In this study, we continue to demolish incorrect interpretations and show why Hebrews 6, when viewed in its proper context, is not about losing one’s salvation. In fact it’s not about salvation at all.
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All right, so in this session we’re going to cover Hebrews, chapters 5 and 6. And there’s a lot to be concerned with here and so we’d better dig right in because once we get started, there really isn’t any good place to stop until we get to the end.
And so, let’s begin without further ado in Hebrews 5:1 which says:
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies (the only day he was allowed to do so) the very first thing he had to do was offer sacrifice for his sins and the sins of his family, and then he went from there to representing the people. Because, as you know, the priest was chosen to talk to God on behalf of the people; the prophet was appointed to talk to the people on behalf of God. So that’s how those two offices worked together.
Now, verse 4 says:
And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In fact, in the Old Covenant you had to be a descendant of Aaron’s to become a priest, and then from there on you could possibly become a high priest.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
That’s a quote from the second Psalm, verse 7.
And in verse 6 it says:
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
That of course, is a quote from Psalm 110:4.
So, Jesus didn’t take this role upon Himself; He was appointed also. But He wasn’t appointed (as we’ll see later on) He wasn’t appointed because of His lineage, He was appointed directly by God. And He was not appointed to the normal order of the priesthood, which was named after Aaron, but He was appointed to a different order and we’re going to get into all that in Chapter 7. So, we’re going to leave that at this point, and go on with verse 7.
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Now, you may have heard somebody say in the past that the Lord’s praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal is sometimes by theologians called the unanswered prayer. Well, now you know that’s not true because it says here in verse 7 that the Lord heard Him; He heard His prayer.
And so, you say, “Well, why is there this conflict?”
Well, you remember the Lord’s prayer, the Lord Jesus prayed, “Father, if there be any other way, take this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.”
And so, here are the options:
- There was another way and God let His Son die anyhow or,
- There was no other way
And so, the prayer was, “If there’s any other way take this from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.” And so, it was not an unanswered prayer; there was no other way.
If Jesus hadn’t submitted to this job He was given, this task He was given to perform, if He hadn’t been willing to go ahead and perform that, we’d all be lost. But because there’s no other way, He did go. And now, every man has the option of being saved.
And so, it says in verse 8:
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
All right. Then we go down to verse 11, and the writer says:
We have much to say about this,
And what he’s talking about is this idea of Jesus being a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He said, “We have much to say about this,” he’s actually going to say a lot more about it but first he’s going to say something else.
but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.
Now, right away we know that he didn’t write that to us, right? [laughing] He was writing that to somebody else.
But in verse 12 he says:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.
Now, you understand that this book is probably one of the very first written after the cross. Some people say it might have been written as early as 35 A.D., somewhere between 35 and 50 is where the consensus lies, and that would make it one of the—if not the—very earliest book written after the cross.
And you also know that this was during the time when most of the Church was composed of Jewish people who had come to faith because of the crucifixion. Many of the people who first became members of the Church had been priests in the Old Covenant and that’s why this writer is saying, “You ought to be teachers because you’ve had all this study. All your life you’ve been studying this word of God. You should be teaching us.”
“But,” he said, “you actually need to be taught yourselves.” And so, that’s what he’s going to stop and do now before he gets on into the issue about the Melchizedekian priesthood. And, he says:
You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
All right, so that’s the end of chapter 5. I guarantee you chapter 6 will not go that fast. [laughing]
So then, chapter 6, verse 1:
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
Now, I want you to understand what he is saying here. He said, “Although you (talking to them) need to be taught more,” he said, “we’re not going to do that. We’re going to go beyond that. We’re not going to go again to lay that foundation about these things that are about repentance from acts that lead to death, and faith in God and instruction about baptisms. These are all things that are associated with the beginning of your belief. Right? These are the things you are first taught as you become a believer. And,” he’s saying, “we’re not going to go back to that now. We’re going to go on and talk about something beyond that.”
And so, right away you’re getting a hint here that chapter 6 is about something other than salvation.
