“Grow Up” – Hebrews 5:11-6:12

September 30th, 2018

Free Methodist – Freedom Sunday

Hebrews 5:11-6:12

“Grow Up”

Aux. Texts: Eph 4:11-16

Call to Worship: Psalm 138

 

Service Orientation:  Like a farmer and his field is a Christian in his faith.   If Christians are not diligent to attend to their spiritual lives and move to maturity; then you will deteriorate just like a farmer and his field.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. —  Hebrews 5:14

                                                                                                                       

Background Information:

With the repeated reference to Ps 110:4 in v. 10, the logical sequence of our author’s argument would have led him on to expound the significance of Christ’s being a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.”  This he does in Heb 7:1ff., but first he turns aside (as he has done before) to address some words of practical admonition to his readers’ spiritual condition.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 133)

  • The author now returns to the grave theme of apostasy which he has already broached in 3:12ff. above and which he will take up again in 10:26ff. And 12:25ff. It is apparent, therefore, that his concern is not the Christian life, immature and unfruitful in the faith they profess (5:11ff.), but, something far worse, lest there should be a relapse into unbelief in their midst.  The danger of apostasy, it must be emphasized, is real, not imaginary; otherwise this epistle with its high-sounding admonitions must be dismissed as trifling, worthless, and ridiculous.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 206)
  • The light of a church, once vital and flourishing, can be extinguished and all too frequently has been extinguished, as history shows only too plainly. This, too, is the force of the warnings contained in the letters to the seven churches of the Apocalypse (Rv 2 and 3).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 224)
  • (v. 5:11) In the ancient world the first of these words (nothros) could mean “sluggish, dull, dimwit, negligent, lazy.” It was used in extrabiblical literature, for example, of a slave with ears “stopped up” by laziness, who was thus not obedient instantly to the call of his master.  In the sphere of athletics, the word could designate a competitor who was out of shape, lazy, and sluggish.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 201)
  • (v. 5:11) Dull comes from the Greek nōhros, which is made up of the words for “no” and “push.” Literally, therefore, it means “no push”–slow, sluggish.  When used of a person it generally meant intellectually numb or thick.  In the context of this passage, however, it primarily indicates spiritual dullness.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 130)
  • (v. 5:11-13) Writers of catechisms in the time of the Reformation incorporated three Christian documents into their teachings: the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.  These they considered the ABC’s of the Christian faith.  If a believer knew how to explain the basic doctrines of these three elements of Christian belief, he was expected to testify for Christ and teach others.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 148)
  • (v. 5:12) Hebrews says that by now they should be teachers. It is not necessary to take that literally.  To say that a man was able to teach was the Greek way of saying that he had a mature grasp of a subject.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 50)
  • (v. 5:13) “The word of righteousness” indicates the teaching about righteousness which is fundamental to the Christian faith, namely, the insistence on Christ as our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; cf. 2 Cor 5:21) as opposed to self-righteousness or works-righteousness (cf. Phil 3:9; Ti 3:5; Gal 2:16; Rom 3:21ff.; Lk 18:9ff.).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 191)
  • (v. 5:13) Within the purview of the NT the dead works of unregenerate men may be classified, though only in a general manner, under two heads, Gentile and Jewish, depending on the background of those who are in view.  The dead works of the Gentile milieu are associated with licentiousness and idolatry (cf. Gal 5:19ff.; Eph 4:17ff.; Col 1:21).  They are works of which the man who comes to repentance is ashamed, as he now recognizes their barren and unprofitable nature and the end of death and perdition to which they lead (Rom 6:20f.; Phil 3:18f.)  For the religious Jew, however, it is the merely external and self-righteous compliance with the requirements of the law which gives rise to his dead works (cf. Mt 4:21ff.; 23:1ff.)  His sin is, if anything, worse than that of the idolater, for, though outwardly righteous in men’s eyes, inwardly he is full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Mt 23:28; cf. Rom 2:28f.).  The law, so far from justifying him, condemns him, because, together with every other man, he is a law-breaker who has in fact neglected the very essence of the law which is love (cf. Mt 5:43ff.; Mk 12:28ff.; Rom 13:10; Gal 5:14; Jam 2:8), and as such he is subject to judgment and death (cf. Rom 2:23f.; 3:20, 23; Gal 2:16ff.; 2 Tm 1:9; Ti 3:5).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 197)
  • (v. 6:1) If repentance is a turning away from the former life of dead works, faith is a turning toward God for newness of life in Christ. Accordingly, we find Jesus commencing his ministry in Galilee with the declaration:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15); and the sum of Paul’s proclamation, wherever he went, to both Jew and Gentile, was “that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance” (Acts 26:20; cf. 20:21).  Indeed, faith in itself always presupposes repentance.  Thus not to have faith in Christ means to die in one’s sins (Jn 8:24), since absence of faith also argues an absence of repentance.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 198)
  • (v. 6:1) “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and press forward to maturity.” Why “therefore”?  Probably because their particular condition of immaturity is such that only an appreciation of what is involved in Christ’s high priesthood will cure it.  Their minds need to be stretched, and this will stretch them as nothing else can.  They have remained immature too long; therefore he will give them something calculated to take them out of their immaturity.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 138)
  • (v. 6:1) In many NT contexts the call is to repent by turning from personal sin, but here, doubtless because of its Jewish background, the call is to repent from dead works, from man’s futile attempt at self-salvation. (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 106)

(v. 6:1-2)  It is interesting that often these basics are what pass for deep teaching in some churches today, and disagreements over these basics have caused painful splits.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 77)

