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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - HEBREWS 6
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    CHAPTER 6

    Heb 6:1-14. WARNING AGAINST RETROGRADING, WHICH SOON LEADS TO APOSTASY; ENCOURAGEMENT TO STEADFASTNESS FROM GOD'S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS WORD AND OATH.

    1. Therefore--Wherefore: seeing that ye ought not now to be still "babes" (Heb 5:11-14).
    - leaving--getting further forward than the elementary "principles." "As in building a house one must never leave the foundation: yet to be always laboring in 'laying the foundation' would be ridiculous" [CALVIN].
    - the principles of the doctrine--Greek, "the word of the beginning," that is, the discussion of the "first principles of Christianity (Heb 5:12).
    - let us go on--Greek, "let us be borne forward," or "bear ourselves forward"; implying active exertion: press on. Paul, in teaching, here classifies himself with the Hebrew readers, or (as they ought to be) learners, and says, Let us together press forward.
    - perfection--the matured knowledge of those who are "of full age" (Heb 5:14) in Christian attainments.
    - foundation of--that is, consisting in "repentance."
    - repentance from dead works--namely, not springing from the vital principle of faith and love toward God, and so counted, like their doer, dead before God. This repentance from dead works is therefore paired with "faith toward God." The three pairs of truths enumerated are designedly such as JEWISH believers might in some degree have known from the Old Testament, but had been taught more clearly when they became Christians. This accounts for the omission of distinct specification of some essential first principle of Christian truth. Hence, too, he mentions "faith toward God," and not explicitly faith toward Christ (though of course included). Repentance and faith were the first principles taught under the Gospel.

    2. the doctrine of baptisms--paired with "laying on of hands," as the latter followed on Christian baptism, and answers to the rite of confirmation in Episcopal churches. Jewish believers passed, by an easy transition, from Jewish baptismal purifications (Heb 9:10, "washings"), baptism of proselytes, and John's baptism, and legal imposition of hands, to their Christian analogues, baptism, and the subsequent laying on of hands, accompanied by the gift of the Holy Ghost (compare Heb 6:4). Greek, "baptismoi," plural, including Jewish and Christian baptisms, are to be distinguished from baptisma, singular, restricted to Christian baptism. The six particulars here specified had been, as it were, the Christian Catechism of the Old Testament; and such Jews who had begun to recognize Jesus as the Christ immediately on the new light being shed on these fundamental particulars, were accounted as having the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ [BENGEL]. The first and most obvious elementary instruction of Jews would be the teaching them the typical significance of their own ceremonial law in its Christian fulfilment [ALFORD].
    - resurrection, &c.--held already by the Jews from the Old Testament: confirmed with clearer light in Christian teaching or "doctrine."
    - eternal judgment--judgment fraught with eternal consequences either of joy or of woe.

    3. will we do--So some of the oldest manuscripts read; but others, "Let us do." "This," that is, "Go on unto perfection."
    - if God permit--For even in the case of good resolutions, we cannot carry them into effect, save through God "working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Php 2:13). The "for" in Heb 6:4 refers to this: I say, if God permit, for there are cases where God does not permit, for example, "it is impossible," &c. Without God's blessing, the cultivation of the ground does not succeed (Heb 6:7).

    4. We must "go on toward perfection"; for if we fall away, after having received enlightenment, it will be impossible to renew us again to repentance.
    - for those--"in the case of those."
    - once enlightened--once for all illuminated by the word of God taught in connection with "baptism" (to which, in Heb 6:2, as once for all done," once enlightened" here answers); compare Eph 5:26. This passage probably originated the application of the term "illumination" to baptism in subsequent times. Illumination, however, was not supposed to be the inseparable accompaniment of baptism: thus CHRYSOSTOM says, "Heretics have baptism, not illumination: they are baptized in body, but not enlightened in soul: as Simon Magus was baptized, but not illuminated." That "enlightened" here means knowledge of the word of truth, appears from comparing the same Greek word "illuminated," Heb 10:32, with Heb 10:26, where "knowledge of the truth" answers to it.
    - tasted of the heavenly gift--tasted for themselves. As "enlightened" refers to the sense of sight: so here taste follows. "The heavenly gift"; Christ given by the Father and revealed by the enlightening word preached and written: as conferring peace in the remission of sins; and as the Bestower of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 8:19, 20),
    - made partakers of the Holy Ghost--specified as distinct from, though so inseparably connected with, "enlightened," and "tasted of the heavenly gift," Christ, as answering to "laying on of hands" after baptism, which was then generally accompanied with the impartation of the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts.

