V11Therefore 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,. The writer continues in the first part of this chapter his exhortations of the concluding verses of the previous chapter. He wants to have his readers realize that they should not ‘stick’ in “the elementary teaching about Christ”. By that he means everything that was said about and by Christ in relation to His coming to the earth. You may think of the announcement by John the baptist and also of the preaching of Christ Himself. It goes without saying that everything that is said in the Bible, regarding this issue, is God’s Word and thus important, but it is nevertheless related to the Old Testament and to the reign of Christ over His earthly people.
However, because of the rejection of Christ, a completely different situation emerged and on this issue the writer wants to focus the hearts of the believers. He wants them to “press on to maturity” or, as it also can be translated ‘to press on to perfection’. The ‘perfection’ is the knowledge of Christ in relation with the place He now takes, glorified in heaven.
The words “press on to” refer to the spiritual growth of the believer to that ‘perfection’. That means that you make Him being in glory the object of your faith and the purpose of your life. Then you will certainly not be willing to go back to the tangible religion, but you will surely want to go on, with the desire to learn to know more of Him and the wonderful results of His work.
Therefore, what you read in the second part of verse 11Therefore 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, and in verse 22of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. does not refer to Christendom but it refers to Judaism. The writer doesn’t want to go into detail again about this issue, for they knew that from their past as Jews.
Therefore they also knew about “repentance from dead works”. That implies the repentance from works that were done by their own will, independent of God. Furthermore about “faith toward God” they did not have to be taught again anymore. They were familiarized with that from an early age. Repentance and faith are not specifically Christian truths. They were and are needed in all ages in case a sinful man wants to come into connection with a Holy God.
V22of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.. The “instruction about washings” (and absolutely not, as it is translated in the NKJV: the doctrine of baptisms!) indicates the statutes that God gave to Israel, regarding the washing with water. That concerned matters or people who were defiled through contact with sin, that they may be used again in the service of God (e.g. Num 19:1818A clean person shall take hyssop and dip [it] in the water, and sprinkle [it] on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there, and on the one who touched the bone or the one slain or the one dying [naturally] or the grave.).
The doctrine “of laying on of hands” refers to what they had to do for example at the sacrifices. The laying on of hands means to identify with, in this case with the sacrifice (e.g. Lev 1:44He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.; 4:1515Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD.).
The Jews were also familiarized with the doctrine “of resurrection of the dead” (Jn 11:2424Martha *said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”) like they were with the doctrine “of eternal judgment” (Isa 14:9-119“Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come;
It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth;
It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.
10“They will all respond and say to you,
‘Even you have been made weak as we,
You have become like us.
11‘Your pomp [and] the music of your harps
Have been brought down to Sheol;
Maggots are spread out [as your bed] beneath you
And worms are your covering.’
; 38:1818“For Sheol cannot thank You,
Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.
; 66:2424“Then they will go forth and look
On the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm will not die
And their fire will not be quenched;
And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”).
All the characteristics mentioned are thus not that much Christian, but on the contrary typical Jewish. Therefore the writer wants to leave all that.
V33And this we will do, if God permits.. When he says “and this we will do”, he doesn’t mean by that that he will get back later on this. No, ‘this’ refers to ‘to press on to maturity’ of verse 11Therefore 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,. “If God permits” he wants to take the readers with him in spirit to heaven, to the Lord Jesus in glory.
V44For 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,. He consciously expresses himself like that to be dependent of God’s strength, because the spiritual condition of some Hebrews did not allow him to carry out his plan at this moment. That’s because there were people among his readers (and there still are) who accepted Christendom only outwardly, while inwardly they have not changed at all.
They exerted a wrong influence on the true believers, who, due to that, also became dull in following the rejected, though glorified Messiah. Therefore the writer addresses all of them in general terms. Thereby I underline that the impossibility to be renewed again to repentance, only refers to those who only outwardly partook of the privileges of the verses 4-54For 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,5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,, but inwardly had no new life.
