A Hopeless Case

Hebrews 6:4-12

Remember description my father used about certain type of person – “the devil’s unaccountables”. Knew it wasn’t a compliment! Didn’t understand for quite a while exactly what he meant, knew it came from a previous century. Finally figured out he was talking about someone whose behavior so outrageous and evil even devil couldn’t account for it. Historical note: in 1829, school was opened in Tuscaloosa, AL named “Thrashing Machine to Correct the Devil’s Unaccountables”. Example of that sort of person:

Awaiting his execution in a six-by-eight foot death row cell, Christian Longo believes he can no longer be redeemed for his horrific crimes. The father-of-three was sentenced to death for murdering his family, stuffing them in suitcases and dumping their bodies in coastal bays in Oregon in December 2001 to ‘escape the shackles of domestic life’. He then went on a booze-fuelled holiday to the resort of Cancun, Mexico, where he posed as a shamed New York Times reporter – before he was captured by the FBI, arrested and charged.

…he says guilt is a ‘pervasive part of my daily existence, the reality that all my frequent nightmares are made from. But I realize I can’t do anything about it now, except to try to live as positively as possible with a view that I don’t deserve the breaths I get to take… I don’t feel that I can be redeemed. I believe that some actions are so terrible that nothing can ever atone for them.’

Is Longo correct? Can someone be in situation from which they cannot be redeemed? And is that what present text is talking about? Bible students not agreed on answer to that question. I know, bummer! Is crucial to interpret this portion of Hebrews in its context – after all, is “epistle to the Hebrews”. Must understand first audience was Christian church of primarily Jewish converts. Certainly has application to other situations, but must first be interpreted in that setting.

Were people steeped in Old Testament-type tradition; knew the Bible, what they had of it, at least to some degree. Had practiced the rituals of Judaism, could carry on somewhat serious theological discussion on topics in v.1-2. Comprehended the basics of repentance and faith in God; ceremonies and sacrifice; resurrection and judgment. Covered the span from beginning of religious life, present godly living, future hope. To all appearances, were genuine followers of God.

Had apparently heard the “Christian message” – similar content to Peter’s sermon, Day of Pentecost; Paul’s teaching in synagogues later. Connecting dots between Old Testament promises, fulfillment in Christ. Had seemingly been attracted to the message; now, down the road, something has prompted stern warning. So, what is hopeless case of which God speaks to us in his word?

A. what it is v.4-8

description – those who once were this way: is a challenging portion of Scripture because…taking at face value, sounds like one who is “a Christian”; however…all not as it appears

enlightened (4a)

take in new truth, begin making connections with other concepts, increase in knowledge and understanding

have come to an intellectual grasp of 6 principles that make up foundation in v.1-2 and seen how Jesus is logical conclusion – would nod heads in agreement, say “Amen” to sound preaching

tasted (4b, 5)

had been blessed by participation in local church – participated in ordinances of baptism, Lord’s Table

profited from preaching and teaching from Bible – maybe even from much of the New Testament depending on date

partaken (4c)

have some personal experience of spiritual realities – maybe even served in ministry, shown evidence of common grace

Elias Keach – famous father Benjamin, to Pennsylvania at 20 in 1686 “dressed in black, and wore a band in order to pass for a Minister. The project succeeded to his wishes, and many people resorted to hear the young London divine. He performed well enough till he had advanced pretty far in the sermon. Then, stopping short, he looked like a man astonished. The audience concluded he had been seized with a sudden disorder; but, on asking what the matter was, received from him a confession of the imposture with tears in his eyes, and much trembling. Great was his distress, though it ended happily; for from this time he dated his conversion.” Historical Sketch of the Pennepek Baptist Church

John Wesley – ordained to ministry 1728, led Holy Club, missionary for 2 years to Georgia, returned to England 1737, converted in 1738

fallen away (6a)

not an accidental type of situation – intending to go to right place but missing the turn; is a purposeful “turning aside” from the truth

remember parable of sower told by Jesus: Luke 8:6“Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.” Luke 8:13 “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”

rejection (6b)

probably most important phrase in description – have rejected sacrifice of Christ, probably returning (or at least thinking about) to animal sacrifice

is especially heinous because rejection is not out of ignorance or accident – they had understanding of truth at some level, enough to make informed decision, wilfully turned away from Christ

mindset here is that have seen the truth, understand Bible’s perspective on the truth, come to point of rejecting truth – I hear what you’re saying, I see what you mean, but I disagree

unproductive (7-8)

strong implication – those who fall away have produced thorns and briars, confirmation that profession and appearance of faith not backed up by real conversion

person who is truly born again, sits under faithful preaching and teaching, regularly receives God’s blessing – will produce evidence of genuine spiritual life

person with “empty” profession – experiences same blessings, produces same old evidence as they did before conversion

conclusion

it is impossible (4a)

is hard to swallow, to take at face value – don’t want to think of God that way, don’t want to think of loved ones that way

doesn’t say “difficult”, “nearly impossible”, “possible only if….”; says “impossible”, not because God lacks the power, is the way God has ordained it to be

a fearful warning that should cause fear and trembling in all who are in danger – if this is you, your case is hopeless

to renew again to repentance (6a)

they have put themselves in the crowd at the foot of the cross, mocking and ridiculing the One who is their only hope

having rejected their only hope, there is no other hope; have sat at Jesus’ feet, now only direction is away from him…to their own destruction

B. you’re not it v.9-10

great encouragement – but beloved… we are confident, convinced of better things… the ones that accompany genuine salvation – the people we have just warned, they may be (or have been) among you but they aren’t you

God is just

God can be trusted to do what is right in all circumstances – should cause fear in unrighteous, comfort for righteous

John 6:37“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

Matt. 10:33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

the one who comes to Christ, depends on Christ, seeks to follow Christ, desires to be more like Christ will be received

1 John 2:1-2 “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God remembers

the kind of works God does remember / look on with favor: those done in love, motivated by love for God and his people

have a history of / reputation for service to one another – “have served” others, those “loved by God and called to be saints”

you have been fruitful

their continuing to serve others shows commitment to Christ, distinguishes them from those who fall away

apart from new life in Christ, no one behaves selflessly in all relationships; even in Christ, we have our moments!

they are like field in v.7 that has produced things useful for others, received blessing from God in return

C. where to from here v.11-12

be eager

you have basic foundation, have built at least some on it, don’t be content with status quo; be eager to push toward the goal

remember the goal – full assurance that comes from final realization of your hope: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

live in area of “already/not yet” – Jesus has already ushered in his kingdom, but is not yet present in its fullness

love for Christ, acknowledgement of Jesus as the Best should mean we have insatiable desire to be with him in our final state

be quick (opp. of sluggish)

don’t be slow to receive and digest and apply what you hear from God’s word; don’t be like those stuck on formula, Gerber’s

do all you can to be equipped to receive sound teaching… and get all of it you can: next week’s texts in the bulletin, read and meditate on them; hear the teaching, ponder on it, discuss it with spouse / children / Christian brother or sister, apply to life and be changed by it

be imitators

don’t try to reinvent the wheel, get cute with your doctrine or practice; just follow the faithful saints of the past – Steve Green

If you desire to be one of these, not a hopeless case, Jesus is absolutely essential. Cannot overstate, overemphasize that point. Only through saving faith in Christ will we be able to overcome our arch-enemies sin and Satan. Only through dependence on Christ will we persevere to inherit the promises.

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