Hebrews 6:11-12, “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised”
Our Text - Hebrews 6
Theme – “Believers in Christ need to move forward in hope and not slip back in doubt”
PRESSING ON TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY - Hebrews 6:1-3
The author of Hebrews is concerned for his readers because they have not grown spiritually or have risen above the basic teachings of the gospel. The opening word, “Therefore” (6:1), indicates that this chapter begins with a further message to those who were dull of hearing and unskilled in the word of God. Leaving the basic teaching about Christ, would seem strange at first. Why would we want to leave the elementary truths about Christ? My beloved, there are some basic and fundamental teachings that never change. The author wanted to take his readers from the first grade on to the second grade without replicating the basic doctrines that they knew to be true.
Some of his readers have identified themselves to some extent with the Christian believers and have professed themselves to be Christians, but there is no evidence their profession is genuine. There is probably not much difference between them and their Jewish friends (much like today)! You really can’t tell a believer in Christ from the unbeliever, which is truly sad!). The writer challenged them to “move beyond,” the basic truths they already knew and accepted. They needed to embrace God’s spiritual truth in depth and move beyond discussions about what it meant to be saved.
God never wanted us to become content with our basic knowledge of His Word. The apostle Paul recognized this, for even though he was a godly man and accomplished much, he admitted that he still needed to advance in holiness (Philippians 3:12-14). Our heavenly Father longs to give us spiritual food, and He will satisfy our spiritual hunger as long as we study His Word, worship with others, listen to faithful Bible teachers, read literature with good spiritual content, be doers of what we have learned in His Word, and daily depending on Him. If you’re a child of the King, don’t be satisfied with your basic spiritual knowledge. God doesn’t want you as His child to stay a baby in Christ.
Do you feel you’ve reached a spiritual plateau in your service for the Lord? If so, then look in the Scriptures (Old and New Testament) to see if there is a Biblical promise you haven’t claimed? A command you haven’t obeyed or a truth you have doubted? In the Bible, godly people are often likened to trees (Psalm 1:3, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does "prospers”; Proverbs 12:3). Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about this in her book Diamonds in the Dust, “The branches of growing trees not only reach higher, but their roots grow deeper. It’s impossible for a strong tree to have high branches without having deep roots. It would become top-heavy and topple over in the wind.”
Then she made this observation, “The same is true with believers in Christ. It’s impossible for us to grow in the Lord without entwining our roots around His Word and deepening our life in His commands.” If you want to be like a tall and immovable tree – that comes only through a life of Bible study, discipline, and tested faith – conditions that produce deep roots. Thus, for believers to be fruitful trees, we must:
(1) Stand straight for God. Lives that reveal Christlike character are lovely to behold, for they are not gnarled by sin or rotted by hypocrisy.
(2) Be strong. Those who are well-rooted in God’s Eternal Word will be unmovable in times of trial and temptation.
How is a believer in Jesus Christ going to know how to spot the heresies if they don’t have a full knowledge of the truth God has given to us in His Eternal Word? Think about it this way. If you’re not grounded in God’s precious Word … when Jimmy Pew sitter gets a knock on his door, and a couple of finely-dressed men present him with “the gospel that was restored by the prophet Joseph Smith”, and Johnny doesn’t know how to respond to their claims because he hasn’t been taught anything more than “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life; when Jimmy hears this new “plan”, he’s gonna get sucked in and dragged away into error .
It’s like Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not so much knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s knowing the difference between right an almost right.”
(3) Keep Growing. As healthy trees add a new ring of growth each year, we too should constantly grow in grace and the knowledge of His precious Word in order to bring blessings to others. Some trees provide food, others give shade, and others are made into lumber.
So, too believers in Christ should provide spiritual food and comfort to their neighbors, as well as use their time and talents to build people up in the Lord. Be ready to be transplanted when God so wills. Believers in Christ are not here to stay; they are waiting to be transplanted in the garden of heaven where their fruit will never wither and their leaf will never fade. So, my friend and brethren I must ask:
(1) How good a tree are you?
(2) Is there any fruit, any beauty, and growth worth talking about?
(3) Or are you wilted and unproductive?
The roots of stability come only from being grounded in God’s Eternal Word.
