Hebrews 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,  2  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying

on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

Wherefore (since it is so incumbent on us to advance out of the state of milk-fed

infants), leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us press on unto

perfection (τελειότητα teleiotaetaperfection; maturity = continuing the

image of maturity). The proper translation of τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον

ton taes archaes tou Christou logon – the principles of the doctrine of Christ;

the of the beginning of the Christ word - is doubtful, the question being whether

τῆς ἀρχῆς  (the beginning) is to be connected with λόγον (doctrine; word) as an

adjective genitive (so taken, as above, in the Authorized Version; compare ch.5:12,

στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς  stoicheia taes archaesfirst principles; elements from the

beginning), or with τοῦ Χριστοῦ, the word of the beginning of Christ, meaning

discourse concerning the first principles of Christianity.  A further question is

whether the writer merely expresses his own intention of proceeding at once in

this Epistle to the more advanced doctrine, or whether he is exhorting his

readers to make spiritual progress, using the first person plural, φερώµεθα, -

pheromethawe should be being brought - (as in ch. 2:1 and 4:1, φοβηθῶµεν

phobaethomen - we may be being afraid) out of sympathetic courtesy.

The correspondence of this delicate form of exhortation with that of the

earlier passages, the very words φερώµεθα, let us be borne on,” “press

forward” (implying more than mere passing to a new line of thought), and

τελειότητα (which expresses personal maturity, not advanced subject of

discourse), as well as the earnest warnings that follow against falling back,

seem to necessitate the second of the above views of the meaning of this

verse. The writer has, indeed, in his mind his intention of proceeding at

once to the perfect doctrine; for he hopes that what he thus exhorts them

to do they will do, so as to be able to follow him; but exhortation, rather

than his own intention, is surely what the verse expresses. Not laying

again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith

towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands,

and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. What was

meant by τἀ στοιχεῖα (the elements; principles,etc.), and τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς

(from the beginning, etc.), is here specified under the new image of a

foundation on which a superstructure should be raised (for the same

figure see I Corinthians 3:11, a further instance of Pauline modes of thought).

Of course no disparagement of the importance of this foundation is implied:

it is necessary for the superstructure: it has in itself the elements of the

superstructure, which rises from it in the way of growth. What is meant is,

“With us this foundation has been already laid; I will not suppose any need

for laying it anew: let us, then, go on to contemplate and understand the

building that rests on and rises from it.”  The fundamentals enumerated are

six — two essential principles of the religious life, and four heads of doctrine;

for the word διδαχῆςdidachaesof teachings rules βαπτισµῶν baptismon

 of baptizings and the three succeeding genitives, but not µετανοίας metanoias

of repentance and  πίστεως pisteos – of faith which precede. These are the

fundamentals, or first principles, of Christianity; but (as has been intimated)

so defined as to express no more, by the language used, than what even

enlightened Jews might accept and understand. Fully understood, they carry

the Christian superstructure; but they are such as a “babe” in Christ might

rest content with; without seeing their ultimate bearing. The principles first

mentioned are repentance and faith, the requisite qualifications for baptism,

the essence of John the Baptist’s teaching, and announced by Christ at the

commencement of His ministry as the first steps into His kingdom: “The

kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15;

compare also Acts 20:21). By the dead works, from which repentance is to be,

the Fathers generally understand simply sinful works, which may be so called

because of sin being a state of spiritual death, and having death for its wages

(comparre  “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1), or as being in

themselves barren and fruitless (τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους

tois ergois tois akarpois tou skotousthe unfruitful works of darkness

Ephesians 5:11). In an enumeration of elementary principles like this,

the allusion, supposed by some commentators, to the deadness of “the

works of the Law,” as set forth by Paul, is not likely to have been

intended. The faith spoken of is not faith in Christ, but simply “faith

towards God,” which is, of course, the foundation and necessary

preliminary of Christian faith. The reason for the expression is to be found

in the writer’s intention to specify only the first principles of the gospel, in

which the Christian was still on common ground with the Jew (John 14:1,

“Ye believe in God, believe also in me”). The four fundamental doctrines

follow.

 

(1) Of baptisms. Observe, the word is not βἀπτισµα baptisma, invariably used

elsewhere for Christian baptism, but βαπτισµὸς baptismosdippings;

washings, and that in the plural, βαπτισµῶν (of baptizings). In other passages

βαπτισµοὶ, denotes the various lustrations practiced by the Jews — “washings of

pots and cups” (Mark 7:8); “divers washings” (ch. 9:10). Hence we may suppose

these to be included in the general idea, and also the Jewish baptism of proselytes.

On the other hand, the elementary doctrines of the gospel being here spoken

of, there can be no doubt that the doctrine of Christian baptism is in the

writer’s view, but only with regard to the first simple conception of its

meaning, which it had in common with other symbolical washings, the

significance of which was understood by enlightened Jews (compare John

3:10, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”).

 

(2) The doctrine of laying on of hands. This also was a Jewish rite,

understood as signifying the bestowal of blessing and of power from above

(compare Genesis 48:14; Mark 10:13), and was, as well as baptism, adopted

into the Christian Church, acquiring there a new potency. The apostles practiced

it for conferring the gifts of the Spirit after baptism (Acts 8:17; 19:6), for ordination

(Acts 6:6; 13:3; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6), and also for reconciling penitents

(I Timothy 5:22), and for healing’ (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8).  Mentioned here

immediately after “the doctrine of baptisms,” and in an enumeration of elements

in which all Christians were concerned, we can hardly fail to understand special

reference to the imposition of hands after baptism, i.e. to confirmation. The two

remaining doctrines of:

 

(3) the resurrection of the dead, and

 

(4) eternal judgment, were also understood and generally accepted by

enlightened Jews, and at the same time are necessary to be mentioned for a

complete account of the foundations of the Christian faith.

 

These foundations are, as has been seen:repentance and faith (qualifying

for admission into the Church), and then the doctrine of remission of sins

(expressed and conveyed by baptism), of enabling grace (expressed and

conveyed by confirmation), of the life hereafter, and of final judgment. Of

these an elementary conception was level to even babes in Christ, fresh

from Jewish training; fully understood, they form the basis of the whole

structure of the highest CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. It is obvious from the

purport of the passage why neither the historical articles of the creed in which

Christians were instructed (see I Corinthians 15:1-8; I Timothy 3:16), nor the

doctrine of the Eucharist (which belonged to the more advanced teaching),

are included in this enumeration of the στοιχεῖα (elements; principles).

 

3 “And this will we do, if God permit.” i.e. press on to perfection, as aforesaid,

if only (as we firmly hope and trust, see v. 6, etc.) you are still in a state in which

God will permit advance; for (as is set forth in the following verses) there may

be a retrogression from which recovery is impossible.

 

 

    The Evil of Inability to Apprehend the Deeper Truths about Christ

                                                (ch. 5:11-ch. 6:3)

 

This begins a parenthesis continued to end of Hebrews 6. The writer has

come to the chief illustration of his great theme — the preeminence of the

Lord Jesus; but he has hardly entered on this section before he feels himself

unable to give full utterance to what he sees of the Redeemer’s greatness,

because of the dullness of spiritual perception in his hearers. He fears their

religious condition will prevent their following him as he tries to scale the

more inaccessible heights, and he cannot restrain an utterance of sorrow,

and a solemn warning of the connection between ignorance of these things

and apostasy from the Son of God. The subject of the whole parenthesis,

therefore, is The danger of apostasy which lies concealed in the

immature apprehension of Christian truth; but of the part, in these verses,

the following is the subject — The evil of inability to apprehend the deeper

truths about Christ.

 

  • THE TREASURES OF TRUTH WHICH ARE HIDDEN IN THE

LORD JESUS. “Of whom we have many things to say” (ch. 5:11),Why

should the writer preface this particular part of his subject with a reference

to its difficulty, since no such reference is attached to the equally profound

truths of previous chapters? There is no necessity to attach this reference

only to what follows; it may look backward as well as forward. The apostle

is in the midst of his theme — the greatness, the fullness, the preciousness

of Christ, which he knows not how to utter — and is more likely to feel its

difficulty there than at the beginning.

 

Ř      The treasures hidden in Christ are, of necessity, infinitely great,

because He is the Revelation of the character and will of God.

“In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” 

(Colossians 2:9)  

 

o       He is the perfect expression of God’s love to man.

o       He is the Fountain of all good.

o       He is the embodiment of what the Father desires us to

have and be.

o       He is the utterance of what God would say to man.

 

When we think of Christ, therefore, we are but children standing

on the shore of an ocean whose further side has never been seen

nor reached, and whose depth no human line can fathom.

 

Ř      But, in as far as this is revealed through God’s Word, IT IS

INTENDED TO BE UNDERSTOOD!   It will require an endless

life to understand it perfectly.  Growing knowledge resulting in

growing gratitude, love, and devotion, — this, perpetuated without

end, is the bright future before us. But, however much we cannot

know in the present, Scripture contains a revelation of such

fullness in the Savior as the wisest and best have not yet understood

and appreciated; and what is revealed here and now, is obviously

intended here and now to be apprehended. We cannot overrate the

Savior’s desire to reveal Himself, the deep things of His heart, and

the best glories of His nature to His beloved, nor the Father’s will

that, as far as on earth it can be received, that revelation should be

theirs.

 

  • THE HINDRANCES TO OUR POSSESSION OF THESE

TREASURES. “How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

Why do we know so little about Christ? Why are the Scriptures to us

to a great extent sealed? This passage reveals three reasons for this.

 

Ř      Spiritual feebleness. The Hebrews had lost their early religious vigor.

“When by reason of the time [since ye became Christians] ye ought to

be,”etc. Their condition was one of retrogression. (See what they

had been once: “Ye endured a great fight of afflictions” ch. 10:32).

They had become vacillating, and ready to return to Judaism. A feeble

and deteriorated piety was one reason for their dullness of hearing.

