Immunized, Pt. 1
Hebrews 6:1-6 – Immunized
Intro: Our passage before us is one of the most debated and controversial passages in all of Scripture. If you have ever thought at all about Hebrews 6, especially verses 4-6, then you know this to be true. Welcome!
Though this is a difficult passage, I want to encourage you with a principle:
Both inside and outside of Christian thought, what appears resolvable, in most cases, with some work, can be boiled down to simplicity.
Hard truths, difficult to grasp and to accept, are at the same time, become easy to grasp once accepted.
Conflicts typically are not intellectual or logical at their core but usually come down to whether someone is willing to exercise faith.
Here are a few Bible-battles that come up over and over again:
- If God is all-powerful, then why did he allow evil into our world?
- How can a good and loving God send people to Hell?
- Is it fair for Hell to be forever?
- Since God is sovereign over who is saved, then how can he hold people accountable to believe?
- How is it fair to require people, to believe, who will grow up in an unreached region of the world? Who will never hear a single presentation of the Gospel?
- Why is Christ the only way for someone to be saved?
- Why do the wicked prosper, while godly Christians suffer?
These are heavy questions, but these are not the only ones. Hebrews 6:1-8, as a single passage, actually brings up a few more equally tough questions. Here are two:
- Can a Christian, fall away and lose his or her salvation?
- Can someone in his or her lifetime come to point of no return where he or she is beyond the reach of God’s grace?
Looking at our text, remember the principle:
What appears resolvable, with some work, along with faith and acceptance, can become simplified.
Now, something being made simple does not necessarily make it easier to swallow.
Still, Scripture was written for Christians to profit and grow from. In this light, remember it is meant to be understood.
I am approaching our text as an expository sermon, my main points come under our two questions I have raised.
Can someone who is truly a Christian, fall away and lose his or her salvation? (vv. 1-5)
a. Consider the audience being addressed
These first three verses address an audience where the author includes himself.
- He says “let us” (v. 1) and “we” (v. 3) in terms of what believers must do.
- Believer needing to transition from milk-drinking to meat-eating.
- They were stuck in the “elementary doctrine of Christ” and needed to literally “be carried on to maturity” (v. 1).
- “Maturity” which is telos, explained over the last two weeks as what Christ himself modeled (trail blazed) for us while He was on earth! (cf. v. 9 “being made perfect”).
Remember 5:14 speaks to a stage where someone becomes discerning with the Word of God.
- Someone who’s spiritual faculties are engaged with Scripture and life.
“Leaving the elementary doctrine of Christ” does not mean to abandon what he or she knows to be true but to build upon it.
- It is not okay to stay in a state of feeding on milk.
- This leads to spiritual stagnation and digression.
- The “elementary doctrine” was not bad just as “milk” is not bad.
- Same “basic principles” from verse 12 - the “oracles” of God.
What is this “elementary doctrine of Christ?” (v. 1). These are the Old Testament stories, prophecies, ceremonies, laws, and poetry.
- These are the direct Christophanies, allusions to, or types of Christ scattered from Genesis to Malachi.
- Whether the burning bush, the ark, or David.
- When the bronze serpent was raised.
- The Scarlet cord dropped outside Rahab’s window.
- Abraham’s son almost sacrificed – while a ram was provided as a substitute.
- Moses pictured Christ.
- Every Lamb with its blood splattered on every doorpost to save the first-born.
- Every Pascal Lamb sacrificed and every scapegoat freed.
- Isaiah’s vision of Christ exalted in chapter 6 and his prediction of the Messiah’s humiliation in chapter 53.
- He is the answer to Genesis 3:15.
- He was the fourth man (one as a son of the gods, Dan. 3:25) in the fiery furnace.
- He’s the Son of Man, will return in the clouds, the ancient of days from Daniel 7.
- He’s the rock in the wilderness, the cloud by day, pillar by night.
- In Joshua he is the Commander of the Army of the LORD (Joshua 5).
No, these stories are not supposed to be jettisoned!
- Jesus is the Advocate in Heaven of Zechariah 3.
- He was pierced for our transgressions! (Is. 53).
- He is the One whom “they look on…him whom they have pierced! (Zech. 12:10).
The Old Testament predicted the New Covenant with Jeremiah and Ezekiel both saying,
ESV Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
ESV Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
- Genesis 15, the Abrahamic Covenant where “all the families of the earth shall be blessed!”
- This is the Old Testament Gospel.
All of this, and so must more is why Jesus, after being raised, being on the road to Emmaus explained himself from all of the Old Testament.
ESV Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Yes, these believers were at least this far along in their faith.
- This is the “elementary part.”
- This is what our children are getting in Sunday school!
- As powerful as these word pictures are, is this where these disciples should stay? – NO!
- These are the Old Testament A,B,C,’s!
This is the child’s storybook that every child of God must still cling.
- However, this is what the New Testament reveals as fulfilled!
- The author is saying that the Gospel is this revelation and more!
With more revelation there is more to be accountable to!
For instance, remember Peter’s sermon at Pentecost?
