IF WHO FALLS AWAY?
BY: KENNETH GREATOREX
“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these LAST DAYS spoken to us by His Son,” Today many use the term “last days,” and indeed every generation believes that they are living in the last days. The Book of Hebrews was written in the “last days” of the Mosaic [Old Covenant] period as the Kingdom of God was taking root. However, the reason for this article is not such a discussion.
A few years ago I learned that Hebrews 6:1-9 was used in a letter of church discipline in an attempt to bring repentance to a couple who were living together outside of marriage. This resulted in my searching for the meaning the phrases, “if they fall away” and “to renew them again to repentance.” The question being “Did it apply in this case?” The lessons learned, is the reason for this article.
In Hebrews the BETTER is contrasted with the LESSOR. SONSHIP is better than the ANGELS. CHRIST, a better builder than MOSES. The Melchizedek priesthood of Christ is superior to the Mosaic. Christ is a better sacrifice than sheep, goats, and rams. The New Covenant is better than, and supersedes, the Old Covenant. In this light we begin our study.
Bible translator and martyr, John Wycliffe said;
• It will greatly help you to understand Scripture,
• If you mark,
• Not only what is spoken or written,
• But of whom,
• And to whom,
• With what words,
• At what time,
• To what intent,
• With what circumstances,
• Considering what goeth before,
• And what followeth.
It is believed that this epistle was written about 68 AD to Jewish Christians who were turning from Christ, either because of persecution, and because of Judaizers who had persuaded them to turn back to the Law. This was still a time of “covenantal” transition as the temple and it’s sacrifices were then still taking place until their final abolishment in 70 AD. Hebrews 8:13 reads, “In that He says a new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Hebrews 6:1 begins, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection,” [Literally – “The word of the beginning of Christ”] Chapter Five ends with “milk” being for the unskilled and “solid food” for the mature. Chapter Six begins with being told to “leave behind” the discussion of the “elementary” of Christ. The word “elementary” Greek, ARCHE #746 means- beginning. What did God use as the beginning? He used the law. “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” [Gal. 3:24]
S. Ridout wrote, “The period of infancy is Judaism, and the period of manhood is Christianity.” (Lectures on the Epistles to the Hebrews) C.A. Ratz wrote, “There was a time of infancy such as we see in Galatians Four where Judaism is spoken of as a period of infancy, – Christ had redeemed them from the law. The time of infancy had come to an end.” (Outlined Studies in Hebrews) The law proved man’s captivity to sin and his inability to free himself by keeping the law. We are to go past the beginnings, namely THE LAW.
There are some “NOTS” to be followed. First, “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” No Gentile was ever commanded to repent of dead works. Sin yes, but works were of the law. S. Ridout said, “Whenever there is any dealing with God it must begin with repentance, – Connected with this repentance was their faith in God; not faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is speaking of the old revelation which God had given of Himself in Judaism.”
Second, “of the doctrine of baptisms,” For years I believed this meant water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, the Greek word used here is, “baptismos” #909 meaning – ceremonial ablutions or washings. See Mark 7:4 and 8 and Hebrews 9:10 for the two other times this word is used in the New Testament. The “washings” had to do with the laver, and other ceremonial washings.
Third, “of laying on of hands.” The teaching and practice are in both Testaments, but, it is the reason that matters. This epistle was written to keep the Hebrews from returning to Judaism. S. Ridout said, “It is the laying on of hands, – , when the offerer brought the sacrifice to the door of the tabernacle, confessing his sin. The high priest did the same on the great Day of Atonement, putting his hands on the head of the bullock.”
Fourth, “of resurrection of the dead.” This was actually an O.T. doctrine [Isaiah 26:1; Job 19:25; Daniel 12:2]. It was a resurrection of the dead, but not of the dead IN Christ. The Jews were divided by this doctrine and Paul used this to his advantage in Acts 24.
Fifth, “and of eternal judgment.” The old covenant was one of perpetual sacrifices, annual sin offerings, with no lasting remission of sins, thus offering only eternal judgment with no certain hope.
These things were IN PART and were TYPES and SHADOWS, and not to be confused with the fuller revelation in Christ. They had fulfilled their purpose for the time ordained, but NOW AND FOREVER ARE OVER AND GONE.
We also must leave behind some of our past revelations and go on to that which is now being revealed in Christ. We as the Hebrews must be going “onto perfection,” Greek, “teleiotes” means – completeness or perfectness. In verses Four and Five there are five things spoken of describing the privileges of Christianity which should aid us in going to full maturity.
Verse Six begins, “IF THEY FALL AWAY.” This verse has been used to strike terror into the hearts of believers who may have unrepentant sin. To misapply this Scripture, is do great harm and leaves no hope for the person to whom it was given. NOTE, It does not say that if you sin there is no forgiveness. There is!
There are times when we must allow people to come to the “fullness” of their error, as only then will they be ready to repent. There are proper steps to deal with sin in the church, however, this Scripture does not apply. We must always consider ourselves lest we also fall into sin and reap the same treatment.
Now, the term, “if they fall away” means to fall aside or to apostatize. To apostatize is to deny Christ. The early church was under constant attack from Judaism, and some went back into Judaism and thus denied Christ. They became “apostate.” There was no absolution under the Law, and to reject Christ and His shed blood left them with NO OTHER WAY. They have broken covenant relationship with Christ and in effect have re-crucified Him or trodden under foot the Son of God.
There is a happy note in verse Nine where the writer says “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” The warning thankfully doesn’t apply to all. It is imperative that our lives are lived in covenant relationship with Christ, and that we know to reject the vile from the precious.
As you take time to study this passage remember, “No true interpretation of Scripture can be clearly understood when that Scripture is isolated from its context. Not only must the expositor consider the relation of the text to the context, but in order to arrive at a correct exposition, he must know the historical background of the book and the theme and purpose of its author.”
We conclude with these thoughts, “Religion includes everything related to Christ, or done for Christ or others in His Name, that lacks the living presence of Christ Himself.” It is time for the church to come clean of that mixture which is of Babylon – the spirit of religious confusion. The Spirit is speaking to the Church in this hour to walk into all of that which God desires to do in this hour and it will require much adjustment and change. May we all be open to it!
IF WHO FALLS AWAY [Kenneth Greatorex] 1