Now, once we get into this a little further, I think it will be clear to you that this chapter is not about salvation. This chapter is about other things, things that are for the more mature believer. And so, what is he saying here then?
Verse 4, it says:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. .
Okay, now we’re into it. People who don’t know any other verse in the Bible can often tell you about this one. Let me give you a little of my first impression of this.
When I was a brand new believer many, many years ago—in fact, it was Moses who brought me to the Lord [laughing] but, when I was a believer many, many years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear the Gospel in its purest form.
And so, I had been a believer for a little while and I believed that the Bible told us that salvation was based on our belief. And then somebody read these two verses to me. And it scared me. It scared the you-know-what out of me because, I’ll be honest with you, if you take verses 4, 5, and 6 and read them out of the context of the passage, they seem to say that if you fall away from the faith, you can lose your salvation and there is no way to get it back. If you take the verses just by themselves, that’s what they appear to say.
It says, “It’s impossible if you fall away to be brought back to repentance.” And there are many places where that is taught that way, where verses 4 through 6 of Hebrews 6 are taught as the determining verse that denies eternal security. That’s the bedrock, that’s the foundational verse that denies eternal security.
But what we’re going to see here tonight is that this verse doesn’t have anything to do with salvation. This is not an issue of salvation because, if it was, it would have to contradict dozens of other very clear verses in Scripture.
Now, one of the rules of interpretation of Scripture is, you always use clear verses to help you understand verses that are not clear.
Another rule of interpretation is the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. It is a unified Word because it all comes from God. And God doesn’t say one thing in one place and then something else someplace else.
But, here’s my first question to you—and it’s a long one, so bear with me:
- if salvation is by grace through faith like Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says it is, and that faith itself comes from God (that’s Part 1 of the question) and,
- if the one condition is belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus as it says in John 3:16 and Romans 10:9, for example, and,
- if the Holy Spirit is sealed within us at the moment of our belief like it says in Ephesians 1:13 and 14—sealed until the day of redemption, and,
- if God Himself accepts responsibility for our security like it says in 2 Corinthians 1:21 and 22, and,
- if He is faithful to complete the good work He began in us like it says in Philippians 1:6, and,
- if no one can snatch us out of His hands like it says in John 10:29, and,
- if nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, like it says in Romans 8:38 and 39 then,
how does one fall away?
Because, every verse I’ve read to you—and there are others I could have used as well—every verse I’ve quoted to you talks about what God has done. The things that we add to this—our belief. And that belief is born out of a faith that God Himself gave us. And so, if that’s the case, and if all that has happened to us, how do we go about falling away?
Well, I’ll tell you. The first thing that people answer to a question like this is, “Well, you can tell by the way they’re acting that they have fallen away.”
And yet, nowhere in the Bible is salvation linked to behavior. Salvation is always linked to belief. I will guarantee you that if I can follow you around long enough, I would find some reason to believe you’re not saved. [laughing] And you could do the same with me. Because our behavior is not always reflective of our beliefs. That’s why He made salvation an issue of belief, not of behavior. We have a sin nature, you understand, and we are not able to behave in such a way as to assure our salvation. That’s why it had to come to us by grace, that’s why it has to be by faith, and that’s why God Himself gave us the faith to believe. And so, that faith is the issue.
When Jesus said in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish,” there were no other conditions placed in that.
In John 6:28 when they came right out and asked Him, “What work do we have to do to do the work that God requires?” And in verse 29 He says, “The work of God is this – believe in the One He has sent.”
In John 6:38 and 40, He said, “I didn’t come down from Heaven to do My will. I came down from Heaven to do My Father’s will.”
And here is His will that, “Everyone who believes in Me will be saved. And I will raise them up at the last day.”
Everyone who believes.
And He says, “And My Father’s will is that I will lose none of all those He has given.”
And so, how do you go about falling away? That’s the first question. And if you really do your homework, you’ll come to the conclusion that you can’t. There’s nothing you did to get here; there’s nothing you can do to fall away.
