When I was growing up, I often witnessed a scene that was always saddening to me. There was a man in a nearby town who was profoundly retarded. When I drove by his house, he was usually playing in a large sandbox in his parent’s front yard. Although he was fully grown in size and age, his mental capacity was that of a two year old. Something terrible was wrong with this picture.
Perhaps that is the picture the writer of Hebrews is giving us in chapters 5 and 6. Christians who should be acting like adults are behaving like spiritual babies – playing church and endlessly needing to be spoon-fed. Rather than moving forward, they are looking for a way out of their discomfort.
These believers should have become teachers by now. Once we have learned the basics, we need to help others who know less than we do – our own children, babes in Christ, new converts and even seekers. The Holy Spirit continues to teach us as we open our minds and hearts and spend time in the word preparing to teach others.
- What are the basics?
- What were the choices the Hebrews were considering that were impractical and even impossible?
This chapter will deal with their dilemma as the author describes their problem and urges them on to an acceptable solution.
As the author builds his case for Christ, he showed Christ’s superiority over the old covenant and over the people who helped prepare the way. He also showed dangers they were facing:
- The danger of drifting away from the word – NOT PAYING ATTENTION (2:1-13).
- The danger of hardening their hearts or doubting the word – UNBELIEF (3:19-4:16).
- The danger of closing their ears to the word and failing to grow – IMMATURITY (5:11-6:8).
All of these dangers can result in dropping out and disgracing Christ. When we abandon Christ in our hard times, we are saying loud and clear that Jesus is not sufficient to help as He has promised. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
DAY ONE: HEBREWS AUTHOR ANALYZES THE CHOICES BELIEVERS FACE.
READ: Hebrews 6:1-3
A. BELIEVERS MUST CHOOSE TO GROW TOWARD MATURITY.
When a builder begins a house, he starts with the foundation of course. A firm foundation is absolutely necessary to a good house. But then, he goes on to build the rest of the house. If he stops at the foundation the house is never fit for habitation. The author of Hebrews has already called these believers Jesus’ house (3:6) – if they hold fast their confession. Only if they move forward will it be a house that is equipped for sound living and fruit bearing.
Someone has said that churches should be armies equipped for marching forward to do battle with the enemy and conquer the world for Christ. Too often they are large nurseries filled with babes demanding –feed me, help me, teach me, meet my needs, solve my problems! Without the foundation (elementary doctrines), we can’t become a Christian, but if we don’t move beyond them, we can’t get out of the nursery.
We have to remember the context of this writing. The Hebrew Christians living in the first century saw nothing wrong with going back to the old covenant. After all, it had been set up by God and had served them well for centuries. They believed they could go back to the old sacrificial system until things got easier and then become Christians again later. They needed to learn that this was not possible.
Chapter six begins with therefore (a conclusion of the previous argument about milk and solid food). They are told to leave the elementary doctrines or the foundation of their new faith and move forward. After confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and believing with their hearts that God raised Him from the dead and becoming a true child of God, the matter of their salvation was settled forever. They passed from death to life (John 5:24). There was nothing to add to it or take away from it. So the natural path is to move forward to deeper truths about Christianity. The normal Christian life is a life of growth.
B. BELIEVERS MUST CHOOSE TO MOVE BEYOND THE BASICS.
What are the elementary principles or doctrines of the Old Covenant from which they need to move forward?
- Repentance from dead works — The offerings of the Levitical system are now dead because they have come to an end. Now Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice that was the fulfillment of these things (Matthew 5:17). Peter called them to repent and put their faith in the living savior. We also must put our faith in the living savior and not our own works for salvation.
- Faith toward God – The Jews had to truly believe in the one true God and His progressive revelation regarding the salvation planned before the foundation of the world. Now they must commit to His son Jesus as deity. To reject the Son of God is to reject God. (John 14:9)
- Teachings or washings – The ceremonial washings were a symbol of cleansing from sin. Now the true cleansing from sin by the blood of Jesus has been accomplished (I Peter 1:19).
- Laying on of hands – The Jews laid their hands on the animals to transfer their sins. Now the true substitutionary sacrifice has happened.
- Resurrection from the dead – The belief in resurrection was taught in the O.T. and believed by the Pharisees. But Jesus’ resurrection in a glorified body was the ultimate proof. Now resurrection is a necessary part of the gospel message (Romans 10:9)
- Eternal judgment – The belief that there is a time of judgment where all men will be held accountable for their deeds on earth was taught in the O.T. Now there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Ultimately all unbelievers will face God and answer for their choices.
