Hebrews Chapter Six

by The Doctor

I

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1).

The word “therefore” alerts us to the need to pay attention whenever it appears within the Scriptures. You see, this word signals a transition from a teaching or idea to an associated action or behavior.

As we’ll see over the next few chapters, the author of Hebrews will not permit his readers to use their immaturity as an excuse to avoid discussing some important spiritual topics. Instead, he will press forward even if they are not yet ready to grasp the subjects he is about to address. But first, Hebrews chapter six will serve as a transition into those advanced subjects.

Our author will begin this portion of Scripture with some of the “first principles” referenced earlier in Hebrews 5:12. He will then build upon those subjects on the way to his destination in Hebrews chapter seven. The opening verses of this chapter identify six of those basic teachings…

  • Repentance. This refers to a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior. Repentance involves more than just a feeling of remorse, sorrow, or regret (although it may incorporate those responses). Genuine repentance involves a prayerful decision to turn from inappropriate behaviors, much like a motor vehicle that stops traveling in the wrong direction by making a U-turn.
  • Faith. As we’ll later be told in Hebrews chapter eleven, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV).
  • Baptism. Baptism serves as a public association with Christ and an affirmation of the change that has taken place in the lives of those who have accepted Him as Savior. We’ll consider the various types of baptisms as we progress through this section.
  • Laying on of hands. This action is associated with God’s empowerment to fulfill His call upon our lives.
  • Resurrection of the dead. This reference addresses the future state that awaits the godly and the godless.
  • Eternal judgment. As Jesus told us in John 5:28-29 “…the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment” (NLT).

We’ll begin our consideration of these important topics next.

II

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1 ESV).

Several Biblical translations feature the word “perfection” in their rendering of Hebrews 6:1. The King James Version of this passage offers one such example: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…” Although we often associate “perfection” with the quality of flawlessness, Hebrews 6:1 uses this word to convey a sense of maturation or full development.

Thus, we can say that Hebrews 6:1 describes a growth process- and the author of Hebrews is committed to initiating that process with his readers. The first step in that process involved the spiritual foundation they already possessed. Starting with a good foundation is important, for a foundation only needs to be established once if it is done correctly. (1)

Furthermore, we set a foundation for one reason: to build something upon it. That is exactly what the author of Hebrews will seek to do as we progress through this chapter. Hebrews 6:1 identifies that first foundational element as “repentance from dead works.” As mentioned earlier, repentance involves a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior. Therefore, it should not be surprising to find that repentance holds a prominent place in Jesus’ exhortation from Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The “dead works” referenced here serves to identify those religious beliefs, spiritual rituals, and similar observances that do nothing to make us acceptable before God. While there may be many who feel as if God will accept them on the basis of such things, Jesus identified a different standard in the following passage from the Gospel of Mark…

“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 ESV).

This represents an impossible task for imperfect human beings. Thus, any attempt to relate to God apart from Christ is a “dead work.” As another source explains…

“These works may be religious in nature, but they are ‘dead’ in that they cannot bring spiritual life. Such works may appear virtuous and even sincerely pious, but they are not rooted in faith in Christ or love of God and so are useless in terms of salvation and eternal life. Repenting of one’s own works is foundational to trusting Christ and is thus called an ‘elementary doctrine’ of Christ (Hebrews 6:1).” (2)

(1) See B. W. Johnson, The People’s New Testament [Hebrews 6:1,2]. Public Domain http://www.thebible.net/reference/pnt/PNT19-06.HTM

(2) GotQuestions.org, What is repentance from dead works in Hebrews 6:1? Retrieved 22 April, 2022 from https://www.gotquestions.org/repentance-from-dead-works.html

III

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1 ESV).

The importance of faith toward God is a recurring theme throughout the Scriptures. One Biblical dictionary defines faith as “A belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.”(1) However, the book of Hebrews will later provide us with the best definition of faith…

“Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]” (Hebrews 11:1-3 AMP).
Because of this, we can say that genuine, Biblical faith reflects the assurance that God is who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do. It also involves the confident expectation that God will act in a trustworthy manner to fulfill His promises, even when external appearances seem to suggest otherwise. This type of faith serves as a defining quality of God-honoring life, for as Romans 1:17 tell us, “…’The righteous will live by faith’” (NIV). This makes faith something we possess, as well as a mindset that should characterize anyone who genuinely seeks to follow Christ.

We should also note that there is a difference between faith and blind faith. For instance, blind faith describes a type of faith that has no basis in reality. On the other hand, we can point to a reasonable basis for Biblical faith. For example, we have the opportunity to examine the Scriptures and note the Biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled. We can also find examples of God’s faithfulness in the lives of those Biblical personalities who placed their trust in Him. We will examine several of those examples later in Hebrews chapter eleven.

These things help provide a reasonable basis for faith in the God of the Scriptures. So, real Biblical faith is not blind faith- it involves a belief in a God who has already been proven faithful through the Scriptures and in the lives of those who sincerely follow Him. As we’ll later be told in Hebrews 11:6…

“You can never please God without faith, without depending on him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him” (TLB).

(1) “Faith” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers

IV

“of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:2).

There is some question regarding the exact meaning of the word “baptisms” here in Hebrews 6:2. For instance, the original language of this passage conveys the idea of “washings.” One commentator offers the following clarification regarding the use of this word: “The Greek word translated ‘washings’ is baptismos, which refers to Jewish ceremonial washings whenever it occurs in the New Testament (Mark 7:4, 8; Heb. 9:10). A different Greek word (baptisma) describes Christian baptism.” (1)

If the author of Hebrews had these ceremonial washings in mind, we can say that the need for such things was fulfilled through Jesus’ sacrificial death. As Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:7 ESV).

Thus, we can say that our author is encouraging his readers to move forward from their elementary understanding of these Old Testament rituals and their fulfillment in Christ. To quote the source referenced earlier, “‘Purification by the blood of Christ has accomplished infinitely more than what Levitical washings did under the Old Covenant.’” (2)

On the other hand, it is possible that the author of Hebrews has something more than just these rituals in mind. If we expand this idea to include baptisms as well, then we might consider several other potential applications. For instance, this verse may reference the act of water baptism as recorded in the Gospels and referenced in the New Testament book of Acts (see also 1 Peter 3:21).

