Hebrews Lesson 40 January 26, 2006
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Tonight we are going to do another overview. As I got into this I realized that as we concluded our study in chapter 4 that we need to go back and take a brief correction in terms of our structure and organization. I have a slide up here that we'll work through in terms of review so that we orient to our next section.
Section One 1:2-2:4
Didactic Exposition: 1:1-14
Practical Exhortation and Warning: 2:1-4
Section Two 2:5-4:13
Didactic Exposition 2:5-3:6
Practical Exhortation and Warning 3:7-4:13
Section Three: 4:14-6:20
Didactic Exposition 4:14-5:10
Practical Exhortation 5:11-6:20
The first section in the epistle goes from 1:1 to 2:4. Actually 1:1-4 is an introductory prologue that orients us to the basic theme of the book which is that God has now spoken through Christ Jesus and relates that to His current position as being seated at the right hand of God the Father in His authority. There is what I call a didactic exposition.
Last time somebody asked me what didactic meant. This is related to the Greek word didaskolos which means teaching. It is an instruction. What is interesting is how we can look at a book like Hebrews or James or I John. These are I think and many commentators and scholars think are written out forms of an oral presentation, a sermon. This gives us an idea of what a sermon or Bible class was like in the apostolic period. It's not filled with a lot of illustrations and stories and a lot of things like that that you often find in modern homiletics classes. It is a development and a commentary on Scripture. You especially see that in Hebrews because there are so many quotations from the Old Testament that are woven into the structure of the book of Hebrews. So there is teaching where the writer goes back to Old Testament passages and expounds on what these passages mean, how they apply to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His present session in heaven, and His role as a high priest. After he finishes this teaching, there is a practical exhortation or challenge within which there is a warning. In the first section you have an exposition from 1:5-14 following the prologue. Then there is a short challenge and warning in 2:1-4.
Then the second section begins in 2:5 and the writer goes back and picks up a couple of ideas that he mentions in that first didactic exposition. Now he is going to unpack that. So he focuses on who Jesus Christ is.
We are going to see another point here in terms of exposition and teaching. That is a principle that is familiar to everyone here. I almost hesitate to mention it. It's called repetition. I knew I would get a chuckle out of that.
Notice what happens in this teaching section. It goes back to talk about Jesus Christ in relationship to the angels. God has put everything under subjection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He ends that first paragraph in verse 9 by saying that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels.
NKJ Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
I want you to be reminded of that phrase "taste death for everyone" because we are going to come back and reference that a little later on this evening.
Then he goes on.
NKJ Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
"Him" is God the Father.
We have this development of the main idea in this section that the second person of the trinity had to be made flesh. He had to be true humanity. He had to be like you and me. He had to go through the same process of sanctification or maturation that we go through. He set the precedent. He was the pioneer or the author of our sanctification. He goes through that same process.
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
NKJ Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
That's a key idea - that the Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate. In His humanity He had to go through those same kinds of tests – He had to go through adversity in the same way that we do. He had to go through the same kinds of tests that we go through because He had to grow and mature before He went to the cross. That prepares Him for His present ministry as a high priest.
Now the writer stops his thought there. That is what he has developed in terms of his didactic exposition. He is going to come in and give a challenge and a warning to his readers. That challenge is summarized in a quote from Psalm 95.
NKJ Psalm 95:7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:
NKJ Psalm 95:8 "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
NKJ Hebrews 4:9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
NKJ Hebrews 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
That's the summation of the warning. Don't harden your hearts like the Exodus generation did. There remains a rest for us to enter into. Therefore be diligent, work hard, and labor in terms of your spiritual growth so that we can enter into that rest. That's the warning. He finishes that by talking about the Word of God being alive and powerful, as the evaluator or the judge of our spiritual life so that we have this tool in the Word of God to evaluate where we are spiritually in our advance.
The section ends with verse 13. I didn't make that clear last time. I got distracted by the fact that the chapter reference is in the wrong spot. The break in the structure of the book is at the end of verse 13.
Verse 14 begins a new section. Now this new section goes back and picks up a couple of lose threads. What are those lose threads? The high priesthood of Christ. We pick up those same ideas that are first mentioned back in 2:17-8. He is a high priest. He goes through the same kinds of suffering and testing that we go through so that He can be a compassionate high priest. He is there to come to our aid in times of testing. That is developed in verses 14-16 which we covered a couple of lessons back. Then he goes on and unpacks the idea of priesthood. But, the priesthood of Christ is distinct from the Old Testament priesthood. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is a priesthood that is based on the order of Melchizedek and not the Aaronic order or the Levitical priesthood. He is going to develop that.
