`Tension: How does the author explain the spiritual symptoms that lead to apostasy?
Resolution: Either never being saved in the first place, or pure laziness.
Exegetical Idea: The author explains the spiritual symptoms that lead to apostasy as either never being saved in the first place or pure laziness.
Theological Idea: If someone’s behavior indicates that they have fallen away from grace, then chances are they have never been saved in the first place or they are simply spiritually lazy.
Homiletical Idea: If you act like you have fallen away, you either are an unbeliever or you are spiritually lazy.
Introduction: Have you ever met somebody like this… (paint a scenario of someone who displays the attributes of spiritual apostasy)
The symptoms of his readers: Here, he gives us 15 symptoms of this person. And maybe as we’re going, if any of these things describe you, you should make a note of it. Ask God to reveal this to you.
They were “dull of hearing” (5:11)
They should have been teachers by now (5:12)
Instead they need someone to teach them again (5:12)
They are still drinking milk (5:12-13)
They are unskilled in the things of God-they are fools, they don’t have wisdom. (5:13)
They are children, nymphites, immature (5:13-14)
They don’t have discernment (5:14)
For that matter, they don’t seem to have any spiritual discipline (5:14)
They keep coming back to the “elementary doctrine of Christ” (6:1), they have to keep laying a foundation. It’s not that they want to get deeper in these things. After all, here we talk about never getting over the gospel, just getting deeper into it. Rather, they can’t seem to even grasp the basics.
They need to keep learning what repentance and faith mean (6:1). It’s not that they were called to keep repenting and believing, it’s that they had to keep learning why that was important.
They need to keep going back over basic baptismal teaching (6:2)
They don’t understand the laying on of hands (6:2), probably in reference to the idea of church leadership. This indicates they were rebellious.
They need to keep relearning about the resurrection (6:2)
They need to keep relearning about eternal judgment (6:2)
They seem to have fallen away - apostatized. And now they are wondering if they have to start over. Maybe they keep stepping in and out of the faith. Going back to Judaism when persecution hits, then coming back to Christianity as a safety option.
Now the author to the Hebrews is almost wondering aloud, wondering, what do we make of this kind of person. Well, he explains. See that word “for” in vs. 4, he’s saying, here’s why I have to go back, here’s why I have to talk about persevering. And he gives his whole reason for almost everything he said in chapters 1-4 in 6:4-12. And vs. 4-6 in particular is one explanation of why someone could possibly be displaying all these traits of apostasy.
Diagnosis 1: Apostasy
<Read vs. 6:4-6> So in these verses, we get the first reason why someone might be displaying all these marks of apostates. Now, unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult passages to interpret in the entire Bible. There are so many stabs at trying to figure out, what the heck is he talking about anyways. So let me give you a couple different understandings of this approach.
He’s saying that someone can lose their salvation. Now, this is what many people believe this passage is saying. This is what many churches of Christ say that this means.
Now, if that is what this passage says, if you believe this is saying that these people were once saved but have fallen away, then you have to say in vs. 6, that these people can never be saved again. In other words, they get one shot at being saved, and if they ever turn from Christ, then caput, they’re dead. And some people do indeed believe that’s true.
And I have two problems with that view. If that is true, then you and I are all in big trouble, because which one of us hasn’t abandoned Christ at some poitn? You without teh first stone. Then that means salvation is really unattainable.
But also, remember in Matthew 18, when Peter asks Jesus how many times we must forgive, and Jesus says what, seventy times seven. In other words, you never stop forgiving. If hebrews 6 says that we can lose our salvation, that seems to say that God wants us to be more forgiving than he is, right? And that to me just makes no Biblical sense.
Now, the second school would say, well, he’s not really talking about “losing your salvation.” He’s talking about losing your rewards.
And a friend of mine believes that. One of the very best commentaries on Hebrews makes that argument. And they would argue, that this word doesn’t actually mean lose salvaiton, relaly it just means “fall short” of the reward.
Of course, when you look at 6:9, when the author provides a bit of encouragement, he really seems to imply that he’s talking about salvation, because he says, “We feel sure of better things, things that belong to salvation.”
Further, in vs. 8, it uses the analogy of being burned for the fire. So that view doesn’t make sense.
Another view says, well, he’s talking about somebody who comes really close to salvation, but doesn’t quite make it. That person will never be renewed to repentance.
