Relevant Verses: Hebrews 7
Leading Question: Can you point to a time in your life when Jesus was an “Anchor” of your soul?
Comment: The passage in Hebrews that refers to the “Anchor of the soul” is one that takes us to heavenly places where Jesus is a presence for us (Hebrews 6:19).
Hebrews 6:16-20: Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. 17 In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. 19 We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Comment: The clear thrust of the passage is an experiential certainty which affirms Jesus’ ministry on our behalf. Is it possible to have this certainty within our heart without an explicit focus on Jesus heavenly ministry?
Hebrews 6:4: Restoration “impossible”?
At a superficial level, three passages in Hebrews seem to exclude restoration after a fall:
6:4-6: Impossible to restore to repentance
10:26-31: No more sacrifice for sins
12:15-17 No chance to repent
Here we shall attempt to deal only with the first of these passages, but to do so in a way that may be helpful for the other two when we come to them. Typically this study guide uses the NRSV. But in this instance, the NKJV – and the KJV and several other translations – include an important “if”:
Hebrews 6:4-12: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Johnsson (116-117) includes some helpful comments. Two paragraphs from p. 117 are included here:
First, we note that 6:4-6 comes in the middle of a sermonic application. While it contains theological elements, it is not part of a careful argument that seeks to spell out the nature of the “unpardonable sin.” Second, Paul specifically excludes his readers from among those who fall away from Christ. He says he is “persuaded [of] better things [concerning] you (6:9). Third, we note the if in verse 6 that puts the whole discussion on a conditional basis.
What Paul is presenting is a possibility rather than an actual situation. As we consider his strong words in light of the earlier applications (2:1-4; 3:1-4:13), we see that the scenario of 6:4-6 is the logical end result of the spiritual tendencies he sees among the Hebrews. Already they are in danger of drifting from the goal, of becoming hardened through sin’s deceitfulness. Already they have failed to grow into the stature the Lord intends for them. So because of present neglect of divine opportunities, they could – as unthinkable as it might seem – one day come to the point of outright, public rejection of the Lord.”
Question: The same passage that contains the dire warning against apostasy, also speaks warmly of that positive experience in which the believers were “enlightened,” had “tasted the heavenly gift,” “had shared in the Holy Spirit” and “tasted the goodness of the word of God” (4:4-5). Have you observed or experienced anything like that? – a mountaintop experience followed by a great crash?
Question: How can believers intervene when they sense that kind of crisis looming in a person’s experience?
Question: How are we to recognize the astonishing turn-around of those who were at risk of
crucifying “again for themselves the Son of God,” and putting Him “to an open shame”? Here is the specific affirmation, this time from the NRSV (6:9-12):
Hebrews 6:9-12: Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, 12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
A Reminder. As cited at the beginning of this week’s lesson, Hebrews reminds the believers of what lies ahead:
Hebrews 6:19-20: We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.