Now, this is Part 3 of our section of Hebrews, beginning with chapter 5 and verse 11 and running through chapter 6, verse 12. A section that we have entitled, “Spiritual Maturity” and been reminded that it relates not to believers, as is so often indicated, we feel, but to unbelievers.
And we’ve divided it into three parts because we wanted to take time with it because of the very depth of this particular passage, that we might understand it carefully. And this time we come to the 9th verse through the 12th verse, the closing portion. But before we get there, let me go back and try to review and set the pattern a little bit so that you’ll understand what’s going on in the mind of the writer and in the situation to which He writes.
Now, we’ve been saying for many weeks now that, in our study of the book of Hebrews, we have been reminded again of the saddest tragedy in the world, and that is the rejection of Jesus Christ. But doubly sad and doubly serious, because of the very nature of the degrees of punishment in hell is the rejection of Jesus Christ when full light has been granted or full knowledge. That is rejection against total revelation. And that is the danger to which the writer of Hebrews speaks. The horrible consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ when a man has fully understood everything about Him. And when a man has even repented and come all the way up to the edge of a decision for Christ, and then turned around and walked away.
Now, we have been seeing this in our study of Hebrews. Hebrews is an epistle written to a community of Jews, a congregation somewhere outside Jerusalem and the immediate area. The Gospel had been preached to this community of Jews by the apostles and the prophets, as indicated in chapter 2, verse 3, when it says that the Gospel, “which at first was preached by Jesus Christ and was confirmed unto us by His apostles.” So, we know that they were really kind of a second-generation group of believers, having been won to Christ by the apostles who went out to preach.
Now, in becoming Christians, they had, of course, to make a break with Judaism. And this is not an easy thing for them to do. Immediately upon receiving Jesus Christ and acknowledging Christianity, they would be ostracized from their society. They would be, in Jewish terminology, “unsynogogued” or excommunicated. They would lose all of the relationships that they knew in a culture and a community in which they existed. The cost was heavy; the pressure was great; the persecution was intense.
And Hebrews was written to these Christians primarily, who had made the break very clean and very clear, come all the way to Jesus Christ, received Him as Savior, and then were being persecuted and were in danger of, because of the desire to kind of hang onto some of the friends and some of the family and some of the things that had been so much a part of their life, they were in danger of holding to some Old Testament patterns.
And so, in the book of Hebrews, the writer repeatedly says, “Let it all go. Leave it all. You don’t need any of the Old Testament patterns anymore.” And all through the book of Hebrews, we read about the weakness, and the inability, and the ineffectiveness of the old covenant, the fact that the priests of the old covenant couldn’t match the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The sacrifices of the old covenant couldn’t match the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All of the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t take away sin. The priests had to repeat their sacrifices and even make sacrifices for themselves because of their own sin.
But in Jesus Christ was the perfect Priest who made the perfect sacrifice. And so, all through Hebrews, the Holy Spirit is saying, “Let go of everything; you don’t have to hang onto the priesthood of Judaism; you don’t have to hang onto the sacrificial system of Judaism. You don’t have to hang onto to anything. All you have to do is come to Christ, and as Paul so aptly said in Colossians 2:10, “Ye are complete in Him.” That’s the point.
The main point of Hebrews then is to Christians, to encourage them to make a complete and total break with the patterns of the old covenant in their acknowledge of Jesus Christ.
But periodically, through Hebrews, breaking into the flow of this message to Christians, are warnings to unbelievers. Now, they’re a special breed of unbelievers. They’re unbelievers who, at one point, have been intellectually convinced of the validity of Christianity – so much so that they have turned away from Judaism, and they’ve moved into the Christian community. They perhaps even professed to be true, believing Christians, but the fact is they are not.
They are intellectually-convinced professors of Christ, who’ve never made the real step of faith. And having come all the way up to the edge, as we have seen now for several weeks, they hesitated. And as chapter 2 said, in the first warning to them, “How shall we escape if we” – what? – “if we neglect so great salvation. Don’t stop there, friends.
And as we saw later, in chapter 3 and 4, they’re likened to the children of Israel, who having left Egypt started for the Promised Land, but all died in the wilderness before they ever got there. And here are these Jews who’ve come all the way up – all the way to Christ, except they haven’t made that last commitment to Jesus Christ, and they’re tending to grow hard, and dull, and spiritually sluggish, and spiritually stupid, and unresponsive. It’s getting old hat; it’s kind of running off like water on the proverbial duck’s back, and they’re in danger of turning around and going back to Judaism. And are they to do that, they are to commit something which is as tragic as anything possible, for to know all there is to know about Jesus Christ, to have the full light of revelation, to turn around and walk away makes it impossible, as we saw – didn’t we? – in 6:4 to 6, for them to be renewed to repentance.
Why? Because they’ve come all the way to Christ; they’ve had all the revelation; they’ve learned all there is to learn; they’ve even had an active kind of repentance from their sins. They’ve come that far; they’ve adjudged the situation; they’ve turned Christ down, walked away, and gone back to the old life. And the Bible says, in effect, God couldn’t give you anymore revelation than that. God couldn’t do anymore than He already did, having brought you that far. When you turned around, you sentenced yourself to an impossible salvation.
