

Hebrews 6:20

The lessons of comfort and instruction which we are to derive from the appearance of Melchisedec to Abraham are as clear as they are important.

I. The word "Melchisedec" leads our thoughts at once to that remarkable passage in Jeremiah xxiii., where it is declared of Christ that this is His name whereby He shall be called, "Jehovah Tsidkenu," the Lord our Righteousness. For Zedek and Tsidkenu being the same in their root, the only difference between the passages is that in the prophet; He is the Lord of Righteousness, while here He is its King. Whether we look, therefore, into the pictures of Genesis, or the shadows of prophecy, or the originals of the Gospel, righteousness and royalty meet together to make the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. Let us endeavour to catch the meaning of the word "righteousness." Before God it means justification. Take this in one of its comfortable applications. St. James says: "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." But you are afraid to take it. You say, "But I am not righteous." Read "justified," for that is what it means. "The effectual fervent prayer of a justified man availeth much."

III. But don't for a moment suppose a justified man can live unrighteously. A man who has had his sins pardoned through Christ has been too conversant with the strictest and highest principles of equity, as carried out in the great scheme of his redemption, ever to be able to take afterwards a low standard of moral duties, or to think lightly of any of his obligations. The motive of his whole life lies in that righteousness of Christ in which he stands; and it is a rule of our being that the conduct always grows up to the motive. Therefore, that man cannot be justified who is not endeavouring to live justly.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 1.


I. The whole history of Israel is a golden history; if we may so say, a Holy Ghost history. It differs from every other history. This nation God formed for Himself; and in the events, institutions, and great men of this people God, in a special manner, revealed Himself and the truths of His kingdom. And this because the eternal Word, the Saviour of sinners, the King of the Jews, the Head of the Church, the Heir of all things, who is the upholder and end of all ages, Jesus Himself, is organically and inseparably connected with the chosen nation. He is of the seed of David, of the seed of Abraham. Hence the names of persons and places, the omissions of circumstances, the use of the singular or the plural number, the application of a title—all things are under the control of the all-wise and gracious Spirit of God.

II. While we stand in awe, beholding the grandeur and infinite depth of the Scripture as one organic Spirit-built temple, and the beauty, perfection, and exquisite skill which characterise the most minute portion of this structure, we feel at home, and as in a peaceful and fragrant garden. For our admonition was the Scripture written—for us upon whom the ends of the world are come. I possess the whole in every little fragment; though weak, ignorant, and limited, I have perfect peace in the light of life, and often I find the truth of that saying of Luther, "In Scripture every little daisy is a meadow." Everywhere in Scripture we behold Jesus, the Lord, our great High Priest, enthroned in heaven; King of righteousness and Prince of Peace, who brings unto us the blessing of God, who sustains our inner life, and who gladdens and strengthens our hearts by giving us continually bread to eat and wine to drink.

A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. i., p. 338.


Reference: Hebrews 6:20.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 210.




 


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 6:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/hebrews-6.html.

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