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Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 6:9-12

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

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Last week’s entry was about the author’s warning to the Hebrews of figuratively crucifying Christ all over again through apostasy. A chilling statement, to be sure, but one that puts our modern day relaxed attitude towards Christianity into sharp relief.

While the Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who began to have doubts as to whether they should have converted to belief in Christ as well as to those who intellectually but not spiritually accepted the promises of the New Covenant, there is much we can learn from this book today.

After the warnings about apostasy, covered last week (emphases mine) …

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

… the author offers reassurance and encouragement to the ‘beloved’, saying that s/he hopes for better from and for them (verse 9). Those hopes involve that which relates to salvation.

The words ‘Though we speak in this way’ following the crucifixion warning is a manner of saying that it does not pertain to all those hearing the author’s letter to them.

Both of our commentators, Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, point out that a preacher must address everyone present in the congregation, even though some of his statements are intended for certain people there present, not all of them.

MacArthur explains:

And so, whenever the Holy Spirit is writing to the congregation, he says, “I’m saying it to you all,” because the writer, in his own mind, wouldn’t pick them out by name not knowing them. He sets a pattern for all of us. I preached these messages for the last several weeks on this particular theme. And I say it to all of you, and yet I know that it doesn’t apply to all of you. But I’m not sure to whom it does apply. Therefore, I preach it as the whole counsel of God and let the Spirit of God do the applying. And that’s all he’s saying, “Beloved, I’ve said it, not because it applies to you directly, but because it applies to all of your congregation; and so, I speak to you all.”

The author addresses the believers in verse 10: God will not forget the fruits of faith they were displaying by serving others in His Name.

Then in verses 11 and 12 the author turns to the unbelievers, those who have not yet committed themselves to Christ. The author hopes that they, too, will come to that same faith, displaying those same fruits, by turning away from sluggishness — dullness of hearing.

John MacArthur sums up these verses with the following explanation, which also pertains to us:

And so, we come to the close of this warning. It’s a simple warning. It doesn’t have to be confusing. It’s a warning that we can give to every person who is here tonight, either for his own life or to pass on to someone else, because of its urgency.

If you’ve come all the way to the edge of decision to receive Jesus Christ, and you’re standing on the edge, and you’ve never made that decision, you’re going to find the longer you reject, the longer you neglect, the harder your heart becomes, and you’re in danger, as He said in an earlier warning of falling away, having an evil heart of unbelief and departing from the living God. You’re in danger, as He said here, of becoming spiritually stupid and then not understanding anything. And then finding that you’ve lost a grip on the basics, and you can’t handle any of the truths that the Spirit of God would want to teach you to bring you to Christ. And then you’re in danger of falling away and never being able to be redeemed again because you rejected against full light, and God can’t give you any more revelation.

But in a compassionate appeal at the end, He says, “Oh, to you Christians, don’t you fear. God won’t forget you.” And then to the rest, “Look at those true ones. Pattern your life after them. Be mimics. Follow them. Beloved it, that lays it at our feet, doesn’t it? If you’re a Christian here tonight, are you the kind of a Christian of whom the Holy Spirit could say, “I want to set you up as an example for others to mimic”? If you’re not a Christian, I pray God that somehow tonight the Spirit of God will bring conviction on your heart, and you’ll not reject the Lord Jesus Christ a moment longer.

Verses 11 and 12 send powerful spiritual messages about perseverance — ‘patience’ — as well as assurance and hope. Matthew Henry offers this:

Full assurance is attainable by great diligence and perseverance to the end.

The road is not always easy. These Jews were being shunned by their friends and family. They were being urged to go back to Judaism. The author of Hebrews was advising them to move on from the Old Covenant to the promises of the New Covenant, from milk to meat. They had heard all the explanations previously, now they had to move on from preparation to maturity in the promises of that truth, in the same way a child moves on from the parental home and schooling to creating his own family and building a career.

This is the spiritual move that the author deeply hopes the noncommittal will make, before it is too late.

Henry gives us this analysis:

He proceeds to set before them caution and counsel how to attain this full assurance of hope to the end. 1. That they should not be slothful. Slothfulness will clothe a man with rags: they must not love their ease, nor lose their opportunities. 2. That they would follow the good examples of those who had gone before, Hebrews 6:12. Here learn, (1.) There are some who from assurance have gone to inherit the promises. They believed them before, now they inherit them; they have got safely to heaven. (2.) The way by which they came to the inheritance was that of faith and patience. These graces were implanted in their souls, and drawn forth into act and exercise in their lives. If we ever expect to inherit as they do, we must follow them in the way of faith and patience; and those who do thus follow them in the way shall overtake them at the end, and be partakers of the same blessedness.

I daresay that faith and patience are in short supply these days, which makes the Book of Hebrews all that more pertinent in the 21st century.

Faith has become an offensive word, one that ‘triggers’, so to speak.

Patience went by the wayside several years ago with seemingly instantaneous delivery of everything from food to other consumables. You want it now? You can have it now — or so we are told.

We have so little faith.

We have so little patience.

I hope that sorry state of affairs changes in the years to come.

Returning to the Book of Hebrews, the author, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, goes on to review the revelations that God gave to Abraham and the order of the priesthood he gave to Melchizedek. These are the meatier subjects he wanted to delve into earlier but saw a correction needed to be made first about the dullness of hearing among some Hebrews.

For those who attend churches with liturgical prayers, phrases such as ‘Abraham, our father in faith’ and ‘the priesthood, according to the order of Melchizedek’ will become clearer as we study more of Hebrews.

Next time — Hebrews 6:13-20

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