And so, these people have gone through all the preliminaries, right up to salvation, but never experienced it and are in this horrible danger of falling away and becoming what the Bible calls apostate.
Now, we saw that there are several of these warnings in Hebrews, and we’ve studied three of them: chapter 2:1 to 4, and 3:4 through 4:13, and now we come to the third in 5:11 to 6:12. Just to set the context for you – you say, “What brought up the warning here? Why does He stop talking to the believers and start talking to these here?
Well, He began to talk about the priesthood of Christ. And the priesthood of Christ, to put it mildly, is pretty heavy stuff. When you get into talking about how Jesus Christ is a Priest after the order of Melchizedek and all the little intricacies that are involved in that, which we’ll get to in chapter 7, you’re talking about some pretty deep things. And as He began to talk about that in chapter 5, you’ll notice in verse 6 He begins to talk about Melchizedek. And then in verse 10, He continues to mention Melchizedek and the priesthood of Melchizedek, which relates to Christ. He’s trying to show them, see, that Christ is a legitimate Priest, to convince them they don’t need the Jewish priests anymore.
But He says, “I’ve got to stop, folks. I can’t go any further,” verse 11, “because I have many things to say. They’re hard to be uttered because you are nōthros, spiritually stupid, sluggish, slow, dull of hearing. And the reason is because you’ve never come to Christ. You’ve come all the way up; your heart was hot, your interests were generated. You saw the beauty of Jesus Christ; the Gospel was winsome to you. It brought you all the way up, and you’ve stood around, and you’ve neglected –” and as He said in chapter 3, “Your heart is slowly becoming” – what? – “hard. And you’re in great danger of departing from God and having an evil heart of” – what? – “unbelief.”
Because they had stood there and heard it and heard it and heard it, that warm, soft, tender urging of the Spirit of God at the very beginning was getting to be old stuff. And they were getting callous and indifferent. And He says, “I can’t say what I want to say to you until you come all the way to Jesus.”
And then He gets really strong, and He says, “And if you don’t come all the way, if with all you know you fall back, you’ve fallen back as an apostate, and it’s impossible for you to be renewed again to that place of repentance and eagerness to hear the message of Christ, because you’ve adjudged it and you’ve moved away.”
Now, that’s the pattern of Hebrews in just brief. Now, we covered quite an extensive outline. Let me review it very quickly. First of all, we saw the problem, and I’ll just read through it. The problem was He wanted to talk to them about Melchizedek, but they were dull of hearing.
Verse 12, He says, “For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again.” In other words, for all the information they had – and these are unbelievers, friends, not Christians – for all the information that they had, they ought to have been able to teach the new covenant, but they weren’t even sure what the old covenant meant.
And He says, “What you need to go over are the first principles of the oracles of God.” Now, that is not the Gospel. That’s not the basics of the Gospel. The oracles of God to the Jew was one thing, the law and the covenant. Read it, Romans chapter 3. Read it, Acts chapter 7, verse 38; it’s right there. The oracles of God is the law and the old covenant.
And He says, “You people don’t understand the pictures, and the types, and the prophecies, and the meaning of your own covenants. You’ve become so sluggish that I’ve got to go back and show you all over again the basics of your own covenant. Because you see, it was in their own covenant that the beginning elements of the Messiah were presented weren’t they? All the pictures of Messiah are in the Old Testament.
And He says, “I’ve got to go back and show you the pictures again.” You know how when you were a little baby, you didn’t read the book, you looked at the pictures? And then, all of a sudden, the full revelation came when you could read. He says, “I’ve got to get out the picture book: A – apple, B – ball” – you know? – “because you have become so sluggish. Now, we’ve covered all of this. You ought to be able to teach it, but you’re not even sure what it is.”
Verse 13, He says, “You need milk and not meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful” – that means without experience – “in the word of righteousness” – this again is an indication that they weren’t believers, because He says, “You have no experience in righteousness.” You have no experience in righteousness. Then He contrasted them with the mature one, “Solid food belongs to them who are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Mature people, when their discernment is keen and sharp, they choose the right. You, because when you had the discernment to choose right, refused it and have grown sluggish. And now you’re not sure you can choose between what is good and evil.” They were at the point now where they really didn’t know whether the good covenant was the new one or the old. Because of indifference, because of nonuse, their discernment had become warped and ineffective, and they couldn’t choose what was right.
And so, first of all, we see the problem. The problem is they’re spiritually stupid, and they’re growing hard, and they’re growing indifferent, and they can’t choose what’s right. Then He gives a solution in verses 1 and 2. He says, “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity.” “Come on,” He says. “Leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ.” Now, what does that mean? “Leave the beginning teachings about Messiah.” That’s the literal. “Leave the beginning teachings about Messiah.” Friends, where were the beginning teachings about Messiah? In the Old Testament. “Leave your Old Testament; that’s baby talk. Come on to maturity and the full revelation.”