That is natural. Christ’s riches are spiritual, and can only be understood

by spiritual perception. Let spiritual power decline, and ability to

understand Divine truth declines with it. “The fear of the Lord is the

beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10);  “The secret of

 the Lord is with them that fear Him and He will show them His

covenant.”  (Psalm 25:14)

 

Ř      Intellectual prejudice. They desired to return to Judaism; its ancient

glories still fascinated them, and they were predisposed to accept any

teaching aimed to show the untruth of Christianity. That was enough to

account for their being dull of hearing. Skepticism is made, more than by

anything else, by unwillingness to receive the truth. The mind that allows

its personal desires to decide what is truth must become increasingly

incapable of discerning truth when it is placed before it. Nothing more

surely blinds than prejudice.

 

Ř      Sinful inattention. “Every one that partakes of milk [i.e. not able to

partake of the solid food of Divine truth] is without experience [i.e.

has not made himself acquainted by observation and. study] of the

Word of righteousness;… but solid food is for full-grown men, even

those who,”etc. That is, spiritual discernment, an apprehension of

God’s deep things, IS THE RESULT OF USE!  Inability to

understand IS THE JUDGMENT ON INATTENTION. Scripture

is a sealed, book to THE HEART THAT NEGLECTS IT!

 

  • THE NECESSITY FOR THE REMOVAL OF THESE

HINDRANCES OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY IS TO BE ATTAINED.

 

Ř      For Christ, as revealed in the Word, is spiritual nourishment. The

truth about Christ is “milk” and “strong meat.” Christ is the essence

of Scripture, and He is “THE BREAD OF LIFE!”  (John 6:48)

What nourishing food is to the body, therefore, the Word of God is

to the Divine life in man. On participation on it that life depends.

 

Ř      There is a distinction drawn here between those truths which merely

sustain and those which increase life. What is the “milk”? Those first

necessary principles recorded in vs.1-2. There we have the

essential life-giving points (not quite such a “simple gospel” as some

think!). The doctrines of:

 

o       repentance,

o       faith, the Holy Spirit,

o       Christian service,

o       the resurrection, and

o       the judgment –

 

 these are the “milk.” What is the “strong meat”? The deeper, fuller

truths about Christ set forth here.  His:

 

o       character,

o       work,

o       relation,

o       grace,

o       Son of God and Son of man,

o       our Prophet, Priest, and King,

 

with the height and depth, and length, and breadth of meaning all

 this involves.  (Ephesians 3:16-19)

 

Ř      Christian maturity depends on the partaking of truth in these higher

forms. They ought to be “babes” no longer, but “strong men;” and

how? “Let us cease to speak of the first,” etc. The method by which

this Epistle seeks to arouse a lukewarm and enfeebled Church to

higher things is the presentation of these higher TRUTHS

CONCERNING THE SURPASSING GLORY OF THE

SON OF GOD!. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of

our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!”  (II Peter 3:18)

 

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,  5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the

world to come,  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.”  It is not, of course, implied that the Hebrew Christians had fallen

into the condition thus described, or were near it; only that such a condition might

be, and that, if they went back instead of advancing, they might arrive at it. The

process intimated is that of COMPLETE APOSTASY  from the faith after real

conscious enjoyment of the gifts of grace. In such a case the hopelessness of the

fall is in proportion to the privileges once enjoyed. This is the drift of the

passage, though other views have been taken of its meaning, which will be

noticed below. “Once enlightened” denotes the first apprehension of the

light, which could be but once; when those that saw not began to see

(John 5:39); when the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ shone

once for all upon believers (II Corinthians 4:4); when (according to the

cognate passage, ch.10:26; compare Ibid. v. 32) they received the knowledge

of the truth. The verb φωτιζω photizo - means in the Septuagint “to

enlighten by instruction,” and was in common use in the early Church to

express the enlightenment that accompanied baptism; whence baptism itself

was called φωτισµὸς photismos - light.  Since the expression was thus

commonly used as early as Justin Martyr, there may probably be in the text a

special reference to baptism as the occasion of the enlightenment. But, if so,

more is meant by the phrase than “those who have been once baptized:” an

inward spiritual illumination is plainly pointed to; and it would not have

been said of Simon Magus (Acts 8:13) that he had been “once enlightened”

in the sense intended. And this is indeed the real meaning of φωτισµὸς

as applied to baptism by Justin Martyr, as his explanation, above quoted, shows.

(I deleted the quote as it was Greek and it would take too long to translate

and then I probably wouldn’t have gotten it right!  CY – 2014)  So also

Chrysostom (‘Hem.’ 116.), “The heretics have baptism, but not

enlightenment (φωτισµα); they are baptized indeed as to the body, but in

the soul they are not enlightened; as also Simon was baptized, but was not

enlightened.” This consideration is important in view of one misapplication

of the passage before us, which will be noticed below. But, further, those

whom it is impossible to renew unto repentance are supposed not only to

have been enlightened, but also to have “tasted of the heavenly gift,” the

emphatic word here being apparently γευσαµένουςgeusamenoustasting;

have tasted -  they have had experience as well as knowledge (compare Psalm 34:8,

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;” and I Peter 2:3, “If so be ye have tasted

that the Lord is gracious”). The word δωρεᾶς doreasgift - is elsewhere used

both for that of redemption generally (Romans 5:15-17), and especially, and

most frequently, for the gift of the Holy Ghost (compare II Corinthians 9:15,

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift”). They have become also

partakers of the Holy Ghost, not merely been within the range of His

influence, but actually shared it; and tasted (the same word as before, and

with the same meaning, though here followed by an accusative) what is

further spoken of. The expression ῥήματα rhaemata - occurs, Joshua 21:45;

23:15; Zechariah 1:13, for gracious Divine utterances. The idea of the

Word of God being what is “tasted” may be suggested by Deuteronomy 8:3,

quoted by our Lord in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by

every word that proeeedeth out of the month of God.” By the powers

(δυνάµεις - dunameis) are to be especially understood (as in ch.2:4 and

elsewhere in the New Testament) the extraordinary ones in which the gift

of the Holy Ghost was manifested, the χαρσµατα – charismata – gifts –

 of the apostolic Church. But why said here to be µέλλοντος αἰῶνος

mellontos aionosof the impending eon; of the world to come? For the

meaning of this expression, see under ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡµερῶν τούτων

(these last days - ch. 1:2), and οἰκουµένην τὴν µέλλουσαν (the world to

come – ch.2:5). It denotes the predicted age of the Messiah’s triumph. And

if (as has appeared most probable, and as µέλλοντος here seems evidently

to imply) that age was regarded as still future, not properly beginning till

the second advent, still the “powers” spoken of are of it, being earnests and

foretastes of a new order of things (compare Ephesians 1:14, where the

“Holy Spirit of promise” is called “the earnest of our inheritance;” also

II Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).  There are other passages in which Christians are

regarded as already in the dawn of the future daybreak, and irradiated by

the coming glory. The falling away (παραπεσόντας parapesontasfalling

aside) after such enlightenment and such experience means (as aforesaid)

TOTAL APOSTASY from the faith. This appears from the expressions that

follow, and still more from those in the cognate passage, ch.10:26-31. Such an

utter apostasy was possible to Hebrews oscillating between Church and

synagogue: they might be so drawn at last into the atmosphere of the latter as,

with the unbelieving Jews, to reject with contumely, and so to themselves

re-crucify, the Son of God. The force of “to themselves” is illustrated by

Galatians 6:14, where Paul says that he so glories in the cross of Christ that

through Christ the world is crucified to him, and he to the world; i.e. all

fellowship between him and the world is broken off. So here the ἑαυτοῖς

heatoisto themselves - implies the breaking off of all fellowship with what

a man is said to crucify. They crucify again the Son of God, repeating what

their fathers had done formerly when they gave Him over to the death of the

cross; and this, be it observed, still more culpably, since it is after personal

experience proving Him to be “the Son of God.”  And they not only make Him

as one dead to themselves: they also expose Him (παραδειγµατίζοντας

paradeigmatizontasput Him to an open shame; holding Him up to infamy –

compare Numbers 25:4, Septuagint) to the reproach and mockery of the world.

Be it observed next what is said of those who do this — not that no repentance

can henceforth avail them, but that even unto repentance it is impossible to renew

them. Such falling away after such experience precludes the possibility of

repentance. On such persons the powers of grace have been exhausted.

It is not in the nature of things that they should return to Christ, or see the

things that belong unto their peace any more. The correspondence between

the state here described and the consequence of the “blasphemy against the

Holy Ghost” (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10) suggests itself at

once; our Lord’s words, in speaking of that unpardonable sin, being rightly

supposed to point to obduracy in spite of experience of the Holy Spirit’s

power. Especially obvious is the correspondence with Luke’s account

of the Savior’s warning — one of the not infrequent instances of

resemblance between our Epistle and the writings of that evangelist. For

Luke records the saying as spoken, not to the Jews on the occasion of

their attributing Christ’s works to Beelzebub, but to the disciples

themselves, after a warning to them against “the leaven of the Pharisees,”

and against being moved by the fear of men, and immediately after the

words, “He that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of

God.” Compare also the “sin unto death” spoken of by John (I John 5:16).

Misconceptions of the drift of this passage, once prevalent, or

possible, remain to be noticed.

 

(1) It has been from early times a main support of the strict Church

discipline according to which deadly sin committed after baptism precludes

readmission to Church communion. It was so cited by Tertullian as early

as the second century (‘De Pudicitia,’ cf. 20), and in the third used to

justify the Novatians in their refusal of communion, even after penance, to

the lapsi. The passage, as above explained, was really irrelevant, since it

refers, not to the treatment by the Church of penitents, but to the

impossibility of some persons being brought to penitence at all.

 

(2) The Catholic Fathers, rightly rejecting the Novatian position, generally

understood the text as forbidding the iteration of baptism; thus turning it

against the Novatians, who re-baptized those who joined their communion.