And again, some really Godly people believe this.
But, look at these descriptions in vs. 4, those who have been “enlightened,” “those who have tasted the heavenly gift,” “those who have shared the holy Spirit, those who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God, and the powers of the age to come.” Can you really look at that list and tell me that that person is not saved? That really all of those things really look like somebody is saved.
Well, I would like to submit to you a fourth view, the view that the situation he is describing of somebody having a true experience of salvation then falling away is an impossibility. In other words, he is saying that this woudl nto happen, becuase this person does not exist. Let me give you a few reasons.
First, look at this sentence. This is a very complex sentence. And this sentence grammatically has an infinitive as a verbal noun. So the subject of the sentence is actually this infinitve in vs. 6, to “renew again.” And look at the word “impossible” is actually the descriptive word for the verbal noun, “to renew again.” So the sentence reads more clearly, “To renew again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in teh Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodnewss of hte word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen awy is impossible.” The emphasis on this is on the impossibility of this thing ever happening.
The second reason we can make this assertion is this word “once.” This is the same word that Hebrtews will later use to describe the atonement of Christ as the “once-for-all” sacrifice. Well, in the same way that Christ is the once for all sacrifice, your conversion is “once for all.” When you’re converted, you’re converted. And therefore, to renew that person again to repentance makes no sense, because salvation is “once for all.”
Again, if you look at this list in vs. 4-6, what you notice is that it is really easy to fake these things on teh outside. You can pretend to have been enlightened to the word of God, you can pretend to have tasted eternity, you can pretend to have shared ni the Holy Spirit, you can pretend to see the ggoodness of God’s Word, you can pretend to have tasted the miracles of sanctification, that is, externally. You can pretend and foole veryone else, and probably yourself, that you are really saved. You can replace enlightened faith with information, you can replace the taste of eternity with self-help. you can trade out a share in teh Holy Spirit for emotional experience, you can give everyone else the impression that you see the goodness of God’s Word, you can fool yourself that you are really saved. But God doesn’t look at the externals, he looks at the heart.
Why does it not make any sense, well, look at teh end of vs. 6, for someone who has already been saved to get saved again would require that we sacrifice Christ again. And Christ has already died the once for all death.
Here’s his point. YOu can’t keep going back and forth between Jesus. You’re etiher saved or you’re not. You’re either in or you’re out. You can’t say, I’ll ahve Jesus today but tomorrow I’ll go back to Judaism. No, you’re either a Christian or you’re not.
The trouble with apostasy is that it is impossible. It is impossible for someone who has truly been regenerate to fall away and renew them to repentance because a truly regenerate person will never fall away. Here’s the point he’s trying to drive at, you cannot renew a person who has fallen away to repentance after they’ve been converted once for all, because that person does not exist. Remember how many times he’s told us, the true, genuine fruit of salvation is perseverance. Remember what Heb 3:6, 14, 4:1 say? They say that true faith lasts. True faith endures. True faith lasts. In other words, if a person does not endure to the end, then the they never were “have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in teh Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodnewss of hte word of God and the powers of the age to come” and they coudl not therefore fall away because they were never saved in teh first place. THis is precisely what 1 John 2:19 says...
And this makes sense of what vs. 7-8 say. They say that the field who produces fruit receives a blessing from God. By contrast, the field that has thorns and thistles produces is good for nothing but burning and judgment. And I find it so interesting, the only other place in the New Testament that uses both “thorns and thistles” in teh same verse, so i think that Hebrews is drawing from it, is the words of Jesus himself, in Matthew 7:16-20 to describe false prophets and people who claim to be saved but are not. The simple reality is that if someone does not produce fruit, specifically the fruit of perseverance, they are not saved. And that’s one way to explain the 15 symptoms of the apostasy.
So before we carry on, I think it’s appropriate that you do as 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, test yourself to see whether or not you are really in the faith. Do you look a lot like the people that Hebrews is talking about? Always wanting to go back to the start, never caring about repentance, never progressing forward, never growing up.
Now, there is another reason why they could have all these symptoms of spiritual malaise…
Diagnosis #2: Spiritual Laziness
Now, we’ll deal with 9-12 largely next week because they do fit better with 13-20. But, I do want us to see that the author does reveal a second reason why they could have these symptoms. ANd that’s given to us in vs. 12. It’s spiritual sluggishness, or laziness.
