Hebrews Chapter 6: Crucifying Christ Afresh, God’s Promise to Abraham

Jan 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews Chapter 6: Crucifying Christ Afresh, God’s Promise to Abraham

Heb. 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Heb. 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” The “perfection” is continual progress “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). We are to run the race as if there is only one winner.

The doctrinal steps that Paul listed in verses 1 and 2 are like the divine plan in a nutshell. We will consider each step.

1 and 2. “Repentance from dead works” and “faith toward God” are believing God and then making a consecration to do His will. In other words, the step is from “repentance from dead works” to “faith toward God,” which is consecration. God was saying in effect, “My strength will be sufficient. If you do your part, I will do my part to help you make your calling and election sure.”

3. “Baptisms” refers to water immersion and the significance underlying that baptism. Jesus said to John the Baptist, “You may not understand why I want to be baptized, but suffer it to be so because baptism is fitting.” If Jesus set the example as the beginner of the race, we should follow in his footsteps and be immersed, thus making a public confession.

Water baptism represents being baptized into Jesus’ death (Rom. 6:3). Water pictures the tomb, so when a candidate is pushed below the water, it is like being buried. Being brought up out of the water represents walking in newness of life. This is the beginning of the race; it is being at the start line. Many of us were baptized a long time ago in the nominal Church, so it is up to each one of us to determine whether it is necessary to go through a literal immersion again. To make this decision, we need to think back on our state of mind at the time. Certainly sprinkling the head with a few drops of water or infant baptism is not acceptable as a beginning.

4. “Laying on of hands.” In the early Church, this doctrine meant receiving a mechanical gift. Today a talent (or talents) would be developed gradually in each of the consecrated under the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, in apostolic days, a more visible miraculous gift was imparted immediately after one was immersed. Such startling gifts included speaking in tongues, the ability to quote Scripture, and healing. The gifts were a great assurance because early Christians did not have the written Word. The most one might have was one or two letters from the apostles Paul or Peter, for example.

Consider the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch, who was reading Isaiah in his chariot (Acts 8:26-40). When Philip seemingly came out of the blue, ran up to him, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” the eunuch responded honestly, “I do not know unless someone teaches me.” Although the eunuch was the representative of the queen in Africa and the occupant of a very important office, he had inherent humility, as evidenced by his desire to understand. In explaining the passage in Isaiah (probably chapter 53), Philip apparently explained about baptism. Then he said, “A brook is here. Why not get baptized right away?” The eunuch agreed, but after his immersion, Philip providentially disappeared, allowing the eunuch to think that an angel from heaven had spoken with him. When he returned to Ethiopia, that experience sustained him for the rest of his life in holding to what he had learned about Jesus.

Today the instantaneous nature of the gifts has ceased. Because gifts are imparted in a much more subtle and gradual manner, they are much less discernible. However, today we have the written Word—not only the Holy Spirit but also the Holy Spirit in God’s Word of instruction.

5. “Resurrection of the dead.” “Resurrection” in this context refers to both the heavenly resurrection of this age and the earthly resurrection of mankind in the next age.

6. “Eternal [age-lasting] judgment.” God has “appointed a day [the Kingdom Age], in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man [Christ Jesus] whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31).

Heb. 6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

Heb. 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

Heb. 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

Heb. 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Starting with chapter 2, this theme of guarding against letting the truth slip seems to be one of the burdens of the early portion of the Book of Hebrews, for a person’s retrieval becomes more and more difficult the longer the slippage takes place. Paul had just mentioned the basic doctrines of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and age-lasting judgment, but he said that the Christian should go on and progress into deeper truths. Paul seems to be suggesting that those who are familiar with these doctrines and have consecrated, thus having “tasted” of these good things to come, have a great responsibility. Sometimes years pass before a departure takes place, but how dangerous it is!

Q: Is it “impossible” to renew such individuals unto repentance?

A: Yes, because they were once made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and truth is a miraculous understanding. Some who are in a family of truth can, to a certain extent, parrot or mimic doctrines, but having “tasted the good word of God” suggests that recovery is impossible for one who has had an appreciation of these things and then falls away. Of course this falling away is not just backsliding or going apart from the brotherhood for a little while, as the Apostle Paul did when Barnabas had to search him out to bring him back. The point is that Paul never went out of the truth; he just separated himself. However, there are those who separate and then begin to rescind some of the simple doctrines they once knew.

Comment: This condition is beyond the point where a person “shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15).

