Hebrews 6

In the events of living life, we learn lessons.  Last week was one of those things.  As you can guess, I run a pretty busy schedule, but occasionally things happen that make me want to tear the rest of my hair out.  This study is one of those things that I try to research and prepare around my part-time work schedule, but it adds a certain complexity.  When business is as slow as it was last week, it is MY hours that get cut as the part-timer, and that’s just life.  What happened was a little more complicated.  On Tuesday, I had a conversation with my boss telling me that my shift for Wednesday was cancelled, but that he would need me all day on Saturday.  Inwardly, that makes me grimace, because it means I don’t get to do this study with my church and livecast it over Facebook simultaneously.  Normally, I work 12-3 on Saturdays.  What happened next was entirely my fault.

When I was informed that I would be working all day Saturday, I abandoned my preparation for Hebrews 6, and I probably should not have done that.  On Friday, I was told that my shift on Saturday was being cancelled.  I was free to do the study – except now, because I decided to “take it easy” I was not prepared.  There was no study, as announced.  But there could have been, and it is entirely my fault there was not.  I now humbly apologize for the lapse I had in judgement and activity.  I have purposed in my heart that this kind of event will not catch me with my proverbial pants down again, and I trust the Lord that He will help me in that commitment.  Now, on with the review.

In chapter 1, we saw that because God’s Son was a better everything, it gave Him a name better than the angels (especially one angel in particular that has designs of his own on how things will go).  That Son mad propitiation, or atonement for us, and then sat down because that work was finished.  As a result, we read in chapter 2 that we need to pay closer attention to the things we have heard about Jesus and the truth that He is God’s chosen method of communicating with us today so that we would not drift away from it.  The picture used was that of a safe harbour, and a navigator that was not paying due attention, slipped past the harbour entrance and shipwrecked on the rocks.

Then we are treated by the author to an exposition on Psalm 8, and it is hinted that God has some grand design for humans to be His universal administrators in the age to come.  There was a definite statement of how for a short period of time, humans were made lower than the angels, but that in the end we would be at least equal to the angels in status and power.  This is a definite thing, according to the author, although for now we do not see that – but we DO see HIM.  The Son.  We see Jesus, made like a man – one who tasted death for everyone that would ever believe in Him, and who incidentally made everything, including the angels – and He is a kind of forerunner and leader of those coming administrators, the coming priest-kings of the universe that will have sovereignty of, for, and by God.

This makes Jesus our high priest, it says at the end, one who now because he was made like us in that he suffered death, can have mercy on us, and who is faithful to extend to us grace as we are sanctified, that is made holy, like He is holy.  Now in chapter 3, the book turns to who this Son Jesus is, and it begins by telling us to consider Him, and compares Him to Moses.  Moses gave the Law, the old Covenant.  By comparison, Jesus gave the New Covenant.  Both were written by the will and hand of God.  Both required obedience.  As a result, it compares the two covenants and what obedience and disobedience looked like and warranted under each.

Chapter 4 was a basic gospel presentation aimed at those who were intellectually attuned to the message, but had not yet made a commitment to follow the Lord into the redemption He secured by his high priestly sacrifice.  The author of Hebrews very clearly showed that Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we could enter His rest for us, and that to enter, we needed to believe Him and what He said.  The basic problem that people seem to have when we consider this is is that they all claim to be servants of the Master.  But think about this what does it look like from the outside when people either do what they are told so they can be saved or believe and obey so that they are saved and then do the work to please the Master?  It’s difficult to tell, because the work completed looks exactly the same, does it not?  And yet only faith by grace will save us, not works, so that we can’t brag about how good we are – but if we truly are redeemed, then we can be bold in our approach to His throne and find mercy when we need it.

Chapter 5 went on to talk more about the eternal Son and how he received a new, different, and better priesthood than the Levitical priesthood because He offered a better sacrifice (it was a once-for-all sacrifice) because it was permanent and unlike Levitical sacrifices, was not offered by a sinful priest, but instead the sinless Son, and unlike the animal that was a mere picture or shadow of the sacrifice that Christ would offer, He offered His own life, which was good and acceptable in the eyes of God the Father.  As a result, God raised Christ from the dead, and made Him to be high priest of a different, better, and more ancient priesthood, the order of Melchizedek.  We looked briefly at the man Melchizedek, and then took a look at what maturity looked at how those who were developi9ng maturity in Christ were engaged in discernment actively at all times, testing whether things were from the Lord or not.  This brings us to today, where we begin chapter 6.