Some people say, “Well, you can give it back. You can reject it. You can say to God, ‘Okay, I’ve been saved for a while. I’m not so sure I like this. So here, You can have my salvation back.’” You won’t find anything in the Bible to verify or to support or to even speculate about the possibility.
Because in 1 Corinthians—or, 2 Corinthians 1:21 and 22, Paul wrote that God put His seal of ownership on us. And it is He who makes us stand. If we were talking about the old west here, he would have written, “God branded you. He put His brand on you, and He’s accepted responsibility for you.” That’s what it says.
Now, there are lots of things we do that we’re not supposed to do, and there’s a lot of behavior we are cautioned against, warned about, told to avoid. Use any phrase you want. But, never in the Bible is salvation equated with behavior. Never. It’s always equated with belief. So, that’s the first thing you understand. And so, when you understand that, then you see that this passage can’t be about salvation.
Okay, so what’s it about then? What is it about?
Well, let’s go back and look at the passage in context.
What was going on here? Who was the book being written to? What was going on in their lives? Let’s get some background here. Like I said, this was probably one of the earliest books written. It was written to the Church when the Church was largely made up of Jews. Many of them were priests who some of them had been on duty in the temple that day and seen all this stuff—eyewitnesses to all this. And in the early days after the cross, there was tremendous pressure on these people to go back into the Old Covenant. They were being told, “You can believe in this Jesus, but do not abandon the Old Covenant.” It was the Covenant then because there wasn’t any such thing in writing as a New Covenant at that point. The Old Covenant was all they had. They had been brought up in this.
I mentioned in our last meeting that every facet of their life was influenced by the Scriptures. The whole life of the people in general. This was, after all, what’s called a theocracy. It wasn’t a democracy; it was a theocracy. That means it was a society under the command of God, and His Law was contained in this book.
The priests were lawyers and they adjudicated the law based on what was written in this book. It was God’s Law that ruled and governed their society. They knew this from the day they were born. They were steeped in this, immersed in it all their lives. And then, all of a sudden, even though it was plainly explained in their Scriptures that this would happen, they were shocked to discover that it was different now.
And now, it wasn’t whether they were going to be obedient; now it was whether they were going to be faithful. And in fact, in many cases, obedience to the Law was a symbol of unfaithfulness. And this is one of them. Because, how did a believing Jew handle his sin problem? He went to the temple and he had a sacrifice made for his sin. And he offered some kind of physical act of contrition to help him absolve himself of this sin problem.
Every single day, for all the years of Israel’s life as a nation, there was a lamb placed on the altar at sunrise and it was kept burning all through the day for the sins of the people to cover them. At sundown, it was replaced with another lamb and that lamb was burned all through the night to cover them for their sins. This happened day in and day out, every morning and every evening, a sacrifice for sin. This covered them as a nation.
For their individual sins there were individual sacrifices and offerings they had to make—acts of obedience. Now, when we look into the Old Testament today, we can see that these acts of obedience were designed to be evidence of their faith in the coming Redeemer. And when the Redeemer came, these acts of obedience were rendered obsolete. The new has come, the old has gone.
But there was still this tremendous pressure. If you’ve been trained all your life to do something and then somebody comes to you one day and says, “Okay, don’t do this anymore.” It is a problem for you, isn’t it? There’s a tremendous amount of inertia built into these things with nothing else and you’ve been taught all your life that this is something God requires of you. And now, all of a sudden, He has said, “No.” Because, basically what He said was, “These lambs that you’ve been sacrificing for sin, these are symbols. These are models, substitutes, for the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.”
And because these lambs could never absolve anyone of their sins, they could only set them aside, they were looking forward to the fulfillment that was made when The Lamb came to take care of the sins of the people. And when He came, His sacrifice was sufficient—His single sacrifice. And this is not the last time we’re going to look at this. In chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, all the way through, we’re going to see how the Old Covenant was a model that was meant to prepare them for the New.