The items that the writer mentioned as foundational principles of the doctrine of Christ are (repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal life; found in (6:1-2) have their roots in the Old Testament. The writer intended to advance his readers beyond their Jewish heritage with its foreshadowing of Christ and to move them forward to full faith in Christ’s priestly ministry. In our lesson he demonstrated several aspects of how Christ’s ministry transcends what the Old Testament teaches.
God reveals His truth in a progressive manner. He revealed some key truths to the patriarchs, He gave a legal and religious system to Moses, and He spoke His moral demands through the prophets. However, in Christ God gave the climax of His revelation (1:3). One dare not remain in Old Testament teaching and ignore all that God communicated through Christ and about Christ.
The writer of Hebrews presented the more advanced theology about Christ’s ministry as priest after the order of Melchisedec, and exhorted his readers to embrace it. He knew the outcome of his plan depended on God’s working. God would have to touch the hearts of his readers so that they would be responsive to the challenging message (6:3). Even the best human intentions require divine enabling to succeed.
SAVED OR NOT - Hebrews 6:4-8
Hebrews 6:4-6, “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.” This is one of the Bible’s most difficult passages to interpret, but one thing is clear—it does not teach that we can lose our salvation. There are two valid ways of looking at these verses:
These verses are some of the most difficult and debated passages in the Bible. Many people have interpreted these verses as teaching that Christians can fall away from their salvation.
It is crucial to read these verses in the context of the book of Hebrews and of the Bible as a whole. The Bible clearly teaches that a genuine believer in Christ cannot lose his or her salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:33-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; Hebrews 7:25). John 10:28-29 says that believers are secure in His hands and in the Father’s hand and Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us that God gives the Holy Spirit to believers as the seal and guarantee of their salvation.
While the writer was confident his readers were genuine believers (Hebrews 6:9), he was also concerned that some could be false professors. Such people may have accepted the truth of Christ’s salvation in their minds but not have place saving faith in Him (Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:12; 4:1, 11).
The writer used the example of Israel, who had had firsthand experience of God’s deliverance from Egypt, but had failed to enter into God’s rest because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-11). With that in mind, he said, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (v. 12). Another solemn warning to these readers in found in Hebrews 6:4-8).
Some people today insist the descriptions in Hebrews 6:4-5 must apply to the genuinely saved. However, these verses may also refer to someone who has had various pre-salvation contacts with God and His truth. In some sense, Christ enlightens everyone (1 John 1:9), which uses the same Greek word as Hebrews 6:4), but everyone isn’t saved.
A “taste” “of the heavenly gift” (v. 4) could be the experience of observing Christ at work in others. Some readers of Hebrews had been eyewitnesses of the Holy Spirit’s authenticating miracles (Hebrews 2:4), which could qualify them as partakers of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, all the readers had tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age.
SOME UNCHANGEABLE PRINCIPLES & PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
When you stop and take spiritual inventory of your relationship with God, do you see a pattern of change in your life? Have you repented of dead works and put your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you broken with your old life of unbelief and trusted Christ? We have to turn away from dead works that cannot save and place our faith in Christ.
Yes, it is possible for a person to participate in church where they experience enlightened instruction in the Word of God, see great worship services where people repent, and where the Holy Spirit is at work in powerful ways, but have never been born again, and have never had a true, saving response to the Good News in Jesus Christ. They can be quite emotional, and have a great religious experience and never be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They are like land that receives much rain but bears no good fruit.
They bear only thorns and thistles and weeds. They may have participated outwardly in worship services, and the blessings of Christian fellowship, but like the seed that fell on rocky ground in the parable of the sower, they have no spiritual roots. They fall away; there is no life. They truly never had a spiritual birth. They are still dead in trespasses and sins.
If a person continues to neglect the work of the Holy Spirit in his life he will demonstrate that he was never regenerated. We know we have been born again because of continuance in the word of Christ. If we love Him we will obey Him. It is continuing in faith in Christ that demonstrates that true mature spiritual reality. "The greater the sinner I know myself to be, the greater my need of Christ, and the more I am suited to Him, for He died for the 'ungodly' (Romans 5:6)." A. W. Pink. Faith looks away from self and self-righteousness and is occupied entirely with Christ. Christ, not faith, is the sinner's Savior. What have you done with Jesus Christ?
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). There is no other way to be saved. That is your part. The Holy Spirit will do His work in you.
FOLLOWING CHRIST IN FAITH - Hebrews 6:9-11
Despite his concern about the danger of defection by some, the writer was convinced of better things regarding the Hebrews: that they were truly saved (6:9). He called them “beloved” as part of the family of God.