- Peter’s referencing the prophet Joel to make sense of the Holy Spirit’s new level presence.
- And, then Peter ties a portion of David’s experience from the Psalms directly to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
To bring everything to crossroads.
ESV Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Later in Acts you have the disciples of John who likewise did not understand, Christ the Messiah had already come.
ESV Acts 19:1-5 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism."4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
- They were anticipating Christ, but He had come and now their need was to believe He came and that they needed to be born-again by the Holy Spirit.
Back to these disciples in Hebrews.
Being of Jewish descent, they were steeped in all of the word pictures of the Old Testament.
- So, the problem was not their “foundation” but the temptation to “lay [this] foundation again” (v. 1).
- Their temptation was to stay there and recycle what they knew and not to build on it.
Verse 1 proves they had reached a point of seeing that the ceremonial system was not based on “dead works” (v. 1).
- The Pharisees were masters at cleaning the outside of the cup and plate, being:
“whitewashed tombs, outwardly appearing beautiful, but within…full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:25-27).
- Earning God’s favor by “works” equals spiritual “death” - acting in “faith toward God” brings life!
Verse 2 picks up on ceremonial “washings” (v. 2).
- This is not referencing New Testament baptism – he would have used the word, “baptizw” but instead used “baptismos” for washing.
- The Old Testament has over 39 direct references to ceremonial “washings.”
- Looking through them, they were not limited to the “priests.”
- Moses was instructed to “wash” the people’s garments when giving the Law.
- Levites were washed, but so was anyone who ate the wrong animal, or touched anything infected or considered unclean. Anything dead!
- The leprous person:
ESV Leviticus 14:8-9 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.
- Jewish homes had basins at their entrance designated for ceremonial cleansing.
- This is the “instruction” these Christians were called to stop practicing but also to truly understanding!
- The spiritual understanding was to be embraced.
ESV Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
ESV John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
ESV Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit
- Old Testament “washings” symbolized the inner cleansing of the heart, fulfilled in the New Covenant!
In both the Old and New Testaments, the “laying on of hands” (v. 2) represents being set apart for Levitical service, or for a certain missions.
Here the reference is to the ministry of “expiation” where the priest laid hands on a sacrifice.
- This is the transferences of sin’s guilt from the repenting sinner to the sacrifice (Lev. 1:4; 3:8, 13).
ESV Leviticus 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
The “resurrection of the dead” (v. 2) was vague in the Old Testament.
- Job (the Bible’s earliest book) knew something of life after death.
ESV Job 19:26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,
- Eternal life was again vague.
- The Netherworld is what King David knew something of - at least he would see his infant who died in infancy.
ESV 2 Samuel 12:23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."
ESV Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
- What was vague in the Old Testament was fully clarified by Christ’s teachings and in the early church.
ESV John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live
ESV 1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
- Obviously, all of 1 Corinthians 15 elucidates the meaning and reality of the resurrection!
Verse 3 again includes the Apostle.
- “And this we will do” (v. 3). What’s “this”?
- The writer is saying, “we” will go on to Christ-like maturity “if God permits” (v. 3).
- God is the author and engineer of our progress!
You make up your mind to grow but God has to give the grace and power for you to grow!
- If you’re honest about stagnation you know this to be true!
At the same time, please don’t miss the point!
- These were not uneducated Christians!
- They were not babies for lack of knowledge!
- They were not unfamiliar with anything I’ve covered!
- They at minimum knew all of this!
The point is to show that how much they did know! Then how dangerous it can be to NOT do anything with it!
b. Consider the experiences
Verse 4 begins with an interesting twist that is easy to miss if you are not paying attention.
The Apostle moves from speaking in terms of “us” and “we” to “those” (v. 4).
- He says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those…” (v. 4).
- Here he is opening up a hypothetical case where something can become “impossible” for “those” certain people who have had certain experiences!
This hypothetical is clearly a warning for his audience, though he is neither wishing this upon, nor assuming they will fall prey to this outcome (cf. v. 9)!
- Though he assumes a different case, this does not exclude the possibility that these could fall prey to this “impossible situation.”
What are these experiences?
To be “enlightened” – to have “tasted the heavenly gift” – to have “shared in the Holy Spirit” – to have “tasted the goodness of the word of God” and “the powers of the age to come” (vv. 4-5).
It is important to realize that the grammar and logical flow of thought string all of these experiences together.
- In other words, to experience one of these is to experience all of these.
- These experiences are shared by both believers and unbelievers - self-deceived/professing Christians.
These are common experiences people have, who grow up in the church.
It is important to see that the terms mentioned here are not the final terms marking salvation. Like being justified, sanctified, reborn, or regenerated.
“enlightened” is photizo used in Scripture for “light” or “lighting lamps.”
- This easily could be a through back reference to the wilderness/exodus generation who followed “a pillar of fire to give them light” (Ex. 13:21), (cf. Neh. 9:12; Ps. 105:39).
Here this is specific to someone coming clear in his or her perception of truth.
- Understanding truth with real meaning in the heart.
