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Hebrews chapter 6

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What does Hebrews chapter 6 mean?

Hebrews chapter 6 represents a high point in the letter. At the end of chapter 5, the author began another warning about the danger of rejecting the gospel in favor of a more culture-friendly faith. Specifically, this work is directed to persecuted Jewish Christians. Many such believers felt pressure to return to a less-controversial Judaism. Much of the material in this book is presented in a "good versus perfect" style. Hebrews shows how the relationship we have with Christ is the intended fulfillment of God's plan.

The last verses of chapter 5 accused the readers of being spiritually immature. Despite being Christians for some reasonable amount of time, they were still hung up on simple concepts. This criticism echoes other warnings given so far in this letter. God's intent for the Christian believer is not to be inert, but to experience continual growth and maturity. If we are lazy, disinterested, or careless, we not only miss the blessings of wisdom, we run the risk of disobedience or discouragement.

The author of Hebrews intends to explain some tough spiritual concepts, but realizes those reading this letter are probably not ready for them. All the same, his intent is to simply move along, presenting these truths as an opportunity for the audience to "catch up," spiritually speaking.

Along the way, Hebrews chapter 6 presents comments about concepts such as "falling away" and "repentance" which are extremely easy to misunderstand. Context, here especially, is crucial in grasping the complete meaning of these verses. Many approach these verses superficially, and come away with the impression that the warning is about losing one's salvation. Taken out of the surrounding passage, this is an understandable mistake. But, in context, it's not nearly what the author intends.

The major interpretations of verses 4 through 6 include a loss of salvation (biblically impossible), those who are "almost but not quite" saved (contrary to the context), risk of disqualification from Christian service resulting in judgment based on disobedience (reasonable), and a hypothetical-but-impossible loss of salvation (also reasonable).

The ultimate meaning of these words is very similar to the example given of Israel's failure at the borders of the Promised Land, from chapters 3 and 4. When Israel failed to show trusting faith, the nation was subjected to harsh judgment before being able to take their rightful place in Canaan. Hebrews warns the reader not to make this same mistake. Then, in chapter 6, the point is made that those who have learned the basic truths of the gospel, yet "fall away," find themselves in a precarious position. Like a field that only bears thorns, there is only one way to restore them: fire. In context, this is not hell, but the cleansing fire of God's judgment during one's earthly life—just as Israel was tried, but not destroyed, in wandering the desert for forty years.

After this, chapter 6 continues to warn against spiritual immaturity, but with a more uplifting tone. The reader is reminded that God is faithful to reward those who seek Him. In fact, the promises made by God are absolutely secure, since they are tied to the ultimate standard of truth: God Himself. This brilliantly motivating passage ties together prior images, such as Christ's high priesthood, the image of the Holy Places of the temple, an anchor, and a place of refuge. Our purpose in seeking to know God better, then, is fused to our trust in Him, and His promises, despite the struggles we may face in the world.
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