“Let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith toward God” – these are all Old Testament concepts – “doctrine of washing” – ceremonial washings – “laying on of hands” – the laying of hands on a sacrifice – “the resurrection of the dead” – a very undefined doctrine of the Old Testament; it’s there, but it isn’t clear all of the distinctions – “and of eternal judgment” – also there, but not distinctly presented in all its forms.
And so, He says, “Leave.” And the idea of leave is aphiēmi, and the word indicates separation. It doesn’t mean, “Here’s the foundation, build on it,” it means, “Here’s something; you get off of that and get over here; leave the old covenant.” Aphiēmi, or the word “leaving” is used of divorce, forgiveness, and separation from false teachers, and always means a clear separation.
Now, people say this refers to Christians, kind of building on the basics. Leave the basics and build up from there. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means “Come off of this thing and get on this thing.” And so, He’s saying the solution is to leave the old covenant and come to the new. Let’s get on to maturity. And we studied all about that, too. You’ve got to get off the basic elements, which is what the word “principles” means. And you’ve got to come all the way to Jesus Christ.
Leave the ABC of repentance from dead works for the New Testament teaching of repentance toward God unto life. Leave the ABC of faith toward God for faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Faith toward God doesn’t mean anything if you don’t come through Jesus Christ, does it? Leave the ABC of ceremonial washings for the cleansing of the soul by the washing of the Word, which is regeneration. Leave the ABC of laying hands on a sacrifice, which identifies you with the sacrifice by laying hold of the Lamb of God, not by your hands, but by – what? – by faith. Leave the ABC of the resurrection of the dead for the full revelation of resurrection in the New Testament. Leave the ABC of eternal judgment for the complete truth of judgment, the judge, and heaven and hell as revealed in the New Testament.
In other words, separate yourselves from the primer and get on to the mature understanding of God in the New Testament. That’s the solution.
Then He says, “Here’s the power,” in verse 3, “And this we will do if God permits.” He acknowledges that anything that is to be done is to be done only in the permissive will of God. Divine enablement alone will allow them to go to maturity and allow Him to continue to write the things He desires to write.
Then we come to the heart of the parenthesis, still in our review, verses 4 and 5, and we must cover the review so we get right into the flow when we hit verse 9. Verse 4, “For it is impossible” – and you can’t switch that word around, remember? I showed you last week you can’t mess with “impossible;” it means impossible – “for those who were once enlightened” – not saved, you don’t see salvation here at all – “and tasted the heavenly gift, 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, to renew them again to repentance.” It’s impossible. Why? “Because they crucify to themselves the Son of God” – and the word “afresh” is not in the original – “and put Him to open shame.”
You say, “Well, who are these people?”
They’re the same people who’ve come all the way up to the edge but never been saved. It says they were enlightened, not saved. They tasted, not eaten. They were partakers, not possessors of the Holy Spirit. And there is no direct salvation term in that passage that is used elsewhere in the New Testament. It doesn’t say they were saved, justified, righteous, called, elect, believers, sons, children of God, redeemed, sanctified, adopted, made holy, chosen, bought, regenerated, born again, nothing. They had all the information; that’s the point. It doesn’t even say anything about the direct ministries of the Spirit. It just says they were involved in what the Spirit was doing. They were around, seeing the signs and wonders and mighty deeds that the apostles did. It doesn’t say they were born of the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, led by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit, or filled with the Spirit. So, we don’t believe they’re believers. The point is they had all the revelation, and they fell away.
You say, “Well, Christians could do that.”
No, Christians couldn’t do that. It says in Jude verse 24 “Christians cannot do that.” Now, that’s a paraphrase. But it says this, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from” – what – “falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Now, my friend, if you can fall, then you’re impugning the power of almighty God. And that verse is a lie. See, I told you it said, “Christians can’t do that.”
And the powerful thing in this verse is it says if they fall away, they can’t be renewed again to repentance. That’s a serious, sobering thing. Full revelation is theirs, and if they reject it, they’re confirmed apostates.
You say, “What does it mean it says ‘They crucify the Son of God?”
It means that they stand with the crucifiers. It means that they go back with the Jews who killed Him – or who brought about His execution. They stand with them. They go back to the Judaism that executed its Messiah. They go back, and they say, “I’ve been all the way up. I’ve had all the revelation. I even got all warm in my heart. I went the whole route; I got in the church, did the whole bit. And, you know, He’s a blasphemer; He’s an imposter; He’s a fake. I stand with you that killed Him.”
You see, Jesus Himself said, “You’re either for Me or” – what? – “against Me.” There’s no middle ground. And so, anybody who comes all the way up, rejects, and goes back and stands with those who had judged Him a fake, you’ve put Him on trial, and you’ve passed the verdict He’s a phony. You stand with the crucifiers.
There’s a great illustration of this in Matthew chapter 12. The Jews did the very thing that we’re talking about. Matthew 12:24, “When the Pharisees heard it, they said” – this is Christ healing and doing wonderful things – “When the Pharisees heard it” – verse 24 – “they said, ‘This fellow’ – or this one – ‘doth not cast out demons but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.’” And that was a very interesting statement. Not too smart, but interesting. “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, is brought to desolation; every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: if Satan cast out Satan, he’s divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?’” I mean if Satan went around casting himself out. “‘And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?’” Ouch. “‘Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.’” And they didn’t believe Him.
