Immaturity Leads to Apostasy
Last week, we talked of the problem of persistent spiritual immaturity.
It was evident in that text that those who subsist only on spiritual milk have difficulty discerning good and evil (5:13-14).
On Wednesday, we even discussed ways of building your faith, which incidentally can lead someone to becoming spiritually mature: prayer, study, and worship.
So thankfully there is a way to escape the doldrums of spiritual immaturity.
But if we continue in it, falling away from the faith becomes increasingly likely.
And we see in this passage that’s exactly what the writer talks about.
At the same time, this defeats the doctrine of OSAS.
The proponents of the false doctrine of OSAS might set up a straw man argument against the biblical position of the possibility of falling away by saying you can’t know you’re saved.
But you see, in one breath the writer says it’s possible to fall away, and in the very next breath that we have “the full assurance of hope to the end.”
Yes, we can know, and no, salvation is not based on transient feelings, but on the promises of God!
Crucifying Christ Again (6:4-8).
Full Assurance of Hope (6:9-12).
Crucifying Christ Again (6:4-8).
Were these people saved?
Another common argument among those who support OSAS is that those who do fall away were never saved to begin with.
I want to stop and consider the implications of a moment.
You don’t know the future, and one day you may fall away.
If that’s the case, does that mean you aren’t saved now if you fall away in the future?
What “full assurance of hope” could you possibly have in that case?
We read elsewhere that we know that we know Christ…. how? If we keep His commandments! (1 John 2:3).
That means that if we do as He says, we are assured of our salvation because He is faithful.
So now our salvation depends on whether or not we are faithful (Rev. 2:10).
And in context, our faithfulness relies heavily on our spiritual maturity!
Were the babes in Christ discussed earlier saved? Oh most definitely!
Looking at this text, we should consider the description that the writer gives of those he is talking about.
What does it mean to be enlightened? (6:4).
To be enlightened means to be made aware of something, at least that’s how we typically use the word.
But the Scriptures have an added meaning to it.
The same word is used in Heb. 10:32 referring to the conversion of these Jewish Christians, and suffering and struggling afterward.
If that doesn’t drive it home enough, turn to 1 Tim. 2:4.
“[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
If enlightenment means being made aware of something, does that not mean you have come to the knowledge of that particular thing, in this case the truth?
Paul uses a figure of speech which uses two synonymous phrases to emphasize his point: salvation and coming to the knowledge of the truth.
This is evident because the order would be reversed if these phrases were not synonymous—how can you be saved and then come to the knowledge of the truth?
Being enlightened means that one is saved, but the Hebrews writer doesn’t stop there further driving the point home.
Tasting the heavenly gift and the good word of God (6:4-5).
Some will claim that this is just a taste, and not the full experience of salvation.
Well, again, the same word is used to describe Jesus’ death (2:9).
If tasting something does not refer to fully experiencing something, then did Jesus only sort of die? Or did He really die?
If He only sort of died, then that cheapens the resurrection.
No, Jesus was dead and gone, buried in a tomb! He fully experienced death for everyone!
And we fully experience the heavenly gift of salvation and that good word of God.
Good word—that seems like an understatement, doesn’t it? Great, wonderful, amazing, excellent!
“Good word” uses different Greek words than we might think, but they are synonymous with the idea of the gospel, are they not?
On top of that, we have tasted the powers of the age to come, the age of glory!
Partaking of the Holy Spirit (6:4).
Just as we are partakers of the heavenly calling as holy brethren confessing Christ (3:1) and partakers of Christ holding the beginning of our confidence—our faith—to the end (3:14), we are also partakers of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit in some manner or another is given to every Christian (1 John 3:24).
This is not referring to the miraculous spiritual gifts, since those have ended and are not tied to salvation, i.e. not every Christian was given these miraculous gifts.
After so many synonymous phrases referring to salvation, how can anyone miss that the writer is emphasizing how far one falls when they apostatize?
It is such a sad and sorrowful event, having had so much only to fall so far.
Impossible to renew to repentance (6:6).
This is perhaps one of the most troubling passages in Scripture.
No one believes that if one falls away that he can never repent and be restored—well, there may be a few, but I haven’t come across any denomination that believes that.
God is a God of second, third, fourth chances, after all.
But someone who does fall to apostasy, who does fall away, has committed an egregious sin by “[crucifying] again for themselves the Son of God, [putting] Him to an open shame.”
The writer returns to this idea in 10:26-30, where the apostate “[tramples] the Son of God underfoot, [counting] the blood of the covenant … a common thing.”
Should we be worried about this? Is this something that could happen to us?
After all, this underlies how great the fall is after having benefited so much from the gift of salvation.
