Out of our study of 1 John, I have been asked many questions. I think without failure, about the last six Lord’s Days, somebody has asked me how to explain Hebrews chapter 6, the one that talks about if they fall away it’s impossible to be renewed to repentance. And so I thought, maybe we’ll have time someday to do that. And then somebody else asked me, how do you explain John 15 about abiding in the vine and if you don’t abide you’re cast into the fire and burned. Do these passages teach a believer can lose his salvation? And as we’ve studied in 1 John where John says Christians love the brothers and Christians keep the commandments and Christians confess their sin, people would say to me, well if a Christian stops doing that, does he lose his salvation? And so apparently this particular subject is kind of worming its way through the minds of some people.
And I thought what we’ll do in the next couple of weeks is discuss a couple of these problem passages, so that we can kind of answer this question. And so I'd invite you to take your Bible and turn to Hebrews 5 and 6. Chapter 5 verse 11 is where we’ll begin, and we must begin a little bit ahead of the passage in view in order for us to understand it. Hebrews chapter 5 verse 11, and we’ll be discussing the tragedy of falling away – the tragedy of falling away. It is a very difficult question to face, the question of the security of the believer, because there’s a tremendous amount at stake.
Now I'm convinced either you can lose your salvation or you can’t. Would you say that’s fair? So somebody is right and somebody is wrong. And I have to believe this folks – I hope it doesn’t sound egoistic, but I have to believe that I’m right, because if I didn’t believe that I’d be wrong and if I believed I was wrong, I’d believe this way instead, and then I’d be right. But since I already believe this way, I know it’s right.
Now I believe that the Bible teaches that the nature of salvation is that it is an eternal thing. The only fair way to deal with the subject, I think, initially is to treat the passages that are often used to teach that you can lose your salvation and to determine what they are saying. One of those passages is Hebrews chapter 5 verses 11 through chapter 6 verse 9. Now in this passage, we deal with the issue of falling away, and we must understand to whom this applies.
Now the theme of Hebrews is our first consideration. Anytime you ever study any passage in a book, you must understand the main theme of the book. In teaching a course that we teach in Logos Bible Study Center on Hermeneutics or Principles of Interpretation, we say that whenever you go about to interpret a passage, first of all you draw a very large circle and that’s the book circle. Then you draw another circle around it and that’s the chapter, and then you draw the third circle in the center and deal with the passage itself. But you’re never going to be fair with the passage unless you’ve covered the whole intent of the book. You must understand that the writer is writing about, what his theme is, what his theme is in the chapter, and then you’ll get down to what his theme is in the passage. This is the only fair way. Otherwise, you’re guilty of tearing verses out of their context and you can make things mean whatever you want them to mean. There are no boundaries.
I always think of the guy who preached on the fact that women ought not to tie their hair up on top of their head, because the scripture says “top notch come down.” What it really says is, let those on the housetop come down. Well you say, nobody would do that; well this man did. Nobody in their right mind would do that, but that’s an exaggerated form of taking something out of context. Or, you know, Judas went out and hanged himself, go thou and do likewise, and what thou doest do quickly. Well, that all – that all appears in the same portion of scripture, but you can’t do that with the scripture. That’s why we have cults and isms and shisms and spasms and everything else, because people take the Bible out of its context. And they can take a verse and make it mean a whole lot of things out of context, just like we read in the newspapers about certain people who say they were misquoted and quoted out of context. Well, God doesn’t want to be quoted out of context either. And don’t do that with Hebrews 6.
All right, all of that to say there is a basic theme to the book of Hebrews that must be understood. It is this: Christianity is superior to Judaism. That is the theme of Hebrews; over and over and over and over again in Hebrews we find the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. And it is extremely important to use that basic principle as the key to this passage. And to use any other thing on this passage would be forced entry, because that’s the key that opens the door. And we do not want to force an entry on this passage; we want to use the key that is the right key. And it is the fact that all throughout Hebrews, there is a contrast between Christianity, which is immeasurably superior to Judaism.
Now then, as we come to this passage, it is not comparing Christians with Christians. It is not even in 5:11-14 where it walks about babes, it is not referring to Christians; it is referring to those in Judaism. They are the babes. The mature ones are the Christians. That is the constant analogy of the book of Hebrews. And you’ll have to trust me on that, and if you’re not sure that that is correct, you read it for yourself and I’m confident you’ll understand that to be the truth.
Now all the way through, the writer of Hebrews – and we don’t know who he is. We can guess, but we don’t know. All the way through the book of Hebrews, we find that Jesus Christ is presented as superior to everything in the old covenant. In fact it begins by saying Jesus is superior to angels; and then it says He’s superior to prophets, to Moses, to Joshua, to Aaron, to sacrifices, to the priesthood that Aaron had; superior to everything. And that is the point of the book.
