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Joined: 2009/11/7
Posts: 1484

 The Purpose of Hebrews

Greetings Saints,

I wrote this in response to a discussion my cousin started online about Hebrews 6:4-8. The primary question this is in response to is who is this passage addressed to, believers or unbelievers. This is also a response to whether the Apostles had already tasted of the New Covenant life (Heb 6:4) when they were sent out two by two in regard to the fate of Judas. This second area is at the end.

I would appreciate your prayerful responses to this. I know from my own study that the Lord answers questions we don't think we are asking as He brings us to obedience. I prayerfully wait what the Spirit leads you to give.



The overarching theme of Hebrews is found in 2:1-4,

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."

Again this is written to Jewish saints where the Holy Spirit, through the writer, is warning them to not take the New Covenant as they had taken the Old.

In chapter three we are faced with the issue of unbelief that kept the people from obeying the call to hear from the God directly in Sinai at the giving of the Law. At this time they were unwilling hear the Word of God from the Word. This is why in Deuteronomy, Moses prophetically complains that he wishes that all of the house of Israel were like himself but that they would later receive a prophet, like unto himself, to whom they must listen.

In this chapter the theme of entering in to God's rest is also included. This rest is what we now know as being free from walking after the flesh and walking according to the Spirit. Walking according to the Spirit produces the Fruit of the Spirit against which there is no Law. Because the Israelites did not combine their hearing with faith, which produces obedience, they were unable to enter this rest. Their hearts were going astray, wandering off after their own passions.

"Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, ..." (Heb 4:1-3a)

In verse two we see that they too had the Gospel preached to them. It sounds funny to us who think of the Gospel as only being given with the coming of Christ Jesus. However, we know that Abraham who came before the Law was redeemed by faith in the Word of God. You may say Abraham didn't have the Word of God. That is a faulty understanding of what the Word of God is. The Scripture we have been blessed with and which many have given their lives to protect and share is only a history of the Word of God. John 1 states that the Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ is the Word and those who merely believe the testimony of the written word do not receive salvation, in John 5, Jesus says to the Pharisees,

"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:36-40)

Jesus Christ makes a clear distinction between Himself and the word He speaks. Elsewhere He states that He will not judge those listening to Him but the words He has spoken. When a person accepts the testimony of the Scriptures, he believes the One who gave them. This is the source of the problem the Jewish believers faced. They had been brought up to revere Scriptures but they did not reverence God in the same manner. People who grow up in the Church and are fed the Scriptures from a young age face this same challenge, they have the testimony about the Word of God but they must believe on and walk in what Jesus Christ says about Himself.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb 4:12,13)

This passage is generally understood to refer to the Scriptures but that description falls short. We know from Revelations that when Christ Jesus returns on the white horse, name written on His leg and He has a sharp double edged sword coming from His mouth. Through out the ministry years on Earth, it is clear time and again that He divided people and revealed the intentions of their hearts. In Romans 8:27 it says,

"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Rom 8:27)

The 'he' referenced here can be no other than Jesus Christ who bears petitions for the saints before the Father, the same one who in Heb 4:12 'judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.'

The next passage we will look at is 5:11-14,

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 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. 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." (Heb 5:11-14)

This is evidence that these were immature Christians because they have not built on the foundation of the elementary truths of God's word by faith. But faith in the word of Jesus Christ means more than credal agreement but obedience there of,

"Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:23-26)

Why had these people not grown? Why were they still immature even though they ought to be teachers? It was because they love their life in this world, thus they were not where the Father wanted them. If the seed had not been planted in the lives of these people, they had no option but to bear fruit but because there is a seed, they are accountable.

The next point is the passage this discussion began with, Hebrews 6:4-8. From the preceding passages and then in verse nine, we clearly know that the warnings are addressed to believers. The remainder of that paragraph makes it clear that they are to continue to walk in faith, producing good work 'that accompanies salvation' (Heb 6:9b).

Once again in Hebrews 10 it reads,

"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb 10:26-31)

This is the same principle found in 6:4-8 and this is clearly addressed to those who have entered the New Covenant who have received the Son of God, the blood of the covenant and the Holy Spirit. This is not American Christianity, this is Biblical Christianity. Those who do not continue to the end are disqualified and do not enter into eternal life.

Chapter 11 bears witness to these 'young' saints of what it means to press on in faith. Each individual bears witness to a life ultimately propelled by faith in the Word of God, the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Were these great saints mentioned in Hebrews 11 without sin? No they were not, not even Abraham the father of the faith. They are then told to endure hardship as discipline because God is treating them as sons (Heb 12:7). The purpose of the discipline is found here,

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14)

Finally, 12:28 explains the purpose for tying the exhortations to press on and all the descriptions of the glory of Jesus and workings of the New Covenant,

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'" (Heb 12:28,29)

Please understand that this did not come by my own natural understanding. This past year the Baptist church I have been a part of studied Hebrews but in the 8 months prior to the study, the Holy Spirit lead me to study Hebrews on my own every Sunday. Though I gained much at that time it was only when I sat down to write this response that the Lord lead me to the specific passages in Hebrews and the other citations which were often different than I had expected. The Word of God is living and He is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us according to what He hears from the Word.

