Part 5 - Resting by Faith
The Blood of the Covenant: Fully Efficacious
A Study in Hebrews Chapter Six
One of the most terrifying passages in Scripture for the new or immature believer is Hebrews chapter six, verses four through six. These verses state, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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." These verses have caused many to wonder if they have lost their salvation or have committed the unpardonable sin. It seems as though this is a favorite verse of Satan to drive a wedge between a new or immature believer and Jesus Christ. Upon reading this many have come away terrified, wondering if they can no longer be saved.
Ironically (perhaps not ironically, we shall see), the sixth chapter of Hebrews also contains the strongest passage in Scripture about security in Christ. The writer speaks about "strong consolation." He speaks about those of us who "have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." He speaks of this hope as "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast." He speaks of how Jesus has "entered for us" into that heavenly place, the "holiest of all," to be an intercessor and High Priest. These are not scriptures that speak of assurance of salvation based on the actions of the believer. These are scriptures that give assurance based on the grace of God poured out through Christ. This is an assurance based on the sure promises of God.
If there is anyone who needs "strong consolation," who needs to flee "for refuge," who needs an "anchor for the soul," it is the immature believer who has not yet learned all that Christ is. Such a one has not yet found the deliverance from the power of sin that Christ provides. The basics may be known, such that the blood of Christ cleanses one from sin and brings forgiveness, but victorious living based on grace is still unknown. A frequent stumbling into sin, accompanied by the condemnation of the devil, can drive such a one away from Christ and away from the help that Christ provides.
The answer is the knowledge of who Christ is and how God's grace comes through Christ by God's promise. To read this chapter of Hebrews and receive its message is to come away with strong consolation and an anchor for the soul. This is the intention of the writer. This is written to immature believers so that it will stabilize them, such as an anchor will do. Unfortunately, so many come away with the opposite effect. They leave this chapter with uncertainty and doubt about their salvation in Christ. They are more shaken than ever. The problem, we shall see, is the taking of Scripture out of context.
First, consider the context of chapter six in the book of Hebrews. Actually, the last part of chapter five should be considered part of chapter six. A change begins in verse eleven of chapter five, and the writer begins a line of thought that continues to the end of chapter six. It is a line of thought that must be followed continuously in order to understand the point the writer is making. This is inserted between verse ten of chapter five and verse one of chapter seven. This is a parenthetical passage. There is a thought in the middle of chapter five that is momentarily suspended, but which is picked back up on in the beginning of chapter seven. Inserted here is the parenthetical passage of chapter six. The first part of chapter five speaks of Christ as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. The writer wishes to show that Jesus' priesthood is superior to the Judaic high priest who is of the Levitical priesthood. He will show in chapter seven that this superior priesthood can save to the uttermost.
Babes in Christ
But there is a problem. The writer wants to speak of the higher things of the Christian faith, but the believers he is writing to are immature in the faith. He says of the topic of Jesus' priesthood: "of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing" (Heb. 5:11). Indications throughout the book of Hebrews show that it is written to Jewish believers in Christ, but that these Hebrew believers are struggling in their faith, in persecution because of it, and in understanding the changes that Christ has brought. The writer has much to say about the priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchizedek, but they are not able to receive it.
Next we find out why: "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. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe" (Heb. 5:12-13). Here is why the writer must pause in explaining the priesthood of Jesus: they are unskilled in the word of righteousness.
Without a proper understanding of righteousness, a basic in the faith, the concept of Jesus' intercession as High Priest cannot be grasped. The latter is built upon the former. It depends upon it. There can be no discussion of priestly intercession if the basic of what righteousness is and how it is obtained is not first settled. Thus the writer pauses in his discussion of priestly intercession and will now speak on the subject of "milk;" he will give a refresher course in righteousness. Having done this, the subject of the priesthood will be picked up again in chapter seven.