Now the basic question of this passage is whether you are a Jew still holding on to Judaism or a Christian. A babe is a Jew in Judaism, a mature man is a Christian. That’s the issue of the passage. What he’s really saying here – when he says in chapter 6 verse 1, “Let us go on to perfection,” – let us go on in maturity, he’s not saying, all right you baby Christians, grow up. He is saying Jews holding on the ABC’s of God’s revelation, let’s go on to the full revelation, which is Jesus Christ. So he’s inviting them to be saved. There are a series of warnings in the book of Hebrews; this is one of them. All of them are evangelistic, and this one, to be consistent with the rest, is evangelistic as well. All of them are inviting Jews who are intellectually convinced that Christianity is true to come to Christianity and not stop right at the gate. Now that is the basic thesis of the book and the basic thesis of this particular passage.
Now the old covenant, or the Old Testament, was like the ABC’s. Did you know that the Old Testament is full of pictures? You know when we bought the first book for Melinda, you know, after she got to the place where she looked at them instead of tearing them – for your little children you do the same thing. You buy them a book without words with pictures, don’t you? And pretty soon it’s ducky, bunny, doggy, ball, you know, that thing. You buy the kind of thing where the child can see the picture. But you don’t expect your high school kid to come home, sit at the dining room table and go ducky, doggy, ball. That is a little bit serious. If that’s occurring in your house, you’re in real trouble. He’ll be all right. He’ll get through college on an athletic scholarship. I did.
Now you see, the Old Testament is the ABC book. There are pictures. All that you have in the Old Testament, like the types and the ceremonies and the feast days and the holy days and the sacrifices and the analogies – you know, the tabernacle is a whole lot of pictures of Christ; the temple, pictures of Christ. These things are the picture books. But when the New Testament arrives, the message is, put away the baby books. See? Stop being babies and come to maturity. Maturity is in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and so the call here is to the Jews to drop the primer and come on to the deep things, to give away the milk and come to the solid food, and it is not the way Paul uses it in Corinthians. It is different. It is not talking about Christian babies becoming grown up Christians. It is talking about those who are babes in terms of belonging to the old covenant becoming mature in terms of belonging to the new covenant.
Now, as we look at the passage, let’s go to verse 11, chapter 5, and we’ll see first of all, the first point in our outline: the problem. The problem is in verses 11-14. Here is the problem the writer faces. You’ll notice verse 10 and you’ll see the name of a man. What is the name? Melchizedek. Now Melchizedek is a very important man. He was a priest in the Old Testament that happened to have an encounter with Abram. At that point he was introduced as the King of Salem or the King of Jerusalem and also was introduced as a priest of the Most High God. A very unusual man. Now one of the very important heart beats of the book of Hebrews is the priest character of the Jesus Christ. We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities when in all points tempted like as we are, and all of that. We have a high priest that has passed into the heavens, Jesus Christ the righteous and so forth.
So all of the things about the priesthood of Christ are very important, and one of the things that the writer of Hebrews wants to do is illustrate the kind of priest that Jesus is by using Melchizedek. He wants to show the people that Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek was. But the argument is a very technical one and it’s not easy to understand. So he starts in verse 10 by saying, now, there was a priest – and Christ was a priest after the same order, verse 6 says, and it was the order of Melchizedek. Verse 10 he repeats the same thing, now, there was this priest and Christ was like him and his name was Melchizedek.
Now come to verse 11, “Of whom we have many things to say.” Now the of whom applies to whom? Melchizedek. Now I want to say a lot of things to you about Melchizedek, and believe me he does in the very next chapter, the 7th chapter, he really takes off on Melchizedek. But before he can do anything he says this, I want to say a lot about Melchizedek, but these things are “hard to be uttered seeing that you are dull of hearing.” Now here is his problem. He has some things to teach that he knows some of them will never be able to learn. Why? They’re dull of hearing. I want to teach you about Melchizedek, I want you to know about him and I want you to see the relationship between our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, and the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek. This is an important point, but you can’t handle it, some of you. Why? You’re dull of hearing. Dull is from nothros. It means stupid. It could be translated ‘sluggish.’ The literal Greek is ‘no push,’ from two Greek words. There’s just no drive. It’s just slow, stolid, sluggish, stupid. He says, I can’t tell you these things because you are sluggish and stupid in your apprehension. You make it very difficult for me to teach you these things. Now it wasn’t always this way. He actually says in verse 11, you are – it should be translated, “You are become.” There was a time when they weren’t so dull.
