"Let us go on," is the opening exhortation of our chapter.
Movement in the right direction is to mark us. We are to leave "the
word of the beginning of Christ," as the marginal reading is, and go on
unto "perfection." If we glance back over the last four verses of
Hebrews 5 we shall see that the point here is that we ought to grow in
our understanding of the faith of Christ. We ought not to be like
children staying year after year in the kindergarten, but advance until
we assimilate the instruction provided for the scholars in the sixth
John the Baptist had brought "the word of the beginning of
Christ." He laid the foundation of repentance from dead works and of
faith toward God." He put baptism in the forefront of His preaching,
and spoke plainly as to eternal judgement. But things had moved on
since his day. Great light shone when Jesus came forth in His ministry;
and then, just as His earthly service closed, in His discourse in the
upper chamber He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. He told His
disciples that He had "yet many things to say" unto them, but that they
could not bear them then. He added, "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of
truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth." (John 16: 13). By
the time the Epistle to the Hebrews was written ALL truth had been
revealed, for it was given to Paul by his ministry to "fulfil the Word
of God." (Col. 1: 25). To "fulfil" in that verse means to "fill out
full," or to "complete."
The whole circle of revealed truth then had been completed.
Yet here were these Hebrews still inclined to dwell in their minds
amongst these preliminary things, quite ignoring the fuller light which
was now shining. Are we at all like them in this? In their case it is
not difficult to see where the trouble lay. The special place of
privilege, which belonged to the Jew nationally under the Old Covenant,
had disappeared under the New. True, it only disappeared because a
higher order of blessing had been introduced, so that, when converted,
both Jew and Gentile are brought into privileges quite unknown before.
Yet their hearts clung to the old and exclusive national position, and
consequently they became dull of hearing as regards the fuller truth of
Christianity. In our case we have no national position to maintain, but
there is many a thing which we naturally love and cling to, which is
dispossessed by the light of full and proper Christianity; and there is
very real danger that we may close our eyes against that light in order
to retain the things we love.
Oh, then may we heed this exhortation! May we allow it to
repeat itself over and over again in our hearts-Let us go on! Let us go
on! LET US GO ON! And then let us join the writer of the Epistle in
saying, "This will we do, if God permit."
After this very encouraging word in verse 3, we drop abruptly
into a very dark passage extending from verse 4 to verse 8. Though the
transition is very abrupt it is not without very good reason. If
Christians do not go on they invariably go back; and if it almost seems
as though they will not go on, grave fears are aroused lest
their unwillingness springs from the unreality of their profession; in
which case their going back might proceed to the length of open
apostasy. In the case of a Jew it would do so without fail.
It is apostasy that is contemplated in these verses, not just
ordinary back-sliding-not the true believer growing cold and falling
into sin; not persons, who have once professed conversion without
reality, dropping their false profession and going back into the
world-but that total falling away from, and repudiation of Christianity
root and branch, which is APOSTASY.
No true child of God ever apostatizes, though not a few
professors of the Christian religion have done so. If an Hebrew threw
up his Christian profession and wished to get reinstated in the
synagogue and amongst his own people, what would happen? He would find
that as the price of re-admission he would have to call down a curse
upon Jesus as an impostor. He would have in effect to crucify to
himself "the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." Now to
go to such lengths as that is to bring oneself under the governmental
judgment of God, just as Pharaoh did in the days of old when God
hardened his heart, so that it is impossible to be renewed unto
In verses 4 and 5 it is contemplated that those liable to fall
away may have shared in privileges common to believers in those times,
and that in no less than five ways. We may well ask if it is possible
for anyone to share in this way without being truly converted; and this
question may well be specially urgent as regards the third of the five.
Can it be possible to be a partaker of the Holy Ghost" without being
The answer to that question is, that it is quite possible. Only a true believer can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but all within the circle of Christian profession, whether truly converted or not, partake or share in
the benefits of the presence of the Spirit. A man may be enlightened
without being saved. He may taste the heavenly gift without receiving
it. He may taste the good word of God without digesting it in his
inward parts. He may share in "the powers of the world to come." (i.e.
miraculous powers) without experiencing the real power of the world to
The terrible case of Judas Iscariot furnishes us with an
illustration of this very thing. He walked for over three years in the
company of the Son of God. What floods of light fell upon his path!