And in verse 31, listen to what He said, “‘Wherefore, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men.’” Do you know what it is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? It’s to see the works of Christ, to have full revelation, and attribute it to whom? Satan. You know what that is? That’s seeing all there is to see and walking away and saying the very opposite is true. And for that there is no forgiveness.
“‘And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven Him,’ – against the humanness of Jesus, the Son of man – ‘it shall be forgiven Him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, the divine miracle worker in Christ, it shall not be forgiven Him, neither in this age, neither in the age to come’” – which is the kingdom, the future kingdom.
Now, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sin, according to Matthew 12, that is isolated to times when Jesus is on the earth. Because only when He’s here could we attribute His works to Satan, could men do that. So, it can occur when Christ is here, and it can occur again in the age to come, which to the Jew was always the kingdom. And who will be back during the kingdom? Christ will.
But in the meantime, men can commit a sin that is almost the same thing identically, and that is they can have all revelation, see all the beauty of Jesus Christ, all the wonders of His grace revealed to them clearly, turn their backs and walk away, and they have for all intents and purposes sentenced themselves to doom. Now, that’s the heart cry, that’s the bleeding heart of the Holy Spirit as He preaches and teaches in this passage.
So, the problem, the solution, the power, and the warning. Then we saw the illustration. And He illustrated this principle, as any good preacher would do, in verses 7 to 8. He says, “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs, fit for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God” – in other words, the earth gets all these things, and some brings forth wonderful fruit – “but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected and is near unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
In other words, the grace of God rains upon the earth. The earth represents all kinds of men. Some men hear the Gospel and they believe, and they bring forth fruit. Some men bring forth nothing but thorns and briers, and they’re cast in the fire and burned. You see, there’s the distinction that He’s drawing.
You see, everybody here in this picture of chapter 6 has heard the revelation. Some have believed and brought forth fruit. Some have not believed and brought forth thorns and briars. That’s the illustration.
Notice a little thought here. In verse 8, the thorns and the briars, I believe, are not evil deeds particularly, but they are the works of self-righteousness. He’s talking to the Jews, and the Jews, of course, worked like mad, supposedly, to bring fruit unto God. But all they ever came up with was thorns and briars. Why? Because God rejects all self-effort. Do you know that? “For by grace are you saved,” and then he says, “not of” – what? – “works.” Through faith, not of works. Not of works. God rejects it.
And so, right there in verse 8, you have a kind of a classic dispensational statement, because I believe this is a verse that indicates to us God’s rejection of Judaism. Judaism brings forth – what in verse 8? – only thorns and briars. Only thorns and briars. The only way a man will ever bring forth fruit unto God is to abide in the vine. True? John 15. And who is the vine? Jesus Christ.
And so, in a dispensational sense, verse 8 is a classic rejection of Judaism by God. And do you know, not two or three years later, after this was penned, 70 A.D., Titus Vespasian invaded Israel and destroyed Jerusalem. One million, one hundred thousand Jews were slaughtered, a hundred thousand bodies were thrown over the wall, and the whole system of Judaism was over. And it wasn’t but two or three years after the statement that God had rejected this. God rejects self-effort. And the Judaistic system was built on self-effort.
Now, in a final plea, and we come to our text, that’s a long introduction. In verse 9, the Holy Spirit adds the example. The example. You know, one wonderful technique in any kind of teaching or preaching is after you’ve given all the doctrine, not only to give an illustration, as He does so beautifully in 7 and 8, but then to give an example.
You know, Paul would preach, and he would preach great doctrine, and he would fire it out, and it was heavy. And then he would simplify it by saying this, “Be ye followers of me” – as what? – “as I am of Christ.” In other words, he’d reduce it all down to an example. He said to Timothy, “Timothy, let no man despise thy youth, but be thou” – what? – “an example to the believers in all things.”
In other words, when everything is said and done, to help someone to see what they ought to be, it can best be boiled down to a life and to say, “Look, you see those people, pattern your life.”
That’s exactly what He says in 9 to 12. And to the unbelievers, to those that are so hard and sluggish and at this point in danger of falling away, He says, “Now, let me introduce you to the Christians in your midst. Plug into them, see what they are, and be like them.”
Notice it, as we see verses 9 to 12, “But, beloved” – and here He speaks to the Christian, you can see an obvious change right there – “But, beloved” – not we’re talking to somebody completely different, not unbelievers. Nowhere in the Bible are apostates ever called beloved – “we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” You see, the prior things did not accompany salvation; they accompanied revelation. They had all the information; they weren’t saved.
“We are persuaded of you better things, things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
He talks to the Christians. Then He switches back and says, “Now look, you unbelievers, you follow those, who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Pattern your life after them.”
In contrast, then, to the non-Christians who have been really the object of His message from verse 11 of chapter 5, He turns to the Christians. And they stand as an example of what the others ought to be. They are the real. They’ve had the same background. They’ve come out of the same Judaism. They’ve come through to the same point of repentance. They’ve seen the beauty of Messiah. They’ve had the very same revelation, only they’ve gone one wonderful step further, and that’s the step of faith and total commitment of Jesus Christ. And that, my friends, is the exact difference between the wheat and the tares. And as my dad always used to say, “The same sun that hardens the clay melts the wax.”
