The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is doing a study through the New Testament book of Hebrews. The word better is used thirteen times in the book of Hebrews as the writer shows the superiority of Christ and His salvation over the Hebrew system of religion. Another word that is repeated in this book is perfect; in the original Greek it is used fourteen times. It means a perfect standing before God. Eternal is a third word that is important to the message of Hebrews. When you combine these three words, you discover that Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us perfect standing before God. This study is not a diet for “spiritual babes” who want to be spoon-fed and coddled. In this letter you will find “strong meat” that demands some chewing and enjoying.
In this session the writer of Hebrews says that we should move from milk to meat. The “milk” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ did on earth—His birth, life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection. The “meat” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ is now doing in heaven. We begin the Christian life on the basis of His finished work on earth. We grow in the Christian life on the basis of His unfinished work in heaven.
These are the notes to Session 6.
Click on the YouTube link at the end of these notes for the audio recording.
Chapters 5-10 address Jesus’s intercessory mission as High Priest.
All of a sudden now the writer starts talking about Jesus as a priest that is superior to any high priest who was very important in the Hebrew religion because he was the one who interacted with God on behalf of the people.
But what about Aaron, the first high priest? Is it possible that the Aaronic priesthood, with all of its sacrifices and ceremonies, could bring a troubled soul into rest?
The central theme of Hebrews is the priesthood of Jesus Christ, what He is now doing in heaven on behalf of His people. Is the high priestly ministry of Christ superior to that of Aaron and his successors? Yes, it is, and the writer proves his assertion by presenting four arguments.
Jesus Christ has a superior title
Aaron was a “high priest,” but Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest
Hebrews 4:14 NIV Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Jesus Christ has a superior ordination
Jesus Christ did not appoint Himself as High Priest. He was appointed by God the Father.
Hebrews 5:1, 4-6 NIV Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Two factors make Christ’s priesthood unique and, therefore, His ordination greater.
First, He is a High Priest forever.
At least six times the writer affirmed that Christ’s high priesthood is forever.
Hebrews 5:6 NKJV As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”;
Hebrews 6:20 NKJVwhere the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 7:17, 21, 24, 28 NKJV For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”), But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
And, since He is a Priest forever, He gives His people salvation forever.
The second factor that makes Christ’s ordination unique is that He belongs to a different order from the Old Testament priests.
The Old Testament priests belonged to the order of Aaron; He belongs to the order of Melchizedek.
His name means “King of Righteousness,” and he was also “King of Salem [peace].” But the fascinating thing about Melchizedek is that he was both a priest and a king! King Uzziah, whose name I mentioned earlier, wanted to be both a priest and a king, and God judged him. Only in Jesus Christ and in Melchizedek, who came before the law by the way, were these two offices combined.
The reason Jesus Christ can be “a priest forever” is that He belongs to the “order of Melchizedek.”
As far as the Old Testament record is concerned, Melchizedek did not die.
Hebrews 7:1-3 NKJV For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Of course, because he was a real man, he did die at some time, but the record is not given to us. So Melchizedek becomes a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ who is a Priest forever.
But Melchizedek also pictures our Lord as a heavenly High Priest. Jesus Christ could never have served as a priest when He was on earth because He did not belong to the tribe of Levi. Jesus was born of the seed of David, the tribe of Judah. He became the sacrifice on earth that He might become the High Priest in heaven. All of these truths will be developed in Hebrews 7—10, which we will study later but they are introduced here.
But before we get to these truths about Jesus and His role as High Priest the writer wants to make sure that his readers will understand what he is about to tell them. So he inserts a difficult and often misunderstood section in the letter and we are going to dive into it today. It is Hebrews 5:11 - 6:20.
Hebrews 6:12 summarized the main message of this section.
Hebrews 6:12 NKJV that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Pilgrims Should Make Progress So Don’t Become Lazy 5:11-6-20
Israel wanted to go back to Egypt, and, as a result, a whole generation failed to inherit what God had promised. They were safely delivered out of Egypt, but they never enjoyed the promised rest in Canaan. We believers today can make the same mistake.
If you keep in mind that the emphasis in this section is on making spiritual progress, you will steer safely through misinterpretations that could create problems. In this section, the writer deals with three topics that relate to spiritual progress.
The Marks Of Spiritual Immaturity
Hebrews 5:9-14 NKJV And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The writer was about to begin his explanation of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, but he was not sure his readers were ready for what he had to teach. He said that the problem was that they were dull hearers! The word translated “dull” in Hebrews 5:11refers to a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual development.
What, then, are the marks of spiritual immaturity?
First is dullness toward the Word. These believers started on their “backward journey” by drifting from the Word,
Hebrews 2:1-4 NKJV Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
And then they doubted the Word
Hebrews 3:7-11 NKJV Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
As a result, they were now “dull of hearing”; that is, unable to listen to the Word, receive it, and act on it.
One of the first symptoms of spiritual regression, or backsliding, is a dullness toward the Bible.
Another mark of spiritual immaturity is an inability to share (v. 12a). to share spiritual truth with others.
Look at the first half of verse 5:12
Hebrews 5:12 (a) NKJV For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God;
Not all Christians have the gift of teaching, but all can share what they learn from the Word. The recipients of this letter had been saved long enough to be able to share God’s truth with others. But, instead of helping others to grow, these Hebrew Christians were in need of learning again the simple teachings of the Christian life.
