(Hebrews 6:1-8) Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
There is a natural progression in life. We are born, grow, and mature. We post ABC’s in preschools and kindergartens, but not in college classrooms or corporate boardrooms.
A similar progression is true of the Christian life. When born again, we are meant to grow and grow up in our faith and understanding of Scripture. Faith is to be childlike, but not childish. Instead, we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
(2 Peter 3:18).
Sadly, the first readers of Hebrews were regressing, rather than maturing, in their faith. In Hebrews 5 they are described as “dull of hearing”—literally, slow or lazy listeners; as students who should be teachers; and as needing milk instead of solid food.
Clearly, it was time for these Christians to grow up in Christ. Preferring infancy to maturity not only deprived them of spiritual blessings, but also was dangerous to their faith. As Paul explained to the Ephesians: “. . . [W]e should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
With a resounding “therefore” in Hebrews 6:1, the writer urges his readers to leave behind the “elementary principles of Christ” (the ABCs), and to “go on to perfection” or maturity. This is not a call to forsake the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, but rather to build on them—in other words, to grow up.
Growing up and going forward are common themes in Hebrews, evident in such phrases as “enter” (4:11), “come boldly” (4:16), “go in” (6:1), “show diligence” (6:11), “lay hold” (6:18), “draw near” (10:22), and “stir up” (10:24). But Hebrews also warns its readers not to “drift away” (2:1),“neglect” (2:3), “depart” (3:12), “come short” (4:1),“become sluggish,” (6:12), “forsake” (10:25), “cast away” (10:35), or “draw back” (10:39).
The warning in Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the most severe in the entire epistle: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an
These are sobering words; but the writer of Hebrews offers them in Christian love. His intent is to rouse his readers from their spiritual lethargy and immaturity by reminding them that salvation is serious; that faith is precious, and not an off-the-shelf commodity that can simply be repurchased when lost, or rekindled when extinguished.
Tragically, when a believer falls away, he also throws away the heavenly gifts of God—faith, salvation, forgiveness, the “good word of God,” partaking of the Holy Spirit, present hope and future glory. What do people throw away? That which they consider old, out of style, unwanted, defective, and useless. To throw away salvation, then, is to throw away Christ as being of no value—to crucify Him again and “put Him to an open shame.” As long as one views Christ as “garbage,” he cannot be brought to repentance.
Having issued such a severe warning, the writer of Hebrews nevertheless joyfully asserts: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner” (6:9).
Mark Weis is pastor of the Church of the Lutheran Confession in North Port, Florida.