And so, the whole tenor now changes. And we know it because He says, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.”
Notice verse 4, “For it is impossible for you” – what does it say? – “for it is impossible” – for what? – “for those” – change in pronoun. They had the things that accompanied salvation in verse 9, better things. Verse 9 says, “We are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak”
Now, here is the final proof, I believe, that those who were sluggish and in danger of falling away were not Christians. The bearers of thorns and briars were rejected, but the beloved were not. He says, “The bearers of thorns and briars” – in verse 8 – “will be rejected, cursed, and burned. But, beloved” –not you, right? – “we’re persuaded better things of you, things that are going to go along with your salvation.” They are not like those who fall away. They are not like those who reject Jesus Christ. But they are those who – listen to this, 10:39, I love this verse – “But we are not of them who draw background unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” You see?
Both groups got right up to the point of decision, but one group drew back unto perdition, to hell, to lostness. Another group believed to the – what? – the saving of the soul. He says, “We are not of them who draw back, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Right there you have the two different groups. You see them all the way through Hebrews.
Now, I know these are Christians, because I see three things that they have: faith, hope, and love. They characterize a believer. Look at verse 10. Do you see it in the middle? Love. Look at verse 11, at the end, hope. Look at verse 12 at the end – what? – faith. They had them all. They were Christians. They were beloved.
Now, the term “beloved” agapētoi is the highest kind of love from agapē or agape. It’s a word used 60 times in the New Testament, and never for apostates. The first nine times it’s used, it’s used of God to Christ, His beloved Son, where God speaks to Christ and calls Him His Beloved. And from then on, throughout all of the New Testament uses, 60 times it’s used only of saints: sometimes Jews and sometimes Gentiles, but always saints. Several times it’s translated – for example, I think it’s 1 Corinthians 10:14 where it’s translated this way, “Dearly beloved.” It’s a term of the richest and deepest kind of love. This agapē love is the unique privilege of the fellowship of the believers.
Now, as I told you, in the book of Hebrews, He does call the unbelieving Jews brethren in a racial sense, but never beloved. Never beloved. This term speaks of the sweet bond of loving fellowship that belongs between believers.
And Arthur Pink makes a good statement, and I think it’s something we need to think of. He says this, “I cannot really love a brother with this full, rich love unless I have a well-grounded persuasion that He is a brother.” And He’s right, because this is the kind of love that’s reserved for those in Christ.
So, He says to them, “But, beloved,” – then He says – “we are persuaded” – this is terrific; that word means that at one time He had some problems with it. And when He examined the case and got all the evidence in, He came across and said, “I’m convinced.” “We are persuaded, by the evidence. I have considered the evidence and come to a settled conclusion,” is the literal meaning. It’s a strong word, and it gives the result of actual conviction that’s been brought about by positive proof. “I’ve looked at your lives; I’ve examined the situation. I know you’re for real. The evidence is in.” What’s the evidence? Faith, hope, love. Hey had them all.
“You guys have the things that accompany salvation.” I love that word “salvation.” The great New Testament word used itself, and its derivatives, some 50 times in the New Testament. It speaks of our deliverance from danger, from death, from hell, from Satan, from sin. It’s the whole word for deliverance, freeing us from all that sin and Satan can do.
No, notice just this phrase “things that accompany salvation.” I want to just pull it together for a minute. “Beloved, we are convicted, because of proof, concerning better things of you and things that accompany salvation.”
Now, what are the things that accompany salvation? And we could preach forever on that. That’s the whole series of epistles in the New Testament. That’s Romans 5, isn’t it? “Having been saved, now we stand in this grace,” and away he goes and talks about all the things that are ours because we’re in Christ. But relating it to this text, what are the things that accompany salvation?
Go back to verse 10 and just kind of follow, if you can, through, and I’ll show you what He means. They are the things that are in contrast to all the previous characteristics of the unsaved. For example, accompanying salvation is infancy – is not infancy, but maturity; not milk, but solid food; not inexperience in righteousness, but perfectly righteous – that accompanies salvation, the righteousness of Christ.
Accompanying salvation is not repentance from dead works, but repentance toward God unto life – not a negative, but a positive; not faith – just faith in God, apart from Christ, but faith in Christ as God. Not external ceremonial religion, but internal regeneration and transformation. Not repeated identification with sacrifices, but one union with Jesus Christ. Not the simplistic truths of resurrection and judgment, but full revelation of our blessed hope. Not just being enlightened – verse 4 – but being changed, made new creatures; not just tasting salvation, but feasting on it, taking it in completely; not just partaking of the Holy Spirit, but having the Holy Spirit indwell; not just getting a taste of God’s good word, but drinking it in; not just seeing a miracle, but being one. These are the things that accompany salvation, the better things than all the things listed characteristically of the unbelievers.