Reply: Yes, as proven by verse 8, which speaks of briars and thorns. This would be “a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16). The Apostle John said that we should not pray for such individuals. Those who have been in the truth for some time are probably aware of one or two individuals in this category. For example, returning all of the Volumes or the Reprints is an unfavorable sign.

Renewal unto repentance has to do with conscience. A hardened conscience is impossible to renew because, being no longer tender or responsive, it does not awaken the individual. The conscience, then, is a very important part of our life to awaken us to a sense of guilt, loss, or shame and thus help us to realize we are going in the wrong direction. To recognize the need for recovery is the first step.

While Paul addressed this book to the Hebrews, he was very fearful of the proselytizing Jews, the Judaizing Christians, who accepted Christ and then later on had second thoughts with regard to the Law. They began to think that Christians had to be faithful to the Law of Moses— that they had to be justified by the works of the Law—as well as to believe in Jesus. But as time went on, their believing in Jesus was sliding away, and they were back to just the Law of Moses. They were discarding one fundamental doctrine after another.

To reach maturity, a Christian needs the fundamental doctrines plus deeper truth. Paul had just criticized those who kept going over and over the same basic doctrines. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [the fundamentals], let us go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:1).

The ABC’s of doctrine were needed in order to communicate one with another.

It is impossible to renew again unto repentance those who “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” for they do “despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). In other words, the expression “they crucify … the Son of God afresh” is a way of expressing the impossibility of recovery. Such individuals put Jesus “to an open shame”; that is, like Judas, they put the cause of truth to shame. With Peter, the retrieval occurred very quickly.

In fact, it happened even before Jesus died, being a matter of perhaps only an hour or two when Peter “went out, and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75). Once a duration of time passes without recovery, the conscience gets hard; it shrivels and dries up and is no longer responsive. “How is the gold become dim!” is the principle (Lam. 4:1). Gold does not tarnish, but one’s eyesight, his appreciation of divine truth, can dim.

Q: In this context, was the sin more related to Judaizing Christians?

A: Yes, because Paul was writing to the Hebrews. However, there were other kinds of sin. Paul was speaking of those who were enlightened with truth and had consecrated and received the Holy Spirit. In the early Church, the receipt of a gift was an evidence that one was Spirit-begotten. Today the “gifts” are given in ways that are not obvious. When someone departs from the truth and we review his life, we marvel how at one time he was so zealous. We think about what he did on this occasion or on that occasion, and now he is not at all interested. In such cases, we know that the individual has “tasted of the heavenly gift” and been a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and thus there is a more valid reason for not inordinately wasting time trying to recover one who is in an unsavable condition.

We have to be careful, however, for some go into isolation but do not disobey. It is difficult for us to judge, for in most cases, we do see them in this period of separation. As unbelievable as it may seem, there was an individual who, after years of consecration and obedience to the truth, proclaimed that Christ was a false Messiah. As the Apostle Peter said, “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire [of sin]” (2 Pet. 2:22). A few who have known the truth have returned to believing in hellfire or the Trinity, and they even write articles or preach on their “new” beliefs.

Heb. 6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

Heb. 6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

One class brings forth herbs that are meet for food and blessing. The rain is the truth, which comes down upon the soul of a consecrated being, but if that person later has no fruit or wholesomeness and if everything is negative, he is a thorn. And what does a “thorn” do? It hurts everyone. There are times when we need to be prodded and goaded, but that should not be the habitual character of a person.

At first, a briar has leaves, but when it is developed, there are no green leaves to speak of; it is nothing but thorns. That is what happened to the Judaizing Christians, and those who were influenced by them turned around and acted like the very ones who had originally caused the damage.

Comment: If we get too close to briars and thorns, they will stick to us, so it is better to keep our distance.

Reply: One who bears thorns and briars is rejected and “is nigh unto cursing.” In the natural world, if someone steps on a thorn, he usually curses. Therefore, not only can one be a thorn but also those who are afflicted are sometimes inordinately damaged. The “end” of one who bears thorns and briars is “burning,” that is, Second Death.

Comment: A crown of thorns was put on Jesus’ head. The thorns were a contradiction of his being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26).

Reply: Yes, it was like saying he was a curse not only to himself but also to others. Of course the thorns go back to the Garden of Eden, for Jesus had to be a curse like Adam. Jesus needed to have inherent life rights, but he also had to bear the penalty of sin for the sinner. There is a big difference between being a sin-bearer and a life-bearer. Thus the Ransom had two aspects: (1) the necessity for Jesus to be a perfect man and to render perfect obedience and (2) the necessity for him to be cursed in order to experience the affliction of Adam. Adam was the head of the human race, and Jesus was crucified with the sign over his head “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” What irony and sarcasm! The sign, the crown of thorns, the nakedness, and being hung on a tree as a curse were all essential for Jesus to take Adam’s place. The curse ended at death, and Jesus was raised as the life-bearer. Thus one chapter ended and another began, and what would seem to be an irreconcilable conflict is actually harmonized. Jesus was put to death in the flesh for more than one reason but was raised spirit.

