Chapter 6

The inspired writer now turns to describe some, who, while they had some head knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity, had no life. They were contented with the outward form, and evidently had, like many professors of our own day, a certain pleasure in holding and descanting on the externals of a religion, which they had never received the living power of in their souls. Solemn beyond degree is the description here given by the Holy Ghost of such professors and their end. How far it is possible for one to go, and yet stop short of Christ, we here learn.

Verses 1-3. These verses give a glance at Jewish doctrine, while those that follow have in view the fuller revelation of New Testament times. There is considerable difficulty in many minds regarding this chapter, and there has been much controversy as to its meaning. But there need be little difficulty if we distinguish between Judiasm and Christianity. The latter is a living reality; its source is a living Christ, and all connected with it has life and growth. If you are not going on growing, progressing, being “borne along,” as the word implies, unto full growth, then you have no life, no Christ.

Not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God.” This is just what a Jew would have done, and what many are doing still. There are foundations many, but God has only one. “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

“Doctrine of baptisms (washings), and laying on of hands,” refer to the Jewish ordinances of purification and sacrifice (see Numbers 8:10, with Heb. 9:10). These were all types, pointing onward to Christ and His perfect work. Now that He, the Great Sacrifice, has been offered, they are no longer needed. His perfect sacrifice gives “a perfect conscience” (chap. 9:9, 10, with 10:2), which these could never do. To go back to the old, preferring Moses to Christ, was setting up what God had abolished, turning from the full light of grace to the dark shadows of the law. God regards this as apostasy, such as only one without life could practice.

Verses 4-8. These verses treat of Christianity, and of those who profess its doctrines and then go back to Judiasm and the world. It is a solemn word, for there is much, very much of such Judiazed Christian profession in our day. And let it be clearly understood that although these empty professors are said to “fall away,” it is not to be understood that they give up the Christian name, or in every case abandon their profession for open infidelity. On the contrary, many of them may be preachers and clerics, who with fine phrases and honeyed words lead you up to the very verge of heaven, yet in heart and soul are only Christless Judiaizers; shams in the sight of God. Neither of the five expressions here used of this class, nor all of them together, are the equivalent of Divine life. A man may be moved in any or all of these ways, and yet remain destitute of life. And this distinction is not so difficult to perceive when we remember that where there is life there is growth. Not to grow, to go onward, is to go back. If there is no growth, there is no life; you are a professor, a mere doll.

“Enlightened:” many have like Balaam had their eyes opened (Numb, 23:12); they get light, yet deliberately turn their backs upon it, reject it, and scorn it. They do not abandon their profession, but settle down as citizens of the far country, hardened. “Having tasted of the heavenly gift,” “Having tasted the good Word of God.” The Word comes to some with such power that they shew a transitory emotion, they “taste” it, and like the stony-ground hearers, receive it with joy (Matt. 13:26), yet are without root. “Partakers of the Holy Ghost”—does not refer to being sealed and indwelt by the Holy Ghost (Eph. 1:13: 1 Cor. 6:18), as all true believers are. We read that the very walls of the house within which the apostles prayed, were “shaken” (Acts 4:31) by the Holy Ghost, and yet remained unchanged, so surely can unconverted professors who form part of an assembly of God, be moved and affected by the Spirit of God who has in that assembly His temple, and all the while remain unregenerate and dead. “Powers of the age to come,” has reference to the miracles or signs wrought in these times (see chap. 2:4), but not all who were the subjects of these powers were saved. Simon Magus was “amazed at the powers or miracles wrought,” yet he became a gall-root (Acts. 8:13, 23), and an apostate. So do many still. The seat of the scorner is largely filled by those who were at one time professors of, or hangers-on to nominal Christianity. Not one of these is said to have been “born again.” Had they been genuine believers in Christ, it would have been easy to have said so, but the inspired writer’s aim is to describe a peculiar, though by no means uncommon class of men, who profess much, but possess nothing, who go very close to the door of God’s kingdom, without passing through it. “And fell away.” There is no “if”: there is no uncertainty, they have no life, no living link with a Christ in glory, so sooner or later they must fall away; not perhaps openly, or even professedly, but like dead trees, they are barren.