And I love this little phrase at the end of verse 9, “though we thus speak.” That’s kind of a condescension, because the poor Christian who’s been reading through this, by the time he got to verse 8 would be pretty rattled. And I’m sure, like many who read it even today, would be wondering, “Uh, is He talking about me?” And so, He throws this little statement, “though we thus speak.” Beloved, we’re persuaded to better things of you, though we’ve been saying all this.”
In other words, to the Christians, He says, “Don’t take the words to apostates to refer to you. The warning is for them. But I put it in this letter to you all because I know they’re in your midst. Right? Doesn’t Matthew 13 tell us that the wheat and the tares will grow together, and who alone knows how to separate them? Jesus Christ. And it only will be done when He returns. True? I don’t know who the wheat and the tares are. I know some people that I know are wheat. But there are probably other people that I think are wheat that aren’t. Only the Lord knows.
And so, whenever the Holy Spirit is writing to the congregation, he says, “I’m saying it to you all,” because the writer, in his own mind, wouldn’t pick them out by name not knowing them. He sets a pattern for all of us. I preached these messages for the last several weeks on this particular theme. And I say it to all of you, and yet I know that it doesn’t apply to all of you. But I’m not sure to whom it does apply. Therefore, I preach it as the whole counsel of God and let the Spirit of God do the applying. And that’s all he’s saying, “Beloved, I’ve said it, not because it applies to you directly, but because it applies to all of your congregation; and so, I speak to you all.”
Then verse 10, He says, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” He says, “Look.” He says, “There is no question in God’s mind about who’s real. He knows. He knows you’re real, and He won’t forget you. Your name is in His book. Relax, rest easy.”
And, you know, this is not the first time that Christians have gotten rattled about God’s messages of judgment. There are a lot of Christians today, who when they hear about God’s message of judgment, they get shaken. They have certain insecurities, and they worry a lot about the coming of Christ lest they be not ready. And they don’t understand what it is to trust in their positional standing before God. They’re kind of like those folks that I’ve indicated several times to you in Malachi chapter 3. God was raining down the prophet’s word of judgment – just tremendous judgment, just fires out in the book of Malachi. And there’s a whole lot of Christians, by the time all this judgment’s gotten out, are standing in a corner shaking. They’re Christians in the sense that we would call them. Of course, in the Old Testament sense, they’re believing saints.
But in verse 16, it says, “Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another.” And I can imagine what they said, “Boy, it’s coming, folks. I hope He remembers who we are.” See? And it says, “And the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name.” He got a book, and He put them all in it. “‘And they shall be mine,’ saith the Lord of Hosts. ‘In that day, when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall you return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.’”
Then chapter 4, verse 1, “‘For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn like an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up,’ saith the Lord of hosts, ‘that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’ – and then He says this – ‘But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.’”
God always knows His faithful. He always knows His own. Don’t worry about the rapture. If you’re a believer, you won’t get left. It can’t happen. It can’t happen. The sovereignty of God secures it. And so He says, “God is not unrighteous, unfair. He will not forget.”
You say, “Well, it doesn’t say that He won’t forget their faith. It says their works. You mean you’re saved by works?”
No. No. But you see – watch it – in a congregation where you’ve got the wheat and the tares, and they’re all claiming to have the faith, and they’re all making the same statements, the only way to tell the difference is in their works.
James said, “Your faith without works is” – what? – “is dead.” You show me your faith by your works, and I’ll say your faith is real. “Because,” Paul said, “if any man be in Christ, he’s” – what? – “he’s a new creature. And if we examine your life closely, we can tell by your works whether you’re for real.” And that’s all He’s saying.
God looks at the whole thing, and you’re all claiming faith, but He spots the ones who have the works of love. The fruits of righteousness have been seen. Notice the statement to forget your work. And the term “labor” there, it doesn’t appear in the best manuscripts, and it could read this way, “to forget your work of love.” To forget your work of love, or to forget your work and love, either way.
God can’t forget your works that result from your love. God knows your love is real. You’re the beloved. And He sees the works, and that manifests to Him the genuineness of your love. Now notice in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 that Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, says, “I know you’re saved.” How do you know, Paul? “Because I remember without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love.” Paul says, “The reason I know you’re for real is because I look at your life, and I see your work of faith, and I see your labor of love.” In other words, you have the fruit to go along with the statement of love.
Same thing repeated again for us, in a different context, in Galatians 5:6. Listen to this, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith” – listen – “which worketh by love.”
You know how you can tell when faith is real? Love is a byproduct. Love. “You say, “What kind of love? Love to your brother?”
No, no, not love to your brother.
You say, “No?”
Well, no, that’s not the answer primarily. Love to your brother’s a wonderful thing. But look at verse 10, “For your work and love, which you have shown toward your brothers” – is that what it says? No, what does it say? – “toward His name” – toward His name. Whose name? Whose name? His name. Christ. God.
You know, God says, “I know you’re true, because I see your work. And I know your work is legitimate because you love My name.”
Now, this particular theme in the vernacular rings my chimes. This takes us right back to the fantastic concept of the glory of God again. Do you know why these people loved each other and why they worked and why at the end of verse 10 they ministered to the saints and do minister? Not because of love for the saints, but because of – what? – love for His name.