Heb. 6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

Here is another example of the Apostle Paul’s faithfulness, for he spoke the whole truth (Acts 20:27). On the one hand, there has been a tendency of some evangelicals to preach sermon after sermon on hellfire, judgment, penalties, and the justice of God. On the other hand, there are those who preach that God forgives practically everything. Both are distortions of the truth; the truth is a balance in between the two extremes. We see Paul’s faithfulness in declaring the whole counsel of God.

Paul talked here as though he was familiar with these individuals. Not only was he thoroughly familiar with the problems of Judaism, but also he knew some of these people, both for good and for evil.

Heb. 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Paul’s general familiarity with these individuals came about in two ways: (1) through his training, upbringing, and knowing the other side of the situation; and (2) by his travels throughout the whole civilized world. He traveled worldwide, as it were, so he knew the situation, not only intellectually and doctrinally but also by going first to the Jews on his missionary journeys. When he was cast out of the synagogue, he turned to the Gentiles.

Comment: Verse 10 shows that Paul was addressing a class who had not sinned unto Second Death because otherwise, he would have used wording like that in Ezekiel 18:24, “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”

Reply: That Ezekiel text shows three stages of development, ending in Second Death.

Heb. 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

Paul desired that every one of the Hebrews would have a “full assurance of hope unto the end.”

Patient endurance is a very important factor in the Christian walk. Jesus said, “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). If one loses his soul, that is Second Death. Unfortunately, over a period of time of discouragement, some commit spiritual suicide, and a few even commit literal suicide because their expectations are shattered. But Paul was saying, “Keep this hope. Hold on to it. Have a full assurance of hope unto the end of your course.” Patient endurance prevents the shattering of hope by holding it together. A Manna text states that patient endurance is the last test; it is the crystallizing factor of character. What is done to a vase? After being beautifully ornamented and decorated, it is put into a furnace and given a glaze to make it more permanent and lasting. This is the full assurance unto the end—“Let patience have her perfect[ing] work” (James 1:4). The vase has to stay in the furnace for a while, and when it is removed, if it has not been damaged, it is much more desirable. The Christian walk is similar with its trials. “The trial [the proof] of your faith,” after testing, is “much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (1 Pet. 1:7).

Heb. 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Now Paul was bringing out the relationship between faith and patience. All of us started the marathon race with faith; otherwise, we would not be in the race for the high calling, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). We had the faith that justified us, we consecrated, and from that point forward, we have been trying to be “faith-full” until death, which is a process. Starting too fast in this endurance race could lead to a spiritual burnout.

While we need faith and patience throughout the marathon, the odd part is that, as a general principle, the more extreme testing of faith occurs in the last lap of the race. (Of course Stephen was an exception, but there are very few “Stephens.”) In the past, for example, some whom we believed to be wonderful saints were put aside in the latter part of life, not even being elected elder, even though they had served faithfully for many years. Knowing their past and what they had done—and that they were the same when rejected in elderly years—we felt their not showing any bitterness was a very favorable sign. Some of those we respected most had this trial, but they remained faithful right to the end of their course.

“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” We get help not only from Jesus, the beginner and the finisher of the race, but also from fellow runners in the race. Very often in times of stillness after the death of outstanding individuals, we look back and think about them with fond and tenderizing memories. Thus the example of others can be very encouraging, especially if we feel that they probably made their calling and election sure.

Heb. 6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

Heb. 6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

Heb. 6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Next Paul gave Abraham as an example. The Scriptures tell us much about the life of faithful Abraham with all of the testings, especially the long wait before the promise was fulfilled that he would have a son. His ultimate test was the command from God to slay Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham lived to age 175 (Gen. 25:7).

Another disappointment was that Abraham did not actually get the land. “After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise,” but in what sense? He died faithfully. Although God promised the land to Abraham, not only did he not receive it, but he had to purchase a little plot to bury his wife Sarah. However, he inherited, or secured, the promise; it was sealed in faithfulness.

Comment: After Abraham obeyed the command to offer up Isaac, God swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.”

Reply: Yes, Abraham received the promise but did not get the land.