Do you know what had happened? Let me give you a little background. Some people had arrived in the community where these Hebrews existed, and they bore the gospel with them. They were the early preachers of the New Testament age and they came and they preached the gospel. And you know what happened among these people? There was a tremendous response – mighty signs and wonders. There were mighty miracles. Read them in chapter 2 verses 3 and 4, it tells about them. Mighty things happened and the people were awed, and they responded and they said tremendous. And there was a fresh working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and they were responding to the Holy Spirit intellectually, and they were saying, hey this is true. This really sounds right. And there was that vitality of just sort of tasting the gospel and they were right on the edge of believing.
And you know what happened? Their Jewish friends started saying, oh, no you better not get into that deal. That’s heresy. You’ll forfeit your Jewish relationships or get kicked out of the family. You’ll lose your standing in the community. You’ll ostracise yourself from your friends. Man, that’s bad news. And so here they were teetering on the edge, intellectually convinced that Christianity was true, having tasted in a sense the realities of Christianity, having been exposed to the miracles of the Holy Spirit, having seen the tremendous power that God displayed through those early apostles and prophets. And they were hanging on the boarder, and they had hung there so long that they were growing spiritually sluggish. They were getting stupid from the standpoint that they had heard it and heard it and heard it and heard it and all of a sudden it was just dull stuff. They had put it off so long, so long, so long that they were getting very, very sluggish about any kind of response.
You know that’s very, very often the case. There are people who can exist in a church – if they can get by the first couple of years of the gospel, they can pretty well settle into the thing and stay there the rest of their life without ever knowing Christ. Do you know that? It happens. That’s why the Bible says you may not be able to ever separate them until the Lord separate the wheat from the tares. They can get so comfortable in a situation by just sort of hardening to the thing. And that’s what was happening. The longer they stood on the edge, the harder they got. And the more spiritually sluggish and stupid they got. And he says, you’re getting this way and I know you’re not going to have that fresh comprehension of what I’m going to say. The Greek indicates they were in a settled state of spiritual stupidity. There was a time when the sacrifice of Christ was fresh in their minds, when the information about the new birth was fresh in their minds, when the gospel was kind of exciting and kind of inviting and kind of interesting. But now they were growing stupid.
Now verse 12, “For when for the time you ought to be teachers.” As long as you’ve been hanging around the gospel, you ought to be teaching it. That’s quite an indictment. They must have been around a while. But instead, “You have need that somebody teach you again.” Isn’t that something? You’ve been hanging around this thing long enough to have had enough information to be a teacher, but instead you have to be taught the basics all over again. For the time – kronos – chronologically, they had been around long enough, they had been under the instruction of the teachers presenting the gospel and the New Testament truths long enough that they should have been able to teach it. Now that doesn’t mean they were Christian. They just had had enough of it and been around a long time, they could have been able to be teachers. But they were not. In fact they needed somebody else to teach them – watch this – “the first principles of the oracles of God.” Well, you need to go back to the first principles. You know what they needed to do? They needed to go back and get the baby book again.
Have you ever learned something that you forgot. People ask me all the time, “Do you remember all the Greek you studied?” Are you kidding? I told somebody the other day, I’m at the point now where I would love to take first-year Greek all over again just to review the basics. Even you that speak English and speak it well don’t remember the grammatical rules. And if you sit down to write – like I may sit down to write a book and write a manuscript out, and I forget how the construction should be. Well, the same is true in Greek. I can pick up my Greek New Testament, I can read it to a degree, but we were talking – I don't know. I can’t remember how you recognize an objective genitive or a subjective genitive and how you know which different ablative you’ve got and all that. I need to go back and go through the primer. Well, they were in the same situation. They had not used those things. They had just let them bang and clang in their minds to the point where they all of a sudden had lost the grasp of the ABC’s. Not even the ABC’s of the gospel, friends, but the first principles of the oracles of God.
Now the word principles, stoicheia, is used to speak of very, very basic things. In grammar it means the ABC’s in the Greek language. The Greeks also used it in physics to speak of the basic elements. They used it in geometry to speak of the basic things such as the point and the straight line. They used it in philosophy to speak of elementary principles for beginning students. So you need to go back to the ABC’s. You need to go back to the baby book.
What is the baby book? The first principles of the oracles of God. You know what the oracles of God are? I’ll show you. Romans 3:2 tell us what the oracles of God are. Paul just pretty well destroyed the security of the Jews. The Jews hoped in their salvation on the basis of circumcision and the fact that they were God’s chosen people and had received His work, and Paul just shot that all down. So chapter 3 of Romans verse 1, the Jew says, well, what advantage is it to be a Jew? I mean you just told us it doesn’t do any good to be circumcised, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to possess God’s word, what good is it to be a Jew? What profit is there? And this is his answer: “Much every way,” verse 2, “chiefly because unto them were committed” – what? – “the oracles of God.” Now what are the oracles of God then? The Mosaic law, the Old Testament.
