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Hebrews 5:11-6:8: Heed the Warning Print E-mail
Sunday, 30 October 2016

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Most of the people that I talk with in our city tell me that they are Christians. When we used to go from house to house, knocking on doors and sharing the gospel with folks, almost everyone of them claimed to be followers of Jesus. They would talk about an experience they had with a local church or at a camp or during a difficult season in their life and conclude that they became a Christian then. If we went on to ask them about how their relationship with Jesus was impacting their life on a daily basis now, we would often get some strange looks. Many would admit that they were not involved in church and even say that they should be, but they saw no real concern for their souls in that fact. They had an experience with Jesus and that made them a Christian. How would you respond in that situation? What would you say to the individual who claimed to be a Christian but had no real evidence of following Jesus in their life?

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The author of Hebrews would warn them. He would caution them against trusting in some past experience and encourage them to persevere in the faith and hold fast to Christ. This is the message that we have seen in the book of Hebrews up to this point. The original readers were being tempted to abandon their faith and the writer is doing all that he can to encourage them to avoid that mistake. Their souls are in serious danger and out of love He writes to warn them. He does this in our passage this morning. It is one of the most controversial passages in all of the New Testament. Many believe that it teaches that a true believer can ultimately lose their salvation. Yet, in light of so many passages that point us to the eternal security of the believer (see John 6:38-40, Romans 8:30, Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6, etc.), we must look hard at this text to see if that is really what the author of Hebrews is arguing. We must be careful here. Our goal is not to force Hebrews 5:11-6:8 to say something that it is not actually saying. Rather, we humbly seek by the Spiritís guidance to understand what he is saying and how that is understood with the rest of Scripture. Before we begin, we should note that the author is breaking from his argument about Jesus being our great High Priest, which he began in 4:18. This break will run from 5:11-6:20 and focuses on the author warning (5:11-6:8) and encouraging (6:9-20) his readers to not remain immature and dull of hearing. This morning we will look at his warning.

The problem: Lack of maturity in their faith (5:11-14)

He breaks from his argument and addresses them directly in verse 11. Look at that with me. He notes that they have become dull of hearing, or even sluggish in their hearing (same word as 6:12). The readers are immature in their faith and lack discernment in their belief and practice. He goes on to explain this more in verses 12-14. Look at those with me. The author believes that his readers should be teachers by now. He does not mean that they all should be elders or pastors. Rather, he is simply saying that they should have matured in the faith enough to be able to instruct others, an expectation he has for all believers. But instead of being ready to teach, these folks still need milk, not solid food. We feed milk to babies to help them grow and eventually they are ready for solid food. We do not keep feeding them milk. When they mature, we introduce other foods besides just milk. The analogy points to the immaturity of the original readers. They should be teaching, but they still need the basics. They should be able to discern good and evil, but they remain unskilled in the word of righteousness. They should be ready for solid food, but they still need milk.

These professing Christians lack maturity in their faith. They should have progressed but they have not. Now we might be tempted to think that this is not that big of a deal. ĎNothing wrong with being a baby Christian all your life. Some people like to grow in their faith and others donít. No big deal.í The author of Hebrews has no category for believers who refuse to mature in their faith. A person is either growing in their understanding and practice of Christianity or they are regressing, and perhaps showing themselves to be unbelievers. Lack of maturity is a serious concern for the author of Hebrews, which is why he goes on to give the warning he gives.

The solution: Fight for maturity of the faith (6:1-3)

Although this passage has some challenging components, the command from the author to his readers is straightforward. Look at 6:1-3. If maturity means be able to discern our beliefs and practices, then we need to fight for that maturity. When the author tells us to leave the elementary doctrine of Christ, he does not mean that we are to lay it aside. Such a thought would contradict what he has repeatedly said. Rather, he means that we should go on to building on that sure foundation. And this isnít about just getting smarter or reading books, the author wants his readers, and us, to progress in their beliefs and practice of the faith. We read and study so that we can discern truth from error, right from wrong. We fellowship together to encourage each other in holy living and faithful witness. We learn the Bible more so that we can love and obey Jesus more. In these ways and more we go on to maturity in the faith.

