What does Hebrews 6:16 mean?
ESV: For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
NIV: People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.
NASB: For people swear an oath by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath serving as confirmation is an end of every dispute.
CSB: For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute.
NLT: Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding.
KJV: For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
NKJV: For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
Verse Commentary:
The concept of an "oath" is grounded in our acknowledgement of human sin. The need to give others extra assurance that we are not lying, in and of itself, is a response to human dishonesty. The fact that we almost always ground an oath in something higher than the person making the oath in the first place also recognizes the limited, fallible morality of mankind. The reassurance that such an oath produces is both a human convention, and a human need.

This is the reason God chooses to use the concept of an "oath" in certain situations. As an unchanging, perfect, absolutely good being, God cannot lie or change. Everything God says is absolutely true, and He has the power to do anything He says He will do. But, for the sake of human reassurance, there are times when God swears an oath (Hebrews 6:17). Of course, since there is nothing higher than God, He swears on Himself. Trusting in who God is, and what He has done, is critical to our confidence as we grow in faith.

Abraham, according to this passage, is the key example of this kind of patient faith. He saw God fulfill promises, even as there were some promises which God did not completely fulfill until after Abraham's death. The persecuted Jewish Christians reading this letter for the first time, however, had seen the fulfillment of those oaths in history. Even more than Abraham, they had reasons to be confident in the legitimacy of the promises of God.

The ultimate source of our assurance, however, has come in the form of Jesus Christ. With Him as our "anchor," Christians ought to be convinced enough to grow in truth and love, despite our hardships.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 6:13–20 completes the transition from dire warning, to encouragement, back to the prior topic. Prior sections gave a strong warning against believers ''falling away'' due to a shallow, immature faith. The passage immediately prior encouraged the readers that their good works proved sincerity. Here, the writer outlines the assurance which allows Christians to grow in their faith despite persecution. With Abraham as a prime example, these verses explain that Christians have the ultimate source of confident hope: the perfect high priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 6 expands on the dangers of a shallow, immature faith. Rather than attempting to re-explain the basics, the author intends to press on. According to this passage, shallow faith opens up the risks of doubt, discouragement, and disobedience. These lead to a situation where one's only hope for restoration is through judgment, much as Israel experienced for forty years in the wilderness. Since our hope is anchored in the proven, unchanging, perfect, absolute nature of God, we should be confident and patient, rather than fearful.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 6 completes a warning begun in the last verses of chapter 5. The author has deep points to make, but doubts that the readers are ready for them. Yet the only course of action is to press on: there is no time to re-establish the ABCs of the faith. Spiritual immaturity prevents growth, leading to doubt, discouragement, and eventually to judgment. Those who only scratch the surface of Christianity, then fall into disobedience, can't be restored to good standing until they've experienced some level of judgment. Rather than make that mistake, we should trust in the absolute promises of God, and the work of Christ, as we patiently pursue godly wisdom. Chapter 7 will resume the extensive discussion of Melchizedek's priesthood.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
Accessed 6/22/2024 7:11:52 PM
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