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NAS Hebrews 5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
NAS Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we shall do, if God permits. 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.
I’VE PERSONALLY NEVER BEEN QUICK TO INTRODUCE WHAT I ASSUME IS THE TONE OF THE WRITER’S VOICE IN A PARTICULAR PASSAGE. This is not at all to say that I don’t think the speaker’s voice cannot be responsibly deduced from the context surrounding the passage. Sometimes the grammar and syntax provide seemingly clear insights that compel us to recognize and mention tone in our interpretation. I think of Paul’s writing in places as almost certain examples. Here are two verses where I would tend to agree it is irresponsible not to suggest tone:
NAS Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
NAS Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
AND OFTEN EMOTIONAL PETER DESERVES MENTION IN THIS SPECULATION:
NAS Matthew 16:22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
STILL, I am one who is reluctant to employ tone to Scripture. In my opinion it is too easy to be wrong. I maintain a passionate whisper can warrant an exclamation mark the same as a shout. I prefer to stay with the unvarnished word, leaving any nuances to be engendered by the Holy Spirit.
HAVING SAID THAT, I APPRECIATE THIS TYPE OF CAUTION IN JUDGING TONE ALLUDED TO IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH FROM GUTHRIE: “Let’s take a step back for a moment and observe the social situation reflected in the text. What is going on here? Is the author a spiritual leader for the congregation being addressed, acting in an authoritarian manner, emotionally bludgeoning his listeners because of their failures? Is he angry or talking down to them as a spiritual superior to mere children? His words do seem harsh at points. However, the broader context of Hebrews projects an image far from that of an irate prelate attempting to intimidate his flock into submission. Rather, he must be understood as a pastor whose confrontation in 5;11-6:3 flows from a wellspring of Christian love and concern.”
PICKING UP FROM OUR PASSAGE OF LAST WEEK, HEBREWS 5:11-14, NOTE THE “THEREFORE” IN V. 1 OF CHAPTER 6; this word clearly shows that the two chapters are closely connected. I’ve included v. 2 since there is no period after v 1…
NAS Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
“’THEREFORE LEAVING BEHIND.’ The implication is not of abandoning this elementary information, but of building on it.” – NET Notes
THE WARNING EXPRESSED IN 5:11-14 FINDS AN EMPHATIC CONTINUATION IN 6:1-12. THE CHAPTER BREAK IS BOTH UNWARRANTED AND UNFORTUNATE. The initial word διό (dee-ah), ‘therefore, so then,’ shows distinctly that the writer did not consider the members of the house church to be infants requiring a diet of milk. Otherwise, a sound educational approach and pastoral concern would certainly have forced him to dwell on the primary instruction. In reality he knew that he could encourage them to be ‘carried forward to the goal of spiritual maturity’ because they were prepared to receive solid food; they were experienced and exercised for distinguishing between what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. A failure to appreciate the irony of 5:11-14 and the firm connection between these verses and 6:1 is evident when H. P. Owen, for example, speaks of the ‘the violence of the διό (dee-ah).’” – Lane
PRESS ON TO MATURITY: THAT’S THE FOCAL POINT OF THE PASSAGE. “When the writer urges his readers to ‘leave standing’ the elementary Christian teaching, he is not dismissing it but regarding it as so well established that the urgent need is for a fuller appreciation and application of that teaching.” – Lane
EVERY COMMENTATOR ACKNOWLEDGES THE INTERPRETING THE DIFFICULTIES OF CHAPTER 6, PARTICULARLY VV. 1-8. Some scholars extend the heart of the passage to v. 12, some to v. 20.
LET ME PUT IT SIMPLY: HEBREWS 6:1-8 COMPRISES ONE OF THE MOST DEBATED PASSAGES IN ALL OF THE BIBLE. While I recognize and respect the difficulties, I do not agree with many who say we cannot know for certain what the writer intended in this passage. I believe if you keep certain principles of hermeneutics (methodology of interpretation) in mind, if you read the passage carefully in its context within the writer’s overall argument, and if you don’t lose sight of certain theological and practical considerations, the difficulties do not cause us to go off in wrong directions. Sadly, more than a few have gone off in wrong directions from this passage.