So Ambrose, Theodoret, and others. But, though their position on this

subject was in itself sound, the passage, as above explained, is as irrelevant

to it as to that of the Novatians.

 

(3) This, and the other texts referred to in connection with it, have led

some Christians to despair of salvation, however anxious for it, under the

idea that they had themselves committed the unpardonable sin. This

desperate view goes beyond that of the Novatians, who only precluded

from Church communion, not of necessity from the mercies of God

(Socrates, ‘Hist. Eccl.,’ 4:21). But the very state of mind of those who

entertain such fears is a sign that they are not of those to whom this text

applies. They cannot have entirely fallen from grace, if they have the grace

to repent and long for pardon.

 

(4) Calvin’s predestinarian views compelled him and his followers to do

violence to the plain meaning of the passage. Holding the doctrine of the

indefectibility of grace, which involved

 

      (a) that one really regenerate cannot fall away, and

      (b) that consequently one who falls away cannot have been really

regenerate, he had to explain away the clauses descriptive of the grace

enjoyed, as meaning only a superficial experience of it. With this view he

laid stress on the word γευσαµένους (have tasted) as meaning “summis

labris gustare  (to get a light taste of).  Only dogmatic prejudice could

have suggested such a sense of the word as intended in this place, any

more than in ch.2:9, where it is plainly inadmissible. Nor can an impartial

reader fail to see in the whole accumulation of pregnant clauses an intention

of expressing the very reverse of a mere apparent and delusive experience

of saving grace. The depth of the experience is, in fact, a measure of the

hopelessness of the fall.  Article XVI. of the English Church is a protest

against all the erroneous conclusions above specified.

 

 

The Relapse for Which There is No Restoration (vs. 4-6)

 

“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,  And have

 tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,   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. Let us

honestly and earnestly endeavor to lay aside our theological prepossessions, and

to apprehend and set forth the meaning of this solemn portion of sacred Scripture.

We have in the text:

 

  • AN EXALTED CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE. “Those who were once

enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift,” etc. Here is a cumulative

experience of gospel blessings.

 

Ř      Spiritual illumination. “Those who were once enlightened.” The mind

and heart of the unrenewed man are in a condition of spiritual

ignorance and darkness. The wicked are “darkened in their

understanding.”  (Ephesians 4:18)  In conversion men “turn from

darkness to light.”   (Acts 26:18)  In the case described in the

text man has been enlightened as to his spiritual state, his need of

salvation, and. the salvation provided in Jesus Christ (compare

Ephesians 1:17-18).

 

Ř      Experience of gospel blessings. “And tasted of the heavenly gift.”

Tasted is not to be taken in the sense of a mere taste, but personal

experience, as in ch.2:9, “Taste death for every man;” and I Peter

2:3, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In the case

before us, man, through Christ, experiences the forgiveness of sins,

and peace with God, and spiritual strength.

 

Ř      Participation in the presence and influences of the Holy Spirit.

“And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” They share in His

instructing, comforting, sanctifying presence and power. “The

Spirit of God dwelleth in” them (I Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:9).

 

Ř      Experience of the excellence of God’s Word. “And tasted the good

Word of God.” Probably there is a special reference to the comforting,

encouraging, strengthening power of the inspired Word. Or the good

“word.” is the word of promise, and the tasting of it is the experience

of its gracious fulfillment. The use of the Hebrew equivalents supports

this view (see Joshua 21:45; 23:15; Jeremiah 29:10; 33:14; Zechariah

1:13).

 

Ř      Experience of the spiritual powers of the gospel age. “And tasted the

powers of the world to come,” or “the age to come.” The expression

“signifies a personal experience of the mighty energy and saving

power of the gospel.” Here, then, the religion of Jesus Christ is

exhibited as;

 

o       a gracious light in the intellect,

o       a blessed experience in the heart, and

o       a practical redemptive power in the life.

 

How complete and exalted is the personal Christian experience thus

delineated!

 

  • AN AWFUL SPIRITUAL POSSIBILITY. “If they shall fall away…

they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open

shame.”

 

Ř      Of falling from an exalted spiritual condition. We have noticed the

advanced development of Christian character and the full enjoyment of

Christian privileges sketched by the writer; and now he speaks of falling

away from these great and gracious experiences. The higher the exaltation

attained, the more terrible will be the injury sustained, if one should fall

from such a height.

 

Ř      Of incurring the darkest guilt. “They crucify to themselves the Son of

God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” The crucifixion of the

 Lord Jesus was THE BLACKEST CRIME  in all the dark annals of

human wrong-doing.  And if any one having really and richly enjoyed

the blessings of the gospel of Christ should fall back into sin, renouncing

Christ and Christianity, he would repeat in spirit that terrible crime. It is

often said, “My sins nailed him to the tree!” There is a sense in which

this contains a deep truth The crisis of the conflict between the

kingdoms of good and evil took place in the death of Christ: the

highest manifestation of good in Him, the highest manifestation

of evil in the persons of those who saw the divinest excellence,

and called it Satanic evil. To call evil good, and good evil, to call

Divine good Satanic wickedness, — there is no state lower than this.

It is the rottenness of the core of the heart; it is the unpardonable

because irrecoverable sin. With this evil, in its highest development,

the Son of man came into collision. He died unto sin. The prince of

this world came and found nothing congenial in Him. He was his

victim, not his subject. So far as I belong to that kingdom or fight in

that warfare, it may be truly said, the Savior died by my sin .... I am

a sharer in the spirit to which He fell a victim.”  But is such a fall as

this really possible? To us it seems that the teaching of the Bible and

the moral nature of man admit of but one reply as to this possibility.

 

o       The hypothesis of the text is not an idle one. It is inconceivable

 that the Holy Spirit of God should have inspired the writer to

mention so awful a fall if it had been an utter impossibility.

 

o       The many warnings against apostasy which are addressed to

Christians in the sacred Scriptures witness to the possibility

of such apostasy. This letter to the Hebrews is one long and

powerful warning, persuasion, and exhortation against falling

away from Christ.

 

o       The constitution of our nature shows this fall to be possible.

We are free either to loyally serve God or to wickedly rebel

against Him, and must ever remain so, or moral distinctions

would no longer be applicable to us.

 

  • AN APPALING MORAL IMPOSSIBILITY. “It is impossible to

renew them again unto repentance.” This “impossible” may not be

enfeebled into “very difficult,” or other similar expression, as may be seen

by an examination of the other passages of this Epistle in which it is found

ch. 6:18; 10:4; 11:6). The reason of this impossibility is the moral character

and condition of those of whom (should there ever be any of such

character) it is predicated. Having once experienced the Divine renewal,

they have utterly fallen away from it, and now scornfully reject the

only power by which their renewal could be effected. The mightiest

spiritual influence in the universe, even the love of God in the death of

Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners, is derided by them. “They crucify

to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

They tear him out of the recesses of their hearts where he had fixed His

abode, and exhibit Him to the open scoffs and reproach of the world, as

something powerless and common” (compare ch.10:29).  If men have

insulted God, poured contempt upon His Son, counted the blood of the

covenant as an unworthy thing, grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit,

what can possibly remain of a remedial kind?  The inquiry is one on which

reason may expend its powers. What remains after God has been exhausted?

Let the Christian earnestly heed the solemn warning of our text. “Watch

 and pray, that ye enter not into temptation;” (Matthew 26:41)

“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for doing these

things, ye shall never fall.”  (II Peter 1:10)  The surest way of guarding

against this terrible fall is to aim at and seek to realize constant spiritual

progress. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,

let us go on unto perfection,” (v. 1).

 

 

The Critical State of Backsliders (vs. 4-6)

 

Passages like this we naturally avoid. There is reluctance to face its

difficulties. We dread lest a hasty admission of certain premises may lead

us to terrible conclusions. But since backsliding, falling away, is a

melancholy reality among believers, it is above all things needful that the

possible results of backsliding should be considered. The backslider’s

present condition we know; but one thing we may not distinctly apprehend

until it is pressed upon us by solemn utterance of the Holy Spirit, and that

is the future into which the present may lead.

 

  • THE BACKSLIDER, IN FALLING AWAY, HAS FALLEN FROM

EXCEEDING GREAT PRIVILEGES. He who was enlightened by a great

steady light, shining on him once for all, has yet fallen back into practical

darkness. He is not in darkness because the light has gone, but because he

has shut it more and more from the inward eye. The light is there, more

and more rejoiced in by persevering believers, but he has become willingly

negligent of the benefits. The free, peculiar gift of Heaven, Jesus Christ

Himself, once accepted, is now despised. The Holy Spirit of God, the great

Pentecostal communication dwelling with the backslider, is yet shut out

from the sympathies of his heart. Renewing and sanctifying work has

ceased. The good Word of God, heavenly truth, heavenly promises, all that

God has given as daily bread for the hungering inward life, all that shows

how man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word proceeding out of

the mouth of God, all this has lost its relish. The powers of the age to

come, so much greater than any powers of the present age, are little by

little left unused. We have an actual instance of the backslider in Demas.

“Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (II Timothy

4:10)  Demas had been put in the midst of heavenly light and heavenly food

— nay, more; he was in the companionship of one who had received all

these heavenly things to the full, and profited by them as much as any man

ever profited. It is not a little treasure from which the backslider turns,

under the dominion of carnal affections.

 

  • THE GREAT PROOF THEREBY AFFORDED OF HUMAN

WEAKNESS. The theory of many is that if good things be put before a

man he is sure at last to welcome them to his heart, and get all that they

have to give, even to their innermost influences. But the fact for which

God’s Spirit would ever prepare us is that this present world is an object

very fascinating. These glorious gifts of God in Christ Jesus mean that we

must persevere in an arduous and lengthened effort to get at their fullness.

The backslider is one who does not trouble to pierce the phenomena of

grace, and so lay hold of the spiritual realities. He forgets his weakness, or

rather he does not rightly believe how weak he is. Here is a new meaning

of the saying, that when we are weak then we are strong; for, knowing our

weakness, we distrust ourselves, and keep ourselves open to the inflowing

of God.

