Hebrews 6 Sermon Notes

By July 24, 2022Sermon Notes

I’ve been helping our four-year-old, Shepherd, learn how to ride his bike without training wheels – He’ll get his elbow pads and his helmet on and we’ll go outside and I’ll grab seat on his bike and he’ll climb on and peddle up and down the driveway or around the block while I hold him upright

Sometimes, if he starts to lose control or tips over, he’ll get scared or discouraged and he’ll want to give up – And I have to convince him and assure him that I’ll hold him up – That I’ll keep him safe and secure – And he’ll occasionally look back to make sure I’m still there

But at other times, if he’s doing really well, he’ll start to get a little overconfident – He starts to think he’d be just fine and well without me – He doesn’t realize how much I’m still holding him upright – And I have to warn him and remind him that he still needs my help – He’s not skilled enough to just get out there and go around block on his own

And, at yet other times, I get so excited for him because he’s focused and he’s pedaling and he’s steering and I do have ahold of him but he’s doing it – And I’ll just encourage him along from behind, “Shep, you’re doing great, buddy! – Keep going!”

So here’s my question for you: Is Shep riding the bike? – Or am I holding him up? – The answer is “yes” – Shep looks to me for confidence him when he is scared and discouraged because he knows I’m holding him upright – I warn him when he gets overconfident because I know that I’m one holding him upright – And I encourage him to keep going because I know that, even though I’m holding him upt, he’s pedaling and he’s holding the handlebars and he’s working and he’s learning and he’s trusting me – He’s riding bike and I’m holding him up as he does it

The mystery of walking with God is like that…and we are going to talk about that this morning – This morning we are going to be looking at last part of Hebrews 5 and all of Hebrews 6 – In this section, the author issue four things to church to whom he is writing: 1) An Observation, 2) A Challenge, 3) A Warning, 4) An Assurance – We’ll look those four parts and then talk about application for our lives – We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, let’s jump in

An Observation (5:11-14)

11 About this (Jesus’ superiority to Aaron as Great High Priest after order of Melchizedek) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

So, observation author has made of people to whom he is writing is that they’ve become “dull of hearing” – They’ve become slow to understand and not because of inability to understand but because of a sluggishness, a laziness, a negligence – And because they have become “dull of hearing” they are not ready to understand some of the rich, but more complex aspects of the Christian faith

At least some of them, maybe many of them, had been long-time members of church – They had been around a while – They had been following Jesus for a while – But they hadn’t grown in maturity

You see, author is operating with an assumption here: that Christians can and should develop spiritually over time, just as babies develop physically over time – He’s saying, just as babies need a basic diet of pure milk, so new Christians need a basic diet of the fundamental principles of Christianity – Principles like repentance and faith toward God, baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, which he will name specifically in next section – New Christians should be consistently nourished by a basic diet of these beliefs

But, at some point, that should change – In order to keep developing, babies need new foods, different foods, more complex foods – They need to begin to eat mashed fruits and vegetables and oat cereal – Then, with time, they can begin to eat more sophisticated things – In same way, new Christians should keep developing in their consumption of truths of God’s Word – They should develop three characteristics of maturity:

First, mature Christians should be more skilled in the “word of righteousness” – They should go from strictly dieting on the basic principles of Christianity to dieting on whole counsel of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation – They should begin to study Scriptures more broadly and more deeply – They should begin connecting dots of overarching narrative of Scripture – They should start doing some basic theology as they begin to encounter different parts of Scripture and how they fit into whole – They should become more skilled in the “word of righteousness”

Second characteristic of mature Christians: they should “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” – So, not only do they really start to look at Word as they study – But also to look through Word as they go about their lives in a fallen world – They don’t just develop bible knowledge, they develop a biblical worldview – And, as they walk through life, they train their powers of discernment to see good from evil – All of this produces in the mature Christian not simply right thinking, but right living – It produces wisdom – That is second characteristic of mature Christians

And the third characteristic of mature Christians is that they move from viewing themselves primarily as spiritual children who need constant nurturing to viewing themselves as capable adults who have the ability and responsibility to train others – Simply put, mature Christians make disciples – Whether that be among their own children, or the youth in church, or among their own peers – Spiritual investment is third characteristic of mature Christians

