Sermon: God-Granted Assurance (Hebrews 6:1-12)

God-Granted Assurance

Hebrews 6:1-12 (ESV)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  [2] and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  [3] And this we will do if God permits.  [4] For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,  [6] if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.  [7] For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  [8] But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

[9] Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.  [10] For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  [11] And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,  [12] so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

As we begin this morning we must pay very close attention to this text.  Most of the Bible is clear cut and easy to understand.  Some, like this text, require a little more work. Last week we learned about those in the church the author of Hebrews referred to as those who were living on the milk of the Word rather than meat.  Now he is placing before the entire church the idea that for some, it may be a whole lot more serious than simply being an immature Christian.  There may be some who are not a Christian at all.

Scripture clearly teaches that it is God who saves.  He alone grants repentance.  He alone opens hearts to believe and He alone keeps His children.

There are two basic groups the writer is concerned with.  First, there is the group he’s writing to.  These are true believers who need to move on toward maturity.  Then there is a second group who need to be saved.  For the true Christians, his words become encouragement, however, to the false disciples his words are a serious caution.

It’s important when we look at a text that has elements in it that are difficult to understand that we look at the overall teaching of Scripture.  One rule when you are practicing biblical interpretation is that the difficult passages yield to the simple ones.  In other words, let’s say we have 25 verses of Scripture that clearly teach the doctrine that all true believers will persevere to the end and one verse that isn’t real clear.  We interpret that text in light of the other clear texts.  We do this because we realize that the Bible is really a unit to be seen as a whole.  It has many earthly authors but only one true Author, the Holy Spirit.

To add confusion, there have been some who would like us to believe that this text teaches that a true believer can, at some point, be lost forever.  This text placed in context and seen against all the other passages teaches that true believers are kept by God forever.

The doctrine is called Perseverance of the Saints…not perseverance of the professing Christians.  Not perseverance of those who come to church or those who went forward during and alter call, but Perseverance of the Saints.

John 6:38-40 (ESV)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

(John 10:27-29; John 3:36; 1 John 5:13; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 1:6)

All who truly believe are forever kept by God.

However, there are those who are false disciples.  These are the ones who may call themselves Christian, they may attend church, listen to sermons, do good works, give money, show up on work days, or anything else that true Christians do.  By all external means they look every bit as much a Christian as true believers do.

Some may have made a profession of faith and for a while, seemed as if they were the real thing.  Then one day they stop coming and never want to have anything to do with the Lord again.  They didn’t loose their salvation, they were never truly converted.  The only way to tell a true believer from a false convert is a true believer continues in the faith a false convert may look good for a time by eventually falls away.

1 John 2:19 (ESV)

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

It is a fact in most every local church that there are those who are true believers and those who are not.  Those who are the elect will always and forever be kept by God.  Those who are not will always fall away.  We must be careful to assume that just because someone does something that seems spiritual that we make some grand declaration as to their conversion.  There is a danger in declaring that so and so got saved today.  How many times have you driven past a church and read on their sign that X amount of children were saved in this year’s VBS.  We must be careful in making these declarations.  The bottom line with salvation is, time will tell.  Only after a significant amount of time passes can any type of declaration be made and even then should be made with caution.

The point that needs to be made is that there are some lost folks who may in every way look like saved folks.  The only way to tell is eventually a lost person will fall away from the truth and a converted person will remain.

To gain further understanding of the context we must think again, who this text was originally written to and what was the reason?

It was originally written to Jewish Christians who were being tempted to return to Judaism.  But some of them were wavering in their commitment to Christ.  For whatever reason, they have begun to question the necessity of Christ for salvation.  They believed, perhaps, that there is somehow, apart from the person and work of Christ, a way to enjoy fellowship with God.

So the writer wants to warn those who are considering another way to access God apart from the work of Christ.  Some were immature Christians and others were not Christians at all.

1.  Sampling The Gospel (Hebrews 6:4-6)

[4] For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,  [6] if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

This text of Scripture is used by our Arminian friends to try and convince us that someone may be truly saved and then at some point be lost.  The fact is, however, that this verse teaches the exact opposite if taken in context and understood correctly.  In their belief system, a system based on man’s works, a person makes a decision for Christ and they are saved.  Then, at some point this person commits sin and backslides or falls away and losses his salvation.

If this text teaches that a truly saved person can at some point be lost again, then they would also have to say that this newly lost person can never be saved again based on verse 4…[4] For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened

Follow closely and together let’s seek the meaning the writer has in mind.

First, he is seeking to motivate immature Christians to press on to maturity.  Last week we learned about the marks of an immature believer.  The point is, these believers don’t need salvation again but they need to mature.  He wants them to see that they are in fact saved.  Regardless of whether these folks were growing mature Christians or immature baby Christians they cannot be resaved.  Their faith, whether it’s strong or weak is still saving faith.

