Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hebrews 6 – Nearly Cursed

Nearly Cursed

Hebrews 6:1-12

We have already seen two warnings given by the author of Hebrews (2:1-4 & 3:12-4:3). What would happen to someone who ignored the warnings, and failed to keep a steady course and drifted from the path of Jesus, or failed to rest in the completed work of salvation because of doubt. This controversial chapter is the answer. To study this chapter apart from the rest of Hebrews would almost certainly lead to confusion, but we have laid a good foundation into understanding the struggles of the Hebrews new to faith in Jesus. Moving first century Jews from the Law of Moses to the Grace of Jesus, wasn't just religion, this was family, friends, work, culture, an entire way of life.

Chapter 5 begins to show the frustration of the author in dealing with immaturity and a lack of growth in these Christians. Chapter 6 begins with this same thought.

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do (or let us do) if God permits.

The writer deliberately digresses from his discussion of Melchizedek to address the readers' immaturity. He does not rebuke them for discussing the elementary principles of Christ, or for laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, he simply encourages them to move forward. He says to them, "Let us go on to perfection (maturity)". Perfect simply means complete; Christians are a work-in-progress at best and a neglected project at worst. Remember God rested from his creative work once it was complete; likewise Jesus rested from the work of redemption because it was finished. Foundations are made to hold a building. These weak believers were "laying AGAIN the foundation". It's like they had to relearn Ephesians 2:8-9 every week. They were wavering in their walk between faith in Christ and His finished work as the perfect High Priest, and the old way of animal sacrifices earthly priests. The Hebrew believers were drifting back to the law that could never save them (Hebrews 10:4). They were making no progress in spiritual things because they were still tied to the apron strings of Temple sacrifices and rituals. They have far better provision for their needs in Calvary, and a far better Priest in Christ. Some of the converted Jews were looking back speculatively to the Temple as though there could be coexistence between Judaism and Christianity. The Old Testament observances were external and symbolic and have been replaced by the reality of "the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5) in Christ. The Law was supposed to teach us and them that all need an eternal savior.

[Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25
But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.]

My first grade teacher at Bishop Elementary School in Everman was Mrs. Edwards, and she taught me to read. And her teaching was the foundation of everything I have learned in the 40+ years since. But Imagine if instead of going on to the other 11 grades, and college; that each year I went back to first grade and said "Mrs. Edwards, teach me to read". I think she would be more please with the education I obtained through reading, than teaching me the old lessons for no lasting gain.

The author himself expresses his own desire to move on past these elementary principles and grow in the grace and knowledge of His Savior, "and this we will do if God permits".

Today we will see that spiritual immaturity is dangerous.

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

This passage of Scripture is one of the most controversial in the New Testament. There are 5 different published interpretations of this passage, and I won't have time to cover them all, but they boil down to 3 questions. Who is described in verses 4-5, what they have done in verse 6, and what are the consequences in verse 8?

Once Enlightened – The word translated once means once and for all or continually. And enlighten means to make something obvious, revealing its truth. Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

Tasted the heavenly gift – Tasted means taken in. 1 Peter 2: 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. The "heavenly gift" or gift existing in heaven; this exact phrase is not used in elsewhere but this whatever this gift is, it is not a part of the material world.

partakers of the Holy Spirit – A partaker is a partner in or one who shares in the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 3:6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel

tasted the good word of God – "Tasted" again means taken in, "word" is not the "Logos" Word from John 1 an idea or concept of doctrine, this is the "rhema" the spoken word, or voice of God. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that the worlds were framed by this spoken word of God.

Tasted the powers of the age to come – The Greek word for power gives us our word "dynamic", and "age to come" refers to our eternal future. A power beyond the universe and our material world.

So now we must answer the first question. Who has, been once and for all enlightened, taken in the heavenly gift, been made a partner of the Holy Spirit, listened to the voice of God, and tasted to power of eternity? I find no way to avoid the conclusion that this describes only the redeemed of God, those responding to the call of God in repentance, having been born again and sealed by God's eternal Spirit.

So knowing who they are; but what have they done and what is impossible?

4 For it is impossible for those … 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

A part of the controversy of this passage is the Arminian belief that eternal security is conditional. Churches like the Assembly of God and The Church of Christ hold salvation can and probably will be lost and regained several times. But if you interpret this passage to say that salvation can be lost, then you have to accept based upon verse 6 that once lost, it could not be regained. But what is this passage really saying?

First let's talk about "falling away" when I first read this I assumed that "falling away" was the idea of apostasy, the idea that you could be a believer one day and an atheist the next. Those of us who believe in supernatural regeneration for believers, generally hold that no true Christian could "fall" to such an extreme degree. But the word here is not unbelief, but the idea of straying from the path established by Christ and his apostles. Given our Jewish audience for this letter, most commentators would agree that some of these Jewish believers had returned to the sacrificial offerings of the Law.

The word for impossible in verse 4 is the opposite of the word for power in verse 5, it means impotent or without strength. So these fallen individuals, who have gone from the Law to Grace, then back to the Law that cannot save them, are powerless to "renew" or raise up new life (the picture of baptism), to repentance. In verse 6 the word for "crucify" has the same prefix as "renew" meaning to "lift up". It asks "can we lift the Son of God back up on the cross"? The answer is no. And it is shameful that one for whom Jesus died, would defile the blood of Christ by offering again the blood of animals.

So what is the consequence of their sin?

7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

Here again people see words like "cursed" and "burned", they assume we are talking about hell. They look back to verses 4-5 and say well it must not have been talking about Christians. But I suggest to you that the Bible teaches that there are consequences for Christians who bring shame upon the blood of Christ, and this passage is consistent with that teaching. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes to another group of immature carnal Christians.

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

[So Paul warns them your works will be burned, your flesh destroyed, but your soul would still be saved. Again in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul judged a Christian who was sexually immoral, and his sin was defiling that church. ]

1 Corinthians 5:3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

[Again their sin judged, their flesh destroyed, certainly a loss of eternal reward, but their soul was still saved. This outcome is better than hell, but not what you would call your best case scenario. This is also consistent with the warning Jesus gave to those who produce no spiritual fruit.]

John 15: 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Hebrews 6:9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Verse nine comes as a relief to the reader following the warning of verses 4-8, "But, BELOVED, we are confident of BETTER THINGS CONCERNING YOU, yes, THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION, though we speak in this manner" (NKJV).What are these "things that accompany salvation" that give the author such confidence in his "beloved brethren"? Good works! Labors of Love! They did not work for their salvation, they worked FROM their salvation. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments" (John 15:10). There was an evident fruit that flowed from their faith in Christ.

"For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10 NKJV).

Fruit is expected to be exhibited in the life of a genuine believer. Jesus said the way to tell the difference between false faith and genuine faith is by examining their fruit, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:16-18 NKJV).

The author of Hebrews saw fruit in the lives of these converted Jews and encouraged them to continue on in diligence imitating the faithful they saw in others.

Conclusion: Examine yourselves!

The real question is, "What about me?" Our job is to respond to this warning by examining OURSELVES.

Today we will receive the Lord's Supper, but with that privilege is a heavy responsibility.

1 Corinthians 11: 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood[d] of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

No comments:

Post a Comment