This is the basic gospel that they had believed. They had to put their faith in the living savior as Son of God who cleansed their sins by his own blood as a substitutionary sacrifice, guaranteeing their resurrection to eternal life. These are the basic doctrines.
They were well trained in these foundational truths in their preparation in Judaism. Now they had been taught that Jesus was the answer and the fulfillment of all things introduced in the Law of Moses. They must build on these truths in order to live abundant lives.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What did Peter say about our responsibility to know these things? (I Peter 3:15)
- What did Paul say to the Corinthians about their level of knowledge? (I Corinthians 3: 2)
- How does a person move beyond the basics to become more mature?
- Write in your own words your beliefs about the gospel in a short paragraph.
- Practice giving your “answer” to someone “safe” to prepare you for the next time you are asked to give an answer for your faith. What person will you “practice on?”
DAY TWO: HEBREW CHRISTIANS MUST CHOOSE THE RIGHT PATH.
READ: Hebrews 6:4-6
A. BELIEVERS LEARN THEIR CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES.
These Hebrew Christians have been enlightened;
- They have heard and believed the gospel – have seen the light of truth.
- They have tasted the heavenly gift – They were regenerated or passed from death to life.
- They received the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- They have tasted the good word of God – recognized that the words of Jesus came from God himself (John 3:34). They have heard the gospel of grace.
- They had tasted the power of the age to come – supernatural gifts from God to empower them as a foretaste of the complete power they will have in heaven.
Now we come to the choices they are considering. They are real believers who have been born again to eternal life (Hebrews 3:1). They are considering what they will do in the immediate future. The author of Hebrews tells them what is possible, what is not possible, and what is wise.
NOTE: Many scholars have various interpretations of this passage. This interpretation is from a Jewish perspective for Hebrew Christians in the first century.
They thought they could temporarily give up their Christianity and go back to Judaism and practice the old sacrificial system until the persecution subsided. Then they could become Christians all over again. The author shows them the reason this is not possible.
- It is impossible for them to be “unborn” or give up their salvation and later be born again. They are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). They have eternal life. They have passed from death to life. To appear to reject their salvation would be the same as rejecting Jesus or crucifying him personally – all over again. It would put Him to open shame because it would appear that His death and their new birth were insufficient. We can’t be “born again” twice. Also, it would be impossible for them to take up Christianity later because they would be destroyed or captured in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
- It is possible for them to go back to the old life and refuse to go on to maturity. There are consequences for this choice – they will be subject to physical death in A.D. 70, and they will lose their reward because they will have no fruit.
- It is possible to make the complete break from the old covenant and press on to maturity. This is the wise choice.
B. BELIEVERS HAVE CHOICES TODAY.
As believers, we all have a choice of how much we are willing to suffer and sacrifice to live and serve in the Kingdom of God. We can become “closet Christians.” We can remain babes. Or we can move forward and allow God to continually grow us and use us.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- In your own words, what is said to be “impossible” in verses 4-6 and why?
- What is a descriptive word that identifies a true child of God in the following passages?
- Acts 1:15
- Acts 11:26
- Romans 1:7
- I Corinthians 12:27
- James 2:1
- I Peter 4:17
- I John 3:2
- When have you been tempted to “hide” your Christianity?
- How do you feel when you “stand for Christ” in a difficult situation?
DAY THREE: HEBREW BELIEVERS FACE HARD REALITY.
READ: Hebrews 6:7-8
A. ALL BELIEVERS WILL FACE JUDGMENT.
Their choice will have consequences. The author uses an illustration from nature. Like rain, the blessings of God fall on all believers. Some produce fruit and some don’t. At the judgment seat of Christ, choices will be judged. Some will have their works burned up like the thorns and thistles and will suffer loss of reward. Some will receive a commendation and reward from Jesus
Sometimes it seems that our choices don’t matter very much. We may think we can compromise a little to get out of a hard place or shirk a little to make our lives easier in the moment. But all choices for Christians have eternal consequences. We are either choosing to live God’s way and follow God’s will in service for the Kingdom or we are moving in the opposite direction to serve self or the world. All will be revealed at the judgment seat of Christ. We don’t want to be ashamed when we meet Jesus face to face.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does Paul say about the judgment of believers? (II Corinthians 5:10)
- What does Paul say about believers who don’t produce good fruit? (I Corinthians 3:15)
- In Matthew 25 Jesus taught the parable of the talents. What promise did He give in Matthew 25:29?
