By: Daniel Goepfrich
A Warning for Those Who Fall Away
Hebrews 6 continues the theme of maturity from the end of chapter five and provides the third warning. Hebrews 6:1-8 is one of the most debated sections in the book because of the strong warning of judgment. However, all of chapter six is part of a parenthetical section in the middle of the Hebrews 5:10 and Hebrews 7:1 teaching on Melchizedek. Simply put, a believer (which the writer assumes all the readers were) who chooses to not “move on to maturity” has the potential to regress to the point of no return where maturity and ministry are no longer possible (a kind of permanent spiritual infancy). This would result in both a physical punishment (possibly even death) as well as loss of reward or inheritance in the future.
Notice that “fallen away” was not simply a momentary lapse of judgment. The believer described here had the “rain” of God’s Word and blessing and power “often falling” on him, and he “experienced God’s good word and power.” This person was once on the path toward spiritual maturity, but he began to backslide until he passed the point of a spiritual infant (where some of the immediate readers had fallen, Hebrews 5:11-14). The falling away is an attitude marked by spiritual apathy resulting in the rejection of the Savior. Paul wrote that this type of immature believer “is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:11, NIV).
However, this result is not inevitable. The writer was sure that his readers would take his letter to heart and not regress in that way (Hebrews 6:9-12). The fact that the writer used the same word for “sluggish” in both Hebrews 5:12 and Hebrews 6:12 emphasizes the theme of maturity, not salvation, in the whole section. This warning does not teach or imply that a believer can lose his salvation.
God’s Promise to the Messiah
The final paragraph of chapter six leads the topic back to Melchizedek. The writer pointed to the promise his readers were expecting to inherit because of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13-20). He capitalized on that thought, showing that God made a significant promise to Messiah as well, that he would be “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (another quote from Psalm 110). To show the significance of the promise, God made it with an oath. However, because there is nothing higher than God by which he could swear, he swore on his own name (reputation).
Each Thursday, DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com
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