Category Archives: HEBREWS 6

The Hebrews are exhorted to go on to perfection.

HEBREWS CHAPTER 6

This chapter is a continuation of the section begun in 5:11, where the writer breaks off from his consideration of the subject of the Melchizedec priesthood of Christ. The section continues until the end of this chapter. This is the third parenthetical and warning passage in the epistle.

In chapter 2:1-4 there was a warning to those amongst the Hebrews who were neglecting to take advantage of the gospel that Christ and the apostles had preached.

In chapter 3:6 to 4:13, there was a warning to those who had professed to believe the gospel, but showed every sign of being like their ancestors who, although having come out of Egypt to travel to the promised land of Canaan, when the good news of the blessings of that land were announced to them, refused to go in. Some of the nation did, however, showing themselves to be true believers.

In this passage we have a similar division. Those of 5:11-14 and 6:9-20 who, although slow to learn, nonetheless truly believed, (see 6:9), and those who were not yet in the good of Christian things.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 6, VERSES 1 TO 8

6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

 

6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ- in 5:12 we find reference to “the first principles of oracles of God”, an expression alluding to the basic doctrines of the Old Testament, which are listed in 6:1-2. The believing Hebrews were urged to progress further than that. Now we have a reference to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, as He built upon Old Testament truth, and, in His words, fulfilled it, Matthew 5:17. He had not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to bring out their full meaning, and as He did so, display a full expression of their teachings in His life. He magnified the law and made it honourable. He gave spiritual insights into the Old Testament as it foreshadowed and prepared the way for Him.

Let us go on unto perfection- a reference to the full truth as set out in New Testament. The Lord Jesus indicated that there were certain truths the disciples could not take in at that point, but after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost He would guide them into all truth, John 16:12,13. There were things that John the Baptist could not tell those who listened to him, and they were reserved to a time after Pentecost. Notice the change of pronoun in John 3:11,12, where, speaking to Nicodemus, (who no doubt had listened to both John the Baptist and Christ preaching), the Lord Jesus referred to the announcement of earthly things which both He and John had made, “We speak that we do know”, and the heavenly things that He alone could tell, “I tell you heavenly things”.

Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works- we now have a list of things which were basic truths as set out in the Old Testament oracles. Whilst these doctrines are good, there are more advanced things, which Christianity brings in. So, for instance, repentance in the Old Testament was a purely negative thing, as men turned from their works, which were sinful, and therefore were deserving of death. Repentance in the New Testament, however, is not only a turning from past sins, but it is also repentance which is prompted by the fact that God has appointed one to judge the world, having marked Him out by raising Him from the dead, Acts 17:30,31.

And of faith toward God- before Christ came, faith was in God, whereas now the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples are applicable, “ye believe in God, believe also in Me”, John 14:1. Now that Christ has come, the truth of the fact that God is the Triune God is prominent, and Christ is to be believed as one who is equal with God.

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms- under the tabernacle system, there were many ritual washings. Every sacrifice had to be washed before it was placed on the altar; the priests were not only washed all over when they were initially brought into the priesthood, but had to wash hands and feet before entering the tabernacle; brass pots that had been used to hold sin-offerings had to be cleansed with water; lepers had to be washed more than once; there were several washings during the Red heifer ceremony of Numbers 19. Thus many outward washings were required, but Christianity introduces the “washing of regeneration”, Titus 3:5, which deals with matters within. The Pharisees criticised the disciples for not engaging in ritual washings, and were rebuked by the Lord, Matthew 15:1-11. It is inward defilement that matters most.

And of laying on of hands- When the priests were consecrated, Moses laid hands on them; the priest laid hands on lepers at their restoration into the life of Israel; every worshipper had to lay his hands upon his offering to identify it as his own, so that the benefits of bringing it might be his. This physical act has now been transformed into an act of faith.

