These basic foundational doctrines mentioned in the previous chapter included repentance, faith in God, instruction about baptisms (that had been an original ‘sticking point’ for Apollos before Ananias and Saphira had sorted him out Acts 18:24-26), the laying on of hands (for baptism, appointing elders, healing or just imparting blessing), and doctrines of the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment – an unpopular topic amongst believers and unbelievers alike!
Then, in 6:4-8, we have the third warning passage of Hebrews. Does this indicate that born-again believers (the only kind!) can actually lose their salvation? Not if you believe the words of Jesus himself in John’s Gospel that those who come to him will never be lost. If not, then, what might it mean? There is certainly the theoretical possibility that someone could cease to hold to the faith – and many so-called committed Christians appear to have done just that.
But let’s consider the context: the main recipients of this letter are recently converted Jews or those on the brink of decision to leave the Law and follow the Messiah. The phrases: “…having tasted the heavenly gift… tasted the goodness of the Word of God and of the powers of the Age to Come… and who fall away…” would be very significant and memorable for all good Jews. They looked back to the time when the spies entered the Promised Land and brought back reports of its blessings and samples of its fruit to taste. Having tasted and then listened, the nation of Israel succumbed to fear and rejected the opportunity that God had given them. That generation had no second chance. Hebrews tells this generation that Jesus is their only chance of forgiveness from their sins.
Having delivered a harsh warning such as this, the writer then softens and says that he doesn’t expect that any of his current readers need fear, since they have already entered fully into salvation and are committed. But neither does he want them to become lazy or complacent, but to show diligence, faith, and patience.
Abraham is the absolute ‘model’ for exhibiting patience. God promised him a son ‘on oath’ and he waited patiently for many years, and he finally did receive Isaac as his God-given heir. God had no need to swear an oath, since his own word is inviolable, yet he was kind to our weak faith and took an oath on the highest thing he could find – Himself! (See Genesis 15).
Faith is the chain, and hope is the anchor! This hope is directly in Christ who is not on the seabed, but firmly in heaven, guaranteeing our destiny and our inheritance. Such an ‘anchor’ can be firmly relied upon, taking our full weight and more besides! The reason? He is already fully representing us before God’s throne and is in a permanent eternal priesthood.