"Don’t fall away, trust God’s promises" by Matthew Meek, 6 March 2011, Hebrews 5:11-6:20

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Danny

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Mar 7, 2011, 12:11:57 AM3/7/11
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
In the movie Cliffhanger, Sylvester Stallone plays Gabe, a mountain
climber + rescuer. When his friend Hal gets injured, Gabe is called in
to rescue Hal + his girlfriend Sarah. They set up a cable and Hal
climbs across safely, but while Sarah is coming across her safety
strap breaks + she’s left hanging from the cable over a deep 4,000ft
drop. Gabe climbs out to rescue her and manages to grab her hand just
as she lets go. But as Gabe’s glove gets slippery Sarah struggles to
hold onto his hand, + screams “Please don’t let me fall” Sadly despite
Gabe’s effort to save her, Sarah falls away to her death.

Today’s passage says if Christians fall away it’s impossible for them
to come back. But how can Christians fall away? What does falling
away mean? What about ‘Once saved, always saved’? Doesn't the Bible
promise that no one can snatch Christians from Jesus’ hand?

Many of us know people who were or at least we thought were
Christians, who have fallen away … how is that possible if God is
meant to keep us safe?

1. Going back to Judaism means rejecting Jesus (5:11-6:8)

The key to understanding today’s passage (as always) is the context.

Chs 4-5 are how Jesus is similar but different to the 1st OT High
Priest, Aaron
Ch 7 is about how Jesus is like God’s eternal High Priest, Melchizedek

So, at its heart, today’s passage is not directly about whether
Christians can fall away.

It’s about NOT understanding how Jesus has become a High Priest like
Melchizedek, different to Aaron.

Let’s look a little closer:
Heb 5:8-10, 8Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he
suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal
salvation for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high
priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Heb 7:1a: 1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most
High.

Chap 5:10 could easily skip right across to Chap 7:1

So why does the writer make a sidetrack in chap 6?

Read 5:11-14: 11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make
it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12In fact,
though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to
teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need
milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an
infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But
solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained
themselves to distinguish good from evil.

The writer has more to say about Jesus being like Melchizedek but
can’t just yet. Why is that? Because (11) his readers are slow to
learn

Physically they are adults, but in understanding God’s word they are
infants/babies (13). They’re babies because they don’t understand
God’s teaching about righteousness (13) But in what way would Jewish
Christians not understand righteousness?

Read 6:1-3: 1Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings
about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the
foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,and of faith in
God, 2instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the
resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting,
we will do so.

(1) Doesn’t say ‘Let us leave the basic teachings about Jesus + go
onto maturity’ but literally: ‘let us leave the beginning word about
the Christ + be carried onto maturity or fulfilment ’

But where is the beginning/primary word about the Christ found? The
ABC building blocks about the Christ are found in the OT!

Verses (1-2) list 6 primary teachings about the Christ: At first
glance these six elementary teachings seem like Christian basics.

But they are also OT teachings preparing Jews in a shadow/picture-like
way for the reality of the Christ coming in the NT.

In fact in 6:2 the word for ‘baptisms’ is not the usual NT word for
‘baptism’, but the one used in Heb 9 for OT Jewish ritual washings.

And in (2) the laying on of hands is commonly used of the OT priest
laying his hands on the animal sacrifice like on the Day of
Atonement

These Jewish Christians are still babies + need to ‘man-up’ on their
Biblical Theology!

Why? Because they haven’t fully grasped how the OT Jewish rituals have
been fulfilled in Christ + his once-for-all sacrifice for sins.

Read 6:4-6: 4It is impossible for those who have once been
enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the
Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the
powers of the coming age 6and who have fallen away, to be brought back
to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all
over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

We need to understand what ‘falling away’ meant for the original
readers.

For the Jewish Christians to be enlightened (4) meant to have been
taught that Jesus is the real High Priest who fulfils OT

So the danger of falling away (6) for them is to go back to Judaism
with its ritual day-after-day sacrifices + the impossibility of the
blood of bulls/goats to take away sins.

If you are drowning at the beach the lifeguard is the one who saves
you, not his shadow.

In the OT the High Priest Aaron was the shadow pointing to the real HP
Jesus who saves. So to fall away was to go back to trusting the OT
shadow and not the fulfilled reality of Jesus.

