Bible Track
Search Bible commentaries for key words
Search for Bible Commentaries on scripture passages
This is a chronologically-ordered Bible site with commentary on each passage.
The daily summaries are written by Wayne D. Turner, Pastor of Fayette Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia

This is the November 9 reading. Select here for a new reading date:


BibleTrack Summary: November 9
<< Philemon

For New King James text and comment, click here.

Hebrews 1-6    Listen Podcast

 

An introduction to Hebrews
Who wrote Hebrews? I'm relatively comfortable with the notion that Hebrews was written by Paul, not Luke, Apollos or Barnabas. He was an expert on Jewish law, having been a Pharisee, and so was the author of this book. Paul was passionate about showing the Jews that keeping the law was an old-covenant concept, but Christ fulfilled those requirements. That's what the Book of Hebrews is all about.

Some have argued that the style of writing is not Paul's; Hebrews is a more formal writing style. However, the audience for the Book of Hebrews calls for a more treatise-like document than a personal letter to churches like Paul's other epistles. One's writing style often changes for the situation. If I were writing a technical, formal paper, the writing style of that paper would look nothing like my informal notes found on BibleTrack.

Another indicator used to dispute Pauline authorship is the lack of a personal greeting found at the beginning of his other letters. My reply is the same; Hebrews is a different kind of a document than those letters. One more evidence commonly used by those who feel that Paul did not write the Book of Hebrews is the wording of Hebrews 2:3-4 (see below). After reading the discussion on these verses below, it seems logical to conclude that they have no bearing whatsoever on Paul's authorship. While it is academically fashionable to question Paul's authorship of Hebrews, the evidence for doing so seems weak at best. Oh...one more thing: At the end of his letter in Hebrews 12:24 (see notes) the writer says, "They of Italy salute you." Hmmmm...who would have been writing a letter to Hebrew Christians while in the presence of Italians? Hey...Paul was in Italy! He was transported there after he was arrested and appealed to Caesar in Acts 25 (see notes).Therefore, I'm sticking with Paul on this one. I'm not adamant about it, but you will see in my commentary notes here a frequent reference to Paul's authorship.

Since the Jewish sacrificial system still seems to be intact at the time of the writing of Hebrews, it seems obvious that it was written prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. The epistle was written to Jewish Believers who were still struggling with keeping the law after receiving Christ as Savior. So, here's a cute and very helpful quote that will help you remember the purpose of this book: "Hebrews was written to the Hebrews to tell the Hebrews to stop being Hebrews." I picked up that helpful explanatory phrase from Dr. Gordon Carpenter back in 1970 when he was President of Florida Bible Institute in Mims, Florida. In other words, the Book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew Christians to tell these Hebrew Christians to stop acting like Jews (Hebrews) and start acting like Christians. These Jewish Christians are being told here that they need to rest in the finished work of Christ and stop all of their Judaistic rituals which they are trusting for righteousness. And...incidentally...that mission seems very Pauline to me.

Christ - not an angel - BETTER! (Hebrews 1)

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

So, for those Jewish Believers having difficulty characterizing Christ's position with regard to God, Paul clarifies it right here in the first three chapters. Chapter 1 is intended to dispel the impression that Christ was an angel. HE WAS NOT AN ANGEL; HE WAS BETTER!

First of all, Paul frames the proposition in verses 1-3: Previously, God spoke to our Jewish fathers at various times and in various ways through prophets (verse 1). However, in these last days he spoke to us through his son, Jesus Christ (verse 2). Notice the exactness with which Paul describes Jesus in verse 3, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" The Greek word for "express image" there is "charakter." In other words, Jesus is the bodily form of God. As a matter of fact, I like to say it like this, "Jesus is the only body God ever had." I'm convinced that every incarnation of God in the Bible was Jesus himself.

