How does Hebrews 6 apply to us today?
In the midst of the author’s exposition about the high priesthood of Jesus, he interrupts one exhortation to begin another exhortation (5.11-6.8). This section begins with a rebuke, which is rather severe. The author wants to say more about the priesthood of Jesus (5.11-12) but needs to prepare his audience to be able to understand and appreciate what he has to say to them. These Jewish believers were content with what they had learned and were ready to settle for the status quo. To progress further would be to place a greater distance between them and their Jewish roots for which they were already suffering. For the writer, spiritual stagnation is dangerous. We grow and we are fed solid food as we are taught and we are protected by spiritual and ethical discernment.
For these Jewish believers the process of digestion was going to be painful. Each of the elementary teachings (the ABCs 6.1-2) had a place in Judaism but had been invested with new significance in Christian teaching. The author was not going to go over these truths again. Rather, what he had in mind was the error that sought to lure them away from the faith and back to their Jewish roots. One cannot discard the basics even though they may not be all sufficient. It is important to understand that believers need to cultivate their spiritual life by being continually fed. Knowledge often leads to deeper faith. He was ready to take them into a deeper understanding in their Christian experience.
There is a solution to their problem. He urged his audience to go beyond the elementary teaching about Jesus and go on to maturity. To continually review the fundamentals is to remain where one is, kinda like being a perpetual child.
All the matters listed in 6.1-2 were in fact the elementary truths on which the believers were wavering. Verse 3 tells his readers that pressing forward toward maturity is his intended goal as God permitted.
There is an alternative to progress. It is tragic. Choosing not to advance was in fact a retreat that held a gloomy result.
There are four ways this passage has been handled by interpreters. 1) A believer can be in danger of losing his salvation. This is often refuted because of other biblical assurances that salvation is a work of God that cannot be reversed; 2) The warning is against only a profession of faith which fell short of “real salvation”, tasting but not partaking of salvation. (This view is seen in the New Scofield Reference Bible) 3) A warning that a believer could lose his salvation in which case there is no provision for further repentance (This view is seen in the Ryrie Study Bible); 4) This is a warning given of the danger of a Christian moving from a position of true faith and life to the extent of becoming disqualified for further service in the church.
We must remember that the background of Hebrews was persecution of those Jewish people who had chosen to follow Jesus over against Judaism. In any such time apostasy is the supreme sin. When a man can save himself by denying Jesus, it is a hard blow to the church because this person has counted his life and person more valuable than the life of Jesus and his church. This is the condemnation of a person who loves his own comfort of life more than he loves Jesus. It was not the author’s intent to erect a doctrine that there is no forgiveness of post-baptismal sin. What is meant to be understood by those first hearers was the terrible seriousness of choosing personal existence instead of loyalty to Jesus.
In that light this produces a timeless truth about those who in our culture often choose the pleasantness of their comfortable lifestyle over the claims of Jesus on their lifestyle. What we might ask ourselves is what are we doing in our lifestyle that suggests to those looking on and wondering about Christianity about who we are really loyal to? Finally, in a similar time and space of persecution in which you could be called to forfeit your own life, which would you choose? To know, one should continue reading the rest of Hebrews to see what one needs to know and give him or herself to in order to make the correct choice if that proposition should ever arise in our culture. On a lesser note, it can arise in our relationship with our employers, family, politics, etc. Will we have the integrity to stand unwaveringly against the things we know are wrong and harmful, to do that we may be called to do in our jobs, etc? Or, will we turn the other direction, choosing to keep the comforts of life and denounce our loyalty to Jesus?