Milk and not solid food
Suppose you are invited to dinner at a friend's house with his family. You meet his baby daughter, and the host mentions that she can only drink from a bottle and cannot yet eat solid food. Steaks are grilled, and as you sit down to eat you observe in horror as the host takes the toughest and most gristly steak and plops it down in front of the baby. He does this nonchalantly, and continues talking to you while serving the rest at the table. This would be too much for you, and you would protest, saying the baby can only drink milk, so why is she being served a tough steak.
Such is the case with Hebrews chapter six. The writer is saying that those he is writing to can only take the "milk" of the word. Yet what immediately follows has been interpreted as the writer giving the Hebrews the toughest subject matter of the Bible, that of apostasy. One must protest and point out the inconsistency of the context. The matter of apostasy is one of the toughest in the Bible, and even the most skilled commentators have difficulty with it. To write to the Hebrews and say they can only drink milk and then to immediately bring up the subject of apostasy does not fit. Rather, the writer will present that which a young or immature believer needs, basic truths that will foster growth.
Having the senses exercised
The writer presents one more thought before reviewing the basics of righteousness. He shows why a grasp of this is necessary. Those who are unskilled in the word of righteousness can only receive milk. Contrasted to this is verse fourteen: "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" (Heb. 5:14). Some can receive only milk; some can receive solid food. The writer wants to present the "solid food" of the priestly ministry of Christ. He is temporarily interrupted because he realizes that those he is writing to are babes in the faith. They are unable to receive what he wants to say because they are still unsettled in the basics. Thus he will present in chapter six the fundamental of the word of righteousness.
One mark of the growing and more mature believer is the ability to "discern both good and evil." Paul the Apostle writes a passage showing the learning of this: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good" (Rom. 7:15-21). Those who mature in the faith come to realize a basic truth: All that is of the fallen world, the flesh included, is unable to do good; good is only of God, and is manifest in the believer's life only through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.
Right and wrong, good and evil
In this is the immature believer's struggle. He knows the basic of right and wrong, but is unlearned in the basic of good and evil. He tries to do right, but relies on that which is evil. It is in having his "senses exercised," accompanied by the word of God, that he finds out what Jesus said: "without Me you can do nothing." The immature believer relies on his own ability and flesh, not realizing that this is of a fallen world that is alienated from God. Having repeatedly failed, he can only look to the blood of Christ for forgiveness of sins but never experience victory. He may even repeatedly seek salvation, believing that the next time will be successful.
This contrasts with the mature believer who has come to realize the fallen nature of the flesh and the hopelessness of good ever coming out of it. This one knows the corrupted nature of the fallen creation, and looks only to God for good. Such a one has learned to look away from self and concentrate on Jesus Christ. This is what the writer to the Hebrews wants them to do. Then he will be able to speak of the priestly ministry of Jesus.
Let us go on
Chapter six continues with these thoughts: "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, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits" (Heb. 6:1-3). The Hebrews were babes in the faith, feeding only on milk, and not progressing. The writer's exhortation here is to "go on." They ought to go on past the foundational principles of the faith to maturity. The perfection mentioned here is not sinless perfection, or even perfection in their walk, but rather a perfection of their faith. It is to go on to a maturity of faith, to add to their faith such that it would become complete. If they only dwell on the basics of the faith, they will not add to it. The goal of the writer in this chapter will be to show the Hebrews that there is much more to the Christian faith than the basic salvation message. In obtaining a more mature faith, they will be able to appreciate the priesthood of Jesus which the writer wants to talk about.
The basics listed here are those which are learned in the salvation experience. In receiving Christ, one learns that repentance is necessary, that one's own works are not sufficient, that faith is necessary, that baptism is an outward show of an inward identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, that the Holy Spirit is received, that resurrection comes through Christ, and that God's judgment on sin is dealt with through Christ. These are the basics of salvation. All believers begin their new life in Christ with these truths. This is the "milk" of the faith. These things are not to be left behind as one goes on in the faith, but these are a foundation to be built upon as one learns more of who Christ is and what He has done.