  • (v. 6:1-2) If they needed to be taught the elementary principles of the faith again, should he not do so? Instead, the preacher pushes them toward an “adult table” fit for mature appetites.  The “therefore” of verse 1 demonstrates his determination to move his readers on from their present state of immaturity.  They are not responding to their circumstances as spiritual grown-ups, therefore, it is time to move from the children’s to the adults’ menu, leaving behind fundamental teachings.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 204)
  • (v. 6:1-2) So we see that the Jewish convert was catechized by the church’s employing the rich fabric of his religion as a springboard for grounding him in Christ regarding repentance and faith (soteriology), baptism and empowerment (pneumatology), resurrection and judgment (eschatology).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 155)
  • (v. 6:2) When we consider the “rudiments” one by one, it is remarkable how little in the list is distinctive of Christianity, for practically every item could have its place in a fairly orthodox Jewish community. Each of them, indeed, acquires a new significance in a Christian context; but the impression we get is that existing Jewish belief and practices were used as a foundation on which to build Christian truth.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 139)
  • (v. 6:2) “Baptisms” (here baptismōn) is a word usually used of purification ceremonies other than Christian baptism (9:10; Mk 7:4), and it is plural (which would be unusual for baptism). Thus it is likely that the word refers to something other than baptism.  There were such purification ceremonies, or lustrations, in the Jewish religion as in most other religions of the day.  Sometimes there was confusion over ritual washings (Jn 3:25ff.; Acts 19:1-5).  It would thus be one of the elementary items of instruction that converts be taught the right approach to the various “baptisms” they would encounter.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 53)
  • (v. 6:2) The “laying on of hands” was a widespread practice in antiquity. Among Christians, hands were laid on new converts (Acts 8:17), and Timothy by the presbyterate (1 Tm 4:14), and on Timothy by Paul (2 Tm 1:6).  This action was sometimes associated with commissioning for ministry and sometimes with the beginnings of Christian service.  It seems to have been connected with the gift of the Spirit at least on some occasions (e.g., Acts 8:17-19).  It is Christians beginning, perhaps with the thought of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, that are in mind here.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 53)
  • (v. 6:3) Part of the problem facing the Hebrews was the superficial similarity between the elementary tenets of Christianity and those of Judaism, which made it possible for Christian Jews to think they could hold on to both. The danger of apostasy was much greater for them than for converts from paganism.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 140)
  • (v. 6:4) There is a development between knowing about food, even liking the look of it, and actually tasting it. No-one can merely pretend to do the latter.  Of course, not all tasting is pleasurable, and in the hypothetical case which the writer is supposing, it clearly was not so.  The heavenly gift was not appreciated.  But what is meant by this expression?  Nowhere else in the NT is the “heavenly gift” (tēs dōreas tēs epouraniou) mentioned, although the idea of a gift from God occurs several times, mainly in relation to the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 10:45; 11:17).  In other cases it is linked with God’s grace (Rom 5:15; Eph 3:7; 4:7), where it embraces the whole gift of salvation.  In the present statement the content of the gift is undefined, but its origin is left in no doubt.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 141-2)
  • (v. 6:4-8) It is probably true to say that these warnings here and elsewhere in Hebrews have caused more unnecessary anxiety to believers than almost any other verses in the NT. Aware of moral failure or spiritual apathy, thoughtful people the world over have been haunted by these passages, some driven to despair at the thought that, having neglected or forsaken Christ, they have forfeited for ever the blessings of the gospel.  This teaching has not only troubled distressed backsliders; it has baffled professedly dispassionate theologians.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 111)
  • (v. 6:6) The writer appears to be reflecting on a hypothetical case, although in the nature of the whole argument it must be supposed that it was a real possibility. The intention is clearly not to give a dissertation on the nature of grace, but to give a warning in the strongest possible terms.  The whole passage is viewed from the side of man’s responsibilities and must accordingly be regarded as limited.  In other words the Godward side needs to be set over against this passage for a true balance to be obtained.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 145)
  • (v. 6:7-8) However, in this illustration that the author uses to explain his warning, which comes in 6:4-6, notice that the ground that is burned–to clear it of its useless “thorns and thistles”–may not be completely obliterated. It is burned so as to consume the worthless vegetation it has produced in spite of having received all the means necessary to produce useful plants.  This would support the notion that those who fall under the condition that leads to a failure to thrive spiritually do not lose their salvation, but rather end up having no reward at the judgment seat of Christ. . . . In my opinion, the issue in Heb 6, then, as in 1 Cor 3, is not related to losing one’s eternal salvation, which has been irreversibly bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ.  The issue is related to losing one’s heavenly reward.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 90)
  • (v. 6:8) The word translated “worthless” (adokimos) occurs in 1 Cor 9:27 in the sense of disqualified and in 2 Cor 13:5 of failure to meet the test. It is no arbitrary rejection, but only as a result of due examination.  In this case the land is proved to be worthless by the absence of effective fruit.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 146)
  • (v. 6:9) This is the only passage in the whole letter where the writer addresses his people as beloved (NIV – “dear friend”). It is precisely after the sternest passage of all that he uses the address of love.  It is as if he said to them:  “If I did not love you so much I would not speak with such severity.”  Chrysostom paraphrases the thought this way:  “It is better that I should scare you with words than that you should sorrow in deeds.”  He speaks the truth but, however stern it may be, he speaks it in love.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 60)
  • (v. 6:9) He wanted to sock them out of their mental lethargy so that he could take them into deeper truth. It’s as though he were saying, “If I didn’t love you so much, I wouldn’t speak this way.  He would rather scare them with words than have them run into sorrow by lingering with the basics and running the risk of backsliding.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 136)
  • (v. 6:12) Believers are inheritors of God’s promises. The word inherit calls attention to the dividing of a legacy; an inheritor is entitled to possess part of that legacy.  The legacy in this case consists of God’s promises given to all believers.  The author of Hebrews tells the readers to imitate the saints in their faithful trust, perseverance, and zeal.  He introduces the subject of faith, hope, and love in 6:10-12; and true to form he elaborates on and fully discusses the topic in 10:22-24, 35-39; and 11.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 168)
  • (v. 6:12) One cannot speak about God’s promises without speaking about faith. Man needs faith to embrace God’s promises and God’s promises work and continue to work that faith till it becomes sight in heaven.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 62)
  • This change from the first and second person in the “hopeful” sections (6:1-3, 9-12) to the brief use of the third person in the “stern” section (6:4-8) shows that the author knew his readers had not yet fallen into the dreaded category of those for whom spiritual progress was impossible. There was still hope, but because of their current state of becoming slow of hearing and sluggish in their response to spiritual things, they faced a real danger of sliding even farther backward toward an irreversible condition.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 89)

 

NIV {v. 5:11}= “slow to learn”:  KJV “dull = #3576 as well as NIV {v. 6:12} = “lazy”:  KJV “slothful” = Strongs #3576    “. . . their inward capacity to receive is blunted and dull.  They have become . . . sluggish in hearing and receptivity.  This is connected with the fact that the recipients of the epistle do not have the vitality of assured and persevering faith.  This spiritual exhaustion, which is due to deficient confidence of hope in the future time of consummation, makes them sluggish (6:12).  Thus the word expresses a twofold deficiency which is not a true part of the Christian life:  a lack of receptivity for Christian gnosis {Gk. knowing}, and a stale, exhausted spirit instead of the glowing joy of hope.   When Christian life shows exhaustion both in breathing in (hearing and receiving) and in breathing out (believing in confidence in the future), the author of Heb call his readers sluggish. {NIV- slow to learn}” (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol IV, 1126)

 

NIV {v. 5:14} = “Mature”:  KJV “full-age” = Strongs #5046  whole, complete, perfect as in the stages of learning, “to reach the limit of professional ability”, “one who knows how to rule and be ruled with justice”.  Biologically it means full-gown, mature, adult.  Not childish.  (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol VII, 67-78)

 

NIV {v. 6:1} = “Maturity”:  KJV “perfection” = Strongs #5047  Greek “Phos” photo, NIV {v. 6:4} = “enlightened”:  KJV “enlightened” = #5461  to illumine, to bring light, to make known.  Light is the possibility of seeing life so as to be abundant and full. “Light characterizes natural life, Ps 38:10; 56:13, and also spiritual life, Ps 37:6; 97:11; 112:4; 119:105.  God enfolds Himself in light, Ps 104:2.  He is the light of the righteous, Mi 7:8f. and the possibility of life:  in His light we see light,, Ps 36:9.”  Part of salvation is to be in the light.  In the OT too, light means self-understanding and freedom from care:  “Light streams on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart,” Ps 97:11.  (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol IX, 310-358)