 

  • THE GROUNDS OF HOPE THAT LIE HIDDEN IN THIS

PASSAGE. It is impossible to renew the backslider again to repentance.

So the passage plainly says; and if we take it in isolation and in bald

literalness, it gives the backslider but a poor prospect. And yet the

backslider is the very one who needs encouragement. We must not,

therefore, let this word “impossible” so fill the field of thought as to

exclude the most hopeful considerations. Jesus said it was easier for a

camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the

kingdom of heaven. But it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye

of a needle. Therefore it is impossible for a rich man to get into the

kingdom of heaven. It must be distinctly put before the mind WHAT A

BARRIER WORLDLY POSSESSIONS ARE  and then the hope-inspiring

word comes in, “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)  Yea,

with God it is possible to turn the backslider into the right way again, and

set him forward with a recovered love and a strengthened heart. We do

not know but what Demas came back again, and furnished in the end a

crowning proof of how great are the opowers of the world to come.

 

7 “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and

bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom (for whom) it is dressed,

receiveth blessing from God:  8 But that which beareth (But if it beareth)

thorns and briers is rejected,  and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be

burned.”  (literally, for burning; compare Isaiah 44:15, ἵνα ἀνθρώποις εἰς καῦσιν

hina hae anthropois kausinThen it shall be for a man to burn; In order to be

human in burning ). The illustration is apt and close. Observe that the “land which

hath drunk,” etc., is the subject in v. 8, as well as of v. 7, as is shown by the absence

of an article before ἐκφέρουσα ekpherousabringing forth; that which beareth.

Hence the unproductive as well as the fruitful soil is supposed to have received,

and not only received but imbibed also, abundant supplies of rain. Its failure is

its own fault, and it is regarded as responsible for it, and deserving of its final fate.

This exactly illustrates the case of those who “fall away” after not only receiving

abundantly, but also taking in so as to be filled with the “gracious rain” of the

Holy Spirit.  The only difference is that in their case, free-will being a constituent

of their productive power, the responsibility figuratively attributed to the land

is real (compare  Ἑκουσίως γὰρ αρτανόντων Ekousios gar hamartanonton 

For if we sin wilfully, ch. 10:26). For similar illustrations drawn from

unproductiveness in nature in spite of culture, compare Isaiah 5:4 and Luke 28:23.

The ”blessing from God” refers to the view, pervading the Old Testament, of

fruitfulness being the result and sign of the Divine blessing on the land (compare

Genesis 27:27, “The smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath

 blessed”). And it is further implied that incipient fruitfulness is rewarded by

more abundant blessing, according to our Lord’s words, Matthew 13:12,

“Whosoever hath, to him shall be given,” and John 15:2, “Every branch that

beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The “thorns and

thistles,” connected with a curse on the ground, seem suggested by Genesis 3:17-18,

ἐπικατάρατος γῆ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις σου …… ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους ἀνατελεῖ σοι  -

epikataratos hae gae en tois ergois sou……akanthas kai tribolous anatelei soi

cursed is the ground for your sake…..thorns also and thistles will it bring for to

you - Septuagint (compare “Cursed shall be the fruit of thy land,” Deuteronomy

28:18). It is to be observed, further, that the land, though bearing thorns instead

of fruit, is not spoken of as yet under the final curse, but only nigh unto it, so as

to avoid even a remote suggestion that the Hebrew Christians had actually reached

THE HOPELESS STATE.   But, unless fruitfulness should ensue, they are warned

of the inevitable end by the fate of thorns and thistles, which is, not to be garnered,

but to be burnt (compare II Samuel 23. 6, The sons of Belial shall be all of them as

 thorns thrust away.... and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place;”

compare also Deuteronomy 29:23, The whole land thereof is brimstone, and

salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth

thereon”A STATE OF FINAL HOPELESS BARRENNESS).

 

 

No Standing Still in Religion (vs. 1-8)

 

This thought underlies the whole passage. To pass into God’s kingdom means

TO MOVE WITH IT!  It is impossible to maintain a halt in the Christian

life; to stand still is to fall away.

 

  • THE DUTY OF PRESSING ON UNTO PERFECTION. (vs. 1-3.)

This perfection is twofold:

 

o       maturity in religious knowledge, as a means;

o       full development of spiritual life, as the end.

 

It is sinful to remain only a babe in Christ, and. to have no wish to grow.

Note, that to “leave the first principles” does not mean to abandon them.

Rather, we are to leave them as a tree leaves its root, and yet never lets it

go; as a full-grown man leaves slop for solid food, and yet does not abjure

the use of milk; as a building leaves its “foundation” (v. 1), and yet rests

its whole weight upon it. When the foundation-principles are once securely

laid, that work should be regarded as settled and done with; what remains

is, to proceed with the superstructure. The apostle instances, in vs.1- 2,

a few of the elementary principles, connecting them together in couples.

 

Ř      Two inward experiences. (v. 1.) Repentance and faith, being

indispensable to the very beginning of the life of piety, occupy

a primary place among the foundation-doctrines of Christianity.

 

Ř      Two outward ceremonies. (v. 2.) Rites and forms are merely the

external framework of religion. Advanced piety uses them only

as means and helps to spirituality.

 

Ř      Two future events. (v. 2.) The doctrines of the resurrection and of

the judgment, with its eternal issues, are rudimentary doctrines;

because the idea of responsibility to THE SUPREME is one of the

simplest conceptions connected with religion. Of such elements as

these six was “the simple gospel” composed in the apostolic age.

If to our minds these clauses savor of “strong meat” rather than of

“milk” is not that an indication that Christians in these times are

troubled with weak digestion? We need grace to appreciate the

apostle’s admonition (v. 1) and to realize the hope which he

expresses (v. 3).

 

  • THE DANGER OF SHRINKING BACK UNTO PERDITION. (vs.

4-8.) These verses drop from the apostle’s pen like live thunderbolts. There

is a solemnity in them which it is impossible to exaggerate. This passage is

confessedly difficult — to all, at least, who accept the doctrine of the

perseverance of the saints. As we believe, however, that this doctrine is

very clearly taught in Scripture, both by our Lord and His apostles, the

declension here referred to must be that of professed believers who were

never true believers. Notice, then:

 

Ř      The lofty privileges which apostates may enjoy. (vs. 4-5.) An

unrenewed man may be well instructed in the doctrines of grace,

may enjoy the study of saving truth, may experience the operations

of the Spirit, may be filled with the happiness which the gospel brings

(Matthew 13:20), and may even obtain glimpses of the eternal glory.

But these attainments will avail him nothing so long as HE

REMAINS UNRENEWED!   That faith is spurious and ephemeral

which is based only upon the moral evidence of the truth, and which

is not connected with GENUINE CONVERSION WITH GOD!

 

Ř      The aggravated wickedness which apostates may commit. (v. 6.)

They may “fall away” FINALLY and IRRETRIEVABLY. “By

their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16)  Sooner or later

the unfruitful field will be covered with a harvest of “thorns and

thistles” (v. 8). False professors may abandon the gospel:

 

o       to return to Judaism, or

o       to plunge into atheism, or

o       to sink into immorality, or

o       to degenerate into worldliness.

 

And in the bitterness of their malice against the cross in which they

once professed to glory, such persons take rank with the long

succession of those who in their lives repeat spiritually the dreadful

CRIME OF CALVARY!

 

Ř      The fearful destruction into which apostates may fall. (vs. 6, 8.)

Deliberate apostasy from Christ, on the part of one who has known

Him intimately, destroys by a natural law the very capacity for

REPENTANCE and SPIRITUAL LIFE!  Confirmed impenitence

extinguishes the eyes of the soul, and makes the heart past feeling.”

(Ephesians 4:19)  High-handed, malicious resistance of the Holy Spirit,

culminating in outspoken blasphemy of Himself and His work,

THAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN!   Those who commit

such wickedness are“rejected even here; and THEIR FINAL

DOOM  shall resemble that of the barren land, “whose end is to be

burned.”

 

In spite of all appearances — only he is a Christian who has undergone THE

NEW BIRTH and who is living the new life of LIKENESS TO CHRIST which

flows from it.

 

 

Teaching From the Good Land and the Bad (vs. 7-8)

 

Here is a reminiscence of the parable of the seed in the four kinds of

ground. The soil becomes invested with a kind of personality. One thinks,

too, of that fig tree which the Lord withered up. And it may not be so

entirely fanciful, as at first it appears to give land a sort of individuality; so

that one piece of soil will behave in one way, and another in another. If, for

instance, there be any real basis for the reputation attaching to certain

vintages, it must come from some indefinable quality of soil. At any rate,

we can imagine two different kinds of land, such as are set before us in this

passage.

 

  • We are to imagine TWO MEN PUT INTO EXACTLY SIMILAR

POSITIONS WITH REGARD TO THE BENEFITS OF DIVINE

GRACE. Just as two contiguous pieces of land have the same copious

showers falling on them, so two men may come under the same religious

influences. There may, perhaps, be peculiar spiritual advantages in one

district which are lacking in another, though even so much as this has to be

said guardedly; for we must believe that in the end all men shall have

enough light to throw upon them the responsibility of neglecting salvation.

(“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all

men.”  - Titus 2:11)  But one thing we do see, that men, so far as we can

judge, under the same spiritual influences, meet those influences in quite

different ways. One is attentive, the other negligent. One is receptive,

the other unresponding.  Nay, as the illustration puts it, both may be

receptive, but differently receptive, so that there are very different

ultimate results. The earth is represented as drinking in the oft-recurring

showers. One man drinks in the grace and. truth of God so that they

energize all the powers of his heart, and he puts forth corresponding

fruit. Another drinks in God’s truth, seems to appreciate it, but when

the result is looked for nothing comes but noxious growths.