And in chapter 10 for example, he’s going to say the Law was a shadow of the things that were coming. When the reality comes, the shadow goes. So, the Old Covenant way to deal with sin was to go to the temple, offer a sacrifice.
What’s the New Covenant way that a believer deals with sin?
You ask forgiveness. 1 John 1:9. It says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
This was written to believers. The verse before it says, “If you think you’re not sinning, you’re a liar!” I mean, he said it just that way.
“If you claim to be without sin, the truth is not in you.” I think is the translators sort of made it easier to take. But basically, he was saying, if you think you’re not sinning, you’re a liar.
So, in the Old Testament, there was a physical act of obedience. In the New Testament there was a spiritual act of faith. No longer did you go to sacrifice a lamb. Now you went to The Lamb, and you applied His sacrifice that was already made on your behalf. And now, it’s an act of faith. Here is the problem that prompted this chapter 6.
The problem was when you went back to the Old Covenant and started sacrificing animals again for your sins, you were in effect saying to Jesus, “Your sacrifice is not sufficient.” You are relegating His sacrifice to the same status of those animals and saying, “It was not sufficient.” And that’s what the writer said when he said, “To His disgrace they are subjecting Him to sacrifice all over again.” Because you’re saying, “It didn’t work. It only was temporary. It wasn’t meant forever. It has to be done over and over and over.”
And, by going back to the animal sacrifice, that’s basically what they were saying. They were crucifying the Son of God, in effect, all over again. And yet, He says, “My sacrifice is once for all time.” And we read the passage in Hebrews 10 where He said that. When this priest made His once for all time sacrifice, He sat down. He was done. The work was finished. Because, by that one sacrifice, He made perfect forever those who are being made holy. His one sacrifice makes perfect forever.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul wrote:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
In Colossians 2:13 and 14 he said when He went to the cross, He took all of our sins with Him and by His death on the cross He was able to forgive us for all of them.
All of them—not for some, not for the ones that you committed before you became a believer, not for the ones you committed before Jesus was crucified. Not for the ones—any of those other conditions, it didn’t say any of that. It said He forgave us all of them.
And so, this writer is saying, “If you’re going to go back into the Old Covenant, and you’re going to offer sacrifices for your sin, then you’re going to be in sin. Because that’s not the way our sin—we’re absolved of our sins now. The only remedy for our sin now is to have the faith to go and confess to the Lord and be forgiven. That’s the way.”
Now, why is that important? Why is it important for a believer to confess? Didn’t Jesus die for all of our sins? Why then, do we need to go and confess when we sin?
One thing is, He tells us to, that’s right. But there are more reasons than that. In the theological sense He already knew about the sin, didn’t He? Because, He knew every sin in our life before we committed the first ones. So, it’s not to inform Him of anything, but, what does He say? If we confess, He is faithful to forgive and purifies us from all unrighteousness.
Unconfessed sin interrupts our relationship with God. We don’t ever have to worry about not being His child anymore. That was based on belief. John 1:12 said that for all those who believed He gave them the authority to become children of God. And so, our belief is what brought us into God’s family. We don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Just like you can’t stop being the child of your earthly father, a born again believer cannot stop being the child of his Heavenly Father. That’s done for; you’ve been adopted into the family. That is handled. It’s done, it’s over, it’s finished. You are always going to be a child of God.
But when you misbehave and cause tension between you and your earthly father you can tell things are different, can’t you? A child who’s got a problem with his earthly father knows things are not the same. Certain blessings don’t flow like they used to. You go ask for the car, the answer is “No.” You ask for money, the answer is “No.” Because the relationship has been strained. It’s the same with our Father in Heaven. Unconfessed sin leaves our relationship strained.
I look at this this way: there are two levels to our relationship with God. Level one is Union. That’s the union we have with God because of our faith. That’s what happens when we are born again. We don’t ever have to worry about that. That’s forever. It’s eternal. It’s forever. Those two words mean the same.