 

NIV {v. 6:4} = “tasted”:  KJV “having tasted” = Strongs #1089 “To eat.  To enjoy.  To come to feel.  To come to an inward awareness of”. (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol I, 675-7)

 

NIV {v. 6:4} = “shared”:  KJV “partakers” = Strongs #3353  “to share.  To partake.”  (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol II, 830-2)

 

NIV {v. 6:6} = “fall away”:  KJV “fall away” = Strongs #3895  “To fall beside or aside.   To be led somewhere or other.  To go astray.  To be mistaken.  To fall.  To sin.” (Gerhard Kittel; Theological Dictionary of the NT; Vol VI, 170-2)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is the writer of Hebrews attempting to do in Hebrews 5:11-6:12?

 

Answer:  He is warning Christians of the potentially fatal end of those who are lazy, dull, ignorant, or undisciplined in regard to their spiritual growth.

 

There can be no standing still in the Christian life.  It is told that on his pocket Bible Cromwell had a motto written in Latin–qui cessat esse melior cessat esse bonus–he who ceases to be better ceases to be good.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 52)

 

There is no such thing as standing still in Christianity.  Whether a believer marches forward or merely marks time depends much on his connection with God’s word.  God’s deep truths are not revealed to the casual, careless reader, but to the careful, constant one.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 53-4)

 

Masses of Christians are satisfied with the baby steps of the gospel and don’t advance beyond that point.  They like the “honeymoon” stage of Christianity and never get down to the business of growing up in Christ.  Their lives show it, too.  30, 40 and even 60 years later, they’re still the same people.  There’s no real development after the first flush of salvation.  They are touchy, lose their tempers just as easily, spend little time in the Word, they don’t witness for Christ and they are critical of others.  You can’t give them any responsibility.  And if you happen to say the wrong thing to them, they’ll quit and go home.  Even though they have been saved for years, they’re still spiritual infants and have to be treated that way.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 120-1)

 

I submit to you that the real crisis of our time is spiritual.  Specifically, our problem is what the ancients called acedia.  Acedia is the sin of sloth.  But acedia, as understood by the saints of old, is not laziness about life’s affairs (which is what we normally think sloth to be).  Acedia is something else; properly understood, acedia is an aversion to and a negation of spiritual things.  Acedia reveals itself as an undue concern for external affairs and worldly things.  Acedia is spiritual torpor, an absence of zeal for divine things.  And it brings with it, according to the ancients, “a sadness, a sorrow of the world.”  Acedia manifests itself in man’s “joyless, ill-tempered, and self-seeking rejection of the nobility of the children of God.”  The slothful man hates the spiritual, and he wants to be free of its demands. The old theologians taught that acedia arises from a heart steeped in the worldly and carnal, and from a low esteem of divine things. It eventually leads to a hatred of the good altogether. And with hatred comes more rejection, more ill-temper, sadness, and sorrow. (William J. Bennett;Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America December 7, 1993)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Grow

 

Always in the Christian life, one either moves forward or slips back.  It is almost impossible to stand still.  These people had not advanced; so the result was that they had gone back and had “become” beginners.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 52)

 

CHRISTIAN MATURITY

Christian maturity is greatly discussed throughout the NT.  Here are some of the descriptions:

Description                    References

Complete                                          1 Cor 2:6; 3:1; Eph 4:13; Col 1:28; Heb 5:14; 6:1

Blameless                                          Lk 1:6; Phil 2:15; 3:6; 1 Thess 3:13; 5:23

Whole                                                2 Cor 13:9-11; Gal 6:1; 1 Thess 3:10; Heb 13:21; 1 Pt 5:10

Disciplined                   Heb 2:10; 5:9; 12:10

Love for God and

others                                                 1 Cor 13:1-13; 14:20; 1 Pt 4:8; 1 Jn 4:12, 17-21

Christlike                                          Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36; Rom 12:2; Col 3:10

(Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 73)

 

BASIC TRUTHS                                                 BASIC EXPERIENCE

  1. Repentance 1.  Enlightenment
  2. Faith (salvation) 2.  Heaven’s gift
  3. Baptisms (Jewish and 3.  Partake of the Spirit

Christian)

  1. Laying on of hands 4.  Word of God

(Gifts of the Spirit)

  1. Resurrection (prophecy) 5.  Spiritual power
  2. Judgment (prophecy)

(C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 128)

 

What warnings do we get in this section of Hebrews?:

I-  Spiritual growth or maturity cannot be pursued by the lazy, dull, ignorant, or undisciplined. (Heb 5:11-14; see also: 1 Cor 3:1-2; 9:24-27; 14:20; Phil 2:12-13; 3:13-14; 1 Pt 2:2)

 

Regarding Christ’s role as High Priest, there is much more that the writer would like to say about this.  The writer will further explore Christ’s priesthood (chapter 7), but here pauses the argument to give readers a wake-up call.  The concepts that follow in this letter will be understood by growing Christians, not stagnant ones.  Christians must not be casual about the word of God; people must listen attentively.  Hebrews continually challenges Christians to persevere in their faith.  Instead of working hard in their faith, these Christians were choosing the easier road.  The writer illustrates this by saying, you don’t seem to listen, so it’s hard to make you understand.  The readers were “hard of hearing” (see 6:12 for the same concept, there translated “sluggish” or “lazy”).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 71)

 

The word (NIV – “slow to learn”) really means “sluggish”; it is used in the Septuagint of “slothful men” who refuse to tackle hard work, and occurs again later in this letter describing “sluggish” people who need a good shake-up (6:12).  It here describes those who develop a “couldn’t care less” attitude to the study of holy Scripture, and have failed to give themselves to a regular, methodical, and painstaking study of its teaching and its relevance in everyday life.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 104)

 

It is possible for a Christian to remain in a sickly infancy all his life, always needing help, instead of being a help.  The cause of this is sloth, reluctance to make the sacrifice needed for progress, unwillingness to forsake all and follow Jesus.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 197)

 

When we do not trust and act on any part of God’s truth that we know, we become hardened to it and less and less likely to benefit from it.  Or when we avoid delving into the deeper parts of God’s Word, being satisfied with the “basics,” we insulate ourselves from the Holy Spirit to that extent.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 130)

 

Truth heard but not internalized and maintained will be lost to the hearer.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 148)

 

It is easy for people to hear the gospel, and then hear it and hear it and hear it until it becomes commonplace and meaningless to them.  Instead of pursuing the truth of Christ and giving their lives to Him, they become spiritually sluggish and stagnant.  They become dull of hearing and slow of understanding, spiritually retarded.  They must be fed again like babies.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 133)

 