Oh, that’s such a rapture. It’s such a lofty thing. To express our love to God – do you know how to express your love to God? Serve the saints. That says it. They ministered and they do minister, not directly because they loved the saints, but because they love God. The key to real service is a burning love for the Lord. Paul says, “The love of Christ does” – what? – “constrains me,” 2 Corinthians 5:14. Sure.
Let’s face it, people aren’t always that loveable. A missionary came back from China, after giving his whole life, and somebody said to him, “Boy, you must love the Chinese.”
He said, “Not particularly, but I have a great love for God.”
That’s right. That’s right. Now, nothing wrong with the Chinese, but he had it in the right perspective. In Romans 1:5 – oh, I love this; Paul says, “By whom we received grace and apostleship, and we went out firing away for the obedience to the faith among all nations” – because we loved all nations? No – “for His name.”
What does the name of God mean? It means all that He is. And to love His name means to just have a passionate desire for the glory of all that God is. That statement that appears over in 3 John, that little verse 7 says this, “Because for His name’s sake they went forth” – isn’t that good? They went out because they loved God. Because they had an overwhelming love for Him.
You remember in John 21, when Jesus recommissioned Peter, he didn’t say to him, “Peter, do you love men?” What did He say? “Peter, lovest thou” – what? – “Me?” Then do what? “Feed My sheep.” Your service to Jesus Christ must be based upon your overwhelming love for Him. That’s what it’s all about. And you’ll never properly love men until you properly love Him.
Oh, God, give us a love for His name. What a fantastic thing. A deep desire came out of the psalmist’s heart when he said this, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? Love of a name.
So, they loved the name of the Lord, and that’s proof positive that their faith was the real thing. And they were ministering to each other because they loved the Lord.
You know, in the body of Christ, we’ve talked so much about the body and how we’re to minister to each other in the life of the body. But the ministry that we have to each other as saints is directly related to the proportionate love that we have toward our Christ and our God.
Isn’t it true that the more you love somebody, the more you want to do his will? The more you love somebody, the more you want to fulfill his purpose? Don’t worry about how to figure out how you’re going to wind up loving everybody, when so many of them just don’t rub you the right way. Just worry about how you can fall more in love with God and you’ll have no problem at all. None at all.
And their love issued in an unbroken ministry to the saints; I love it. Verse 10 says, “in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” You just kept going on. You did and you do. Isn’t that good? Other people say, “I did.” Living in the past. He says, “You did, and you do.” It’s going on. They ministered.
“What do you mean ministered?”
Well, it’s the word “deacon.” Serve, just serving each other. How do we serve? Spiritual gifts, number one. Right? By ministering our spiritual gift. You say, “Is this based upon my love for God?” Sure. If you love God, as you say you do, if you really love Him with that total love where you’re just concerned that His name be glorified, then you’re going to do the things that He wants you to do for His glory. Whether your gift is counseling, or showing mercy, or helping, or teaching, or preaching, or administrating, or whatever it is – ministering because you love Him.
And then in the area of fellowship, ministry involves also praying for one another. Ephesians 6 says, “Praying always for all saints.” That’s part of our ministry. It involves rebuking sin in a sinning brother. It involves restoring in love, confessing to one another, forgiving, bearing one another’s burdens, caring for the weaker brother, giving to the necessity of the saints. All these things are part and parcel of our ministry to each other, and they can’t be generated on their own; they must be generated by the right kind of love for Jesus Christ.
And so, the Christian life, beloved – just catch it, will you – the Christian life just boils down to one thing: the measure of your love for the Lord. How preoccupied are you with His name? And I’m not talking about some kind of squashy sentimentalism about Jesus. That’s not what it’s all about. I’m talking about a lofty, high, exalted view of who He is and an overwhelming concern and compassionate love for Him. And then, when we love Him like that, we’ll find we’re able to love each other.
There’s another thought that grabs me in verse 10, and that’s the fact that we’re called saints. You says, “Well, that’s because the writer didn’t know us very well.”
No, that’s because he’s speaking positionally. It means holy ones, hagios. Holy ones.
You say, “Are we really holy?”
A hundred percent pure, absolutely righteous in Jesus Christ’s position. Fantastic thought. We are holy.
And so, here we see the proof that they were for real, loving God and serving each other. The greatest gift – watch it – the greatest gift your love can give God is your service to each other. You really love Him? Serve one another. Minister your gifts. Don’t say you love God and have no use for a fellow Christian.
That’s why in 1 John chapter 2, the Word of God is so clear to say that if a man hates his brother, he can’t have the love of God in him. You can’t love God and hate your brother. So, the pattern is set straight.
Now, having determined that these are believers, he then uses them for an example to the others. Notice in verse 11, “And we desire that every one of you” – now He’s speaking to the group again – “do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise.”
Now, He goes back to this group, and He say, “Now you – the rest of you, you look at the beloved and you follow the kind of pattern they’re setting.” Every one of you. “Every one of you come on. Take a look at these true believers. We want you all to be the same. We want you to come to the same full assurance of hope unto the end. We don’t want you to fall away and have no hope; we want you to come to full assurance of hope.”
