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Hebrews Bible Class: Warning! You need to listen to what I have to say!

Hebrews Bible Class: Warning! You need to listen to what I have to say!

 Read Hebrews 5:11-6:8

Do you coast in your Christian life, relying on past knowledge or tidbits passed on by other Christians week by week? Do you lean on your spouse for spiritual stability? Maybe you place a low importance on Bible knowledge because your place isn’t in the pulpit. Sadly, this is the state of many Christians today, and some of the professing Hebrew Christians were doing the same. They were in the midst of a difficult situation, but many were not mature enough to understand and apply the vital truths necessary to carry them through their hardships. They were just happy to enjoy the basic things of God. After all, they had endured much in the early days of the faith. They wouldn’t be without reward when they got to heaven. However, they were beginning to look exactly like apostate Christians, who professed but had no reality. They needed to learn that knowledge is the basis for Christian progress. Am I working hard to know the Word of God so that I can live out the will of God? His word and will go hand in hand.

The Hebrew writer is forced to halt his current topic to insert an exhortation based on their inability to understand what he was about to say. Notice the framework of this parenthesis in Hebrews:

5:11-14 – The Fitness Lacking in Lazy Listeners
6:1-8 – The Fate of Others without Progress
6:9-20 – The Future Hope and Anchor of the Soul

5:11-14 – The Fitness Lacking in Lazy Listeners

What makes parts of the Word of God difficult for preachers to explain? Lazy listeners. This is what the Hebrews became. They should have been able to teach one another the truths that the writer wanted to share with them, but instead they regressed to becoming like spiritual infants. There must be progress in the Christian life.

Why is knowledge so important for a Christian? Because we’re navigating through a world of prosperity gospel, claimed visions and healings, supposed journeys to heaven and hell while being clinically dead, and continual new twists in teaching and scripture application. We must know the Word of God to be able to discern between truth and half-truths. The Hebrews faced challenges in transitioning from Judaism, like how to use their Old Testament, and Christians today face similar challenges as we wade through the information age. Let us consume the Word of God and train our senses to discern it as we work toward Christian maturity.

6:1-8 – The Fate of Others who Lacked Progress

What is holding you back from Christian progress? The list in the first two verses of the chapter is what was preventing the Hebrews from progressing. They returned to the OT foundation for what it would mean to follow Messiah, instead of living in the reality of Him living for them in heaven. “Each of the things in the list, a Jew (except Sadducee) could accept… These things lay at the very foundation of their evangelical preaching… The list however has nothing distinctly Christian in it. ”[1]   Only with God’s help could they overcome holding on to the shadows. Only through the Word of God in their hand as a mature Christian would they be able to discern both good and evil (5:14). The same is directly applicable to us.

Could having one foot in Christianity and in Judaism be so bad? The writer warns them in v4-8 of others who did this and fell because they never had salvation and the things that accompany it.

In v4-6 there is a six-fold description of the prerequisites of an apostate, before two results of their actions show that they have apostatized. It is impossible for the apostate to shed Judaism to the same degree that it is impossible for God to lie (cf. v18). These individuals never were saved and eventually manifest their true character. What are the prerequisites for an apostate?

An apostate must have:

  1. Been once enlightened – they have understood that Jesus is the Messiah; an extension of John 1:9
  2. Tasted of the heavenly gift – not been born from above, but only experienced what it would be to be identified with Jesus as Messiah.
  3. Been Partakers of the Holy Ghost – they have partnered with others who have worked through Him. Judas would be a chief example of being an associate of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Tasted the good word of God – know that the Word of God is good and true.
  5. Tasted powers of the age to come – witnessed miracles which accompanied the gospel. The next age of miracles is in the age to come (cf. Isa 35:4-6).
  6. Then, fallen away – have rejected all this truth, have gone back to their former way and by their actions are:
    • Crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh – they side with the multitude and if Jesus came the same way again, they would crucify Him again.
    • Putting him to an open shame – making the Son of God a public disgrace.

The writer ends the section giving an illustration from nature. The first part of the crop is one of a true believer who brings forth fruit.  The next description is a metaphor for the Apostate who may appear to be a Christian at the outset, but rejects Christ in the end although they have received every blessing to convince them of salvation.  Instead their stubborn and hard hearts turn away and hold Christ in contempt. The same conditions were present in both fields, yet one yields fruit, while the other is worthless. As the Lord said of the genuine or ingenuine of the kingdom, “by their fruits, ye shall know them.” (Mt 7:20)

Let us examine ourselves. Are we progressing in our Christian walk? Are we content with a shallow Christianity of emotions and feelings alone? A serious lack of spiritual motivation will only inflict greater pain on a believer in the day of a trial which they are only barely able to handle. The writer is saying, “you need to listen to what I have to say!” Let us be willing to undertake the deeper things of God, putting in the work to allow the Spirit of God to teach us so that we should be ready for times of testing.

Challenge:

  1. What is the difference in emphasis when the authors speak of milk in Hebrews 5:11-14 and I Peter 2:2?
  2. Can you find a way to group the list in Hebrews 6:1-2 into pairs? Why did do you group them this way?
  3. Examining the prerequisites of an apostate again (ch 6:4-6), is it possible for there to be an “apostate” according to the Scriptures in 2017? Why or why not?

[1] David Gooding, An Unshakable Kingdom: Rock Solid Truth in Uncertain Times (Port Colborne, ON: Gospel Folio Press, 2002), 139.

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