- This is even at a decisive point as referenced in Hebrews 10:32.
ESV Hebrews 10:32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings
- Though this term can speak to a person’s turning point, coming clear with Scripture does not prove someone will persevere.
- John equates “enlightenment” with anyone who encountered Christ!
ESV John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
- Everyone “enlightened” by Christ was not saved by Christ!
“tasted the heavenly gift” (v. 4).
- I believe the “gift” speaks of “Christ” since the Holy Spirit is reference immediately after.
The question is whether “tasting” Christ means full consumption.
- People who argue this section means Christians can lose their salvation believe “tasting” is “saving.”
- They reference Hebrews 2:9 that Jesus “tasted” death for everyone!
- In this case, “taste” speaks of Christ fully dying.
- TRUE, However, you have to look at the point there and here.
- Jesus’ full death doesn’t mean that everyone he died for will be saved.
- “Taste” in that context and in this one speaks to a starting point!
- He went to cross!
- And, people need to “accept” the gift of Jesus to be saved!
- The Bible says, “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Everyone who comes to faith in Christ has to start here!
- And true salvation always sticks.
- The meaning that you can “taste” is the entry point at which you have to make a decision.
Jesus called the people to full consumption.
ESV John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
- If you merely stop at “tasting” or “sampling” Christ, they you do not have Christ!
- He demands full commitment!
“shared in the Holy Spirit” (v. 4).
- The word for “partakers” has to do with association, not possession.
- Professing believers are “around” where the Holy Spirit is.
- A common association like when Jesus was around fishermen (Luke 5:7).
When someone is saved, they are not merely associated with the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit is within them.
“tasted the heavenly the goodness of the word of God” (v. 5).
- This speaks to the power of God’s word.
- Like before, these people had tasted
- They had tasted Christ and also His word.
The Greek term for word is rhema not logos.
- Rhema emphasizes parts rather than the whole.
- This is not the usual term of God’s Word but fits the meaning in this context.
- As with His heavenly gifts, they heard God’s utterances and sampled them, tasted them, without actually eating them.
- However, these words were not regenerating them (Jer. 15:16).
ESV Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Herod in spite of John the Baptists hard message (including accusations against this king), enjoyed listening to John the Baptist preach.
- This reminds me of Benjamin Franklin’s testimony, a known deist, believing generally but with distance from God, who nevertheless loved hearing George Whitfield preach.
ESV Mark 6:20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
- Herod, when pressed to decide, moved away from God and lopped off John’s head.
“the powers of the age to come” (v. 5).
- The dynamic power of miracles.
- They had experienced “signs, wonders and various miracles” within the early apostolic age of the church (cf. Heb. 2:4).
- Not unlike their ancestors in the wilderness, these Believers had regularly seen the power of God within the church.
- In addition, they were not far removed from the testimony of miracles done by Christ on earth.
They knew of Lazarus who had died and been raised by Jesus’ command.
- Certainly they knew of Christ who had died and been raised.
These are the same powers we see in regular life where God is moving and working. God is saving people!
“So, why are these 5 descriptions not terms of salvation?”
The 6th description.
- All 5 and then verse 6 says, “and then have fallen away” (v. 6).
- This is the hypothetical was mentioned under verse 4 “in the case of those…”
This is where someone’s exposure to Christ – all of the Old Testament ABC’s and all of this straight up Light!
“Light” on this level, this can jeopardize everything!
Sunshine that warms, tans, and fills your body with Vitamin D also destroys cells, dehydrates, and causes skin cancer if left unprotected!
- Something “in this case” becomes “impossible” and that is the next phrase in verse 6.
- It is “impossible…to restore them again to repentance” (v. 6).
“What does this mean?”
We’ll have to open this up again next week.
However, just drop down to verse 9.
ESV Hebrews 6:9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation.
The writer is not saying the church has gone this way.
- “We feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (v. 9).
- These 5 experiences are not the “things” that save!
- There is a “case” in verse 4 that opens the possibility of harmful “Light” exposure!
- There is the other “case” in verse 9 that assumes this is not necessarily happening to this church!
The Light of Christ is dangerous when people willingly meet with Christ and are in contact with His power and remain unaffected!
There is a trend in our culture where people are against vaccinating their children. Ant-Vacs.
Though I do not agree with this trend, I do see where the fear of doing this is derived.
To immunize someone you have to inject just a little bit of the disease into your child and then do nothing about it.
Doing so, allows the body to build up a natural deterrent or anti-body to the disease so that it will not take over your entire body and kill you.
People within the church regularly inject just a little of the Gospel into their hearts and then do not do anything about it.
They immunize themselves with Jesus and His power, allowing the Truth to lie dormant within them!
Doing this builds a Jesus antibody, an internal deterrent to Jesus and Truth.
Jesus, though present all around, is walled off in the heart, rendering the power of Jesus ineffective, and unable to take over a person’s entire life!
This condition begs our next question.
“What does this mean about God’s great compassion?”
“And, what of the sufficiency of God’s grace for everyone?”
We will answer this question next time!