They are exhorted to not lay again the foundation. This indicates that as babes, they were trying to do this. The impulse of the new believer who stumbles in sin is to try to receive Christ again in case he lost his salvation. It is significant that the writer tells the Hebrews not to do this. He has no doubt in this advice. The salvation experience does not need to be repeated. If one has truly begun a new life in Christ, one does not need to repeat it. This does not mean that repentance is never again necessary nor that one does not need to confess sin again. It simply means that salvation is a one-time experience and that those saved in Christ can continue on in their walk with God. There is now nothing that can stop them from receiving God's grace to continue if they will exercise faith in Christ.
Two reasons for going on
The writer gives a simple exhortation: "let us go on." Let us go on in the faith and not repeat the salvation experience. Next he will give two reasons for going on and not repeating the salvation experience. Let us go on for reason number one, and let us go on for reason number two. Both reasons will support his exhortation to go on and mature in the faith. Both reasons will also support his counsel not to lay the foundation again. The knowledge of these two reasons will give them the material they need to progress.
The first reason to go on: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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" (Heb. 6:4-6). This is the first argument for why the Hebrews did not need to lay again the foundation of salvation and why they could go on to a maturity of faith.
The first reason applies to those who have been saved. It makes no sense to exhort one to go on in the faith and not lay again the foundation if one were never saved in the first place. They have been enlightened, they have tasted the heavenly gift of new life, they have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, God's word has been opened to their understanding, and they have come to know the power of God. The writer is not speaking to unsaved people, telling them to go on in the faith; he is speaking to those who are saved. The first reason that he gives them for going on is a reason that only applies to those who are saved.
Impossible to be renewed again
Here is the core of the first argument to go on and not to be saved again: It is impossible to be renewed again. Salvation is a one-time experience. It cannot happen twice to an individual. Therefore, go on and do not try to go back. This is a very simple argument. Their tendency as seen in verse one of chapter six was to try to lay again the foundation, to try to be saved again. The writer shows they cannot do this. It is impossible to be renewed again. This is a negative reason for going on. They should go on because they cannot go back.
Notice the word "again." This means to go back and repeat something once again. This word is used in verse one and it is used in verse six. That which is repeated as used in this section is the salvation experience. Verse one exhorts the Hebrews not to lay again the foundation. Verse six says that it is impossible to be renewed again. The salvation experience cannot be repeated. The only alternative for those who truly have been saved is to go on for there is no need to go back and lay again the foundation. Verse six says such cannot be renewed "again to repentance." Repentance is the first in the list of the basics as listed in verse one. As used here, this is the basic repentance of those who turn to Christ and repent of their lost lifestyle. This is a turning away from the world and toward Christ as Savior. This is different from daily repentance that all believers must exercise.
The sufficiency of Christ's death
This is a simple statement. One cannot be saved twice. Appended to this statement is the reason why: "since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." Here is the reason why one cannot be saved twice: Jesus would have to die twice for that person. Not only would He have to die twice, but the first crucifixion would have to be nullified. The first atonement for sin would have to be found to be insufficient such that Jesus would have to die again. This would be a shame on Christ. He would have been found to be insufficient in obtaining one's salvation. He would be found to not be able to save to the uttermost.
This is the very reason why the Hebrews could go on and did not have to be saved again. Christ's death on the cross is sufficient! It is impossible to be saved again, that is twice, because it is impossible that Christ's death is not sufficient the first time. Nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that Christ's death is not sufficient such that He would have to be crucified again. Indeed, the opposite is true, and it is expounded on by the same writer to the Hebrews in ensuing chapters.
Appointed to die once
A well known verse from Hebrews that is used in evangelism is: "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). This is often used to show that there is no concept of reincarnation in Scripture and that death is a one-time event that precedes an eternal state. This is a valid use of the verse, but in context it is used to prove a point: the crucifixion of Jesus was a one-time event. Consider the context: "not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another; He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Heb. 9:25-28).