The love-motivated work that sprouted in the Hebrews’ lives was characteristic of them, both in the past as well as in the present. Their good works, or things that accompany salvation, gave evidence they were saved (Ephesians 2:10). God knew and would not forget all that they had done for Him and for His people. God is righteous, so it would be impossible for Him to forget their loving labor.
The writer challenged each one of them to the same diligence in loving labor that he had just commended (6:11). Christ as risen Savior and returning King is the believer’s hope. Faithful diligence in obeying Christ brings full assurance of partaking in Christ (1 John 2:5). So if the Hebrews were to carefully maintain love-based obedience to the Lord as long as they lived, they would avoid the angers of which they were being warned.
In (6:12) the writer challenged the Hebrew believers not to be slothful but to follow the example of the great heroes of faith – past (Hebrews 11) and present. These heroes were a pattern of continuing faith and patience, through which they inherited God’s promises. The readers needed to approach life the same way. The people of Israel had failed to inherit the promised blessings in Canaan because they doubted God. These Hebrews would enjoy God’s promises only if they followed the sterling exampled of faith and patience.
REMEMBERING GOD’S PROMISE - Hebrews 6:13-15
One of the greatest Biblical examples of faith is Abraham. As the writer of Hebrews challenged his Jewish Christian readers to remain faithful to Christ, he reminded them of their great ancestor who demonstrated faith in the face of challenging obstacles. When God called Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), He promised that He would bless him with descendants as numerous as the sand of the sea. For twenty-five years, Abraham and Sarah waited for the child until the Lord miraculously gave them a son.
It was several years later when the Lord put Abraham to the ultimate test of faith, for He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac. Abraham’s immediate, unquestioning faith led him to the point of taking the knife to sacrifice his son, but the Lord intervened and stopped him. God commended Abraham for his heroic faith; then He repeated His promise to bless and multiply Abraham (6:13-14; Genesis 22:16-18). God reaffirmed His promise after this greatest test of Abraham’s faith.
The writer of Hebrews particularly noted that when God stated His promise, He swore by Himself that He would do it. The Lord makes His own character the guarantee of His promise. There was no higher authority or greater certainty in the universe than the Lord Himself. In asking Abraham to trust His promise, God was really calling Abraham to trust His character.
Abraham demonstrated through his life that faith in God requires patient endurance (6:15). Abraham remembered God’s promises, and he took God at His word, even though he had no visible proof that he would ever see the fulfillment. In the face of pain, Abraham chose to keep trusting God’s word. Despite what he felt, he stayed strong in faith. What is clear from Abraham’s life s that God’s promises are fulfilled according to His schedule? As much as he might have liked, Abraham could not hurry up God’s timing. Abraham did not live long enough to see how God marvelously multiplied his descendants.
Abraham’s example of living on the basis of God’s promises was a powerful testimony to the Hebrews. It encouraged them, as it encourages Christians today, to resist the impulse to slip into doubt and fears. Abraham demonstrated that believers’ faith can hold strongly if we are willing to keep holding on to God’s promise. Because God is reliable, we can depend on what He says.
THE OATH OF GOD - Hebrews 6:16-20
A promise is only as good as the person who gives it or the guarantee that backs it. With today’s technology, it’s much easier to keep track of a presidential candidate’s promises and then, if he or she becomes president, to track the president’s fulfillment of those promises. Throughout a president’s term, Web sites will track how he or she does on every promise. You would think that such tracking would make presidential candidates think twice before they make promises. But the promises will no doubt keep coming even if they have no intention on actually keeping them.
However, when God wanted to prove to Abraham that His promises were certain, He confirmed His words with an oath (6:16-17; Genesis 22:16-18). Because God could appeal to no one higher, He swore by Himself that what He said would indeed be fulfilled. God has given the same kind of assurance to Christians. Just as Abraham could rely on God’s promise and His character as a double guarantee, so Christians have ample reason for their faith in Him (Hebrews 6:18).
In a world that is hostile to God and His people, it is risky to be committed to Him. When we flee to God for refuge, we know that His Word will not fail and that His unchanging character guarantees His unchanging commitment to us. Those who trust in Him find that He is totally trustworthy. It is impossible for God to lie to us, and it is impossible that He could fail us. In God we have the strongest of guarantees.
