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Warning Against Falling Away  (ch. 5:11-6:12)


The writer in chapter 5 verse 11 makes a pretty direct statement to his readers. He says, "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn."  Such a statement sounds like it could have come from Paul, but as I've stated earlier, I don't believe Paul wrote this letter.  The leaders of the church back then were pretty direct in their conversation with one another. 


In verse 12 the writer goes on to say that these people should be far enough down the road in their faith that they should be teaching others, but in reality they have to be taught all over again themselves.  The words "all over again" tell me that these are Jewish believers who have heard and have embraced the truths of the gospel, but now are rethinking their acceptance of the gospel because they have not progressed in their faith.      


The things they need to be taught are "the elementary truths."  What these elementary truths are the source of controversy between those who believe in eternal security (once you're saved you're always save) and those who believe you can lose your salvation.  We will come back to this a bit later.  I personally believe they are the basis of our relationship with Jesus and the New Testament gospel, although this is a bit problematic.  


Note the words "truth of God's word."  That would be in reference to the Old Testament since the New Testament was not yet fully compiled at the time of this writing, and, it would have been the Old Testament that these Jewish believers would have understood to be God's word. 


In verse 13 the writer compares these people to little children who are too young to eat solid food.  They can only handle milk and not solid food.  The question can be asked then, "What is milk and what is solid food?"  According to Hebrews 5:12 and 6:1 milk seems to be the elementary truths of God's word, which I believe is the elementary truths of the gospel. 


The writer says that those you only drink milk are not acquainted with the teachings of righteousness, or, right living.  In short, I believe the author is saying that these people do not know how to live the righteous life of a New Testament believer.  They are still thinking in terms of Old Testament Judaism.  The righteous life as stated throughout the New Testament, that is central to the gospel of Jesus, is a righteousness based on faith, not works of the law.  It's trusting Jesus for your salvation, not trusting your own works, no matter how good they may be.   


In verse 14 the author says that mature believers know the difference between right and wrong, or, good and evil.  In context, right and wrong means right living and wrong living as defined in New Testament terms. When New Testament Christians live by Old Testament standards of the Law, they are not living right.  Right, in this verse is in reference to living by faith.  Wrong, in this verse, is in reference to living by law, and specifically, the Law of Moses.  This is one of the most misunderstood truths in Christianity.  That is to say, how New Testament Christians should live and understand the Old Testament laws.          


In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 6 the author lists the elementary truths that he has been speaking of.  First of all, he calls them the elementary doctrines of Christ.  They are New Testament teachings.   They are, repentance from dead works, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment.  The writer calls these the elementary teachings about Christ, and that these people should move on past this into maturity.  It strikes me that if these teachings are elementary, how much are we today like the Hebrew Christians that this letter is directed to.  The things that he lists here as basic are probably not really clearly understood by many Christians today. If I were to ask the average Christian what the writer means by any of these points, could he or she give a proper explanation?  They probably can't. 


The first in the list is "repentance from acts that lead to death."  This can be better translated as "dead works."   The first interpretation then concerning repentance is from our own works.  We cannot receive salvation as a result of anything we do, no matter how good it is.  Therefore we must repent, or turn from trying to receive salvation from our own human effort.  Of course, we do need to repent from acts of sin that lead to death as well.  So, when thinking of repentance, we must think of both aspects of repenting.  The liberalized church today has pretty much converted over to a system of works, which the writer would call dead works.


The mentioning here of repenting from dead works is in reference to the works of the Law of Moses.  According to New Testament standards, working your way to salvation is a thing of the past.  If these Jewish believers are rethinking the process of salvation to include obeying the Law of Moses, they are not thinking in New Testament terms.


The second in the list is faith, which is a natural result of repenting from dead works.  Faith, in New Testament terms is simply trusting your life with Jesus.  Once again, as I have said before, when we come to Jesus in repentance, we trust Him with our whole life, which would include our salvation.  We donít just trust Him for salvation.


Baptisms are next in the list.  This is where much of the controversy over this passage takes place.  You may read in some translations the word "washings" instead of the word "baptisms."  I point out to you that the words "baptisms" or "washings" is indeed plural in the original Greek text.  We're talking about more than one baptism or washing.  The Greek word translated here as "baptisms" or "washings" is "baptismos."  I would then suggest that our English word "baptisms" is a better translation.  I would then suggest that those translations that insert the word "washings" might be doing so from a biased position. 


The word "washings" is more of an Old Testament word that speaks of a number of different washing ceremonies seen in the Law of Moses.  The bias I speak of here is that those who believe in eternal security, once saved always saved, think in terms of these elementary teachings as Old Testament teachings.  They believe this because they just can't see that one who has embraced the doctrines of Christ can fall away.  I just cannot accept that because the author says they are the doctrines of Christ, not the doctrines of the Law of Moses.        


So, in New Testament terms, what does the plural word "baptisms" refer to?  The word baptism used in the New Testament in terms of water baptism, Spirit baptism, and being baptized into the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:13).  So, you have the plural word "baptism."  


The laying on of hands is the next elementary truth.  We see this teaching all through the New Testament.  In Acts 19 Paul laid hands on 12 men and they received the Holy Spirit.  The basic thinking to laying on of hands is that we impart something to the person we are touching.  We are being used by the Lord to give that person something, whether a miracle, or a calling of God, or whatever.