He just gets started in this (to give you the broad bird's eye view) and mentions it in verse 6 and again in verse 10. Then he stops. It is an abrupt stop. He lowers the boom on his readers. He begins to lambaste them for their spiritual density. They are not going anywhere. They are so dull of hearing that they don't understand what he is getting at. So before he can get to the development of the idea of the Melchizedekean priesthood and why that is important, he starts reaming them out in verse 12 because they have become spiritually dull. They lack discernment because they ended up going through the motions of learning the Word and being involved in a local congregation without the Word having any real impact in their thinking, their spiritual growth, and their spiritual maturation. Rather than demonstrating spiritual maturity, they are on the verge of giving up completely on the spiritual life and folding up and going back into Judaism. So he warns them of the danger of this. You can actually reach a point - if you go into a regression in your spiritual life - you can reach a point of no return where you can't recover anymore because you get so immersed in carnality that God is not going to allow that.
Then he goes through a positive challenge that you are not really that way. He tells them that he has confidence in them.
He ends in verse 20 talking about the forerunner.
NKJ Hebrews 6:20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
So we have this mention of the high priest back in 2:17-18. That idea is picked up again starting in 4:14 leading up to mentioning the order of Melchizedek. Then he stops and reams them out for their spiritual obtuseness. Then as he concludes that warning and challenge, he comes right back to the topic of the Melchizedekean priesthood. That is where he starts the next section, section four.
NKJ Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
You see how this theme works through this. He takes from the end of chapter 2 into chapter 7 and 8 before he really start unpacking the significance Christ's high priestly ministry. Before he gets there he has to make sure he has their attention so that they will focus on what he has to say. So there is this challenge, rebuke and reproof that come in the middle of this development. It is a reminder of what the Scripture is all about.
NKJ 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
He demonstrates what Biblical reproof is. He points out where they are in error and what they have to do to correct that. Then he instructs them positively in the path of righteousness.
So that gives us the bird's eye view of what is going on here. As he goes through this he constantly is loading the reader up with Biblical content. There is no fluff here as we have seen. There is content piled upon content in the process of feeding the sheep. This gives us a Biblical example of what Jesus meant we he talked to Peter.
NKJ John 21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.
Jesus challenges Peter with his future role as an Apostle and as a leader in the local church that he is to feed the sheep. It is a fascinating passage to work through. It demonstrates that the priority of the pastor is to feed the sheep – not to build a church. Jesus also told Peter as we studied this last Sunday.
NKJ Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Jesus said that He will build the church. The pastor is supposed to feed the sheep. The problem that we have gotten into today is that most pastors are trying to build a church. They are letting the untrained rather ignorant, non-trained, non-professional Sunday school teachers feed the sheep. That is why most sheep are starving to death and don't know it. That is why most sheep are ignorant and lack discernment. They fail to grow. That is the kind of situation that we have here. They are not internalizing and assimilating the Word of God into their thinking. They are not learning to think biblically. That is the challenge that Paul presents in Romans 12:2.
NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
There is supposed to be this overhaul – a complete exchange of Bible doctrine and divine viewpoint for the human viewpoint that is in the soul. The word there has to do with a qualitative restructuring of our thought. As I frequently point out, a problem for most of us is that it is hard enough to think without having to think about our thinking. It is not only the content of our thought that can be a problem; it is the methodology of how we think. That gets into some really heavy stuff.
I think someone here is working through Charlie Clough's framework series for a second time. When you work through that about three or four times you will start to understand what it means to have a complete restructuring of your thinking. You begin to think and respond to the events in life from a Biblical framework as opposed to a human viewpoint framework. It's not easy. It takes us all of our lives to start undoing the habit patterns of thought that we acquired when we were young because of the carnality of our own thinking and the comfort factor of human viewpoint thinking. That's a real challenge because it is comfortable to think in terms of human viewpoint. It gives us an easy tool to rationalize and self justify sinful thought patterns. I'm not talking about thought patterns of lust or that sort of thing which is what you normally hear in some Baptist church or superficial evangelical church. I am talking about thinking in terms of human viewpoint epistemology where your value system is basically built upon human systems of rationalism and empiricism and letting the cosmic system define basic vocabulary instead of letting the Scripture define that basic vocabulary for you.