The basic principles and elementary doctrine that he mentions can be broken into three pairs. First, he mentions repentance of dead works and of faith toward God. How do we respond to the good news of Jesusí death and resurrection for our sins? We repent and believe. We turn from our sinful life and place all of our hope and trust in what Jesus did for us at the cross. Second, he lists instruction about washings and the laying on of hands. He is probably referring here to baptism and the receiving of the Spirit, along with spiritual gifts. Finally, he writes of the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. All who place their faith in Christ will be raised from the dead just as He was and will escape future judgment, which will be eternal. For the author, these are basic ideas of the Christian faith. No other foundation needs to be laid in their place and we should build upon these truths as God permits. We fight for our maturity of the faith, knowing and believing that we can only grow in our faith through Godís continued grace.

The reason: Cannot be restored (6:4-8)

Why is it so important for us to go on to maturity in the faith? Look at verses 4-6. The obvious question for these verses is who is being addressed? Some argue that the description is of Christians and therefore the idea of falling away is hypothetical. Of course, as we said earlier, some argue that it is Christians and believe that the author is teaching that true believers can really fall away. Yet, others believe that the author is not actually describing true believers here, but those who have professed faith in Christ and eventually fall away. At this point, I believe that the last approach is the best understanding of the text. So then, what is the author arguing?

A person can receive great blessings from God and still not truly be a believer. They can be enlightened, having been taught the truth of Godís Word and the good news. They can taste the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit. They can witness and participate in amazing outpourings of the Spirit. They can taste the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. They can be moved by good preaching and see the beauty of Godís Word. They can see the powers of the age to come breaking through into the community of faith. They can experience all of this and still fall away. They can receive all these blessings from God and still decide to walk away from Christ for good. Such a decision is a terrible tragedy and it flows from a heart that is hard and is hardening. So much so, the author notes that it is impossible for that person to be restored to repentance. It is not that God would not or could not forgive them, it is simply that they will never come. They are refusing to believe that Christís death was enough and so they crucify Him again and hold Him up to contempt. The Lord gives them over to their sin and delusion (see Romans 1:18-32, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). We talk about frightening things during this time of year. People watch scary movies and go to haunted houses. And really all of this teaches us to laugh at fear, even enjoy it. But nothing is more frightening than what the author is warning us about here. Eternal judgment (v. 2), the wrath of Almighty God is nothing to laugh about or take lightly. We must feel the weight of this warning.

He uses an agricultural analogy to drive home his point. Look at verses 7-8. The land that receives rain and produces a crop is blessed by God. The land that receives the same rain and produces thorns and thistles is on the verge of judgment from God. Essentially the author is asking us: ĎWhat will you do with what you have received from the Lord? Will you turn and walk away if things get hard or if you think you find satisfaction elsewhere? Or will you hold fast to Christ, persevering in your faith, and going on to maturity through Godís grace and power? Which type of land will you be?í

We will come back in a couple of weeks and see that the author goes on to encourage his readers. But we dare not move on too fast. We should all take the time to examine ourselves this morning. What are we doing with all that we have received from the Lord? Are we going on to maturity or do we think that we can just settle for milk and remain spiritual infants all of our lives. The author of Hebrews is telling us that it doesnít work like that. We must be growing in our faith if we are persevering in the faith. We might have hard seasons and struggle with doubt, but our Christian lives should be characterized by growth. We should be going on to maturity. But we all have a tendency to get the response to the gospel wrong. We know that we are sinners and we know that Jesus died and rose again, so as long as we say we believe we are good to go. But the Bible teaches us that repentance and faith will be continual, regular actions that lead us to more and more maturity. It leads to putting our sin to death and growing in righteousness. It leads to zeal for the Lord and knowing Him through His Word. It leads to love for others and sharing the good news of Jesusí death and resurrection with them. So may we heed the warning, hold fast to our Savior, and go on to maturity in the faith. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 November 2016 )

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