WITH OUR PASSAGE FOR THE WEEK AND THE EARLIER CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS AS CONTEXT, IN THE REMAINDER OF THIS BLOG LET ME BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE ALL THESE THEOLOGICAL AND PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS to which I am referring with the following statements…
THIS PASSAGE AND THIS BOOK ARE WRITTEN TO BELIEVERS. We have seen this clearly taught in our previous studies already in the book of Hebrews. We see it being taught in this very passage. These people had been “enlightened,” they had “tasted” the heavenly gift and the “powers of the age to come.” That means they had by the grace of God become believers. Furthermore, specifically, “the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who seriously contemplated going back into Judaism and the Levitical system in order to escape the persecution they were suffering at the time. These Jewish believers felt they could go back into Judaism and then be saved again later when the persecution resided and they returned to the Christian community. This new salvation would then erase the sin of their apostasy (“apostasy,” remember, means to stand apart from God). The writer in our passage today is trying to get them to press on spiritual maturity: – from Arnold Fructenbaum
BELIEVERS CANNOT LOSE THEIR SALVATION. Believers cannot lose their salvation because Scripture throughout consistently confirms the doctrine of eternal security (“once saved, always saved”), and the Bible does not contradict itself. We will have a message solely on Eternal Security in the weeks ahead, but for now let me make my case for Eternal Security by giving you two verses of Scripture to seriously consider – and it is my hope that you do just that: seriously consider them. You should have the confidence as a believer in Christ that you have Eternal Security, that if you are truly a child of God you will never lose your salvation. Look,, carefully, please, at these two verses…
NAS Ephesians 1:13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
SEALING WAS A MARK OF PERMANENCE. When the Roman government placed its official seal upon something, it was final. It could only be broken by the authorized person. The full and impressive strength of the Roman government was behind that seal. Now consider the image here in Ephesians 1:13: God Himself has set His seal upon believers at the moment of their salvation. His authority, His omnipotent strength is behind that seal. No one, including the one upon whom the seal has been placed, can break that seal. Now the second verse, John 10:29, which I will read in its immediate context…
NAS John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
YOU SOMETIMES HEAR PEOPLE SAY ABOUT JOHN 10:29, “Well, yeah, maybe so, maybe no one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand, but what about me walking away from my salvation?” Here is my brief answer, an answer I will expand upon when we take the subject up again in chapter 10: Walking away from one’s salvation would still mean someone snatched you out of the Father’s hand, because in the event of such impossibility happening, ultimately it would have been Satan who took you. Such an action as walking away from God is ultimately not self-motivated but would be a result of Satan’s power over you. A few more words: A true believer will either not walk away from God, or he or she will eventually return if he or she did. Once a person is saved he or she is saved forever. You can do nothing to save yourself, and you can do nothing to “lose” yourself once you are saved. Walking away from Christ would be a sin and Christ on the Cross paid for all your sins: past, present, and future.… Let me continue with my summary of theological and practical considerations in the question of whether or not one may lose his or her salvation.
THE FOCUS OF THIS PASSAGE IS NOT THE QUESTION of whether or not one may lose his or her salvation; the focus of this passage – in complete harmony with the purpose of the entire book – is maturity. We have seen that in our careful reading of 5:11-6:1, maturity is clearly the focus, not loss of salvation.
A PRIMARY PRINCIPLE OF SOLID EXEGESIS (the art and science of accurate translation of the original text) is that the clear must govern the unclear; the majority must overrule the minority. This means that the clear and harmonious understandings of the majority of passages must govern the interpretation of the difficult passages in the minority. The clear must govern the unclear. Hebrews 6:1-8 is unclear. That fact does not give one the liberty to interpret it any way he may please. That means that whatever interpretation we may arrive at, it must be in agreement with the majority, orthodox, clear teaching of Scripture. All cults, all charismatic extremes, All theological distortions of every type, result from a reversal of that axiom. These false teachers arrogantly ignore the clear and appeal to the unclear to support their false doctrines…
CONSIDER THE TITLE OF OUR PASSAGE AGAIN: “GO ON TO MATURITY.” “Go on”: that means that wherever you are now, this very day, go on. This is a message about action. MATURITY REQUIRES ACTION. The Christian life in many ways is like a race we are running…
NAS Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
AND THEN THE TITLE I’VE GIVEN THIS PASSAGE SAYS “TO.” We are going to something. The Christian life is not a race leading nowhere; it is not a life of aimless activity. We have a focus; that focus, of course, is Jesus. Let us go on to Jesus…