Parents would feel devastated if the child never progressed beyond one-syllable words or if the child remained on a milk diet until puberty.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 71)

 

A noticeable difference between the infant Christian and the mature Christian, is that the babies are SPECTATORS and the adults are PARTICIPATORS.  The infant watches the battle of the Christian life, the adult gets into it.  The baby Christian doesn’t want to “get involved.”  He may watch religious broadcasts on TV and go to church on a regular basis, but serving Christ is NOT the thrust of his life.  His family, friends and job come ahead of Jesus.  Every Christian is expected to master God’s Word and learn to test ideas by God’s Spirit so that he can judge ANY teaching which comes before him with respect to truth and error.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 123)

 

Evidently these people had not merely not advanced, they had actually lost their understanding of “the first principles.”  They needed to go back to square one.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 134)

 

He assaults his friends with a grotesque image–adult infants who are still nursing.  Think of the tragic absurdity of full-grown men and women in diapers who are neither capable of, nor desire solid food and who sit around sucking their thumbs.  Such full-grown infants amount to a huge disgrace and drain on the Church.  Obviously the writer’s grotesque images are meant to shock and to motivate some of his hearers to pull out their thumbs and say, “I’m no baby.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 148-9)

 

The author chides them for being slow to learn (5:11), lazy (6:12), and feeble (12:12).  Constantly he exhorts them to strengthen their faith (4:2; 10:22-23; 12:2).  If their faith continues to weaken, they will fall prey to unbelief that leads to disobedience and apostasy.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 161)

 

People in every society consistently seek the wrong things.  Some look for money, fame, and power.  But these things cannot satisfy us.  As Solzhenitsyn said about his time in a Soviet gulag, “Bless you, prison.  Bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 58)

 

Children prefer excitement to instruction, but adults ought to know better.  The Corinthians had been acting like children, enjoying the excitement that tongues offered in their assembly without realizing that they were obtaining no solid instruction from them.  It is all right to be as innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but there is no place for constant immaturity in the Christian life.  Believers are to be growing and maturing so that they can understand these issues for themselves and make wise decision concerning them.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians, 205)

 

“That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions, and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day.   I know there are texts of Scripture which warrant such complaints.  I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil, and the world.  But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness, and an excuse for spiritual sloth.”  (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, 46-7)

 

Missing Life And Purpose

Somewhere between here-to-fore,

And hereafter is now.

It’s also called the present.

Most evade it, somehow

 

Suspended animation,

Not cognizance is choice.

Electronics assist flights

Of fantasy’s escape.

 

To truly LIVE requires work,

When immaturity

Is the master of one’s fate,

Sloth is a surety.

 

This laziness can be both

Mental or physical.

They most often co-exist,

Are lackadaisical.

 

Like living in another

Time warp, or dimension,

TV re-runs become life:

They manage detention.

 

They abhor the spiritual,

Substitute their self-will.

It’s insurance to stall time:

Spiritual growth stands still.

 

Molly A. Marsh

02 August 2010

3:52 AM

 

If they do not stir themselves from their culpable inertia they may expect to find themselves, like the Hebrews of Ezekiel’s day, “a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not” (Ezek 12:2; cf. Jer 6:10; Zech 7:11f.).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 189-90)

 

Are you shocked at what our writer considers baby truths?  Why some of these topics are the main themes of many ministers today!  There are those who pride themselves on preaching a “simple gospel,” when in reality they are confining themselves to one or two of these elementary truths.  Think what it must do to their congregations to keep them on “milk,” rather than giving them “solid food.”  Some churches exist on a weekly diet of salvation messages and testimonies.  They never get off the bottle.  That can only hurt the people.  Others dwell almost exclusively on prophecy (resurrection and judgment), because of the excitement associated with those truths.  People are naturally curious about the future, so it is easy to draw big crowds.  But what happens to the people when they are denied the advanced truths?  This is what is so upsetting to our author.  There’s nothing wrong with teaching any of these truths, it is STAYING WITH THEM to the neglect of deeper truths that he is decrying.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 125-6)

 

When people truly come to Christ, their initial posture is one of intense listening.  Though only a boy, I was “all ears” after I met Christ.  I listened as best I could–and even took notes.  God’s Word was alive!  My experience was not unique.  F. R. Webber, in his massive three-volume A History of Preaching in Britain and America, tells us that one of the curious by-products of the Awakening was a sudden interest in shorthand.  According to Webber:

Men and women studied shorthand in order that they might take down the sermons that were stirring the English-speaking countries.  This had happened once before in Scotland, and it made its appearance once more in all countries where the influence of the Awakening was felt.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 146-7)

 

II-  Those who are persistently pursuing spiritual maturity acquire wisdom, discernment, and good judgment.  (Heb Hebrews 5:14; see also: Prov 2; Isa 5:20; Jer 4:22; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 13:11; Gal 2:11-3:1; Eph 4:13-32; Phil 3:15-16; Col 4:12)

 

Interestingly, those who are called the mature (or those who are now complete) are mature because they have disciplined themselves; who by constant use have trained themselves.  They have disciplined themselves on solid food, that is, they have learned about and appropriated the high-priestly role of Christ.  Spiritually mature Christians constantly examine themselves, turn away from sin, and learn what actions, thoughts, and attitudes will please God.  These people “have trained themselves” to distinguish good from evil.  The Greek word for “trained” (gumnazo) gives the athletic imagery of training through much practice.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 73)

 

The mature are those who, because of a mature spiritual condition, possess trained faculties that enable discernment of good and evil.  In other words, they know how to make the right choices when confronted with critical decisions.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 203-4)

 

The power to distinguish between good and evil has been sought ever since the times of Adam and Eve, but the facility to do so does not come easily even for those with some knowledge of Christ.  This skill at once shows the difference between the mature and the immature.  It must be recognized that Christians, especially among Gentiles, would need to forge a new code of morals in order to leave themselves unspotted in the world.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 136)

 

The point of Heb 6:1-2 is simply that the unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immature, elementary shadows and symbols of the Old Covenant and take hold of the mature and perfect reality of the New.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 141)

 

Colossians 3:16 “Word of Christ” – Ephesians 5:18-19 – “Spirit of God”

When there is all word and no Spirit the people tend to dry up.

When there is all Spirit and no word the people tend to blow up.