Incidentally, to the orthodox Jew, this bodily incarnation of God (verse 3) is a paradigm contrary to what they have been taught; for them, it's a deal breaker. However, Isaiah 9:6-7 (see notes) is a highly-regarded Messianic prophecy, and Jewish scholars accept it as such; that passage calls for a Messiah who is an incarnation of very God when it says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." There can be no other conclusion drawn but that verse 3 is intended to portray the unique incarnate deity of the Messiah per the specifications of Isaiah, and Isaiah's Messiah just happens to be Jesus Christ.

In verse 4, the better-than-angels argument is introduced with regard to Jesus. The argument begins with the issue of inheritance, "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." That's a rather simple statement based upon the Messianic attributes of Isaiah 9:6-7; Christ has a different purpose than angels - by inheritance.

Paul's refutation style here is an academic, logical approach to the supernatural identity of Christ. From verses 5-13 he quotes from several Psalms that were regarded by the Jews to be Messianic to demonstrate that the work of Jesus on the cross was a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies as follows:

As you can see from these quotations, Paul links Jesus to the Davidic Covenant (see article) with these quotations.

Now it's back to the comparison of Christ to angels, the discussion that began in verse 4. These quotations serve to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament; angels serve to testify to Christ as he says in verse 14, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" In other words, angels are "ministering spirits" and not sacrificial lambs.

If you thought the angels were reliable... (Hebrews 2:1-4)

1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Verse 1 draws a conclusion based upon the proposition presented in chapter 1 when it says, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Those "things which we have heard" undoubtedly refers to the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. In the Jewish community there would be a lot of pressure to abandon that notion. The angels were true witnesses. Even greater is the witness of Jesus Christ who was validated by those indicators (verse 4) which followed his ministry. The evidence is undeniable; how can someone not be held accountable who rejects this presentation? In other words, as verse 3 expresses it, "How shall we escape?" Or...to put it bluntly - to ignore the Gospel message is to "neglect so great salvation."

Some have used the wording of verses 2-3 to support their contention that someone other than Paul wrote Hebrews. They reason that the writer states in verse 3, "...and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." To them, that is in conflict with Paul's statements regarding the appearance of Jesus to him as in I Corinthians 15:8, "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." That seems like a very weak argument for determining that Hebrews could not have been written by Paul. He never claimed to have sat under the public ministry of Jesus; that's the context of verse 3. Paul's claim was that he received direct revelation from Jesus himself supernaturally. He goes on in verse 4 to validate the ministry of those early witnesses when he says, "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?" This is an obvious reference to the activities after the Day of Pentecost of the apostles themselves.

But Jesus Christ was no angel (Hebrews 2:5-18)

5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

The comparison to angels goes on. Angels are messengers of God. Jesus Christ was no mere angel, but rather the redeemer of mankind (verse 5). In verses 6-8 Paul quotes from Psalm 8:4-6 (see notes) to demonstrate that God had intended for man to have dominion over everything on earth, but lost it. Then, in verse 9, he makes the case that only because of Jesus taking human form ("made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death") will the originally-prescribed order of things be set right once again having tasted "death for every man." In further addressing the deity of Jesus, Paul emphasizes in verse 10 that it is Christ "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things." Now...after trusting Jesus as one's savior, we see in verse 11 that "he that sanctifieth [Jesus] and they who are sanctified [Believers] are all of one." He clarifies the point of spiritual brotherhood with an appeal to Psalm 22 (see notes), where he quotes Psalm 22:22 in verse 12. As Jesus was on the cross, he quoted the opening words of that Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Paul then uses excerpts from Isaiah 8:17-18 (see notes) in verse 13. His point is this: Believers are united in Christ within the family of God as brethren. He continues (verse 14) by emphasizing that Jesus, by flesh and blood, might "destroy him that had the power of death." He clarifies that he's speaking of the devil. Therefore, Believers are delivered from this death (verse 15). Paul then gives clear differentiation between Jesus and angels in verse 16, "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." His office as high priest is emphasized in verses 17 and 18. He took upon himself the form of a man to become our high priest - obviously better than angels. There's a promise in verse 18: Jesus overcame temptation and is therefore able to give us victory over temptation.

