Is Hebrews 6 a WARNING to Believers not to 'FALL AWAY'?
or addressed to the whole nation of Israel?
Is this addressed to believers or unbelievers?
"Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let
us presson 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." (Hebrews 6:1-2 NASB)
The question arises here, "Where the people addressed in this passage
If you have a good reference Bible, you'll see that there is a footnote
with a 'literal' translation. It reads, "word of the beginning".
We would naturally assume this is referring to either:
1. The FIRST Gospel presentation they heard, or
2. The FIRST revelation they received about God, or
3. The FIRST written revelation - the Old Testament.
"word of the beginning" naturally sounds like the Old Testament.
The author extensively QUOTES and makes a vast multitude of references to
the Covenants & Promises (chap 8-9), the OT law, the Melchizedek Priesthood
(chap 7), Levitical priesthood (chap 5-10), the patriarchs (chap 11),
OT blood sacrifices (chap 9-10), the atonement, etc, etc, etc....
There can be NO DOUBT the author is speaking of the Old Testament when
he says, "elementary teaching" - this is completely in the context of the
entire book of Hebrews.... Especially within chapter 6, where he speaks of
Abraham and the Melchizedekian Priesthood.
To further illustrate this important point, let's look at way Jesus
Christ is addressed, if we can even call it that in verse one.
"..elementary teaching ABOUT the Christ.."
The first references to the promised Messiah (which is what 'christ' means)
is given in Genesis 3:15.
"And I will put enmity Between you and the woman and between your seed
and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him
on the heel"
"He shall bruise.." literally means, "He will CRUSH your head". That is
the destruction of satan. This is the first reference to Christ's
future reign & rule, but only one reference of many! In addition, the
Old Testament teaches the atonement, blood sacrifices etc. which we already
know the author refers to many times in the book of Hebrews.
If this passage was addressed to believers, even immature believers, why
would the author say, "Therefore LEAVING the elementary teaching about the
Again, the greek yields some interesting language....
The Greek word "aphiemi" means to forsake, to put away, let alone, disregard,
put off. It refers to total detachment, total separation, from a previous
location of condition. The Expostior's Greek Testament translates Hebrews
6:1, "Therefore let us abandon [give up] the elementary teaching about
Christ." Alford comments, "Therefore leaving (as behind, and done with;
in order to go on to another thing)."
A.T. Robertson states:
"Wherefore (dio). Because of the argument already made about the
difficulty of the subject and the dullness of the readers. 'Let us
cease to speak...' ... to leave off or behind. Of the first principles
of Christ... Objective genitive Christou (about Christ). 'Leaving
behind the discussion of the beginning about Christ,'... [ I an
condensing here ]
"Let us be borne on" (both the writer and the readers). The
Pythagorean Schools use 'perometha' in precisely this sense of being
borne on to a higher stage of instruction. .... "Unto perfection"
Old word from 'teleios' mature, adults as in 5:14. Only twice in
the N.T. (here and Col. 3:14). Let us go on to the stage of adults,
not babes, able to masticate solid spiritual food. The writer will
assume that the readers are adults in his discussion of the topic."
( Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 5, pg. 373.
There is MUCH omitted here.)
The context is Old Testament centered, it is asking the hearers to
"leave something behind and go onto another thing"; and the subject is
"about the messiah" referring to the Old Testament promises.
This verse does not address Jesus Christ, but things formerly said about Him.
the author wants to speak on adult terms about the REALITY of Jesus Christ,
His sacrificial atonement, and the New Covenant that awaits all those who
would receive Him. The issue being addressed in this passage is not
growing in Christian maturity, but coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
IF.... a big IF...
If this passage is addressed to Born-again believers, then we have a real
situation on our hands. The author is telling the hearers to "leave the
basics of their faith behind. Leaving behind what they know and trust
about Jesus Christ - to go on to something else.....?"
That would be encoraging apostacy!
"It is the provisions and the principles of the Old Covenant, of Judiasm,
that are to be dropped. It is not a question of adding to what one has.
It is a question of abandoning what you have for something else. This
is precisely what the Holy Spirit asked the Hebrews to do - to abandon the
shadows, the types, the pictures, and the sacrifices of the old economy
and come to the reality of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. A paraphrase
could be, 'Leave the pictures of the Messiah and go on to the Messiah
Himself,' or 'Drop the Old Covenant and accept the New.'" (John MacArthur)
The author of Hebrews is warning and encouraging unbelieving JEWS
to come to faith in Jesus Christ the fulfiller of the O.T. prophecies.
When studying Hebrews 6:4-6, we have to ask if these folks the author
is addressing are really believers to begin with.
"who have once been enlightened"
This passage makes no reference to salvation. There is no mention of
justification, sanctification, the new birth, or regeneration.
These folks are not spoken of as born again, made holy or made righteous.
In fact, none of the New Testament terminology for salvation is even used.
"enlightened" simply isn't used anywhere else in the New Testament for
salvation - so why assume it means it here?
In the septuagint, "photizo" is oftentimes translated, "to give light by
knowledge or teaching". This in no way means a person accepts OR rejects
what they have learned, it does mean they are intellectually 'tuned in'.
Those who have been ENLIGHTENED, doesn't mean they accepted Christ.
So the enlightment the author is speaking of here is dealing with
comprehending the spiritual truth. By this time, the hearers were
well informed, fully aware of the spiritual significance of the message.
It doesn't mean they accepted the message.