So now go back to Hebrews 6 verse 12, for the time that you’ve been around Christianity you ought to be teaching it, but instead you have to be retaught the Mosaic law. And not just the Mosaic law, but the ABC’s of it. What he’s saying is this: you have been around Christianity long enough to be teachers of Christian truth, but instead, you are so infantile, you need to be taught the ABC’s of Old Testament truth again, because you don’t understand the meaning of that. Listen, if a guy understood the picture book of Old Testament sacrifices, he’d come to the New Testament and accept it. Wouldn’t he? You don’t even understand the ABC’s of the old covenant, the oracles of God. You’re like those who need milk and not meat. What is that? That’s a baby. You need to go back to the spiritual goo-goo stage and pick up the baby book again and look at the pictures.
So he is refereeing here, friends, to Jewish people who are stuck right at the crossroads of coming to Christ. And they’ve been hardened and dulled by hearing and not responding. Now he says you’ve even forgotten the significance of your own ABC’s. Somebody needs to sit you down and teach you Mosaic law, because if you could really learn the Mosaic law, you’d know that the New Testament was right. Jesus, when he taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus opened the scriptures and taught them out of Moses and the prophets the things concerning Himself. If they knew that, they would know Him. Jesus said to the Jews, “Search the scriptures, for they are they that speak of Me” – John 5. You need to go back to the Mosaic law again, which you pride yourselves on. You’re like those who can only have milk and not solid food.
Verse 13, he describes them further, “Everyone that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” Now notice this verse very carefully. The word unskillful – apeiros – means without experience. Everybody in your situation back with the ABC book, using the milk, is inexperienced in a doctrine about righteousness. There’s no definite article in the Greek. What it says is, people in your situation are inexperienced in righteousness. Now tell me this, can a Christian be inexperienced in righteousness? No, not in the technical sense, because when you were saved you were granted the righteousness of Christ. Right? You’ve experienced it firsthand.
He’s not talking about Christians. He’s saying, you people are still stuck in the Old Testament and you have never experienced true righteousness. That comes with receiving Christ. You’re stuck there. One way to translate the verse would be this, everyone who is continually on a milk diet is completely without experience in the teaching about righteousness; he is a babe. These people where still stuck in the Old Testament and needed to relearn the ABC’s of the Old Testament; never really experienced righteousness; they were not redeemed people.
Now notice the word babe, and I will make a couple of comments about it. The word is nepios, and I know that people have used this passage to teach about Christian maturity, and they say a babe is a young Christian and so forth. Well, in other passages that is true. But beloved, the word babe does not have any salvation connotation at all. The only thing the word babe really connotates is a little squalling baby. But the word can be made analogous to anything you want to illustrate. And so here we cannot assume that just because the babe is here that it has to mean you’re saved. The word nepios is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and there are several words that are used for the word babe or a little child, but the word nepios is used elsewhere in the New Testament – now mark this – and it refers to a state of spiritual immaturity. It refers to a state of spiritual stupidity or ignorance. Sometimes it is used of Christians, yes. Sometimes it is used of non-Christians. Can a non-Christian be spiritually ignorant? Could a Christian be spiritually ignorant? Yes. It’s two different things, but the illustration could go either way.
Let me show you what I mean by that. Look at Romans 2:20. Here you have the same word used here, babe. It says this, the Jews prided themselves on the fact that they were guides of the blind, light to them in darkness; now Romans 2:20, “Instructors of the foolish, a teacher of” – nepion – “of babes.” Does babes there mean Christians? Did the Jews pride themselves that they were teachers of Christians? I hope to tell you they didn’t. They prided themselves on the fact that they were the teachers of the spiritually ignorant. So all the passage is saying here in Romans 2:20 is that babes refers to somebody who doesn’t know much. They’re spiritually ignorant.
It is so used that way again in Galatians as well. There is no way that you can make the word babe in the New Testament always refer to Christians; it just doesn’t do that. It does refer to Christians in 1 Corinthians, doesn’t it, where it says you’re babes and I can’t give you the meat; I have to give you milk because you’re carnal, et cetera, and there it’s talking about Christians. But here it simply means this: you people who are still back in the old covenant, who even have forgotten the meaning of the pictures of the old covenant – by rejecting the new covenant you show us that – you are inexperienced in true righteousness; you are spiritually stupid. And this has nothing to do with Christians. It has to do with these Jews.
Verse 14, “Solid food belongs to them that are grown up” – full age – “those who by reason of use” – that is those who have experience enough – “to make decisions about good and evil.” One thing a baby can’t do is that. Would you agree to that? Can a baby make a decision about what’s right and what’s wrong? They don’t know what to keep in their mouth and what to spit out. They don’t know what to put in and what not to put in. They don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. They don’t make decisions. They have never exercised their sense to the place whereby experience and use they know the difference between good and evil. He says, you’re like babies. You don’t even know what’s good. You can’t even make a right decision. You’re so infantile your senses have never been exercised to decisions about right and wrong. You see his problem? I want to tell you about Melchizedek. I can’t tell you about Melchizedek; you’re too spiritually stupid. And instead of being at a place – you’ve been around long enough, you should be teachers of this kind of truth. But instead of that you’ve hung around so long rejecting this truth, you’ve become dull, sluggish, slow, and stupid; and now you need to be reviewed on your ABC’s and if you really knew your old covenant ABC’s you’d open your arms to the new covenant. But instead you’re like those people who can only have milk and not meat. You’re just little babies. You haven’t had your exercises. You don’t know how to use your sense, and so you can’t even tell the difference between good and evil.
Friends, that is a classification of an intellectually knowledgeable Jew who has had the information put in his head. He’s got head knowledge of the truth, but he sits there in indolence and indifference and indecision and hardens and stupefies himself. And remaining holding on to the old covenant, not willing to forfeit the old covenant, he is nothing but a baby, and he can’t be taught the more advanced information of the New Testament. Now do you see the point? That’s the problem. How am I going to tell you people about Melchizedek?
All right, here’s the solution – point two. Chapter 6 versus 1-3, here comes the solution. “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 faith toward God of the doctrine of baptisms and laying on of hands and of resurrection of the dead of eternal judgement. And this will we do, if God permit.” Now he gives them a simple solution. People, leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Let us go on to perfection. Grow up, will you. Listen, growing up is tantamount to getting saved. The word perfection – now mark this. This is a good footnote and one you must keep in mind. The word perfection is always, always, always used in Hebrews to speak of salvation – never spiritual maturity, always salvation. You say, now wait a minute John, where do you get that?
Look at chapter 7 verse 11. Everywhere – I can take it to every time it’s used and it always means the same. Verse 11, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood . . . what further need was there that another priest should arise.” Now what does that verse mean? If you could get saved under the Levitical priesthood, you wouldn’t need Jesus. Right? If you read it this way, if therefore spiritual maturity were by the Levitical priesthood – that doesn’t make any sense, does it? There weren’t even any Christian under the Levitical priesthood in the sense that we know Christianity in new covenant times. No, the word means salvation. If a man could reach salvation, if a man could reach maturity in God’s eyes by the Levitical priesthood, you wouldn’t need Christ.
Look at verse 19, “For the law made nothing perfect.” Perfect there, my friend, means salvation. The bringing in of a better hope, it did make something perfect, the better hope being Jesus Christ. Now look at chapter 10 verse 14 – another time it’s used – “For by one offering” – that’s the death of Christ – “he hath perfected forever.” Did you hear that? When you received Jesus Christ, were you instantly a mature Christian? No, that isn’t what the word means. When you received Christ, were you instantly saved? That’s what the word means. And how long were you saved for? Forever. “For by one offering hath he saved forever them that are set apart unto Him.” So you see the word perfection is always used, without exception, in the book of Hebrews to speak of salvation. That’s the writers usage of it.
Now notice, let’s go back to 6:1, “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let’s get saved.” Now wait a minute. How could it be? How could you leave Christ and get saved? That’s a hard thing to answer. Let me show you. The word aphiemi is used here for leaving. It means to forsake, to put away, to let alone, to disregard, to put off, to detach. The preposition at the beginning of the word implies separation, and the basic idea is a separation from an original condition. Aphiemi is used, for example, in Matthew 13:36 and in Mark 4:36 to speak of a multitude that was sent away – put off, departed. Expositors Greek New Testament translates this way, “Let us abandon the principles of Christ” – leave them alone, move away from them. Alfred says in his Greek Testament, “Leaving behind and done with in order to go to another thing.” It is detaching and going to another thing – that’s leaving. You say, but John how could you possibly say we should leave – detach ourselves, cut ourselves off – from the principles of the doctrine of Christ and then get saved? That does sound strange, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s go a step further. It says what it says. You say, it certainly couldn’t be talking about Christians. I mean, they would never say to Christians, now what you need to do is leave the doctrine of Christ. People say, well, this is saying Christian are to go on to perfection. Yeah, you mean they’re to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection? You mean you’re to rub out the foundation. Paul says, “I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Folks, that’s foundational and he never left it. Did he? What happens if a Christian leaves the foundation? You got nothing. No, it would never be said to a Christian, leave the basics about Christ, and it wouldn’t really be very consistent to say to a non-Christian, “Leave Christ and then get saved.” Well, you say, what in the world is it saying? Well, let’s find out.
“Let us go on” – interesting – that’s a passive. “Let us be born along” – and verse 3 explains it. We will be born along, “if God permits.” It’s God’s power that carries us along to maturity. Well, let’s look at the term ‘the principles of the doctrines of Christ.’ That’s the key. What does it mean? What are the stoicheia? What are the basic ABC’s of the doctrine of the Messiah? They are sacrifices – right – ceremonies, washings, feast days, holy days, all the whole Jewish system that pictured Messiah. Those are the elementary pictures concerning the teaching about Messiah. Christ is the Old Testament name. It doesn’t say leave the principles of Jesus. It doesn’t say leave the principles of the Lord Jesus Christ. It says leave the principles of Messiah. What were the basic elementary ABC’s of the Messiah? The Old Testament pictures. What is he saying to them then? Leave the Old Testament system and come to Christ. Get saved. That’s perfection. Now do you see? The problem you can’t understand. The solution, you must leave the old picture book, the ABC book, and get on to salvation in Jesus Christ.
Now what were the things that were connected with the old? He says, we got to leave these things – lay aside, don’t lay these things down again. Don’t keep going over the same old ground. What are they? Repentance from dead works. Friends, that isn’t equal to salvation. No, that isn’t the same as salvation. Repentance form dead works, that's an Old Testament characteristic. John the Baptist preached this, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance means to turn from sin. Salvation is to turn from sin toward Christ. Right? That’s just the Old Testament part of it. Leave the basic Old Testament thing. And the second one – faith toward God; is a man saved today because he believes in God? There are a lot of people that believe in God. A man is saved today because he believes in God manifest in the flesh, right, Jesus Christ. So he says let’s not get stuck on laying again the same thing, like a halfway repentance and a halfway faith.
The third one: the doctrine of baptisms. The King James translators didn’t do us any favors at all in the translation of this term. Does the New American Standard say, “washings”? I’m sure it does. The word baptismos is used four times in the New Testament. Three times it’s translated washings; once here somebody translated it baptism, just so they could fit it in to their misinterpretation of the text. It doesn’t mean baptism, it means washing. What did the Jews do, they had all kinds of ceremonial washings. What he’s saying is get on from teachings about washings. And also their foundation was laying on of hands. That has nothing to do with ordination. That has nothing to do with New Testament laying on of hands, receive the Holy Spirit, no. It has to do with the Old Testament, Leviticus 1 and Leviticus 16, the sacrifice put on the alter – what did the priest do? Laid his hands on the sacrifice as a point of identification, identifying with the sacrifice.
What he’s saying is, look, leave the Old Testament halfway things; leave the Old Testament sacrificial system; the partial teaching of the resurrection of the dead; come all the way to Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; leave the partial teaching of eternal judgement in the Old Testament; and come all the way to the full teaching of the entire end times that Christ has revealed. Don’t go laying the same old thing down again. Leave the ABC’s of repentance from dead works, for the New Testament teaching of repentance toward Christ. Leave the ABC of faith toward God for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as God. Leave the ABC of ceremonial washing for the cleansing of the soul by the Word. Leave the ABC of laying hands on a sacrifice for by faith laying hold of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Leave the ABC’s of resurrection of the dead for the full revelation of the future life in Jesus Christ. Leave the ABC of eternal judgement for the full truth of judgement and reward revealed in Christ. You see the point? Come on, get away from the old covenant thing. Have you notice how closely, though, the old covenant truth is tied to the new covenant truth? We don’t say those things are not true; we just say they’re incomplete. Right? Let’s go, he says. Detach from incomplete things and attach to complete.
Third thing is the warning, verses 4-6. He says, now this is why you ought to do this, because if you don’t – trouble. Verse 4, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, tasted the heavenly give, made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they shall fall away it’s impossible to renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to an open shame.” Now stop there. Here is the warning or the reason. The problem, the solution, and the warning. You do this, he says, you come, let’s go, leave those things, come on, get saved. Come all the way. Don’t get hung up on the borderline and don’t be hardened as you continue to reject. Come all the way to Christ because if at that point you happen to fall away, you’ll never get saved. You say, why? Because if a person rejects again and again against the full revelation of God, there is no way he can be saved – if he’s reached the pinnacle of all revelation. It’s like Matthew 13, they saw what Jesus did, they heard what Jesus said, they said, “You’re of Satan.” He says, “You’re hopeless. You could never be forgiven.” It’s like 2 Peter 2:20. Some people there escape the pollutions of the world and the corruptions of the word, they attach themselves outwardly to Jesus Christ, and then you know what they did? They turned around and they went back into their old ways. And he said, you’re like dogs, you’ve gone back and licked up your vomit.
In the 10th chapter here, you have the same thing, in Hebrews – the same exact situation – verse 26, “if you sin willfully after you’ve received the knowledge of the truth” – not after you’ve received the truth, not after you’ve been redeemed, but after you have a head knowledge of the truth, and willfully turn your back on it, there is no more sacrifice for sins. You’re hopeless. And your punishment will be much more sore; verse 29 says because you have purposely trodden underfoot the Son of God, counted the blood of the covenant with which He was sanctified an unholy thing, and done despite unto the Spirit of grace. And vengeance belongs to the Lord and He’ll repay for such acts. That’s what he’s saying here. Look, he says, you better come, because if you don’t, you’ll harden and with all the revelation you have, if you harden against that and fall away, you’ll never be saved. You could never have more light than you’ve got now.
Now let me add something, folks. Some people say the passage teaches you can lose your salvation. If it does, then it also teaches you could never get it back again. See the word impossible? So if anybody wants to use this passage to try to show you that you could lose your salvation, you just say, ‘Well, that’s funny, because if anybody ever does, it’s impossible for them to get it back,” and they will never allow for that. Tell you another thing they do. Very often in interpreting the passage, they change the word impossible to difficult. And they say it’s difficult to get saved again. That isn’t what the word is. The word’s impossible. It’s used three other times in Hebrews: chapter 6 verse 18; chapter 10 verse 4; chapter 11 verse 6; and it always means impossible. You notice something else there, “It’s impossible for those” – have you noticed how he detaches himself from those to whom he speaks? But verse 9 says, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.” Remember the difference between the those and the you.
Have you ever been vaccinated? You know what a vaccination is, an immunization? You know what they do, they give you a little bit of the disease. And then you never catch it. You know, there are a lot of people like that who got a little bit of Christianity and got inoculated against it. Yeah, they got just enough of it to sort of get a mild case of Christianity. Hebrews were in this situation.
Now look at the advantage they had had. Look at verse 4, they were enlightened. What is enlightenment? Head knowledge. They were enlightened. It refers to the light of knowledge and teaching. It's the natural knowledge of truth acquired through the senses. The gospel had broken on their minds and they understood it. In fact, it even says once enlightened and the word is once for all. They at one time were so informed on the gospel that there was nothing more to say. They intellectually comprehended every bit of it. They understood it in their minds. There are plenty of people like that. They know the gospel. They know it completely. They just are on the borderline and they’ve never committed themselves to it. They were enlightened – head knowledge.
All right, second thing about them: they tasted the heavenly gift. Now what is the heavenly gift? I’ll tell you what it is. Just read 2 Corinthians 9:15 and it says God has given unto us his unspeakable gift. And who is it? Christ. Tell you another thing – Ephesians 2, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God.” The heavenly gift is salvation in Christ; that’s what it is. In some cases we could interpret the Holy Spirit, but in this passage it’s very apparent that he’s talking about salvation. You say, well, what do you mean they tasted salvation? Well, they’d had a smattering of it. It doesn’t say they devoured it. It doesn’t say they made it their own.
It doesn’t say like John 4 where Jesus said you must drink. You must take Me in. Tasting is the first thing. You know how you taste something – you don’t know what it is – and if you like what it tastes like, down it goes. That’s the analogy. They got a little taste of salvation; the Holy Spirit was working in their life; they could see the lives of other Christians and they kind of felt what was going on; and the potentials of salvation were in their mind. That’s happened to everybody who’s ever gotten saved. You know that? As you come closer to salvation, you begin to sense what salvation is like. You kind of get a pre-salvation sense. And they were stopping short of it because of peer pressure. They were like the spies at Kadesh Barnea: saw the land, had its fruits and their hand, and then turned back. So they had tasted it. They hadn’t drunk of it, just tasted it.
It says then in the third place: they were partakers of the Holy Spirit. The word is metekos. It does not mean partners, does not mean possessors; it means associates. They were associated somehow with the Holy Spirit. That means they had something in which they commonly participated. You know something? You know there are a lot of people who could associate with the Holy Spirit. There are some of you sitting here this morning who don’t know Jesus Christ and in a sense you’re associating with the Holy Spirit this morning. Because you’re involved in what He is doing as He is speaking, teaching the Word of God through me or whatever other teacher is around. If the spirit of God is convicting your heart and speaking in your mind, in a sense He’s associating with you. Would you say that Christians are in association with the Holy Spirit? No. I would say they are indwelt by Him. Would you? If you’re going to use biblical terms. Do we say, “I am an associate of the Holy Spirit. I’ve bumped into Him now and then.” No. These people had an association with the Holy Spirit. How?