Before we dive in to the chapter, I need to remind everyone of the kind of people that would be listening to this sermon in the first place, and then reading the manuscript that would have been produced afterward.  The target audience of the original author consisted of first some Jews that had become Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus, second, a set of Jews that had been at least intellectually convinced of the truth of Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) but had not made the commitment of believing Him or making Him their Lord, and finally, there would have been some unbelievers that wouldn’t have been able to make heads or tails out of anything being shared.  Verses 1-8 of this chapter are addressed primarily to the second group I have taken the time to identify.  I will say more about this in a few moments, but this past week gave us a very tragic example of what verse 4-8 are addressing.  With that said, let’s dig in, a phrase at a time as usual.

I outlined the chapter as follows.

KV9:  Christ, our saving hope

1-8:  The need to move toward Christ

     1-3:  What to leave behind

     4-8:  What to keep in mind

9-12:  Better things that accompany salvation

13-20:  Hope to anchor the soul

1-8:  The need to move toward Christ

Think about what is needed for someone that is intellectually convinced about the truth of Christ but has not yet made a life commitment.  They need first to leave behind a lot of ritual, and a lot of formulaic nonsense, and sometimes a lot of their own preconceived thoughts and notions.  As a bit of an intellectual myself, I can understand the difficulty of abandoning long-held opinions that you have worked hard to defend.  You tend to entrench these beliefs about the world and attach them to yourself in a way that can make abandoning them seem difficult, and even intellectually suicidal.  You can ask Josh McDowell about that.  There are things that you need to leave behind, and there are things that you need to keep in mind as you move past those beliefs and into the light of the truth.

1-3:  What to leave behind

1:  Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to  maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

  1. There it is, my favorite word, “therefore.”  What do we do when we see it?  Right!  We see what it’s there for!  In this case, it is bringing in the context of the last paragraph of chapter 5, where the author is pointing his address directly at that second group of people that had an intellectual assent of the truth of Messiah, but had not yet truly believed or followed Him in reality.  If I could direct a brief aside to that topic, I have to say that this is not something that we can know directly, ever.  It is between them and the Lord Himself.  The Lord has given us some tools (discernment, examination of the fruits in their life, etc.), but that does not allow anyone to pronounce condemnation on people, and I don’t believe that is what the author is doing here.  Instead, I see this as a strong gospel with stern warnings not to move away from Messiah.  Such is the reason for directing his remarks as he has.
  2. Leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ.  The author here is calling for a leaving aside of the topic, as opposed to a geographical departure.  We can see this from the context, too.  What is he trying to move past?  The “elementary teaching” or arche logos, the “origin words/concepts” about the Christ [tou Christos, please note that “about the” is reflected by the definite article here, tou].  What are those “origin words/concepts?  That would be the gospel.  Jesus became human for the sole purpose of dying in our place as a sacrifice to both expiate and propitiate our sins.  We’ve been over what those words mean, and if you need a reminder, contact me later.  The author is saying he wants to move past the gospel and move in a specific direction.
  3. Let us press on to maturity.  The Greek phero translates for us a picture of bearing or carrying on in a specific intended and logical direction.  That direction is translated for us by the word teliotes, meaning completeness or perfection.  The author of Hebrews is telling us as babes in Christ, we should be growing up in Him.  Otherwise we are doing something else, spoken against here:
  4. Not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.  Not laying [kataballo, a casting or striking down] again [palin, meaning again but inserting a time/event counter] a foundation [themelios] of repentance [metanoia, a change of mind] from dead works [nekros ergon] and of faith [pistis] toward [epi, upon but as a group] God [Theos].  The sacrifice was made once for all.  So should our decision and commitment be.  The author is saying, look, just stop this – Make a decision once and for all to follow Christ and believe that His sacrifice was enough already.