And of resurrection of the dead- the doctrine that the dead would be raised is found in the Old Testament. See Genesis 22:5 (with Hebrews 11:17-19); Exodus 3:6, (connect with Mark 12:26,27); Daniel 12:2; Hosea 13:14; John 11:24, (Martha’s statement of belief in the light of the Old Testament); Acts 26:6-8, (Israel’s Old Testament belief).

The expression is, literally, “resurrection of dead persons”. Through the ministry of the Lord Jesus there is introduced a further concept, that of “the resurrection out from among the dead”, as Mark 9:9,10 reads literally. In that passage the disciples were perplexed as to what was meant. The idea that before Christ reigns some of the dead will be raised was clear to them from Daniel 12:2,3. But that passage spoke of the righteous dead, and those who were left in the graves would be raised at the Great White Throne judgement. What perplexed them was that just one person, the Son of Man, would be raised, without anyone else being involved.

And of eternal judgement- that men who died in sin would be judged was clear from the Old Testament. See Genesis 18:25; Psalm 9:17, 50:6, 75:7, 94:2, Proverbs 15:24, 27:20; Isaiah 33:14; Daniel 12:2; Hebrews 12:23; Jude 7. But it was left to the Lord Jesus to speak of God as the one “who shall destroy both body and soul in hell, (Gehenna, the Lake of Fire), Matthew 10:28; of “outer darkness” and “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth”, Matthew 25:30; of “everlasting fire”, Matthew 25:41; of the unrighteous departing into “everlasting punishment”, Matthew 25:46; of a place “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”, Mark 9:45.

6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

And this will we do, if God permit- the nation was on probation, and in danger of rejection, so they had no reason to presume upon God’s goodness and mercy. The fig tree, (a figure of Israel after the flesh), had been given a time of opportunity, but it was in danger of being cut down as unfruitful, Luke 13:6-9. In Hebrews 12:28 the writer exhorts the Hebrews to “have grace”, which means to take advantage of the grace made available by God, grace in that context meaning the favour He shows them by allowing them to advance in Divine things.

The following words have caused much disquiet to believers, as they wonder whether they come into the category described here, and therefore cannot be eternally secure. It might be helpful to list the main ways in which Hebrews 6:4-6 has been interpreted. The question is: who are these that cannot be renewed to repentance? The following interpretations have been offered:

1. That it refers to true believers who apostatise.

BUT as we shall see in verse 6, the word for “fall away” is not the word for apostatise. In any case, it is not possible for a true believer to lose salvation, as we may see from the following Scriptures:

(a) In John 1:13 believers are described as born of God. They cannot be unborn.

(b) In John 6:39 the Lord Jesus declares that of all that the Father has given Him, He will lose nothing. Those who are given Him are those who believe in Him, verse 37. It is the will of God that the Son should keep all who the Father gives Him; is it possible that the Son of God is not competent enough to do this? Or that He will despise the gift His Father has given Him by losing it?

(c) In John 10:28,29 the Good Shepherd declares that His sheep shall never perish, nor be plucked out of either His hand or His Father’s. If it is possible to divide between the persons of the Godhead, then it possible to separate the sheep from Christ. But the Godhead is one, and cannot be divided. The sheep are safe, and safe for ever.

(d) In John 14:16,17 the Lord assures us that the Spirit of God abides with the believer for ever. Wherever the Spirit is, the believer is. It cannot be, therefore, that a true believer could be found in hell.

(e) In Romans 8:30 the apostle assures us that those who are justified by faith are, as far as the purpose of God is concerned, already glorified. That glory being connected with the purpose of God to surround His Son with those that are like Him. That purpose cannot be frustrated.

(f) Ephesians 2:5,6 makes clear that every true believer is associated with the resurrection, ascension and present session of Christ at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. If it is possible to unseat Christ from that position, it is possible to unseat the believer.

(g) Philippians 1:6 states that “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. The security of the believer rests with God. It is, therefore, in safe hands.

(h) 1 John 1:7 assures us that as far as true believers are concerned, “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”.

