Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“LET US GO ON,” is the opening exhortation of our chapter. Movement in the right direction is to mark us. We are to leave “the word of the beginning of Christ,” (ch. 6:1) as the marginal reading is, and go on unto “perfection.” If we glance back over the last four verses of chapter 5, we shall see that the point here is that we ought to grow in our understanding of the faith of Christ. We ought not to be like children staying year after year in the kindergarten, but advance until we assimilate the instruction provided for the scholars in the sixth form.
John the Baptist had brought “the word of the beginning of Christ” (ch. 6:1). He laid “the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” He put baptism in the forefront of His preaching, and spoke plainly as to eternal judgment. But things had moved on since his day. Great light shone when Jesus came forth in His ministry; and then, just as His earthly service closed, in His discourse in the upper chamber He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. He told His disciples that He had “yet many things to say” (John 16:1212I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (John 16:12)) unto them, but that they could not bear them then. He added, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:1313Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:13)). By the time the Epistle to the Hebrews was written ALL truth had been revealed, for it was given to Paul by his ministry to “fulfill the Word of God.” (Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25)). To “fulfill” in that verse means to “fill out full,” or to “complete.”
The whole circle of revealed truth then had been completed. Yet here were these Hebrews still inclined to dwell in their minds amongst these preliminary things, quite ignoring the fuller light which was now shining. Are we at all like them in this? In their case it is not difficult to see where the trouble lay. The special place of privilege, which belonged to the Jew nationally under the Old Covenant, had disappeared under the New. True, it only disappeared because a higher order of blessing had been introduced, so that, when converted, both Jew and Gentile are brought into privileges quite unknown before. Yet their hearts clung to the old and exclusive national position, and consequently they became dull of hearing as regards the fuller truth of Christianity. In our case we have no national position to maintain, but there is many a thing which we naturally love and cling to, which is dispossessed by the light of full and proper Christianity; and there is very real danger that we may close our eyes against that light in order to retain the things we love.
Oh, then may we heed this exhortation! May we allow it to repeat itself over and over again in our hearts—Let us go on! Let us go on! LET US GO ON! And then let us join the writer of the Epistle in saying, “This will we do, if God permit” (ch. 6:3).
After this very encouraging word in verse 3, we drop abruptly into a very dark passage extending from verse 4 to verse 8. Though the transition is very abrupt it is not without very good reason. If Christians do not go on they invariably go back; and if it almost seems as though they will not go on, grave fears are aroused lest their unwillingness springs from the unreality of their profession; in which case their going back might proceed to the length of open apostasy. In the case of a Jew it would do so without fail.
It is apostasy that is contemplated in these verses, not just ordinary back-sliding—not the true believer growing cold and falling into sin; not persons, who have once professed conversion without reality, dropping their false profession and going back into the world—but that total falling away from, and repudiation of Christianity root and branch, which is APOSTASY.
No true child of God ever apostatizes, though not a few professors of the Christian religion have done so. If an Hebrew threw up his Christian profession and wished to get reinstated in the synagogue and amongst his own people, what would happen? He would find that as the price of readmission he would have to call down a curse upon Jesus as an impostor. He would have in effect to crucify to himself “the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (ch. 6:6). Now to go to such lengths as that is to bring oneself under the governmental judgment of God, just as Pharaoh did in the days of old when God hardened his heart, so that it is impossible to be renewed unto repentance.
In verses 4 and 5 it is contemplated that those liable to fall away may have shared in privileges common to believers in those times, and that in no less than five ways. We may well ask if it is possible for anyone to share in this way without being truly converted; and this question may well be especially urgent as regards the third of the five. Can it be possible to be a “partaker of the Holy Ghost” (ch. 6:4) without being born again?
The answer to that question is, that it is quite possible. Only a true believer can be indwell by the Holy Spirit, but all within the circle of Christian profession, whether truly converted or not, partake or share in the benefits of the presence of the Spirit. A man may be enlightened without being saved. He may taste the heavenly gift without receiving it. He may taste the good word of God without digesting it in his inward parts. He may share in “the powers of the world to come.” (i.e. miraculous powers) without experiencing the real power of the world to come.
