Devotionals from Hebrews
AFFLICTING THE COMFORTABLE
A Word of Exhortation
By Henry Jaegers
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers are rejected and are nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:1-8)
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection
I once heard it said that the purpose of the word of God is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I am using this phrase to introduce this portion which needs to be seen in this manner.
In approaching this particular passage of Scripture, one cannot be too careful in his analysis. It has given ammunition to those who go to one extreme or the other in trying to prove their particular bias. First, this passage is not a warning about losing your salvation. Second, this passage is not a hypothetical situation which is often used to prove a point that one cannot lose their salvation no matter how hard they try. Both of these interpretations of this passage fall short of its intended meaning.
In order to properly analyze the condition to which this verse is speaking, it will be necessary for me to deal with it in several articles.
Early in my Christian life, I had the idea that all the statements in Hebrews that had the word "if" in it, were conditional. I believe that is a faulty interpretation of Hebrews. There have been many young Christians who have been led by those who misuse the interpretation of this passage. It has given rise to two extremes, both of which cannot be supported by a clear understanding of God's intended meanings for giving us a particular word. Some have interpreted this passage as being a possibility that you could lose your salvation and never getting it back again. Others have put forth the idea of multiple salvation experiences. And then we have the other extreme that looks at these verses as hypothetical. In other words, it gives the impression that even if they tried to do so, it couldn’t happen (this results in producing some kind of flabby Christian who needs an excuse to remain in neutral). It is used merely as an illustration. That also is false.
That being so, how may we interpret and understand the message that the apostle is putting forth to these people? So let's begin by asking a few questions:
1. Who are these people that the apostle is addressing?
That is a very important question to ask whenever we study Scripture. It is so easy to take passages out of context without understanding the reason for their being spoken. Usually, there's a particular problem the passage is meant to address. Sometimes we apply these statements as universal truths for every situation.
A good illustration of the situation that Paul is addressing is found in the book of Ezra. Do you remember, that the people were actually thrust out of Babylon in order to go build the temple? They were quite comfortable in Babylon and having been there for seventy years, it was hard for them to leave the home in which they were well- established. That is always a problem when it comes to moving on toward a new location.
Finally, at last, they began to build the temple. But it was not long after they laid the foundations, that opposition arose, the people got discouraged, and concluded that it was not time to build God's house. In other words, they were happy to have laid the foundations without finishing the work. It took the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir them up and get them started building once again. With the help of these two prophets, the people became encouraged and began building and eventually finished the temple.
So what is the application? Before us, we have Christians, Hebrew believers, who had laid the foundation spiritually in their lives, but nothing was happening after the foundation was laid. They were content to dwell in their present condition and before Paul could give them any of the deeper meanings of Scripture, he had to deal with the hindrances of not willing to move forward in their spiritual lives.
So Paul takes time to build upon the foundation and encourage them to finish the structure for which God called them. They were like the children of Israel when they stopped building, because of opposition. The apostle is like Haggai and Zechariah stirring up the people in their present condition and pressing them on to progression and greater blessing in the spiritual life.
So for now, we will lay the foundation for building our understanding of this passage. As we progress forward, it will all make sense and we will be encouraged as we come to understand the ways and methods that God uses to cause us to grow.