But we also have a level called Fellowship. That’s our intimacy, our closeness with God. And it’s that Fellowship level that is often the level wherein we receive the blessings from God. That Fellowship level requires us to stay close to God; to stay in communication with Him. We do this through prayer. We do this through confession. That keeps us in fellowship with Him and it keeps us close to Him. And it allows Him to distribute our blessings.
You can liken this to the same situation that we talked about a couple of chapters ago, where the Israelites all came out of Egypt, right? They all went through the river, the Red Sea, and they all came out of Egypt. You can liken this to us coming out of the world into the family of God. Those Israelites who came through the Red Sea and came into the desert with God were provided for all of their lives. Even though they refused to go into the Promised Land, they were still protected and provided for all of their lives. But, did they get the blessings that God had in store for them in the Promised Land? None. Were they living in a land flowing with milk and honey like He told them they would? No. Were they thought of by the rest of the world to be the pinnacle of human society? No.
In fact, when you stop and think about it, what was the benefit to the world for having those Israelites in that desert for forty years? Did the world derive any benefit at all from that? No. They were not fruitful; they did not bear any fruit, they did not yield any harvest, they did not accomplish any work. They were like many Christians today. Unfruitful. They lived defeated lives.
Most of the Christians that you know live defeated lives. They’re born again, they’re saved, they’re going to be with the Lord in Heaven, but they have nothing to show for their life here on Earth. You can’t tell them from the pagans. They live exactly the way the rest of the world lives. They think exactly the way the rest of the world thinks. They do the things the rest of the world does. They act like they never knew God at all except for an hour or so every so often on Sunday. Lifelong friends sometimes don’t know they are believers. Their life on Earth as a believer has no more to show for it than those Israelites had in the desert. They bear no fruit, they harvest no crop, they accomplish no work. Because they live their lives out of fellowship with God because they don’t understand the relationship in the here and now.
They understand their relationship in eternity, at least a good many of them do, but they don’t understand the relationship in the here and now. And because of that they live defeated lives. And they don’t even know, many of them; that’s the hard part.
Recent surveys show that as many as nine out of ten believers fit that category. As many as nine out of ten fit the category living defeated lives. I heard one person explain them as being hopeless, helpless, worthless and useless. And I said to him, “Well, how do you really feel about it?” [laughing]
This is what the writer of Hebrews is warning these people against.
Don’t be like those people in the desert. Don’t live a defeated life. Stand firm in your faith. Don’t be tempted back into the Old Covenant thinking you are handling your sins by going back and burning up some lambs. It’s not the way it works, anymore. When you confess, He is just and faithful to forgive and will purify you from all unrighteousness. No longer is it external obedience. Now, it’s internal faith that keeps us in line with God. And, if you don’t follow the new way, the old way offers you no option for repentance. You can’t absolve yourself of your sin problem.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t say that He will take away from you what He’s given you. It doesn’t say that. Just like He didn’t kill all the Israelites on the border with Jordan because they refused to go in. No, He sent them back into the desert and He took care of them all of their lives. You’re still your Father’s child. But you won’t live the blessed life you’ve been promised if you do not follow in faith the few things you are asked to do to stay in good relationship with God. And, one of the most critical is to pray for forgiveness.
And he said, “Why should you ever hesitate to do that?” Because you’re gonna get it. I mean, your sin is already known to God. He already understands what you did. And He already went to the cross and paid for it. And so, your forgiveness is automatic. All you have to do is ask, and you stay in His good graces.
You see, I’m pretty sure one of the reasons why people had to go through all this ritual when they sinned in the Old Testament, is to educate people on the nature of sin. Paul said in Romans 3 that the Law was given to make us aware of sin. It wasn’t meant to absolve us of our sin problem. It was to make us aware that we had one. It’s like a speed limit sign that tells you whether you are breaking the law or not. If there’s no speed limit sign on the road, theoretically you can go as fast as you want to. It’s the speed limit sign that tells you whether you’re breaking the law. And that’s what God’s Law was for, to make us aware of the fact that we’re breaking the law.