On example was when Charlie was here last week. He talked some about law. If you are going to talk about law or freedom or liberty, you don't start by going to enlightenment thinkers like John Locke or Montesquieu or people like this who did some tremendous development in terms of concepts of liberty and the role of government. But their starting point wasn't the Scripture. Their starting point was empiricism and rationalism. If you are going to talk about law or freedom or liberty, those terms must acquire their definition first from the Word of God. You go to the Word of God to get an understanding of that. Then you develop it from there so that the Word of God gives you that biblical framework from which you can read with discernment human writers who may have many good things to say, but they also have a lot of human viewpoint in there. So it is only from the biblical framework that you can go in and read different human writers who are writing from various philosophical systems and understand what has value and what doesn't have value. Otherwise you end up feeding your own prejudices about law or liberty or politics or government.
So we have to learn to think biblically both in terms of the content of our thought and in terms of the structure of our thinking. I know that some of you think, "Well, I can't mentally sweat like that." It is a lot of work. It is the whole process of sanctification. This is one of the many tests that we have to go through as we grow and advance in the spiritual life. It is the purpose of the pastoral ministry to teach people and give them illustrations and to open this up so that they begin to realize that there is more to the Christian life than coming to church and singing some praise and worship choruses and all of a sudden feeling good about themselves and Jesus because they got that endorphin rush from clapping their hands and listening to the drums and tambourine music and trying to identify that with spirituality. That is where we are today in most churches. We wonder why the evangelical church has no impact. It is because they can't think biblically. The sad thing is that most pastors can't think biblically. They don't have a clue what it means to try to think biblically. They don't have that vision.
The writer of Hebrews certainly challenges us as we go through all of his development realizing that there is some difficult stuff here. The real challenge is that he views much of what he has said already - that we have spent the last 40 hours on - as the basic elementary principles of Christ. We get that in 6:1.
Everything that we have studied so far - the writer of Hebrews says that this is the basics. This is the ABC's. You've had the primer on Christology now so let's leave this behind and really press forward. Most Christians today think that this is advanced stuff. "It's so heavy. I can't understand all of this. Let's get back to some real basics." The writer of Hebrews considers everything that he has said so far to be basic. This gives us a new vision of what it means to grasp the Word of God and to think biblically.
As we look at the structure of the next section to give us that bird's eye view, this third section begins in 4:14 and goes down to 5:11. The practical challenge or warning begins in the 12th verse. The challenge goes from 5:12 to 6:20 within which there is a warning in 6:4-8.
This is the first time that we have seen that the warning and the challenges aren't the same section. The warning is just a segment of the overall challenge. It ends on a very positive note in verses 9-20. Nevertheless it is a challenge for them to apply what they have been learning so they can advance and grow.
NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
There is a causal participle at the beginning of verse 14. It should be understood in the sense of "therefore". He is reaching a conclusion. Now that we have gone through that last section we are going to draw a conclusion and an inference. That inference is related to the high priesthood of Christ.
He goes on to give the challenge.
That is to hold on to, to not give up, to not relinquish.
That is our doctrine. That is another important point. For the writer of Hebrews and the writer of Scripture, doctrine is not what we might think of as abstract theology. There are too many people in our modern world that think of doctrine as abstract theology. So doctrine somehow in the past 30 years picked up a negative connotation in a lot of circles. "They are so heavy into all of that doctrine stuff. I want more application." But the Biblical concept of doctrine includes application. If you separate application from teaching then you end up in some abstract theological intellectual entertainment. The Bible is never abstract theological stimulation. It is all about learning about God so that it changes the way that we interact with His creation. Theology that isn't practical isn't Biblical theology.
So the Biblical concept of doctrine is similar to the way doctrine is used in the military. It includes not only what we might refer to as the abstract theological framework, but it extends all the way to its practical application on a day to day basis on the battlefield. Doctrine includes both the underlying rationale as well as its final application. That is why the writer challenges them to hold on to their confession, their belief system. Don't give it up. That is the problem that they are facing. It is due to pressure and adversity and increasing persecution and rejection from the Jewish establishment. They on the verge of chunking their Christianity and going back into Judaism. This is why he had warned them in the first challenge in 2:1.
NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
So he comes back and he picks up that idea to challenge us to hold fast to our confession. Then he gives a reason. The reason is introduced by the word "for" at the beginning of verse 15. It is Greek word gar that indicates the giving of a reason. I am now going to explain why you shouldn't give up your doctrine. He tells them why they shouldn't fold and go back to Judaism. It is amazing today the number of Christians that fade out as they go down the final stretches in life.
We live in a city right now where there are several churches that have historically been fairly decent Bible teaching churches. In the last 10-15 years due to various influences they have drifted more into the contemporary praise and worship kind of thing that dominates those churches. What you find is a generational split. The older generation that is let's say 60 and over can remember a time when church was more focused on content and less on tambourines and drums and guitars and having a rock band up in front. They remember hearing the Word. Even in a Baptist church they were taught a little something. There was some growth. There was a little more teaching. It wasn't just stimulation and entertainment.
I have asked what's happening in some of these churches as I talk to people who have gone to those churches.
"The attendance has dropped off. A lot of people have left."
"Where are they going?", I ask.
"We don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"I don't know. They're not showing up over here. A few are here a few are there."
They disappear. What happens? They get disenchanted with the church. They get disenchanted with Christianity. They get tired of seeing a battle so they drop out and stay at home.
That is the kind of thing that was happening to these Jewish believers. They were going through this adversity and rather than continue to run the race and fight the fight and continue to stay in the spiritual battle, they were going to continue to gradually drift off the sidelines and give it all up. So they are challenged to hold on to their doctrine. Why? Because we have a high priest who can encourage us and strengthen us. He has been through the battle. He is not one who can't sympathize with our weaknesses, who can't come alongside in the midst of our struggles. He was like us. He was tested in all points as we are. Therefore let's go boldly to the throne of grace because at the right hand of God the Father is our high priest, our advocate the Lord Jesus Christ. He has gone through the same kinds of struggles and rejection and adversity that we are going through. He is there to give us strength, aid, comfort and to sustain us in the times of difficulty.
So what we learn from this is that the ascension of Christ is not just some interesting little doctrine that gives us some mental stimulation as we start unpacking all of its different references in the New Testament. It is vital for encouraging us to hang in there when the battle heats up. So we learn several things from this.
- Christ's ascension is the basis for present encouragement and strength in difficult times. His ascension becomes the foundation for the writer's challenge to people to hang in there when things are difficult. The ascension is not just a doctrine that talks about the fact that Jesus has gone to heaven and He is sitting there at the right hand until the Father says it is okay to come back. There is a practical reality that He is at the right hand ready to come to our aid and strengthen us in difficult times.
- Christ's ascension is the culmination of His victory over sin and death on the cross. He died on the cross and He paid the penalty for our sins. Then He was buried. He rose again on the third day. It is the ascension that is the Father's final approval and acceptance. When He goes home to be with the Father is when He ascends to heaven. Ephesians 4:8f went back to Psalm 68:18 and picked up on that ascension imagery when the ark was taken up to the top of the temple mount as a picture of God's victory over all of Israel's enemies. That imagery is used to communicate what happens at the ascension of Christ. He has had victory over all of the enemies. If the enemy has been defeated, then that certainly encourages us that even though it may not feel like those enemies are defeated, the battle is over and the battle is won. This is just the mopping up operation to give us an opportunity to grow and mature and to prepare us for our future ministry and service with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.
- This means the evil, the suffering, the horrors, the adversity that we face on a day to day basis in a fallen world is only temporary. All this that we go through is just temporary. The battle has been won. We have a glorious future to anticipate. All of this flows out of an understanding of the present session of the high priesthood Christ.
- This means that He is going to come back. He is going to return.
NKJ John 14:3 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
The ascension reminds us that there is a future home and destiny for us with the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts 1:11 the angel said that he would return in the same manner in which He left.
- As a human high priest He can sympathize. There is empathy. There is a desire to help us in the midst of our difficulty because He has gone through the same thing that we have gone through. There is this factor that at the right hand of God the Father there is a human being who went through the same kinds of tests that you are going through. It is not some other kind of creature. Therefore He completely understands what you and I go through as we face these struggles.