The terrible case of Judas Iscariot furnishes us with an illustration of this very thing. He walked for over three years in the company of the Son of God. What floods of light fell upon his path! What tastes he had of the heavenly gift and of the good Word of God! It could not be said of course that he was a partaker of the Holy Ghost, but he was a partaker of the benefits of the presence of Christ upon earth; and he shared, in common with the other apostles, in those miraculous powers which are here called “the powers of the world to come.” He was one of the twelve to whom the Lord gave power over unclean spirits, and of whom it is said, “They cast out many devils and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:1313And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. (Mark 6:13)). Yet the miracle-working Judas was all the while a “son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:33Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)) and not a saved man at all. He fell away and it proved impossible to renew him unto repentance.
You will notice that the word here, is “impossible” and not “improbable.” This one word is quite sufficient to show that there is no support in this scripture for the idea of a true believer falling away and being lost forever. ALL those who “fall away” in the sense spoken of in this passage are forever lost. It is not that they may be, but that they must be; and there would not be a single ray of hope for any back-slider, did it refer to such.
It refers then to the sin of apostasy—a sin to which the Jew, who embraced the Christian religion without being really converted, was peculiarly liable. By turning back to his ancient and worn out religion, thereby utterly condemning and disowning the Lord Jesus, he proved himself to be utterly bad and worthless ground. The contrast in verses 7 and 8 is not, you notice, between ground which this season is fruitful and the same ground which another season is unfruitful, but between ground which is essentially good and another piece which is essentially bad. The very form of this illustration supports the explanation just given of verses 4 to 6. Judas enjoyed “the rain that cometh oft,” (ch. 6:7) yet he only brought forth thorns and briars and was rejected.
In verse 9 the writer hastens to assure the Hebrews, to whom he wrote, that in saying these things he was not throwing doubt upon the reality of all them, nor even upon the most of them. The opposite to this was the fact. He stood in doubt of a minority evidently, but he was assured of the reality of the mass. He discerned in them features which gave him this assurance. He calls them “things which accompany salvation.”
There are then certain things which act as a kind of hallmark upon our Christianity. The hallmark upon a silver article does not make it silver, but it gives us an official guarantee that it is silver. It assures us of its genuineness. What then are these things which assure us of the genuineness of Christians—things which so definitely accompany salvation that if they be present we know that salvation also is present? This question is answered in verse 10. And the answer is—they are many little acts which reveal genuine love for the saints.
Some of us may feel inclined to exclaim—“How extraordinary! I should have thought that great acts of faith, great exploits of devotion to God would better have revealed reality than that.” In so saying, or thinking we should be wrong. Under stress of emotion or sudden enthusiasm great acts are sometimes accomplished which are no true index to the heart. It is in these little things that we reveal our true selves far more truly. Ministering to the saints, who are the people of God, they showed their love toward God Himself.
It is one thing to minister to a saint because I happen to like him or her, and quite another to minister to a saint just as a saint; and it is this latter which is spoken about here. The former is a thing which might be done by an unconverted person; the latter is only possible to one who possesses the divine nature. Now this is just the point here. The things that accompany salvation are the things which manifest the divine nature; and things which therefore prove the reality of faith, in a way that the possession of miraculous powers or the outward privileges of Christianity never can.
Being thus assured of the salvation of the mass of those to whom he wrote, there is but one word of exhortation at this point. The writer urges them to go on doing as they had done-to continue diligently in this good way to the end, in the full assurance that their hope was not misplaced.
Hope has a very large place in connection with the faith of Christ, just as it had in the bygone dispensation. Then, whether patriarchs or prophets or just the people of God, they all had their eyes directed forward to the good things to come at the advent of the Messiah. Now the good things have been manifested in Christ-full atonement has been made, our consciences have been purged, we have received the gift of the Spirit. Yet even so we are not in the full enjoyment of the good things. For that we await the second coming of the Lord. What we actually have at the present moment we have in faith, and we enjoy by the power of the Spirit, for He is the Earnest of all we shall inherit. We are saved, in hope of all that is to come.
It is very important for us to be clear as to this, and even more important it was for these converted Hebrews to be clear as to it. How often did they get reproached by their unconverted relations! How often taunted with their folly in giving up all the outward glories of the Mosaic system with its temple, its altar, its sacrifices, its priesthood—and for what? For a Master whom they could not see, for He had left them, and for a whole range of things as invisible as He! What fools they appeared to be! But were they really fools?