Hebrews 6:19-20 mix three metaphors which demonstrate that Christ’s priesthood is the sure hope for Christians: an anchor, entry past a curtain (“veil”), and a forerunner. Hope in Christ is like an anchor for the soul that provides stability even during the raging storms of life. This hope also brings God’s people within the veil, the partition that prevented access to the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament. With Christ a believer can have intimacy with God. Furthermore, Jesus as the high priest is the forerunner for Christians; He has paved the way for all of His people to come to God.
When Christians grasp God’s promises, they lay claim to a secure hope. Christ their priest has fulfilled God’s Word, so now they can confidently trust in Him in the ace of trials. Jesus Christ cannot and will not fail His people
Hebrews 10:23, “He who promised is faithful”
Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”
Several years ago I read an account regarding a group of scientists and botanists who were exploring remote regions of the Alps in search of new species of flowers. One day they noticed through binoculars a flower of such rarity and beauty that its value to science was incalculable. But it lay deep in a ravine with cliffs on both sides. To get to the flower someone had to be lowered over the cliff on a rope.
A curious young boy was watching nearby, and the scientists told him they would pay him well if he would agree to be lowered over the cliff to retrieve the flower below. The boy took one long look down the steep, dizzy depths and said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” A short time later he returned, followed by a gray-haired man. Approaching the botanist, the boy said, “I'll go over that cliff and get that flower for you if this man holds the rope. He’s my father.
Oh, that God might give us the faith of that boy! Have you learned to trust the Lord like that? If anyone else holds the rope, I dare not go. But since Jesus is holding me fast, I can never doubt. Are you willing to say, “If my Father holds the rope, I shall not fear”? He holds my hand, this wonderful Savior, and He is mine; so why should I fear when I know He’s so near, and I know that His hand holds mine? Thus, the promise of God’s unfailing presence with us is the key to living with confidence and contentment.
It’s a good thing God isn’t like us. So often we find ourselves failing in our promises to Him. We even ignore or challenge His commands. We give in to our sinful nature and do the very things we know we ought not to do. Or worse yet, we choose not to do that which we are expected to do and we often doubt Him and His Word. Even doing those things doesn’t change His love toward us.
When we follow the Lord with all our heart He will be faithful to keep His promises to us as with Abraham, Moses and Joshua. If anyone had reason to wonder if God could or would keep His promises, it was Abraham. God had promised them a child even though they both were over 90 years old. They had their child that God had promised them and it couldn’t have happened without divine intervention.
So, are you looking for hope? We have a hope that is based on the trustworthy promises of God. Thus, our future is secure because He has always proven Himself to be as good as His Word. Search the Scriptures diligently and claim the promises of God that apply to you. My friend, promises truly are the hope of the heart, and God always keeps His word. Our strength for the present and our hope for the future aren’t based on the stability of our own perseverance but on the faithful and eternal promises of God, our Creator. If you’re a child of God, by faith in His Son Jesus Christ, He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). My brethren, hold on to God’s promises woven throughout His Eternal Word, but don’t twist them to suit your own desire.
CONCLUDING ILLUSTRATION - Is Your Hope in the LORD?
In the midst of calamity in the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah found HOPE by focusing on the Lord’s COMPASSIONATE character. Hope cannot rest on human achievements, for people are bound to fail. Hope must be built on what is permanent and perfect, the character of God. Eugene Land was a millionaire and was asked to speak to a class of sixth graders from East Harlem, New York. What could he say to inspire these young students, most of who would drop out of school? Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. Stay in school, he admonished, and I will help pay the college tuitions for every one of you.
That was a turning point in their lives because for the first time these students had hope. One student said this, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling. Nearly 90 percent of the class went on to graduate from high school. However, there is another side to this. No matter how tragic our lives may be, no matter if we are given to depression and despair rather than happiness and joy, we are never left hopeless.
Life isn’t a string of accidental circumstances. God is in control and is waiting with His love, mercy and grace, which are never ending. The misery of the people of Jerusalem amid the details of wholesale slaughter and devastation as the city was overrun, the author inserted mankind’s best hope and for a reason to go on, God's great Love.
To counter the affliction and sadness, the writer spoke of God's compassion, His faithfulness, His goodness, and His salvation (Lamentations 3:22-26). No matter what we might be suffering, we can be sure that God will never leave us hopeless.
Take God’s promises to heart, but never take them for granted.