 

  • THE DECLARATION OF RESPONSIBILITY AND

CORRESPONDING JUDGMENT. If one man is fruitful of good

works, and another fruitful only of evil ones, then God will treat the men

correspondingly. Compare with the illustration here, the parable of the

talents. God is not arbitrary. It is we who determine how God shall treat us

ultimately, for He treats men on great eternal principles. It is for men to be

wise and diligent in time, and recognize the principles. It is sometimes

asked why thorns and briers and wasting weeds have ever had existence.

The answer may be that these were first of all made to be illustrations to

men. Thorns and briers are burnt without hesitation, that the very seeds

and germs of them may, if possible, be blotted out of existence. And if men

will put out from their lives — from lives that have been so divinely blessed

— nothing but thorny and briery products, then they must expect these to

be for burning. ALL EVIL THINGS MUST PERISH!   Our folly is in

building up the evil which must go, rather than the good which will remain.

 

9 “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that

accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” Here, as in ch.4:14, warning is

succeeded by words of encouragement and hope. The reason for not only a hope,

but even a persuasion, that God will keep them from apostasy, is given in the

following verse.

 

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,

which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered

to the saints, and do minister.” It appears that the Hebrew Christians had 

formerly (some especial occasion being probably referred to) been active in

their charity towards fellow-Christians in distress, and that such charity had

not ceased. On this is grounded the persuasion that they will be kept steadfast

in the faith. Those who had so shown their faith by their works would surely

not be allowed to lose it. The very idea of the Divine justice implies that the

use of grace, thus evidenced, will be rewarded by continuance of grace.

Compare Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which

 hath begun a good work in you will perfect it (ἐπιτελέσει epitelesei

will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;” where also there is reference

to deeds of charity, shown in the case of the Philippians by their sympathy

with the apostle in his bonds, which charity he prays may “abound yet more

and more in knowledge and in all discernment.”  (Ibid. v. 9)  No difficulty

need be felt in this reference to God’s justice, as though it involved the

doctrine of human merit, de congruo or de condigno, claiming reward as of

debt. The simple and obvious view, that God, in virtue of His justice, will be

most gracious to those who have used His grace, by no means contravenes

the doctrine of all grace being the free gift of His bounty (compare I John 1:9;

Romans 2:6, etc.). Observe, too, as bearing on the idea of this passage, how

the will to do the will of God is said by our Lord to be followed by knowledge

of the doctrine (John 7:17), and how works of charity are the very tests of the

final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46m).

 

 

Ministering to the Saints (v. 10)

 

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work,” etc. Our text leads us to

consider the ministry to the saints in three aspects.

 

  • IN ITS EXEMPLARY EXERCISE. “Ye ministered unto the saints, and

still do minister.”

 

Ř      The nature of this ministry.  Pecuniary aid to the poor. Saints may

be in secular poverty.  Lazarus the saint was an afflicted beggar;

the man who was not a saint was “rich, clothed in purple and fine

linen, and fared sumptuously every day.” (Luke 16)  “Did not God

choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith?”

(James 2:5). The persons addressed in our Epistle probably

sent contributions of money to certain of their fellow-Christians

who were in poverty (see Acts 11:29-30; Romans 15:25-26;

I Corinthians 16:1; II Corinthians 8 and 9).  Sympathy with the

afflicted and persecuted. “Becoming partakers with

them that were so used” (i.e. reproached and persecuted).

“For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds,”

(ch.10:32-34). A worthy tribute this to most noble and beautiful

conduct. Such ministering to the saints was especially becoming

in the disciples of Him who “bore our griefs and carried our

 sorrows,” (Isaiah 53:4) and who “came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister,” etc. (Mark 10:45)

 

Ř      The continuousness of this ministry. “And still do minister.” Their

kind feeling did not expend itself in one effort or in one contribution.

Their conduct in this respect is exemplary. We shall do well if we

imitate them (ch.13:16; Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:10; I John 3:17).

 

  • IN ITS EXALTED MOTIVE. “The love which ye showed towards His

Name.” They ministered to the saints because they loved God. This is the

noblest of motives. Let us consider it. It involves:

 

Ř      Gratitude to God. They ministered to those who were His, because He

had done so much for them. Gratitude eagerly inquires, “What shall I

render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”  (Psalm 116:12)

We serve Him by serving His saints.

 

Ř      Devotion to God. This ministry was expressive of more than gratitude to

God. The Christian’s love to God is more than gratitude to Him. It

includes reverent admiration of Him, and willing consecration to Him of

the heart’s holiest feeling and the life’s best service. And ministry to His

saints for the love which we have for Him Hhe accepts as ministry to

Himself. “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto

one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

 (Matthew 25:40, 45).

 

Ř      Recognition of the common relationship to God of both the givers and

the receivers of this help. They showed their love toward His Name by

this ministry, because they felt that they and those to whom they

ministered were alike His children. They realized their common

brotherhood, hence they voluntarily shared their afflictions. This is

the most exalted motive for Christian service — love to God. It is

most disinterested, most inspiring, most sustaining.

 

  • IN ITS CERTAIN REWARD. “God is not unrighteous to forget your

work,” etc. But did this ministry to the saints give the ministers a claim

upon God for reward? Would He have been unjust if He had not

remembered and rewarded their works? Two facts compel us to answer,

“No;” viz.

 

(1) that all the good works of Christians are imperfect;

(2) that the inspiration for every good work proceeds from Him.

 

The righteousness of God spoken of in our passage is that which leads,

guides, and governs every man according to the particular stage of

development which he occupies. It is here affirmed of God that He

does not give up to perdition a man who can still in any way be saved, in

whom the new life is not yet entirely extinct, and who has not yet entirely

fallen away; but that He seeks to draw every one as long as they will allow

themselves to be drawn.  It would not be just in God to withdraw His

gracious assistance from one who was producing the fruits of Christian

faith; for He has pledged His word that He will save such persons, He will

not forget their work and labor of love.  God will not forget you, for that

would be ceasing to be God. If God were to forget for one moment, THE

UNIVERSE WOULD GROW BLACK – VANISH – RUSH OUT

AGAIN FROM THE REALM OF LAW AND ORDER INTO THE

CHAOS AND NIGHT!   Most encouraging are the declarations

of this truth in the Bible (see ch. 13:5; Deuteronomy 4:31; Isaiah 49:14-16).

This not forgetting their work and the love which they showed toward His

Name implies:

 

Ř      Preservation from apostasy. This is the point of connection with the

main argument. Their production of the fruits of Christian faith was an

evidence that they were not falling away from Christ. And God would

keep those who out of love to Him ministered to His saints.

 

Ř      Generous recognition of their services. Nothing is overlooked,

nothing of Christian work is unrecognized or unacknowledged by

Him.

 

Ř      Gracious reward of their services. (See Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:4

 

Let us imitate this Christian ministry.  Let us produce the fruits of good works out

of love to God, and we most effectively preclude spiritual defection or decline.

 

11 “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to

the full assurance of hope unto the end:”  But (however hopeful may be your

charity, still more is needed) we desire (ἐπιθυµοῦµεν epithumoumenwe are

yearning -  expressing earnest desire - that every one of you (all of you without

exception) do show the same diligence unto the full assurance (or simply fullness;

for the meaning of πληροφορίαν plaerophorian – assurance-  compare ch.10:22;

I Thessalonians 1:5; Colossians 2:2) of hope even to the end (i.e. evince the same

diligence in this regard as you have already shown in your works of charity.

 

12 “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith

and patience inherit the promises.” That ye become not slothful (νωθροὶ -

nothroislothful; dull -, the same word as was used in ch. 5:11, νωθροὶταῖς

ἀκοαῖςnothroi….tais akoaisdull ….of hearing  There, with regard to

intelligence, they were accused of having already become so; here, where a

hopeful view is taken of their prospects, the writer delicately avoids

implying that they were so yet in regard to their desire of making

progress), but followers (i.e. following the example — surely a better

English word than imitators) of them who through faith and patience

inherit the promises. The present participle κληρονοµούντων klaeronomounton

inherit; enjoying the allotment - does not confine the sense of the expression to

those who are now so inheriting.  Abraham being presently adduced as an example,

it refits to all who at any time so inherit, equivalent to, “the inheritors of.” The drift

is — Faith and patience are ever required in order that the Divine promises, however

assured, may be inherited: these qualifications (in opposition to your being

νωθροὶ - slothful; dull) are what you want for securing your own inheritance.

 

 

Imitating the Inheritors of the Promises (v. 12)

 

“Followers of them” We know nothing of the life and condition of those who

have left this world.  The ancient heathens speculated as to the state and

circumstances of the departed. The Old Testament Scriptures afforded some light

on the question; but not very much. “Our Savior Jesus Christ abolished death, and

brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel.”  (II Timothy 1:10)  But

still at times anxious inquiries arise within us. When the awful subject has been

pressed upon us as we have looked upon some one passing through the experience

of death, the questions arise, “Where is he? Where are the departed? And

what are they? Are they asleep or awake? In heaven or in hell? or in some

not final, intermediate state?” In addition to the light which comes directly

from Christ, we learn from our text that the good have entered upon the

promised blessings, have taken possession of their patrimony. This should

afford us great satisfaction and encouragement. We may profitably dwell

upon three facts suggested by our text.

 

  • THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE ENTERED UPON THE

POSSESSION OF THE BLESSINGS PROMISED BY GOD TO HIS

FAITHFUL PEOPLE. “Them who through faith and patience inherit the

promises.” What are these promises? What is this inheritance? It is

variously described:

 

Ř      “Perfection” (v. 1);

Ř      “the joy of our Lord” (Matthew 25:21);

Ř      a “mansion” in our “Father’s house” (John 14:2);

Ř      the rest which remaineth for the people of God (ch. 4:9);

Ř      “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved

in heaven for you!” (I Peter 1:4).

 

In a word, it is “eternal life”heaven. There are some who have taken

possession of this inheritance. With them it is not future, but present; not

believed in, but realized; not hoped for, but enjoyed. The eleventh chapter

of this Epistle refers to a great number who have entered upon the inheritance.