2. That it refers to true believers who backslide.

BUT, (a) the prodigal (who was a son when he left his father’s house), repented and returned, Luke 15:21. (b) John Mark, who wrote the Gospel according to Mark, had a lapse in his service for the Lord, Acts 13:13; 15:37-39, yet was recovered, and was described by the apostle Paul as “profitable to me for the ministry”, 2 Timothy 4:11.

3. That it refers to those who heard Christ and refused Him initially.

BUT, although it is true that God caused the nation of Israel to be judicially blinded when it rejected His Son, Romans 11:7-10, the gospel was still preached to that nation after Christ had returned to heaven. The word of Christ to His apostles was very clear, that the gospel was to be preached “beginning from Jerusalem”, Luke 24:47. The judicial blinding of Israel was not total, so that none could believe, but “in part”, Romans 11:25, so that individuals from the nation could still come to Christ. James is a classic example of one who had a close encounter with Christ, having lived in the same house for many years, but who did not believe until after the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

4. That it refers to those who believed on Christ as a miracle worker, to whom He did not commit Himself, John 2:23,24.

BUT Nicodemus came out into the open and buried Christ, even though he was most probably amongst those who at first only believed in Christ as a miracle worker, to whom the Lord Jesus did not commit Himself, John 2:23-25. By coming out into open loyalty to the crucified Christ, he shows he had come to faith in a crucified Saviour.

5. That it refers to those who sank so low as to agree with Christ’s crucifixion.

BUT as we have seen, the word of Christ was, “beginning at Jerusalem”. In accordance with this the apostle Peter stood up in Jerusalem, and declared that although they had by wicked hands crucified and slain Him, they could save themselves from the wicked generation that had Christ’s blood on their hands, Acts 2:40.

6. That it refers to a hypothetical situation, where the writer uses the expression, “if they shall fall away” to imply that, if true believers apostatise, then God is put in an impossible position.

BUT the word for “fall away”, as we have noted, is not the word for apostasy. If refers to stumbling in the way. It is not true that it is not possible to restore those who have stumbled in some way. Nor is it true that those who stumble in this way crucify the Son of God afresh when they try to return to God and His ways. In any case, what connection is there between an encouragement to go on to perfection, and the statement that true believers cannot be renewed to repentance?

So these six options, for one reason or another, are not valid. In deciding who these people are we should note three things about them:

(a) If they were brought to repentance it would be for the second time, for they would be renewed again unto repentance, verse 6.

(b) By falling away, they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, verse 6. The nation of Israel had already crucified for itself the Son of God. If these people fall away, they will crucify Him again in the sense that they will then be siding with the verdict of the nation of Israel, and that crucifixion will now be intensely personal, for they will do it for themselves.

(c) They are said to fall away. As we have said, this is not the word for apostasy. It is only used here in its verbal form, but it is used elsewhere in a noun form. Some of the references are as follows: “who was delivered for our offences, Romans 4:25; “the forgiveness of sins“, Ephesians 1:7; “dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. So the word is used of the general sins of men, telling us it is not apostasy. It is also used in Romans 11:11, a very relevant passage. The apostle asks the question about the nation of Israel, “Have they stumbled that they should fall”. His answer is very decided, “God forbid”. Then he goes on to write, “but rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles”. This seems to be contradictory, until we realise that two words for fall are used here. Israel has not stumbled at Christ so as to utterly fall and be totally cast off by God. But it is true that they have fallen in a limited sense. Now this latter word for fall, is the same as “fall away” in Hebrews 6:6. The nation was reaching a critical moment. Soon the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed, (for they had no continuing city on earth, Hebrews 13:14), and with it, the nation. The epistle to the Hebrews comes to them from God at this moment of crisis, and constitutes Christ’s last appeal to them. Those who had hesitated about accepting Him must decide, and decide quickly, or else their future will be bound up in a judged nation.

