24/09/16 Hebrews 6:6-12 “If we sin wilfully, there remains no more sacrifice for sins”
To start with I’ll fill in some
extra details from last week and then continue on with our study of Hebrews. I
looked at what it was that we could possibly fall away from, and concluded that
even if it were declared hypothetical, it still had to be a possible reality or
else it made no logical sense at all. This brought it down to whether it was discussing
non-Christians who professed to be Christians, or born-again Christians who
could fall away. I looked at what they would fall away from, and determined
that in order to be able to fall away from all five areas, such people
would have to be Christian. I do not see how those simply professing to
be Christian (yet not actually Christian) could possibly be a part of all
five areas, unless that profession of faith were to be from the heart.
The question may be logically asked: how then may a good man fall yet not be utterly cast down, because God upholds him? (Psalm 37:23-24) If we assume a Christian to be good, then this appears to be teaching that a Christian cannot be utterly cast down, that is, lost. Yet is it certain that a Christian can always be termed “good”? What if we stray from the will of God? Can we never do anything that can remove our “good” status? Note the following:
1 Corinthians 9:27 – But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
castaway – adokimos (not standing the test; not approved; properly used of metals and coins - that which does not prove itself such as it ought; unfit for; unproved; spurious; reprobate) This word is used for “rejected” in Hebrews 6:8 – But that which beareth thorns and briers [is] rejected, and [is] nigh unto cursing; whose end [is] to be burned. …. and “reprobate” in Romans 1:28 – And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
It is translated “reprobate” 6 times, “castaway” and “rejected” once each. Admittedly Paul was talking of “castaway” as meaning a disqualification from participating in sports and races, as the term was sometimes used. However, to be disqualified meant to be disallowed to take part in the race or to contend (for his faith). Such a person was barred from further competition!
Every time we are tempted, we come to a fork in the road. We must choose one way, whether it be God’s way, or our way (for only one way can be God’s way). Note that if we are totally satisfied, then we shouldn’t really be tempted. Temptation always results from a dissatisfaction somewhere with the perfect provision of God. It’s that dissatisfaction that creates the choice between God’s way and the way of temptation. Let’s say we give in to temptation. We should know we are straying but we love the world and all that is in the world too much (1 John 2:15). Then further temptation comes along; whatever works for the enemy once is often good for a second attack on our desires. And even though we know it’s wrong, we may still continue. Does God remove our ability to give in to temptation or does He promise to provide a way out that we may choose? Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].
Is it possible for a Christian to continue to ignore God’s warnings and go deeper and deeper into sin? That is, to ignore God’s way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Can we sin without measure, secure in the knowledge that God will not permit us to go so far as to actually be utterly cast down, that God will uphold us at the end so that we do not hit rock-bottom, wherever that might be? Or does God provide stumbling block after stumbling block in an endeavour to hold us from being utterly cast down, yet we with our free-will may overrule every one of those stumbling blocks in spite of God’s upholding? Is it possible for us to be so determined to sin that we deny God’s rescue attempts to lift us from the depths of our evil? Is it possible that God holds out His hand to rescue us, yet we reject His hand until we have completed our desires first? Can our free-will overrule God’s upholding?!
Can we have a free will to choose our salvation without it being works, yet not have a free will concerning our salvation after that point?
Adam Clarke says – So Paul himself might be rejected by the great Judge; and to prevent this, he ran, he contended, he denied himself, and brought his body into subjection to his spirit, and had his spirit governed by the Spirit of God.
Barnes says – The simple idea of Paul is, that he was afraid that he should be disapproved, rejected, cast off; that it would appear, after all, that he had no religion, and would then be cast away as unfit to enter into heaven. ….. Ministers, like others, are in danger of losing their souls. If Paul felt this danger, who is there among the ministers of the cross who should not feel it? If Paul was not safe, who is?
Coffman says – As Foy E. Wallace, Jr., said: "The translators (in this place) were evidently attempting to circumvent the possibility of apostasy." ….. It (adokimos) means "reprobate" and is so translated elsewhere in the New Testament (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5,6,7; 2Tim.3:8; Titus 1:16). It is thus crystal clear that the apostle Paul, even after the world-shaking ministry of the word of God which characterized his life, considered it possible that he himself could become reprobate and lose the eternal reward.