This is the argument: As it is appointed for men to die once, even so it is appointed for Christ to die once. He was "offered once." This is repeated again in chapter ten: "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb.10:10-14).
The Scripture is clear; Jesus was crucified once and is now in glory seated on the right hand of the Father. There is nothing sinners can do that can take away this glory or Jesus' accomplishment. Those who reject Christ now do not bring shame upon Him but rather upon themselves. Since Christ has opened the way to the Father and offers eternal life as a gift, the only shame is on those who refuse the gift. Those who are the enemies of Christ will be "made His footstool." The shame will be on them while Christ will forever be reigning gloriously as King.
Jesus ability to "perfect forever" by "one offering" is the basis for the argument presented in Hebrews chapter six verses four through six. Because of this, those who have been saved do not need to, nor can, be saved again. It is impossible. This is because, theoretically, if one was saved twice, Jesus would have died twice for that person. His first death would have to be counted insufficient such that a second dying on the cross would be necessary. This would be the only way in which shame could be brought on Christ. But because Jesus death is sufficient the first time, the writer presents a powerful argument against the necessity of being saved twice.
It should be of sober consideration to all who represent Christ that Moses, that great man of God, was prohibited from entering into the promised land because of this one thing: he represented the rock as being struck twice. After having struck the rock in the wilderness the first time with the resulting flow of water, God instructed Moses to only speak to the rock the next time to obtain water. This rock was a type of Christ. He is "one sacrifice for sins forever."
Incomplete when out of context
Now here is where so much confusion has come about in regard to this passage: the information given is incomplete in itself. If verses four through six are taken alone and out of context, there is not enough information to draw a proper conclusion about salvation.
The basic message of verses four through six is this: a person cannot be saved twice. This is an incomplete piece of information. What is missing is this: is there a case where a person needs to be saved twice? Can a person lose their salvation such that they need to be saved again? This is not addressed in these three verses. An argument is presented that simply proves that being saved a second time is impossible. If a person can lose their salvation, then that fact plus these verses means that person will be lost forever; there is no second chance. If a person cannot lose their salvation, then these verses are a reason for not trying to be saved again. If a person has never been truly saved, then these verses do not apply.
It is only by analyzing these verses in the context of the chapter that the answer is found. How is the writer using verses four through six? Why are they inserted in this passage? As we have seen, the writer is exhorting the Hebrews to "go on." He tells the Hebrews in verse one to not lay again the foundation. Thus the following verses of four through six are a reason not to lay again the foundation but rather to go on. One cannot be saved twice. Therefore, go on. There is no mention that there may be a reason why they cannot go on. If some of them had lost their salvation, and thus were lost forever since they cannot be saved again, this exhortation would not make sense. This shows that any believer, if he has truly been saved in the past, can take up faith and go on in a walk with Christ. If one is willing to do this, there is nothing on God's part that will prevent it.
What does prevent some believers from going on is a lack of faith on their part. If they think they cannot go on, they will not have the faith to go on. The basic of the Christian life is that the just shall live by faith. This is a faith that God's promises are true and will come to pass. The foundational promises are those in which God promises life and grace freely through Jesus Christ. These are received only as a gift by faith. The biggest stumbling block for the immature believer is legalism. This tries to receive God's favor by good works on the part of the believer. These are opposing concepts: receiving a gift from God versus earning God's favor. However, those who try to earn God's favor have this problem: the weakness and inability of the flesh. Those who set out on this course quickly and repeatedly run into this barrier and fall. Failure in living a righteous life leads young believers to think that they may need to start again by being saved again.