If you liked Moses, you'll really like Christ (Hebrews 3)

1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Of course Moses was a hero of Judaism; all Jews had the highest regard for him. This chapter compares Moses to Christ. Moses was faithful over that which was entrusted to him (verse 2); Christ was faithful over that which was his as well (verses 3-6). The analogy there is that Moses was part of the creation of Christ/God, as are we (verse 6). That's based upon the proposition seen in the latter part of verse 6 that those Hebrews adhere to the premise that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic promises.

With that analogy introduced, beginning in verse 7, Paul brings up the rejection of God under the leadership of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness here that caused the Jews to wander for 40 years in the wilderness. When they left Egypt, the objective was to reach Canaan, their own land. Upon the return of the spies in Numbers 14 (see notes), it was decision time for Israel: Will you accept the promise of God, or will you reject the promise of God? When Israel rejected the promise, that generation of adult men was decreed to die in the wilderness and never reach the objective - rest in the land.

So, here's the analogy Paul is making in verses 7-12: Just as all of the Hebrews who left Egypt did not exercise the faith to the fulfillment of rest in the promised land, so are there Jews in Paul's day looking for the Messiah who reject Jesus Christ as the same. There is no partial credit for tagging along for a portion of the trip. The destination (faith in Christ) is the objective, just like Canaan was the objective out of Egypt. In other words, good, observant Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah miss the reward just like those Hebrews that rejected moving into Canaan in Numbers 14 (see notes).

We have a unique set of circumstances in the Book of Hebrews with regard to terminology. When Paul uses the word "brother" or "brethren" (Greek: "adelphos"), he may be referring to a blood relationship or a spiritual relationship. Since he, himself, was Jewish, he considered the Jewish people to be his "brethren." However, when Paul uses the unique adjective "holy" (Greek: "hagios") with "brethren" in verse 1, it would seem that he is emphasizing a spiritual relationship in Christ. However, in verse 12, it would appear that Paul is referring to his blood relationship (no adjective - "holy").

There is absolutely no question that verse 1 refers to Believers; Paul's description is clear - "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" accompanied with "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." His reference to "our" profession obviously is meant to indicate their mutual faith in Christ with him. In verse 2 we see that Christ, as High Priest, was faithful just as Moses was faithful. Jesus is deserving of more honor than Moses (verse 3); Jesus, as the creator (established in chapter 1), is greater than Moses as one who was part of that creation (verses 4-5).

Verse 6 needs some explanation, "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." It cannot be understood properly without a clear view of the analogy that follows. Verses 7-11 are comprised of a quotation from Psalm 95:7-11 (see notes) regarding Israel's rebellion in Numbers 14 (see notes) following the return of the spies from Canaan. So...here's the analogy: Just as many Hebrews started out on the journey to Canaan chose not to actually enter, so many of the Jews in Paul's day who started out in the journey of Judaism looking for the Messiah will stop short of accepting Jesus Christ as such. In other words, "the end" is faith in Christ. The Jewish people of Paul's day must receive Jesus as their Messiah as the completion of their quest for God. Thus, the "brethren" of verse 12 are Jewish people who decline to receive Jesus as their Messiah, constituting their "departing from the living God."

He continues in verse 13 with a a command that they should "exhort" one another to follow through with the natural end of Judaism, receiving Jesus as Messiah and not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, as were the Numbers 14 rebels. In verse 15, the tense of the Greek verb "ginomai," translated in the KJV "we are made," is perfect active to indicate a completed rather than continuing relationship. In other words, "we have become partakers" captures the essence of what Paul is saying about those Jews who traveled the completed route from Judaism to receiving Jesus as the Messiah. In verse 15 he revisits the quote of verses 7-8 regarding those rebels in Numbers 14 who hardened their hearts. Paul uses the last 4 verses (16-19) to drive the implications of that story home. Those rebels of Numbers 14 lived for as many as 40 more years without the hope of entering the promised land because of their rejection of God on that fateful day when the spies gave their report. He concludes his remarks in verse 19 with, "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."