Hebrews 6:6 – If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an open shame.
For it is impossible to be partakers of the five criteria of Hebrews 6:4-5, and then falling away, to be renewed again unto repentance because such would require another sacrifice for sins. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross had already paid for the sins of all that would ever live (the sins of the whole world – 1 John 2:2). This payment was offered to all as a free gift; whoever called upon the name of the Lord would be saved as a consequence of this sacrifice for all on the cross (Romans 10:13). But this gift could only be given and accepted once. If this gift were to fail to bring a person to glory through that person falling away, then another gift would be required to achieve that person’s justification for the second time. However, Christ’s sacrifice was completed and final, never to be added to. A second gift was/is not offered, for such a second gift would require the Son of God to be crucified afresh a second time to pay for the second attempt to save that person.
This verse, though, states clearly that there is no second opportunity for saving repentance; thus if a second crucifying is necessary for a person, such a person cannot and will not have it, seeing as it puts Christ to an open shame. If the first and only sacrifice were not sufficient, then a further sacrifice cannot improve upon the better (or perfect) sacrifice for sins already offered to all by Jesus Christ. The shame is to accuse Christ of having provided a first sacrifice that was not sufficient, such that a second one becomes necessary; thus, because the first sacrifice was sufficient, then a second one will never be necessary!
Hebrews 10:12, 14, 18, 26 – 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
18 Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin.
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
Hebrews 6:7 – For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
This is a picture of the Christian who, like the ground, soaks up the rain in order to produce a crop acceptable and useful to those who cultivate it. (This probably means the Christian, as “dressed” means to till the land.) Such is seen as a blessing from God, that such abundance should be produced. It is consistent with the sowing of the seed into good ground that bears much fruit.
Matthew 13:23 – But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth [it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
However, it must be noted that Hebrews 6:7 isn’t talking about good or otherwise soil; instead, the emphasis is upon the ground that uses God’s blessing to the full to bear a fruitful crop. Such a Christian is one who is faithful to God’s calling, and is abundantly usable and used by God to produce fruit. This is the Christian whom God is able to use in the ministry of His calling.
Hebrews 6:8 – But that which beareth thorns and briers [is] rejected, and [is] nigh unto cursing; whose end [is] to be burned.
rejected – this is that word adokimos we looked at earlier. It is best translated as “reprobate” which means “to condemn strongly as unworthy, unacceptable, or evil; reject” (Merriam-Webster). That same dictionary also says it can mean “to foreordain to damnation”, a calvinist teaching associated with “double predestination”.
This is the opposite side of Vs 7: this now pictures a person (probably a Christian, if we take the context into account) who rejects the blessing of God’s provision. Instead of producing a fruitful crop, the rain here is used to produce weeds (thorns and briers). Instead of blessing, this ground is near to being cursed, that is, worthless for producing a fruitful crop.
It is consistent with the sowing of the seed among thorns such that the person becomes unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22 – He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
Luke says these seeds “bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). We have a picture of a plant that becomes unfruitful, or fails to bring fruit to maturity. This seed sown among thorns is representative of Christians who have backslidden due to the cares (or love) of the world, who may have some immature fruit, but no fruit brought to maturity.
Hebrews 6:8 says that such people are to be rejected (adokimos – made reprobate, castaway, disqualified), whose end is to be burned, an obvious reference to the fires of hell.
Hebrews 6:7-8 also brings to mind the parable of the vine and the branches.
John 15:1-6 – 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every [branch] that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned.
Following on from the warning about falling away in Vs 6, Vs 7-8 clearly picture the two options in mind here: the faithful and fruitful Christian (Vs 7), and the worldly and unfruitful Christian (Vs 8), where the latter are the ones at risk of falling away not to be renewed again unto repentance.
And the key to which group a person is in appears to depend upon the conditional statement made in Hebrews 6:3 – And this will we do, if God permit. That is, we will seek to bring you to a more fruitful state if God should permit, as long as it isn’t already too late to do so.