Now let’s look at the second half of verse 12 and then verse 13.
Hebrews 5:12 (b) -13 NKJV… and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
Milk is predigested food, and it is specially suited to babies. But only those who have teeth can enjoy meat. The writer defines the “milk” as “the first principles of the oracles of God”. The “meat” of the Word is the teaching about our Lord’s ministry now in heaven as our High Priest. The writer wanted to give this “meat” to them, but they were not ready for it.
The “milk” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ did on earth—His birth, life, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection. The “meat” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ is now doing in heaven. We begin the Christian life on the basis of His finished work on earth. We grow in the Christian life on the basis of His unfinished work in heaven.
Of course, even the maturest adult never outgrows milk. As believers, we can still learn much from our Lord’s work on earth. But we must not stop there! We must make spiritual progress, and we can do this only if we learn about Christ’s priestly ministry for us in heaven.
Hebrews 5:14 NKJV But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
As we grow in the Word, we learn to use it in daily life. As we apply the Word, we develop spiritual discernment. Children lack discernment. A baby will put anything into its mouth. An immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and not be able to identify whether or not he is a false prophet or a false teacher.
Just as our physical bodies have senses without which we could not function, so our inner “spiritual man” has “spiritual senses.”
Psalms 34:8 NKJV Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Matthew 13:16-17 NKJV But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
As we feed on the Word of God and apply it in daily life, our inner “spiritual senses” become strong.
The ability to discern good and evil is a vital part of Christian maturity. The nation of Israel in Moses’ day lacked this discernment and failed to claim its promised inheritance. The readers of this letter were in danger of making the same mistake. It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life: We either go forward and claim God’s blessing, or we go backward and wander about aimlessly.
The Call To Spiritual Maturity
No one can escape coming into the world as a baby, because that is the only way to get here! But it is tragic when a baby fails to mature. No matter how much parents and grandparents love to hold and cuddle a baby, it is their great desire that the baby grow up and enjoy a full life as a mature adult. God has the same desire for His children. That is why He calls to us, “Go on to perfection or maturity”
Hebrews 6:1-12 NKJV Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6:1-3 NKJV Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.
If we are going to make progress, we have to leave the childhood things behind and go forward in spiritual growth. When we were in kindergarten, we learned our ABCs the teacher taught us our ABCs.
You learn your ABCs so that you can read words, sentences, books—in fact, anything in literature. But you do not keep learning the basics. You use the basics to go on to better things.
The phrase, “Let us go on,”, in verse 1, should be translated, “Let us be carried forward.” It is God who enables us to progress as we yield to Him, receive His Word, and act on it. A baby does not “grow him or herself.” They grow as they eat, sleep, exercise, and permit their body to function, and gradually they mature into an adult. It is normal for Christians to grow; it is abnormal for them to have arrested growth.
The writer lists six foundational truths of the Christian life, all of which, by the way, are also foundational to the Jewish faith. After all, our Christian faith is based on the Jewish faith and is a fulfillment of it.
If the readers of this epistle went back to Judaism in order to escape persecution, they would only be abandoning the perfect for the imperfect, the mature for the immature.
The first two foundational truths (repentance and faith) Mark the beginning of the spiritual life. To repent means to change one’s mind. It is not simply a “bad feeling about sin,” because that could be regret or remorse. It is changing one’s mind about sin to the point of turning from it. Once a sinner has repented then he is able to exercise faith in God. Repentance and faith go together.
The next two items (baptisms and laying on of hands) have to do with a person’s relationship to the local assembly of believers.The word baptisms in Hebrews 6:2 is plural and can be translated “washings”. While water itself can never cleanse sin baptism is a symbol of spiritual cleansing as well as our identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. We read that in Romans.
Romans 6:1-4 NKJV What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
The “laying on of hands” symbolized the sharing of some blessing or the setting apart of a person for ministry.
The last two foundational truths, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, have to do with the future. Both orthodox Jews and Christians believe in these doctrines.
Daniel 12:2 NKJV And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
The Old Testament teaches a general resurrection, but does not make the doctrine clear.
The New Testament teaches a resurrection of the saved and also a resurrection of the lost.
John 5:24-29 NKJV “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
The lesson of the paragraph (Heb. 6:1–3) is clear: “You have laid the foundation. You know your ABCs. Now move forward! Let God carry you along to maturity!”
The Fact That You Are Spiritually Immature Does Not Affect Your Salvation
Hebrews 6:4-6 NKJV For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
These verses, along with another section in Hebrews (Hebrews 10:26–39), have given people cause for worry and concern, mainly because these verses have been misunderstood and misapplied. People have misread this passage and convinced themselves (or been convinced by Satan) that they were hopelessly lost and had committed some unpardonable sin.
Bible scholars and theologians over the years have come up with several approaches to this very serious passage.
One view is that the writer is warning us against the sin of apostasy, which is willfully turning one’s back on Jesus Christ and returning to the old life. According to these people such a person would be lost forever. The problem with this approach is the Greek word apostosia (the Greek for apostasy) is not used in this passage. The verb for “fall away” (Heb. 6:6) is parapipto, which literally means “to fall alongside.”