- His high priesthood, His ascension to the throne, gives us direct access to God. This has never happened before in human history. We are so used to that in the Church Age that we forget how radical this is. You as an individual believer have direct immediate access to God the Father on the throne as He is governing the universe! We have a special ear - a mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. We don't pray to the Lord Jesus Christ. We don't have to go through any saints. We don't have to pray to Mary. We have the Lord Jesus Christ who is there as the one who strengthens us and helps us and is there as our intercessor so we can face the struggles of life. That's the challenge.
He brings in this idea of the high priesthood. Now he is going to develop it in 5:1-11. He talks about the qualifications – Jesus' qualifications as a high priest. In the first four verses he is simply talking about being qualified as a high priest. He is not relating it specifically to Jesus yet. He is talking about any human high priest. He explains the qualifications of a high priest.
- A high priest is appointed to his place in office. He doesn't appoint himself. He is appointed by someone else in authority.
- He is to represent man to God. He is appointed to men in things pertaining to God. This is the primary role of a high priest. The primary role of a priest is to represent men to God. The primary role of a prophet was to be a spokesman for God to man. But, the primary role of the priest was to represent man to God.
- In that representation to God he offers gifts and sacrifices for sin. That is the role of the priest. He serves by offering gifts and sacrifices for sin.
- He is as a mediator, one who has compassion (literally it is moderation and objectivity) to those who are ignorant and those who are going astray. The ignorant are those who don't have any doctrine. Those who are going astray are those who are off the course, are in carnality, and need to be brought back onto the path. This is the role of the priest. He can deal with them in compassion and objectivity.
- The reason the human high priest can do this is because of his understanding of what people go through. He has the same problems. He has a sin nature. The human high priest can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray because he also is subject to weakness. The Greek word there is asthenes meaning spiritual weakness. Because he has problems with the sin nature, he is able to come alongside and help those who are ignorant or and those who are off course.
Along with this, he does not glorify himself.
NKJ Hebrews 5:4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.
The human high priest is appointed to his position by God. He doesn't appoint himself. He is not in it for self glorification. In following the pattern of Aaron, he is chosen by God. So the writer of Hebrews takes in these four verses outlines the basic role, function, and operation of a human high priest and then he applies it to the Lord Jesus Christ.
NKJ Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."
It wasn't a matter of self glorification or seeking some sort of special privilege. Just as Aaron was appointed by God, Jesus Christ was appointed by God the Father. Then he quotes two verses from the Old Testament, Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4. He quotes them. We have already seen them two or three times each in this epistle. He quotes them to show that the appointment of Jesus Christ to His position came from a higher authority, God the Father. It is God who appoints him to that position.
NKJ Hebrews 5:6 As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek";
He chooses both of these verses only at this point to show that Jesus Christ is appointed by the Father. He is not glorifying Himself. The Father appointed Him. He specifically quotes from Psalm 110: 4 because it brings in the type of priesthood that Jesus Christ has. It is not the priesthood that the tribe of Levi has. It is not a Jewish priesthood. It is a broader universal priesthood. It is a priesthood based on the priesthood of Melchizedek. We will go back and review that as we go through this.
NKJ Hebrews 5:7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,
The days of His flesh refers to the incarnation.
This is talking about the intense suffering that the Lord Jesus Christ went through on the cross.
NKJ Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
Have we seen that already? He is going back and picking up that sanctification theme from the middle of chapter 2. Even though He is the Son of God, He had to become humanity and go through the same tests and trials that we go through to go through that process of maturity.
NKJ Hebrews 5:9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
As we have seen in our study of this word salvation, that is not justification back here at the cross. It has a future orientation. It is the culmination of the whole process that began with justification goes through sanctification and ends in ultimate sanctification and glorification in terms of our eternal destiny. So the focus here continues to be where God is taking us in our spiritual life in preparation for that future role in reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ as kings and priests.
In verse 10 he repeats this idea.
NKJ Hebrews 5:10 called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek,"
Then he breaks off.
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
"I have a lot to tell you about - Jesus Christ in His high priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek– and it is hard to explain. This is difficult doctrine, but you are so wrapped up in carnality and your own self justification that you have become dull of hearing. I can't even teach you yet. You have got to straighten up." That is his argument here.
Then in verses 12-14 he rebukes the spiritual immaturity of the readers for their failure to apply doctrine, their failure to grow and advance spiritually, and exercise any kind of Biblical discernment.