Such a falling was happening to the Hebrews who wanted to lay again the foundation. The writer answered this by the argument that "if they fall away" it was impossible to be saved a second time. They were instead to "go on" in their walk. The Greek word for "fall away" is parapipto. This means to fall aside, or to stray off course and fall. This is what a legalistic walk will do; it will lead one off the right path and lead to a fall. Note that this word is entirely different from the word apostasia which translates to the English word apostasy. Apostasy is the turning away from, and rejection of, God. A related Greek word is apostasion, meaning divorcement. Apostasy is a willful separation. Falling because of the weakness of the flesh is unrelated to apostasy.
The goal of the writer in these chapters is to get the Hebrews eyes off of themselves and on to Jesus, not only as savior but also as a priestly intercessor. The exhortation to go on, as we shall see, is to go on to a faith in who Jesus is. This is especially important in a time of weakness and failure. "If they fall away," it is important to know Jesus as intercessor. Previously the writer said, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16). A "time of need" especially comes when one falls in his Christian walk. This is a time of need to obtain mercy and find grace. This is found at "the throne of grace." He next said about a high priest, "He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness" (Heb. 5:2).
The high priest can sympathize and have compassion. This is toward those who "are ignorant and going astray." These are companion characteristics. To be ignorant of God's blessing and grace through Jesus Christ leads to going astray. This "going astray" is similar to the falling away in chapter six. Both involve going off course with the latter ending in a fall. This is why the intercession of a high priest is needed. If believers never fell after being saved, Jesus would only be needed as savior but not intercessor. But the writer says, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Those who fall can get up and "go on" in faith if they know and believe who Jesus is.
A second reason for going on
The first reason for the Hebrews to go on was that they could not go back. Next the writer gives the second reason for going on. This is the main reason and is the main point. This is a positive reason for going on: "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" (Heb. 6:7). It is God's blessing through Christ by which all believers continue on in their walk with God. He who "receives blessing from God" has the means to go on. In this message, the writer comes to the basic of Christianity. The rest of the chapter will elaborate on this. In this the "word of righteousness," which the Hebrews were unskilled in, will be taught.
An analogy is used here to represent both the saved and the lost. The saved are likened to the fruitful earth. This is a bountiful earth that receives rain and in return bears fruit. A contrasting picture of the unsaved is next given: "but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned" (Heb. 6:8). The fruitful earth "bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated" while the unfruitful earth bears only thorns and briars. This analogy in the scriptures begins with the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. Before the fall of mankind into sin and death, the only picture of the earth that is given is one of lush beauty and fruitfulness. Sin however brought a curse on the earth. God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:17-19) (emphasis added).
The blessing and curse of the Law
Mankind's separation from God caused by sin is likened to a barren earth devoid of rain which bears only thorns and briars. When God gave the law to Israel through Moses, He further reinforced this picture. Yahweh listed all the blessings that He would give to Israel if they obeyed all His commands. Among the blessings are those on the land: "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl . . . And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand" (Deut. 28:4-5,11-12).
God next listed all the curses that would come upon Israel if they did not obey and observe all of Yahweh's commandments and statutes. The list of curses included the land: "Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks . . . And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed" (Deut. 28:18, 23-24).
An important aspect to note of the blessings and curses is that the fruitfulness of the land is the result and not the cause. Obedience or disobedience to God brought either blessing or a curse. This in turn brought rain upon the land with a resulting fruitfulness, or drought with a resulting unfruitfulness. The fruit of the land in these cases merely points back to the relationship that the people had with God.
Things that accompany salvation
Jesus brought this out in a talk with His disciples: "For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:44-45). The fruit merely points to the state of that which produces it. Jesus' illustration shows two types of trees. Neither one produces a combination of good and bad fruit. "Every tree is known by its own fruit." One tree produces only good fruit; the other only thorns.