And, you know, the only people who really have hope are in Jesus Christ. Aren’t they? We don’t want you to fall away and have no hope. We want you to come to full assurance of hope. And, you know, the only people who really have hope are in Jesus Christ, aren’t they? So, He’s saying, “Come to Christ that you might have hope for the future. There’s no hope apart from Jesus Christ.”
And then you can do what Paul said in Romans 12:12; you can rejoice in hope. Now, notice in verse 11 He says, and we’ll just hurry and skip some things, but He says, “We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence.” “Diligence” is an interesting word, spoudēn. A very important word. The Hebrew equivalent is an interesting word, but spoudēn basically means speed or haste. He’s saying that, “You be speedy” – speedy – “to come to the full assurance of hope.” He’s indicating that you can get there quick. That’s one other reason that I believe He’s talking to unbelievers, telling them to get saved. It’s an instantaneous experience. But apart from that, there’s a Hebrew equivalent to this word, and the word is bahal. And that word means to tremble or to be in fear. And consequently to run in fear. It means to hasten because of imminent terror. A terror-stricken speed. And thus, the word “diligence” can have that meaning. It does not always; it can have. And we would certainly think it applicable here and read it, “We desire that every one of you do show the same speed in view of imminent disaster.” In other words, if you don’t come to Jesus Christ, you’re going to fall away into the ultimate disaster. You’re going to – it even carries a meaning – bahal does – of to perish suddenly. And so, he’s saying, “You believers, look at those Christians” – “You unbelievers, look at those Christians, see what they are, and come to Christ fast.”
Then verse 12, “Be not slothful.” Now, here I think the King James does a disservice, because this is exactly the same word in chapter 5, verse 11, and there it’s translated dull of hearing. “You are dull of hearing.” Then He goes through the whole cycle of the argument, comes back and says, “Don’t be dull of hearing. You are spiritually stupid, don’t be that.” It’s nōthroi. It’s the same word, and the same form identical. It comes right back to those same people and says, “Come on, don’t be this way. Don’t be this way, but followers of them” – and the word is mimētai, mimics – “mimics of them who through faith and patient endurance of persecution inherit the promises.”
Follow the saved, those who have had the same persecution you have had, but they have patiently endured it because their faith is real. Follow them and come to all the promises that salvation brings.
And so, we come to the close of this warning. It’s a simple warning. It doesn’t have to be confusing. It’s a warning that we can give to every person who is here tonight, either for his own life or to pass on to someone else, because of its urgency.
If you’ve come all the way to the edge of decision to receive Jesus Christ, and you’re standing on the edge, and you’ve never made that decision, you’re going to find the longer you reject, the longer you neglect, the harder your heart becomes, and you’re in danger, as He said in an earlier warning of falling away, having an evil heart of unbelief and departing from the living God. You’re in danger, as He said here, of becoming spiritually stupid and then not understanding anything. And then finding that you’ve lost a grip on the basics, and you can’t handle any of the truths that the Spirit of God would want to teach you to bring you to Christ. And then you’re in danger of falling away and never being able to be redeemed again because you rejected against full light, and God can’t give you any more revelation.
But in a compassionate appeal at the end, He says, “Oh, to you Christians, don’t you fear. God won’t forget you.” And then to the rest, “Look at those true ones. Pattern your life after them. Be mimics. Follow them. Beloved it, that lays it at our feet, doesn’t it? If you’re a Christian here tonight, are you the kind of a Christian of whom the Holy Spirit could say, “I want to set you up as an example for others to mimic”? If you’re not a Christian, I pray God that somehow tonight the Spirit of God will bring conviction on your heart, and you’ll not reject the Lord Jesus Christ a moment longer. Let’s pray.
Father, in our study tonight, we have leaned upon You to teach us. These words have been stumbling and in so many ways inadequate. Father, You know that You promised that if we prayed and asked, that You would be our teacher. And so, Father, I depend not upon what I have said, but I depend upon what the Spirit of God has taken to penetrate the hearts of all of us.
Father, my own heart is convicted, that I may be more like Jesus Christ, that I may say, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.” Father, I pray that You would thus convict every believer here, that we might set such a pattern for unbelievers that we become irresistible, that we become in the truest sense Christ ones, Christians, that people will perceive that we have been with Jesus – yea, that we are like Him.
And, Father, we would also pray for those who may be in our midst tonight, who’ve never received Jesus Christ, who time and time again have heard the Gospel truth. Maybe some even who’ve come out of Judaism. Others, Lord, have come out of all kinds of backgrounds. They’ve come all the way up. Their hearts have been warmed by the Gospel; they’ve been drawn to the beauties of Jesus Christ. They’ve even come to the place where they’ve acknowledged sin, and in the sorrow of sin they’ve begun to turn from it, and yet they’ve never taken the step of faith in Jesus Christ, and thus they are in danger of being lost to a hell that is worse than if they never knew.
Father, we just pray that tonight Your Spirit will bring them to salvation. And as we come to a time of invitation, Lord, we pray that You will guide us, that You will do Your perfect work. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.
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