By rejecting Jesus as the Christ + His once for all sacrifice for
sins, these Jewish Christians would be just like the Jews of Jesus’
time who rejected + killed Jesus. So to their loss, (6) they are
crucifying or rejecting the Son of God all over again.

In Hebrews, following Jesus had made life harder not easier for these
Jewish Christians. They’d been called names, hurt and had their things
taken away all because of Jesus.

Earlier they’d stood firm despite their suffering, but if Jesus had
brought so much trouble into their life wasn’t it easier to give up
Jesus and go back to their safe, harmless Jewish way of life?

What about you? Has following Jesus made your life harder? Isn’t it
just easier to hurt people back when they hurt you, rather than turn
the other cheek?

Wouldn’t going back to being non-Christian make Sunday’s simpler,
cause less stress with non-Christian husbands or children?

After starting out with trusting Jesus alone to cleanse your sins, are
you going back to trusting your ability to live the perfect Christian
life to get you into heaven?

Read 6:7-8: 7Land 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. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is
worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be
burned.

The picture here is very similar to 3rd soil in the Parable of the
Sower.

(7-8) Land which receives the rich blessing of God’s rain, but
produces only thorns will end up being cursed.

In the same way any Christian who has been richly blessed by hearing
God’s word about Jesus, but then turns his back on Jesus will be
cursed.

So have the Jewish Christians here gone beyond being saved?

2. Our faith in God’s promises is shown by what we do (6:9-12)

Read 6:9-12: 9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are
convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do
with salvation. 10God 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. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the
very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12We do not
want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and
patience inherit what has been promised.

In (9-10) as the writer watches the Jewish Christians love each other
he can see their faith in action and know they are trusting Jesus.

Anyone can start a marathon – it’s finishing it that counts.

Anyone can start as a Christian, but in (11) he’s saying it’s faith in
Jesus to the end that counts, so don’t let your faith become lazy

Rather copy/be like Abraham who by patient faith (12) inherited the
salvation God promised … which leads to the final section:

3. Our eternal security is in God’s promise to us in Jesus (6:13-20)

Read 6:13-18: 13When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was
no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14saying, “I
will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”15And so after
waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.16People swear
by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said
and puts an end to all argument. 17Because God wanted to make the
unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was
promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18God did this so that, by two
unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who
have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly
encouraged.

When people want to convince others beyond doubt about something, we
appeal to a higher authority that people will trust more.

At ICS the ultimate student comeback to a teacher is ‘but Mr Lainson
said we could do it’.

In Gen 22 God wanted Abraham to know beyond doubt that He would keep
his promises to make him into a great nation, give him land + bless
all nations through him.

But if you’re God (13) there is no one higher or more trustworthy than
yourself. So God backed up His own trustworthy promise with His
trustworthy oath.

(15) And so in Christ, ultimately Abraham has received what God
promised: The land Abraham inherited is heaven.

And through Abraham’s great, great, grandson Jesus all nations in the
world have been blessed + today over 1 billion Christians are
spiritual descendants of Abraham.

Because God doesn’t lie (18) His promises + oaths are totally
reliable. So just like Abraham our encouragement comes from holding
onto God’s promise & oath.

Read 19-20: 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and
secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where our
forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high
priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

So if you think you or a friend has begun to drift what should you do?
The thing that stops boats drifting on the sea is an anchor.

Heb 6 tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross is like an anchor which
has been thrown into heaven itself.

It’s where the song “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” gets the verse
“in every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil”

So even if our Christchurch home shakes or our home is swept away by
gale-force Cyclone Yasi, as long as we are anchored/tied to Jesus, our
place in heaven is always secure.

So can you confidently say ‘I am going to heaven’?

Our confidence of going to heaven is not in our faith but in God’s
faithfulness to keep his promises in Jesus.

Our faith must not be in the catch-phrase ‘Once saved always saved’,
but in our anchor in heaven, perfect High Priest Jesus who’s PAID for
our sins once for all.

You see if we return to the Cliffhanger movie, it wasn’t Sarah’
weakness that made her fall away, but as strong as he is, Sylvester
Stallone’s inability to hold onto her.

But God is just a ‘little bit’ stronger than Sylvester Stallone!

As Christians our hope of being saved is not in our ability to hold
onto God, but in God’s ability to hold onto us.
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