The Christians he’s writing to have tasted, been enlightened, and have already repented.  They don’t need that again.  They love the Lord.

There were also, those in the church who had had some experience with Christianity.  They had possibly seen some miraculous events and partook in some ways right along with the believers.  Their falling away and rejecting the light that they had been given would be to their destruction.  If they were seeking more it would not ever be found in any other place.  There were no doubt some in the church who were false disciples.

It is possible to sit under biblical preaching, hear and understand the gospel, to witness the work of the Holy Spirit and still remain unaffected.

Just because a person tastes the heavenly gift does not mean he has fully been converted.  Just like when we are exposed to a new food and we want to test it by tasting.  We may like it or reject it after the sample.

He’s really showing two types of folks.

1- Those who are saved but need to move on to maturity.  It’s impossible for these to be saved again.

2- Those who have sampled the gift but have rejected Christ, for those, they cannot be brought to repentance like the first group.  Why can’t they be brought to repentance? Because they have rebelled against the Son.  They have rejected His work on the cross.

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

One group tastes or better yet, experiences Christ and runs to Him and the other has some sort of religious experience a runs away.

Both folks may look Christian, at first, but only those who taste and are affected are genuinely converted.

Psalm 42:1 (ESV)

Book Two

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  Have you experienced Christ in a saving way and been forever changed?  Or have you simply experienced an external association with those who are converted.  Is your experience with Christ personal or are you simply around others who have a personal relationship but down deep you wonder if yours is real or not?

If you’ve experienced some of Christ but have rejected Him, you cannot be saved another way.

For the immature believer, don’t think you have to be saved again… crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

What the immature needs is to move past the elementary teachings.

For those who are among the covenant community; don’t think that because you’re receiving some benefits of been around believers that it automatically means you are one as well.  Don’t just taste but dine at the banquet with Christ as the host.  Stop sampling and begin feasting.  Stop putting your toe in the water but take a run and jump in.

To the original audience, the apostle is saying that if the work of Christ is not good enough for you, there is no other way to gain access to God in a saving way.

2. The Principle Illustrated (Hebrews 6:7-8)

[7] For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  [8] But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

The same principle is illustrated for us in these verses.  There are two types of ground.  One type when rained upon produces a useful crop.  The other when it receives the same rain only produces weeds.  Both soils received the same rain just like both types of people in the local church receive the same Bible lessons and sermons.  The Word falls on each.  However, some folks receive the Word and change and produce a good fruit.  Others hear the Word and produce the same worthless thorns and thistles they have always produced.  Those who remain unaffected by the Word will continue in their lost state.

Matthew 13:1-9 (ESV)

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.  [2] And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.  [3] And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  [4] And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  [5] Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  [6] but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  [7] Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  [8] Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  [9] He who has ears, let him hear.”

Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV)

“Hear then the parable of the sower:  [19] When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  [20] As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  [21] yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. [22] As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  [23] As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The difference is not the Word or the rain, the difference is how the soil has been prepared.  If the soil has been tilled by God and is good, when rain comes it produces a good crop.

3. Devouring the Gospel (Hebrews 6:9-12)

[9] Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.  [10] For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  [11] And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,  [12] so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Previously the writer had in mind all who make up the church.  Those who are believers, those who think they are believers and those who are lost.  Now, he changes direction.  His intended purpose was to give everyone a clear and forceful warning about true conversion.  Now he wants to leave those who are wavering to the Holy Spirit to work in them to produce genuine repentance and faith.  Now his desire is to not shake the faith of the believers but to encourage them to continue in the faith.

He reminds the beloved of the better things that are coming.  They won’t just taste and be enlightened; they will experience the complete package of salvation.  God’s elect do not need to worry about salvation once they receive it.  God grants repentance and faith.  Once that has become a reality in one’s life, it only gets better.  in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

God will not forget His people.  He will not overlook those who belong to Him.  [10] For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints.

This good fruit produced by a genuine work of the Holy Spirit is noticeable to all.  God will not forget that you belong to Him.

Here we are given a very good principle that we must learn and learn well.  We as a church believe that you can know for sure you are saved.  You can have assurance.  But the caution is that our assurance comes from a biblical origin not from something someone has said.

Here in these last verses we are shown how it is we can have complete assurance of salvation.

[11] And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,  [12] so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Full assurance comes when we are earnest or serious about or faith.  Full assurance comes when we look and see good fruit growing through the work of the Holy Spirit.

False disciples claim assurance through some outward act they have done.  They claim Christianity because they walked and aisle or were baptized or some other outward sign.  A true Christian may have also done those same things but their assurance isn’t in a past act but in the present reality of obedience.

Today, I can be assured my faith is real because I am being acted upon by the Holy Spirit and because of that, I am producing the fruit of the Spirit.

Only God grants true assurance to His children.

Is the Holy Spirit producing a fruitful crop through your life?

I pray that we all are in the process of moving on to maturity through the Spirit’s work.

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