"Don't Shrug Off the Warning Signs"
Sometimes in life warning signs can be glaring in our face and so blatant that we must deal with them. And yet there are other times where they are subtle and we often miss them. A few weeks ago I went to a baseball game in Denver Colorado and outside the baseball park was a gentlemen who had a little both set up right where people had to stop to cross the street. At his both he had a sign that said, “Jesus Saves.” He had a microphone and one speaker, and in a soft voice over and over again he would call out, “Jesus Saves.” As people stopped to wait to cross the street you could hear them say, “Yeah Jesus Saves.” There were college students who made fun of the guy, people on cell phones were explaining they were out front by the guy with the sign. But, there was none who stopped to heed the warning.
Today we come to a passage in Hebrews about the warning of Apostasy. Let’s get a working definition of what this word means. “This is a deliberate abandonment of the faith once professed.” Today there are many people who have a lot of knowledge about Christ and can say the right things about the gospel without truly being followers of Christ.
As we wade into our passage today it is important for you to know that these verses here in Hebrews that we are going to look at are some of the most difficult passages to explain. Down through history there have been many debates over these several verses, but I don’t want us to skip over them so let us tackle them head on.
Who does this warning belong too? Was it to Christians or non-Christians or both? The main point is don’t shrug off salvation or neglect it. Many people in this early church were clearly hearing the good news about Jesus but they shrugged it off, and neglected salvation offered in Christ. There was little spiritual growth and people were abandoning the faith to go back to Judaism.
1. The Warning!
1. The Warning!
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
We should read this passage here as a warning, but the waring was not for the regenerate or saved people. Here are author lays out a caution for individuals who have tasted the things of Christ, but had not become genuine believers. Our author lays out four Greek participles for us.
-Having once been enlightened. Here we see those who have been exposed to God’s saving light through hearing the gospel proclaimed. Many people even today hear biblical truth explained to them, however understanding the gospel is not the same as salvation. Many people today have a head knowledge, but their hearts have never been changed.
-Have tasted the heavenly gift. Tasting here has the sense of consciously experiencing something. All people whether they realize it or not have experienced the goodness of God, but that does not mean they are saved.
25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
In the days of Christ’s earthly ministry there were many people who experienced the Lords work. There were folks who saw the gifts of his healing and who even were healed themselves. People saw Christ cast out demons and there were those who ate the food He created miraculously. Wether this gift refers to Christ or the Holy Sprit tasting or experiencing either one was not the same as salvation.
-Have shared in the Holy Spirit. Many versions here use the words partakers of the Holy Spirit. This would mean that the people have demonstrated some of the new life attributes to the work of the Holy Spirit. They showed signs of being a Christian and even identified themselves with Christ and His people. They looked like believers, but were not truly saved.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
-Have tasted the goodness of the word of God. Here is the last phrase our author uses. These people understood the gospel, yet even in their understanding they do not have true spiritual life, and so they fell away.
In falling away here as we see from verse six, we understand that these people returned to their old way of life. They returned to their former state of Judaism. It is important that we understand the context here. So, remember that these Jews were supposedly converting to Christianity, but then would repudiate Christ or denounce Christ and go back to a works based faith. (Notice verses 1-2 of Hebrews chapter 6) What these people were doing is re-crucifying the Son of God and holding him in contempt. They were agreeing with the fact that He should have died on the cross and becoming enemies of the Lord.
We have all know people today who made public professions of faith in Christ. They may have got involved in a church or served somewhere. They showed signs of Christians growth and maturity yet ultimately fell away.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
2. The Analogy!
2. The Analogy!
7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
The author now provides us with this illustration on agricultural. We see this picture of land receiving rainfall like we got a lot of last night. We read about this a lot in the Old Testament. Isaiah the prophet tells us in Isaiah chapter 5 a metaphor of rainfall causing crops in a field to grow. He helps us to understand that Israel is the field and the rain is the Word of God. Isaiah also warns that an unproductive field where rain has fallen is worthless.
We come full circle to Hebrews chapter six where we see something very similar. This illustration starts off well. When the ground drinks the rain it produces vegetation. That is its purpose. This results in a blessing from God. However there is another side to this analogy. If it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless. The phrase thorns and thistles brings to mind the curse we see back in Genesis chapter 3 on Adam. Because of Adam’s sin the land no longer yields produce without man working hard and cultivating the land.
In the Gospel of Matthew and specifically chapter 13 we also see something similar to this passage. This is the parable of the sower and the seed.
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
These soil types represent four different patterns of response.
-The first represents hard-heartedness. No way this Jesus stuff is not for me.
-The second response represents the shallow heart. It can produce immediate signs of life, but there is no root. When the sun comes up, the plant withers and dies.
-The third soil represents the one who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the deceitfulness of sin and this world choke it all out.
-The fourth soil is what we are going for. This type of ground is where the seeds fell and the soil produced grain.
Church my point today is that under pressure, under persecution, or simply by all the distractions of this world, there will be many who claim to know Christ and follow him, but will go back to the world. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. People who refuse the gospel over and over again will someday justly bear the judgment of God.
As believers today, this should be a very humbling reminder to stay the course and keep following the Lord. Don’t give up, don’t turn back to the world. As a pastor, the author of Hebrews is addressing this problem that came up in the church. Sadly, it continues to be a problem today. Continue to faithfully follow the Lord church.
3. The Reassurance!
3. The Reassurance!
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Up till now the author of Hebrews has shown us the way that many unbelievers in the church had rejected the gospel. By doing this, he pastorally exhorts the true believers in the church now to a faithful obedience and maturity in Christ.
Is this you today? Do you have a desire to be faithful and grow in the Lord? Everything now begins to change as we come to verse 9. Clearly the author uses the work Beloved to communicate the fact that he is talking to believers or Christians. His desire for these believers is that they continue to endure to the end. But how will they do this? Well we see a few ways here that I want to point out.
The author of Hebrews now gives us some encouraging news, so things that are reassuring. The author is certain the good soil of the true believers will produce a wonderful crop.
-The first thing the author points to here is their good work within the church by serving others. The Apostle Paul depended on the church to help him and support his ministry. The church was helping meet needs and serving others. The Christians there were showing their true love for God by serving others in practical ways. This love for others solidified the author’s confidence in them.
-Another catalyst for spiritual confidence is spiritual fruit. When we are being a witness to others and sharing our faith we see that Christ is in us. Our faithful activity as Christians fuels our assurance.
-We also know from previous verses that having an eagerness and diligence to grow in our faith gives us a wonderful confidence.
The last thing I want to quickly point out is the author mentions in verse 12 not to be sluggish. He has already addressed this back in 5:11. There he was getting on to the church for becoming lazy and dull in their hearing. Now he is encouraging the believers to move on and pursue their love for Christ and to faithfully follow Him until the Lord calls them home.
He encourages the church here to be imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises. The book of Hebrews points us to the faithful saints of the Old Testament. Hebrews chapter 11 is the Hall of Fame chapter and we see those who stayed faithful.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
We as believers must face difficulties like many of these faithful saints before us, but we face our difficult days with faith and perseverance.
Let me ask you today, will you earnestly and faithfully follow the Lord today? Will you totally surrender and submit to his ways for your life?
Was is it today that you are holding onto that you need to let go of? What sin are you still codling? Surrender to the Lord today.
2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Pray and Lead into Communion)
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.