Another form of baptism is described in the Biblical book of Romans: “…do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

We also have the baptism of the Holy Spirit as identified by John the Baptist in Luke 3:16: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

So while this passage may be open to interpretation, the basic application remains unchanged: “baptism” is a foundational doctrine that enables us to move forward into spiritual maturity.

(1) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on Hebrews 2022 Edition “2. The needed remedy 6:1-3” [6:2] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm

(2) J. Paul Tanner, “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, 2:1052, quoted in Constable, Thomas. DD., Notes on Hebrews 2022 Edition, [6:2] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm

V

“and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:2 ESV).

The next item on this list of elementary principles from Hebrews 6:2 involves “laying on of hands.” The origin of this practice dates back to the early Old Testament period as a symbolic act of blessing (see Genesis 48:8-20). It also appears as an element of the Old Testament sacrificial law…

“Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:1-4).

This practice was later associated with the act of ordination to a position of authority as recorded in the Biblical book of Numbers…

“And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight” (Numbers 27:18-19).

“Laying on of hands” also has several New Testament associations as well. These include…

Finally, we should also recognize Paul the Apostle’s counsel regarding this practice in the Biblical book of 1 Timothy: “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). We can associate this cautionary message with anyone who may be seeking ordination to a ministerial position.

That ordination process should involve a prayerful and detailed consideration of the candidate in question. If we fail to do so, we might prematurely ordain someone before that person is ready to assume the challenges associated with a ministry position.

So taken as a whole, Hebrews 6:2 tells us that this practice represents an elementary doctrine for a mature man or woman of God.

VI

“teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:2 HCSB).

The next item on the list of elemental truths from Hebrews 6:1-2 involves the resurrection of the dead. This reference to the afterlife is mentioned in several Old Testament passages, including Isaiah 26:19, Job 19:25-27, and Psalm 17:15. Perhaps the clearest Old Testament expression of this doctrine appears in the book of the Biblical prophet Daniel…

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

In the New Testament, we see the resurrection of the dead referenced in John 11:24, Acts 24:15, and Romans 6:8-9. Paul the Apostle also addressed this subject at length in the book of 1 Corinthians…

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?… For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive…

But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body” (1 Corinthians 15:12, 21-22, 35-38).

This analogy illustrates the resurrection of the dead in several ways. For instance…

  • A seed will not reach its final stage of development unless it is buried. Human beings generally conclude their physical lives with a similar burial process.
  • A seed planted in the ground will eventually produce something different from itself. The same is true of the resurrection of the dead: “…you are not planting the body which it will become” (NLV).
  • A plant and a seed are not the same, but there is a correlation between the two. In a similar manner, there is a one-to-one correlation between the physical body that dies and the body that will be resurrected.
  • Two seeds may initially appear similar but later produce different plants. This is true of the resurrected body as well: “…God gives it the new body He wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed” (NLT).

We’ll conclude our review of these “elementary principals of Christ” with a look at the subject of eternal judgment next.

VII

“And we shouldn’t need to keep teaching about baptisms or about the laying on of hands or about people being raised from death and the future judgment” (Hebrews 6:2 CEV).

The Scriptures identify two future judgments that will impact every human being. One has come to be known as the “Great White Throne Judgment” of the unrighteous dead, as described in Revelation 20:11-15…

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

One commentator reaches a difficult conclusion regarding this judgment, but one that is worthy of careful consideration…

“It is sobering to realize that Scripture represents the state of unbelievers after death as a fixed state. There is no second chance (Ecclesiastes 11:3; Luke 16:19-31; John 8:21,24; 2 Peter 2:4,9; Jude 7,13). The Scriptures also reveal that the condemnation of unbelievers is determined by actions done during mortal life (especially the action of rejecting Christ), and that no good deed(s) done during the intermediate state can alter or soften this condemnation in any way.

Once a person has passed through the doorway of death, there are no further opportunities to repent and turn to Christ for salvation (Matthew 7:22-23; 10:32-33; 25:34-46). Woe unto those who reject Christ in this life.” (1)

However, the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians identifies a different type of judgment for the people of God: “…Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies” (2 Corinthians 5:10 CEV). In the words of another commentator, “The judgment seat of Christ will reveal our lives of service for Christ exactly as they have been. Not only the amount of our service, but also its quality, and even the very motives that prompted it will be brought into review.” (2)

This should prompt us to prayerfully examine our choices and motives now, lest we suffer regret when we are called to account for them later.

(1) Ron Rhodes, Heaven: The Undiscovered Country: Exploring the Wonder of the Afterlife pg.47

(2) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers (2 Corinthians 5:10) p.1839

VIII

“And this we will do if God permits” (Hebrews 6:3).

Hebrews 6:3 recalls a relevant passage from the Biblical book of James…

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

So, these verses remind us that everything we possess (even our capacity for spiritual growth) is contingent upon God’s gracious provision.

That brings us to a notable (and challenging) portion of Scripture…

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

The following excerpt will lay the foundation for our look at this passage…

“The reason why there is no point in laying the foundation over again is now stated: apostasy is irremediable. Once more our author emphasizes that continuance is the test of reality. In these verses he is not questioning the perseverance of the saints; we might say that rather he is insisting that those who persevere are the true saints. But in fact he is stating a practical truth that has verified itself repeatedly in the experience of the visible Church.

Those who have shared the covenant privileges of the people of God, and then deliberately renounce them, are the most difficult persons of all to reclaim for the faith. It is indeed impossible to reclaim them, says our author. We know, of course, that nothing of this sort is ultimately impossible for the grace of God, but as a matter of human experience the reclamation of such people is, practically speaking, impossible.

People are frequently immunized against a disease by being inoculated with a mild form of it, or with a related but milder disease. And in the spiritual realm experience suggests that it is possible to be ‘immunized’ against Christianity by being inoculated with something which, for the time being, looks so like the real thing that it is generally mistaken for it… It is a question of people who see clearly where the truth lies, and perhaps for a period conform to it, but then, for one reason or another, renounce it.” (1)

(1) The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Epistle To The Hebrews, F. F. Bruce, General Editor © Copyright 1964, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan [pg. 118]

IX

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV).