Those who believe these elementary truths are Old Testament truths think of laying on of hands in Old Testament terms.    


Next on the list is the resurrection from the dead.  This resurrection consists of two parts.  First would be the resurrection of Jesus, then as a result of His resurrection, our own future resurrection. 


This leads to the next item on the list, that being eternal judgment.  There will come a day when all unbelievers will be judged and their eternal destiny will be sealed.  It's called the White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11 and following.  At that day it will be too late for anyone to change his mind.  Those who have not given their lives to Jesus will fall into eternal condemnation, that is, the Lake of Fire .   


The writer closes this paragraph in verse 3 by saying, "God permitting, we will do so."  I don't think the author is implying that only if God permits us, we can move on to maturity.  I think the Lord wants us to move on to maturity.  What the author might be saying that if we are willing, God will help us to move on to maturity because we cannot do so without His help.   


Verses 4 through 6 are difficult verses and have been debated for years.  The best that we can do is to accept for face value what the say.  It is saying, that for the person who has been enlightened, has tasted of the heavenly gift, has shared in the Holy Spirit, has shared in the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age; can't be saved again if he rejects Jesus.  It's a strong warning but the writer says that it is "impossible to be brought back to repentance again." 


We do need to recognize a couple of points here. We are not talking about simply back-sliding, depending on your definition of that word.  We are not talking about getting lazy in our faith as these Hebrew believers were doing.  We are not talking about loosing our intensity for Jesus.  We are not talking about doubt either.  We are talking about out and out rejection of Jesus.  This is the case because the writer says if a person falls to such an extent that he has to repent all over again, He canít.  If you have to repent all over again, this means that you have thrown away your faith; you have decided not to trust Jesus any longer.  Then once throwing your trust in Jesus away you turn back to the life you once lived, you can't find repentance a second time.  This is a hard statement for Evangelical Christians to understand and accept, but that is what the author is saying, or so I believe.   


These Hebrew believers to whom the author is writing have not got to this place as yet.  The writer is writing this as a warning.  He does not want them to get to this point.  He is speaking very clearly to them.  If they keep on going as they are, they may end up repenting in reverse.


Note that some translations omit the word "again."  It is part of the original Greek text so it should be in here.  I believe they do so based on their once saved always saved bias in their translating process. 


So in verse 7 and 8 the writer gives this same warning but using an analogy.  Land that receives rainfall can produce good fruit, but if it does not rain, only thorns will grow.  I know this from experience.  One summer to save money, I did not water the lawn and it was extremely dry that year.  The grass died, but weeds grew.  It seems that certain weeds donít need lots of water to grow like grass does.  It took me two or three years to get rid of those weeds.  So, the writer is saying that if you donít drink in the water of the Lord, if you donít live in the Spirit, you will loose what you have and will be in danger of being cursed.  These are strong words.  It is clear that this writer believes that there is a way to loose your salvation.  You lose your salvation by throwing away your trust in Jesus.  It's repenting in reverse.  It's rejecting Jesus.  Worst still, the author seems to be saying that you canít get resaved.  This is a hard word for Evangelicals to hear because we believe there is always time to repent, right up to the last moment of one's life. This passage appears to suggest differently. 


In verse 9 the writer seems to not want to leave this strong warning without encouraging his readers.  He calls them "dear friends" and says that he "is confident of better things of them."  I believe this is meant to be an encouragement for these people to take up the challenge he is presenting them.    


In verse 10 we see that these people have done lots of good things in the past.  They have helped their fellow believers in many ways.  As another way to encourage these people the author tells them that God is just, and being just, He will remember their works of service.  Even though these people are being tempted to give up on God, that is, faith in Jesus, God is not ready as yet to give up on them.       


In verse 11 the writer encourages these people to show "diligence to the end."  Once again, it is not the one who runs the race, but the one who finishes the race that will get the prize.  The author says if they can be diligent to the end, there hope will be sure.  The hope spoken of here is the hope of full salvation.  Again, the wording in the verse tends to suggest, at least to me, that if they can't be diligent to the end; their hope of salvation will not be realized.  The doctrine of eternal security seems to be taking a hit throughout the book of Hebrews in my thinking.   


The word hope is an important word in the New Testament.  It's not a worldly type of hope, as in, I hope win the lottery.  That kind of hope is based on uncertainty.  Biblical hope is based on certainty.  What we hope for we know that we will receive.  Biblical hope is closer to faith than it is to worldly hope.          


Verse 12 says, "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."  We can only inherit what we have been promised by patiently trusting Jesus to the end.  Do you need patience to trust Jesus?  You sure do.  Like Abraham, we don't necessarily get what God promises over night.  Again, there is a hint here of not inheriting what has been promised.  We must have.


Verse 12 is important in our modern day hyper faith, prosperity gospel teaching that pretty much states that if we have sufficient faith we should get not only what was promised, but the desire of our hearts as soon as we pray.  This verse says just the opposite.  Sometimes, maybe most of the time, what we ask for is not given right away and thus requires hopeful patience on our part.       faith and patience to the very end.   


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