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Biblical discernment is the application of doctrine to the choices and decisions in life. Now don't make that superficial. When we think of choices we often think of choices between that which is right and that which is wrong. But the biggest problem that most of us face is choosing between that which is good and that which is excellent. We have to exercise discernment not only in the choices we make, how we spend our time, where we go, what we do - but also in terms of what we think and how we think. It goes to a much more profound level. We live in an era where we are surrounded by the superficial. It has so permeated thought about the Christian life that we fail to probe deeply in our thinking.
Every area of life in creation is designed by God. Therefore there is nothing that you can think of or approach in life that doesn't have its starting point with a framework from the Scripture. I don't know what your job is, what you do in your work on a day to day basis, but whatever it is in whether it is in investments, whether it is in building, whether it is in technology, whether it is in some form of manual labor, whatever it is the Scripture provides the starting point for thinking about that area because in some way your job, your career, your profession or avocation, whether you are a wife and a homemaker, your professional environment whatever it may be, you are involved in bringing some sort of order to the disorderly chaos of a fallen world. God because He is the creator of everything says something about everything within the framework of the Word of God. So we have to probe this more deeply. But, we live in a world where we have made the Christian life so superficial or we have restricted it and compartmentalized it to just our spiritual life that we have divorced it from all the other things that we do in life.
If you are involved in education, you are involved in the process of teaching students about reality – about history, about language. All of these things are addressed by the Word of God. A philosophy of education involves an understanding of the human soul – its makeup, its strengths, its weaknesses, and the problems of sin. So educational philosophy should be governed by an understanding of what the Word of God says about the nature of man. Yet how many teachers have taken the time to work through a Biblical anthropology to understand the impact of sin on the learning process and how that affects teaching and instruction and taking somebody from a position of ignorance to a position of knowledge. That is just one example.
We don't think that way. It is moral or immoral. But that is really a superficial look. The writer of Hebrews is digging so deeply in terms of application that he recognizes that we have got to leave behind what we think of as basic theology, the ABC's of understanding of who Christ is, so that we can go to a different level. If you are going to rule and reign with Jesus Christ in the Millennial Kingdom then maybe you need to think through a Biblical philosophy of political theory so that you can be properly oriented to leadership, to ruling and reigning. You see, you never thought about that before. That is why there is so much to probe.
I don't get a chance to do it much any more but I used to love to read the Puritans. Now I might disagree with their theology in a number of areas, but t they at least understood the fact that the Word of God addressed every area of life and that we have to probe every area of life deeply and profoundly in order to understand how God addresses everything. We have lost that in modern evangelicalism. So the writer of Hebrews is rebuking them for their spiritual immaturity because they're so mired in carnality that they can't think biblically anymore. They have absorbed teaching as academic knowledge, but it hasn't permeated their soul under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit to transform them internally from gnosis to epignosis.
So he rebukes them for being dull of hearing and for not having this internal transformation, renovation of their thinking. He says, "Look, you have had enough time. You ought to be teachers. You have learned enough doctrine and Bible teaching where all of you should be able to teach this material. But, you can't do it. Not only can't you do it, but I have to go back and put you on spiritual pabulum because you have been in a regressive state of spiritual decline. Now you have come to need milk and not spiritual food. As a result of that, as a spiritual baby again, you are unskilled in the Word of righteousness."
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
So there is no application. Now that they are facing all of this external adversity they want to give up and go hide somewhere and curl up in a spiritual fetal position and let the spiritual battle pass you by.
So chapter 5 ends with this confrontational tone.
The sixth chapter then begins with a warning. This is perhaps one of the most debated passages in all of Scripture. You always find people of an Arminian persuasion. Part of that means that they don't believe in eternal security. That was interesting in going over to Russia. The Russian Baptists put the locus of the conflict between Calvinism and Arminianism on eternal security. If you believe in eternal security you are a Calvinist. I don't care what else you believe in. If you believe in eternal security you are a Calvinist. And that is a bad thing according to the Russian Baptists. So they will go to a passage like this and this is one of the key ones to show that you can lose your salvation.
NKJ Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
We have to deal with the participle there and the significance of that participle. I think that it is a conditional participle.
He gives three pairs as he goes through this - 6 different objective genitives in the Greek. There are three sets of two.