“Crucify to themselves the Son of God:” an awful thought. Similar is the language used in chapter 10:29, “Trodden under foot the Son of God”—that Son in whom God is now speaking from heaven. These despisers of Him would again have Him on the Cross, as they deem Him and His work unworthy of their confidence, although God has in proof of His satisfaction, seated Him at His own right hand. O the judgment, the awful doom of those who with opened eyes, with the full flood of Gospel light shining upon them, turn their backs on it all, and prefer the Ritualism and legalism of a religion of their own, which shuts out and dishonours Christ. Verily it is “impossible” to renew them again unto repentance for there is no other sacrifice, no other saviour.

This passage has been used to frighten true believers, and to uphold the miserable theory that one who has been born of God may yet perish, which, were this its meaning, would bring it into direct collision with other Scriptures, such as John 5:24, 10:28: Rom. 8:1, 35; but as we have shewn, it describes those empty, though fair professors who from one cause or another, stop short of the real thing, the actual possession of Divine life, and who in the end shew that they have only been bearers of thorns and briars, nigh unto a curse all the time.

Verses 9-12.—Here the writer draws the line between those whom he, addresses, and in whom he had confidence as true believers, and those stranded professors. How did he know? By their work, and the love which they had shewed toward God’s Name, in ministering to His saints. The mark of those who are begotten of God, is love to those who are begotten of Him (see 1 John 5:2: 4:7), not in words of the tongue, for it costs us nothing to say we love—but in deed and in truth (1 John. 3:18). To serve the saints is to serve Christ. Even a cup of cold water given to one because he belongs to Christ (Mark 9:41), will not be forgotten in that day, whereas the showy deeds and much made of charities of professors, which were done to be seen of men, are an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15: Matt.6:1). But he exhorts them to shew diligence unto the full assurance of hope or “the hope” as it ought to read, for by leaving the article untranslated before the word “hope “here and elsewhere, much of its force is lost to our souls. Thus “we are saved unto the hope “(Rom. 8:24), and “the God of the hope (He who originated this blessed prospect, and gave it to you) fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in the hope through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:12). What is the hope, but the coming of the Lord to receive us unto Himself. What a power it is intended to have over us, to purify us, to keep us separate from all that He does not approve of (1 John 3:3), and to regulate our walk as a heavenly people who may be away from earth at any moment. And how much there is to move us away from this hope (Col. 1:23), and to cause us to lose the sanctifying and sustaining effect of it! “Full assurance of the Hope.” You cannot have this as a living power in the soul, if you are expecting the world to be converted, or the millennium to begin, or prophecies to be fulfilled before the Lord comes. “Times and seasons “we have not been told about (Acts 1:7), for they are not our proper hope: those who are occupied with them miss the mark and lose the power of the hope.

“Through faith and hope inherit the promises.” There are many promises in Scripture but the Koh-i-noor of them all, the one great promise which comprehends all others within it, is “I will come again,” literally, “I am coming again, to receive you unto Myself” (John 14:3). That is the promise and the hope: the promise on His part, the hope on ours. Its vastness and its nearness may well encourage us to go patiently and diligently on, letting go all here below, for the things which are so soon to be ours above. He may see fit to let us wait a little longer, but disappoint us He cannot.