Hebrews 6:9 – But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Many use this verse to demonstrate that the writer was persuaded that they wouldn’t, in fact, fall away from their salvation by grace; thus the warning was only hypothetical and not actual. However, if the warning were not real, then it was pointless to make it, and even if not one of the listeners fell away, it still doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the warning. Just because everyone obeys a rule doesn’t make the rule unnecessary! The writer here is either stating a qualified opinion, or else he is saying this for the purposes of encouragement. It cannot be used to establish the fact of their obedience here. It is not stated as a fact, but an opinion.
better things – clearly associated with that spoken of in Hebrews 6:7.
things that accompany salvation – to be closely joined to salvation.
accompany – echo (to have possession of; to lay hold of a thing; to adhere or cling to)
This appears to be used to counterbalance the “nigh unto cursing” of Vs 8. Note Hebrews 5:9 – And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
In other words, following the context of Hebrews so far, and continuing on from here, it all clearly points to the listeners having an end-point in sight that they are working their way toward, much as Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress was endeavouring to reach the Celestial City. Our Christian walk is to be characterised by looking unto Jesus ….
Hebrews 12:1-2a – 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith;
…. who is the anchor of our souls, the forerunner who has entered the safe harbour ahead of us, having established an anchor that we may draw ourselves to.
Hebrews 6:19-20 – 19 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, [even] Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
though thus we speak – referring to the words of warning which the writer has just spoken in Vs 8, which follow on from Hebrews 6:4-6. That is, though we speak such words of admonition, we are convinced (persuaded) that you are not of this apostasy. Even though we warn you of such apostasy, we do not consider you to be of them who shall draw back into perdition; rather we are of those who believe to the saving of our souls. Although, to teach such must imply that it was possible for a condition of perdition (= destruction, notably the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell) to exist.
Hebrews 10:38-39 – 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Hebrews 6:10 – For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
For God is not going to unjustly forget your good works that you have done as a labour of love in His name. You have ministered (served) the saints (this applies to all genuine Christians) and continue to serve faithfully. This verse appears to be related to the fruitful ground of the good Christians in Hebrews 6:7.
Galatians 6:10 – As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Note also 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
That is, by your good works of love you are demonstrating your Christian standing.
John 13:34-35 – 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Compare this with Revelation 2:2-5 – 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Hebrews 6:11 – And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
This appears to be added to the writer’s confident opinion that he was “persuaded of better things” for them. He now adds to that persuasion by now desiring that every one of them show the same diligence to holding to “the full assurance of hope unto the end” as they have shown in their “work and labour of love” of the previous verse. That is, the writer’s persuasion of better things for them apparently would be well-assisted by some significant diligence being put toward holding fast the confidence and the rejoicing of their hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6).
full assurance – most certain confidence.
Barnes says – The word rendered "full assurance," means firm persuasion, and refers to a state of mind where there is the fullest conviction, or where there is no doubt.
And “unto the end” definitely indicates an ongoing most certain conviction.
Hebrews 6:12 – That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
That you keep yourselves in good condition as an athlete keeps fit in order to win.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – 24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
But while Paul emphasised spiritual fitness in order to finish the race, Hebrews 6:12 is emphasising faith and patience in order to inherit the promises which clearly relate to heaven and eternal life, noting the future Sabbath rest as per Hebrews 4:9 …….
Hebrews 4:9-11 – 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and the writer notes again later on the need for patience in order to receive the promise, which relates to the return of Jesus Christ for His people. The following then leads into that great chapter of faith, Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 10:36-39 – 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
For “without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Over and over we are seeing at least some significant application of our will to inherit the promises. Works cannot save us and works cannot keep us saved, yet our salvation is accepted by our free-will, and it appears is also held by our free-will. It appears clear that God does not desire for us to come to Him except by our free-will, and He likewise desires for us to continue to desire Him in our lives until the end. He will never forsake us, nor will He permit anything (or anyone) to remove us from His salvation; but would He prevent us, against our will, from rejecting our own salvation? Of course, what Christian in his right mind is going to give up his salvation? Yet can we, when not in our right minds, but instead, while besotted by the lusts of the world for a season, desire other things ahead of God? We will look at this question further as we progress through Hebrews.
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