John saw “a great multitude, which no man could number,”  (Revelation

7:9-10). Millions more have joined them from prison-cells, from the

martyr’s gory block and fiery stake, from dread battlefields, from wrecks

on furious seas, from the wards of noble hospitals, and from the quiet

chambers and gentle ministries of loving homes. The countless hosts are

increasing every hour. How inspiring is this fact!

 

  • THEY HAVE ENTERED UPON THIS POSSESSION BY THE

EXERCISE OF FAITH AND PATIENCE. Faith in the existence of

the promised blessings and in the promise to bestow them, is what is meant

here. Faith in the unseen, in the future life, in heaven, in God and His

promises. Many who inherit the promises were giants in faith (ch.

11:33-35). And patience. They were sorely tried, but they patiently

endured. They had to wait the fulfillment of the promises, and they

waited patiently. But “patience” here does not simply mean passive

endurance, but active fidelity; not merely quiet waiting, but diligent

working. It is “patience in well-doing” (Romans 2:7). By these means

they entered upon the inheritance — faith, patience, and diligence;

believing, waiting, and working.

 

  • THESE INHERITORS OF THE PROMISED BLESSINGS ARE

EXAMPLES TO US. “That ye be not slothful, but imitators of them,” etc.

We are greatly influenced by examples. We are imitators by nature. To a

great extent we have become what we are by imitation. Unconsciously we

imitate others. Unconsciously others imitate us. But as to intentional

imitation — whom shall we imitate? There is but One whom we may

imitate in all things; but ONE PERFECT EXAMPLE!   But to a certain

extent all holy men are examples to us; all who have entered heaven are

worthy of imitation in some respects. We tread the same path which they

trod — “the King’s highway of holiness.”  (Isaiah 35:8)  We aim at the

same end — perfection, eternal life, heaven. They have gained their end,

succeeded in their pursuit, reached the goal. Let us imitate them:

 

Ř      In their faith. Believe in God’s promises of perfection and

blessedness.  But this involves faith in Jesus Christ; because:

 

o       He revealed to us perfection, eternal life, and heaven;

o       He is for us the only way to perfection and heaven.

 

“In none other is there salvation,” (Acts 4:12). Hold fast your

confidence in eternal life, and trust in the Lord and Savior for

its attainment.

 

Ř      In their patience. In darkness and tempest, in sin and sorrow, let us not

lose heart or hope; but trust and wait. And, like theirs, let our waiting be

joined with working. “Be not slothful.” Their lives were active and

earnest.  Shall we be slothful in an age like this? slothful in a life like

ours? slothful when heaven is at stake? Let us be imitators of the

illustrious host who inherit the promises. Be ye steadfast, immovable,

always abounding in the work of the Lord,” (I Corinthians 15:58).

Are any of you imitators of those who inherit the threatenings? Change

your course; for your way is evil and the end terrible. “Come thou

with us, and we will do thee good!”  (Numbers 10:29)

 

13 “For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear

by no greater, He swear by Himself,  14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless

thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.  15 And so, after he had patiently

endured, he obtained the promise.” Abraham — the ancestor of the Hebrews,

the first recipient of the promises, the father of the faithful — is now appropriately

adduced as an example. He (Genesis 22:16-18), as is the case with you (Psalm 110.),

was assured of his inheritance by the Divine oath; and so he obtained it, but only

through “faith and patience.” You have the like assurance, but attended with the

like conditions. And then this Divine oath, the significance of which is set

forth in vs. 16-18, is made a link of connection between the hortatory section

(ch.5:11-6:20) and the coming argument about Melchizedek. This is one

instance of the artistic way in which, throughout the Epistle, the interposed

hortatory passages are so turned as to connect the divided sections of the

argument. But what is said about Abraham (here) has been variously

understood. It is connected with v. 12 thus: Be ye followers of them who

inherit the promises through faith and patience: for God, in His promise to

Abraham, swore by Himself in confirmation of it; and so (καὶ

οὕτως kai houtosand so; and thus) through patience he obtained the

promise. Be it here observed that µακροθυµήσας makrothumaesas

having patiently endured -  in v. 15 Authorized Version) corresponds with

διὰ …..µακροθυµίας dia makrothumiasthrough …..patience in v. 12,

and expresses essentially the same idea. The aorist participle

µακροθυµήσας (having patiently endured) does not in itself imply that the

patience was previous to the obtaining; it expresses only that by patiently

enduring he obtained.  Observe also that καὶ οὕτως -  (and so -compare Acts 7:8;

27:44; 28:14) denotes the consequence from what has been previously stated;

i.e. that µακροθυµήσας ἐπέτυχεν makrothumaesas epetuchenbeing patient

he obtained - followed from the Divine oath ensuring the fulfillment of the promise.

Both his eventually obtaining and his patience in awaiting fulfillment were in

consequence of the assuring oath. But then how and when did Abraham himself

obtain the promise? Not even the temporal fulfillment in the multiplication of his

seed and the inheritance of the Promised Land, much less the spiritual fulfillment

in Christ, was during his own life. Both he could but see “afar off. (ch. 11:13)

In respect  to the latter it is expressly said (Ibid., v.39) that the patriarchs did not

 receive the promises —  µὴ κοµισάµενοι τὰς ἐπαγγελίας mae komisamenoi

tas epaggeliasnot having received the promises: οὐκ ἐκοµίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν

ouk ekomisanto taen epaggelianreceived not the promise.  What, then, is meant

by µακροθυµήσας ἐπέτυχεν (being patient he obtained)? Some understand the

time of the oath (Genesis 22), when the promise was irrevocably assured, to have

been the time of obtaining. But more than this is suggested by the phrase,

ἐπέτυχεν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας (he obtained the promise – compare ch.11:33), as well

as by καὶ οὕτως (and so) , viz. the actual attainment of the blessing

assured to him by oath. There are two other ways of explaining:

 

(1) to identify Abraham with his seed, in whom, though not in his own

person, he may be conceived to have obtained, — of which view it may be

significant that πληθυνῶ τὸ σπέρμα σου plaethuno to sperma sou

I will multiply your seed greatly - of the Septuagint. (Genesis 22:17) is changed

in the Epistle to πληθυνῶ σε plaethuno se – I will  multiply thee.

 

(2) to regard Abraham, still alive in the unseen world, as himself enjoying

the fulfillment of the ancient promise. So Delitzsch, who, dwelling on the

thought that nothing less than the blessing of Abraham extended to the

whole world (compare κληρονόµον τοῦ κόσµουklaeronomon tou kosmou

heir of the world - Romans 4:13) can be regarded as complete fulfillment, says,

“God’s oath-sealed word of promise is now fulfilled in Christ, and Abraham,

while living on in the unseen world, is conscious of and enjoys that fulfillment,

and so may be said to have obtained the promise.” This view derives some

support from ch. 11:13-16, where the longings of the pilgrim patriarchs is so

beautifully represented as reaching to a heavenly fulfillment. On the other

hand, the aorist ἐπέτυχε (obtained) is against it, and hence view (1) may be

accepted as a sufficient explanation of the expression (see below, or ch.11:39).

With regard to the general drift, it is obvious how µακροθυµία (patience), as

well as πίστεως pisteos - faith, in respect to the promise first made to him

“in Charran,” is strikingly displayed in Abraham’s recorded life.

 

16 “For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is

to them an end of all strife.  17  Wherein God, willing more abundantly to

shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it

by an oath:  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:  19 Which hope we have as an anchor

of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the

veil;  20Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high

priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”  For men swear by the greater:

and of every dispute of theirs (literally, to them), the oath is final (literally, an end)

for confirmation (εἰς βεβαίωσιν eis bebaiosinfor confirmation -  being connected

with πέρας perasend - not, as in the Authorized Version, with ὅρκος horkos

oath). Here begins the explanation of the meaning and purpose of the Divine oath,

already cursorily touched on in v. 13. God thus, for full assurance, condescends to

the form of confirmation most binding among men when they promise to each other.

They appeal to one greater than themselves to intervene between them. He, having

no one greater than Himself to appeal to, appeals (so to speak) to His own

immutability, and thus may be said to intervene with an oath (ἐµεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ -

- emesiteusen orko confirmed it by an oath; mediates; interposes -  v.17), the verb

being neuter, with the sense of “mediate” or “intervene,” not, as in Authorized

Version, “confirmed it.” The reason is not that the Divine promise is not in itself

enough, but that God, willing to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise

the immutability of His counsel, is pleased to grant them this additional

confirmation; that by two immutable things (first the promise, in itself sufficient;

and secondly the oath, for more abundant assurance), in which it is impossible

for God to lie, we may have a strong consolation (παράκλησιν paraklaesin

consolation, bearing elsewhere this sense, and also that of exhortation, as in

ch. 12:5; 13:22; which latter sense is understood here by most commentators as

uniting best the drift of the passage with the general notion of encouragement)

who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. The course

of thought has now passed again from Abraham to Christians, the transition

having been prepared for by the general expression, τοῖς κληρονόµοις τῆς

ἐπαγγελίας  - tois klaeronomois taes epaggelias the heirs of the promise -  in v. 17.

Indeed, the oath to him was an assurance to us also, we being the final inheritors

of the promised blessing. Then finally, in the two concluding verses, the subject

to be treated in ch. 7. is again beautifully led up to by a natural sequence of thought:

Which (hope) we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and

entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a Forerunner Jesus entered

for us, become a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Our hope

(ἐλπίδος elpidoshope; expectation), regarded in v. 18 objectively, assumes here

a subjective sense: it is our anchor cast upwards beyond the heavens through which

our Forerunner has passed (compare ch.4:14, διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς

dielaeluthota tous ouranousone having passed through the heavens), and, in

virtue of the promise and the oath, fixed there secure and firm. “That which

is within the veil(καταπετάσµατος  - katapetasmatosveil; curtain - the word

invariably denoting the veil in the temple, is the heavenly holy of holies, of which the

earthly was symbolical, as is fully set forth in ch. 8. This first mention of the veil is an

instance of the manner in which, throughout this Epistle, ideas to be

afterwards expanded are often intimated by way of preparation beforehand.

