Hello again! We’re back at the Coffee Table after several weeks off, and let me tell you, I’m so excited to dive back into Hebrews again with you! Last time we left off in Chapter 4 as the author re-emphasized Jesus as our high priest, who sympathizes with us and is the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. We receive a call to “draw near to the throne of grace” with confidence, because we have Jesus as our High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16). The author continues this illustration in chapter 5, where we pick up today.
Our High Priest, Called & Obedient
In chapter 5 the author further expounds on Jesus as our High Priest, and makes a comparison between Him and the high priests “appointed by men”: He acts on behalf of men in relation to God, but he himself is also weak (Jesus became “weak” for us). He is called to present offerings and sacrifices for their sins. Furthermore, the role of High Priest is a calling from God, and is not something anyone can take on for themselves just because they want to.
I kind of love that. Think on it for a moment…in what ways does God call you into the “royal priesthood” of believers? That’s right…as Christians, we’re all little “priests” called by God. We didn’t enable ourselves to see the truth of the gospel and place our faith in Jesus…God called us into that. We are not serving where we are by accident…God has called us into it. And Jesus, being the ultimate High Priest, was also called, sent by God, to be the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.
How amazing is it that He, still being divine and all-powerful, was also obedient to the will of God as a man, humbling himself for our sake and for His glory? Jesus, who is also appointed by God, is called “Son” and “priest forever”. Although he was Son he was also obedient to the point of death, through which His sacrifice was made perfect, and therefore the source of eternal salvation for all who would believe in Him.
Praise God for that!
New Life, New Fruit
From verse 5:11 through 6:12, the author shifts gears a little. He pauses in this exalting of Jesus as the High Priest (not exactly new-believer material) expressing a concern for the spiritual maturity of the community. By now they should be teachers, sharing this message with others. But the author is concerned that they can’t digest this kind of “solid food” for the soul…in fact he calls them out, saying they’re constantly going back to basics, never really growing spiritually beyond the foundations of their faith.
Verses 6:4-6 gave me pause the first time I read them. It reads:
“For it is impossible, in the case of 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 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, 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.” Hebrews 6:4-8, ESV
A lot of you, like me, are probably thinking something along the lines of “what happened to, uh I dunno, grace? I thought works weren’t what saved us? I know I’ve wandered from time to time…does that mean I’m no longer saved?”
Hear this, and hear it loud and clear: When you give God your heart, he has it. Forever. After that point, you will definitely sin again. You will definitely doubt again. You may even be on the verge of giving up altogether. But the Word does say this:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39, ESV.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30, ESV.
What the author is getting at in Hebrews 6 is the importance of bearing fruit: Are you the land that produces a useful crop or thorns and thistles from the rain of receiving the gospel (see Matthew 13:1-9)? In other words, walking with Jesus should and does change us. Not only that, but we grow and mature in Him the longer we walk with Him. If not, the author challenges, are we really walking with Him? Or are we walking some idealized, simplified version of Him?
I would argue that this passage in Hebrews does not contradict the “saved by grace, not by works” idea but in fact supplements it. In Ephesians 2, we’re told the following, in the same train of thought:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV.
In the same breath, Paul encourages the Ephesians that they are both saved by grace alone and created for good works, which God prepared for them to walk in. This is the difference between justification and sanctification. The good works don’t save us, it’s true…we are fully justified only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus (justification). But, good works are born out of the new life we are freely given in Jesus, and we grow and mature in these things the longer we walk with Him (sanctification). Both should be evident in our relationship with Christ. When we walk with Him, we are changed. Hebrews reminds us of this in chapter 6, and reminds us of the the life we leave behind when we accept this new life in Christ.
On that note, I love how the author kind of reels it back in though with a gentle “Though we speak in this way…” It’s like he’s saying, “Okay I know this all sounds really intense, and it is because its the truth, BUT we do love you and we’re sure of better things for your souls than that.” In other words, continue to pursue this new life in Christ, because you can be assured of your salvation, if you believe Jesus saves.
We will pick up in chapter 6 next time as we dive into the certainty of God’s promises (and let me tell you, it’s about to get GOOD, y’all). For today, I’m praying you take time to reflect over these passages and remember who Jesus is and who we are in Him. He is our High Priest, who sacrificed everything on our behalf. He calls us to walk with Him, bearing the fruit that is produced from our new life in the Spirit, and he challenges us to go deeper, to move into the rich, solid food that the Word has to offer as we mature in our faith. And it’s okay to take time chewing on this stuff for a bit, processing it and absorbing it until it becomes an integral part of our life in Him.
And I pray that you take time to really get to know the voice of our Shepherd, so that you may recognize when He calls and when He speaks. Be encouraged and emboldened, brothers and sisters, to keep going deeper with your Father in heaven.
For God’s glory,
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