Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 20

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Tasting and Feasting

The next section of Hebrews is seemingly troubling to those who hold that our salvation, being the free gift of God, is something that we cannot lose:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:1-12, NASB 95)

The Writer declares as elementary the teaching about repentance, faith, ceremonial washings, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgement of God. These are the foundation upon which he wants to build good doctrine that directs the heart and mind and trains the senses to discern good and evil. There is something about his audience, however, that seems stuck on the basics. For me it brings to mind those Christians who proclaim the day they "said the prayer" and got saved, but whose lives show little evidence of knowing their Savior and a relationship with the living God. The elementary things are important, but there soon comes a time when you need to move on.

The next verses are the troubling ones. The Writer declares that those who have:

  • Have once been enlightened
  • Have tasted the heavenly gift
  • Been partakers of the Holy Spirit
  • Tasted the good Word of God
  • Tasted (or perhaps experienced) the powers of the age to come

... and then have fallen away--you don;t want to think about it. The falling away is permanent. There is no hope of renewed repentance. Eternity is cast and the one who has fallen away is doomed and those of us who know the truth have no hope for him.

What do we make of such a concept?

I can suggest two good resolutions. The first is to consider those leaders in Israel who so rejected the ministry and person of Jesus that they attrributed his miracles to the powers of hell (Mark 3:20-35). They had "been enlightened" by His words and ministry. They had "tasted" the heavenly gift of His presence and character. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and the leaders must surely have sensed the Spirit's presence. They had heard the words that Jesus taught. They had seen His miracles and the power of the age to come. Indeed the miracles were so evident that they had to ascribe them to another power. But for all their tasting and experience, they chose to promote a lie rather than accept the person. They came, perhaps, to the very brink of faith and then fell away. These leaders are an example of what the Writer is here saying. The falling away is a falling away at the brink of faith--not after faith has been born. Note these words in Mark:

"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:28-30)

Note that a person who has fallen away with no hope of repentance and a blaspheming that is an eternal sin are identical concepts. Therefore the leaders who had a personal encounter with Jesus and failed to see who He was and believe fell away to an eternal state of sin.

This is a busy week--and I must leave to pick up an out of town co-worker that I am training. Regretfully, I must leave you hanging and pick up this thread tomorrow.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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