Summarising then, we can say these people have repented once, have not yet sided with the nation in crucifying Christ, and are in danger of making the decision to fall away from Him finally. The only people in Israel who fit this description are the disciples of John the Baptist. As we examine the statements in verses 4 and 5, we shall see this to be the case.

6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

For it is impossible- having spoken of a situation that God would count permissible, we now learn of a situation where God would find it impossible to do something. The reason it is impossible is because Christianity is the final word of God to man. What further revelation could there possibly be after His Son had manifested Him to perfection? Isaiah pictured the nation of Israel as a vineyard to which God had done everything possible. Despite this, they brought forth wild grapes. In the light of this Isaiah records God’s question, “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” Isaiah 5:4. Likewise in Christ’s day,  the nation had been blessed by the presence of the Son of God; what higher blessing could there be? There is nothing God can say to them beyond what His Son has already said.

For those who were once enlightened- the Lord Jesus said of John, that “he was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light”, John 5:35. They had welcomed the gospel of an imminent kingdom, the defeat of their enemies, and the bringing in of a glorious era of peace and prosperity for them. (See, for instance, the words of John’s father in Luke 1:67-75). They were only too ready to bask in this light. But when Christ came as the meek and mild one, who advocated that if your enemy struck you on the cheek, you should turn the other one towards him, so that he could strike that one also, they began to have second thoughts. Even John the Baptist began to wonder whether Jesus was really the true Messiah, Luke 7:20.

And have tasted of the heavenly gift- to taste means to experience. Job said, “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat”, Job 34:3, so as the disciples of John listened to him preach, they were experiencing something that had come from God in heaven as a gift. John himself had said, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven”, John 3:27. That passage goes on to describe the Son of God having everything given into His hand. John had limited things, Christ all things.

And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost- John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God before he was born, Luke 1:15. This was no doubt to fit him for his unique task of heralding the arrival of Christ. It was necessary that the workings of the flesh in him should be subdued from the first, so that he could be a suitable messenger of the King. So it was that as John’s disciples followed him, they were companions of a man filled with the Spirit, and in that sense were partakers, or companions, of the Holy Spirit. This placed a heavy responsibility upon them.

6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

And have tasted the good word of God- again the word “taste” is used, and in connection with two things, the word of God, and the powers of the age to come. The repetition of the word signals a change from thinking of John’s ministry to thinking of Christ’s. John encouraged his followers to leave him and follow Christ, for when he was told that the Lord Jesus was baptising many converts, instead of being sorry, he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3:30. The spoken ministry of the Lord Jesus was very special, being God speaking by His Son, as Hebrews 1:2 has already explained. He said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin”, John 15:22. So to experience the word of God from the lips of one who is God, is an unparalleled privilege, and to despise it, an unparalleled sin.

And the powers of the world to come- this is the other thing tasted or experienced. Not only did Christ speak unique words, He did unique things, for He said, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father”, John 15:24. The miracles of Christ were on a different level to those performed by Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. He spoke of what the Father was doing, and then said, “for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”, John 5:19. This means that His miracles were done in identically the same way as the Father. It was not a question of powers being imparted to a man, but inherent powers in the Son of God being manifested. This makes His miracles special, and justifies His statement, already quoted, that they were works “that none other man did”, John 15:24. Others had done miracles of the same sort, but not in an identical manner to the way the Son did.

We have already noticed in connection with Hebrews 2:5 that there are three words for world in the New Testament. The one used here is “age”, with emphasis on that period of time when Christ will reign here upon the earth. The powers of the age to come are the miracles the Lord Jesus performed during His ministry. These miracles had several purposes:

(i) They were an expression of His compassion and care.

(ii) They were a demonstration of His power.

(iii) They showed that He and His Father acted completely in harmony, John 5:17. He said that it was the Father who did the works, John 14:10.

(iv) They supported and illustrated the doctrines He unfolded, so that the teaching was both visual and vocal, John 14:11.

(v) They were an incentive for men to believe on Him, John 14:11.

(vi) They destroyed the works of the Devil, 1 John 3:8.