What tastes he had of the heavenly gift and of the good Word of God! It
could not be said of course that he was a partaker of the Holy Ghost,
but he was a partaker of the benefits of the presence of Christ upon
earth; and he shared, in common with the other apostles, in those
miraculous powers which are here called "the powers of the world to
come." He was one of the twelve to whom the Lord gave power over
unclean spirits, and of whom it is said, "They cast out many devils and
anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." (Mark 6: 13).
Yet the miracle-working Judas was all the while a "son of perdition"
and not a saved man at all. He fell away and it proved impossible to
renew him unto repentance.
You will notice that the word here, is "impossible" and not "improbable." This
one word is quite sufficient to show that there is no support in this
scripture for the idea of a true believer falling away and being lost
for ever. ALL those who "fall away" in the sense spoken of in this
passage are for ever lost. It is not that they may be, but that they must be; and there would not be a single ray of hope for any back-slider, did it refer to such.
It refers then to the sin of apostasy-a sin to which the Jew,
who embraced the Christian religion without being really converted, was
peculiarly liable. By turning back to his ancient and worn out
religion, thereby utterly condemning and disowning the Lord Jesus, he
proved himself to be utterly bad and worthless ground. The contrast in
verses 7 and 8 is not, you notice, between ground which this season is
fruitful and the same ground which another season is unfruitful, but
between ground which is essentially good and another piece which is
essentially bad. The very form of this illustration supports the
explanation just given of verses 4 to 6. Judas enjoyed "the rain that
cometh oft," yet he only brought forth thorns and briars and was
In verse 9 the writer hastens to assure the Hebrews, to whom
he wrote, that in saying these things he was not throwing doubt upon
the reality of all them, nor even upon the most of them. The opposite
to this was the fact. He stood in doubt of a minority evidently, but he
was assured of the reality of the mass. He discerned in them features
which gave him this assurance. He calls them "things which accompany
There are then certain things which act as a kind of hallmark
upon our Christianity. The hallmark upon a silver article does not make
it silver, but it gives us an official guarantee that it is silver. It
assures us of its genuineness. What then are these things which assure
us of the genuineness of Christians-things which so definitely
accompany salvation that if they be present we know that salvation also
is present? This question is answered in verse 10. And the answer
is-they are many little acts which reveal genuine love for the saints.
Some of us may feel inclined to exclaim:-"How extraordinary! I
should have thought that great acts of faith, great exploits of
devotion to God would better have revealed reality than that." In so
saying, or thinking we should be wrong. Under stress of emotion or
sudden enthusiasm great acts are sometimes accomplished which are no
true index to the heart. It is in these little things that we reveal
our true selves far more truly. Ministering to the saints, who are the
people of God, they showed their love toward God Himself.
It is one thing to minister to a saint because I happen to
like him or her, and quite another to minister to a saint just as a
saint; and it is this latter which is spoken about here. The former is
a thing which might be done by an unconverted person; the latter is
only possible to one who possesses the divine nature. Now this is just
the point here. The things that accompany salvation are the things
which manifest the divine nature; and things which therefore prove the
reality of faith, in a way that the possession of miraculous powers or
the outward privileges of Christianity never can.
Being thus assured of the salvation of the mass of those to
whom he wrote, there is but one word of exhortation at this point. The
writer urges them to go on doing as they had done-to continue
diligently in this good way to the end, in the full assurance that
their hope was not misplaced.
Hope has a very large place in connection with the faith of Christ, just as it had in the bygone dispensation. Then, whether
patriarchs or prophets or just the people of God, they all had their
eyes directed forward to the good things to come at the advent of the
Messiah. Now the good things have been manifested in
Christ-full atonement has been made, our consciences have been purged,
we have received the gift of the Spirit. Yet even so we are not in the
full enjoyment of the good things. For that we await the second coming
of the Lord. What we actually have at the present moment we have in
faith, and we enjoy by the power of the Spirit, for He is the Earnest
of all we shall inherit. We are saved, in hope of all that is to come.
It is very important for us to be clear as to this, and even
more important it was for these converted Hebrews to be clear as to it.
How often did they get reproached by their unconverted relations! How
often taunted with their folly in giving up all the outward glories of
the Mosaic system with its temple, its altar, its sacrifices, its
priesthood-and for what? For a Master whom they could not see, for He
had left them, and for a whole range of things as invisible as He! What
fools they appeared to be! But were they really fools?