We can begin our discussion of these verses with a look at the various ways this passage has been interpreted over the years.

  • First, there are some who believe this portion of Scripture describes a genuine Christian who renounces faith in Christ and subsequently loses his or her salvation.
  • There are others who understand this passage as a reference to those who once professed to believe in Jesus, but later fell away. Much like the shallow plant in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, this view describes a person who makes a nominal profession of faith in Christ and then forsakes it. Those who hold this position believe that such individuals were never really Christians from the beginning.
  • Then there are those who view this portion of Scripture from a hypothetical perspective. A person who holds this position sees this passage as a theoretical argument that identifies what would happen if it were possible for a genuine believer in Christ to abandon the faith.
  • Finally, there is another interpretation that associates this passage with spiritual growth and maturity. This approach uses the context of Hebrews 5:12-6:3 as a frame of reference to illustrate the potential danger facing those who “fall away” from growth and development in Christ. A person who fits this category might face disqualification from God’s service in a manner that echoes Paul the Apostle’s statement from 1 Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (NLT).

While this portion of Scripture may be open to interpretation, it is important to understand that each of these views addresses the proper way to apply this passage, not the Scripture itself. As one commentator reminds us…

“In any event, there is no problem here with the inspiration of Scripture. It is simply an intramural question of interpretation of Scripture among Christians who share in common the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God in whatever it affirms.” (1)

(1) Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), [Hebrews 6:4-6].

X

“For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit, tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6 HCSB).

Having encouraged his readers to join him in departing from a “..discussion of the elementary principles of Christ” (Hebrews 6:1), our author now arrives at his next destination here in Hebrews 6:4-6. Much like a road sign that provides direction for a traveler, this passage contains several markers that help identify the subjects of this passage. Those descriptions include…

  • those who have once been enlightened.” The word translated “enlightened” means “to illuminate” (1) or “render evident.” (2) In a spiritual context, this definition includes those who have been imbued with saving knowledge. (3) Thus, we can say this passage encompasses those who have clearly identified their need to get right with God through faith in Christ.
  • who have tasted the heavenly gift.” While the exact identity of this gift is open to interpretation, we can say that one Biblical gift is universally applicable in this respect: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
  • partakers of the Holy Spirit.” A “partaker” refers to someone who is a partner, (4) or an associate (5) with the Holy Spirit. As we’ll see, what is not said concerning this relationship with the Holy Spirit is critical.
  • have tasted the good word of God.” This serves to identify those who have experienced the truth of God’s Word in some fashion.
  • the powers of the age to come.” We can associate this phrase with a poetic description of God’s supernatural power and ability.

One commentator summarizes these points with a general observation: “The meaning seems to be clear: they knew God on some level, but they rejected full faith in Christ.” (6)

So these definitions help direct us toward a proper application for this difficult and challenging portion of Scripture. Nevertheless, before we consider the identity of those who may be subject to this warning, we should first remember something of equal importance. One source identifies that “something” for us: “While the discussions of this passage have focused on who the writer was addressing, the more important issue is a warning about abandoning the truth about Christ for falsehood—no matter who you are.” (7)

(1) G5461 photizo Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/photizo

(2) G5461 photizo Strong’s Concordance https://biblehub.com/greek/5461.htm

(3) G5461 photizo Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5461/kjv/tr/0-1/

(4) G3353 metochos Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3353/kjv/tr/0-1/

(5) G3353 metochos Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/metochos

(6) Dr. Bob Utley, Hebrews 6 [6:4-6a] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL10/VOL10_06.html

(7) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on Hebrews 2022 Edition [6:8] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm

XI

“For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6 NET).

In view of the description given to us here in Hebrews 6:4-6, it seems likely that our author is speaking directly to those who never had a genuine relationship with Christ. Much like the weeds growing with the grain in Jesus’ Parable of the Tares, these individuals had the appearance of a genuine relationship with Christ without the substance.

Three sources lend their insights to this conclusion…

“Who are these people? The answer is given in verses 4 and 5. In examining the great privileges which they enjoyed, it should be noticed that all these things could be true of the unsaved. It is never clearly stated that they had been born again. Neither is any mention made of such essentials as saving faith, redemption by His blood, or eternal life.” (1)

“Some New Testament warning passages are aimed at those who are part of the visible church but who do not truly know Christ. Such are the warnings in the epistle to the Hebrews. The author of Hebrews directs some of his statements to mere professors who are not actually saved (see Hebrews 6:4–6 and Hebrews 10:26). The target audience of these passages is unbelievers who are associated with the church and have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth—perhaps they’ve even made a profession of faith—but they have not exercised genuine saving faith. If they continue to reject Christ, they will be lost forever.” (2)

“Warnings such as this one in Hebrews are aimed at people who persist in a life of sin while claiming to have faith in Christ. Such people can expect to hear Jesus’ statement from Matt 7:23 that he never knew them. Just like OT Israel, they have been exposed to the reality of God’s existence and expectations, but they have confused outward obedience for internal transformation (see Isa 1:11–14; 1 Sam 15:22; Mic 6:8). Their knowledge of the truth leaves them without excuse for their unbelief (Rom 1:20). Just like the Israelites in the wilderness, they have witnessed God’s power and received his commands, but they have not responded in faith and obedience.” (3)

Finally, while this represents one possible conclusion, it is important to recognize that it is not the only possible conclusion. We must humbly acknowledge that God knows those who are His, even if or when we don’t.

(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.2173

(2) GotQuestions.org, What is the purpose of the warning passages in Scripture? Retrieved 09 May, 2022 from https://www.gotquestions.org/warning-passages.html

(3) John D. Barry, Douglas Mangum, Derek R. Brown, et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Heb 6:4–8.

XII

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:4-6 NIV).

The Scriptures provide us with a few examples of those who might fit the description given to us here in Hebrews 6:4-6. Some of those examples include…

Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17-18). In 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul the Apostle related his experience with a man named Hymenaeus and explained how he had to “…deliver him unto Satan in order that he may learn not to blaspheme.” Unfortunately, it seems that Paul’s corrective action did not achieve his desired effect, since Hymenaeus’ destructive influence apparently spread to another individual named Philetus.