(vii) They were a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, Isaiah 35:5,6.

(viii) They were the sign that He was able to bring in kingdom conditions, Matthew 12:28.

It is the last purpose that is in view in this passage, for the power that will be needed to bring in the kingdom was clearly resident in Christ, as a reading of Matthew chapters 8 and 9 will show. He could remedy disease, danger, death, and could also deal with the demon forces of evil. Notice that these last two matters mentioned in verse 5, the word and the works, are the two things Christ responded with when the messengers from John the Baptist came, in Luke 7:2. He spoke of His miracles, and then of the preaching of the gospel to the poor. Then He said, “Blessed is he that is not offended in Me”. This is very relevant here, for those in view in this passage were, like John the Baptist, offended or stumbled by the difference between their Messianic aspirations and His character and works.

6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.

 If they shall fall away- as we have seen, this is not the regular word for apostasy. It is the word used by Paul as he described the response of Israel to Christ. Having been brought up to the heights of His teaching, they fell away from it because of unbelief.

To renew them again unto repentance- John’s disciples were in the unique position of having repented once, and yet needed to repent again. When the apostle Paul came across some of these disciples in Ephesus, they confessed that they had not heard of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was not that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, for John had spoken of Him. What they were ignorant of was the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. This meant that they were not fully aware of the truth of Christianity. Paul explained that the ministry of John was preparatory, for “John verily baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after Him, that is on Christ Jesus”, Acts 19:4. This is a very significant use of the title Christ Jesus, for it is one reserved for the Lord Jesus after He had returned to heaven; John the Baptist would certainly never have used it. The apostle is clearly rapidly bringing these men up to date. Their immediate response was to be baptised, not in the name of Christ Jesus, (which tells of His position in heaven), but in the name of the Lord Jesus, verse 5, (which tells of His authority). They are now in the good of Christian things, and by being baptised again, this time in recognition of the Lordship of Christ, they show they have repented of their failure to come onto proper Christian ground.

Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame- by deliberately turning from the full light of Christianity, they would take sides with their nation, who had crucified Christ. By so doing they would crucify Him afresh, this time to themselves personally. This was a very grave sin, and one for which there can be no remedy as long as it is persisted in. The writer adds, “put Him to an open shame”, to emphasise that this was no minor matter, but that the public disgrace of crucifixion was involved here. Was this really what they wanted Jesus of Nazareth to experience? Would John the Baptist, a man filled with the Spirit of God, have done this? Then why should his disciples?

The Jews had initially condemned Christ for claiming that He was the Son of God, Matthew 26:63-66; the secondary charge of claiming to be a king was only brought when they saw that Pilate the Governor was not interested in matters such as whether He was the Son of God, John 19:28-32.

6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

The writer now symbolises the two classes of people he has been addressing since 5:11. Those who were genuine believers, but immature, and those who were disciples of John the Baptist, and had failed, as yet, to give their allegiance to Christ. The former company is pictured here as earth or soil that takes advantage of what comes from heaven, and responds with things that the husbandman appreciates, and which he decides are suitable, or meet. Such persons are approved of by God, and receive His blessing. The writer will quote God’s promise of blessing to Abraham in verse 14.

We have noted the progression in the warning passages in the epistle. In chapter 2 the lesson is from Sinai; in chapters 3 and 4 from the march through the wilderness to the borders of the land; and now we are, so to speak, in the land, with two responses to the goodness of God as expressed by the rain. Moses said “My doctrine shall drop as the rain…because I will publish the name of the Lord”, Deuteronomy 32:2,3. And Isaiah wrote that God said, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”, Isaiah 55:10,11.

