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Further Reading Resources for you - Hebrews
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Going on to Spiritual Maturity.
1,2. Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Having expressed his sorrow about the lack of spiritual growth in his hearers, Paul wants to help them progress in their understanding of the Christian faith. At their conversion they were instructed in the "fundamental teachings" (or "elementary principles") of our faith. These were: that we must repent from our sin which leads to death; we must turn from any false hope of being saved by works or ritual; we must embrace the truth of salvation through faith in Christ alone; baptism, what it represents and why we do it; laying on hands whether in healing, or for the baptism of the Holy Spirit or appointing to ministry; the resurrection of Christ; and the future resurrection of believers to eternal life and of unbelievers to eternal judgment.
3. And we will do this, if God permits.
As God granted sufficient grace and grasp of the truth to the Hebrew believers, Paul would be able, by his spiritual teaching, to lead them further on in God, until they attained "perfection", that is, spiritual maturity.
The Danger of Falling Away.
4,5. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.
At first glance one may wonder why Paul starts his teaching with the danger of falling away. The reason is clear : if the Hebrews Christians would not go on with God, the alternative is going back from God.
The danger of this cannot be over emphasized. If someone who is at one time enlightened to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6) and has experienced (tasted) the heavenly gift of salvation in Christ and has been made a sharer in, or associated with, the Holy Spirit and has experienced the saving power and ability of the word of God in their lives, and the miraculous powers of the world to come, which are made known to us by the foretaste of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) ; should they fall away (forsake Christ), it is impossible for them to be restored again.
This was certainly a warning to those Jewish Christians who had been influenced by the Pharisees who insisted that they must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. To leave Christ behind and return to the old covenant would be a step back from freedom to bondage (Gal. 4:9).The same could be said of anyone returning to the old life after Christ has set them free.
6. And then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
This statement reveals how despicable turning from Christ is. It is to re-crucify the Son of God. Of course, it is not actually possible for Christ to die again, but in effect backsliders are saying, as the people of Jerusalem did "I don't want Jesus in my life, take him away, crucify him! We will not have this man to rule over us!" Since they deny him as Lord they regard him as dead - recrucifed. By doing this they publicly shame him, for all men knew that they were once his follower and now have chosen to live without him. There could be no greater insult or blasphemy.
7,8. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
In an illustration from nature, Paul shows how ground which receives frequent rain showers, and produces food for the farmer is blessed by God. But if that same ground, after all that has been done for it fails to produce anything but thorns and thistles, it will be rejected as useless, fit only to be burned, which is exactly what will happen to it. The figure is obvious. To turn our backs on God's blessing and show contempt for his goodness (the attitude of the backslider) will lead to eternal fire. Jesus said the same thing in John 15:6.
9. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.
Although the Christians in Judea were not where God wanted them to be, Paul encourages them that their case was not irretrievable. By patient prayer and teaching Paul hoped to see the situation turn around, and to see the believers going on with God once again.
10. For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
They had shown the signs of a genuine salvation, in the love they had shown for the Lord and his people by ministering to the saints, a work of charity which they continued up to the present moment. A righteous God would not forget or overlook this.
11. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.
However, Paul warns them against spiritual indolence. He wants the believers to show all diligence about their salvation (2 Peter 1:10), holding on firmly to their hope in Christ to the end and not moved away from the truth of the gospel (Col. 1:23). Paul had seen many begin the Christian walk but not continue. Some went on with God for many years, only to go away from the Lord at last, such as Demas who loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10).
12. So that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
If we want to go on with God then we must not be slothful, but copy the example of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The Certainty of God's Promise.
13-16 When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute.
Abraham is such an example. God promised to bless Abraham in every way, but particularly with a son who would give him many descendants. When God made this promise to Abraham he took an oath. This is the common practice of men. If they want to settle anything they take an oath in the name of someone greater than they, and this is often accepted. Indeed in a court of law men are still required to take an oath, and this is accepted. Since God had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself.
Abraham received the word of God and rejoiced in faith even before he saw its fulfillment. In spite of many problems, and the situation seeming opposed to what God had said, he kept on believing that God would keep his promise. Such persistent faith led to his experiencing the fulfillment of those promises, as Isaac was born. At no point did Abraham abandon his faith.
17. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath.
God gave an oath to show to men that his purpose was immutable i.e. unchanging and immovable. Having given his son for all men, God will save forever those who trust in him - not if or but or maybe- for all God's promises are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).
18. So that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.
This assurance involves a double security. Firstly, it is impossible for God to lie. Secondly his oath taken in his own name, provides us who have fled for refuge in Christ from our sin and God's wrath with a powerful consolation or strong solace. We could liken it to an impregnable harbor perfectly sheltered from the angry storm, or a lifeline which cannot break, in the hands of a rescuer who cannot fail.
19. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain.
Paul likens it to an anchor, not for a ship, but for the soul. Paul had reason to know about anchors on his voyages. There was an occasion where anchors failed to support his ship in a storm and he was wrecked off Malta. But the anchor of our souls is sure (reliable) and steadfast (firm, safe). Our Saviour has already entered into the presence of God. "Within the veil" signifies the truly holy of holies in heaven. Christ our surety has already gone there and ever lives there to intercede for us.
20. Where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Paul calls Christ the forerunner - the one who goes before. Jesus has not only entered God's presence himself, but has made the way for us (through him) that we might enter heaven also. Having established this, Paul once again returns to his earlier theme, that Christ has been made our high priest after the order of Melchisedek - one who represents us unchangeably and eternally.
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