Verses 13-16.—It has been His way all along, to direct His people to the future, and to give them the fullest guarantees possible that He would not fail them. Thus to Abraham the father of the faithful, He sware by Himself. He would thus draw out his confidence, and allay all suspicion and unbelief. “He obtained the promise.” Not the fulfilment, but as Chap. 11:13 shews, they grasped the word of the promise and were persuaded of it. O what a power “the promise” would have upon us, did we but “hug” it as they did. “They confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Ours is a different promise from theirs, as is also our calling, but the One looked for is the same. The promise to Abraham was Isaac, antitypically Christ. He received an instalment, and so have we: only ours is much greater. He whom we look for to come, has been once here already, and by virtue of His death and resurrection for us, we have received a present salvation, and the earnest or first sip, of what we are soon to enjoy (Eph. 1:14: 2 Cor. 1:22). Already are we one in spirit with the Lord, although He is bodily absent from us. And we are waiting for the Coming One. Ever since man fell, He has been coming. Even in eternal ages His delights were with the sons of men (Prov. 8:31). After the fall, He was promised as the Coming One (Gen. 3:14). The patriarchs looked for Him; Abraham saw His day (John 8:56). Then at last He came to Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1), but He had not fully reached us till He went to the Cross where He put sin away. Now in resurrection He has set Himself apart, and become the Sanctifier, in order that there He might associate His people with Him, and while there, separate in bodily presence from earth, they are one with Him in spirit there, and from thence they look for Him as the Coming One. Thus the hopes of all cluster round the One Person. Like the many branches of a railway, which all have their terminus in one great Central Station, so do the hopes and expectations of all who are of faith centre in Christ. The patriarchs like Abraham did look for One who was to come. Israel shall yet look for Him as their Messiah and King, and the Church is now looking and waiting for Him as her Divine Bridegroom from heaven. Thus all confess Jesus as their hope.

Verses 17-20.—“Wherein God willing more abundantly”—being more intensely desirous—“to shew unto the heirs of the promise.” Ours is the heavenly promise, and God has made it so full and plain we need not mistake it. He has guaranteed it so firmly, that there is no room to doubt it. Yet how few treat it as if it were immutable and sure! How few are dominated by it! Fifty years ago it was generally evaporated as meaning nothing, spiritualized, and explained away. Now the truth is better known, the personal coming of the Lord Jesus as the hope of the Church is spread abroad. O to “lay hold of the hope,” to take a good grip of the promise; it will give “strong consolation,” and be a refuge amid the storms of life.

Verses 19, 20.—”Which hope we have as an anchor, sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the vail.” Here two figures are blended together—an anchor and a temple. There is the figure of a temple, and within its vail, which hides its glory, Christ has gone. There, as we are told in Col. 3:3, He is “hid in God,” gone into that uncreated light, that effulgent glory, where no eye can see Him. He has entered there “for us,” as our Forerunner, and a forerunner’s work is to announce the speedy approach of those that come after him. He has passed through the heavens right upward and onward to the goal, which He has reached saying, “Father, Thy children are coming.” Yes, blessed be His Name, the many sons He is thus bringing to that same glory (chap. 2:10), who are coming unto God through Him (chap. 7:25), shall all as surely reach it as He has! The second figure is that of men in a boat tossing on the deep. One has plunged into the sea, carrying an anchor which He has fixed to a rock, and they are being drawn by the cable that runs between. Christ our Forerunner has left the ship, and carried the anchor, fixing it to the throne of God. Thither we are being drawn by the Holy Ghost who is in us, who has come down from that glorified Christ to draw us up to where He is. The one end of the cable is in the ship—“which hope we have:” the other is yonder where Christ is, and as the cable dips beneath the water and runs to where the anchor is cast, so our hope is said to enter “within the vail,” by which as we grasp or hold fast, we are drawn upward, the Holy Spirit fostering and increasing the desire within the heart of the Bride for the Bridegroom’s coming (Rev. 22:17), and He, like Isaac who came out to meet Rebekah as she was escorted through the wilderness by the faithful servant, will come forth to meet us (1 Thess. 4:14), and to lead us into that glory with exceeding joy. Hence the power of that hope drawing us up and in there, will also operate in drawing us out (see Matt. 25:6), from the world and from association with empty religious professors who have no life and no love for Him.