In essence, Paul is saying, "Don't let this happen to you!" The message of this chapter is: Do not let your sin keep you from obeying the truth like your forefathers did in the wilderness. In other words, don't reject Christ like your forefathers rejected Moses.

The penalty of rejection (Hebrews 4)

1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

If it seemed to you that Paul explained that rebellion of Numbers 14 (see notes) using Psalm 95:7-11 (see notes) sufficiently, hang on; he's still not finished. He devotes 11 more verses in chapter 4 to make certain these Jews understand the point: JUST BEING JEWISH ISN'T ENOUGH!

He actually emphasizes all the points of chapter 3 over again:

We find in verse 12 my favorite scripture on the power of God's Word, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." So...how do you get the rest and the belief of verses 1-11? It's by the exposure to God's Word. This Word of God is an offensive weapon in and of itself. Being a "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," verse 13 tells us that no one escapes being revealed by it.

Finally, verses 14-16 present Jesus as our great high priest. He's heavenly, as opposed to the earthly Aaronic priesthood (verse 14). Though he was tempted to sin, he did not do so (verse 15). Therefore, Jesus is the high priest to whom all should go (verse 16). These verses regarding the high priesthood of Jesus lead into chapter 5.

So, how did Christ become a high priest? (Hebrews 5:1-10)

1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

We begin this chapter with four verses that lay a foundation for the Aaronic priesthood:

That brings us to verses 5-6. "Melchizedek" is the name to remember. We first see reference to him in Genesis 14:18-20 (see notes) with Abraham. Paul quotes Psalms 2:7 (see notes) and Psalm 110:4 (see notes) concerning Melchizedek in relation to the Messiah. He's introduced here, but the priesthood of Melchizedek is not thoroughly dealt with in Hebrews until chapter 7. Let it suffice for me to say here that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek who preceded the order of Aaron's priesthood. Click here if you want to go ahead and read the notes on Melchizedek in Hebrews 7.

Here are the points made regarding Jesus being our High Priest:

The two key verses here are 9-10: "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec." Jesus was perfect, the only provider of eternal salvation and our high priest. No lesser specifications of Jesus are acceptable. These first 10 verses establish that Jesus is our high priest after an eternal priesthood established by God as opposed to the temporary priesthood of Aaron. At this point in the discussion, Paul takes a detour from the topic to discuss the spiritual state of the recipients of this letter.

You people are so immature! (Hebrews 5:11-14)

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

As Paul begins to explain to these Hebrew Christians the concept of the priesthood of Melchizedek which he introduced in verses 1-10, he pauses to comment on how this doctrine is a little deep for his readers; they are "dull of hearing" (verse 11). While they ought to be capable teachers by now, instead they are in need of being taught again the basics - "the first principles of the oracles of God." That's too bad too; they ought to be mature in the Lord by now, but they are like babies when it comes to doctrinal issues; they are in need of "milk" (elementary) doctrine before they can understand "meat" doctrine such as the priesthood of Melchizedek.. Paul then interrupts his discourse on the priesthood of Melchizedek to deal with the issue of immature Believers; he'll pick Melchizedek back up in 6:19.

Paul deals with a major lack of understanding among Hebrew Christians (Hebrews 6:1-12)

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

In the first 3 verses here Paul expresses concern that these immature Jewish Believers still had not mastered the elementary principles of the faith. He began this discussion in chapter 5 when in verse 13 he refers to them as "babes" in the faith.

What are these "principles of the doctrine of Christ" on which these Hebrew Christians seem to need a refresher (verses 1-3)?