Listen – do you think the people on the hillside the day that Jesus feed the 5,000 had an association with his power? They ate the food He made. And when the gospel arrived to these people, it arrived with miracles and signs and wonders and diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit, it says in chapter 2 verse 4. They saw the Holy Spirit in operation. They were associated with the miracles that he did. What it’s saying is you are responsible. You have head knowledge. You have even had a taste of the pre-salvation concept. You have even seen and felt the ministry of the Holy Spirit, like Simon Magus in Acts 8 who wasn’t a Christian, but boy did he ever get in with what the Holy Spirit was doing. Tried to buy it. Further, verse 5, “You tasted the good Word of God.” They even had had a taste of the truth, the principles were told to them, but unlike Jeremiah who said, “Thy words are found and I did eat them,” they only tasted them. They were even tasters of the powers of the age to come. What is that? What’s the age to come? The kingdom. What’s the power of the kingdom? Miracle power. They saw miracles.
You guys have seen miracles. All of this. Look what you have. Your head knowledge. You’ve even tasted of salvation. You’ve even associated in the work of the Spirit. You’ve tasted the good Word of God, you’ve heard good teaching, you’ve heard the gospel, you’ve heard the instruction, and you’ve even seen the display of God’s divine power to be fully displayed in the kingdom. All of this you have. And my friend, verse 6 then says if you fall away from all of that, you’re hopeless. To try to renew you again to repentance is impossible. Because you have crucified to yourself. That is, in your own judgement, Jesus deserves to be crucified. You take your place with the crucifiers and you say, it isn’t true. I stand with them. He was a fake and He deserved die. Jesus said this, you’re either for Me or against Me. Right? You either stand with those who loved Him or you stand with those who killed Him. If you fall away, at that point of full revelation – hopeless.
Publically – what it says to put him in open shame means you publically declare that you take your stand with the crucifiers. You publically proclaim Jesus to be deserving of His death. Let me add this – in all these verses, there is no term ever used in the New Testament elsewhere in reference to salvation. That’s right. Do you see the term saved? You see justified? Do you see righteous? Called? Elect? Believers? Christians? Sons? Redeemed? Sanctified? Adopted? Chosen? Bought? Regenerated? Born again? Any of them? None of them. Those are all pre-salvation ministries – preparing them to believe. Take for example the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Do you see any of that? Born of the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, led by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, walking in the Spirit; is that there? No. Just tasting and feeling and seeing. They’re not Christians. They’re right up to the edge. If you fall away, tragic, tragic loss.
And so He closes in verses 7 and 8 with an illustration. And the illustration seals this interpretation. Look at it, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes down upon it and brings forth herbs fit for them by whom it is tilled, receives blessing from God. But that which bears thorns and briars is rejected, is near to cursing, whose end is to be burned.” He says, you know it’s like the rain drops. The rain drops down, hits the field; and you know when the rain hits the ground, some things grow up and they’re a blessing to the person who tilled them and blessing comes from God. Other times the rain makes thorns and briars grow and they’re gathered and thrown in a fire. That’s the whole point. The abundant rain, what is it? It’s the revelation of God. God’s revelation comes down and it hits the earth, one piece of ground springs forth in herbs, produces fruit. That’s the positive response to the gospel, salvation. Another one, thorns and briars. The rejection of the goodness of the rain, and that’s cast into hell. He’s only talking about two kinds of people. He’s saying don’t have the gentle rain of revelation fall on you and spring up as a thorn or a briar to be cast aside.
And so all of this is a warning to unbelievers right on the edge. Then he turns to Christians in verse 9. Look how he introduces it, “But beloved, we are persuaded of better things of you and the things that accompany salvation.” We are not in this boat; and there he turns the corner and talks to the believers. We know you’re work – verse 10 – your labor of love. We know what you’re like. You’re not like they are. You’re not in infancy, you’re in maturity; not on milk, on solid food; not inexperienced in righteousness, but perfectly righteousness; not in repentance from dead works, but repentance toward God and Christ; not faith toward God apart from Christ, but faith in God as Christ; not external washing, but internal transformation; not repeated identification with sacrifices, but union with Christ; not the ABC’s of resurrection and judgement, but the full revelation of the blessed hope. Yours is not enlightenment, yours is regeneration; yours is not tasting, yours is feasting on; yours is not partaking of the Spirit, yours is being indwelt by the Spirit; yours is not getting a taste of God’s good word, but drinking it all in; you’re not just seeing miracles, you are one. You see the difference? That’s what the passage means.
The warning is this, I pray no one leaves this place this morning who has been doused in the gentle rain of God’s revelation and who finds himself, by continual indifference and indecision, hardening and hardening until he comes forth as a thorn and a briar to be gathered and burned in an eternal hell. That’s the message of this passage. That’s God’s message to you today. Let’s pray.
Father, I thank You this morning for the clarity of the Word of God. We ask that it would penetrate our hearts and that those people who are here who have not yet decided for Thee, who have not yet activated the will toward Thee, would be moved upon by the Holy Spirit, they would spring forth as herbs, pleasing the one who tilled the ground, receiving blessing from Thee, not as thorns and briars to be cut down and burned. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.