Well, it could happen to us, but like with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, if you’re worried about it, you’re not in trouble.
Perhaps the best explanation I have heard is that one cannot be renewed again to repentance in a false system of belief, or an old system of belief as Judaism was for the primary audience of this letter.
In other words, when one returns to Christ, he can be renewed, and we are being renewed every day (2 Cor. 4:16).
The Herb Garden Illustration (6:7-8).
Recall last Sunday we talked of the illustration present in Isaiah 5 about the people of God being compared to a vineyard and God being the One taking care of that vineyard.
He picked out the best hill and tilled the ground. He tended the vines. He built the tower to protect and the winepress to make the best use of the grapes.
But He was disappointed in the wild grapes that grew instead, small and bitter.
This is a similar illustration, where the faithful are likened to this herb garden, taken care of by God with rain and carefully cultivated.
He was going to make use of the grapes with the winepress, and was hoping to make use of the herbs growing in this garden, our garden.
In this illustration, however, we are the soil.
Our works are what we produce: useful herbs or thorns and briers.
The earth that produces good herbs receives the blessings of God, and the only way to receive those spiritual blessings is to be where? That’s right, in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
Some of those spiritual blessings we have just talked about are in 6:4-5 – how terrible it is to reject them!
Especially since the outcome of rejecting them and producing evil works of thorns and briers is to be rejected, cursed, and burned.
This is even more likely when there is a failure to grow, to increase our spiritual maturity, producing the good herbs, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
We certainly don’t want to be rejected, cursed, and burned, but we can be assured of it if we fall away.
But we can be equally assured of a blessed outcome, having received a full assurance of hope!
Full Assurance of Hope (6:9-12).
Confident of better things (6:9).
While the writer warns these Jewish Christians of their fate should they drift or fall away, he is confident that won’t happen to them.
Whether this expresses a wish or true confidence that this letter with encourage them enough to remain faithful, I don’t know.
But it does tell us that letters such as this should encourage us to grow and to remain faithful to God.
Better things will result, better than rejection, cursing, and burning—far better than the OT system that they had left.
Then he writes of things that “accompany salvation.”
We not that there are things that accompany salvation, but the word here is stronger than we might think.
When we think of accompaniment, we think of joining along voluntarily, something that may be nice, but not essential.
Different translations for “things that accompany salvation”:
ESV: “things that belong to salvation.”
NIV: “things that have to do with salvation.”
Greek word ἔχω is also translated as to “have, hold, possess, be closely joined to a thing.”
This useful produce that we have been talking about necessarily accompanies salvation.
Without them, our salvation is suspect, and we are in danger of being burned!
And one of the things that accompanies salvation is ministering to the saints.
Ministering to the saints (6:10).
This passage talks of the justice of God, that He is not unjust.
He might forget our sins through the blood of Christ, but He does not forget our good works.
How awesome is that! Our evil deeds are remembered no more! How amazing! How humbling!
Ministering to the saints, or serving one another, is something belongs to salvation, that has to do with salvation, that necessarily accompanies salvation.
And it’s not just a one-time thing or something that occurs only in the past, but something that continues to go on: “you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
And this must be done diligently.
Diligence vs. Sluggishness (6:11-12).
We are to be diligent in our faith, not sluggish (lazy or slow).
The writer says to imitate the faith and patience (or perseverance) of those who inherited the promises.
He then goes on to talk about Abraham—which we’ll talk about next week.
When we get to Heb. 11, he writes of so many individuals in the OT and of their faith and perseverance.
Through their diligent and faithful perseverance they had a full assurance of hope—we can, too!
It’s not just a hope that we wish would happen, but a hope we can be confident in, having a full assurance!
But it takes diligence to grow through study and service to produce useful herbs, that fruit of the Spirit.
It takes faith and patience to inherit the promises of God, and we might not even see them in our lifetime as Abraham did not.
Nearly all the promises of God have come to pass, but we are still waiting for His return and the resurrection of the dead.
These may not come in our lifetime, but we still trust in Him!
At least I hope we trust in Him.
Throughout this lesson and the last, we have seen the importance of growing spiritually.
Without it, it could lead to falling away, a very real possibility.
We need to be diligent in doing so, not sluggish or lazy.
It’s the only way to be “diligent to enter that rest” (4:11), the rest of heaven.
This book is designed to encourage the readers to faithfulness.
This is quite evident here.
We see the wonderful blessings of being in Christ, how terrible things are if we fall away, and even how to remain faithful: study, serve, and to persevere.
If you are a Christian, be faithful toward Him!
If you are not a Christian, you can be and have that full assurance of hope.
Come, let’s enjoy the blessings of the Lord together!