6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected- it might seem strange to use this illustration in relation to John’s disciples, until we remember that as far as their aspirations were concerned, they were in the kingdom. Had not both John the Baptist and Christ preached that the kingdom of heaven had drawn nigh? They had believed on that basis, and one of the reasons they did not give Christ their whole allegiance was that He did not seem to bring in the kingdom. Like the five foolish virgins of the parable, Matthew 25:1-13, they had gone forth to meet the bridegroom, in readiness to go the kingdom feast. Their lamps were burning simply and only with nationalistic fervour, and not the Spirit of God. This is why the wise virgins told them to go to those that sell oil, for their oil was available, at a price, from men, whereas the oil of the Spirit is a gift from God.

So it is that they, having received the same “rain” as believers had, instead of bringing forth herbs, beneficial and healthy, they brought forth thorns and briers, the sign of a cursed earth. Now when Christ reigns, the curse will be removed from the earth, (except from the serpent, Isaiah 65:25), so thorns and briers will be no longer. These people are introducing the sign of the curse into the place from which the curse will have been removed. Moreover, the thorns were used by men to put Christ to an open shame, for they mocked His claims to kingship by giving Him a wooden throne, (a cross); a wooden sceptre, (a reed); and a wooden crown, (of thorns).

And is nigh unto cursing- having produced the fruits of the curse, it is no surprise that they were in danger of the curse of God themselves, in contrast to the blessing others received. In the mercy of God that curse, which involves the rejection of them along with the rest of the unbelieving nation of Israel in AD 70, was only nigh- it had not yet been pronounced. But it was nigh, and they should not presume upon the patience of God, especially as the epistle was probably written around AD 68, just two years before the destruction of Jerusalem, which signalled the casting off of the nation.

Whose end is to be burned- such is the  end of thorns and briers, which, not being fit or useful to the landowner, are simply burned up out of the way.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 6, VERSES 9 TO 20

6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself,

6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

 

The remaining part of the chapter may be divided as follows:

Verses 9-10 Past and present faith and practice.

Verses 11-20 Future faith and patience.

Verses 9-10       Past and present faith and practice.

6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

But, beloved- this is the only place in the epistle where these words occur, and they serve to reassure his believing readers that he means no ill towards them.

We are persuaded better things of you- the better things are like the herbs the husbandman is looking for. Since they had suffered the spoiling of their goods, and also that in Old Testament times poverty was a sign of unfaithfulness to God, they might become depressed. John the Baptist had been depressed when he was cast into prison and Christ did not rescue him, even though He came to “preach deliverance to the captives”, Luke 4:18. Christians walk by faith, not by sight, so external deliverances are not so important as spiritual progress. “Tribulation worketh patience”, Romans 5:3, so it is part of God’s education programme for us, building Christ-likeness into our souls.

And things that accompany salvation- what they are comes out in the passage, such as their work and labour of love done with diligence. This shows that those referred to in the previous verses were not true believers. Those who bring forth thorns and briers are not saved.

Though we thus speak- by speaking of one particular class of people in severe terms, the writer does not mean to include everyone in the condemnation. It is in the best spiritual interests of unbelievers that the truth of God’s word is brought to bear on them.

6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love- because God has graciously undertaken to reward work and labour done for Him, it is a matter of righteousness for God to take account of that which He has promised to recompense. To forget rather than remember in the day of assessment would be an unrighteous thing, for it would make Him unfaithful to His promise, and this He cannot be. The work is the thing done, the labour is the toil to the point of weariness that the work involved.

Which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister- the word for show means to show forth or prove. Their works were proof of their love of His name, which in turn showed that they were true believers. Abraham showed the reality of His faith by doing the work God required him to do, even though this meant offering up his son. James said that this act perfected his faith, for its reached its highest development then, James 2:21-23. These showed their love for the name of God by ministering to the saints in the past, and continuing to do so in the present. One major way in which love to God is expressed is by love to fellow-believers. As the apostle John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous”, 1 John 5:1-3. So those who have the life of God the Father, and as such are in His family, will also love the rest of the family. And they know that their love for the family is of the right sort, if it is the same love that they have for God. And how do they know that their love for God is true? By asking themselves whether they keep His commandments, for only those who have the life of God can do this.