One commentator explains the probable issue with these men: “These troublemakers… were probably teaching that the doctrine of the resurrection had only an allegorical or spiritual meaning. Gnostic teaching conceived of resurrection allegorically, as referring to acquaintance with truth and as occurring at baptism.” (1)

This passage thus serves to remind us of the potential impact of one’s beliefs. Like a disease-carrying agent, the heretical teachings brought by Hymenaeus and Philetus “…spread like cancer” (2 Timothy 2:17) and brought spiritual affliction upon others as a result.

Demas (2 Timothy 4:9-10) Demas is mentioned once in Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae and again in his Biblical letter to Philemon. Since Paul offered greetings from Demas in those letters (and even identified him as “a fellow laborer“), he must have been a relatively close companion. Unfortunately, it also appears that Demas was someone who deserted Paul in favor of the attractions offered by the world of his day. Apparently, the lure of such things was more important to Demas than the God-honoring lifestyle modeled by Paul the Apostle.

So while “A credible profession of faith must be accepted as genuine, but ultimately it is only the Lord who knows those who are His,” (2) another commentator points us toward a difficult conclusion…

“While [the author of Hebrews] knew that true believers would not repudiate their Savior, the writer recognized the possibility that some among his readers might not be genuine Christians after all. Therefore, he shows that people may become a part of the visible body of Christ, participating in all of God’s wonderful benefits that are provided for the life of the church, but eventually turn their backs on everything they have experienced. There is no way to renew such people to a genuine profession of faith, he says, because there is only one true message—the very one they have rejected.” (3)

(1) Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Ryrie Study Notes [2 Timothy 2:17] © 1986, 1995 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp

(2) The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Epistle To The Hebrews, F. F. Bruce, General Editor © Copyright 1964, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan [pg. 122]

(3) Parsons, Burk, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology © 2008 by Burk Parsons pg. 185-186

XIII

“For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8).

The contrasting images of an uncultivated field that bears thorns and briers along with a fruitful and productive farmland are two elements that also appear within Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower…

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away.

And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:3-8).

One of the first things to note regarding this parable has little to do with the parable itself. Rather, it is Jesus’ opening admonition to listen, a word that encourages us to “consider what is or has been said” or, “to understand, perceive the sense of what is said.” (1) This small detail informs us that there is more to this narrative than a story about crop yields. Instead, there is a “message behind the message” for those who are willing to pay attention.

While this parable has come to be known as “The Parable of the Sower,” it is really more about the different types of soil the sower encountered. In light of this, we might ask why the farmer did not simply utilize the good soil and avoid the others. We can find an answer to that question in the farming methods of Jesus’ era.

You see, a modern-day farmer has the benefit of 21st century agricultural tools to help ensure the greatest production. In contrast, a first century farmer often had little more than an ox pulling a piece of metal in the ground to prepare a field for planting. When finished, the farmer was left with a field that seemed ready to produce a good crop. However, there were several other factors that might negatively affect the harvest. We’ll look at some of those factors next.

(1) G191 akouo Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g191/mgnt/mgnt/54-1/

XIV

“For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV).

As we continue our look at Hebrews 6:6-7 in the context of Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower, we next stop to consider the unfavorable types of soil mentioned within that parable. For instance, a farmer who seeded a field by hand would find that the wind inevitably carried a portion of the seed over to the surrounding footpaths.  Any seed falling there was likely to be trampled or eaten by birds.

Another limiting factor included any underlying rock that existed below the surface. That would prevent the seed from establishing an effective root network and diminish its chance of survival. Finally, there was pressure from the surrounding vegetation. While a freshly plowed field produced a better environment for seed germination, it also provided a better environment for weed germination as well.

While any of these environmental conditions might affect the farmer’s harvest, we can also say that Jesus’ parable did not provide any information that an established first-century farmer didn’t already know.  However, we should note that Jesus opened this parable with an admonition to “Listen!” and closed it in a similar manner: “And He said to them, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Mark 4:9).

To their credit, some of Jesus’ followers acted on that guidance: “…when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable” (Mark 4:10). Mark 4:13-15 goes on to provide us with Jesus’ reply…

“Then he said to them: ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand all of the parables? The sower sows the word. Some are like the word sown on the path. When they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them’” (CSB).

So in response to their request for additional information, Jesus began by identifying the seed as the Word of God and the sower as the person who communicates God’s Word. The first soil type represented those who never really got the message. Like the seed that falls upon the compacted soil of a footpath, there are many who fail to internalize the message of the Scriptures and are subsequently prompted by their spiritual enemy to disregard it.

We’ll continue with a look at the remaining soil types from this parable next.

XV

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8 NIV).

The persecutions and difficulties of life identify the next soil type in Jesus’ Parable Of The Sower

“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word” (Mark 4:16-17 NLT).

The seed that falls upon the rocky soil represents those who initially accept the truth of God’s Word and begin to follow Christ. But when difficulties arise, or others start to criticize their spiritual commitment, things change. Like a young plant in shallow soil, those who fall into this category begin to wilt as soon as others bring the heat.

“Others are like the seed scattered among the thorny plants. These are the ones who have heard the word; but the worries of this life, the false appeal of wealth, and the desire for more things break in and choke the word, and it bears no fruit” (Mark 4:18-19).

We can associate the soil in this portion of Jesus’ parable with the “thorns and briers” mentioned here in Hebrews 6:7-8. This soil represents those who accept the Gospel, but later allow the desire for wealth and possessions to assume greater priority. Much like an aggressive thorn bush that chokes out a desirable plant, these individuals “… are fooled by the desire to get rich and to have all kinds of other things. So the message gets choked out, and they never produce anything” (Mark 4:19 CEV).

That brings us to the final soil type in Jesus’ parable…

“The seeds that fell on good ground are the people who hear and welcome the message. They produce thirty or sixty or even a hundred times as much as was planted” (Mark 4:20 CEV).

The “good soil” represents those who receive the Word of God and commit to it. These individuals then become farmers who introduce others to Jesus and His teachings. Such people “bear fruit” for God- up to a hundredfold in some cases.