So, our relationship with God today is determined by our willingness to stay close to Him. To recognize when we sin. To seek forgiveness and to immediately receive it along with purification again from all of our unrighteousness. When that happens, then it’s like we had never sinned at all and everything goes on and everything is fine between us and God again.
And we can count on Him. We can count on Him to be responsive when we pray. We can count on Him to provide good things for us and blessings for us, just like a loving father desires to do with his children. You can count on those things.
Our problem is, we don’t do anything.
Their problem was, they did something that no longer worked.
And for both, the result is the same: you can’t heal a relationship when there’s no communication.
Now, let’s go down to verse 7 and this will verify what I’ve been saying here.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Alright again, if this was a verse that was speaking of salvation then you would say, “Well, gee, burned. That means burned up in the fire and that means I’m no longer saved. I’m going to Hell.”
But again, that would contradict all of the rest of the New Testament. And so, you have to look and see what it’s talking about. It’s talking about producing a crop.
Salvation is not a crop producing event. This will give you a clue to John 15 again, by the way, where He says, “I am the Vine. You are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing. But if you remain in Me, you can do lots of things.”
It wasn’t talking about salvation. Because salvation is not a fruit bearing event. The world is not made a better place because you’re saved. I hate to announce this to you. I don’t want to mess up any false apprehensions you had. But the world is not a better place because you’ve been saved. The world could become a better place because of what you do as a result of becoming saved. That’s called bearing fruit.
In John 15 it’s called bearing fruit. Here it’s called producing a crop. In 1 Corinthians 3 it’s called our works. If they are done with the right attitude and if they’re done because of God’s call upon us, they produce things that are precious to God like gold and silver and precious gems.
But if they are done in our own strength, God didn’t want us to do it, we went off on our own and then we took the credit for it when we did it—that’s going to get burned up in the fire. And then what does Paul say at the end? We ourselves will still be saved but as one escaping through the flames. In other words, all of the things that could have brought us rewards get burned up in the fire.
And you know, it’s not even the outcome. It’s not the outcome that matters here. It’s what was the attitude that we had about doing it and, did God prompt it into our lives or didn’t He?
John 15 makes this so clear. He says, “Apart from Me you can accomplish nothing. But if you remain in Me and I remain in you, you can bear much fruit.”
Now that tells us that what we do as a believer has to (a) be prompted by the Holy Spirit and (b) done in such a way that God gets all the glory. Now we’ve got a chance.
But when you go off on your own and do something that you think is the right thing to do and then you make sure you get the credit for it; you might as well save your time. It doesn’t matter how much good came out of it. You might have saved your time. God doesn’t need our help, you understand. If He asks us to help, it’s a good idea to agree. But when we go off on our own quite often we cost Him more trouble than we’re worth.
I think I told you about the sign in my mechanic’s shop. It says:
Labor is $50 bucks
If you watch, it’s $75 bucks
If you help, it’s $100 bucks
Because you cause more trouble than you’re worth. [laughing]
And so, salvation is not a fruit bearing event. Salvation is not a crop producing event. Salvation doesn’t produce good work. It’s what we do after we’re saved. And so, this verse, when it talks about the field bearing a crop it can’t be talking about salvation. It’s talking about what happens after we’re saved.
And, the same thing as it was in 1 Corinthians 3 and in John 15. The work that we do that is not in the strength of the Lord, that’s not being compelled by Him and that’s not being done for His glory is of no more value than the dead branches in John 15 that get burned in the fire or the field that produces thorns and thistles here that gets burned in the fire, or the work that is wood, hay and stubble in 1 Corinthians 3 that gets burned up in the fire.
It doesn’t have anything to do with our salvation. It has to do with rewards that could come to us for being obedient to God and for acting in ways that He has propelled us to act. And so, these verses are verses about what happens afterward.
Now, verse 9 says:
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that
have to do with salvation.
Is that clear? The things that accompany salvation.
The fruit that we bear, the crop we produce, the work that we do, these are things that accompany salvation.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
You see, one of the problems with resisting going off and doing work on your own is you begin to think you’re lazy. You know, you want to help. You want to get up there and do something for God and you think of things you could do, and you think of all the ways the world would be better if you just did this for God. And you think that, if you’re not out there working every day to do something for God that you’re being lazy.