Since the writer to the Hebrews shows it is the blessing that enables the Hebrews to "go on," why does he then mention the unfruitful land that is under the curse? He does so to show the boundary line that divides those under the blessing from those under the curse. These Hebrews were "unskilled in the word of righteousness." A tendency of such is to expect blessing based on performance, and punishment if that performance does not measure up. The immature in the faith frequently imagine a dividing line between blessing and cursing within the family of God. They see good works as something that will put them over the line into the group of the blessed. And indeed, the receiving of blessing or cursing under the Law was so. One in a legalistic walk expects such.
But that dividing line does not exist in Christ. It exists between these two groups: the saved in Christ, and the world outside of Christ. Paul teaches that "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). It is those outside of Christ, still under the condemnation of the Law, who are of the cursed. The Scripture states of believers, "for you are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). The division is this, those in Christ, under grace, and those under the Law, living under the curse of the Law. The Hebrews needed to understand that they were able to receive blessing to go on in their walk. They were not disqualified to receive God's help such that they needed to start over again.
In the sixth chapter of Hebrews, verses seven and eight show that where the blessing of God is present, rain and therefore fruit abound. Where a cursing and lack of rain are, only thorns and briars are produced. This shows the state of those who are only of a fallen creation and under its curse. No good fruit can be brought forth. Those however who are under the blessing of God receive His grace and help which brings forth fruit.
Next the writer assures the Hebrews that they are in the category of those who receive the blessing and bear fruit: "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner" (Heb. 6:9). He is speaking of salvation and the sign that accompanies it, good fruit. This is shown in the next verse: "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" (Heb. 6:10).
What is the fruit that the blessing produces? It is love. Although they may have been immature, because they were saved and had the Holy Spirit in their lives, the Hebrew believers had the "work and labor of love" present. Through love, they "ministered to the saints, and do minister." To the writer, this was evidence that they were in the category of the blessed.
The gospel preached to Abraham
Now it is the blessing, not the fruit, that is the main point of the writer. The blessing is the second reason given for the Hebrews to "go on." "For the (fruitful) earth . . . receives blessing from God " (verse seven). Very important in this is the way in which this blessing is obtained. The blessing of God is His grace and help poured out such that one can live his life as God intended. Included in the blessing is the presence of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, to enable a believer to live a life of fellowship and love not only with God but also with his fellow man. The way in which this is received is the good news of the gospel. The natural instinct of man is to try to earn this from God by good works. God's way is through faith. The method of blessing will cause the writer to turn to the basis of the gospel, God's covenant and blessing to Abraham.
Before continuing in this passage in Hebrews, it is beneficial to examine a parallel passage in the book of Galatians concerning the blessing and curse of the law. The Galatians were turning to legalism to live a life that was begun in the Spirit though faith. The Apostle Paul was amazed that they so quickly turned from faith to the works of the flesh as the means of obtaining the promises of God. Paul pointed to Abraham as an example of one who obtained righteousness through faith and of whom we are sons by a like faith. Paul states, "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.' So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham" (Gal. 3:7-9).
The Abrahamic Covenant
Paul states that God preached the gospel to Abraham. He then quotes from that which is called the Abrahamic Covenant. "In you (Abraham) all the nations shall be blessed." This is a partial quotation from the promise that God made to Abraham after he by faith was willing to sacrifice his only son. God's full promise is found in Genesis 22:16-18: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son; blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." The promise of God is that in Abraham, and more specifically "your seed," all the nations shall be blessed.
This path of blessing is shown by Paul to be through Jesus Christ: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). Jesus Christ as a descendant of Abraham is the One through whom both the Jews and the gentiles receive grace. This grace is received by faith. "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8).
The works of the law
Opposed to faith is the works of the law. The law of Moses spelled out the blessings that could be obtained by the keeping of it, but it also spelled out the curses that would come if it was not kept in full. Because none but Christ have measured up to the perfection demanded by the law, those who are under the law are under its curse. Paul says, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.' But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just shall live by faith.' Yet the law is not of faith, but 'the man who does them shall live by them.' Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:10-14).