In explaining this parable, Jesus advises us to, “Consider carefully what you hear…” (Mark 4:24). Those who fail to reflect upon this teaching will receive no benefit from it, and as Jesus also reminds us, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9).

XVI

“For soil that drinks the rain which often falls on it and produces crops useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God; but if it persistently produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8 AMP).

A land that enjoys abundant rainfall but fails to produce a harvest indicates that something is wrong. The same might be said of those who claim to have a relationship with Christ but display little or no corresponding growth.

On the other hand, a land that absorbs that same rainfall and produces a harvest is one that receives God’s blessing. This second example represents a man or woman of God who acts on what he or she believes. Those who do so produce the kind of life that serves to honor God.

We’ll close our look at this important passage with a few observations from the following commentators…

“Just as the seed of the Word of God takes permanent root only in good soil, rain only yields a crop when it falls on good soil. This image lends support to the idea that those who fall away were never actually saved to begin with. Like the seed that never takes lasting root in Jesus’ parable of the sower but might for a time seem to produce a healthy plant, those who do not have saving faith may show some apparent growth as they experience the ‘rain’ of God’s blessings. As in the parable in the sower, however, if the soil is not good, the growth will not be lasting.” (1)

“It should also be noticed that the illustration does not speak of a parcel of land that first produces and later becomes void of life; so it does not illustrate someone saved then lost. It speaks of two kinds of fields, one maturing unto blessing and the other degenerating unto cursing.” (2)

“Believers not only taste of the word of God, but they drink it in. And this fruitful field or garden receives the blessing. But the merely nominal Christian, continuing unfruitful under the means of grace, or producing nothing but deceit and selfishness, was near the awful state above described; and everlasting misery was the end reserved for him. Let us watch with humble caution and prayer as to ourselves.” (3)

Fortunately, it appears that some among those who received the Epistle to the Hebrews fell into the “good soil” category. Our author will address those individuals next.

(1) R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2206.

(2) Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 2550.

(3) Henry, Matthew. “Concise Commentary on Hebrews 6”. “Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/hebrews-6.html. 1706.

XVII

“But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner” (Hebrews 6:9).

One challenge facing the author of Hebrews involved the need to address an audience of people who fell into varying stages of spiritual development. This likely accounts for the shift from those who served as the focus of attention in Hebrews 5:12-6:8 to those mentioned here in Hebrews 6:9. In effect, our author is saying, “Unlike the others I just spoke about, I am confident of better things concerning you.”

This reference to the “beloved” members of his audience represents the only appearance of this expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This reassuring statement served to counterbalance the message contained within the previous verses. The following verse continues with some further encouragement and establishes the basis for our author’s confidence…

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

This portion of Scripture offers a practical application, for it reminds us that those who follow Jesus have been entrusted with an opportunity to employ their God-given gifts, skills, talents, and abilities in ministering to others. Some of the original readers of this epistle led the way in that area, and we would do well to follow their good example.

Much like the account given to us in Acts 6:1-6, those ministry opportunities may take different forms. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we are responsible to meet every potential need that may arise, nor does it mean that we are obligated to do everything that may be asked of us. However, a person who sees a deficiency that others fail to notice or senses God’s call to action in an area of need might be the right person for that place of ministry.

Finally, the New Testament book of 1 Peter provides us with some important guidelines that should govern our ministry efforts…

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV).

XVIII

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).

This passage offers a subtle clue to indicate that our author was speaking to different members of his audience over the past few verses: “We want each of you to show this same diligence…” (NIV). This implies that there were some who did not show “diligence and full assurance of hope until the end.” Those individuals likely served as the target audience for Hebrews 5:12-6:8. Our author then followed by directing Hebrews 6:9-10 toward a different group, namely those who demonstrated a greater degree of spiritual maturity.

This reference to “diligence” conveys the attributes of perseverance, tenacity, persistence, and effort. Some of those who originally received this epistle had already exhibited those characteristics in their ministry to others. Now our author is prompting his readers to demonstrate those traits in emulating “…those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance” (NLT). We’ll find several examples of such diligence later in Hebrews chapter eleven.

While these spiritual characteristics often involve demanding qualities such as patience and discipline, we are certainly well-acquainted with those values in other areas of life…

“…trusting in others and waiting for them to deliver is hardly foreign to us. Most of us face that every day in the workplace. We accept contracts for products and services weeks, months, or even years in advance of actual delivery. Are you asking God to deliver on your time schedule? God wants to grow you rather than just give to you. He cultivates faith and perseverance by doing His work in our lives in His way and in His time.” (1)

As another commentator observed regarding the original audience for this letter, “They had already become sluggish in their hearing (5:11); they must now be diligent, lest such sluggishness characterize their whole life.” (2)

Finally, this passage reminds us that it is important to guard against spiritual lethargy and indifference in a world that features a multitude of demands that compete for our attention. Thus, as we are reminded in the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). It is in this manner that we can be “…imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance” (CSB).

(1) Word in Life Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996), Heb 6:12–15.

(2) Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 2551.

XIX

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you’” (Hebrews 6:13-14).

In seeking to provide us with a good example to follow, the author of Hebrews turned to Abraham, the great Old Testament patriarch and man of faith.

Abraham lived approximately two thousand years before the birth of Christ, and Genesis chapters eleven through twenty-five detail the events of his life. That portion of Scripture tells us that God called Abram (as he was then known) at age seventy-five to leave his home and travel to another land that God would later reveal to him (see Genesis 12:1).

In addition, God told Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 NIV). Although Abram and his wife were well beyond normal child-bearing age, He took God at His word and “…departed as the Lord instructed him…” (Genesis 12:4).

Abram continued his long journey until he finally reached the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4-8), an area that generally corresponds with the modern-day nation of Israel. Although Abram was quite wealthy by the time he arrived in Canaan (Genesis 13:2), he was an elderly man in an unfamiliar environment with few friends and many prospective enemies. Those enemies included several potentially hostile neighbors, such as the Canaanites and another local people group known as the Perizzites (Genesis 13:7).

So, other than his servants, his possessions, and a nephew named Lot (who would later make an ill-fated decision to leave his uncle and establish a new residence near Sodom), Abram had little more than a promise from God- a promise that he accepted and believed by faith. Because of this, Genesis 15:6 tells us that “(Abram) believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (NIV).

