Published July 31, 2008
Heb. 5:11 – 6:12
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Aug. 17
Many Bible commentators have noted that this passage is a parenthetical section and that the writer digresses from the subject that he has been dealing with, namely Jesus as the great high priest. This passage is also recognized as a puzzling section difficult to interpret, especially Hebrews 6:4-6. But this passage is also a very powerful section as it encourages the spiritual maturity of believers.
Believers need to be corrected - Hebrews 5:11-14
A. They were not attentive to the message
The writer of Hebrews said that there is much to be said about Christ, but the subject matter is hard to interpret. This troublesome task was not related to the vast scope of his theme (though there are “many things to say” of Christ). Nor was the difficulty in explanation due to the profound nature of the subject matter (though it is profound).
The reason for this breakdown in communication was that the recipients of the message had become “dull of hearing” (5:11). A.T. Robertson explained that they were “slow and sluggish in mind as well as in the ears.” It brings to mind the student who is preoccupied with other things and doesn’t listen while class is going on.
B. They were not advancing in their maturity
The author told his readers that they were babies in the faith. And he substantiated this accusation by pointing to their spiritual diet. They were at a level chronologically where they should have been teachers sharing meat from God’s word for others to chew on, but they were still crying for the milk of basic principles.
Their lack of maturity was evident both in their diet and discernment. Those who are mature can “discern both good and evil” (vs. 14). As John MacArthur states, “The mature believer has discernment about what is right and wrong, true and false, helpful and harmful, righteous and unrighteous.”
Believers need to be complete - Hebrews 6:1-3
A. Foundational principles are mentioned
In Hebrews 6:1, we see the basic principles involved in the transformation of a believer – “the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.” The foundation of a building is necessary, but it is not the final phase of construction. We need to be saved, but we should then “go on unto perfection,” or maturity, and a state of completion.
The things in verse 2 were probably Jewish practices and principles that had, according to F. F. Bruce, acquired “a new significance in a Christian context.” Ray Stedman said they represent “… the barest beginnings of Christian faith.” As new believers they had received these elemental teachings, but they needed to graduate to deeper truths.
B. Further progress is mentioned
When the inspired writer speaks of “leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ,” he is not suggesting that we forget the foundational facets of our faith. Rather, he is encouraging us in our decision to move forward to greater development.
But we do not make the journey alone, for the phrase “let us go on” has the idea of being moved along by God’s enablement.
Reliance upon God is further expressed in verse 3 where he says, “And this will we do, if God permit.” Albert Barnes said of this phrase “if God permit” that “This is not to be interpreted as if God was ‘unwilling’ that they should make such advances … but it is a phrase used to denote their ‘dependence’ on Him.” As God gives us strength, we will march on to maturity.
Believers need to be challenged - Hebrews 6:9-12
This is admittedly a difficult passage to interpret, and virtually every commentator has a different perspective on what the verses mean. I believe the passage speaks of those who are saved but have failed to enter into spiritual victory like the Israelites at Kadesh-barnea.
They didn’t need to get saved again (for to do so would be “impossible”) they needed to move forward.
“Falling away” in verse 6 means to deviate or turn aside from the prescribed path. The lack of spiritual maturity and deviation from truth attributed to those discussed in these verses has finally and fatally hindered their progress and productivity.
A. The writer shares his optimism for these believers
The writer was “persuaded better things of” those to whom he was writing. Though he was giving them this warning, he trusted that they would not fall into the condition that he described.
He wanted to believe that their lives would include “things that accompany salvation” (vs. 9), things consistent with being saved.
He was hopeful about how their faith would be manifested, and he was happy about how their focus was on ministry. As a word of encouragement, he reminded them that God had not forgotten their “work and labour of love … in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (vs. 10).
B. The writer shares his objective for these believers
In verse 11, he expresses his desire concerning their diligence. He desired that they show the same enthusiasm in pursuing spiritual completeness that they had shown in practical ministry. He wanted them to be fully persuaded of their hope “unto the end.” And according to Alexander Maclaren, that hope “rests upon the eternal God to whom all the future is certain.”
Rather than be like those who were defeated by doubt at Kadesh-barnea, he would have them follow the example of those like Joshua and Caleb “who through faith and patience inherited the promises” (vs. 12). The inspired penman wanted his readers to experience the full realization of what God has in mind for every believer.
My wife, who grew up in a foster home, had a foster sister whose first baby was a girl with cerebral palsy. It was sad to know that her emotional and mental development would never progress beyond that of a 3 or 4 year old. Similarly, it is sad to see Christians who have progressed chronologically but not spiritually. May God deliver us from growing older without growing up!
For a more detailed outline of this subject, please see David Owen’s sermon under this same title at www.PastorLife.com.
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