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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Wednesday, April 21 2021

Contributor: Hilary Ikpe

The normal Christian life is supposed to be one of spiritual growth and progression. Starting out as "babes in Christ," we feed on the "milk of the word." Then as our spiritual senses are exercised to discern good and evil, we are able to progress to "solid food" (or meat). In this way we are able to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Pet. 3:18). But not all of us grow as we should. And some of the indications of spiritual immaturity are: dullness of hearing, the inability to teach others, a diet of "milk" only, and the inability to discern between good and evil (5:11-14).
But if we do not grow spiritually as we should, so what? Is spiritual growth really that essential? 
Is there a "danger" in not progressing spiritually? Well, in Heb. 6:1- 8 we find that indeed there is "The Peril of Not Progressing," and that it is possible  for Christians to find themselves in a very precarious situation.

"1 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, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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. 7 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; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” (NKJV)


• What is the connection between this passage and the last passage?
• Does he review the elementary teachings? Does the writer lay again this foundation?
• What are some of the foundational principles of the gospel that are mentioned in verses 2-4?
• What do you think the author meant by “dead works?” What does the washings and laying on of hands refer to?
Matthew 23:25-28 – The Pharisees appeared clean on the outsides, but were full of sin on the inside.
On maturity:
1 Corinthians 14:20 and Ephesians 4:13-15

Teaching Points
In the last passage in chapter five, the writer is encouraging his readers to wake up from their spiritual lethargy. They need to start paying attention, start obeying, and start passing
on the things they have learned. Here is yet another encouragement for them to move forward, to press on for maturity. No matter what spiritual level we are at, either a newborn Christian, or a believer for decades, we must always be pushing on for a closer relationship with Christ. Do not be satisfied with your current spiritual level or allow yourselves to become complacent. Perhaps last year you read through the whole Bible, last week memorized a chapter, or today have already shared the gospel with 5 people. Still, do not rest in last accomplishment.
Be quick to forget the successes of the past so that you don’t get stuck reliving them over and over.
Elementary teaching/foundation – The readers have been exposed to the core principles of the gospel many times, especially some principles from the Old Testament. The writer doesn’t want them to get stuck on those same points and never move forward. When will a teacher review a lesson? When will a parent repeat an instruction? When the student/child doesn’t do what they were supposed to. When growing up, there were several instructions my father repeated many times. One was to turn out the electricity when we left a room. I probably heard that several hundred times growing up. Why? Every time I heard it because one of us had “forgotten” and not done it. He had to keep reviewing the “elementary” teaching because we weren’t listening/obeying. In verses 1b-2, the writer briefly summarizes some of those basic teachings they should have mastered by now. These include:

Repentance from dead works – This could include empty religious rituals which had become commonplace in New Testament times. The Pharisees had compiled instruction books with thousands of rules governing every area of life. There were rules on keeping the Sabbath, rules on giving, rules on vowing, and basically everything else. As we see in Matthew 23:25-28, they looked very respectable on the outside. They took great care to be honored by people. What are some things they did in the gospels to obtain honor? They stopped combing and washing their hair when fasting so that others would see them. They tried to sit at the place of honor at banquets. They showed others how much they gave. They prayed loudly on street corners to get attention. And so on. These could be some of the dead works which are referenced here. In general, dead works, would include anything good we do with ulterior motives or anything good we do to try to earn salvation by ourselves.

Faith toward God – In fact, as we have learned in James, faith toward God is proven to be genuine faith if it is accompanied by works. These are not the dead works just discussed but a natural outpouring of our love and appreciation for what God has done for us (Eph. 2:10).
Washings and laying on of hands – This could refer to the Old Testament Levitical rules for washing (Leviticus 16:4, 24,26,28). Laying on of hands may refer to a person who made a sacrifice. He would lay his hands on the animal being sacrificed to symbolically pass his sin to the animal (Leviticus 1:4, 3:8, 13, 16:21). In the New Testament washing could be the spiritual regeneration in the heart of the believer (Titus 3:5). Laying on of hands could be for prayer or to receive the Holy Spirit. Because these were topics that had recently been
covered with this group, it is hard for us to tell whether it is a reference to the Old or New Testament.

Resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (these two are linked)– In Acts 23:8 we see that the Pharisees believed this. This teaching comes from the Old Testament in Daniel 12:1-2
There are two possible ways to interpret this passage in Hebrews 6. One is that they were already believers having heard and believed these elementary principles. But they were not growing. The other is that they believed all of these things like most Jews did, but were not saved yet because they didn’t embrace Christ. A good Pharisee would actually believe all that we saw in verse 1b-2. But he wouldn’t be saved because he rejected Christ. It is possible that this group of Hebrews or at least some of them were in a similar boat. They believe in the Old Testament, but they have yet to fully embrace Christ (which is why the author would spend a lot of time on the superiority of Christ and warnings about apostasy). Most likely there were both real believers in the group/church as well as some who were on the fence who didn’t fully commit themselves to Jesus yet.

3. A statement of hope and dependence on God.
And this we will do if God permits.
a. If God permits: This should not be taken as implying that God may not want them to go on to maturity, past those basics common to Christianity and Judaism.
b. If God permits: Instead, this expresses the believers’ complete dependence on God. If we do press on to maturity, we realize that it only happens at God’s pleasure.
B. The danger of falling away
C. Preface:
Satan knows Scripture, and this passage has rightly been called “one of the Devil’s favorite passages” for the way it can (out of context) condemn the struggling believer. Many Christians feel like giving up after hearing Satan “preach a sermon” on this text.

II. VERSES (4-6) The impossibility of repentance for those who fall away after receiving blessing from God.
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.

a. For it is impossible:
The word impossible is put in a position of emphasis. The writer to the Hebrews does not say this is merely difficult, but that it is without possibility.
i. Note the other uses of impossible in Hebrews:
• It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).
• It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats can take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).
• It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).

ii. “This word impossible stands immovable.” (Alford)

b.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:
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of people with impressive spiritual experiences. The big debate is whether this is the experience of salvation or the experience of something short of salvation. Looking at each descriptive word helps see what kind of experience this describes.
i. Enlightened: This ancient Greek word has the same meaning as the English word. It described the experience of light shining on someone, of a “new light” shining on the mind and spirit.
ii. Tasted: The idea of “tasting” may mean to “test” something. But other uses of this word indicate a full, real experience as in how Jesus tasted death in Hebrews 2:9. The heavenly gift is probably salvation (as in Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8).
iii. Partakers of the Holy Spirit: This is a unique term in the New Testament. Since it means “sharing” the Holy Spirit, it has to do with receiving and having fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
iv. Tasted the good word of God: This means they experienced the goodness of God’s word, and saw its goodness at work in them.
v. The powers of the age of come: This is a way to describe God’s supernatural power. The writer to the Hebrews describes those who experienced God’s supernatural power.

c. If they fall away, to renew them again to repentance: One of the most heated debates over any New Testament passage is focused on this text. The question is simple: Are these people with these impressive spiritual experiences in fact Christians? Are they God’s elect, chosen before the foundation of the world?
i. Commentators divide on this issue, usually deciding the issue with great certainty but with no agreement.
ii. One the one side we see clearly that someone can have great spiritual experiences and still not be saved (Matthew 7:21-23). One can even do many religious things and still not be saved. The Pharisees of New Testament times are a good example of this principle. These men did many religious things but were not saved or submitted to God.

