This study was recorded on 23rd February 2020 at Calvary Chapel Portsmouth as part of our family service.
In this teaching, pastor Barry goes verse-by-verse through the first 9 verses of what many commentators have called the hardest chapter in the Bible!
J Vernon McGee, in his commentary on this chapter, stated “As we study this section, we are immediately confronted with the amazing fact that generally, commentators have avoided this chapter. Even such a man as Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, the prince of expositors, has completely bypassed it in his book on Hebrews.”
Dr. Chuck Missler has cataloged at least 16 different interpretations of this chapter (and in particular, verses 4-9) – so we must be Bereans as we approach this portion of scripture – we must stick to what we know from scripture and remember that scripture will never contradict scripture!
We should also note that the chapter begins with ‘For….’ expressly linking it to what the writer had been saying in the previous verses – namely, this issue of Christians growing toward spiritual maturity.
The chapter, therefore, picks up where the previous chapter left off – with the writer urging his hearers to grow up spiritually! He lists 6 things that we should have ‘nailed down’ by now; the basic foundational principles of our faith, broken down in three groups: Firstly ‘Justification’ (the completed work of Salvation in Christ, by what He did and not by what we can do)! Then ‘Sanctification’ (the setting-apart of the believer for work and ministry through Baptism and the laying on of hands for service). Finally ‘Glorification’ (i.e. all that awaits us, our hope of resurrection, eternal judgment and God’s consummation of all things). This is the stuff we should know! (If you don’t, speak to your pastor and ask him to explain!).
Then we get onto the challenging verses – 4-9!
The writer changes from talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’ and starts to speak of ‘they’ and ‘those’ – and the big question is, who is the writer talking about?
Some argue that it is Christians who have lost their Salvation – but that can’t be, as Salvation is the completed work of Christ – as a simple study of John 10 or Romans 8 clarifies.
Others say that the ones in view here are false converts – but the language does not allow for that. The ones spoken of here are ‘regenerated’ believers, fully partakers with Christ, and who have received the Holy Spirit.
So who is in view? How can believers ‘fall away’? What is it that the writer says is impossible? And how should we understand these verses?
Well, be Bereans, but my ‘paraphrase’ is this:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened (regenerated), and have tasted (fully experienced) [of] the heavenly gift (which is Christ Himself), and were made partakers (honorary life-long partners) of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted (fully experienced) the good word of God, and the powers (knowledge) of the world to come”,
[So the ‘those’ is clearly talking about believers who are saved!]
If they shall fall away… (i.e. if they fail to mature, wander from the pathway that would see them growing in grace, if they become cold and unresponsive to the incredible reality that Christ not only died for their sins, but rose so they could, would and should walk in newness of life, bearing fruit for His glory.)
For those people, it is impossible …to renew (restore) them again (as they had previously been) unto repentance (unto the gift of repentance – that comes from God alone -and should provoke in us such a sense of gratitude; the gift of repentance that comes when we are first saved and realise the extent of our sin and dependence on our Saviour). That repentance is not simply feeling sorry – as seen with Esau, who was indeed sorry for selling his birthright but found no repentance (see Heb 12:17). ‘Sorry’ is simply remorse and has as much to do with the regret at having been caught! Repentance – the true gift of repentance – comes from God and is a turning around, going in the opposite direction, a forsaking of all that has been in favour of what’s ahead. It is this precious gift that those who fail to mature in their walk with Christ forfeit and to which they will not be restored, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and of course, Christ cannot die again for their sin again to make them appreciate what He has done for them. If His shed blood on the cross has not been sufficient to radically change their hearts and minds, if they have no desire to grow, they will remain as it were like a stillborn child. Born yes, but truly living, no; never becoming what God intended. Of this sort are those who respond every time there is an alter call so they can get saved again. Jesus died once and for all for your sin. That is more than sufficient to ‘rock your world’ to the core and, having received the precious gift of His Spirit, become the catalyst for you to reach out for His grace and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance (Matt 3:8 / Romans 2:4 / 2 Tim 2:25 / 2 Cor 7:10).
…and put him to an open shame. The world looks at Christians to try to understand our Christ. Brennan Manning famously stated: The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Just as were the Children of Israel who failed to enter the promised land were an afront to God for doubting His promises, which the nations around observed; and as Moses himself pleaded when God offered to make of him a great nation, that God’s enemies would look on and mock.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
The earth receives blessing from God and it is expected to produce fruit! So too with all believers.
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected… If the ground does not produce fruit expected of it after it has received this gift of life-giving rain…
and is nigh unto cursing (although not actually cursed, it is close to it); whose end is to be burned. Just so the believer who fails to mature will be subject to the fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ (as Paul explains in 1 Cor 3).
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, that is, we are confident that, through these warnings and admonitions, you will not be so ungrateful having been the beneficiaries of so great a salvation, and things that accompany salvation, that is, the fruit that should accompany, and be a natural by product of, your salvation.
though we thus speak. – this is what we have been talking about since Hebrews 5:12 to this point!
We will continue our study in Hebrews 6 next week – unless the Lord comes for us first! Maranatha!