Hebrews 5:11-6:20 The Surety of the Son

Hebrews 5:11-6:20 The Surety of the Son

From our passage today, three themes will come out:

  1. A warning for some of us.  Are we right with God?
  2. Assurance for others of us.  We can know that we’re OK with God.  That we are secure with him.
  3. Our trust and hope in Jesus will grow because God is completely trustworthy and true.  He is faithful, and whatever he promises, he will do it.  He is the Great Promise Keeper.

Hebrews 5:11-6:12

Let’s read the first portion of our passage for today.  The first two themes will come out:  Warning and Assurance.

Hebrews 5:11–6:12 (CSB)

5:11 We have a great deal to say about this, and it is difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand.

12 Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food.

13 Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.

14 But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

6:1 Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God,

2 teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

3 And we will do this if God permits.

4 For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit,

5 who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age,

6 and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.

7 For the ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and that produces vegetation useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God.

8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and at the end will be burned.

9 Even though we are speaking this way, dearly loved friends, in your case we are confident of things that are better and that pertain to salvation.

10 For God is not unjust;  he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them.

11 Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end,

12 so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.

Beginning in 5:11, the message is very strong.  He is rebuking and warning the people.  It seems to me he is speaking to a small percentage of the church (or churches).  But it’s still a strong warning. 

Some of them are lazy.  Spiritually immature.  Even babies.   Not a very pleasant rebuke, but it’s appropriate, because the people have heard all the truths about Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, but they simply haven’t grabbed hold of it.

So then in 6:1, he calls them to greater things.  They have neglected six doctrinal truths that are foundational to Christianity.  They need to grow up.  They need convictions…being convinced in their hearts of the truth. 

Interestingly, though, these six are also part of the Old Covenant to Israel.  It fits with the overall theme of the letter of Hebrews that some of the people in the church were more focused on the Old Covenant and some of its practices rather than on Christ and the foundational doctrines of the gospel.

Now we get to vs. 4.  Here is one of the more debated and puzzling passages in the NT.  Some of you have asked me about this passage before.  Questions like, “What is going on here?”

Bible students and scholars have debated these 3 verses for centuries.  What is he really saying?

Here are four common ways that over the centuries this passage has been interpreted.

  1. Believer—loses salvation
  2. Believer—hypothetical situation
  3. Believer—under discipline from the Lord
  4. Unbeliever

Let’s discuss these in more detail.

View #1—Believer—Loses salvation

View #1 says that vs. 4-6 describe a true believer in Jesus Christ but has now gone completely rogue. 

He once had truly believed, received the Holy Spirit as a pledge of salvation, but now denies Jesus Christ and his gospel.   This is more than a Christian simply having a bad week and not walking by faith.  This is an outright rejection of Jesus that says (even publicly), “Yes, I once believed, but now I turn away from all that permanently.”  And so, the view is, he has lost his salvation.  He is no longer a child of God.  And he now cannot ever return.

If we read only these few verses, I can certainly understand the argument.  That interpretation can fit vs. 4 and 5.   But one key principle of reading and understanding the Bible is to keep in mind not only the immediate context but also the entirety of Scriptures.  We should ask, “What else does the Bible have to say about this subject?  Does it speak elsewhere about this topic?”

Because it’s always important to interpret the less-clear passages with the more-clear ones.

So let’s apply that guideline to this passage.  I believe that the Scriptures clearly teach that if you genuinely have believed in Jesus—you acknowledge him as the Eternal Son, the Lamb of God, the Great High Priest, the Only Savior of the world, and the Great Forgiver of sins, then you are secure in the arms of Almighty God.  You cannot then ever be UN-saved.  You cannot be UN-born again.  You cannot ever again experience condemnation for your sins.

It’s not difficult to find passages on that.  Let me give you two.

Ephesians 1:13–14 CSB In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed.  The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

On the day we believe in Jesus, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day Jesus returns, the day of redemption.  


John 10:28–29 CSB  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

No one can take us from God.  Not even ourselves.

There are many others.  Romans 8:28-39 Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Ephesians 1:4. He chose us before the world was created to be holy and blameless in his sight.   So based on these Scriptures and many others, view #1 is not a biblical option.  A true believer cannot lose his/her salvation.

Now we can ask, “How do we know if we are true believers?”  We’ll get to that.

As for other views, I believe Views 2, 3, and 4, I all have some merit.  None of these views fit the passage perfectly, but I can see the possibilities. 

View #2.  I call it the Believer—Hypothetical View

This view acknowledges the argument I just made, that a true Christian cannot be Unsaved.  However, hypothetically, if a Christian could lose his salvation, there would be no provision for repentance.  The thought here is that the author is making a rhetorical argument:  If a genuine Christian–someone who has the Spirit of God and has been born again–could actually reject Christ and so lose his salvation, there is no turning back.  There is no provision for repentance again.