When there is both Spirit and Word the people tend to grow up.  (Alister Begg sermon; “Learning How to Worship”)

 

A child learns to walk by falling down, then getting up and trying again.  Christians learn to know the difference between good and evil by prayerfully examining the word of God and putting it into practice in their lives.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 71)

 

Growth is necessary, such as can come only from “constant use” and training.  A spiritual exercise program was essential with the only piece of equipment required being the word.  That is what the author wishes for his readers so that he can lead them into deeper truths.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 53)

 

Spiritual maturity is not the kind which can be had for the asking, but requires higher powers than man’s natural endowments.  Nevertheless, this writer is deeply conscious of man’s own responsibility, as his subsequent statements in this chapter show.  There are clearly factors in a man’s spiritual experience which can effectively cut off growth.  He cannot be “carried on to maturity” if he has no desire to be mature.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 137)

 

The writer is clearly saying that the mature Christian, the eater of solid food, constantly exercises himself in spiritual perception, and the result is manifest.  He can “distinguish good from evil” and, therefore, the implication runs, will not be in danger of doing the wrong thing to which the readers find themselves attracted.  Lacking this perception, Christian service will always be immature and partial.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 52)

 

I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry.  Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 196)

 

He sees “repentance from acts that lead to death” as basic.  Repentance was the first thing required in the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles; and it remains basic.  Here it is repentance “from dead works,” a phrase that has been understood to mean legalistic adherence to Jewish ways (works that could never bring life) or genuinely evil actions (actions that belong to death and not life).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 53)

 

Those deeper truths are needed to make the changes in our lives that God expects.  Thus we see that the Bible offers TWO KINDS of truths:  (1) those that SAVE people, (2) and those that CHANGE people.  The saving truths are baby truths (milk), while the changing truths are deeper truths (solid food).  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 122)

 

The infant, you see, cannot recognize a life-changing truth when it hits him in the face.  Neither can he recognize one inspired by Satan.  That is dangerous, especially as we enter the last days.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 123)

 

THE CHOICES OF MATURITY

One way to evaluate spiritual maturity is by looking at the choices we make.  The writer of Hebrews notes many of the ways those choices change with personal growth.

Mature choices                  Rather than            Immature choices

Teaching others                                                   Just being taught.

Developing depth of understanding                Struggling with the basics.

Evaluating self                                                     Criticizing self.

Seeking unity                                                       Promoting disunity.

Desiring spiritual challenges                                                 Desiring entertainment.

Studying and observing carefully                                         Accepting opinions and halfhearted efforts.

Having an active faith                                        Cautious apathy and doubt.

Living with confidence                                                          Fear.

Evaluating feelings and experiences                Evaluating experiences according to

in the light of God’s Word                                                     feelings.

(Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 74)

 

In one important sense, the entire Bible follows this theme of maturity (6:1-3).  Everything in the Bible leads us toward mature faith, which is always characterized by

*      a sense of becoming, not arriving.  The growing Christian is reaching forward, not resting on what has already happened.

*      a sense of wonder, not complacency.  The growing Christian is more likely to know how difficult the questions are, rather than how easy the answers are.

*      a sense of commitment, not lethargy.  The world’s people need the peace God offers; our social systems need God’s justice; our bodies need God’s healing.  The growing Christian acts in faith to become God’s servant to the world, even under stress.

Paul wrote in Phil 3:13-14, “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

All Christians, including you, should be growing, maturing and pressing on!  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 76)

 

The milk-Christian is one unskilled in the world of righteousness, an expression which deserves comment.  First the word “unskilled” (apeiros) means literally “untried”, hence inexperienced, and would suggest that the lack of skill was linked with lack of practice.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 135)

 

Maturity is here seen as the desirable development from spiritual childhood.  This is a familiar idea in the Pauline epistles (cf. Eph 4:13ff.–note especially “we are to grow up in every way”; cf. 1 Cor 2:6; 3:1; 14:20).  The NT presents a picture of the full-orbed Christian life as completeness.  The experienced Christian knows that he needs strong meat to attain to this kind of maturity.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 136)

 

We come into God’s spiritual family through spiritual birth (Jn 3:1-8).  From there we grow spiritually through being nourished by God’s Word–from simple doctrines and practices of the faith to more advanced knowledge and skill in spiritual things (see 1 Cor 9:24-27).  As we continue to grow, exercising our spiritual gifts and being strengthened by the community of the Spirit, we advance toward spiritual maturity (Eph 4:11-16).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 84)

 

Through faith and longsuffering we inherit, enter on the possession of the promises.  Salvation consists in what Christ Jesus is to us and does in us.  There must, each day, be personal intercourse with Him, distinct personal surrender to His teaching and working, if He is indeed to be our life.  Let us beware, above everything, of unconsciously resting or trusting in what we have or enjoy of grace.  It is alone by faith and longsuffering, by the never-ceasing daily renewal of our consecration and our faith in our quiet time with our Beloved Lord, that the heavenly life can be maintained in its freshness and power.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 214)

 

In their article “Closing the Evangelistic Back Door,” Win and Charles Arn suggest the process by which people come to a Christian decision is a crucial determining factor.  Among their findings I emphasize two.  (1) New church members are more likely to drop out if they were introduced to Christianity through a manipulative process.  Among those surveyed, “87 percent of those now inactive came to their point of decision through a church member who used manipulative monologue.”  This is contrasted with the 70 percent of those still active in the church who came to Christ as a result of nonmanipulative dialogue.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 236)

 

As Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were being harassed by Judaizers, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (3:24).  To which he at once added, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”  Thus, under a different figure, he was here in Heb 6:1 simply saying, Let us be carried on to maturity, and not go back again to the things which characterized the days of our childhood.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 279)

 

III-  If you have enjoyed spiritual insight, blessings, and security, and you neglect, reject and despise it all; then you will find it impossible to come back to the faith (by your own efforts?).  (Heb 6:4-8; see also: Dt 29:18-28; 1 Cor 3:12-15; 1 Jn 2:19)  

 

Whether we come from a tradition that affirms “perseverance of the saints” or one that holds apostasy as possible for true believers, we tend to seize on those word meanings that seem to support our position.  Integrity demands that we consider carefully as much data as possible when attempting to arrive at an interpretation and open ourselves to the arguments of others who have grappled with this text.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 225)

 

God has pledged himself to pardon all who truly repent, but Scripture and experience alike suggest that it is possible for human beings to arrive at a state of heart and life where they can no longer repent.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 149)

 

Having tasted the sweet salvation of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit, they now rail on Christ and nail Him to the cross again, with their own hands.  They show the same ridicule and despising hatred of that first hostile crowd who shouted, “Crucify Him!”  They mock and jeer at the One who had given them forgiveness; they brutally lash at Him with whips and cruelly offer Him vinegar when His throat is parched with the thirst of dying.  Could such a one be reinstated to repentance?  Impossible!  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 135-6)

 

Some point to this passage to prove that a backslider cannot be restored.  But “backsliders” are not the subject here.  This passage refers to people who walk with Christ for a while and then deliberately turn around and walk the other direction, rejecting Christ.  Heb 10:26 says, “For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  These people can never be restored because they will not want to be restored.  They have chosen to harden their hearts against Christ.  It is not impossible for God to forgive them; rather, it is impossible for them to be forgiven because they won’t repent of their sins.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 79)

 

We are not here dealing with the sincere believer who is depressed about his spiritual failure, or the backslider who has temporarily lost interest in the things of God.  We are here confronted with fierce opposition to Christ and his gospel, public rebellion against Christian things and a determination to bring Christ’s work to an end.  The force of their Christ-rejection is vividly expressed in the tenses which are used here to describe their activity.  Such people “keep on crucifying” (present tense) for themselves the Son of God, and “keep on putting Him to open shame” (present tense again).  If such people are resolutely determined to respond in this way to the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness, then certainly it is “impossible to keep on repeatedly leading them (present tense) afresh into repentance.”  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 114)