2:  of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

  1. Of instructions about washings.  The word for washings is baptismos, which of course speaks of baptism, but in this case, I think of another and older reference.  There was a kind of ceremonial washing of persons or things whereby it was dipped in water ceremonially for a ritual cleansing.  I think this is more in context, but it could also refer to so-called Christian baptism as a doctrine.
  2. And laying on of hands.  This, I believe, is a reference to the high priest laying hands on the goat in the sacrifice on the day of atonement.  The Greek lends some support to that from the word usage.  Laying on is a translation from the Greek word epithesis, and carries the meaning of a laying on of attack, or an assault.  The high priest would lay hands on the goat that was to be turned loose into the wilderness ceremonial to lay the sins of Israel on the goat so that they would be carried away by the sacrificial animal.  Though they killed the other goat involved in the sacrifice, this was a domesticated goat being turned loose into the predator-laden wilderness.  I’m not certain it was “getting away” with things, so to speak.
  3. And the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement.  This is a core doctrine of Christianity.  There will be a resurrection of all humans.  The first resurrection, taking place at the return of Christ, or his parousia, will deal with the resurrection of His people, all those who believe on Him.  The second, referenced in Revelation 20:12 (John saw the dead – all of them.  And there were no living among them.  Yet there they were, all raised from the sleep we call death to be judged by the King.), deals with all those who did not believe on Him for whatever reason.  All men will be resurrected.  The question is where they will spend eternity.  Eternal judgement is translated by the Greek phrase krimatos aioniou, literally sentenced/condemned for the ages.  What a fate.  Yes, by all means, let us leave that one behind!

3:  And this we will do, if God permits.

  1. This phrase should occur in our own vocabulary and thinking, especially our planning.  It is not a bad thing to make plans and have goals.  But our own plans and purposes, as I have discovered this week through my scheduling at work, should give way to the will of God.  If God permits in future, I will have more than one of these studies ready to go!  Moving on.

4-8:  What to keep in mind

This I find very unsettling.  Hear me out.  There is no way we can know who the elect of God are unless it be personally in our own case – and it is possible to deceive ourselves about the state of our own souls.  I became aware of a case of this over the past week that I’m going to talk about.  It’s very sad, and you might be surprised at who was involved.  What appears to be at stake is the question of whether one can renounce their salvation – if they were indeed saved in the first place.  But a phrase at a time, right?

4:  For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,

  1. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened.  The word for enlightened is photizo, those who have shined, or those who have brought the light.  This phrase seems to be indicating that such an individual has been somehow elevated over people in that they have reflected the glory of God.  It does not, however, use the word “saved” or “redeemed” or “elect” anywhere in the verse.
  2. And have tasted of the heavenly gift.  The word used for tasted actually means to have eaten.  What have they eaten?  Well, it says “the heavenly gift.”  What is that heavenly gift?  I doubt the author of Hebrews is making things obtuse, so I’m going with what we all refer to as the heavenly gift – the gospel.  This is an individual that has maybe gone forward at an event, or maybe signed a card, or read a prayer of some kind, or “invited Jesus into their heart.”  I won’t disparage those methods, there are people that have been saved that way, and I am one of them.  Some kind of response to the gospel is indicated here – but not one that saved them.  But they tasted it.  They partook of it.  They had a sample.
  3. And have been partakers of the Holy Spirit.  Okay, we’re getting down to it.  This is sounding more and more like a saved individual – but it still hasn’t actually used a phrase that indicates salvation.  King Saul was a partaker of the Holy Spirit.  1 Samuel 10.  Samuel anoints Saul as the first King of Israel.  Then in verses 9-11, it says this – “Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day. When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them. It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?””  The Spirit of God, or if you Like, God the Spirit, the holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, GOD, came on Saul mightily.  Was Saul saved?  Well, God did change his heart.  But that doesn’t mean that He was saved.  If you continue reading the story, Saul’s life never really backs up that changed heart with any kind of real sanctification, especially after God removes the kingdom from him through Samuel in 1 Samuel 15.  He tried to murder David by pinning him to the wall with a spear, he ordered a manhunt that forced David to flee from the country, and finally, he consulted a witch at Endor, and God ended his life (and that of his son Jonathan, his heir) over it.  I don’t think Saul was a believer.  I do however, realize there is a lot of interpretative room here, and I won’t be dogmatic on this point.  Next verse.

