Welcome to the Pew, open your bibles to Hebrews 6:4, we start our study with these next few verses. Some have the opinion that these verses, (4-8) should be considered as one of the most terrible passages in scripture. Who can possibly say that another person is beyond the forgiveness of God? That is one of the challenges of the verses we will read through this week. We will add a new word to our layman’s vocabulary, apostate, look at the word enlightened from a New Testament perspective and read words of warning that are surrounded by hope.
There is a pattern here familiar to Hebrews: a stern warning vv. 4-8, followed by words of encouragement and hope, vv. 9-12. One commentary notes an unusual point in that in the preceding unit vv. 1-3 there are words of encouragement. This produces the effect of a warning surrounded by positive and affirming words, which in this context makes vv. 4-8 stand out even more. To add to the difficulty of these verses they are not to taken as a description of the current condition of those to whom this is being addressed; if it were, these people would not be able any longer to hear it. The intention is that would be their fate should they turn their backs on the faith.
We must not let the word impossible become the center of the message being given here. There is an alternative here to not let the enlightenment of baptism be taken from us by the sins of the world. There is a list of good things that this enlightenment brings to a Christian life. Christians have the free gift of the forgiveness of God, they have the Holy Spirit, whose presence and power will guide and enable them to be good stewards of the Gift. In God’s word they have found the truth and meaning of life. They remind us that Christians are having the opportunity to experience now the blessings of living in a faith centered world, they have been given a foretaste of the joys of eternity. Then, without warning comes the warning … there are those who will reject all this and in times of hardship, they will become Apostates, those who rejected the faith and will find it impossible to renew their repentance. These verses lay upon the heart the unbelievable possibility that those who have fallen away, can never find their way back to God’s all forgiving love. Many of the commentaries I have read about these verses try to find a way around this word impossible. Erasmus, a Dutch reformer preferred the sense that it should be taken as being difficult almost to the point of impossibility. Then we have the writing of the German scholar Johannes Bengel, that what might seem impossible for us was possible for God’s mercy and grace. Bible and scripture study always leads us to the footprints of history left by those who walked in the day. It is an historical fact that this was written in an age of persecution and therefore apostasy would be the supreme sin. There is another thought that is disturbing also here in these verses. Throughout all history and in times of persecution people have always denied or turned away from something to save their lives, even to the point of denying Christ. To bring this a little closer to home, how many times have we denied or let slide our Christian values and faith because of relationships in family, job or just those around us? Could we as has been suggested, counted our lives and comfort dearer to us than Jesus Christ?
These verses are perhaps a condemnation of those who love life more than they do Christ. Most all writings concerning these verses agree that they were not intended to be built up into a doctrine that professes no forgiveness for post-baptismal sin. It should make us aware of the serious nature and intent of baptism, an enlightenment that says we choose loyalty to Christ over those things of this world. These first few verses presents an impossibility, There are three others in this letter to the Hebrews. Next week we will read through verses 9-12. It is impossible for God not to love, forgive and have mercy on you…. But without faith it is impossible to believe.
Come back next week,
Life is Good