Well, you know, folks, He calls us human beings, right? We’re not human doings, we’re human beings. We’re to be as a believer. If He calls us to do, then we go and do. But our main job as a believer is to be. It’s the example that we show to the world.
People come along and say, “How do you stay so calm and cool in this economy?” Or, “How do you manage to get along and maintain your positive attitude when it seems like everything is going wrong? How does all this happen?”
That’s what attracts them. They want to know how they can get that kind of peace. They don’t have it; they’re scared to death, and they wonder.
You see, that’s how the Christian attracts the world. It’s not by trying to act better than everybody else. They see through that right away. You know, your neighbor, he knows what’s going on in your house. You can’t fool him. But when you have that peace that surpasses human understanding, that’s what gets their attention. Now it doesn’t matter what happens to you. You’re still at peace with the Lord because you know that He’s promised to take care of you. And so, you don’t have to worry about anything.
That’s one of the beatitudes, you know. “Blessed are those who have been given everything because they don’t have to sweat anything.” [laughing] Isn’t that in your Bible? That’s what attracts people’s attention.
And that’s fruit, born out of faith. People see that and they ask about it and you’ve got a chance now. God has brought somebody into your life, and you’ve got a chance to talk about your faith. They’ve asked you. You’re not out knocking on doors trying to get somebody to listen to you. There’s no place where we’re told to do that. We’re not called to be obnoxious. We’re called to be examples, witnesses.
And one of the best witnesses in hard times especially, is to remain cool. Faithful. Positive. That’s what attracts people, because they are seeing everything they had taken away from them. All the things that brought them peace are disappearing. And you’ve still got yours. That’s what attracts people in hard times.
And so, he’s saying, it’s not being lazy when you do this. It’s being faithful when you do this. When you live by faith, you are being faithful. And that’s why he says in verse 12, “We don’t want you to be lazy. But we want you to imitate those who, through faith and patience inherit what was promised.” Is that clear? How do you get what was promised? Through faith and patience. Not by being a human doing. By being a human being.
Sometimes I wonder how much further the Kingdom would have advanced if we didn’t get in there and try to help so much.
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”
Now, this is out of Genesis 22:15 and the writer here is only quoting half of it. He says, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”
The thing He said before that is, “I swear by Myself I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”
And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
By the way, this was about a quarter of a century. That’s God’s definition of waiting patiently. In Abraham’s case it was about twenty-five years.
Now in verse 16 it says:
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.
See, we’re frail, we humans, and we don’t often—we don’t always follow through on what we said we’d do, and so, sometimes when we want to emphasize something, we’ll swear by something. “I swear on my mother’s grave!” Or something like that, you know. And that’s supposed to add more credibility to what we’ve said.
God doesn’t need to do that.
And so, He didn’t swear by Himself to help Abraham believe He was really going to do this. He didn’t do it for His benefit to increase His credibility. He did it to make it easier for Abraham to understand that this was really going to happen.
Verse 17 says:
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.
The two things: He promised, and, it’s impossible for Him to lie.
And then He backed up the promise with an oath. And again, it’s impossible for Him to lie, so He doubled-up the probability. And it was already at one hundred percent.
But He doubled it up by making, by swearing by it, after He had made the promise, so that Abraham would be one hundred percent absolutely certain that God was going to do what He promised to do. And he said, “That same level of certainty exists where you’re concerned.” And it says, that same thing where, “it’s impossible for God to lie, makes we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.”
Now, this is a reference. Remember, he’s writing to Jewish believers here. This is a reference. Remember, he said, “We have fled.” This is a reference to the Cities of Refuge. You’ll find six of them mentioned in the Old Testament. Three were in the south and three were in the north. These were cities of refuge.