They were not. And if instructed in that which our chapter says they would be able to give very good reason for what they had done. They would be able to say, “It is really we and not you who are following in the footsteps of our father Abraham. Promises were made to him and you seem to have forgotten them, settling down as though contented with the shadow system of the law, which was given through Moses as a provisional thing. We have received Christ, and in Him we have the pledge of the fulfillment of every promise which ever was given, and we have fresh, and even brighter promises besides.”
We need to have a hope which is resting upon a very well established basis if we are to hold it with full assurance. It is this thought which leads to verses 13-18. Abraham stands before us as a great example not only of faith but of hope also. It was when he had offered up Isaac, as recorded in Gen. 22, that the promise of blessing was given, which culminated in “the Seed,” which is Christ, according to Gal. 3:1616Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16). That great promise had behind it not only the authority which always accompanies the bare Word of God, but also the added sanction of His solemn Oath.
How beautiful is this glimpse which we have of God, stooping to consider the feebleness and infirmities which mark even the best of His creatures! Here are Abraham and the later heirs of the promises. How easily their faith may waver! How full of uncertainties is the world in which they find themselves! Then God will condescend to their weakness and reinforce His Word by His Oath, saying, “By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD” (Gen. 22:1616And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: (Genesis 22:16)).
His Word and His Oath. These are two immutable things-things that never change, never shift, never shake. They establish for us the immutability of His counsel. Never, never, NEVER, will He fail in any promise He has given, in anything which He has said that He will do.
And all this, you notice, is valid for us today. Verse 18 makes this very clear. What God was for Abraham He is for us. This is the beauty of these Old Testament unfoldings of God. What He is, He is in all times and places, and to all. The strong consolation flowing from these two immutable things is to be enjoyed by us who have embraced the Christian hope.
The Hebrews are said to have “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope” (ch. 6:18). Why put it thus? Because it would at once carry their minds back to the regulations given concerning the cities of refuge, in Numbers 35.
Those regulations had a typical significance which was exactly fulfilled in the case of the converted Jew. He was just like the manslayer who had fled to the nearest city of refuge.
Had Israel’s national sin, in crucifying their Messiah, been reckoned as murder by God there would have been absolutely no hope. All must have fallen before the avenger of blood. The prayer of Jesus on the cross was however, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:3434Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34)). That was just as if He had said, “Father, account this sin of theirs to be manslaughter and not murder.” God heard that prayer, so there was hope even for those who encompassed His death. Consequently on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached forgiveness for those who would turn in faith to the risen and exalted Jesus. That day the heavenly city of refuge was opened and there fled to it three thousand souls.
Multitudes of course did not believe, and consequently did not flee for safety, and they fell before the avenging Romans when Jerusalem was destroyed. Their unbelieving descendants in a future day have to face the great tribulation, and the judgment of God. But those who have entered the city of refuge have a hope set before them. It is connected with the moment when Jesus shall come in His glory; when He will cease to exercise His priestly functions after the pattern of Aaron and do so after the pattern of Melchizedec. Thus will be fulfilled the type as to the change of the priest (See Num. 35:2525And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. (Numbers 35:25)). When that takes place our hopes will be realized with Him in glory, and on earth it will be the time of jubilee, when every man will go back to his own proper inheritance.
The Christian’s hope is heavenly; therefore it is said to enter into “that within the veil” (ch. 6:19). Within the veil was the holiest of all, typical of the third heaven; that is, the immediate presence of God. That within the veil was the Ark of the Covenant, typical of Christ. Now Christ is entered into the immediate presence of God, and that on our behalf. He is entered as Forerunner and as High Priest. Our hope being centered in Him acts as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Our hope has anchored itself already in the glorified Lord Jesus. We are already anchored to the Person and the place, to whom and to which we are going. It is as though an outgoing Atlantic liner found herself securely attached to New York by an anchor pitched in New York harbor, before ever she had got clear of the English Channel!
The fact that Christ has become our Forerunner guarantees that we who are the after-runners shall reach the place where He is. And as High Priest He ever lives to carry us through. That He should be our Forerunner is amazing grace; for in the East where these customs prevail the forerunner is a person of no consequence who clears the way for the important personage who follows after. Think of the Lord Jesus taking a place like that on our account!
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