These ancient Pharisees:
• Energetically evangelized (Matthew 23:15).
• Impressively prayed (Matthew 23:14).
• Made rigorous religious commitments (Matthew 23:16).
• Strictly and carefully tithed (Matthew 23:23).
• Honored religious traditions (Matthew 23:29-31).
• Practiced fasting regularly (Luke 18:12).
• Yet Jesus called them sons of Hell (Matthew 23:15).

iii. Yet, from a human perspective, it is doubtful that anyone who seemed to have the credentials mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-5 would not be regarded a true Christian. God knows their ultimate destiny and hopefully the individual does also – yet from all outward appearance, such Christian experience might qualify a man to be an elder in many churches. Yet beyond the knowledge hidden in the mind of God and the individual in question, from all human observation, we must say these are Christians spoken of in Hebrews 6:4-5. A good example of this is Demas.
· Paul warmly greeted other Christians on his behalf (Colossians 4:14).
· Demas is called a fellow worker with Paul (Philemon 24).
· Yet Paul condemned Demas, at least hinting at apostasy (2 Timothy 4:10).

iv. Taking all this together, we see that it is possible to display some fruit or spiritual growth – then to die spiritually, showing that the “soil of the heart” was never right (Mark 4:16-19).

v. Therefore, eternal standing of those written of in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a question with two answers. We may safely say that from a human perspective, they had all appearance of salvation. Nevertheless, from the perspective of God’s perfect wisdom it is impossible to say on this side of eternity.

d. For it is impossible…if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance: Despite their impressive spiritual experience – or at least the appearance of it – these are in grave danger. If they fall away, it is impossible for them to repent.
i. If these are genuine Christians who “lost their salvation,” the terrible fact is that they can never regain it. In the early church some groups (such as the Montanists and the Novatianists) used this passage to teach there was no possibility of restoration if someone sinned significantly after their baptism.

ii. Others explain it by saying that this is all merely a hypothetical warning (in light of the statement in Hebrews 6:9). In this thinking, the writer to the Hebrews never intended to say that his readers were really in danger of damnation. He only used
a hypothetical danger to motivate them. However, one must say that there is questionable value in warning someone against something that can’t happen.

iii. Still others think that this penalty deals only with reward, not with salvation itself. They stress the idea that it says repentance is impossible, not salvation. Therefore, these are Christians of low commitment and experience who risk a loss of all heavenly reward, saved only “by the skin of their teeth.”

iv. This difficult passage is best understood in the context of Hebrews 6:1-2. The writer to
the Hebrewsmeans that if they retreat back to Judaism, all the religious “repentance” in the world will do them no good. Retreating from distinctive Christianity into the “safe” ideas and customs of their former religious experience is to forsake Jesus, and to essentially crucify Him again. This is especially true for these ancient Christians from a Jewish background, since the religious customs they took up again likely included animal sacrifice for atonement, denying the total work of Jesus for them on the cross.

e. If they fall away: There is a necessary distinction between falling and falling away. Falling away is more than falling into sin; it is actually departing from Jesus Himself. For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity (Proverbs 24:16). The difference is between a Peter and a Judas. If you depart from Jesus (fall away) there is no hope.

i. The message to these Christians who felt like giving up was clear: if you don’t continue on with Jesus, don’t suppose you will find salvation by just going on with the ideas and experience that Christianity and Judaism share. If you aren’t saved in Jesus, you aren’t saved at all. There is no salvation in a safe “common ground” that is not distinctively Christian.

ii. If someone falls away, we must understand why he or she can’t repent – it is because they don’t want to. It is not as if God prohibits their repentance. Since repentance itself is a work of God (Romans 2:4), the desire to repent is evidence that he or she has not truly fallen away.

iii. The idea is not that “if you fall away, you can’t ever come back to Jesus.” Instead, the idea is “if you turn your back on Jesus, don’t expect to find salvation anywhere else, especially in the practice of religion apart from the fullness of Jesus.”

iv. “This passage has nothing to do with those who fear lest it condemns them. The presence of that anxiety, like the cry which betrayed the real mother in the days of Solomon, establishes beyond a doubt that you are not one that has fallen away beyond the possibility of renewal to repentance.” (Meyer)

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