    5. tasted the good word of God--distinct from "tasted OF (genitive) the heavenly gift"; we do not yet enjoy all the fulness of Christ, but only have a taste OF Him, the heavenly gift now; but believers may taste the whole word (accusative case) of God already, namely, God's "good word of promise." The Old Testament promise of Canaan to Israel typified "the good word of God's" promise of the heavenly rest (Heb 4:1-16). Therefore, there immediately follows the clause, "the powers of the world to come." As "enlightening" and "tasting of the heavenly gift," Christ, the Bread of Life, answers to FAITH: so "made partakers of the Holy Ghost," to CHARITY, which is the first-fruit of the Spirit: and "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," to HOPE. Thus the triad of privileges answers to the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, in their respective works toward us. "The world to come," is the Christian dispensation, viewed especially in its future glories, though already begun in grace here. The world to come thus stands in contrast to course of this world, altogether disorganized because God is not its spring of action and end. By faith, Christians make the world to come a present reality, though but a foretaste of the perfect future. The powers of this new spiritual world, partly exhibited in outward miracles at that time, and then, as now, especially consisting in the Spirit's inward quickening influences are the earnest of the coming inheritance above, and lead the believer who gives himself up to the Spirit to seek to live as the angels, to sit with Christ in heavenly places, to set the affections on things above, and not on things on earth, and to look for Christ's coming and the full manifestation of the world to come. This "world to come," in its future aspect, thus corresponds to "resurrection of the dead and eternal life" (Heb 6:2), the first Christian principles which the Hebrew believers had been taught, by the Christian light being thrown back on their Old Testament for their instruction (see on Heb 6:1,2). "The world to come," which, as to its "powers," exists already in the redeemed, will pass into a fully realized fact at Christ's coming (Col 3:4).

    6. If--Greek, "And (yet) have fallen away"; compare a less extreme falling or declension, Ga 5:4, "Ye are fallen from grace." Here an entire and wilful apostasy is meant; the Hebrews had not yet so fallen away; but he warns them that such would be the final result of retrogression, if, instead of "going on to perfection," they should need to learn again the first principles of Christianity (Heb 6:1).
    - to renew them again--They have been "once" (Heb 6:4) already renewed, or made anew, and now they need to be "renewed" over "again."
    - crucify to themselves the Son of God--"are crucifiying to themselves" Christ, instead of, like Paul, crucifying the world unto them by the cross of Christ (Ga 6:14). So in Heb 10:29, "trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith . . . sanctified, an unholy thing." "The Son of God," marking His dignity, shows the greatness of their offense.
    - put him to an open shame--literally, "make a public example of" Him, as if He were a malefactor suspended on a tree. What the carnal Israel did outwardly, those who fall away from light do inwardly, they virtually crucify again the Son of God; "they tear him out of the recesses of their hearts where He had fixed His abode and exhibit Him to the open scoffs of the world as something powerless and common" [BLEEK in ALFORD]. The Montanists and Novatians used this passage to justify the lasting exclusion from the Church of those who had once lapsed. The Catholic Church always opposed this view, and readmitted the lapsed on their repentance, but did not rebaptize them. This passage implies that persons may be in some sense "renewed," and yet fall away finally; for the words, "renew again," imply that they have been, in some sense, not the full sense, ONCE RENEWED by the Holy Ghost; but certainly not that they are "the elect," for these can never fall away, being chosen unto everlasting life (Joh 10:28). The elect abide in Christ, hear and continuously obey His voice, and do not fall away. He who abides not in Christ, is cast forth as a withered branch; but he who abides in Him becomes more and more free from sin; the wicked one cannot touch him; and he by faith overcomes the world. A temporary faith is possible, without one thereby being constituted one of the elect (Mr 4:16, 17). At the same time it does not limit God's grace, as if it were "impossible" for God to reclaim even such a hardened rebel so as yet to look on Him whom he has pierced. The impossibility rests in their having known in themselves once the power of Christ's sacrifice, and yet now rejecting it; there cannot possibly be any new means devised for their renewal afresh, and the means provided by God's love they now, after experience of them, deliberately and continuously reject; their conscience being served, and they "twice dead" (Jude 12), are now past hope, except by a miracle of God's grace. "It is the curse of evil eternally to propagate evil" [THOLUCK]. "He who is led into the whole (?) compass of Christian experiences, may yet cease to abide in them; he who abides not in them, was, at the very time when he had those objective experiences, not subjectively true to them; otherwise there would have been fulfilled in him, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance" (Mt 13:12), so that he would have abided in them and not have fallen away" [THOLUCK]. Such a one was never truly a Spirit-led disciple of Christ (Ro 8:14-17). The sin against the Holy Ghost, though somewhat similar, is not identical with this sin; for that sin may be committed by those outside the Church (as in Mt 12:24, 31, 32); this, only by those inside.

    7. the earth--rather as Greek (no article), "land."
    - which drinketh in--Greek, "which has drunk in"; not merely receiving it on the surface. Answering to those who have enjoyed the privilege of Christian experiences, being in some sense renewed by the Holy Ghost; true alike of those who persevere and those who "fall away."
    - the rain that cometh oft upon it--not merely failing over it, or towards it, but falling and resting upon it so as to cover it (the GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - D. J-F-B INDEX & SEARCH

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