Meditations in Hebrews 6: 31. A Second Repentance (2)
Heb 6:7,8 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Again, a reminder of where we have come to in this book. The writer has given several warnings or encouragements to his readers about holding on to their faith, the last one we are considering now is making the point that once you completely drift away it is impossible to get back. We have seen, in verses 4-6, the five things he says they must have experienced but turned away from. It is a contentious passage with some saying that such people who do, could not have been regenerated to start with. That is possible and yet if I am honest, in respect of both these descriptions in verses 4-6 and what I have witnessed in the lives of apparently godly people who have fallen away, this says that it is possible for genuine Christians to turn away. Yet the bigger issue here in these verses is the warning to each of us who say at the present we love the Lord, to do all we can to make sure we do not drift away. We’ll consider later how we can do that.
Let’s see what the writer says such people are doing “to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (v.6b) The Living Bible puts it, “You cannot bring yourself to repent again if you have nailed the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to mocking and to public shame.” The writer is saying that when you turn away and reject Christ (because this is what you do when you drift right away) it is tantamount to you joining all the multitudes both in Jesus’ day who rejected him and left him to be put to death and effectively put him out of their lives. It’s like they join with those (and add to them) who mock and deride Christ like some of the modern crusading atheists do. That, he says, is the reality of what this person is doing.
Then he uses a little analogy about what God expects and how God responds to what He finds: “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (v.7,8) Verse 7 reveals the Christian who receives of the Holy Spirit and produces the fruits of righteousness, goodness and love and this person pleases God and is blessed by Him. The other person has all the potential of being a fruit bearer but only brings forth harsh rejection and is in danger of being cursed by God and being burned up at the end.
Whether we think it applies to a person who was saved and then lost, or a person who was saved but lost the joy of their faith experience, the warning is still the same. The writer, like us, doesn’t want to leave this warning on a sour note and so adds, “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation.” (v.9) i.e. we know you’ll heed these warning and go on to experience the goodness of God. Indeed, he is mindful of their recent past: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (v.10) i.e. you ARE bearing good fruit so these strong warnings don’t need to scare you.
It is perhaps worth saying at this point (and perhaps we should have said it earlier) that this ‘falling away’ that we have been speaking about doesn’t mean just the occasional failure, for that happens to all of us from time to time, but it means what I called apostasy, a positive turning away. It may start with a casual drifting away but ends up as a positive rejection of all it had previously known. Thus, to these people he now says, I know it is OK in your case, because you ARE bearing the fruit of a godly life.
Then he presses in once more, with an encouragement (or warning) to keep going for it, and he does it in two ways, one positive and one negative. First, the positive: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.” (v.11) I like the JBP version of this: “It is our earnest wish that every one of you should show a similar keenness in fully grasping the hope that is within you.” i.e. positively, go all out to confirm the hope that you have, to build up your faith and godliness. But then comes the negative (followed by a positive): “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (v.12) Laziness in respect of your faith can be a cause of a downward slide. Neglect church, neglect the word, neglect prayer and before you know where you are, everything seems boring, God seems distant and your grace resource seems absent. Oh no, watch others who are getting it right and go for it, but note the two things mentioned there – faith and patience. Faith is about listening to God (so keep an open ear) and then doing what you hear, and patience is about hanging on when answers seem slow in coming (they will come).
It is easy to let life (and church life) just meander on like a lazy river, with little happening from week to week, and it is in those times we need to heed these warnings. At such times, we can resolve to put aside time to wait on God and listen for Him. At such times, we can look around to see who we can bless. At such times we can settle with the Bible and resolve to purposefully read and study something we’ve never got to grips with before. At such times, we can sit with a Christian friend and say, “Tell me how you came to the Lord, and I’ll tell you how I did.” At such times you can say to your family, “I want to make a fresh point of praying for each of you each day. Are there any things you want me to specifically pray for – short term or long term?” These are ways we can stir our faith, these are ways we can resist the easy-going nature of life, if that is how it has been for you. Try it out.