Nobody is the same after hearing the Gospel and understanding they are
sinners. Read 2 Peter 2:20-21 as an example.
In Matthew 4:16 the same terminology is used, "...saw a great light,"
but were these people saved? No, they may have even understood completely
the ramifications of Jesus' ministry, witnessed many miracles, even sat
and ate the multipled loaves of bread OR even realized He was the messiah!
However, their lives would never be the same because now they had first
hand knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Peter has an interesting comment:
"For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the
knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled
in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than
the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way
of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy
commandment delivered to them." (2 Peter 2:20-21 NASB)
These folks were 'enlightended' and understood, but never believed and
received. They were 'taught' but never trusted, hence, the condemnation
is FAR WORSE than ever before! The 'light' they received actually became
the judgment AGAINST themselves.
"tasted of the heavenly gift"
When we see figurative language, it's best not to make it into doctrine.
Nobody literally 'tastes' a heavenly gift. The greatest 'heavenly gift' is
Jesus Christ, and Him we're suppose to 'eat' not taste. (John 6:51 & 6:35)
Everyone on the earth 'samples' life and partial blessings from God just
by breathing air, enjoying nature, and seeing God answer simple prayers
such as making a vegetable garden grow. If the text said "consumes the
heavenly gift" would there be any doubt that this individual was saved?
But, the text only says "tasted" - that's too fuzzy to be dogmatic.
"had been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"
The Greek word, "metochos" (translated partakers) has to do with association,
not possession. We see the same in Luke 5:7 as being 'associates' or
in the same vicinity. When we invite someone over for dinner, they may
share in the same wonderful roast we eat, but that doesn't make them
automatically part of my family! In the same vicinity, sharing in the
same blessings, but separated from the promises.
Compare this to 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 for an interesting text with some of
the same interesting background.
"And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with
her, let her not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is
sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified
through he believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean,
but now they are holy."
We know 'sanctified' means 'to set apart' - presumably for God's use or for
God's specific blessings. It would sound incredible that God would
actually bless a godless man, but since there is an unbeliever in the
vicinity or associated to a believer, that person receives God's favor
for 'just being there'! Naturally, God wants the unsaved spouse SAVED,
and hopefully, with the quiet witness of the spouse ( 1 Peter 3:1 ) the
unsaved person might be saved quickly, and the whole house united in Christ.
Essentially, God WANTS PEACE in the home - He has a HIGH REGARD FOR MARRIAGE.
Therefore, by association, the unbeliever is 'tasting' and 'illuminated' but
still they have not 'feasted upon' and 'received' Jesus Christ.
"have tasted the good word of God"
The Greek word here is not "logos" but "rhema". "Rhema" emphasizes parts,
not the whole. When in this context, we can see why the author uses "rhema"
instead of "logos". Elsewhere, 'logos' usually refers to the whole, but here
"rhema" is used to refer to a "smorgasaboard attitude" towards the Word of
God, they pick a little here, a little there, but never get down to taking
it all in and accepting it all.
We've all met people that like to play "church" or use it as the "social
club". These people take the best part of the ministry and leave the hard
work for the REST OF US..... We wind up doing the WHOLE THING, they do
only what's necessary to keep enjoying the blessings. It's partial
involvement, not whole hearted commitment.
King Herod is a fine example, he enjoyed hearing John the Baptist preach,
but when was he ever saved? (Mark 6:20) When did he repent? Instead,
at his reluctant command, John the Baptist was beheaded! When push comes
to shove, the 'samplers' never commit themselves, but only bring greater
guilt upon themselves.
Is 'tasting' wrong?
Absolutely not. As Christians, we want to be salt to the unsaved, we
and them to see the joy, peace & blessings we enjoy! We want them to
realize that without the Lord, they really have nothing worthwhile and
long lasting. When God blesses unsaved friends, THANK the Lord for them
being blessed so! It sure gets their attention, and hopefully, they will
realize that God has been VERY GOOD to them. We ultimately want their
response to be, "Lord save me!", so directing their attention to the One
from whom all blessings flow is a gentle reminder to Whom they owe thanks.
The BAD NEWS is, if these folks understand the Gospel, have seen the way
God blesses and have even shared in those blessings.... and then utterly
reject God's grace & the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible
to bring them BACK to the same point of repentance they were once at.
I cannot imagine anyone utterly rejecting the Lord after He pours out
blessing after blessing on their life, and they have FULL KNOWLEDGE of
what they are doing.... But we sure seem to see it happening. The best
time to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Saviour is when you KNOW you
need to be saved. To reject Him with full knowledge of the implications
is certain damnation. I hope everyone reading this realizes this.
Lastly, Hebrews was written about the time of the Titus' seige of
Jerusalem. Jerusalem fell to Titus around 70 AD. Could it be that God
in His mercy and perservence was offering Israel as a nation, ONE LAST
PROOF that Jesus was their Messiah, their only hope and salvation before
the judgment was executed against their unbelief? With the mixed crowd
in Jerusalem, we can expect a letter addressed to not a "church" but a
nation of people, some believers, some unbelievers - but all needing the
admonition and encouragement of the Lord to TRUST him. If your city was
under seige for 3 years, about to fall to imperial Rome, wouldn't you
need all the encouragement you could get?
The siege of Jerusalem was so strong, when food ran out, women were
litterally eating the flesh of their children to survive. Titus ran out
of trees to make crosses to crucify the men of the city on.
This article originated on The Salvation Online Network
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