In time, God gave Abraham a son just as He promised (see Genesis 15:2-5, 17:19, and 21:1-7). As we’ll see in our next study, we’ll also find that Abraham was ready to present his beloved son as a sacrificial offering as a further demonstration of his faith (Genesis 22:1-19). In light of this, we can say that Abraham demonstrated the faith and perseverance referenced earlier in Hebrews 6:12 through his external actions. Thus, he represents a fitting example for the original readers of this epistle and contemporary audiences alike.

XX

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, ‘Surely I will bless you and multiply you’” (Hebrews 6:13-14 ESV).

This portion of Scripture refers to a historic event that took place in the life of Abraham, the well-known Biblical personality and man of faith. That account is chronicled for us in the Old Testament book of Genesis. It involves a son that had been born to Abraham as God promised earlier in Genesis 15:1-6. That son was named Isaac, and he represented the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide Abraham with an heir.

However, there came a time when Isaac was involved in a significant test of Abraham’s faith…

“Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’

…When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’” (Genesis 22:2, 9-12 NIV).

That event forms the basis for our passage from Hebrews 6:13-14 and God’s response to Abraham’s act of faith…

“‘…By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’” (Genesis 22:16-18).

This has led one Biblical commentator to conclude, “God’s oaths and promises can be depended on (cf. Heb. 6:16-17). This is the theological thrust of the paragraph. Our hope is in the unchanging character of God (cf. Ps. 102:27; Mal. 3:6) and Jesus (cf. Heb. 13:8) and promises of God (cf. Isa. 40:8; 55:11).” (1)

(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, [Hebrews 6:13] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL10/VOL10_06.html

XXI

“For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Hebrews 6:16-17).

The act of swearing an oath to verify the truth of a statement or commitment to a course of action is a practice that takes many forms. For instance, we place legal witnesses “under oath” when giving testimony in court. We also have the example of those government officials, law enforcement officers, and other formal authorities who are “sworn into” their various ranks of service. However, these contemporary oaths differ greatly from their ancient counterparts.

For example, some Old Testament contracts and legal agreements were formalized through a ceremony that involved the death of one or more animals. The parties involved in ratifying an agreement cut each animal in half and placed the halves opposite to one another on the ground. Both parties then proceeded to walk between the pieces of the sacrificed animals. We can find a detailed example of this type of oath in Genesis chapter fifteen.

While this practice may seem barbarous to modern-day audiences, it communicated something that is easy to understand. This ceremony declared that if either side failed to uphold the terms of their agreement, the guilty party would be subject to the same fate as the animal that had been sacrificed.

We can find another type of ancient oath in Genesis chapter 24…

“[Abraham] said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac’” (Genesis 24:2-4).

Abraham was so determined to find the right marriage partner for Isaac that he told his servant, “Put your hand under my thigh… (and) swear…” It has been suggested that this action means, “May my descendants take action against you if you fail to fulfill this oath.”

Unlike fallible human beings, God’s truthful and unchanging nature means He has no need to swear an oath. Nevertheless, “God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind” (NLT). We’ll consider the immutability of that promise next.

XXII

“that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

As mentioned earlier in our look at Hebrews chapter one, Hebrews 6:18 involves the Biblical doctrine of God’s immutability. The word “immutable” can be defined as something that does not change. Thus, God’s promises to us are reliable, trustworthy, and unchanging. While there is little debate concerning the immutability of God’s promises, there is a variety of opinion regarding the exact nature of the “two immutable things” referenced here within this verse.

For example…

“The (1) death and resurrection of Christ and (2) His ascension and intercession for us are the two immutable things.” (1)

“The two immutable things are God’s Word and God’s oath. Since God does not lie and since He is all-powerful, He will fulfill all His promises. This unchanging nature of God is the believer’s consolation and encouragement.” (2)

“What are the ‘two things’? Calvin says the two things are, (1) what He says; and (2) what He swears is immutable. Some suggest the two things are: 1. The promise, 2. The oath. Others say two oaths are referred to. 1. The promise – the oath made to Abraham respecting a Son, the Messiah. 2. The second refers to Christ’s priesthood, recorded in Ps. 110:4: ‘Jehovah has sworn and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (3)

Regardless of the differences between these views, one thing we can say is that God will certainly make good on all His promises. This offers hope and assurance as we seek to meet the challenges of daily life.

In another sense, our relationship with God in Christ is not unlike the cities of refuge that God established when the people of Old Testament Israel entered the land of Canaan. Hebrews 6:18 alludes to this idea in speaking of those “…who have fled to Him for refuge” (NLT).

The Biblical book of Joshua identified six cities where an accused criminal could find safety and protection while the accusations against him were examined and judged. In a similar manner, those who accept God’s offer of reconciliation through Christ have entered a place of safety and protection from the judgment that will ultimately fall upon those who reject their Creator. Thus, a person who comes to God through Christ serves to exemplify the words of Psalm 18:30…

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (NIV).

(1) J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, “Hebrews 6:1-20” Copyright 1981 by J. Vernon McGee

(2) Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1645.

(3) Boatman, Don Earl Helps from Hebrews, College Press, Joplin, Missouri p.197

XXIII

“so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18 ESV).

Hebrews 6:18 offers an opportunity to address what some view as an inconsistency within the Scriptures and/or God’s nature. We can state that premise with two points and a conclusion:

  • Matthew 19:26 quotes Jesus as saying, “…everything is possible for God” (GW).
  • Hebrews 6:18 says, “it is impossible for God to lie” (see also Titus 1:2).
  • Therefore, God and/or the Biblical Scriptures are inconsistent.

One source offers a brief, but thorough analysis of that proposition…

“The answer lies in a proper understanding of God’s omnipotence. Omnipotence does not mean God cannot exercise self-limitation. The biblical God has limited Himself only to acts that are consistent with His righteous, loving character. Therefore, God’s power is self-restrained. He cannot do evil and He cannot do anything irrational. He cannot go back upon His Word. He is all-powerful when it comes to doing things that are right, but He has no power to do things wrong.