They were special cities that God set aside, where the gates were never closed. And if you committed some crime that was punishable by death you could flee there for refuge if you thought you were innocent. And what you basically were doing was throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. Because, you see, in those days there wasn’t a police force who came after you, it was the next of kin of the person whose life you took, he came after you. and he couldn’t be counted on to be objective, because you just killed his brother, you see.
Now he’s got the right—he’s called the Kinsman Redeemer, he’s got the right to come after you and take your life because the law said ‘a life for a life.’ Your job was to flee to the city of refuge, if you thought it was an accidental death; you were swinging an axe and the head of the axe came off and landed in the guy’s skull—you didn’t mean for that to happen, but it killed him just the same. You dropped the axe handle, you ran for the nearest city of refuge, hoping to get there before the next of kin caught you.
If you could get there, once inside the city gate, then you were safe. Then there would be a trial. The elders of that city would get together, they’d hear your story and they’d hear the other story and they would decide. And if they decided that it was an accidental death, your life was spared. Now, you had to stay in that city of refuge. You couldn’t go outside the city walls until the current High Priest in Jerusalem died. Once he died, you were free. Then you could go back home, and you could resume your normal life that had been interrupted by all this.
But this is the way they treated the crime that we would call involuntary manslaughter, and this of course, is a model of our Lord Jesus. He is our city of refuge.
And of course, with Him there are some differences.
First of all, you don’t have to be innocent.
Secondly, you don’t have to flee to the city because He will come to you wherever you are.
And third, being our High Priest, He (a) has already died, which means you’re free and (b) He will never die, which means you’re free.
And so, the model is a partial simulation, if you will, of the way it really is for us in the New Testament with our Lord Jesus.
So, Jesus is the fulfillment of something that the city of refuge was a type of. And this writer to the Hebrews is saying, “We, who are guilty—and by the way, the guy coming after us is not the next of kin, he’s the devil—we who are guilty have fled for a hope to Him, to Jesus.” And, he says, “That’s what makes us certain when we do this.”
Now, how could he have said this in this sentence, and in a previous sentence said, that if you commit a sin, you’re out!? How could he have done that? Doesn’t make sense, does it? This writer would have to be bouncing back and forth theologically to such a degree that nobody would ever have read anything he wrote. And he says, “This is the hope we have so that we may be greatly encouraged.”
Whatever we sin, we flee to Jesus, we confess the sin, He forgives us. It’s done. And, we’re safe from anyone. Nobody can come and get us. Nobody can take us. And his death frees us from any lingering penalty.
Do you understand all that? Okay.
Verse 19 says:
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
So either way, you see, you’re protected. You’re protected by the death of the High Priest makes you free, you’re protected by the fact your High Priest lives forever. And that makes you free—either way.
Now, one little story here to help settle this from a nautical point of view.
Back in the day when all harbors were natural harbors; when they didn’t have the equipment to dredge out a harbor, lots of times the harbor was too shallow for the large ships to come in and anchor. So, they would have to anchor offshore and then they would ferry their cargo back and forth on smaller ones.
Well, the storms would come, the winds would blow, and these large ships weren’t safe out there. The anchors would get pulled loose and drag free and the winds would blow them away. And so, what they developed the ability to do was to put the anchor on a long rope, they would row the anchor on a small boat into the harbor and then they’d set the anchor in the harbor. Now the ship might be tossed and turned outside in the ocean, but the anchor was secure in the harbor and they didn’t have to worry about being cast adrift. This helped them.
This is the analogy he is using here. Your faith in Jesus is an anchor for your soul and it has been set in the Holy of Holies where the storms can’t get to it. Nothing can cast you adrift. Do you understand that?
This chapter doesn’t have anything to do with your security in the Lord. It doesn’t have anything to do with your salvation. You have this anchor for your soul that Jesus Himself has set in the Holy of Holies where nothing can ever dislodge it. Nothing can ever dislodge it. Are we clear? Okay.
Well, surprise! That is the end of chapter six! [laughing]
And let’s have a closing prayer because I want to be able to take your questions on this and in order to do that, I have to close the session and then we can come back and take some questions.