They were not. And if instructed in that which our chapter
says they would be able to give very good reason for what they had
done. They would be able to say, "It is really we and not you who are
following in the footsteps of our father Abraham. Promises were made to
him and you seem to have forgotten them, settling down as though
contented with the shadow system of the law, which was given through
Moses as a provisional thing. We have received Christ, and in Him we
have the pledge of the fulfilment of every promise which ever was
given, and we have fresh, and even brighter promises besides."
We need to have a hope which is resting upon a very weld
established basis if we are to hold it with full assurance. It is this
thought which leads to verses 13-18. Abraham stands before us as a
great example not only of faith but of hope also. It was when he had
offered up Isaac, as recorded in Genesis 22, that the promise of
blessing was given, which culminated in "the Seed," which is Christ,
according to Galatians 3: 16. That great promise had behind it not only
the authority which always accompanies the bare Word of God, but also
the added sanction of His solemn Oath.
How beautiful is this glimpse which we have of God, stooping
to consider the feebleness and infirmities which mark even the best of
His creatures! Here are Abraham and the later heirs of the promises.
How easily their faith may waver! How full of uncertainties is the
world in which they find themselves! Then God will condescend to their
weakness and reinforce His Word by His Oath, saying, "By Myself have I
sworn, saith the LORD."
His Word and His Oath. These are two immutable things-things
that never change, never shift, never shake. They establish for us the
immutability of His counsel. Never, never, NEVER, will He fail in any promise He has given, in anything which He has said that He will do.
And all this, you notice, is valid for us today. Verse 18
makes this very clear. What God was for Abraham He is for us. This is
the beauty of these Old Testament unfoldings of God. What He is, He is
in all times and places, and to all. The strong consolation flowing
from these two immutable things is to be enjoyed by us who have
embraced the Christian hope.
The Hebrews are said to have "fled for refuge to lay hold upon
the hope." Why put it thus? Because it would at once carry their minds
back to the regulations given concerning the cities of refuge, in
Those regulations had a typical significance which was exactly
fulfilled in the case of the converted Jew. He was just like the
manslayer who had fled to the nearest city of refuge.
Had Israel's national sin, in crucifying their Messiah, been
reckoned as murder by God there would have been absolutely no hope. All
must have fallen before the avenger of blood. The prayer of Jesus on
the cross was however, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do." That was just as if He had said, "Father, account this sin of
theirs to be manslaughter and not murder." God heard that prayer, so
there was hope even for those who encompassed His death. Consequently
on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached forgiveness for those who would
turn in faith to the risen and exalted Jesus. That day the heavenly
city of refuge was opened and there fled to it three thousand souls.
Multitudes of course did not believe, and consequently did not
flee for safety, and they fell before the avenging Romans when
Jerusalem was destroyed. Their unbelieving descendants in a future day
have to face the great tribulation, and the judgment of God. But those
who have entered the city of refuge have a hope set before them. It is
connected with the moment when Jesus shall come in His glory; when He
will cease to exercise His priestly functions after the pattern of
Aaron and do so after the pattern of Melchizedec. Thus will be
fulfilled the type as to the change of the priest (See Numbers 35: 25).
When that takes place our hopes will be realized with Him in glory, and
on earth it will be the time of jubilee, when every man will go back to
his own proper inheritance.
The Christian's hope is heavenly; therefore it is said to enter into "that within the veil." Within the veil was the holiest of all, typical of the third heaven; that is, the immediate presence of God. That within
the veil was the ark of the covenant, typical of Christ. Now Christ is
entered into the immediate presence of God, and that on our behalf. He
is entered as Forerunner and as High Priest. Our hope being centred in
Him acts as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast. Our hope has
anchored itself already in the glorified Lord Jesus. We are already
anchored to the Person and the place, to whom and to which we are
going. It is as though an outgoing Atlantic liner found herself
securely attached to New York by an anchor pitched in New York harbour,
before ever she had got clear of the English Channel!
The fact that Christ has become our Forerunner guarantees that
we who are the after-runners shall reach the place where He is. And as
High Priest He ever lives to carry us through. That He should be our
Forerunner is amazing grace; for in the East where these customs
prevail the forerunner is a person of no consequence who clears the way
for the important personage who follows after. Think of the Lord Jesus
taking a place like that on our account!