 

Since repentance is an act involving the self-humbling of the sinner before a holy God, it is evident why a man with a contemptuous attitude towards Christ has no possibility of repentance.  The hardening process provides an impenetrable casing which removes all sensitivity to the pleadings of the Spirit.  There comes a point of no return, when restoration is impossible.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 145)

 

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”  Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  —Charles Spurgeon  (Alistair Begg; Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)

 

Repentance in 6:4-6 is “impossible” because there is nowhere else to go for repentance once one has rejected Christ.  The apostate in effect has turned his or her back on the only means available for forgiveness before God.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 220)

 

7-8.  What has just been said illustrates a principle which can be supported from nature.  Neglect of proper cultivation of the land leads to worthless results, in a similar way that refusal to adhere to the provisions of God’s grace leads to spiritual bankruptcy.   (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 145)

 

Here it signifies those who have turned with derision on one who has sacrificed all for their benefit.  This would be comparable to the treatment of a poor mother, who, determined to give her son the best opportunity in life, works her aging body to its limits of fatigue; she skimps and sacrifices herself and every resource unstintingly to put him through school and watches him march into the very best segments of society.  This same son, now a striking success, openly ridicules her before his fashionable associates, sneering at her rough hands, laughing at her uncultured speech, or blatantly mimicking her uncouth manners.

When those former believers treat the unparalleled love of Jesus with raucous laughter of disdain and regard His fathomless forgiveness as a circus sideshow of ridiculous naiveté and absurdity–could such ones be reinstated to repentance?  Impossible!  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 136)

 

We face a mystery when we see God leading the chosen nation of Israel out of Egypt and then destroying the people who were twenty years old and more in the desert (Nm 14:29); when we see Jesus spending a night in prayer before he appointed Judas as one of his disciples (Lk 6:12, 16) and later declaring that Judas was “doomed to destruction” (Jn 17:12); and when we see Paul accepting Demas as a fellow evangelist who years later deserted Paul because Demas “loved this world” (2 Tm 4:10).

The writer of Hebrews observes that disobedient Israelites died in the desert because of unbelief.  By analogy, the possibility that individuals who have professed the name of Christ will fall away is real (Mt 7:21-23).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 162-3)

 

The idea of sharing the Holy Spirit is remarkable.  This at once distinguishes the person from one who has no more than a nodding acquaintance with Christianity.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 142)

 

The idea of apostasy is expressed by a verb which occurs here only in the NT.  Its root meaning is falling aside, i.e. a falling away from an accepted standard or path.  The subsequent statement in this case makes clear the irretrievable nature of the apostasy.  It is said that they crucify the Son of God, and the compound verb used (anastaurountas) shows that the writer is thinking of a repetition of the crucifixion.  He could not have expressed the seriousness of the apostasy in stronger or more tragic terms.  As he thinks of what the enemies of Jesus Christ did to him, he actually sees those who turn away from him as equally responsible.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 143-4)

 

By God’s astonishing generosity these believers had become “sharers” of the Spirit’s life, participants in the Spirit’s work, and partakers of the Spirit’s gifts.  Yet now they forcefully and totally disown this “Spirit of grace” (10:29).  It was through his persuasive ministry that they had been brought to repentance and faith in the first place.  How can they hope to amend their ways and be led back to God if they reject the only one who can bring them home?  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 109)

 

The author’s use of the word IMPOSSIBLE has made this passage a theological battleground for centuries.  Scholars debate three possible interpretations.  (1) The passage refers to born again believers who reject Christ and are lost forever.  (2) The writer is merely giving a hypothetical situation, offering that IF IT WERE possible for a true Christian to reject Christ, it would be impossible to renew him to repentance.  (3) That such rejectors are NOT Christians at all.  They are like Judas, who was one of the Twelve.  He sampled all the sweetness and power of the gospel without ever being truly committed to Christ.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 129-30)

 

Now, it strikes me that they would not have said this if they had not had some doctrine to uphold; for a child, reading this passage, would say that the persons intended by it must be Christians.  If the Holy Spirit intended to describe Christians, I do not see that He could have used more explicit terms than there are here.  How can a man be said to be enlightened, and to taste of the heavenly gift, and to be made partaker of the Holy Ghost, without being a child of God?  With all deference to these learned doctors, and I admire and love them all, I humbly conceive that they allowed their judgments to be a little warped when they said that; and I think I shall be able to show that none but true believers are here described.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 144)

 

There is a deep precipice; what is the best way to keep anyone from going down there?  Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces.  In some old castle there is a deep cellar where there is a vast amount of fixed air and gas that would kill anybody who went down.  What does the guide say?  “If you go down you will never come up alive.”  Who thinks of going down?  The very fact of the guide telling us what the consequences would be keeps us from it.  Our friend puts away from us a cup of arsenic.  He does not want us to drink it, but he says, “if you drink it, it will kill you.”  Does he suppose for a moment that we should drink it?  No; he tells us the consequence, and he is sure we will not do it.

So God says, “My child, if you fall over this precipice you will be dashed to pieces.”  What does the child do?  he says, “Father, keep me.  Hold me up, and I shall be safe.”  It leads the believer to greater dependence on God, to a holy fear and caution, because he knows that if he were to fall away he could not be renewed.  He stands far away from that great gulf, because he knows that if he were to fall into it there would be no salvation for him.  It is calculated to excite fear, and this holy fear keeps the Christian from falling.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 149-50)

 

Apostasy does not take place suddenly and unexpectedly.  Rather it is part of a gradual process, a decline that leads from unbelief to disobedience to apostasy.  And when the falling away from the faith happens, it leads to hardening of the heart and the impossibility of repentance.  The author, using the example of the Israelites, has shown the process that results in apostasy (3:18; 4:6, 11).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 160)

 

Suppose you say to your little boy, “Don’t you know, Tommy, if I were not to give you your dinner and your supper you would die?  There is nobody else to give Tommy lunch and dinner.”  What then?  The child does not think that you are not going to give him his lunch and dinner.  He knows you will, and he is grateful to you.  The chemist tells us that if there were no oxygen mixed with the air, animals would die.  Do you suppose that there will be no oxygen, and therefore we shall die?  No, he only teaches you the great wisdom of God in having mixed the gases in their proper proportions.  One of the old astronomers says, “There is great wisdom in God, that He has put the sun exactly at a right distance–not so far away that we should be frozen to death, and not so near that we should be scorched.”  He says, “If the sun were a million miles nearer to us we should be scorched to death.”  Does the man suppose that the sun will be a million miles nearer, and, therefore, we shall be scorched to death?  He says, “If the sun were a million miles farther off we should be frozen to death.”  Does he mean that the sun will be a million miles farther off, and therefore we shall be frozen to death?  Not at all.  Yet it is quite a rational way of speaking, to show us how grateful we should be to God.

