Hebrews 6:4-12 Inheriting salvation through faith and patience
4 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, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.
7 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; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 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. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Today’s text describes the condition of the church where many have fallen away even though they have tasted the goodness of God and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The wretched condition of the church today is not due to the lack of divine grace, but the lack of the feeding of solid food that produces faith. Today’s passage emphasizes the relative importance of solid food as opposed to milk. It teaches us that salvation comes to those who accomplish God’s calling through faith and patience.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift…
The author observes and notices among his readers some having seen (enlightened) the reality of heaven and tasted the gifts, the goodness of the Spirit and the word and its power, and if they reject the truth of God and return to their wicked ways (fall away), it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. In other words, once a person comes to full realization that heaven and hell is real and God’s ways are merciful and true, but if he chooses to take advantage of God’s mercy and indulge in the lust of the flesh incessantly, then nothing more can be done to turn him back to God: it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Salvation is offered bearing the condition that a person acknowledges Christ as Lord by turning away from his wicked ways. It is important to note that, whenever men turn back to God in true repentance, God will most definitely accept him. Hence, the near impossibility of men’s repentance is attributed not to the part of God, but to the hardened condition of men’s hearts.
The text goes as far as to number those who have fallen away with those who crucify Christ for their own advantage. To return to the ways of the devil even after experiencing God’s goodness is tantamount to selling Christ out by crucifying him again.
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it…
By using an analogy from agriculture, the text substantiates the impossibility of renewing such a person towards repentance. The blessings and benefits enjoyed by the community demonstrates that they are like land that receives frequent rain and is cared for by God. There is also assurance and confidence that the community will share in further blessing from God. But if the community should fall away and return to their wicked ways, it would be like a field which was well watered and cultivated, but which then produced only thorns and thistles. Thorns and thistles refers to a hardened heart that is wicked and self-centered. For such, God considers them worthless, and a curse of imminent judgment will consume them: and it ends up being burned.
So that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The author reiterates the optimism and assurances of a godly life that the good things that accompany salvation will continue if they take heed and apply the warnings written. God is righteous to remember their works of love as a testimony to the authenticity of their faith. Nevertheless, the author urges them to beware of the lingering danger of falling away. By being diligent in feeding on the solid food of the word, they will be strengthened to persevere to the end and realize the hope of full glory: realize the full assurance of hope until the end. The word “sluggish” is again used here (compare “dull of hearing” in the previous passage) to urge believers not to remain in the comfort zone of an infant but to grow up in becoming imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
God extends His hand of salvation, but men must maintain that salvation by upholding the Lordship of Christ throughout their lives. The covenant of salvation, just like a marriage covenant, can be broken by either party. In the event, when any man decides to turn away from God and revert to his wicked ways, the covenant is broken. Nevertheless, God is merciful and will restore to him his salvation if he repents regardless of the number of times he turned away from God. Therefore, people need to be constantly fed the solid food of the word, so that they may grow in maturity to withstand the temptations that can rob them of their salvation. By constantly depending on the Holy Spirit, believers may become imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Divine grace cannot save; it only serves to reveal the goodness of God. Like rain, grace falls on the ground irrigating all kinds of plants including the thorns and thistles. However, it is the truth (the solid food of the word) that will set a person free to inherit salvation. Jesus says to the believing Jews, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32. Hence, eternal life belongs to those who respond positively and faithfully to the preaching of the truth. To illustrate, one cannot save a child from ruin by showering him with kisses and gifts all the time. It is by teaching the truth and by loving discipline that a child learns to live by the ways of righteousness and to prosper. Divine grace and blessing fall on both the just and the unjust. However, what separates the just from the unjust is their response towards the preaching of the truth.
A true follower of Christ obeys not due to compulsion but because of faith. Many decide to conform to the truth because of the fear of punishment. But those who obey because of their faith towards God will never fall away; they will inherit the promises of honor and glory. The author urges believers to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Faith is revealed when one obeys God willingly, not out of compulsion but out of love and reverence. Christ went to the cross and suffered willingly; His obedience is motivated by His reverence towards God – that is faith.
- Is the focus of your Christian life in getting yourself saved and blessed? Or are you focused on fulfilling God’s calling for your life? If your focus is in fulfilling the commission of the cross in building God’s kingdom through your divine calling, you will inherit the promises of glory and honor.
- Is your focus on receiving earthly blessings? Or are you focused on assimilating God’s truth into your life and living it out? The pathway of truth is peppered with God’s favor, supernatural provisions and blessings of the Spirit.
Dear Lord, I am filled with gratitude for your blessings in my life and I can never repay the grace that you have given me. I will endeavor to fulfill the calling that you have placed in me. Fill me with your Spirit so that I may finish the race by faith and patience. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.