- What did Jesus say was the result of not producing fruit in Matthew 25:29?
- It appears that if we don’t move forward, we will go backward. Which direction are you moving?
- What is one new truth you have learned in Hebrews?
DAY FOUR: AUTHOR COMMENDS THE HEBREW CHRISTIANS.
READ: Hebrews 6:9-12
A. THEIR PREVIOUS GOOD WORKS ARE NOTED.
The author is persuaded that they will make the right decision. Although he has talked to them rather harshly, now he calls them “beloved.” The tone changes completely as he begins to talk about the good things they have done.
God loves his children and wants the best for them. He takes note of every good deed and every good intention. He wants us to succeed and offers us every kind of help and encouragement. Jesus says that even giving a cup of water to one of those serving in his name will be rewarded. (Mark 9:41).
B. THEY ARE SPURRED ON TO GREATER THINGS.
The author now urges them to keep making progress. He tells them to move on to the full assurance of what God has planned for them. He tells them what to do to keep growing:
- Imitate those who have successfully lived by faith. It is always inspiring to look at the lives of great Christians who have endured much to keep the faith. Keep your eyes focused on role models who have great track records.
- Be patient. Jesus promised that there would be suffering and that the world would hate us. We can expect some hard times but God’s grace is always operative when we are experiencing opposition and persecution for our faith. God’s mercies are new every morning. He will not give us more than we can handle.
- Focus on the promises. God has given great promises to his children. In dark days and hard moments, we can rely on these promises. There will be help in His perfect time.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Look up these beautiful promises from God to make your day:
- II Corinthians 12:9
- Lamentations 3:22
- Lamentations 3:23
- Lamentations 3:25
- What works of yours might God be noticing this week?
- Begin a list of favorite promises in your journal or Bible to help in hard times.
- Memorize 2 Peter 1:3-4.
DAY FIVE: BELIEVERS MUST LEARN TO TRUST GOD’S PROMISES.
READ: Hebrews 6:13-20
A. AUTHOR CITES GREAT PROMISE TO ABRAHAM.
The author now gives an illustration from the Old Testament. God gave a promise to Abraham that he would have an heir and that through Abraham all of the nations of the world would be blessed. Abraham waited patiently for 25 years, and finally the first part of the promise was fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah had a miracle baby.
At the coming of Jesus the second part of the promise was now being fulfilled. Abraham’s descendants, Mary and Joseph, had a miracle baby. At the time Hebrews was written, Christianity was being preached all over the world. All people on earth had an opportunity to receive God’s blessing.
God swore by Himself that the promise would be honored, even though it was humanly impossible for Abraham and Sarah to bear a child. It is impossible for God to prove false. This illustration should be a strong encouragement for us when we are experiencing hard times. With God nothing is impossible. In His time God will fulfill every promise made to Israel and to all believers.
B. GOD’S PROMISE OF BLESSING IS UNENDING.
Our savior and High Priest is in heaven with the Father ready and willing and able to help us at all times. This is fulfillment of the final part of the promise to Abraham. His descendant has come to bless all families of the earth. There is nothing wrong with this picture. Jesus has opened the way into the sanctuary of God, and we will follow Him there. We cannot fail. It depends on Him, not us.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How does the promise God made to Abraham find its fulfillment in me?
- How did God affirm that He would not renege on his promise?
- What are two immutable things by which it is impossible for God to lie? (6:18)
- How much are we told about our “hope” in verses 18-20?
- How can you be more faithful as a “promise keeper?”
God’s unchanging faithfulness is called an anchor of the soul (Hebrews. 6:19). An anchor holds us firm no matter what kind of storm is raging around us. Our boat may be rocking all over the place, but our hope in Jesus for eternal salvation and present help never changes. We can withstand any storm when we know our eternal destiny is life with Jesus in the most wonderful place we can imagine. The wise choice is to press on to maturity.
No matter how you interpret these difficult passages, the main lesson is that believers must go on to maturity if we want to enjoy the abundant life and wonderful privileges of Christianity. Our great high priest makes it possible to meet every temptation and enjoy every blessing.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
Our richest blessing is knowing our destiny with God. (Ephesians 2:6)
Share one blessing you have received this week from knowing Jesus Christ. Let your family know how blessed you feel because of being in the eternal family of God.
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