Summary: But we are persuaded better things of you.
THE IMPOSSIBLE PROPOSITION
The Hebrew Christians were not unfamiliar with persecution (Hebrews 10:32-35). Perhaps this was why some of them were inclined to fall away (Hebrews 6:6)? “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you,” the writer assures, “and things that accompany salvation” (Hebrews 6:9). ‘We are not of those who draw back to perdition,’ he asserts, ‘but of those who believe to the saving of the soul’ (Hebrews 10:39).
The writer had been comparing and contrasting the respective high priesthoods of Aaron and Jesus (Hebrews 5:1-10). He was in full flow, ready to demonstrate how Jesus’ high priesthood is ‘of the order of Melchisedec’ (cf. Psalm 110:4), when he suddenly realised that he was addressing “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11) spiritual “babes” (Hebrews 5:13). Sometimes preachers need to take their congregations ‘back to basics’ (cf. Hebrews 5:12) before moving on to meatier teaching - so Melchisedec would have to wait until Hebrews 7.
The “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1) are man’s efforts to win salvation by his own keeping of the law of God. This the Hebrew Christians had left behind - but were tempted to fall back into (Hebrews 6:6). “Repentance from dead works” is twinned with “faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1; cf. Acts 20:21). This is where the gospel begins: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 3:2).
“Resurrection of the dead” and “eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:2cd) are things in which both Jews and Christians should believe. The resurrection of Jesus and His returning to judge add a specific Christian content (cf. Acts 17:31).
“Baptisms” is in the plural (Hebrews 6:2a). Whilst we could talk about the difference between the baptism of John, and baptism into Jesus, this form of the Greek word is the same as is used in Hebrews 9:10, where it refers to the ceremonial washings of Judaism. “Laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2b) is not without Christian content, but for Hebrew Christians looking back could also refer to the sacrificial offerings of the Temple (e.g. Leviticus 4:29).
It is this specific Jewish background which we should bear in mind when grappling with Hebrews 6:4-8. The writer is demonstrating the untenability of even contemplating a return to Judaism. For these Hebrew Christians, that is what it is to “fall away” (Hebrews 6:6). The language is strong (cf. Hebrews 10:26-29; 2 Peter 2:20-22), but mercifully punctuated with compassion (Hebrews 6:9; cf. Hebrews 10:39).
It is almost as if the writer is using an “impossible” proposition (Hebrews 6:4) to shake his readers out of what he suspects they might (or some of them might) be considering. They had been “enlightened”, they had “tasted” Jesus as the true manna, they had shared in the “heavenly gift”, the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4). They had “tasted the goodness of the word of God” and “the dynamic of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5).
How could they be renewed to repentance if they chose to “fall away” (Hebrews 6:6a)? If they rejected God’s Son it was just as bad as if they were joining the baying crowd who cried, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!’ (Luke 23:21). To return to Judaism was to return to types and shadows, and to put Jesus “to an open shame” by rendering the substance of what He has accomplished impotent (Hebrews 6:6b). It would be to ‘despite the Spirit of grace’ (cf. Hebrews 10:29).
There follows the analogy of two fields (Hebrews 6:7-8). Notice how it ends: “that which bears thorns and briers is rejected and NIGH unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:8; cf. John 15:6). He continues, “BUT, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak” (Hebrews 6:9).
Jesus said, ‘All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me and he who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37); and, ‘of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day’ (John 6:39). The Apostle Paul said, ‘I am persuaded that NOTHING shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39).
Jesus also said, ‘Those whom You gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled’ (John 17:12). The Apostle Peter said that ‘Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place’ (Acts 1:25). The Apostle John said, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us’ (1 John 2:19).
The writer to the Hebrews concludes that those who are inclined to fall away are NIGH unto cursing (Hebrews 6:8); but he is “persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak” (Hebrews 6:9). May it be true of us that: ‘We are not of them that draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul’ (Hebrews 10:39). Amen.