What is Hebrews 6 saying?

We are currently walking through the letter to the Hebrews at Stonebrook. This last Sunday, Brad spoke on Hebrews 6. Every week he publishes discussion questions for our small groups for further study and discussion. I thought this week’s questions would make a great study.

#### Brad’s intro:

> Is a believer in Christ secure in his relationship with God? If so, does it matter how we live? Our passage today is a challenging one that has generated much discussion and even controversy over the centuries. Yet this passage holds an inspiring and motivating message for all.

> Read Hebrews 5:11-6:12 first.

> Historically, there are four common interpretations of this passage:

1. A true believer in Christ who rebels and rejects Christ, then loses his salvation.
2. A so-called believer who rejects Christ, but was never truly saved.
3. A hypothetical situation, that if a true believer *could* lose his salvation, he could never be saved again. So the believer is warned to not rebel.
4. A true believer who turns his back on Christ, rejecting him and returning to a life of sin, and then comes under the severe discipline of the Lord.

> We hold that Scripture clearly denies argument 1 above, because a person who is truly saved — born again, regenerated, adopted and chosen by God — cannot lose his salvation. Eternal life is eternal. Some Scriptures on this are: Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14; Romans 8:29-30, 37-39; John 6:37-39, 10:27-29.

And then the questions:

#### 1. Discuss the topic of security. Study some (or all) of the passages above. How is eternal security alluded to or clearly stated?

Wonderful scriptures, handily defeating the idea that a believer can fall away. The very definition of believing the Gospel precludes the idea of falling away from it.

We were predestined, chosen, adopted, given by God to Jesus, given eternal life by Jesus.

How did he chose? “According to the purpose of his will.” That is, for His own reasons, which He hasn’t told us.

Why did he chose? “To the praise of his glory.” That is, he chose you (if he chose you) and me, because it will bring Him glory to have chosen us. Example: people will see that he chose *me* and realize the depth of his patience and mercy. (Because one would have to be eternally patient to put up with my pride and arrogance and eternally merciful to put up with the depth of my depravity.)

When did he chose? “Before the foundation of the earth.” That is, before creation…

Again from Brad:

> The other three possible interpretations all have some merit and some demerit. Let’s look at the entire passage. (Consider other passages in Hebrews as well.) Remember that a very important principle of proper biblical interpretation is to study the entire context.

#### 2. In 5:11-6:3, what was the spiritual condition of the church? What does it mean to be spiritually dull? Spiritually immature?

They were spiritually weak, dull of hearing, not understanding, and immature. This, I think, is imminently applicable to the church at large today.

Spiritually dull and immature is a result of lack of practice. Not giving attention to the Christian life. Not intently consuming the Word of God (not learning, studying, seeking to understand, being content to just remain oblivious to it). And especially not obeying that which they do understand. This stunts their spiritual growth and is the reason why this chapter was written.

Hebrews 6, I believe, is ultimately a warning that if you are not “earnest” in reading, studying, seeking to understand and obey the Word of God, you may not be a believer and so are destined for Hell.

#### 3. Re-read 6:4-8. How do interpretations 2, 3, and 4 fit or not fit the passage?

First, the scripture reference:

> 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.**

I am personally of the opinion that this scripture is talking about “so called believers” or, rather, simply unbelievers. People who hang around with the church, but are not actually part of it. They are around for reasons other than worship of Jesus. Perhaps to have an emotional, social, or other need met. There is no sweeter place on earth than in the company of Jesus’ people, so this is understandable. The person mentioned here is around for what they can get out of it.

This line fits very well with the rest of scripture which talk the fruit born by someone’s life. Matthew 7 comes to mind (and Brad mentioned it on Sunday. Read verses 15-23. This is a sobering passage. The scriptures that speak of crops speak in the same terms as Hebrews 6. A believer will produce good fruit.

Hebrews 6 is a warning to examine your life. If you are not bearing fruit, you are not a believer.

So, what is the purpose of warning someone they may not be a believer if belief is a predestined thing? This is an obvious question but it touches on the very nature of time, and how an eternal God interacts with it. This is a long conversation and not the topic of this post, but a simple statement is this: Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of God (Romans 10). God had Hebrews 6 written as a means of showing our need and inspiring belief. I will probably post more on this later.

“Option” 3 is a logical possibility though an unnecessary one. It fits with option 2 to strengthen the argument that this is speaking about an unbelieving, nominal (in-name-only) Christian.