Verses 11-20 Future faith and patience.

6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence- the writer expresses a desire on the behalf of the saints they ministered to, (those referred to in verse 10, hence the “we”, as the writer unites with them in thankfulness for the Hebrews’ labours), that their diligence might continue, and that all of them might be involved in it. Not that the saints were asking for a continuance of the help. But, rather, that the reward for work done by them might be the greater, to God’s glory. This is the same attitude as is shown by the apostle Paul as he wrote to the Philippians to thank them for their gifts, “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account”, Philippians 4:17. In the economy of God, a gift given to another, results in reward credited to the giver’s account, to be paid back in eternity.

To the full assurance of hope unto the end- this diligence would carry its own reward even now, for it would result in their souls being assured of the reality of their faith, and this in turn would give them great reason to hope in God for the future. The apostle John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him”, 1 John 3:18,19.

6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

That ye be not slothful- this is the opposite of the diligence of verse 11. It is the same as is translated “dull”, meaning sluggish, in 5:11. And herein lies the secret, for they were slothful in hearing the truth, and this resulted in slothfulness in practising the truth. If we do not respond to the word of God, our zeal for Him will lessen.

But followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises- having spoken in verses 9 and 10 of faith and practice, the writer now speaks of faith and promises. As converted Hebrews they would revere the ancient patriarchs, and seek to copy them. The patriarchs were marked by faith, but they coupled it with patience. Because they believed God, they also believed that His timing was best, and therefore waited with patience for the fulfilment of all He had promised. So confident were they of His faithfulness that they were not put off when those promises were not fulfilled quickly. The reason why they were so confident is given in the next verse.

6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself,

For when God made promise to Abraham- the particular promise in mind is the one of Genesis 22:15-18, but the terms of the promise are not in view here, just the principle involved. God had promised blessing to Abraham before. In Genesis 12, verses 1-3, and again in verse 7, it was simply a matter of God speaking and Abraham believing. In Genesis 15:1-6, again the word of God comes to Abraham and he believes it, and this is emphasised in Romans 4:1-5, to show that justification is by faith, and faith alone; faith which rests solely on the truth of the word of God. In Genesis 15:7-21, however, in response to Abraham’s question “How shall I know that I shall inherit it?” God entered into a covenant with him. But because Abraham was asleep when the covenant was made, it was an unconditional covenant, not depending on Abraham for its fulfilment at all. What guaranteed the covenant was the burning lamp that passed between the pieces of the covenant victim, instead of Abraham doing so. So it is that the apostle Paul, referring to this incident in Galatians 3:17, can say that “the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of no effect”. So the burning lamp is a figure of Christ, and it is He who shall bring in the fulfilment of God’s covenant with Abraham. In the instance in view here, however, it is a question of God’s oath. This oath was uttered in Genesis 22:15-18, after Abraham had shown his willingness to offer Isaac on the altar.

Because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself- God was prepared to put Himself under oath to assure Abraham that His promise was sure. But what can God use to guarantee His promise, since there is nothing greater that God? So He sware by all that He is, so that the very nature of God is the pledge that the promise will be fulfilled. If God can disintegrate, so can the promise. Since this is impossible, then the promise is sure.

6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee- because the preceding words, in Genesis 22:16, say that God sware by Himself, then the word “surely” can be used here, for the promise is a sure as God Himself, and He will make sure the word is fulfilled.

6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

And so, after he had patiently endured- it had been many years since God’s original word to Abraham had been heard. Now it can be said of him that he has patiently endured, especially since the oath came after he had passed the severe trial of offering up Isaac on the altar.

He obtained the promise- as one who had patiently endured even that trial, he received confirmation of God’s promise. Of course it is said of Abraham and others in Hebrews 11:13 that they died without having received the promises. But that means they did not receive the fulfilment. The point in chapter 11 is that faith lays hold of unseen things, and to faith they are real and substantial, (see  Hebrews 11:1), even though unfulfilled at the time. Here the point is that God gave the promise and Abraham received it.