And the observation that the author of Hebrews makes is that these characteristics of maturity are not present among this church to whom he is writing, and they should be at this point – So, He issues them a challenge

A Challenge (Hebrews 6:1-3)

1 Therefore (since you ought to be more mature in your faith than you are at this point) 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, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

So, author is saying, “We’ve already laid foundation – We’ve been nursing on pure milk for long enough – It’s time to grow your appetite for some solid food” – To put it bluntly, he’s telling them “It’s time to grow up – It’s time to get serious – It’s time to really start digging into Word, living out what you believe, and making disciples

But there’s something that needs to be pointed out here – We can often think of word “elementary” in a negative way – We tend to think of the “elementary” stuff as the necessary but annoying stuff we have to do before we can get to the “secondary” stuff – The “more advanced” stuff – The “more desirable” stuff

But to say something is elementary is not to say it is petty or worthless – To say something is elementary is actually to say that it is primary – It is of first importance – The elementary things are the beginning – They come first – They are foundational

You can’t do calculus if you never learned your numbers – The “secondary” thing, calculus, is built squarely and necessarily on the elementary thing, learning your numbers – And if you view learning and reviewing your numbers as being petty and worthless, calculus will become impossible – So it is with Christian faith

Author is not recommending they now neglect elementary principles of Christianity – He’s saying: “Now that you have laid the most important stuff down as a foundation, we can begin to build some on top of it” – But don’t neglect foundation because, if you do, it won’t be long before everything else comes crashing down

I tell the college students, “I sure hope you graduate from college someday, but I hope you never graduate from Gospel.” – So, it is woe to the church who is stuck in elementary things – And it is woe to the church who forgets them – And, because this is true, author of Hebrews issue church a stern warning

A Warning (Hebrews 6:4-8)

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. 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.

These are some of most disputed and controversial verses in Book of Hebrews and even entire New Testament – They are disputed because some of the words are painfully ambiguous – And they are controversial because the implications for how we interpret them have profound consequences for how we understand our assurance of our salvation, both now and in the future – And I have all of 5 minutes to talk about them

The argument, itself, is pretty clear: It is impossible for individuals who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the age to come, and then fallen away – It is impossible for those individuals to be restored to repentance again because they have gone from loving and following Jesus to scorning Him and holding him up in contempt

The exact meaning of verbs here: “have been enlightened,” “have tasted,” “have shared,” are painfully ambiguous – And the ambiguity has been the source of controversy

The central disagreement is about whether the subjects in question had actually experienced salvation in Christ – Or if they had only appeared to experience salvation in Christ but actually had not – The way we interpret these verses inevitably shapes our belief about whether or not a Christian who has been born again in Christ can fully and finally lose their salvation

There are at least five different modern interpretations of this passage, all with different theological implications – I’ll tell you what my interpretation is, but I do want you to know there are other interpretations out there by people who love God and carefully study His Word

Before I tell you what I think about this passage, though – Let me tell you how I think about it – Any time we come to tricky passages like these, it is good to have some sound Bible-reading principles in mind

The first principle that helps us here is the principle that the whole Bible is a single, cohesive unit – The Bible was spoken by one, unchanging God who is truthful and logical – Therefore, the Bible will never actually contradict itself, even if it may appear to at first glance

The second principle builds on the first – Since the Bible will never contradict itself, we can interpret unclear passages like this one in light of other, clearer passages that speak to same issue

So, when I consider passages like Romans 8, which says that nothing shall separate believer from the love of Christ – When I consider passages like 2 Cor. 1:22 and Ephesians 1:13 and Ephesians 4:30 which say that God has sealed believers with His Spirit as a guarantee of their future inheritance – When I read Romans 11:29, which says that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”…or Paul’s assurance to church at Philippi that He who has begun a good work in them will bring it to completion

When I allow multiple other clear passages about assurance of salvation inform the way I think about this passage, I come to conclusion that those individuals in Hebrews 6 who have “fallen away” were never actually genuine believers to begin with – They appeared to be believers – They probably went to church, professed Christ, were baptized, knew their Bibles, and possibly even served or taught or led in the church – But they were not actually genuine, born-again, Spirit-filled believers or they would not have turned from Christ