5:  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

  1. Okay, this is dialing in pretty closely, isn’t it?  The word of God here is not the classic logos, the divine expression, but rather the rhema, that which is spoken or uttered in speech or writing.  It is distinct from logos in that it is not a reference to the entirety of Scripture, but rather the individual Scripture that the Spirit of God brings to our remembrance.  According to Vine’s, this scripture remembrance is brought to our remembrance in time of need, and has as a prerequisite, the regular storing of Scripture into our mind.  Hey, remember memorizing Scriptures?  Here’s a good reason!  So this is someone that has had God bring certain Scriptures to mind for them.  This still has not said this person was saved, by the way.  There has not been a single mention of justification here.
  2. And tasted…the powers of the age to come.  The word used here is dunamis, the miraculous power of God.  Oh, my charismatic friends – you might be able to do those signs and wonders you’re always claiming, but that miraculaous power can also be a convincing counterfeit.  Remember where this is going in the next verse.

6:  and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,  since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

  1. AND THEN HAVE FALLEN AWAY.  Parapipto, to fall or fail in one’s way, in the sense of adherence to the facts and realities of the faith.  They were there, they were making the climb – and then they weren’t. 
  2. It is impossible to renew them again to repentance.  Impossible, adunatos, unable, impotent, not possible.  It is impossible to renew them again, or bring them back to the place or state of repentance,  metanoia, that state of changed mind where redemption is possible.  Let me put that into other words.  After such a failing, or at such a point of that rejection of the truth of Scripture, the teaching about Christ and how he died in our place to redeem us to Himself, it is no longer possible for such an individual to be saved!  Just like Pharaoh.  There came a point where he had turned against God’s instruction (and God knew that he would) so often, and hardened his own heart to such a point, that God made it official and hardened his heart for him to the point where he was beyond redemption.  God forbid anyone hearing this should get to that point.
  3. Why?  Because they “again crucify to themselves the Son of God,” and by their horrible example, actually shame Christ the Lord.  Vine’s puts it like this:  The word “is used in Heb. 6:6 of those Jews, who, though attracted to, and closely associated with, the Christian faith, without having experienced more than a tasting of the heavenly gift and partaking of the Holy Ghost (not actually receiving Him), were tempted to apostatize to Judaism, and, thereby crucifying the Son of God a second time, would “put Him to an open shame.””
  4. Let me be clear here – the author is not suggesting that these individuals could lose their salvation, he was saying that at best they were false converts, but were never saved in the first place.

7:  For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;

  1. The next two verses kind of go together as an object lesson as to what is really happening here, so verse 8 –

8:  but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

  1. You see, beloved, there is more than one kind of grace from God.  There is something that theologians have termed common grace, such as the sun rising and the rain – all people, good or evil, have equal blessing from that kind of grace.  Then there is saving grace, and it is a grace that only those whom God has chosen will ever know.  The biggest problem is that no one really knows who the chosen, or elect, really are, and with no way to tell it means that we must share the gospel with everyone.  God has told us to, and this is why.  God has kept the identity and number of the elect to Himself.  We must as a result be faithful in its clear and appropriate transmission.

I have said this for years – it is possible to look like a Christian – a strong Christian – to teach people the Scriptures, to lead people to Christ, to teach doctrine – even right doctrine – and to be what Ray Comfort has termed a false convert.  Scripture calls such an individual a tare, something that looks nearly like the wheat the master planted, but does not become obvious until it nears maturity.  The Christian world has perhaps had an example of this very thing this past week.

A gentleman by the name of Josh Harris, author of the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, made two very specific announcements.  The first of those was that he and his wife were divorcing.  I remember hearing that and thinking that it was very sad.  I didn’t know any reasons at that point, but a Christian ending a marriage is sad.  Then I learned that it was because of Josh renouncing his Christianity and I was moved to even deeper sadness for him.  He was leaving more than just his wife it seems.  He departed very openly, and very publicly, in an Instagram post.  I don’t wish to add to his pain, but he did say that he was very happy with his choice, and I do wish him happiness, for the rest of his life – because that is now all he has.  I’m not saying that to be hurtful.  I would like nothing more than for Mr. Harris (who I do not know personally) to change his mind about this and become a child of God.  However, I am reminded sadly of that verse that says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”  (1 John 2:19)

Is there hope for Josh Harris?  I do not know.  I would like to think that as long as he is still breathing, there is hope, but after such a public renunciation after so many years as a teacher and as a pastor, I really fear for his eternal salvation.  I pray for him, that if it is possible, and according to the will of God, that he would turn and be saved, safe for all time in the hands of Jesus.

Please understand.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, we MUST keep our eyes on the goal here.  We are, I believe, entering a time where we will see heroes of the faith begin to fall in this fashion.  I have already seen many men I looked up to in the faith go sideways into social justice (and justice is a word that doesn’t need an adjective) and intersectionality and identity politics.  Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan both swerved into social justice, and at ShepCon 2019, refused to give clear and accountable answers to Phil Johnson in front of John MacArthur no less.  I wonder what R. C. Sproul Sr. would think about that.  Beloved brethren, we must keep our Lord Jesus in focus at all times and do what He says.  And what He says to me is that I should be an unashamed witness for Him for the rest of my days.  That is a TALL order.  Lord, I believe.  Please help my unbelief.

9-12:  Better things that accompany salvation

9:  But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.

  1. First, there is a little detail I want to point out here.  The Apostles were very careful in their writings to distinguish between the written word and the spoken word.  Paul, for example, expressed on occasion that he was composing a letter to a place.  Galatians 6:11 says, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”  He refers to letters he has written in both 2 Corinthians 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3.  Jude also talks about how he wanted to WRITE a letter about everyone’s common salvation but ended up writing about false teachers as the need required.  Here, the author says “though we are SPEAKING this way.”  Maybe I’m being fanciful here, but this is one of the very reasons I think this was a sermon, likely by Paul, and one that was transcribed by Luke, because there are similarities to both men’s patterns of word usage.  However, I refuse to be dogmatic about this.  So let’s look at what the verse says.
  2. Beloved.  It is a form of agape, the divine love that is both self-giving and self-sacrificing toward its object.  It is a reference like “dear,” but carries the love of God to the one who is its object.
  3. We are convinced of better things concerning you.  Convinced means to have confidence in or be persuaded of something, in this case those better things about us.
  4. Things that accompany salvation.  In other words, things that belong to deliverance!  The author of Hebrews is telling all of the believers to relax here, because even though they are speaking heavy words, all the believers are safe in the arms of Jesus, so to speak.

10:  For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

  1. And this verse is so self-explanatory it should win the academy award for clarity.  First, God is not unjust.  Justice is one of the things God is known for.  And he isn’t forgetful either.  So all the good works that you have done for Him (that He designed for you in the first place, see Eph. 2:10) are going to be remembered by Him.  What are those good works?  Ministering – that means serving – to saints, the New Testament, believing people of God – on an ongoing continuous basis.

11:  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,

  1. The same diligence.  Spoude, haste, zeal, diligence; earnest care/carefulness with watchful interest.  The author is telling us that we should follow this ministering to the saints, God’s people, with zeal, and with earnest carefulness!  That is we need to serve God’s people with great care, and with all the attention and energy we can muster.  We need to be intentional about it too, not just “waiting for opportunities” like we hear about all the time.  You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “practice random acts of kindness?”  I disagree!  We should be practicing kindness intentionally, and not randomly, but equally to all!  Why?
  2. So as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end.  “Full assurance” is used here in the sense of that all-absorbing effect of the expectation of fulfilment of God’s promises.  How do we know that?  The use of the word hope.  Hope in the New Testament is an expectation of something coming to pass, as opposed to our current English usage of something we might wish to happen but might not.  It’s like when you place an order for a hamburger – you know that the burger is coming.  It is your hope that you will soon be satisfied with that mouthwatering delight, because you know it will soon be before you.  But this is not a burger, it is the expectation of eternal life.  And how long do we hold that?  Until the end.

12:  so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

  1. This hope will have an energizing effect on us, and motivate us out of what the author has called “sluggishness,”  or slow of heart, slothful.  What?  Sloth?  Isn’t that one of the seven deadly sins, Gerry?  It is on that list, yes, though these so-called deadly sins are a false idea from the Catholic Church.  But sloth, or laziness, is a phenomenon to overcome nonetheless.  So what is the alternative?
  2. Imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  Imitators here is used in a special way.  It is used in combination with a verb, ginomai, to be, or to become, the aorist tense, or the momentary tense indicates a decisive act that has permanent results.  It has the implication that we must diligently continue to hold those actions that bring us to this point.  What are those actions?  The text tells us – faith [pistis, that firm persuasion or opinion held that Jesus died in our place and that His sacrifice was enough to redeem us to Himself] and patience [makrothumia, longsuffering or forbearance].  Did you get that?  We must believe that Jesus sacrifice was enough for us, and then we must patiently see that belief through to the end (v.11) – and this will make us inherit [kleronomeo, to be the legal heir] the promises.  Which promises?  According to Vine’s, ALL of them!  And there are too many to list here.  But in the next section, the author will explain that all the promises were contained in the promise God made to Abraham.

13-20:  Hope to anchor the soul

After setting up the imitation of the faith and patience that will cause us to inherit the gracious gift of the promises of God, the author is now going to explain what he means.  One thing I will call to your remembrance here is that the word hope means an expectation of something that will come to pass, not just a vague wish as we use it in modern language.  These things WILL happen if we believe and suffer patiently for them.  This hope is meant to be something that anchors us through faith.

13:  For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,

  1. Continuing on the theme of the promise, the author explains that when God made the promise to Abraham, that He swore the oath on His own character, because there is no one else that has a better one.

14:  saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.”

  1. Now he informs of the specific promise to Abraham.  What was that promise?  To bless and multiply Abraham.  But what was the context?  Genesis 22:15-18 – “Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed 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.””  This promise was spoken AFTER Abraham had begun to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God because God asked for one.  God of course was not interested in taking Isaac’s life, and He did not take it – but He was interested in showing Abraham would have done whatever God required.  (Personally, I think the lesson there is that if you want blessing and multiplication, you have to be willing to give the Lord everything and not withhold it.  But that isn’t the point here.)

15:  And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.

  1. And here is the point that was stated in verse 12.  Abraham believed God (the reference to faith), and after patiently waiting for the Lord to accomplish it (the reference to longsuffering), God DID, and Abraham received the benefit.  We need to get this.  If God promises something, He WILL do it.  The question is when, and the answer is, “It doesn’t matter!”  Why not?  Because His timing is perfect, and ours is not.  Trust Him to do it on His perfect schedule.  And now, he returns from the example to the point he was making.

16:  For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.

  1. You know, wh8le I was preparing for this bible study, it occurred to me that we are a species of deal-makers, aren’t we?  And that’s not a bad thing, provided all parties are willingly and knowingly involved in the deal, then a deal is really a commitment to the other individual to keep your word.  In the days of Abraham (of which our author is speaking), such a commitment, or “covenant” required a ritual to solemnize the occasion.  I won’t go into detail, as we have talked about this before, but the whole occasion, as our author indicates here, was solemnized by an oath, sworn in the name of the greatest authority that could be given in the circumstance.  In medieval times, it was not rare to hear a knight swear, “in the name of the king.”  We have even adopted this into popular culture.  How does that phrase go?  I’m an atheist.  Really?  Yeah, [I] swear to God…  Well, it is, after all, the highest authority that can be given in that or any other circumstance, right?
  2. That oath, it says, is given as a confirmation that both parties agree to (usually) a written contract, and that contract in the event of any lack of clarity, is the final arbiter if a dispute should arise.  Assuming that there was no deception, coercion, or other forms of fraud, it is a great way of doing business.  That’s the problem with human agencies, though – sometimes there can be, and that is a subject for another time – or we really will be here all day, and that really is a tangent.  Back to topic.

17:  In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,

  1. There is a lot in this verse, so I will start by saying that God does business this way.  He swears an oath by the highest authority available in the circumstance – Himself, and He does not lie or conduct Himself fraudulently.  “In the same way, God…”
  2. However, God had another purpose as well.  It seems He desired to show the heirs of the promise that His purpose concerning them would not change.  And what was that purpose?  I will remind you that the events described around this promise are recorded in Genesis 22:15-18 (and you can and should read the surrounding verses for proper context here), and point directly to the blessing of all nations in Abraham’s seed:  Christ.  That promise.  How would he bless these people found in every tribe and nation, that speak every language known to mankind?  He would bless them with Salvation in Christ. 
  3. Who would God bless with that promise?  The heirs of the promise to Abraham.  That is mentioned at least 4 times in the New Testament, and we should examine each of those at least.
    1. Romans 4:13-16 – “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.  For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to  those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all…”  This verse directly tells us that is made to all the descendants of Abraham are the children of faith, those who believe.
    2. Ephesians 3:4-6 – “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…”  This passage, speaking of that now-revealed mystery in Christ (eternal salvation) was ALSO available to the Gentiles, not just Paul’s fellow Jews.
    3. The next passage is in fact this verse, so I will point out that we are discussing this now, as we should be.
    4. The final verses are in Hebrews 11:8-10 – “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  This simply shows that “the promise” was the same to Isaac and Jacob, who were chosen [out of the accepted order in both cases] as heirs.  And it was God who did the choosing.
  4. What do we learn from this?  We learn that God has promised this revealed Christ to those who are the heirs of Abraham.  Paul equates this to those that will believe the promise, believers.  That is to say, God has made a definite atonement on their behalf.  Some people call this “limited atonement,” one of the doctrines of grace.  Of all the doctrines of grace, this one was the hardest one for me to understand, and for many years, my own pride kept me from seeing the truth of this.  Opposition to this question usually arose in me and sounded like, “but this does not account for the free will God gives man!”  It took me years to see this, but the free will of man is not excluded from this salvific promise.  I am not talking about a God looking down the tunnels of time and seeing the positive response people would make about Jesus, either, because THAT view does not allow for the complete sovereignty of God – it depends on the responses of humans too much, and the one thing that Scripture teaches over and over again is that man is so reprobate, there is nothing he can do to contribute to his own salvation, including choose it.  Let me ask – did Saul of Tarsus choose his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road in Acts 9?  NO!  He was moving in the exact opposite direction!  And yet God saved him.  Now – we all know that 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God desires ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  We should also know that not all desires are fulfilled, because not everything glorifies God, and that’s is the whole main point of the existence of mankind.  If you misunderstand that, the according to R. C. Sproul, you misunderstand the absolute holiness of God, and I agree.  Has God, in fact, saved everyone?  No.  I doubt you would find many people who would tell you that men like Hitler, Stalin, Antiochus Epiphanes, Julius Caesar, Nero, or Pharaoh are now in heaven because God saved them at the last.  Remember, mankind is completely reprobate and cannot, no, WILL not choose salvation for themselves – precisely because it is God that offers it, and one thing that our time in Eden proved is that we will only choose what we want, not what God wants – at least not on our own. 
  5. I used to see God as this limiting being having a set of qualifications He defined in the law that would allow us into His presence.  Not everyone would get in.  Narrow is the road, and all that.  What I discovered, quite uncomfortably for me, was that I was looking at this backwards.  I should not be considering the fact that God will exclude some people from salvation, but that He is absolutely merciful and loving for allowing anyone in at all.  I rather think of this as “definite atonement,” as opposed to the L of the TULIP acrostic.  God, it seems, has made a promise to all those who are heirs of the original promise to Abraham.

18:  so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.