So says the apostle.  Christian, if you should fall away, you could never be renewed unto repentance.  Thank you Lord, then, that He keeps you.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 151-2)

 

The idea of enlightenment is characteristic of the NT in relation to God’s message to man (cf. Also 10:32 in the other apostasy passage).  Especially is this true of John’s Gospel in which Jesus claims to be the light of the world (8:12; cf. 1:9).  Another parallel is 2 Cor 4:4, where the world is said to be blinded by the god of this world so as not to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”  Wherever the light has shone in individual minds there has come some understanding of the glory of Christ.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 141)

 

The writer to the Hebrews says that when we fall away we make a mocking show of Christ.  How is that?  When we sin the world will say:  “So that is all that Christianity is worth.  So that is all this Christ can do.  So that is all the Cross achieved.”  It is bad enough that when a Church member falls into sin he brings shame to himself and discredit on his Church; but what is worse is that he draws men’s taunts and jeers on Christ.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 59)

 

The energy, hidden and inward, of the Holy Spirit is the true dynamic of spiritual growth:  where evidence of Christian development and progress to maturity is lacking it must be doubted whether there has been a genuine experience of the Holy Spirit’s activity.  Hence the extremely solemn character of the warning which is about to be offered (vv. 4-8).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 194)

 

A vaccination immunizes by giving a very mild case of the disease.  A person who is exposed to the gospel can get just enough of it to immunize him against the real thing.  The longer he continues to resist it, whether graciously or violently, the more he becomes immune to it.  His spiritual system becomes more and more unresponsive and insensitive.  His only hope is to reject what he is holding onto and receive Christ without delay–lest he become so hard, often without knowing it, that his opportunity is forever gone.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 147)

 

If one has experienced all that has described the believer in the above phrases and then turns his back on such a Savior, how under any circumstances can he crawl back?  Is this a psychological impossibility or a spiritual impossibility?  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 135)

 

Believers and those who have fallen into unbelief receive continual blessings.  If the heart of man is evil, all the blessings of God do not make him prosper spiritually.  Instead, God’s blessings, when they are rejected by an unbelieving heart, eventually are turned into a curse.  And the unbeliever stands condemned.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 165)

 

It is precarious to argue that the personal Holy Spirit is not intended here, but rather his gifts or operations, on the sole ground that the definite article is lacking in the Greek.  The presence or absence of the article is not in itself sufficient to decide whether the Giver or his gifts are in question.  Whether it is possible for one who has been in any real sense a partaker of the Holy Spirit to commit apostasy has been questioned, but our author has no doubt that it is possible in this way to “outrage the Spirit of grace” (10:29).  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 146)

 

If the incompleteness of these actions is stressed, however, Heb 6:4-6 does not negate the possibility of the fallen reversing course in the future (i.e., “as long as they are crucifying the Son of God and subjecting him to public disgrace”).  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 220)

 

The use of negative examples points to an element with which our modern church cultures seem uneasy–fear.  As Charles Colson points out, “Fear of the Lord would not rank particularly high on the list of modern church growth strategies.”  Yet, as Colson notes, a healthy fear proved integral to the expansion of the church.

We can feel that awe pulsating through the pages of Acts.  The sense of worship and reverence, the conviction that Christ had risen and would return, the vibrant, absolute joy of their faith.  It was a faith based on a series of heart-stopping paradoxes:  God become man.  Life out of death.  And intimate glorious worship of the Lord they loved with holy fear.

So filled were they with this awe that they could face a hostile world with holy abandon.  Nothing else mattered, not even their lives.

For the church in the West to come alive, it needs to resolve its identity crisis, to stand on truth, to renew its vision. . . and, more than anything else, it needs to recover the fear of the Lord.  Only that will give us the holy abandon that will cause us to be the church no matter what the culture around us says or does.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning. . .  (Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The Body, 383-4)  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 234)

 

IV-  Your consistent, persistent commitment to build the Kingdom of God in your life and the lives of other believers is evidence and assurance of your salvation. (Heb 6:9-11; see also: Isa 32:17; Mt 7:16-29; 13:1-28; 25:26-40; Jn 15:1-17; Eph 2:4-10; Col 2:2; Phil 1:6; 1 Thess 1:4-5; 1 Tm 3:13; Jam 2:14; 1 Jn 2:9; 3:14, 19; 4:18-21)

 

The works show our love for God; however, works of service to God often go unheralded and unnoticed in this life.  We can become discouraged, wondering why we work so hard for so little response or so little thanks.  Yet God has not forgotten us.  He never overlooks or forgets our hard work for him, done out of love.  Believers must continue to do good wholeheartedly, for God remembers our efforts.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 82)

 

When we allow rights to trump duty we are displaying the maturity of an adolescent.”  (Ken Meyers; Mars Hill Audio Vol 115 – interview with Thomas Berger)

 

Your willingness to set aside your own desires, wishes and rights for the sake of others gives great evidence of your spiritual maturity and should be a great source of comfort, security and assurance that you are truly “IN CHRIST.”  —Pastor Keith

 

Only a saved person can display this kind of love, and that fact makes it an evidence of salvation, i.e., “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14).  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 136-7)

 

Sometimes in the Christian life we come to times which are arid; the Church services have nothing to say to us, the teaching that we do in Sunday school or the singing that we do in the choir or the service we give on a committee becomes a labor without joy.  At such a time there are two alternatives.  We can give up our worship and our service, but if we do, we are lost.  Or we can go determinedly on with them, and the strange thing is that the light and the romance and the joy will in time come back again.  In the arid times, the best thing to do is to go on with the habits of the Christian life and of the Church.  If we do, we can be sure that the sun will shine again.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 60-1)

 

The point here, however, is that deeds of kindness done to the people of God are reckoned by God as done to himself, and will surely receive their reward from him.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 151)

 

The writer cannot conceive that God could overlook work and love which in his opinion have proceeded from grace.  This combination between your work and the love which you showed is important, for the work is expressed in terms of love and is not to be regarded as independent of it.  It is taken for granted that those who show love by serving the saints are exhibiting the results of the “better things.”  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 148)

 

When Jesus recommissioned Peter, He did not ask him if he loved men and, if so, then to go out and serve them.  He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?”  After each of Peter’s affirmative replies, Jesus commanded him to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-17).  Our service to Jesus Christ must be based on an overriding love for Him.  We can never properly love men, saved or unsaved, lovable or unlovable, until we properly love Christ.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 155)

 

An unproductive Christian life falls under God’s condemnation.  You have been watered by God’s grace with clear and abundant teaching and preaching.  What excuse do you have for a useless or unproductive life?  Don’t be a Christian in name only.  Make sure your life bears fruit.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 81)

 