You can see that these were some pretty basic issues of their Christian faith. A lack of understanding on these issues would open them up to false teachers. Then Paul expresses a major concern he has for these Jewish Christians - their impression that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross can somehow be treated like the temporal sacrifices they were accustomed to making when they sinned. Many have sought to deny that the people referenced here are actually saved, but I'm convinced that the five qualifications described in verses 4-5 are intended by Paul to absolutely confirm that he is talking about washed-in-the-blood Believers.

Let's look at these five qualifications that constitute a Believer in verses 4-5:

It appears that Paul is going the extra mile to make certain that his readers understand that he is talking about saved people in verses 4-5. So, what's the falling-away reference in verse 6? Here it is: These Jewish Christians were accustomed to offering another sacrifice every time they sinned. The Christian life does not work like that. Christ was just sacrificed one time; it can't happen again. Paul is explaining: that's it; there is no more sacrifice. So, for these Jews who wanted to continue with their Old Testament pattern of sinning, sacrificing, sinning, sacrificing, sinning, sacrificing...(you get the picture), there's only one sacrifice - Christ. Therefore, they needed to understand: if you say that the sacrifice of Christ was only good until your next shortcoming (sin), you have a big problem - you're all out of sacrifices; Christ was only sacrificed once. If you take the sacrifice of Christ and apply it to the old pattern of repeated sacrifices rather than accepting the new pattern of once-and-for-all sacrifice, you have no more sacrifice to offer, and thus, no way back to salvation. This hypothetical scenario is intended to show the Jewish Christians that, were it possible to have a second salvation experience, it would require that they "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." That, of course, is impossible. To sum it up, Paul is saying this: If you could lose your salvation (and you can't), you could not be saved again because you have used up the only sacrifice Christ made for salvation. They must abandon their old mindset of sin, sacrifice, sin again, sacrifice again in lieu of the finished work of Christ once and for all for all their sin.

Verses 7-9 reinforces the roll of good works in the Believer's life. He is blessed from God as he serves. Verse 8 probably paints a scenario of the Judgment Seat of Christ in I Corinthians 3:11-15 (see notes) where Believers' works are tried by fire. Verse 15 of that passage says, "If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." This second fire analogy adds additional evidence to my arsenal that Paul wrote Hebrews. In verse 9 Paul expresses that he expects godliness in lifestyle from these Hebrew Christians. Verses 10-12 sum up Paul's exhortation here: You (Jews) who are making this transition from the Law of Moses to faith in Christ need to follow this path to its logical and scriptural conclusion. Don't get sidetracked by attempting to create a hybrid doctrine of a little Law and a little faith.

A different priesthood with a different standard (Hebrews 6:13-20)

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Paul cites the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 22:16-17 (see notes) in verses 13-14. After God tests Abraham regarding the sacrificing of Isaac upon the altar, he renews his covenant with Abraham (see The Abrahamic Covenant). Genesis 22:16 quotes God as saying on this occasion, "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD..." That explains Paul's reference to his point that "because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself." The promises by God to Abraham were fulfilled (verse 15).

Now, how does that relate to this discussion? Here it is: Aaron's priesthood was temporary and earthly. Melchizedek's priesthood is permanent and heavenly. That's why under the Aaronic priesthood repeated sacrifices were necessary, but only one permanent sacrifice after Christ - the high priest of the Melchizedek order of priests. The "immutability" of God's oath makes salvation permanent in the Believer. These verses confirm our understanding of verses 4-6 that salvation in Christ is presented here as permanent and not temporal.

Hold on! Here is the tie in. In verse 18 he refers to "two immutable things." What are these two things. Well...the first is the promise God made to Abraham (verses 13-17). The other is the fulfillment of God's promise through Jesus Christ, a priest after the order of Melchizedek (verses 19-20). Both "immutable things" are fulfilled in Jesus himself.


For commentary on another passage, click here.


Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner