Pastor David B. Curtis


A Word of Encouragement

Hebrews 6:9-12

Delivered 02/25/2001

We are still looking at the third warning passage in the book of Hebrews, perhaps the most well known of the warning passages. The preceding sections have contained salutary warnings about the dangers of apostasy. An apostate is a believer who turns away from God, possibly even to the point of renouncing their faith. There are different levels of apostasy; an apostate can deny Jesus Christ by his life of willful sin or by his profession. There's no hard and fast line. The readers have had it made clear to them that they must make progress along the Christian way or suffer disaster. There are no other possibilities. To remain a baby is very dangerous and could lead to apostasy and judgement:

Hebrews 6:8 (NKJV) but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

The writer urges the Hebrew believers to go on to maturity:

Hebrews 6:1 (NKJV) Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Now the writer goes on to indicate that he has confidence in them. He has felt it necessary to warn them, but he doesn't really think they will fall away. So he speaks encouragingly and warmly, at the same time using the occasion to exhort them to go forward.

As in the previous warning passage, 3:1-4:16, the writer was seen concluding with a section of encouragement - 4:14-16. He does the same thing here. But this time the encouragement is more extensive, even as the warning was more explicit about judgment.

In 13:22 the writer calls this letter "a word of exhortation":

Hebrews 13:22 (NKJV) And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.

The Greek word for "exhortation" is paraklesis, it has the idea of encouragement. In John 16:7, the Holy Spirit is called the "comforter" - this is the same word, parakletos. This is a noun used like a verbal adjective - the one called alongside with the idea of giving aid. In 1 John 2:1, Jesus Christ is called an "advocate", this is the same word parakletos. Here it has the idea of: "one who pleads our case." The essence of the word is that of comfort, encouragement, assistance, consolation and strength. The book of Hebrews is a letter of encouragement, and after these strong words on apostasy our writer encourages his readers:

Hebrews 6:9 (NKJV) But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.

The word "beloved" is the Greek word agapetos. It is used sixty times in the New Testament - the first nine times by God to Christ his beloved Son and then ONLY of believers.

One writer says, "The use of 'beloved' indicates the writer's change of audience. It is without question that 'beloved' refers to believers." But when he gets to verse 11 he says, "The writer is again speaking to the unbelievers, take a look at these true believers that have just been described, my sincerest desire is that everyone of you become as they are." So, he is saying that verses 9 & 10 are to believers, but the preceding verses and those following are not. What kind of nonsense is that? Talk about twisting a text to make it fit your theology! The book of Hebrews is written to believers! It is not a call to come to faith, it is a call to continue in faith.

Now let me add here that there are times when the biblical narrative goes back and forth between believers and unbelievers. But you only find this in the Gospels. For example, look with me at the Gospel of John. Why was John written? What is the purpose of the book? John tells us in:

John 20:30-31 (NKJV) And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

So, John tells us this book was written to bring men to faith in Christ. With this in mind, look with me at:

John 8:1-3 (NKJV) But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,

In John 8, Jesus is talking to "all the people" and the "scribes and Pharisees".

John 8:12-14 (NKJV) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true." 14 Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.

Jesus is preaching the Gospel, and the Pharisees question him, and he answers them.

John 8:22-23 (NKJV) So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?" 23 And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

Here he is talking to the Jews and he tells them they are "from beneath". This is a reference to the Old Covenant system. He also says, "I am from above" - this is the New Covenant.

John 8:30-32 (NKJV) As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Who is Jesus talking to here? He tells us very clearly, the text says, "Many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him." So, he is talking to believers. In the next verse he goes back to talking to the larger crowd:

John 8:33 (NKJV) They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"

Who is the "they"? It's the larger crowd who heard what he just said to the new believers. Look at:

John 8:39 (NKJV) They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.

Again the "they" is the larger crowd of unbelievers. Jesus tells them "If you were Abraham's children..." - implying that they are not Abrahams's true children - believers.

So, there are times when the text of Scripture goes back and forth between speaking to believers and unbelievers, but, as you see in John, it is made clear who he is speaking to. From the beginning to the end of Hebrews, I sincerely believe that the people to whom the letter was written were genuine believers. All the New Testament epistles are addressed to believers. The very heart of the book of Hebrews is a solemn plea to believers to endure, to stand fast in their faith in the midst of great persecution. These Hebrew believers are warned not to remain children in the faith, but to grow up.

The writer calls them, "Beloved" - this is a term of affection. It is used of a deep and abiding love. This word is used by the Father to address the Son:

Matthew 3:17 (NKJV) And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Though he has spoken severely to them in 5:11- 6:8, it was not because he was unkindly disposed toward them, but because he loved them. Love is faithful, and because it seeks the highest good of its objects, will reprove, rebuke and admonish when the occasion calls for it.

Proverbs 27:5-6 (NKJV) Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

The writer goes on to say, "we are confident of better things concerning you" - the Greek word for "confident" is peitho. The verb indicates a past hesitation overcome. Westcott says, "The form implies that the writer had felt misgivings and had overcome them."

Sometimes verse 9 is taken as though it showed the writer believed that his warning could not possibly apply to them. This is not a theological proposition, the words are those of a pastor. The writer is saying, "I feel sure that you will not apostatize but go on to maturity." This is similar to what Paul says in:

Romans 15:14-15 (NKJV) Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. 15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God,

The Galatians, who have been hindered in the race and are in danger of losing their liberty in Christ, he is persuaded, will respond to his correction:

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Galatians 5:7-10 (NKJV) You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.

The writer of Hebrews is saying, "I am confident that you are going to live for God, that you are not going to remain babies in Christ, but will grow up. The "better things" is referring to things better than what he has just described in 6:4-8 - apostasy and judgement.

Then the writer says that the better things are, "things that accompany salvation." What accompanies salvation? When a person becomes a child of God, what can we expect of them? Will they stop: drinking, smoking, sexual sin, lying, foul language? What can we expect? How can we tell if a person is a believer or not?

The Lordship view teaches that Christians will and must produce fruit. When I was a young believer and held to the Lordship view, I believed that if a person used foul language that they were not a Christian. When I became a believer, I stopped using all curse words so I felt that any true Christian would do the same. So, if someone cursed I thought that they must be lost. How would you measure up to that standard?

One Lordship writer says, "The life of God in man will always produce a righteous pattern." I think that most believers would agree with the Lordship view, and say that if a person is truly saved they will live righteously, bear fruit. This may be a predominant view, but is it biblical? Would you agree with me that this view is saying that sin cannot reign in the life of a Christian? Look at what Paul says to the Roman believers:

Romans 6:12 (NKJV) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

The verb "reign" is basileuo, which means: "to exercise kingly power, to exercise uncontrolled authority." The verb is present imperative with the negative me, this construction forbids the continuance of an action that is already going on. A literal rendering of this would be, "Stop letting sin reign as a king in your mortal body."

Paul is talking to believers, to saints. It would be pointless to say this to unbelievers. What does this tell us? It tells us that sin can reign in the life of a believer if permitted to. I believe that this verse strikes a mortal blow to the Lordship position.

What if I'm wrong? What if the Free Grace view is not correct? Let's think about this. If I'm wrong, what damage could this view possibly cause? If the Free Grace view is wrong, it could cause people to think that they are saved when they're really not. It could be giving false hope to unbelievers. So what? Do you believe in election? Will the elect of God ever be lost? No! Will the reprobate ever be saved? No! So, in my opinion the worst that the Free Grace view will do is give false hope to the reprobate.

If the Lordship teaching is wrong, what harm can it do? It can cause a believer to think that they are not redeemed because of sin in their life. This view can bring the elect under guilt and condemnation. It can cause a believer to give up on Christianity by making them doubt that they really are saved. The Lordship view can hurt the church of God by causing Christians to live in guilt and doubt. But the worse that the Free Grace view does is give the reprobate false hope. As I see it, only the Lordship view is harmful to the church. We all must admit that neither of these views can change the destiny of the elect. Selah!

So, what does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says, "things that accompany salvation"? The Greek here is "echomena soterias" - this unusual expression might mean: "things that lead to salvation or things that follow salvation." The key to understanding this it to understand the word "salvation" as used in this context. The majority of English readers see this word and automatically think - eternal life, salvation from hell. But the Greek noun soteria - salvation, has a wide range of possible meanings. It can be referring to physical healing, rescue from danger, spiritual deliverance of various kinds, and to preservation from final judgement and hell. We must determine its meaning from its usage in the context. And the context here is not"eternal life"- it is about going on to maturity and not apostasy. It's about the temporal judgement that an apostate faces:

Hebrews 6:8 (NKJV) but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

If after we have received the blessings of His matchless grace, we produce briars and thorns - then God rejects that kind of life, it falls under his temporal curse and its destiny is to suffer the fire of discipline and chastisement. The word "rejected" in verse 8 is the Greek word adokimos, it means: "disapproved."

Hebrews 6:9 (NKJV) But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.

The burden of Hebrews is not the rescuing of sinners from Hell, but it is the endurance of the saints to remain faithful to Christ.

So, based upon the contextual usage, we should interpret verse 9: "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that lead to deliverance though we speak in this manner." The writer says, "though we speak in this manner" - we've spoken some strong things of you. I'm confident that you will not turn away from Christ but will stay faithful and do those things that lead to deliverance from apostasy - they will go on to maturity.

He was confident of them because he had seen God working in their lives:

Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV) 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.

The point here is that deeds of kindness done to the people of God are reckoned by God as done to himself and will surely receive their reward from Him. He knows that they have labored much for God giving generously to the saints, and still do.

"Labor of love" - by their service to their fellow man they demonstrated their love for God:

1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV) If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

These are the "things" that lead to deliverance. They were disciples of Jesus Christ as was evident from their love:

John 13:35 (NKJV) "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, "in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." The words ministered and minister are both from the Greek word diakoneo, which means: "to serve." This is where we get the word "deacon".

Many of God's people are in various kinds of temporal distress, and one reason why their loving Father permits this is that their brothers in Christ may have the privilege of ministering to them and thus to Christ.

Matthew 25:40 (NKJV) "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

Service is part of every Christian's responsibility. We are to pray for each other, rebuke sin in one another, seek to restore a sinning brother in love, confess our sins to one another, bear one another's burdens, and give to those who have needs. These and many other responsibilities are outlined for us in the New Testament.

The author has confidence in them based upon their past and present performance, but they must not presume on the past, they must press on.

Hebrews 6:11 (NKJV) And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,

"We desire" is from the Greek epithumeo. This verb speaks of a strong desire. It is sometimes translated "lust" or "covet" in the New Testament. The word "diligence"is from the Greek spoude, which means: "eagerness, earnestness, diligence." The past had set a standard, and he looks for it to be maintained to the very end. Persistently, he brings before them the importance of perseverance. This expresses the greatness of the Christian's responsibility for the development of his spiritual life.

Many people are very diligent in their occupation, their hobbies, sports or pleasure, but how many people do you know that are diligent in the pursuit of godliness? The Christian life is difficult, and we must be very diligent if we are to continue to make progress.

The writer says, "to the full assurance of hope until the end" - literally this is: "to the fullness of the hope or to the full development of the hope." The diligence is God's appointed means of the full development of the hope. The word "hope" is elpis, it means: "expectation or confidence". Diligence in the Christian life will bring a hope of faithfulness right up to the end.

2 Timothy 4:6-7 (NKJV) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Paul was very diligent in his Christian life, and this diligence gave him the hope of remaining faithful right up to the end.

What is the END that the writer of Hebrews speaks of?

He is speaking of the end of the Old Covenant.

Hebrews 2:5 (NKJV) For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.

"World to come" - The Greek word used here is oikoumene, which comes from oikeo, which means: "to occupy a house", and the word ghay, which means: "soil, land, or world. So, the word oikoumene means: "the inhabited earth." The thought of the "world to come" pervades the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:5 (NKJV) and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

There was an age coming that would follow the age they were living in.

