Sunday Morning Greek Blog

November 22, 2011

Hebrews 6:4–6: Wrapping It Up

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Greek,Hebrews,New Testament,Soteriology — Scott Stocking @ 9:40 pm

For those of you who didn’t follow the comment thread on the latest SMGB post, I wanted to sum things up. My friend Eric Weiss and I tossed around a few ideas on the passage, and my cousin-in-law Micheal added some comments about context and audience.

I had always looked at that passage as primarily having to do with the threat of losing your salvation. I have never held to a “once-saved-always-saved” theology, and I still don’t. But after diving into this passage and some fruitful discussion, I see that the passage isn’t about the danger of losing your salvation, but about the futility of trying to be a mature Christian when all you ever dine on is milk and baby food. The author (the “I” of 13:22–23; I think it is Luke, but no one knows for sure) has a steady argument building from the opening chapter of the epistle, but it takes on a full head of steam beginning in 5:11. It is the flow of that argument that is key to understanding the author’s intention in the broader context of Hebrews 5–10.

The immediate passage of 5:11 through 6:12 is bracketed by the author’s warning about laziness. In vs. 11, he says (my translations) “You have become lazy listeners”, but in 6:11–12, he exhorts them to diligence, “in order that you do not become lazy.” He says in 5:12 that instead of the Hebrews being teachers, “you are needing someone to teach you continually the word of God all over again” (note verb tense is present continuous). Then he switches to the perfect tense: “You have become needful of milk.”

In 6:1, the author says that “repentance from acts that lead to death” (TNIV), among other things, is milk. He wants them to move on. But here is where the present tense infinitive of 6:4 becomes significant: “If you want to move onto maturity, don’t repeatedly go back to repentance thinking that that is all you need. You moved past that, because you were enlightened and you tasted the heavenly gift, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. But then you fell away. So repentance won’t cut it now. It’s time for you to get back to a meat-and-potatoes diet by diligently persevering in the faith” (see 5:14 “constant use” and 6:11 “show this same diligence”).

So the “falling away” is not an irrevocable apostasy. It suggests in this context that the readers have backslidden and need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get down to the business of being sold out for Christ. The author goes on in the rest of Hebrews 6 to assure the believers of God’s promise, “this hope as an anchor for the soul” (6:19).

Peace,

Scott Stocking

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