  1. You see here?  It was impossible for God to lie!  There are two unchangeable things about this that make that so.  The first thing is the unchangeable nature of His purpose.  What was that purpose?  It was to see a people formed that will be heirs to the promise of Christ.  When was this purpose formed?  Before time, or as I am coming to think about this, outside of time.  I won’t get into the metaphysics of this here, but if time-space is a continuum, then it has an inside and outside as well, and it is possible for things to be outside of that continuum is what I mean I think, and has a vantage point where He can see all of it at once.  It’s really difficult to explain.  It’s hard to give precise terms, but God made this decision from outside of time. 
  2. The other thing that makes it impossible for God to lie is that He has sworn an oath!  He gave His word.  He said it, and He will do it.  Think about the implications!  The highest authority anywhere swore by Himself.  The Holiness of character that He has will not allow Him to break His word.  Why has he doe these things?
  3. So that we who have taken refuge in His promise would have strong encouragement [paraklesis] to take hold of that hope (remember, expectation of a sure thing as opposed to wishful thinking).  There’s that word paraklesis!  A coming alongside to render aid!  For what purpose?  Christ coming to rule His kingdom here on Earth!  And for the believer to be a part of that reign!  Oh, friends!  I don’t care what you’re going through – speaking as someone with more problems than you can shake a stick at because of my past – the very thought that I will have the honour of being seated with Christ on His throne is astounding!  And we need to take hold of that and keep it in mind!

19:  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,

  1. THIS is the anchor of our souls!  That we will, in a final, and glorified sense, be ONE WITH CHRIST!  Think of it!  Scripture tells us that God knew us before we were ever alive, and chose us, then predestined us to be called as His own, and then justified us in Christ, and the way Romans 8 words this is in the past tense, glorified us with Him!  That hope in Christ is an anchor of the soul, and those things I described are called the golden chain of salvation, and that chain is firmly attached to that anchor.
  2. That hope is certain and guaranteed, and one which enters inside the veil, which commentators generally agree is a reference to the inner veil of the temple.  You may recall that said veil was torn in two, from top to bottom when Christ died in our place.  That’s the anchor point if you ask me.  Christ died in my place to redeem me to Himself as a sacrifice on my behalf.  God was so pleased with that sacrifice, that He raised Christ from the dead, just as He must have planned outside of time in what is called eternity past.

20:  where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

  1. And within that veil, our great High Priest Jesus has entered and offered that sacrifice on our behalf, and was raised from the dead to reign in His kingdom for eternity.  And what does it say?  It says Jesus entered as a FORERUNNER!  That doesn’t mean what I initially thought either.  You see, over the years, I have picked up some bad theology and spiritual brain damage, and I used to take this as a “we will reign with Him” passage.  While it does say that in several places, this verse is not one of them.  The word prodromos is one who goes in advance, and when used as it is here as a noun, signifies one who is sent before to take observations like a scout.  However, Vine’s makes specific note on this point that Christ’s going in advance of His followers who are to be where He is, is so that He may receive us when God sees fit for us to be there.
  2. Remember that this is a sermon based on the imagery of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood.  Our great High Priest entered the Holiest Place as a High Priest should, to make atonement with a blood sacrifice – the only reason anyone could be in there at all – and He made one.  His OWN blood, offered once for all, to atone for all those who would believe in Him.  Because God made that sacrifice Himself, He is an eternal High Priest, who got to sit down because His work was finished.  (There were days, especially the holy days on the calendar) that the Levitical priests never got to sit down because they were busy with the sacrifices and the ritual that surrounded them.)  For this reason, the Scriptures tell us of another, more ancient priesthood.  When we first read of it, it is centered in Salem (Peace), which was the ancient city of Jerusalem.  It was presided over by one Melchizedek (King of Righteousness).  It had the then-mysterious (and now revealed in symbolic purpose) emblems of the Bread and the Wine.  There is a school of thought that says Melchizedek was a theophany, a place where God appeared in history, and there is some reasoning to it, though I think otherwise.  My point is this order of Melchizedek is the ancient priesthood that Jesus became the High Priest of as our forerunner – and if He is making us into kings and priests after Himself, then we are also part of that priestly order. 
  3. This places kingly responsibility on us, as well as priestly duty.  As an application of this concept, we should be thinking in this period of time where we live as to how we can best serve those around us.  We should be using our administrative abilities given by God to make this a better place for everyone, even if it is temporary.  We should also be praying, which is our version of sacrifice, for people – evangelistically first, but then for God’s will to be done in their lives.  That is how we represent our Lord and High Priest adequately in the calling that he called us to, and the hope that anchors us in that calling.

And THAT is chapter 6.

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