Jesus did two things in regards to the blessing and curse of the law. First He became a curse for us. He took upon Himself the sins of the world and suffered the curse of God in our place. By dying on the cross, Jesus bore the penalty for our sins. Second, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in living a righteous life as a man. In doing so, He alone is entitled to the blessings promised under the law. Therefore, those found in Christ are partakers of this blessing. Forgiveness of sins and the blessing of grace are found only in Jesus Christ. This is based entirely on the righteousness and work of Christ.
This standing in Christ is apart from the law. Paul continues, "And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal. 3:17-18). As Paul previously said, "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham" (Gal. 3:9).
Go on to faith and patience
This blessing in Christ, received by faith, is the main reason why the Hebrew believers could "go on." The maturity that the writer is exhorting them to go on to is one of faith and patience in this promise of God. Chapter six continues with this thought: "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:11-12). That which they are to go on to is faith and patience. When one falls, rather than go back to the beginning, one is to take up faith and patience and continue.
Patience is a companion of faith, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Patience lends endurance to faith. God not only requires faith on the part of the believer, but also an enduring faith, a continuing in the faith. The writer had previously said, "but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end" (Heb. 3:6). Also, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (Heb. 3:14). Later, the writer states, "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36).
The writer lifts up Abraham as an example of faith and patience: "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, 'Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.' And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (Heb. 6:13-15). Abraham's faith and patience was in the promise of God. As seen, this promise was not only to Abraham and his descendants, but also to the nations. This same promise provides the path of blessing through Christ to every believer.
The hope set before us
Chapter six continues: "For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:16-18).
These verses show that the mentioning of Abraham and the covenant is not just for the purpose of an example of faith, but to show that this blessing is also available for the believer today. Indeed, this is the only avenue through which grace and blessing from God can be obtained. It is though promise, not legalism. This promise is a "hope set before us." It is sure and immutable (unchangeable). It depends on God and not on one's own ability. The importance of this avenue of blessing is such that God confirmed the covenant with an oath. Even though it is impossible for God to lie, He confirmed it with an oath. This was not to bind Himself so that He would not change His mind, but rather to show that the promise was sure and unchangeable. This is the basis for the gospel and God emphasized the method by which grace will come by taking an oath. Not only is it impossible for God to lie, but He swore by Himself that it would come to pass.
The writer says of this that we have "strong consolation." Such a consolation is for those who have "fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." To those who have repeatedly failed in keeping the law and pleasing God, to those who realize their own inability to be righteous, to those who are grieving at their own failure, God's promise of blessing through Christ is a place of refuge. It is "strong consolation." When all looked lost, it is a "hope set before us." It is a reason to "go on" by taking up faith and patience.
An anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast
Chapter six concludes, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:19-20). For those who have ridden the storm of legalism, the hope of blessing through Christ by faith is an anchor of the soul. It is an anchor that is sure and steadfast. This is the answer of the writer to the Hebrew believers who were wavering in their walk and trying to lay the foundation over and over. This answer is for all believers struggling with the issues of salvation and righteousness: take your eyes off of yourself and set them on Christ. In Him grace is freely available through faith. He is an intercessor and High Priest who has entered for us into the presence of God.
"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. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus as High Priest is an intercessor for those who fall. In addition, He is the avenue through which mercy and grace come. The covenant of blessing through Christ is based on His shed blood. It is fully efficacious to take away sin and bring life and blessing. This is "sure and steadfast." It is "an anchor of the soul." It enables a rest in Christ that is entered into only by faith.
The shed blood of Jesus Christ, fully efficacious, is the basis for the intercession of Jesus as
High Priest. The Scripture says, "For by one offering He has perfected
forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). One offering, once for
all, is sufficient. This is the basis for Jesus' pleading on the behalf of
those who believe in Him. This one offering, accompanied with the
intercession of Jesus, is the basis for the new covenant promise of God:
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their
lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 8:12).