6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

For men verily swear by the greater- we learn two things about the oaths men make. Firstly, they support their oath by something greater than themselves. The Lord Jesus forbade His followers from doing this, since a believer’s word should be good enough, Matthew 5;33-37.

And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife- The second thing about men’s oaths is that when they have sworn on oath, there is no strife or dispute about the terms of the arrangement being made.

6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

Wherein God- verse 16 is in parenthesis, to highlight the fact that men accept the assurance of an oath made by a fellow-man, so an oath on the part of God should be even more readily accepted. So the “wherein” refers to verses 13 and 14, which describe God promising on oath to Abraham. It was in that way that He confirmed His promise to Abraham.

Willing- it was not that God was reluctant to confirm His promise, as if He was unsure whether He could fulfil it. Rather, He wished to assure Abraham of the certainty of what He was promising.

More abundantly- He desired to go beyond what was necessary, so that His promise could be shown as certain.

To show unto the heirs of promise- He demonstrated that the promise was valid, by swearing on oath as well.

The immutability of His counsel- the word translated “immutability” was used in the legal circles of the time for the fact that a will was binding, and could not be changed. God is determined, and that should be enough for us when He promises; but He is willing for His determination to be abundantly demonstrated by His confirmatory oath.

6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie- both the promise and the oath were made by God speaking. But God cannot deny Himself, 2 Timothy 2:13, and since He is the God of truth, He can never go against the truth by speaking an untruth, for He cannot lie, Titus 1:2.

We might have a strong consolation- God’s promise gives us consolation; His oath makes the consolation (meaning encouragement), strong. The encouragement is given so that we show the diligence the writer urges us to in verse 11.

Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us- beset by difficulty, and surrounded by those who were in danger of turning away from the faith, the believing Hebrews needed a place of safety, where they could take refuge. The storm of persecution and opposition was raging around them, so they need a safe haven in which to weigh anchor and be secure. In this place of safety they would be able to hold firmly to the hope that God had given them through both promise and oath. It was not that the hope would be stronger when they were in the refuge, but their hold on it would be strengthened. They flee so as to lay hold of the hope held out by the promise, even though they had the promise already. Those who thus flee show the genuineness of their faith.

6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul- the hope God gives by His promise is sure to anchor the soul, for both the promise and the hope are sure, so the hope based on these two things is sure too. It anchors the soul, fixing it immovably in the very character of God.

Both sure and steadfast- the hope is safe and secure, being rooted in God’s sure promise and His steadfast oath.

And which entereth into that within the veil- it is said that it was difficult to enter the harbour of Alexandria, especially during a storm. In such circumstances a boat would be launched from the storm-tossed vessel, which would carry the anchor within the harbour walls, and drop it in the quiet waters there. In this way the hopes of those on board the vessel would be anchored in a peaceful place, even though they themselves were still in the stormy waters outside. Notice that it is the hope that enters into that within the veil, not the believers. Their hold on the anchor chain is sure, through faith, and the anchor itself is sure and steadfast too, so all is secure. Where the veil is will be told us in the next verse.

6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Whither the forerunner is for us entered- The forerunner has carried the anchor into the harbour, so those in the vessel outside have a link with what is within. The harbour is heaven itself, beyond the veil of the stellar heavens, the same thought as in 4:14. What a great encouragement to the Hebrew Christians who had given up earthly prospects, even legitimate Jewish ones. And to think that the forerunner, Christ Himself, has entered in for them, so as to act as their link with heaven.

Even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec- by this expression the writer links back with what he was speaking of in 5:10, and prepares the way for the truth he will unfold in chapter 7. Melchisedek had been unaffected by the wars going on all around him in Genesis 14, and was King of peace in the midst of it all, Hebrews 7:2. So Jesus has gone in to the place of peace, the sanctuary of God, and our link with Him ensures our souls can be at peace too. Especially as we remember he has gone in for us.