It has been on my mind for some weeks to write you a few lines in pursuance of the correspondence in the columns of the magazine re the exposition of Hebrews 6 in the September issue, which for some reason did not reach me. I am in the throes of getting ready to leave for India in a few days so my time is rather limited but I believe it would be a help if the portion was viewed in the light of the different pronouns used in vs. 4-8. The whole parenthesis may be divided into seven paragraphs.
Ch. 5:11-12 The pronoun “we” refers to the writers or the writer, whom I take to be Paul. The “ye” are doubtless believers who had ‘become’ such as needed to be taught elementary teaching again. They had “become” babes. These verses are a sharp rebuke.
5:13-14 These verses draw a parallel between what is true in the natural as in the spiritual. The verses are a simple analogy.
6:1-3 are a stern exhortation to go to perfection. This is not to be thought of as an attainment or an effort, but of submission to the Spirit’s teaching to be carried on to perfection. The word perfection is the same as that rendered full growth in 5:14, and the same as found in 7:11-19, 9:9, 10:1-14.
The portion should be compared with Galatians 4. The recipients of the Hebrew letter had relapsed into Judaism as is evident from a reading of Acts 21:20-21.
The exhortation is go on to the perfection there is in Christ as is expounded in Chapter 7-10. When the cloud lifted, as recorded in Numbers 10:11 and the children of Israel journeyed, the Sinai site became an abandoned site. So Judaism with its elementary lessons is an abandoned site.
6:4-8. In these verses, we have a change of pronouns from the “we” and the “ye” to “those” and “they.” Clearly the readers are not in view as is evident from the fact that the pronoun “ye” is used from v. 9 on, and “us” in v.8.
Of Hebrews 6:1. Kelly writes. “It is not an attainment, but simple faith in the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, in a word, Christianity. Entrance by faith into the work that He has done is full growth.”
Without taking time to consider the various explanations given of these verses 4-8, I will simply draw attention to the fact that in Israel there were two groups. In the Epistle to the Romans they are referred to as “The remnant according to the election of grace” and “the rest.” There were those who availed themselves of the offer of salvation based upon the fact that the crucifixion was charged as manslaughter…” I wot that through ignorance ye did it…” They are in the city of refuge v.18. and are perfectly secure. But “the rest” are charged by Stephen with being the murderer of the Lord Jesus, and for murderers there was no access to the city of refuge. In connection with this group, this company referred to as “those” three things are brought before us.
1. Their plight. This is described and illustrated.
a. Described. It is impossible to renew them to repentance. This word cannot be diluted as may be seen from its other usages in the Epistle. It is impossible for God to lie, etc.
“The word “renew” does not signify to renew again, or change, but to make new” (J.N. Darby).
Their judgment was irrevocable. They had committed the unpardonable sin. This is illustrated in the case of those of whom we read in Numbers 14. 14:2, 28-29.
b. Illustrated (v.8): The land which produced nothing but thorns and briers is rejected, no longer to be cultivated. Its end is to be burned.
2. Their privileges: These are also described and illustrated.
a. Described: Five are listed. Note should be taken of what is not said of them. It is not said that they are born again or justified or reconciled or cleansed.
With regard to the word “taste” it is generally agreed that the expression “tasted of the powers of the age to come” refers to the miracles performed by the Lord as being the evidence of credentials of His Messiahship and thereby the nation tasted of that which would characterize the Kingdom age, as prophesied in Isaiah 35:5. His three and a half years of ministry with its miraculous healings, etc. were a true and genuine taste of what the Kingdom age would have brought them. The Lord tasted death, in all its bitterness and pain. But it is to be remembered that the period during which His body was in the grave was a short period. It was not a permanent condition.
No other generation since that one has ever tasted such powers. They had been enlightened by the ministry of the lamp of prophecy, the ministry of John, by the ministry of the Lord. They had tasted of the heavenly gift, the fulfilment of Isaiah “to us a Son is given.” They had been partakers of the Holy Spirit as the Lord by the Spirit had worked miracles. In Hebrews ch. 4 specific reference is made to “that generation” the one that had come out of Egypt, a very highly privileged generation. And in Matthew 11 and 12 the Lord refers to “this generation” which I suggest are the ones in view in Hebrews 6:4-6. They were the most highly privileged generation in all Israel’s long and checkered history.
b. Illustrated. vs. 7-8. The land that was rejected had received the rain and care that the other had, but it is specifically stated that only when fruit is produced that they “receive blessing from God.” That wicked generation had received the rain but had not produced fruit. On the contrary they produced briers and thorns, the fruit of the curse.
3. Their persistent sin. This is also described and illustrated. (a) Described: It is not “if they fall…” but having fallen. The tense is aorist. The word is not to apostatize, but is the same as in Romans 11:11-12. As Mr. W. E. Vine points out in his exposition of Words. (b) Illustrated: They crucify…The tense is continuous. “The change of tense in verse 6 implying continuous action is significant” (Gr. Thomas).
6:9-15. In these verses the recipients of the letter are again in view. Concerning them great confidence is expressed as there was manifest in their lives the things that accompany salvation — the triple graces — love, hope and faith. The “you” of verse 9 are in a totally different category to the “those” of verse 4.
6:15-20. In these verses the “heirs of the promise” are those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them. In the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle differentiates between the children of the flesh and the children of the promise. It is these two groups, I suggest, are in view in this chapter. The “those” of verse 4-6 are the children of the flesh, and the “you” of verse 9 and the “us” of verse 18 are the children of the promise.
In order not to encroach too much on your space I have not considered the portion as fully as it should be. But I hope that enough has been said to make clear what I believe to be the only satisfactory explanation of this controversial portion.
With sincere Christian greetings to all the readers of the Food for the Flock, and seeking your fellowship in prayer for the work in India as I once again go to that needy land.
By great grace,