The spiritually lazy person is of course saved, we see that in vs. 9.
But the spiritually lazy person will still produce fruit vs. 10.
Typically spiritually lazy people make a great start. Their faith bursts forth. They have these seasons of their life where it seems like their faith is firing on all cylinders. But they very quickly resort to the sluggishness and they slack off the gains that they made.
In other words, they always act like babies, but they never grow up.
Now, maybe you are asking me, why would he spend all this time talking about people who are not really saved then? And let me give you two reasons. One, there is the genuine possibility that some of his readers were not really saved. Second, to scare them. He wants to get their attention. He wants to freak them out, to shake them out of their reverie, to put them to work. Because when they are more ready to accept the true diagnosis, then they’re more ready to accept the cure.
Here’s what I genuinely believe, if you are a spiritually lazy person, if you never pursue a deeper walk with jesus, if you never ready our Bible at home, if you never pray, if you never attend Bible studies or become a member, God will discipline that laziness out of you. In other words, God will not let you remain lazy. (12:7-11) ANd that’s cause he loves you. <Use example of Mike Stewart>
So here is why you and I ought to shake off these symptoms, because the sufferings that God will allow to come on the believer are increasingly difficult to sustain if you do not have a strong faith. Listen, suffering is a given in this life. Nobody wants to experience suffering, but nobody can avoid it. The question is, do you want to survive it? Then, get to the weight room. Get to the track. Start training. Start reading yoru Bible. Start praying. Start joining a Bible study. Get yourself to work. Because God will not allow his sons and daughters to be lazy.
Application: Here’s the reality, there are only two reasons that someone could display these kinds of symptoms. Either they are not saved in teh first place or they are lazy. So if you have these symptoms, you’re eitehr dead or lazy. And the question is, what are you going to do about it?
So let me ask you, are you saved? Have you really been enlightened? Have you really shared in the Holy SPirit? DO you really know what it means to delight in Christ? Have you been born again?
Here’s what you have to do if you’ve never done this before. You have to confess to the Lord that you are a sinner. You have to not make excuses, not blame your problems on someone else. You have to won it. you have to take responsibility for it. Sure you’ve had people sin against you. But don’t you think it’s hypocritical for you to blame someone else for what they did to you, but not to take the blame yourself?
But once you confess it to him, you have to ask him for forgiveness. It’s not enough to say, “Okay, I’m a scoundrel.” You need to humble yourself and acknowledge that you’ve done wrong, and receive his forgiveness. You need to put your faith in him.
But maybe you are saved, you’re just sluggish. You’re lazy. And I think if we are honest, all of us can relate to at least some of these symptoms, can’t we? There are times when each of us looks like this. Which means, each one of us needs to take a step back and assess, and we need to work out that sin issue.
So if I were you, I would examine my heart, and specifically confess to the Lord the symptoms that we exhibit. ANd if you do that, please know God is faithful to forgive.
BUt when you do that, you should ask the Lord to help you not be lazy. Ask him to remove the sluggishness from your heart.
ANd if I were you, I would ask myself, what is one way that I can grow more in my walk? Maybe you need to make a commitment to coming to the Wednesday night Bible Study. Maybe you need to make a commitment to reading your Bible once a day. Maybe you think, “I need to become a member.”
Here’s the reality, God is going to discipline you out of your laziness one way or another. You can either embrace it before it happens, be proactive, get teh help you need now, or you can learn teh painful way. I know which one I want.
Conclusion: I was on the phone this week, and I was talking to a life long friend of mine. And he was asking how things were going with Calvin. And I told him that he was having trouble sleeping because he was going through a mental leap. And I told him, but there’s not really an alternative, it’s not like I don’t want him to grow and develop. I do think sometimes, God feels the same way about our maturity sometimes. God wants us to grow up. He knows its painful. He wants us to be grown ups. He wants us to be wise. And there are some necessary steps that have to happen if we’re going to grow up. First, we have to be born again. We’ll never mature if we’re not regenerate. We will never be mature if we are not disciples first. But if we’re going mature, we’re going to have to throw off our laziness. We’re going to have to step out of our sluggishness. We’re going to have to get away from our lackadaisicalness. We’re going to have to grow up.