…being omnipotent means that God is able to do anything that is consistent with His holy character. Nothing can stop Him from doing whatever He decides to do. However, there are certain things which He cannot do. The Bible actually lists a number of specific things which God cannot do. For example, He is not able to lie. This means the God of the Bible always tells the truth. Lying is not something which He is capable of doing. Neither is God able to do anything sinful. He cannot personally sin. Again, Scripture says that committing a sin is impossible for God…

The fact that there are certain things which God cannot do does not limit His power. Indeed, the fact that He has certain self-limitations does not take away from His power and majesty. He can do everything that is holy and wise.” (1)

Another commentator adds…

“The context in Matthew indicates that Jesus is speaking of what is humanly impossible, whereas, Hebrews informs us that some things (e.g., lying) are actually impossible for God. Note that in the former passage, Jesus said, “with men this is impossible,” indicating that He was only speaking of what was humanly impossible, but not divinely impossible” (2)

We’ll continue our look at this topic by highlighting Mark 9:23 and Jesus’ promise that “…all things are possible to him who believes” next.

(1) Stewart, Don. If God Is All-Powerful, Then Does It Mean He Can Do Anything? Are There Any Limits To What God Can Do? Retrieved 26 May, 2022 from https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/the-attributes-of-god-that-belong-to-him-alone/13-can-god-do-anything.cfm

(2) Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties © 1992 [pg. 351]

XXIV

“so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18 NET).

The Gospel of Mark presents us with the following statement from Jesus: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes’” (Mark 9:23).

For many, a statement like “…all things are possible to him who believes” may sound like a child’s fairy tale or an irrational response to the harsh realities of life. It might also sound like a substitute for intelligent, rational thought that exchanges reason and intellect for wishing and hoping. In fact, those who seek to use that statement against Jesus might do so in the following manner…

  • Jesus said that all things are possible to him who believes. Can I make a square circle if I only believe?
  • Could I create an irresistible force that could move an immovable object if I only believe?
  • Is it possible to make something true and false at the same time and in the same way if I only believe?

The short answer to each of these questions is “no.” To understand how and why that answer intersects with Jesus’ seemingly ironclad promise in Mark 9:23, we need to consider the nature of these questions.

For example, the question regarding a square circle conceals a logical error. The error is this: whenever we attempt to place a corner on a circle in order to make it a square, the circle immediately ceases to be a circle. Because of this, the question logically precludes any possibility of an answer.

The same is true when looking at the “irresistible force vs. the immovable object” question. This question assumes that two distinct entities possess the greatest power or ability. Since only one of those entities can be the “greatest,” this question reveals an internal inconsistency. It then attempts to increase the power of one of them through belief. This potentially introduces a third “greatest power.”

We can see a similar concept in the “true and false” question as well. This question creates a condition where something is true and not true at the same time and in the same way.

So, each of these questions contains an inherent contradiction. For this reason, we can confidently dismiss them in seeking to apply Jesus’ promise from Mark 9:23. Our next study will conclude our look at Hebrews 6:18 by addressing such objections in light of another familiar challenge: “Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?”

XXV

“So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us” (Hebrews 6:18 NLT).

We can find a good example of a false argument as it relates to the existence of an omnipotent God in the form of the following question: “Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?” This question appears to present an insurmountable dilemma for those who seek to answer it. For example…

  • If God can make a rock so big that He can’t move it, then He is not all-powerful.
  • If God can’t make a rock so big that He can’t move it, then He is not all-powerful.

Since God is all-powerful by definition, this question seems to eliminate the possibility of an omnipotent Being. Thus, it appears to preclude the existence of an all-powerful God.

Although this may seem to be a reasonable question, a serious flaw emerges if we consider it more closely. For instance, how big a rock is necessary to prevent God from moving it? Well, a rock of that magnitude would have to surpass the infinite power of God. So, in essence, the questioner is asking if God can create a rock that is greater than His infinite ability to lift it. This creates a scenario where the following conditions exist:

  • A Being with infinite power (God).
  • An object possesses something greater than infinite power, at least in one respect (a rock).

In other words, this question encompasses a logical impossibility- a situation where God holds the most power but does not hold the most power at the same time. As mentioned in our previous study, this basic idea is sometimes rephrased in the following manner: “Can God move an immovable object?” The problem is that the ability of an immovable object to remain stationary must exceed God’s infinite power to move it. Since nothing exceeds infinite power, the question is inherently self-defeating. (1)

We should also remember that rocks are not infinitely heavy by nature. While we may debate the characteristics of a rock, an infinitely heavy rock would no longer be a rock; it would be something else. The same is true for any other material object we might choose to substitute for a rock.

So, these types of questions are internally self-destructive. Therefore, a person who asks them in seeking to eliminate the possibility of an omnipotent God should reconsider their self-defeating nature.

(1) We might attempt to escape this conclusion by redefining God as a Being with less-than-infinite power. However, such a being would no longer be God. He/she/it would then be a demigod, or a being with superhuman power or ability.

XXVI

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

An anchor is a weighted device that enables a sailing vessel to remain stationary or maintain stability in rough sea conditions. Thus, it serves as an excellent illustration for this portion of Scripture.

Consider the word-picture behind this passage: “…an anchor of the soul.” If we drop an anchor from a sailing vessel, it falls to the bottom of the water and out of sight. In most instances, we can’t see the anchor below the surface, but we can gauge its effectiveness by the stability of the vessel to which it is attached.

This analogy applies to our spiritual lives as well. In this illustration, our lives are the sailing vessels and the sea represents the world in which we live. God is the unseen seabed below the surface of the water and the anchor is Christ. Thus, if the vessels of our lives are tossed like a ship at sea, we must prayerfully ensure that we are tethered to our Anchor.

This brings us to a practical discussion regarding this reference to the soul from Hebrews 6:19. As mentioned previously, the New Testament word for soul is psuche in the original language of this passage. This word survives today as the root of such modern-day words as psychology or psychoanalysis. In this context, the soul refers to the human being as an individual personality. It also conveys an emotional component that encompasses the things we love, hate, or feel indifferent about.

In light of this, we may further associate this illustration with the worries and anxieties of daily life. One of the best ways to anchor our lives in this regard involves Jesus’ counsel from Matthew 6:33-34…

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV).