NAS Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
OUR TITLE DOES NOT SAY “JESUS” DIRECTLY, BUT IT SAYS “JESUS” INDIRECTLY. MATURITY FOR THE CHRISTIAN MEANS CHRIST, SPECIFICALLY CHRISTLIKENESS…
NAS 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
THAT’S A VERY IMPORTANT VERSE. 2 Corinthians 3:18 not only sheds helpful light on our study, but it gives us the very reason of our Christian existence. As always when studying, we should consider carefully the context. Here, the context speaks directly to the situation the writer to the Hebrews is emphasizing. It tells us plainly that Christ is superior to Judaism, that when Christ came as Messiah, the religious system of the Jews – as good as it was in its time – was superseded, outdated, and no longer to be practiced. Paul almost assuredly did not write Hebrews, but he often speaks about matters that directly relate to the background and focus of Hebrews. Note the contrast between the Old Covenant and the New, the Jewish law of the letter, and the Christian law of the Spirit, between Moses and all that he stood for in the way of religious ceremonialism, and the Lord Jesus Christ…
NAS 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was made ineffective came with glory, how much more has what remains come in glory! Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
CAN YOU SEE THE PICTURE? The old religious system of the Jews was no longer applicable to man’s sinful condition. Even at its best, the Law only pointed to Christ as the Savior. The Law was never intended to save, but only to point out man’s sinful condition and show him his need for a Savior. Now that Christ has come, things have changed. He is the way. He is the focus. The Hebrew readers would be stupid to want to return to this old system; it was inferior. And if they did return to Judaism they would be walking away from the only true way to cover their sins. There is no where else to go but Christ. And when we are saved God’s glory rests upon us and within us, and our lives become a vibrant field of transformation as God through the Holy Spirit changes us from one level of glory to a higher level of glory. Praise His blessed name!
THE CHRISTIAN IS TO BE RUNNING A RACE WITH ENDURANCE. His or her eyes are to be fixed on Jesus who is the author or originator of our faith as well as the perfecter of out faith. The Greek word for “perfecter” in Hebrews 12:2 (τελειτης [tel-eye-tace] from τελειοω [tel-eye-a-o]) could actually be translated “maturer.”
“PERFECTION” IN SCRIPTURE ESSENTIALLY MEANS PERFECTION IN THE SENSE OF MATURITY. GOD GIVES US THE FAITH TO BELIEVE AND THEN BRINGS THAT FAITH TO MATURITY THROUGH OUR ONGOING INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. One source I consulted this week said of this designation of Jesus that He brings our faith to its highest attainment. JESUS IS THE “MATURITY” OF THE CHRISTIAN THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A LIFE – A PROCESS – OF CONSTANT MATURITY AS GOD TRANSFORMS US INTO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST JESUS THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
WE SHOULD SEE OUR LIVES FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE. Living this kind of life gives us purpose. Everything we do has a purpose in God’s plan, but particularly those things we do in obedience to the Bible.
THE HEBREW CHRISTIANS HAD LOST OR WERE LOSING THIS VITAL PERSPECTIVE. They were not maturing; their eyes were not fixed on Jesus. They were in danger of taking their eyes off Jesus altogether. The writer tells them to.
“PRESS ON!” PRESS ON TO MATURITY.
THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS.
THAT IS THE WRITER’S WORD THROUGHOUT HEBREWS: Don’t go back to Judaism – in our case it would be likened to going back to the world – but go on to maturity. That is God’s Word to us today, this New Years day. That is God’s Word to us everyday that we are here alive on earth.
GOD’S WANTS US TO GROW! That’s the message of most of the New Testament. That is the essence of the Christian life – growing! God wants us to grow!
WE SHOULD ASK OURSELVES DAILY, “ARE YOU GROWING?” IF NOT, THERE IS NO BETTER DAY THAN TODAY TO BEGIN – OR BEGIN AGAIN. HEBREWS is a message for all of us: first-century Jew and modern Christian alike, old and young, man or woman, married, widowed, or single, old families or young families – every Christian!
THE EXHORTATION IN OUR PASSAGE IN HEBREWS THIS WEEK REMINDS US OF PAUL ALSO IN
NAS Philippians 3:13-16 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (the NIV reads “mature”), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
THE MORE I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS CONNECTION THIS WEEK, the closer I saw the connection. Paul is talking about being the same thing the writer to the Hebrews is talking about: maturity. Paul was the best Christian who ever lived, and he was intent upon going on to maturity.
CHRIST IS THE BEST THING THERE IS. He is the ultimate answer to every serious question about the purpose of life. He is not a way; He is the way. He has given Himself as the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice for our sins. He has shed His precious blood to save us. But He did not do all this and so much more to save us. He saved us in order that He might conform us to His image. We are saved in order that we might grow.
“GO ON TO MATURITY!”
– Professor Thomas A. Rohm