11th October 2022
Read (Hebrews 6v1-8)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
On our last visit to Hebrews we heard the Apostle lament the fact that the Hebrews were still in spiritual infancy and not maturity. They were still on milk when they should have moved to solid food. The Christians addressed by Paul were still failing to grasp the elementary things of Christ (v1). These are the foundational truths of the Christian faith which always form the basis of our growth and maturity.
What are the elementary doctrines of Christ? Firstly, we are told of repentance and faith. When a sinner is converted to Christ they understand the depravity of their sin and they run to Lord seeking His forgiveness. This is repentance. Faith is a receiving and a resting in Christ as He is offered in the Gospel.
Secondly, the Apostle speaks of "washings, the laying on of hands" (v2). In Judaism regular ceremonial washings were common and repeated. But in the days after the cross, the church has been given the gift of baptism which is a sacrament carried out only once. Additionally we continue to observe the laying on of hands when we welcome new elders or perhaps when we pray for others. Baptism should only happen once and so the Apostle's point is that when we receive Christ by faith we enter the church of Jesus Christ. We don't repeat this process, instead we rest in Jesus. He sets us free from repeated works which cannot save.
Thirdly, foundational doctrine is the teaching about the resurrection of the dead and the judgement to come (v2b). Christians know and believe that everyone will be raised to life and will stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Some will then go to everlasting glory while others will see everlasting punishment. These elementary doctrines should not be forgotten but instead they should be built upon. The Gospel is our foundation and from the Gospel flows our maturity.
As Paul challenges these Christians to strive for maturity, he also warns them against apostasy. What is apostasy? Apostasy takes place when someone who professes Christ as their Saviour then proceeds to turn their back on the Lord. They have apostatised. They are apostate.
The Apostle doesn't throw this word around lightly like some do in the modern church. Instead he warns that if a supposed Christian commits apostasy, it is impossible for that individual to be restored again to repentance. Let us be clear, a true Christian cannot fall away. A true Christian cannot commit apostasy. Hear what Jesus said "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out...and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (John 6v37, 39) Jesus will save all of those for whom He died and not one of them will be lost.
But apostasy is real and we must be mindful of it. So in addition to stating that a true Christian cannot fall away, we also stress that there are many who profess Christ who do fall away. Do you remember your best friend in youth group who seemed to love the Lord but now openly mocks him? Or what about the famous preacher who once spoke at conferences but then left his wife and the faith behind?
The Apostle describes these individuals as those who have been enlightened (they have heard the Gospel) and tasted the heavenly gift (they have sat at the Lord's table) and shared in the Holy Spirit (they have witnessed the miraculous work of the Spirit in a local fellowship) and tasted the goodness of God's Word (they have sat under the Word read and preached) and the powers of the age to come (they know of Christ's resurrection and have seen the spiritual resurrection of sinners).
If a so called Christian who has shared all of these blessings proceeds to turn their back on Christ then they have proved their original profession to be false. In the case of the Hebrews, anyone who was to turn back to Judaism from Jesus would prove their profession to be false.
Apostasy makes a mockery of Christ and holds him up to contempt (v6). It says "I've tried Christ but I've decided he's not worth my time." Apostasy is like a field that after the rain only produces thorns and thistles (v8). It is worthless and in the end will know only flames.
What should we do with such a passage? Brothers and sisters pray for Christians who, like the prodigal son, have grown cold and wander. Such individuals may not be apostate. Ask that the Lord will one day graciously call them back to Himself and restore their love for Him. But for others who once professed faith and have departed from that profession...may their example cause you to tremble and to be watchful over your own soul. Stay close to the Lord. Seek the ordinary means of grace. Strive for spiritual maturity and be thankful that the One who has saved you will certainly keep you to the end.
Q75 What is forbidden in the eighth commandment? The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth, or outward estate.