If someone is faithful enough to offer up his own son, as Abraham did, would his devotion to God ever change? No. In fact, even earlier God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Gen. 18:17,18). In other words, “Shall I not reveal to Abraham the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for I know he will be faithful and thus inherit the promise?” The sealing process can reach a point where it becomes finished, secured, even in the present life. For example, the holy angels, who did not sin at the time of the Flood, will not die anymore because they sealed their faithfulness in obedience to God under a very severe test. In the future, it will be interesting to see visually some of the details of the nature of that test. The holy angels did not leave their first estate except to do what God instructed, and after discharging the responsibility, they returned immediately to heaven. For the disobedient angels to leave their first estate is the same principle as leaving the truth. The fallen angels enjoyed their activity down here more than what they previously had. And so, when one returns to the world after having the truth, it is like swine that go back to the mud and relish it. In his epistle, Jude used the example of the angels who left their first estate to show the enormity of incorrigible sin. Peter wrote similarly in his second epistle.

Imagine dying and hearing Jesus say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” The weight of sin would immediately lift off our back. We would know we had been faithful and would never die henceforth. There would be no need for further trials and testings. What a wonderful time it will be when sin shall be no more! But now Satan is the god of this world, and we are in a vessel of clay.

Heb. 6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

Heb. 6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

To show the “immutability of his counsel,” God “confirmed it by an oath.” Although Paul did not take the time to go into detail, he used Abraham and Abraham’s faithfulness as an example. Paul was coming to the subject of Melchisedec, who was met by Abraham. Therefore, Paul’s thinking was changing from the subject of faith and Abraham to Melchisedec. The apostle was writing with emotion, but because of his many years of discipline, suffering, and endurance, he did not allow emotionalism to affect his thinking. In other words, whatever he said with great emotion was strictly true and meaningful.

Heb. 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Paul said that it is “impossible for God to lie,” yet Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). There is no contradiction between the two statements. God cannot lie because His character is such that He will not lie, but technically, He is a free moral agent who can do what He wants. Like those He has created, He has the ability to choose to do or not to do. Thus, although it is technically possible for God to lie, it is morally impossible, for His character would not allow Him to lie. Therefore, the technicality does not mean much.

Comment: God does change His mind at times.

Reply: Yes, but many of God’s promises are conditional: If you do such and such, I will do so-and- so.”

Heb. 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

“We … lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hope, a progression of faith, is different from wishful thinking.

Scriptural hope is something substantial; it is sort of a crystallization of faith. Faith is like having muscles and strength after doing exercise. Hope is the intermediate step. The hope Paul was speaking of does not get disappointed; it becomes the reality in obtaining the character that God is looking for, the image of Jesus as far as is possible in our fallen state and vessel. That is love, which encompasses many different ingredients.

Comment: Romans 5:3-5 reads, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Reply: Yes, Paul was speaking about a real hope.

Hope is the substance of faith. Earlier in his Christian walk—and in spite of all his experiences, persecutions, and sufferings—Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended [the crown, the prize of the high calling]” (Phil. 3:13). But at the end of his life, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7,8). Thus hope, which is “sure and stedfast,” becomes important. God wants to instill this hope in us, but there are modifying factors. If we obey Him, He will keep His promise.

Heb. 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

In calling Jesus the “forerunner,” Paul used the analogy of a race. Jesus is our example. He is on the other end of the anchor, which is within the veil. We trust in him as our Savior; we have followed this truth, which “maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5). If we hold fast to the hope, it will bring its reward.

Jesus was “made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” In other words, Jesus entered beyond the veil of death. The First Veil, the veil to the Holy of the Tabernacle, is the veil of the human mind, consecration, the death of the human will, where we give up earthly hopes, etc., but the Second Veil, the veil to the Most Holy, is the veil of actual death. When Jesus went under that veil and came up in the Most Holy, he was assured of victory. He had won the race; he had attained the prize.

Sometimes the winner of a race does not get the prize right away. The prize is given at a ceremony, which comes later. But meanwhile, the runner knows he has won the race unless, of course, he is disqualified for doing something wrong. If we go beyond the veil and are raised to life, we will know we have won.

Accordingly, Abraham died with the assurance that he was faithful, and when he comes back to life in the Kingdom Age, he will attain the reward of perfect human life. Then, at the end of the Kingdom, he will get a heavenly reward. Stated another way, Abraham will first enter the “holy city” that comes down from God out of heaven, and then, when the Kingdom Age ends, the “holy city” will become an elevator that pulls him up beyond the veil (Rev. 21:2). Earlier Paul said, “I would like to talk on the subject of Melchisedec, but you are dull of understanding and are again in need of milk so that you will be built up” (Heb. 5:10-12 paraphrase).

(2000 Study)

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