 

 

Another Exhortation to Steadfastness (vs. 9-20)

 

Each stage in the argument of the Epistle is relieved by a hortatory passage

intended to confirm and cheer the Hebrews in their Christian faith. Indeed,

the one duty upon which the whole book lays stress is that of believing

steadfastness.

 

  • THE EXHORTATION. It assumes various forms.

 

Ř      Be not sluggish. (v. 12.) The Hebrews, in the perplexity of their

situation by reason of the temptations of Judaism, had begun to sink

into spiritual listlessness. We, too, are extremely prone to carry our

Christian profession without earnestness, and to do our Christian

work without energy.

 

Ř      Show the same diligence. (v. 11.) The Hebrews had bestirred

themselves in bestowing sympathy and succor upon their afflicted

brethren, and the apostle longs to see them equally energetic in other

departments of Christian duty. Success in spiritual life, as in any

other sphere, can only be attained in connection with diligence.

 

Ř      Seek the full assurance of hope. (v. 11.) They must not waver

between Christianity and Judaism, but cherish an unfaltering

persuasion of the reality of gospel blessings, notwithstanding

that the full fruition of these is reserved for the future life.

 

  • SOME ENCOURAGEMENTS. In this paragraph the apostle does not

prolong the terrific strain of the preceding verses. To continue it longer

would have but depressed the hearts of his readers, and defeated his own

benignant purpose towards them. So, after we have, as it were, trodden

(vs. 4-8) upon the hot lava of a volcano, we now enter (v. 9) upon a

smiling and beautiful landscape, all carpeted with green and blossoming

with flowers. “A bruised reed shall he not break,” (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew

12:20) expresses the spirit of the passage now before us. We have here a

variety of encouragements.

 

Ř      The fruit which their faith had borne already. (vs. 9-10.) Brotherly

love is a principal trait of the Christian character; and the Hebrews

had been kind to their afflicted fellow-believers, for Jesus’ sake.

God had not forgotten their liberality; and to the apostle it had

seemed as an evidence of the reality of their conversion. The

spiritual attainments which a believer has already reached should

encourage him to perseverance.

 

Ř      The example of their sainted ancestors. (v. 12.) Imitation occupies

a principal place in our life, and is an important factor in the

development of character. It wields immense power in the domain

of morals and religion.  So, the Bible is very largely a Book of

biographies; and these are given us to incite us to follow the

footsteps of the good and true. We, as well as these Hebrew

converts, should be “imitators” of the peerage of Old

Testament heroes (ch. 11.). And we of this age should imitate,

besides, the great soul-stars of Christendom, the fathers of our

own Church, the sainted men of our town, the departed of our

own sanctuary, and of our own fireside.

 

Ř      God’s faithfulness to His word and oath. (vs. 13-18.) Having singled

out particularly the steadfastness of Abraham, and quoted God’s oath

to him (Genesis 22:16-18), the author shows that this oath is still a

strong encouragement to Abraham’s children who have embraced

Christianity.   (Romans 2:28-29)  For the Divine promise and oath

to Abraham were spiritual rather than temporal; they have been

continued to us; and they have been confirmed by the cross of

Christ, and sealed by His resurrection and ascension (II Corinthians

1:20).

 

Ř      The greatness of the Christian’s hope. (vs. 19-20.) The Jewish

temple and the institutions of the theocracy were very soon to pass

away forever; so that it was unreasonable to place reliance upon them.

The one sure anchorage of spiritual hope is in that heavenly sanctuary

which Jesus has entered for us as our everlasting High Priest.

 

 

Instructive in this chapter is the view presented of Divine purpose in

relation to human will. The Divine purpose may have been evinced by

supplies of grace so abundant as to remove all doubt of the possibility of

success; yet through the human will there may be failure: the very Divine

oath may have ensured fulfillment of the promise; yet, as to Abraham, so to

individual Christians, faith and patience are the conditions of fulfillment. It

is evident that the Divine purpose and the Divine promise are all along

referred to, not to dishearten any for fear that they may not be included in

them, not to encourage remissness in any on the ground of certainty of

attainment, not so as to suggest any idea of arbitrary selection irrespective

of desert, but simply to incite to perseverance on the ground of assurance

of success, if the human conditions are fulfilled. And this is the practical

application of the doctrine of predestination found also elsewhere in

Paul’s Epistles (compare Romans 8:28-39). Predestination and free-will may

be to human reason theoretically irreconcilable, though reason, as well as

theology, may compel us to acknowledge both. The problem may properly

be left unsolved, as among the many deep things of God. But it is of

importance to observe how the doctrine of-predestination is practically

applied in Scripture as bearing upon human conduct.

 

 

 

The Anchor of the Soul (vs. 19-20)

 

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul,” etc. Christians have been

exhorted to imitate “them who through faith and patience inherit the

promises.” There are most excellent reasons for their doing so; for GOD’S

PURPOSES AND PROMISES ARE MOST SURE!   They were not lightly

or hastily made; they are most solemnly confirmed; they are “immutable things,

 in which it is impossible for God to lie;” and they supply the strongest

encouragement to the Christian’s hopes (vs.13-18). Notice:

 

  • THE OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE. This is not explicitly

stated in the text; but it is implied in it, and it may be gathered from the

argument of the writer. We may define it as the attainment of his destiny,

or the perfection of his being. But to mention some particulars:

 

Ř      Freedom from sin and suffering. The rest which remaineth for the

people of God certainly includes deliverance from sin, and from pain

of body, and distress of mind, and darkness and sorrow of spirit.

We must become free from sin, or our salvation will be neither

complete nor true; for sin would mar the fairest realms, and

fill them with discord and misery.  (That is why it will never

be in the New Creation of God – II Peter 3:13 – CY – 2014)

 

Ř      Attainment of spiritual perfection. “Let us press on unto perfection”

(v. 1). We hope for more clear, more correct, more comprehensive

knowledge; for purity of heart which will be perfect in its kind,

though not in its degree; for love which shall be perfect in like

manner; and for harmony between our purposes and performances,

our willing and doing.  We are inspired by the sublime hope of

becoming like unto our Lord and Savior (I John 3:2-3).

 

Ř      Enjoyment of heavenly blessedness. Through Christ God will bring

“many sons unto glory.” (ch. 2:10)  Jesus, has entered heaven as our

Forerunner, and we hope to follow Him thither. We are “looking for

the blessed hope,” (Titus 2:13). “God hath begotten us again unto a

living hope,” (I Peter 1:3-5). This glorious hope is “set before us as a

prize to be won (like at a fair, except it is for our souls -  CY – 2014);

it is “set before us” to animate our spirits, to strengthen our hands in

Christian work, and to quicken our feet in the Christian race, Contrast

this with any inferior object of hope; e.g. worldly possessions, worldly

pleasures, worldly honor’s. These do not satisfy; that does. These

degrade the soul; that exalts it. These will fail those who have

attained and cherished them; that will lead to splendid and

perpetual fulfillment.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE. “Which hope we

have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entering into

that which is within the veil.” This hope is the stay of the soul amid a

tumultuous world. It is clearly implied:

 

Ř      That the voyage of life is marked by storms. These storms are

occasioned by bodily afflictions, temporal anxieties and losses,

family trials,domestic and social bereavements, and spiritual

conflicts.  (I recommend Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life

paintings for thought provoking images – use browser – CY –

2014)

 

Ř      That these storms try and imperil the soul. There is danger of striking

upon the hidden rock of some subtle and insidious sin, of being driven

by the wild winds of passion against stern and stony cliffs, or of being

hurried helplessly onward by fierce storms of sorrow. The dangers in

navigating the sea of life are numerous and various. Many a noble soul

has reached the desired haven sore damaged in life’s storms, while

some, alas, like Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Timothy 1:19)  have

made shipwreck concerning the faith.

 

Ř      That the Christian’s hope, as an anchor, will enable him safely to

outride the storms. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul,

both sure and steadfast.”  Two figures are here, not so much mixed as,

in a very elegant manner, combined. The author might compare the

world to a sea, the soul to a ship, the future still concealed glory to

the covered bottom of the sea, the remote firm land stretching beneath

the water and covered by the water. Or he might compare the present

life upon earth to the forecourt, and the future blessedness to the

heavenly sanctuary, which is still, as it were, concealed from us by a

veil He has, however, combined the two figures.  The soul, like a

shipwrecked mariner, clings to an anchor, and sees not where the

cable of the anchor runs to, where it is made fast; it knows,

however, that it is firmly fixed behind the veil which conceals from

it the future glory, and that if it only keeps fast hold of the anchor,

it will, in due time, be drawn in with the anchor by a rescuing

hand into THE HOLIEST OF ALL!   This hope enables the

Christian in deep distress to say, “Why art thou cast down, O

my soul?” (Psalm 42:11). And in wildest storms it inspires him to

sing, “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in

 trouble!” (Ibid. ch. 46:1-3, 7).

 

“Hope, as an anchor firm and sure, holds fast

The Christian’s vessel, and defies the blast.”

(Cowper.)

 

And thus “we are saved by hope.”  (Romans 8:24)

 

  • THE ASSURED REALIZATION OF THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE.

Two things assure us of the fulfillment of our hope.

 

Ř      The character of the anchor and the anchorage. The anchor is

“both sure and steadfast, and entering into that which is within

the veil” (compare Romans 5:1-5; II Thessalonians 2:16; I Timothy 1:1).

