Hebrews 5:11-6:20 (NIV)
Warning Against Falling Away
11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Paul Simon (in 2006) and “Slip Slidin’ Away” — a song full of short stories about people who are burdened by the things they never did, or the things they wish they could take back . . . and life is short. Maturity seems far away, while the destination is getting nearer . . .
1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.
from Echoings: From the Bible in Literature,
by J. Ruth Stenerson
“Let us go forward then, to mature teaching . . .”
— Hebrews 6:2
One can hear a note of impatience behind the writer’s words as he tells these Hebrew Christians how difficult it is to explain spiritual truths to them because they are so slow to understand. If they had responded to his teaching as he had expected, they should have been teachers by now, not still busy with their spiritual ABC’s. Paul had the same experience with the Corinthian Christians—“I had to feed you milk, not solid food, because you were not ready for it” (1 Corinthians 3:2).
Parents are soon alarmed, as are doctors, by a growing child’s inability to take solid food. Teachers find it easy to sympathize with Paul and the author of Hebrews because they are so often frustrated by what seems to be total indifference on the part of some students to basic skills needed for further learning.
Analysts ponder what keeps the church from the kind of effectiveness it might have. Is it lack of leadership? lack of money? lack of facilities? Is it not rather, in part at least, that too few in the church have any deep concern about spiritual growth? that so many who have lived all their lives in the church are almost totally inarticulate about their faith? that they have little ability to apply what they have heard in hundreds of sermons to distinguish between good and evil—or little desire to? Many congregations operate at starvation level as far as their adult education programs go.
Which are we—the adult Christians who know their need of spiritual growth, or the “babes of Christ” who “still need someone to teach [us] the first lessons”? “Let us go forward!” pleads the author of Hebrews.
We find food in the bread and wine of the communion table. We find the divine Word opened to us in the Sunday sermon. But we also need to come to that Word in individual study, with the Holy Spirit as our teacher, and to study it with other believers, sharing our insights with each other.
“There has been time enough for you to be teachers.” Is that what we are?
4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Remember there is a great difference between falling and falling away. Falling away isn’t just falling into some sin, it is actually departing from Jesus Himself. The difference is between a Peter and a Judas.
7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of BETTER things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
from Whispers of His Powers, by Amy Carmichael:
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
This is the special word for all who do the business of a household: housekeepers, cooks, room-cleaners, and others. It is a word also for those who plan pleasure for others, givers of flowers, writers of letters, all unseen unsung office workers, and all who serve in any way. The only thing that matters is that our service should not just be something done because it has to be done, but what the Spirit of God calls a labor of love.
Among the myriad of things held in the memory of our Heavenly Father are those little inconspicuous things, your work and labor of love.
11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
The Certainty of God’s Promise
13When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (New Century Version)
The yes to all of God’s promises is in Christ, and through Christ we say yes to the glory of God.
16Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,
we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
You don’t need an anchor for calm seas. The rougher the weather, the more important your anchor! But the anchor analogy doesn’t apply perfectly. We are anchored upward in heaven, not down in the ground; and we are anchored to move on, not to stand still!