As one source concludes…

“Throughout history, anchors have served as a much-needed device for sailors. In the Bible, an anchor is used as a symbol of our hope in Jesus that gives us stability and steadfastness in life. In ancient days, the anchor was used in artwork and engravings as a symbol of Christianity. Anchors appear in the Roman catacombs on the tombs of Christians, showing the Christians’ steadfast hope in eternal life.” (1)

(1) GotQuestions.org, What is the significance of the anchor in the Bible? Retrieved 26 May, 2022 from https://www.gotquestions.org/anchor-in-the-Bible.html

XXVII

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20 NET).

This portion of Scripture references the “…the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf” (NIV). The Gospel of Mark underscores the gravity of this statement with the account of an event that took place following Jesus’ crucifixion: “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38).

We’ll discuss this subject at greater length when we reach Hebrews chapter nine. For now, we can say that one person was authorized to enter the innermost part of the temple known as the Most Holy Place. That person was the Jewish High Priest. He was permitted to enter this area once a year on the Day Of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur), when a sacrifice was offered for the sins of the nation (see Leviticus chapter sixteen).

To access God’s direct presence within that room, the High Priest first had to pass through a great curtain that separated this area from the rest of the Temple. This curtain was said to be ninety feet (27m) tall, but Mark’s Gospel tells us that this enormous veil was immediately torn from top to bottom upon Jesus’ death. This detail is significant, for the fact that this curtain was torn in that direction indicates that God was responsible for orchestrating that event.

This action also served to demonstrate that access to God’s dwelling place was now freely available to all through Jesus’ sacrificial work on the cross. Unlike the limited access afforded to the High Priest exclusively through the Old Testament sacrificial system, anyone can now approach God and enter His direct presence through Christ. One Biblical scholar weaves these diverse threads together in the context of our passage from Hebrews…

“The anchor of the believer is, therefore, fastened within the veil of the Holy of Holies of heaven. We have some rich figures here. This present life is the sea; the soul, a ship; the hidden bottom of the sea, the hidden reality of the heavenly word. The soul is seen as storm-tossed on the troubled sea of life. The soul of the believer, as a tempest-tossed ship, is held by the anchor within the veil, fastened by faith to the blessed reality within the veil.” (1)

(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [Hebrews 6:19] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

XXVIII

“We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20 HCSB).

The word “forerunner” is commonly defined as “someone or something that comes before another.(1) However, one Biblical commentator offers an intriguing definition of this word as it relates to our text from Hebrews 6:20…

“The Greek word for forerunner was used in the second century A.D. of the smaller boats sent into the harbor by larger ships unable to enter due to the buffeting of the weather. These smaller boats carried the anchor through the breakers inside the harbor and dropped it there, securing the larger ship.

Forerunner presupposes that others will follow. Thus, Jesus is not only the believer’s anchor but He is like a runner boat that has taken our anchor into port and secured it there. There is thus no doubt as to whether this vessel is going into port. The only question, is whether it will go in with the sleekness of a well-trimmed sailing vessel or like a water-laden barge. Believers who have such a hope in the presence of God should come boldly before the throne of grace (4:14–16).” (2)

This notion of a high priest who interceded on behalf of others was undoubtedly familiar to first-century Jewish audiences. Nevertheless, the high priests of that era always entered the inner sanctuary (or Most Holy Place) alone. Therefore, the image of a high priest who could usher others into God’s direct presence was something completely new.

So, the idea that Christ opened the door for others to follow in this manner must have been a revolutionary concept to the members of our author’s original audience. The same may hold true for contemporary audiences as well…

“Christians too are to be brought into that same sacred area. This was indeed a startling statement, for though the ancient high priest was his people’s representative he was never their forerunner- they were never allowed to follow him within the curtain.

But the key-note of Hebrews is that the new high priest guarantees to every believer the privilege of confident access into this most holy place-the very presence of the living God, and it is summed up in one carefully chosen word: ‘forerunner’. Jesus has ‘gone that we may follow too.’” (3)

(1) “forerunner” Def. 1. The Britannica Dictionary Retrieved 31 May, 2022 from https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/forerunner

(2) Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1645

(3) New International Bible Commentary general editor G. C. D. Howley, consulting editors F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison. Copyright© 1979 by Pickering & Inglis Ltd [pg. 1518]

XXIX

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20 NIV).

Much like an aircraft pilot who has been circling the runway upon which he or she wishes to land, the author of Hebrews has been edging toward a discussion concerning one particular individual since the end of chapter five. That individual is Melchizedek, the mysterious Old Testament king and priest.

You may recall that our author attempted to open that discussion earlier within this letter. But just as a tailwind often prohibits an aircraft from making direct approach to a runway,  an obstacle prevented him from bringing that subject in for a landing…

“[Jesus] was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. We have a lot to say about this topic, and it’s difficult to explain, because you have been lazy and you haven’t been listening” (Hebrews 5:10-11 CEB).

While the original audience for this epistle may have preferred something less spiritually challenging than a dissertation on the subject of Melchizedek’s priesthood, that will not deter our author from addressing that subject in the following chapter. With this in mind, we can say that the author of Hebrews was clearly invested in the spiritual health and development of his audience. Thus, he will not be dissuaded from engaging in a discussion regarding this seemingly obscure figure.

In like manner, the Scriptures often present us with teachings that may be difficult to grasp and apply. While we may not agree on the meaning and application of these complex subjects, everyone can surely agree that spiritual immaturity is not a desirable option. Indeed, Jesus once rebuked His own disciples for their inability to grasp the deeper significance of His teachings. This is something we can largely avoid by dedicating ourselves to prayerfully studying the Biblical Scriptures and regularly attending a church where the Word of God is taught expositionally.

And with that, the following commentator prepares us to enter Hebrews chapter seven and the important teachings contained there…

“The writer of Hebrews was now ready to proceed to serve the ‘solid food’ he had mentioned previously, that he said his readers needed to eat (5:14—6:1). This spiritual meat was specifically the exposition concerning the present high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ” (1)

(1) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on Hebrews 2022 Edition “B. The Basis for Confidence and Steadfastness 6:13-20” [6:19-20] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/hebrews/hebrews.htm