“Option” 4 causes me to scratch my head. If it is speaking of a believer who will be saved and inherit the promises of scripture, then how is it that “their end is to be burned”? This does not fit from the scripture here.

When you see someone who seemed to be a believer “fall away”. That is, deny Christ, they were not a believer in the first place, no matter what miracles they performed in Christ’s name (see Matthew 7), no matter what prayer they prayed, what kind of life they lived prior to “falling away”. They may have even been a great preacher who lead thousands to Christ.

This is because it is not any of these things (miracles performed, a good life, a prayer, evangelism) that makes one (or proves one to be) a believer. The presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life is what makes (and proves) one to be a believer.

#### 4. Even though the true believer cannot lose his salvation, he still has plenty of motivation to follow Christ wholeheartedly all of his life. As you think through the Scriptures and your own life, what are motivations to live for Christ to the very end, as described in vs. 9-12?

The passage we are examining starts in Hebrews 4:14 with this statement: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

**A believer’s motive is *always and only* love for Jesus.** We follow Christ wholeheartedly because we love him and it brings us joy and pleasure to be with him. A picture of this is in a good marriage. Why do you love your wife (or husband)? If you start listing character traits (which is a natural and gut-level reaction) you will soon run out and feel awful for running out. A little deeper reflection should always lead you to a statement something like “…well, because I just DO!” This is the correct reaction.

There are many benefits to following Jesus, and He has many lovable traits, but these are not *why* we follow. It would be offensive to say we married our spouse for the sex, economic benefit, or so that we have someone to do our dishes or earn an income for us. These are all real, tangible, and proper benefit, but they are not a good reason for marrying.

#### So what IS Hebrews 6 saying?

Hebrews 6 is a warning, an exhortation, and a test. I believe it also to be a segue from the first several chapters of Hebrews to the next four, and not meant to stand on its own. The author is calling believers to persevere, and earnestly continue on in the faith, to take it seriously and make it the central feature of their life.

This all comes with a warning that if your faith is not the central thing in your life, if you do not seem to have time for it because of your career, hobbies, or ANYTHING else, that you might not be a believer at all, and you need to repent and believe, because the end of an unbeliever is eternal punishment in the fires of hell.

It is a call to action and away from apathy. We have the most important message on the planet, that Jesus has come into the world and accomplished salvation for all who would believe. We have been given a mission to spread this message. Apathy about this message is a signal of lack of belief in it.

Believe! Live in light of this news!





6 responses to “What is Hebrews 6 saying?”

  1. Classical Arminian Avatar
    Classical Arminian

    I'm perplexed as to how interpretation 1 can be dismissed so easily. Is it so that the breadth of "Scripture clearly denies this argument?" There are an abundance of Scriptures that warn believers to persevere in the faith (and also warn of the consequences of not remaining in Christ):

    Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, (Heb 3)

    20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Rom 11)

  2. Classical Arminian Avatar
    Classical Arminian

    On the other hand, those espousing any other position must realize that there view was not articulated before Calvin in the 16th century. If "once saved always saved" or "perseverance of the saints" was the teaching of the apostles, then why did none of their predecessors (the first post apostolic teachers and writers) teach it to the infant church? Here's a short article on this point:


  3. Matt Heerema Avatar

    I think it depends, then, on your view of faith/belief. The (logically consistent and scriptural) argument for perseverance of the saints says that if you are able to renounce your "faith" you never had it in the first place.

  4. Matt Heerema Avatar

    I'd also prefer it if you used a name here rather than an alias… why hide? This is a genuine place for brotherly conversation. I will moderate ad hominem attack. You have nothing to fear.

  5. Brian Peterson Avatar
    Brian Peterson

    In the oldest known commentary on this passage, Tertullian, elaborates on this passage (note especially how he sees v.12, "who who first trusted in the Messiah", and then v.13, "In Him you also trusted."

    "Again, what Christ do the following words announce, when the Apostle says, 'That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ?' Now, who could have first trusted — ie., previously trusted — in God, before His advent, besides Jews to whom Christ was previously announced from the beginning? He who was thus foretold, was also foretrusted. Hence, the Apostle refers the statement to himself, that is, to the Jews, in order that he may draw a distinction with respect to the Gentiles, (when he goes on to say:) 'In whom you also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel (of your salvation); in whom ye believed, and were sealed with His Holy Spirit of promise'." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, xvii)

  6. Matt Heerema Avatar

    In this case it depends on what you do with Romans 9. Who is Israel? I've heard strong arguments for both sides here. It seems fairly clear to me that Israel are all God's elect (gentiles included).

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