 

Ř      The presence of Jesus as our Forerunner in heaven. Within the veil,

whither as Forerunner on our behalf Jesus entered.” The veil spoken

of is that which divided the holy of holies from the holy place. “Within

the veil” is a figurative expression for heaven. The presence of the Son

of man in heaven is a guarantee of the realization of the hope of every

believer in Him. He entered heaven as our Representative, and “as a

Forerunner on our behalf.” “Where I am, there shall also my servant

be.” “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place

for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where

I am, there ye may be also!”  (John 14:2-3). Mark, then, the absolute

necessity of vital union with THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!   One

 with Him by faith here, we shall be one with Him in blessedness

hereafter. “Christ in you, the Hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)

Your life is hid with Christ in God.  (Ibid. ch. 3:3)  When Christ,

who is our Life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him

be manifested in glory.” (Ibid. v. 4)

 

 

Our Anchor and Anchorage (vs. 19-20)

 

This text suggests, first of all, that the Christian life is a life of storm. It is

exposed to storms of persecution, of doubt, of remorse, of inward

corruption, of outward adversity, and to the last great storm of death. But,

blessed be God, believers possess complete security in the midst of these

storms.

 

  • CHRISTIAN HOPE IS OUR ANCHOR. Of the three great abiding

graces — faith, hope, love — hope is the one which often receives least

prominence in our thoughts. Faith is the root, and love the full-blown

flower, of piety; whereas hope occupies an intermediate position. Here is,

in fact, just one of the first developments of faith — a sprout from the root

of faith. The object of faith may be either good or bad; but the object of

hope is always good. Hope in its essence is just the desire of good, with the

expectation of by-and-by obtaining it. Now, hope has this blessed function

— it soothes and calms and cheers the mind in the midst of storm and

trouble. Even natural hope is “as an anchor of the soul.” What drudgery

would the world’s business be apart from hope! Where would our great

statesmen, our inventors and discoverers, come from, were it not for hope?

 

“Every gift of noble origin

Is breathed upon by Hope’s perpetual breath.”

(Wordsworth.)

 

It was hope that buoyed up poor Columbus, and that inspired the lion-

hearted Livingstone. But, as ancient seamen called the strongest anchor of

their ships “the sacred anchor,” and reserved it as “the last hope” for times

when the vessel was in real peril; so, gospel hope is the sacred anchor of

every good man. And, truly, this hope is the most influential of all hopes. It

is the hope of eternal life;the hope of looking upon Christ in his glory,

of seeing the King in his beauty, Notice, also, the properties ascribed to

this anchor.

 

Ř      It is sure. In substance strong and firm, and of weight proportionate to

the tonnage of the vessel — in every way worthy of the greatness of

our nature. No fear that it may fail: this “hope putteth not to shame.”

(Romans 5:5)

 

Ř      It is steadfast. It takes a firm grip of the holding-ground, and will

neither break nor drag. No force of wind or current will be able to

tear it from its hold. How comes it that spiritual hope has these

essential qualities? It is “both sure and steadfast” because it is the

gift of God, and therefore good and perfect, like all other Divine

gifts. It is so, also, because it is essentially connected with the cable

of faith in the promise and oath of God.

 

  • CHRIST IN HEAVEN IS OUR ANCHORAGE. The Savior has gone

before us into heaven, through the blue “veil” or ocean of the sky; and our

hope follows Him thither.

 

Ř      Our holding-ground is in heaven. Happy are all who are convinced

that there is no safe anchorage for their souls anywhere below! Each

of us has had many earthly hopes that have been baffled; but the hope

which finds its object in heaven is “a living hope.” Its holding-ground

is beyond the frontiers of change, and out of reach of the touch of death.

God help us amid the storms of life to look, not so much down upon the

fierce floods which are beating about our feet, but rather upward to the

quiet, holy heaven, and to our great Hope that is there!

 

Ř      Our holding-ground is Christ Himself in His perpetual priesthood.

Even heaven is nothing at all to the believer apart from Christ. The

Lord Jesus Himself is “our Hope.” HE IS THE SON OF GOD,

who knows all our troubles, and has power to control and subdue them.

He is the Son of man, and full, therefore, of warm, human sympathy.

He is our “High Priest,” ever-loving, interceding, armed with authority

and overflowing with tenderness. And He is our “Forerunner,” who

has entered heaven in our name, and left the golden gate open behind

Him, because He has arranged that we are to follow (John 14:1-4).

 

The sinner’s only safety is to CAST ANCHOR IN CHRIST!

 

 

  The Encouragements to Cherish the Hope of Eternal Life (vs. 13-20)

 

These assume that there is a strong disposition in men to doubt the veracity

of the Divine promise, and in adorable condescension God gives us ample

evidence to justify our faith and perseverance. It must be confessed that the

abandonment of the Jewish Law, separation from the synagogue, the

surrender of earthly pleasure, and submission to manifold trials, require

varied reasons to convince and to maintain the conviction of the claims of

the gospel. The encouragements consist of the following facts:

 

  • THE EXAMPLE OF THE PROMISE AND OATH VOUCHSAFED

TO ABRAHAM AND SINCE GLORIOUSLY REALIZED. The

patriarch was called by the voice of God to offer up his son on Mount Moriah.

It was the highest proof of his faith in Jehovah, and although he received him

back in a figure of a nobler sacrifice (ch. 11:19), “to will was present,” and

God accepted the purpose of his believing soul. “In the mount of the Lord it

was seen” (Genesis 22:14) that where there was the sternest trial of his faith

there came the most blessed manifestations of the Divine favor, both for

himself, his descendants after the flesh, and his more numerous spiritual

progeny. God said, “By myself have I sworn, for because thou hast done

this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing

I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of

the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore” (Ibid. vs.16-17).

He waited patiently, and obtained the promise in the birth of Isaac; and

afterwards he saw the day of Christ, the seed in whom all nations are

blessed.  (John 8:56)  The latest portions of the New Testament verify

the promise contained in the earliest part of the Old; and John said,

after the sealing of the hundred and forty and four thousand of the

tribes of Israel, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which

no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and

tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with

white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud

voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne,

and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10). “And if ye be Christ’s,

then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”

(Galatians 3:29).

 

  • THE EXTENSION OF THE BLESSING CONTAINED IN THE

PROMISE, AND SANCTIONED BY THE OATH, TO ALL

BELIEVERS. The words of grace which were spoken to Abraham retain

their force and application to all who are his children by a living faith. “The

Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the

gospel is preached unto us. (I Peter 1:25)  The patriarch was the heir of the

world, a trustee for the future generations of believers. THE OATH IS

STILL VALID and the promise is made by One who cannot lie, and whose

self-sufficiency and omnipotence raise Him above the temptation and

possibility of deception.  The oath in human affairs is final, and is an end of

all strife (v. 16); and, to remove all doubt, Jehovah condescends to adopt a

human form of appeal, to assure believers of the immovable ground of

confidence which they possess and enjoy. The freeness of the promise

tends to confirm the confidence of the righteous; for it is the unexpected,

unextorted utterance of Divine love to cheer and inspire believers in their

way to heaven. Both furnish strong consolation, which is adequate to disarm

all earthly sorrows and assaults of their terror, and recalls those cheering

images of the Divine love which ancient psalmists often introduce in their

exultation and gratitude after deliverance from adversaries, and with

cheerful hope of future safety; for “He that dwelleth in the secret place

of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will

say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress: my God; in Him

will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

  • THE POWER AND CONNECTIONS OF CHRISTIAN HOPE. It is

not unnatural to imagine that the writer may have thought of the wild and

stormy ocean, from whose waves and turbulence the mariner hastens to a

port of safety, and. then drops his anchor in the calm waters of the haven.

The anchor descends below and grasps the solid earth, and holds the vessel

fast amid the raging of the wind and the darkness of the sky. It resembles

hope in its retentive capacity, which, amid winds of doctrine, failure of

some who go back and walk no more with Christ, temptations from the

world, the flesh, and the devil, keeps the believer from leaving his position

and surrendering his profession of the gospel. The thought of the anchor is

qualified by the connection of our hope with heaven, which our Lord has

entered. IT ATTACHES ITSELF TO HIM who has entered as the

Forerunner. Here we note a striking and glorious difference between the

high priest of the temple and the office of the Redeemer. The Aaronic

high priest had no one with him in the holiest of all, and stood and ministered

in awful solitude before God. Our Lord is the Forerunner, and awaits the

arrival of His followers. He is the Captain of salvation, who will bring many

sons into glory; for He is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, who,

as a sublime type of the Lord Jesus, is presented to our consideration in the

following chapter.

 

And so our great hold and safety is to be in the invisible. We are to make sure of the

reality of God’s plan; that He has a plan, that it is a plan immutable; that it is indeed

a plan of God, not subject to the collapses which come through human caprice, infirmity,

and shortsightedness. Hence God announces and exhibits His plan through two

immutable things. What are these?

 

  • Surely one of them is the oath of God.  We know that a man, always veracious

and deliberate of speech, wants to be taken in an unusually serious way when

he adds to what he has to say a solemn adjuration.When God speaks, His word

is always serious; but He has His own way of calling man’s attention to its

seriousness.

 

  • Then the other immutable thing is surely the priesthood, the Melchizedek

priesthood of Jesus. Behind the veil constituted by the visible world there

is a God who has sworn the solemn oath with respect to that

inheritance which all inherit who by their faith are children of Abraham;

and there also is the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday,

and today, and for ever.” The anchorage thus being given, there is the

anchor also to be considered. And here we are to consider the anchor, not

so much as something which we fling into the unseen, as something which

out of the unseen is realized to us. It is as if, when a ship is drifting towards

a dangerous shore, a beneficent hand should suddenly reach out of the

waves and fling a rope to be fastened to the ship. Our great confidence,

hope, and joy should be in this, that Jesus, vanished into the unseen, has

still a living and active connection with A NEEDY WORLD!  Note how

full this whole passage is of strong words. Examine the passage in the

original, and this will come out very dearly. Strong words in ordinary speech

are too often the resort of weak men; but here they have to be used at every

turn in order to set before us the stable anchorage and THE SOLID,

WELL-FORGED ANCHOR which have been furnished to us by

GOD HIMSELF!

 

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