In response to the question about Judas and Hebrews 6:4,

"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age"

It is not clear from the texts in Matthew, Mark and Luke whether they had the Holy Spirit as we understand it now to be in us. John 14:15-17 sheds more light on this though,

 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17)

It is clear hear that the Holy Spirit was on them, akin to how it was on King Saul, King David, and even Samson but it was not in them at this point. This is still an Old Covenant type of relationship to the Spirit. So, no, Judas did not experience internally what is described in this passage. The other apostles had the Spirit upon them too but they were still unable to understand the spiritual truths that Jesus Christ was teaching them over the three and a half years. This anointing was ongoing because we know from Mark 9, that after the Transfiguration that other disciples had tried to cast out the demon in the young before Jesus returned.

I hope that answers your questions satisfactorily.

 2010/1/22 5:07Profile

Joined: 2008/4/12
Posts: 1306
Hampshire, UK

 Re: The Purpose of Hebrews

Hi Jeremy,

Your thoughts on Hebrews are interesting and I would tend to agree with your conclusions. I too have looked long and hard at this epistle and came to a similar opinion.

I recently got hold of a Newberry Reference Bible, which gives all the greek grammer (tenses/moods etc) and decided to tackle Hebrews 6:4-6 again with this resource and greek lexicons. The result was I arrived at a translation as follows (not too dissimilar to the KJV).

Heb 6 v.4-6....
"It is impossible, once having been enlightened and having tasted the heavenly gift and having been partakers of the Holy Spirit and having tasted the precious spoken word of God and the dynamic power of the coming age and having turned aside (onto another path), to renew again to repentance, crucifying the Son of God again, exposing Him to public disgrace".

Note the past tenses, that they HAVE partaken of and also HAVE turned aside. I think as you point out this is talking to those Jewish Christians who have turned back to Judaism having known the power and blessing of the Gospel, but the priciple can also apply to Gentile Christians who turn away from the truth. It indicates to me that they partook of the gospel, but also soon departed, so I would agree with your'young believers'.

I think the parable of the sower depicts the same situation in the seed on the rocky ground, i.e. a person who receives the word and spouts up quickly, but then falls away due to having no root.

It would seem that from this passage in Hebrews 6 that there is a dangerous place for someone to conciously turn away having received the truth and then not be able to find that place of repentance, as also is said about Essau in Hebrews 12:16-17 and also Hebrews 10:26-29 as you have already pointed out.

These difficult passages are good to challange us and cause us to be serious in our walk of faith. It is too easy to explain away these passages as meaning something less or not applying to us. We do a great harm to God's word when we try and expalin away things that either we don't like or don't fit our doctinal position. Better to adjust our doctrine to fit the hard sayings, than to do the opposite!


 2010/1/22 13:16Profile

Joined: 2009/4/5
Posts: 2010
Joplin, Missouri

 Re: The Purpose of Hebrews

Jeremy and Heydave: I think I would agree with your assessment of Hebrews 6:4 and Hebrews 10:26-31. I have spent some time studying these scriptures myself.

It is interesting the recurring discussions we have over different points of theology. One of these is the classic eternal security -vs- conditional immortality argument. I have come to realize these verses speak very directly to this topic.

It is clear that if a person turns his back on salvation that there remains no more sacrifice for sin, Hebrews 10:26. Hebrews 6:4 says it is impossible to renew them to repentance. If we really believed that this scripture spoke to any individual action of sin, lying for example, then we are all without hope. These scriptures then shoot down the idea of being able to lose your salvation each time you commit an action of sin. But they also shoot down the idea that one can never lose his salvation.

Sin hardens our hearts toward God. Every time we choose to disobey, we must harden ourselves against the dealings of the Holy Spirit. We can eventually come to a place where we will deny our salvation. But the writer of Hebrews pins some very specific conditions on this denial. A baby Christian does not qualify. Hebrews 10:38-39 say this is a drawing back into perdition.

I think your statement about Hebrew believers turning from salvation through grace and walking back into the old covenant is probably accurate. If you look at the book of Hebrews as a whole, I think you will find the primary theme to be the contrast between the old covenant and the new. Paul (I believe) shows clearly the passing away of the old covenant and priesthood and the establishment of the new. The passing of the law and the revelation of salvation by grace. In this context, the statement about Hebrew believers makes sense. But, I agree that this also applies to anyone who turns back and denies Christ. Again, however, we need to look carefully at the qualifications for this apostasy listed in Hebrews 6:4-5.

Great post.



 2010/1/23 17:58Profile

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