Apostle John faced a similar situation in one of churches he was leading and he said this of those who abandoned their faith, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (1 John 2:19) – D.A. Carson says, “Genuine faith, by definition, perseveres; where there is no perseverance, by definition the faith cannot be genuine.”[1]

This is a stern warning for all of us who claim to be Christians, who are doing all of things that Christians do, to be sure that what we are not remaining in immaturity, that we are not drifting from Christ, and that we are not satisfied with an appearance of faith that is not actual faith – It is a warning to be sure that we have and are now putting genuine faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and pursuing Him resolutely – But, even though we are given a strong warning, those genuine Christians who are pursuing Christ resolutely can also have assurance of hope – That’s how author ends chapter six

An Assurance (6:9-20)

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation…13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise…19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Author promises: “We have this as sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” – But it’s crucial we correctly identify the “this” – What is the actual anchor for our soul? – It is character and promise of God

Here’s his argument in a nutshell – He argues no one is greater than God – And, when God made His promise to bless Abraham and to bless nations through him, He made that promise by Himself – Remember that scene in Genesis 15 where God passes through animal pieces while Abram sleeps? – God was making a the promise by Himself

So, no one/nothing can come in and mess with promise because no one is greater than God – He made promise by Himself – He guaranteed it with an oath (v. 17) – He cannot lie (v. 18) – He’s unchanging in character and purpose (v. 17) – And, since all of these things are true, we have a sure and steadfast anchor for our soul in the character and promise of God – We have a sure and steadfast anchor in Jesus, our Great High Priest – God holds our seat – And He’ll keep us upright – He’ll keep our salvation safe – He’ll keep our eternal life secure – Because He promised He would

He is anchor that keeps us from drifting into apathy – He is anchor that keeps us from shipwrecking in sin – He is anchor that keeps us from getting sucked out into sea of faithlessness – He is anchor that keeps us from being lost through storms of this life – And He will fully and finally, deliver His children from evil of this world – Through all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us

But here’s the thing – We have to stay on bike – We have to keep our hands on handle bars – We have to keep our feet on pedals – We have to stay focused – We have to keep going and growing – Learning that our Good Father holds us upright as we go – That we need Him, and that we will always need Him – And learning to love His cheers of approval as we follow His instructions

It’s possible that you are here this morning and you’ve realized that you’ve done a lot of work for a long time to put on an appearance of faith but you’ve never rested in the actual faith that only God can give you by grace through Jesus His Son – You can do that this morning – And it’s possible that it could feel very shameful to you, to think that you’ve knowingly or unknowingly played an appearance for so long – But I want you to know that I see it as a great mercy that God might now allow you to taste His goodness after you’ve been hearing about it for so long

Maybe you are here this morning and you’ve realized that you have a genuine relationship with Christ but you’ve been drinking milk for far too long and it’s time for you to start on some solid food – That it’s time to really take some action to grow in maturity – Don’t leave this place without telling somebody and asking for some help – After His Word and His Spirit, the greatest resource God has given you is His church – And we would love to help you

It’s possible you are here this morning and you have a genuine relationship with Christ but you’ve been drifting – Consciously or subconsciously you’ve become overconfident in yourself – You’ve started to believe you can do just fine and well on your own – Maybe the anchor for your soul is starting to feel less like a blessing and more like a curse – If so, hear the warning of God and turn back to Him – Put your hands back on handlebars – Put your feet back on pedals – See the beauty you’ve been anchored to, and keep going

Maybe you are here this morning and you have a relationship with Christ but living life in this broken world has you feeling scared and discouraged – And you feel like giving up – You feel like hiding – Remember this morning, that God holds you in the palm of His hand, that He protects you, and that nothing can separate you from Him – Trust Him – He’s got you – Don’t give up

Maybe you are here this morning and you’ve just been pedaling a long time – Maybe your hands are calloused and your legs are achy and you’ve got sweat on your brow but for some reason there’s a little voice in your head that keeps saying, “You’re not doing it” – “You can’t do it” – “You’re not good enough” – “You’re not strong enough” – Maybe what you need to say to that voice this morning is “You’re right – I’m not doing it – I can’t do it – I’m not good enough or strong enough – But my God is – And He’ll never let me go”

Prayer

 

[1]Quotation taken from: Allison, Gregg R., Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, (Zondervan Academic: Grand Rapids, MI), 2011, pg. 561.

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