Summary: One of the most sobering warnings in all of Scripture is found in Hebrews 6. There is a great, even awful danger of making an irreversible and eternally destructive choice to abandon Christ. This passage stresses why you don't want to go there.
This past year I faced a bit of a dilemma.
My high school class, the class of 1970, was planning to celebrate its 50-year class reunion. I was invited. Would I go?
That wasn’t the real dilemma. The real dilemma was that my spiritual father was on the organizing committee—yes, the fellow who led me to Christ. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, except that he no longer counts himself to be a Christian. After following Christ for 20 years, leading dozens and perhaps even hundreds of people to Christ Himself, he fell away. And fall from grace has, if anything, been more colossal than his success in following Christ. By all accounts he has committed innumerable unspeakable sins and has resisted all attempts to call him back to the faith. And the main reason I was considering going to the reunion was to attempt to return the favor that He provided me with when we were 17—when he pursued me for Christ’s sake. And I now wanted to pursue him for Christ’s sake.
The question is an example of a larger question that probably affects most of us in one way or another. What is our proper response to those we know who seem to have fallen away from Christ?
Although, that’s not the primary concern of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 6, the subject is at least touched upon. His primary concern, though, in the passage is to again to warn those of us who might be contemplating abandoning Christ ourselves not to even think about it. And in what is no doubt the most controversial, difficult to interpret passage in all of the New Testament, this is what I think he’s saying: Watch out. Don’t fall away or you may make an irreversible spiritual decision with great eternal consequence.
As I looked over my seminary notes from 35 years ago this week, I noticed the professor said that this passage is an exegetical nightmare—that is, it is an absolute nightmare to properly interpret and understand. Biblical scholars are not merely split on what this passage means, they are splintered and smashed into many different pieces because of the great difficulties in interpreting this passage. One commentary I looked at listed at least 10 different suggested interpretations.
So, of course, this morning, I’m going to resolve all those controversies and settle once and for all time what God is really trying to say here. (You should be laughing at this point!) If not, you’re a little naïve. The best I can tell you is I will give it my best shot. And I’m sure that God does have a lesson for all of us this morning—and it is this—Don’t even think about falling away from the faith. The consequences may well be irreversible and deadly.
Now before we go any further, I must simply confess, the subject is also very sobering. As we enter into our meditation on this passage, it’s good to keep a few other passages in mind. For instance, the Parable of the Prodigal Son tells us God is always willing, even incredibly eager, to welcome a straying child back into the fold. And II Peter 3:9 says, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
The writer of Hebrews has just been urging his readers to stop being baby Christians, to graduate from spiritual milk to solid food and so seek to mature in Christ in chapter 5. Now He wants to give them some solid food, some spiritual meat, but is concerned they may not be able to digest it. And so he tells them they must move ahead spiritually—they must leave behind the basics of the Christian faith to move ahead spiritually.
And that’s his point to us—Move ahead spiritually. Make spiritual maturity your goal. Don’t be satisfied to know the basics of the Christian faith. Don’t stand still in your understanding. Always be striving to grow spiritually, and to become mature.
Hebrews 6:1: “Therefore, leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not again laying a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”
Now imagine building a house, but never putting up the super-structure. You start with the foundation, and then go back and lay another foundation on the foundation. Foundation upon foundation upon foundation! Where do you end up in the winter? Without a house to live in! Without walls and roof to protect you from the elements. The reason these believers were vulnerable to apostasy is that after all these years as believers they were still sitting on a foundation rather than in the house that was supposed to be built upon it that would protect them from the dangers of exposure.