Hebrews 11:10 (NKJV) for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Hebrews 13:14 (NKJV) For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

Abraham and the recipients of the book of Hebrews were waiting for a coming city. Paul tells us in Galatians that this city was the New Covenant:

Galatians 4:24-26 (NKJV) which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

The "Jerusalem which now is" is speaking of the Old Covenant and "Jerusalem above" is the New covenant for which the Hebrews believers looked.

Now, something that we must see here is that in the phrase "world to come" in 2:5, the author uses the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to", and "be on the point of" - see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon. The writer is telling them that the New Covenant in all its fullness was "about to come." It was near in time; soon to arrive.

The author tells us that this world is one that he has been talking about. "Of which we speak" (2:5) - this phrase looks back to 1:10-14 which emphasizes the covenantal changes which took place at the Lord's second coming:

Hebrews 1:10-14 (NKJV) And: "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail." 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

As we have seen in our study on these verses, the term "heaven and earth" is used in Scripture for something other than the physical creation; it is used to speak of the nation Israel, the Old Covenant.

The writer of Hebrews is not talking in this text about the end of the "world" but of the end of Old Covenant Israel. The Old Covenant that was mediated by angels was about to end, but Christ's kingdom will never end, thus Christ is superior to angels.

So, the "world that is about to come" is speaking about the New Covenant age that was consummated in AD 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple. I believe that this is the "end" that they were to hope for.

Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV) that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

The word "sluggish" is the Greek word nothros. This is the same word that the author used in 5:11 when he said, "you have become dull of hearing." Here it is, "do not become sluggish." They were sluggish in their hearing which would lead to a sluggishness of life if they did not become diligent.

In contrast to this sluggishness, there is the acquisition of promises. In order to inherit the promises, they must "imitate" the faithful. The word "imitate" is the Greek word mimetes, from which we get our word mimic. We are all called to imitate godly individuals. He will shortly mention one - Abraham - then in chapter 11 he will give us several others.

The word "patience" is the Greek word makrothumia, it comes from makrosmeaning: "large, long" and thymos meaning: "anger." It is to be long tempered, to have a long fuse. The Greek word hupomone means: "to abide under" It is to hold up under extreme pressure, this is endurance. But makrothumia refers to patience with people. Makrothumeo, as it is used in the New Testament, is a word that almost on every occasion conveys the idea of having an infinite capacity to be injured without paying back. It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It's having a long fuse. Chrysostom, the early church father, said, "It is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it."

What are the things that keep us from being patient?

Mistreatment? How do you respond to ridicule, insults, and undeserved rebukes, or outright persecution? When you are a victim of office politics or organizational power plays, do you respond in patience? When you are rejected or mistreated by a spouse do you respond in patience. How do you treat another believer who is rude to you or gossips about you? I think if we are honest, we will admit we don't always respond patiently.

"Who through faith and patience inherit the promises" - I think that the writer is saying to these first century saints, "Beloved, I'm convinced that you'll be like the land of verse 7 and you will not apostatize. But you must keep your hope in view and don't become slothful, be diligent, keep pressing on to the end that you may inherit the promises." The promises that they were to inherit were those of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 11:13-16 (NKJV) These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

This "heavenly country" or "city" is the New Covenant, according to Galatians 4:24-26. The Israelites who were camping in the wilderness were to find their "inheritance" in the land of promise. And the Hebrew believers were to find their "inheritance" in the consummation of the New Covenant. Israel of old lost their inheritance because of failure to trust God in the trials of life. And the Hebrew believers can lose their "inheritance" by failure to trust God.

So, the "inheritance" spoken of in our text refers to the New Heavens and New Earth, the New Covenant Age. The Old Covenant was about to end with the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70, thus ending the Jewish persecution against Christians and bringing the consummation of the New Covenant age. Those believers who grew weak in faith turned back to Judaism and were most likely killed in the destruction of Jerusalem.

The writer of Hebrews encourages these believers to hang on to their faith and patience lest they turn back to Judaism and lose their lives in Jerusalem's destruction.

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