Heb 10:25 instructs us not to neglect the assembly of the saints.  Instead, we are to gather and encourage one another more and more as we await Jesus’ return.  The public assembly is meant for the edification, the building up, the growth of the Christian.  Neglecting to participate in the corporate life of the church or failing to actively serve and be served is a sure-fire way to limit our growth.  Eph 4:11-16 offers a pretty strong argument that participation in the body of Christ is the main way in which Christ strengthens and matures us.  When we serve others in the church, bear with one another, love one another, correct one another, and encourage one another, we participate in a kind of “spiritual maturity co-op” where our stores and supplies are multiplied.  The end result is growth and discipleship.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 91)

 

The readers demonstrated their love for their neighbors when troubles and hardship were evident, and they continued to show unselfish love.  This love is the fruit of a regenerated heart that is always ready to serve God’s people.  Their lives exemplify the field that brings forth a crop useful for God’s people, in marked contrast to the author’s picture of a field overgrown with thorns and thistles.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 166)

 

The NT often speaks of God’s judgment in relation to one’s works (e.g., Rom 2:6-7; 1 Cor 3:13-15), and a right relationship with God expresses itself in substantive ministry to the saints (e.g., Jam 2:15-16; 1 Jn 3:16-20).  Thus the author’s description of his hearers points to a genuineness of personal relationship to God.  God, as just, remembers their work and love and affirms their relationship to him.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 222)

 

Worship Point:  True discipline is love (Prv 3:11-12; Heb 12:5-6).  Worship the God Who knows human nature well enough to warn against laziness, ignorance, and lack of self-discipline because God knows that if we yield to those inclinations it could be the end of our salvation, confidence and hope.  (Heb 6:11)

 

Gospel Application: When we grab ahold of God’s promises and hang onto God’s revelation of Jesus as our High Priest, we will not fall away and our hope will be sure.  (Heb 6:11)

 

If we claim a promise half-heartedly or without much desire, or with no determination to persevere in the battle and in prayer, or not be willing to wait on the Lord we are limited, and we limit Him.  BUT, if we keep our eyes on Jesus, persistently refusing to see anything except the promise, taking all our doubting, fearful thoughts “captive” by refusing to believe them or think on them our faith will become strong and increase.  (Sharon Titus, “Spiritual Warfare 101″ study)

 

Someone said “Claiming God’s promises is the heart of our prayer life.  We simply take back to God His Word (promise)–what He said He would do.”  In other words, we don’t have to try to twist His arm and persuade Him to do something He’s not inclined to do.  We don’t have to feel like God probably doesn’t want to do “this or that” for me, but I will ask Him anyway.  GOD SAYS HIS PROMISES ARE YEA AND AMEN!  It brings great joy to His heart when His children come to Him and say “Please fulfill this promise in my life” and then persist and persevere in claiming it UNTIL it is fulfilled.  How many times have we wasted a promise and not seen it fulfilled because our faith wavers or we become apathetic in our prayer life.  (Sharon Titus, “Spiritual Warfare 101″ study)

 

Holy Scripture tells us that our progress in discipleship and spiritual maturity depends on the grace and will of God, not on our self-effort and strength.  This is why the apostle Paul praises God for the growth of Christians (2 Thess 1:3) and prays to God for continued growth (1 Thess 3:11-13; Col 1:10).  We are commanded to grow and to cultivate maturity and godliness (2 Pt 1:5-8; 3:18, for example), but all of our efforts are exercised in dependence upon God and with faith in him for the growth we seek.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 87-8)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Pick someone (preferably someone who is dead) and imitate them in their faith, persistence, and practice.  (Heb 6:12; 3 Jn 1:11)

 

Lazy ears lead eventually to lazy faith and hope.  The author had noted a decline in faith and hope setting in among his readers, so he urged immediate steps to counteract it.  One remedy is to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 61-2)

 

So What?:  You do not want to become a spiritual casualty because of laziness, ignorance, or lack of discipline.   Nor do you want to see your brothers or sisters in Christ end up that way.  Look to Jesus, see Jesus, fix your thoughts on Jesus, consider Jesus and encourage others to do the same.  (Heb 2:9; 3:1; 10:24-34; 12:2)

 

Perhaps you should consider how you can teach others.  Can you volunteer for helping in Sunday school?  Are there homebound people to whom you could read Scripture?  Teaching others will help you grow as well.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 72)

 

There is no room for either languid lolling nor individualism that denies the Body (the church) and its interdependent functions.  The world is out there, hurting, blind, ignorant, oppressed, imprisoned, sick alienated, in spiritual darkness, and without God or hope.  Our author exhorts, “Get on with it; grow to your ministry potential; touch that world with the redeeming love of Jesus Christ in every facet of its agonizing need!”  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 132)

 

Just as God yearns for and watches over individuals, so did the author.  The diligence they had shown in loving deeds for each other was to be matched by an equal diligence for strengthening one another’s faith.  Those believers had a ways to go and the way would not be easy.  Good beginnings are not what count, but the right endings.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 61)

 

One will often hear that religious faith is a private matter that does not belong in the public arena. But this analysis does not hold-at least on some important points. Whatever your faith—or even if you have none at all—it is a fact that when millions of people stop believing in God, or when their belief is so attenuated as to be belief in name only, enormous public consequences follow. And when this is accompanied by an aversion to spiritual language by the political and intellectual class, the public consequences are even greater. How could it be otherwise? In modernity, nothing has been more consequential, or more public in its consequences, than large segments of American society privately turning away from God, or considering Him irrelevant, or declaring Him dead. Dostoyevsky reminded us in The Brothers Karamazov that “if God does not exist, everything is permissible.” We are now seeing “everything.” And much of it is not good to get used to.  (William J. Bennett; “Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”; December 7, 1993)

 

We must have public policies that once again make the connection between our deepest beliefs and our legislative agenda. Do we Americans, for example, believe that man is a spiritual being with a potential for individual nobility and moral responsibility?  Or do we believe that his ultimate fate is to be merely a soulless cog in the machine of state? When we teach sex-education courses to teenagers, do we treat them as if they are young animals in heat?  Or do we treat them as children of God?  (William J. Bennett; “Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”; December 7, 1993)

 

Every serious student of American history, familiar with the writings of the founders, knows the civic case for religion.  It provides society with a moral anchor-and nothing else has yet been found to substitute for it.  Religion tames our baser appetites, passions, and impulses.  And it helps us to thoughtfully sort through the ordo amoris, the order of the loves.  But remember, too, that for those who believe, it is a mistake to treat religion merely as a useful means to worldly ends.  Religion rightly demands that we take seriously not only the commandments of the faith, but that we also take seriously the object of the faith.  Those who believe know that although we are pilgrims and sojourners and wanderers in this earthly kingdom, ultimately we are citizens of the City of God—a City which man did not build and cannot destroy, a City where there is no sadness, where the sorrows of the world find no haven, and where there is peace the world cannot give.  (William J. Bennett; “Getting Used to Decadence: The Spirit of Democracy in Modern America”; December 7, 1993)

 

JESUS:

MODEL OF MATURITY

 

 

Leave a Reply