The argument is hypothetical, like saying, “If the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow, horrible things will happen.”  The author crafts this harsh warning to loudly awaken the true Christians out of their spiritual slumber, to wake them up and tell them how grave it is to reject Jesus.  He warns them like this even though he recognizes that a believer can’t lose his salvation.   

I understand the argument here.  It makes some sense.  And some respectable Bible students hold this view.   Personally I simply don’t see that this is what the author is saying, particularly when we look at the other warning four passages in Hebrews in chapters 2, 3, 10, and 12.   

View #3.  Believer—under severe discipline.  

This view holds that the author is speaking to a true Christian.  Someone who has the Spirit of God, who is forgiven before God, and has been adopted by God into his eternal family.  But this person has moved from a position of true faith to a hard, calloused heart.   And so he is experiencing severe discipline from the Lord, even though he won’t lose his salvation. 

So the warning is, “Dear Christian, turn back.  Jesus is the only way.  Why would you want to experience your heavenly Father’s stern hand of discipline?  What good is that?  Where is the glory in that?”

There is merit to this argument.

View #4 I call the Unbeliever view.  

This view (which is the view I lean towards) holds that the author is speaking to someone who looks like a true Christian but actually is not.  Perhaps they’ve prayed a prayer for Jesus to come into their heart.  Perhaps they’ve come to church many times.  They’ve read the Bible a lot.  Served in a ministry.  They have loved being with the people in the church.  Heard sermons on sin, judgment, and the resurrection.  This person has been so exposed to true Christianity and has gotten so close to actually embracing Christ, yet in his heart, he has never truly believed.  Never truly entered into the family of God and been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Years ago my roommate and I had a friend named Bill.  Bill was active in our church.  In our small group.  He seemed to be genuine his about faith in Jesus.  But months later he told my roommate and me that he simply didn’t believe this Christianity stuff.  Jesus Christ wasn’t really the WAY to heaven.  My roommate saw more clearly and quickly than I did the implications of what Bill was saying, and he graciously but firmly warned Bill that he was at risk of rejecting true life.  Was Bill ever born again??   I tend to think not, although ultimately God knows the heart.

So in this view, this person has been exposed to all the glory of the gospel, but he is now reconsidering all this, and on the verge of completely turning his back on Jesus. 

And the warning is, if you reject Jesus, dear friend, God will deliver you over to your heart’s desire.

This makes me think of Romans 1.

Romans 1:22–25 CSB  Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.  Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever.  Amen.

To those who harden their hearts against God, he gives them over even more to what they want.   So this person is sternly warned, “Don’t go there!” 

Let’s step back now and look at all four views.  Regardless of which view we hold, the warning of this passage still stands.  There may be a few of us here in this room (or watching online) that are described by this passage.  You are on the verge of forsaking all that Jesus is, and so you are warned to not reject Christ.  Instead seek him and believe in him.  The stakes could not be higher. 

For the entire book of Hebrews makes it clear:  Jesus is like no one else.  No one else is sent from heaven like Jesus.  No one else is the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth.  No one else is both Deity and Human, God Incarnate.  No one else is the Great High Priest who died for the sins of others, and now is the only Mediator between God and man.  No one else offers his own blood in heaven for the cleansing of the sins of the world.

So Hebrews warns us and urges us, look to Jesus.    If you reject him, there is no hope. 

It’s like I shared four weeks ago, a story from the Gospel of John.  People loved hanging out with Jesus.  Large crowds followed him.  But then he spoke of some difficult things that they did not like.  So they left him.  They stopped following Jesus.

So Jesus saw this as a teachable moment, so he says to his twelve disciples:

John 6:67–69 CSB   “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

I love his words:  “Where else can we go?  No one has life like Jesus does.”

An application from our passage so far is this:

Be diligent.

Or I could say like the author does, Stop being so lazy.  It’s time to grow up into maturity. Be diligent to seek after Jesus.  To know him.  To have deeper convictions about the gospel, about what is true about eternal life and all that Jesus is and all that he has done.  You have nowhere else to go.  Your Christian faith ought not to be a hobby.  It ought to be your life.  Be diligent, not lazy.  Grow up in Christ.

Hebrews 6:9-12

Vs. 9-12

Then in vs. 9-10, the author changes his tone.  In spite of the warning he just gave, he is confident of better things for what seems to be the majority of his readers.   Be encouraged:  The Lord sees how you love his people.  And he will never forget it.  And he urges them to keep pressing on in faith.  Persevere, for that’s how the men and women of old walked, by persevering in faith, waiting for the fulfillment of the promises of God.

So in vs. 11, he wants us to be assured of our salvation.  (I think of this as the theme verse of the chapter.)

“Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end…”

So let’s ask, How can we be assured that we truly have forgiveness before God…that we are born again, born into God’s family…that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit?

Hebrews along with the rest of the NT calls us to such assurance in three ways:

  1. Our confession
  2. Our fruit
  3. Our perseverance

Our confession is as simple as the gospel we confess (Hebrews 4:14 that we read last week). “Let us hold fast to our confession.”  We are to hold fast to what we believe. For example, at Stonebrook’s baptisms a few weeks ago, we asked four basic creed-like questions to baptism candidates.  We have to start here, don’t we?  Do we confess Jesus is Lord and Savior, or do we deny him?

The second aspect of the assurance of our salvation is our fruit.   This is what vs. 10 talks about: our deeds done in love.  Do we walk the talk?  (See also James 2:14-26 and 1 John 3:16-18.)  Let me be clear:  My “fruit” and my good works do not save me.  But genuine faith—genuine confession— looks like something.  And if I’m not walking at all like Jesus, if there is little to no fruit, shouldn’t you ask me, “Brad, what do you really believe?  Do you truly believe what you confess?”

Third, our perseverance noted throughout this book is also key to our assurance (Heb 3:14, 6:11,12, 10:36 et al).  This simply means that we walk by faith to the end of our days.  It doesn’t mean we never have doubts.  Rather, it means that the pattern of our lives is to confess that Jesus is who he says he is and bear his fruit until the day we die.   This perseverance does not save us, but is the evidence—the proof—of the reality of our confession.

And ultimately, God is the one who sustains us to the end.  We don’t persevere merely by exerting only human effort.  Philippian 1:6 says that God, who began a good work in us, will carry that work to completion until Christ returns. 

So we can and should have assurance that we truly do belong to Jesus.  We do believe that he is the Great High Priest who is my One and Only Mediator before God.  And I have no other hope. 

An application here is this:

Take heart. 

Be encouraged.  God is for you.  He knows your confession.  He is helping you to bear fruit.  He is sustaining you in perseverance of faith to the end.  I see this in so many of you, and it brings me joy.  Be glad.  God is active in you.  He is real.  Jesus is doing a good work in you.  Take heart.  Be encouraged.

Hebrews 6:13-20

Now we get to the last half of our passage for today.  What we are about to read has brought me encouragement and strength this week.  What we will find is that God is absolutely true.  He is a Promise Keeper. He is Faithful to his word.  He never lies.

And so we can trust him.  We can trust him during the hard times of life.   And more importantly, we can trust him to save our souls for all eternity through Jesus, the Son, the One who is the radiance of God’s glory. 

Our God is trustworthy.

So let’s read vs. 13-20:

Hebrews 6:13–20 (CSB)

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself:

14 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you. [Quoted from Genesis 22]

15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise.

16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute.

17 Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath,

18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.

19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

From Genesis to Revelation, God makes promises.  And when he says he will do something, he will do it.

The example he gives here speaks of Abraham.  He promised Abraham in Genesis 22 (quoted here in vs. 14) that he would bless him mightily, and that he would give him many, many descendants.  And that the nations throughout the world would be blessed through Abraham, which ultimately points us to Jesus Christ, THE Great Descendant of Abraham, through whom all the earth is blessed.  God promised that, and then he confirmed it with an oath.  “I promise.  And I swear it will come true.”  So the Lord wanted Abraham (and now us) to be doubly sure that he will accomplish what he says.  And Hebrews tells us, God kept his word.  He always keeps his word. 

And so we can trust the Son.  We can trust him for eternal life, and for everything else in this life.

And I love vs. 19, the image of this anchor.  Picture a huge ship on the ocean.  They have massive anchors.  Gigantic links of steel making up the chain.  The trustworthy promises of God are like a gigantic anchor.  It is wrapped around our waist and extends up into heaven, into the heavenly temple where Jesus our Great High Priest is.  We are secure….we are assured…because Jesus—by the true word of God—is our anchor and our great hope.

Ultimately our assurance is not about having perfect faith.  It’s not about never having doubts.

Ultimately our assurance comes from a simple trust—simple faith—that God is completely trustworthy.   God is our assurance.  We can trust that he keeps his promises.  That he never lies.  There is no need to doubt.  Jesus is our hope, our only hope, and the anchor for our souls.  The God who never lies says it is so. 

An application here is this:

Trust him today.

With whatever you are facing today…some small stresser in your life….or your need for salvation…whatever you are facing, stop doubting God.  Stop doubting our salvation.  Stop doubting he cares.  Stop doubting he will provide for us in the days ahead.  Stop doubting he has good planned for you.

He has promised life and light and forgiveness and hope through his Son.  And doubly, he has sworn, “I swear I will do this.”  No surer word could ever be given.