This repentance from dead works is to change your thinking and behavior from the production of human good to production of divine good.
NKJ Hebrews 6:2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
The second pair is instruction about baptisms. That is going to be interesting to deal with. Laying on of hands deals with legitimate versus illegitimate ritual in the Christian life.
Then the third pair is of the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. So that leads us to a future orientation.
NKJ Hebrews 6:3 And this we will do if God permits.
This recognizes that ultimately God is the one who is directing our lives.
NKJ Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
NKJ Hebrews 6:5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
NKJ Hebrews 6:6 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.
There are many people who come to this passage and say, "See you can lose your salvation." But the terminology here – first of all it refers to the same set of people. You have a series of five participles that are all governed by one article. That indicates that it is one group. It's not talking about different things for different groups of people. All of these participles describe the same group of people. The terms that are used such as "being enlightened" as used in Hebrews 10:32 in reference to regeneration and "tasted the heavenly gift" and "tasted the Word of God" in verse 5 really communicate almost the wrong image.
Remember back in chapter 2, I pointed out earlier that Jesus tasted death for everyone. That word "taste" indicates for us a sampling. We go to the grocery store on Saturday morning and they have got all of those samples everywhere. You can go along and take a little taste of this and a little taste of that. None of that has any calories by the way. We think of this word taste as getting a small sample. That is not what the word means. When Jesus tasted death He fully immersed Himself in full spiritual death, separation from God the Father in terms of bearing the sins of the world. The Greek word duomai means to fully experience something. They have fully experience the heavenly gift and they have fully experienced the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come.
All of these terms refer to what happens at salvation. So they are genuinely justified. But there is the reality that even though we are justified, regenerate believers we can fall into serious carnality and if we stay there long enough it can threaten and jeopardize any future spiritual advance. This is what John refers to I John 5 as the sin unto death. Eventually you can become so carnal and so deteriorated in your spiritual life that there is no possibility of reversal.
Apparently in their historical context they were going back into Judaism and becoming part and parcel of the enemies of Christ who crucified Him on the cross. In fact that term "enemy of Christ" is a term that Paul uses in Philippians 3 to also refer to the same kind of spiritual failure and spiritual regression.
Then in verses 7 there is a positive illustration of blessing.
NKJ Hebrews 6:7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;
In verse 8 there is a negative illustration of cursing or condemnation.
NKJ Hebrews 6:8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Verse 7 talks about the believer. It uses the agricultural imagery of the earth taking in the rain that comes upon it. The rain is a picture o f God's instruction and revelation. The earth is a picture of the believer who takes in the nourishment from the Word and as a result under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit produces fruit, produces divine good. There is blessing from God.
On the other hand there are those who don't respond to the rain and the earth and their lives produce thorns and briars. That is human good. It is rejected.
That is not burning in the Lake of Fire. It is probably the burning up of wood, hay, and straw at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We will see that when we go through the passage. There is a definite warning here – where are you investing your life today? Is it in preparation for the future or is it going to burn up at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
Then he ends the warning and has this very positive note.
NKJ Hebrews 6:9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.
Beloved indicates that they are saved. Agapetos only refers only to believers.
Because you are oriented to the future, a personal sense of eternal destiny these things will accompany your spiritual growth.
NKJ Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
NKJ Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
The emphasis is on perseverance and hanging in there until the Lord finally takes you home and not becoming sluggish.
NKJ Hebrews 6:12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Then he uses an Old Testament illustration from Abraham. God made a promise to Abraham and Abraham stuck with it. He didn't give up. There was perseverance. This is the true doctrine of perseverance. If you as a believer hang in there to spiritual maturity then you will reap the reward of a full inheritance as Abraham will. He didn't give up. He didn't fail. He didn't fall by the wayside.
NKJ Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,
This relates to our future hope or confidence. That hope is a word that is loaded with the future. It is a confident expectation of where we are headed, that future orientation and personal sense of our eternal destiny that provides an anchor for the soul during present adversity. An anchor stabilizes a ship in the midst of stormy seas. It provides an anchor of the soul. There is a focus on the Lord Jesus Christ behind the veil. It takes us right back to the doctrine of the high priesthood of Christ and sets us up for the next section.
That is our overview. There is some fun stuff in the next couple of chapters.
We will begin with an understanding of the priesthood in 5:1 next time.