All characteristics that are mentioned in the verses 4-54For 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,5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, are outward characteristics. They apply to all confessing Christians, thus both to the true Christians and to the Christians who are Christians only in name. With Christian who are Christians only in name there is knowledge, joy, enlightenment, privileges and power, but no spiritual life. Those are people
1. who have tears like Esau (Heb 12:1717For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.),
2. who are willing to die the death of the righteous like Balaam (Num 23:10b10“Who can count the dust of Jacob,
Or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
And let my end be like his!”
3. who want God fearing people praying for them like Pharaoh (Exo 8:88Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”) and Simon
4. he magician (Acts 8:2424But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”),
5. who prophesy like Caiaphas (Jn 11:49-5249But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,50nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”51Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,52and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.),
6. who love to hear the Word of God like Herod (Mk 6:2020for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.)
and who are still no more than sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
“Once been enlightened” means that they received light about the Person of Christ, His work, His glorification, but that it only refers to an intellectual enlightenment, while the light had not enlightened their conscience.
“Have tasted of the heavenly gift” means that they have received a certain taste of what God gave in Christ, possibly also from the heavenly position that Christ, the Messiah now takes. However, they have not eaten of it and they did not identify themselves with it.
“Have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” are those who find themselves on the territory where the Holy Spirit works. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Holy Spirit also dwells in the person.
V55and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,. ”Have tasted the good word of God” means that they understood how precious the Word is, though it doesn’t have to mean that through that they were made alive.
“The powers of the age to come” are the miracles that will take place in the coming age, when the triumphing Messiah, the Son of God, will completely destroy all powers of the enemy. The Hebrews did see such miracles when the Lord Jesus was on earth and also during the early days of Christendom.
V66and [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.. Each Christian shared in all these characteristics because he lived in a circle where these things were found. Even if there was no spiritual life, still each person experienced these influences. But it only applies to a person who has no spiritual life that he shall fall away from that circle with those characteristics. He could turn his back on that circle and return to his former circle of confession.
The people who are the issue here first belonged to God’s people who crucified the Son of God. Then they confessed this as a sin and became confessors of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. But now they were willfully and knowingly committing the same crime again by returning to those people, while they turned their back on Christendom with its glorified Lord. It is not about people that were acting in ignorance. For these people the Lord Jesus indeed prayed: “They do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:3434But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.).
‘Apostates’ are those who were once enlightened and who acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, who also confessed His crucifixion as sin, but reverted that confession and consider Him as a betrayer whose crucifixion was justified. Those are not ignorant.
Many people in Christianity find themselves in the same position. They were made familiar with the truths regarding Christ, but they get around to, against their better judgment, deny His virginal birth just as His perfect life, His Divinity, His reconciling death and His physical resurrection. For such people it is impossible to be renewed again to repentance, which means to repent again from their current error. They knew the truth, they confessed it, but then rejected it again and now they were dull of it. This rebellion reveals a hardened heart that can never possibly repent.
V77For 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;. The writer clarifies with an example from nature what it means to have the life form God or when this is missing in one’s life. The life of the confessor is being compared with “the ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it”. In the rain you see the ministry of the Word (which is compared with water, Eph 5:2626so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,). The condition of the earth becomes visible through the rain that often comes upon it.
The ‘rain’, that means the blessing from heaven, comes down upon the soul of the confessor in the form of a Divine light, the heavenly gift, the Holy Spirit, the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come. In the case of a true Christian the result of this ‘rain’ will be fruit for God in bringing praise offerings and the following of the Lord Jesus. In the case of the Christian only in name, the apostate, it appears that the rain doesn’t bring fruit out of his life. That’s because the earth contains nothing what could bring fruit: there is no new life, no indwelling Holy Spirit.
V88but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.. The Christian only in name never produces a profitable crop, for the earth is inferior. Out of him only thorns and thistles come forth, the results of the fall of man (Gen 3:17-1817Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
). That stands in connection with sin, stands under the curse and will finally be burned in an eternal curse and fire.
Now read Hebrews 6:1-8 again.
Reflection: What similarities and differences are there between the true and the false Christian?