06(N017) - The Danger Of Apostasy CD WED

The Danger Of Apostasy By Pastor Jeff Wickwire

Hebrews 6:1-12; Phillippians 2:13; John 15:5, 6:50-56; Hosea 14:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Colossians 1:12; 2 Peter 1:4

March 4, 2020

 

 

Notes

Last time we closed out chapter 5 with the writer expressing frustration that his readers had become stuck in spiritual infant-hood. They should be teachers by now but instead needed to be taken through the elementary doctrines of the faith.

Chapter 6 is going to pick up right there with the writer listing the six foundational doctrines of the Christian faith:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:1-3 (NIV)

1Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,

2instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

3And God permitting, we will do so.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Notes

So we have:

*Repentance from dead works—our entrance into all God has for us beginning with our salvation is repentance.

*Faith toward God—we are saved by grace through faith, not the dead works he’s just mentioned.

*Doctrine of baptisms—baptisms is plural. This would include baptism into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit when we are saved, baptism in water, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

*Laying on of hands—we lay hands on those entering into the ministry, we lay hands on the sick for their healing, and we sometimes lay hands on someone for the impartation of spiritual gifts, as happened with Timothy.

*Resurrection of the dead—this is the doctrine that all believers will be raised from the dead with resurrected, glorified bodies fitted for heaven. And all non-believers will be raised to face God at the judgment.

*Eternal judgment—there is coming an awesome judgment called the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unsaved will be judged for their unrepentant sin.

 

Notes

 

Bible Verse

Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Bible Verse

John 15:5 (NIV)

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Note

Next, the writer gives an example of a case where God cannot permit growth into maturity:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,

5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age

6and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

These verses have caused heated debate throughout church history. Some believe that the passage is not intended to describe those who are true Christians, but only those who got close and then fall back.And others believe that it refers to those who are true Christians who apostatize. Let’s unpack this:

First, let’s understand the difference between what we call backsliding and actual apostasy. Backsliding is a failure in testimony and practical Christian living, resulting in a believer walking in a way dishonoring to the Lord. As bad as it is to backslide, there is a road open to restoration by true repentance and confession. We read in Hosea,

 

Bible Verse

Hosea 14:4 (NIV)

4“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

The Apostle Peter was a backslider when he denied his Lord with oaths and cursing. Yet we all know how tenderly the Lord brought about his restoration. Apostasy on the other hand is far more serious. The Greek word for “falling away” is apostasia, from which we get our English word, apostasy. An apostate openly renounces Christ, and declares he wants nothing to do with Him, His cross, His shed blood, or to identify in any way with His name.

The Apostle Paul predicted a great apostasy of this kind in the last days. We read, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come (the return of Christ), except there come a falling away [apostasia] first, and that man of sin [the antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thes. 2:3).

 

Bible Verse

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV)

3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

I believe we’re witnessing the blooming of this final great apostasy right now with so many of the major denominations rejecting the clear moral teaching of Scripture as well as the conviction that the Bible IS God’s inerrant word and is to be obeyed, no matter what the culture says. And many non-denominational churches and movements are now embracing New Age mysticism and moral perversion rather than holding true to God’s Word. This is the way total apostasy comes about—step by step, inch by inch, compromise by compromise until there’s nothing left but a shell of true Christianity.

The writer says that that there is no road to recovery and restoration from apostasy. The apostate is doomed to be bound forever in his sin, both in this world and in the next. So in verse 4a he addresses the dire danger of apostasy by beginning with, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened.”

‘Enlightened’ means that the apostates had been instructed in the ways of the Gospel. The verb ‘teach’ in Hebrew is quite frequently translated as ‘enlighten’ in the Septuagint (the translation of the Hebrew OT into Greek by 70 Greek scholars a couple of centuries before Christ). 

The apostates had been taught about Christ. But, as we all know, it is one thing to be taught about Christ intellectually; it is quite another thing to be transformed by Him spiritually.

Verses 4b: “And have tasted the heavenly gift” and “have tasted the good word of God.” Christ doesn’t merely want us to taste His teaching but to devour it (John 6:50-56). Tasting is not the same as swallowing, eating and digesting. The apostates had a fleeting taste, but never fully partook of the Christian faith. It hadn’t penetrated into their inner parts.

 

Bible Verse

John 6:50-56 (NIV)

50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

Verse 4c: “And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”

The word ‘partakers’ here in Greek is not the same as in Colossians 1:12 or 2 Peter 1:4 where the word “saints” is used to describe true believers. It simply means they were present with believers to personally witness the works of the Holy Spirit. They had associated themselves with the local church and had seen amazing works of God first-hand. As Hebrews 2:4 says, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.”

 

 

Bible Verse

Colossians 1:12 (NIV)

12and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Bible Verse

2 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Bible Verse

Hebrews 2:4 (NIV)

4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Note

The apostates had been partakers—spectators but not participators. In this sense, they partook of the Spirit’s work, but their hearts had not been regenerated from within. They were like those who crossed the Red Sea without a heart of faith who were afterwards destroyed (Jude 5). They saw the power of God; but they didn’t know Him in a saving sense.

Further he says they had:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:5 (NIV)

5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

Thanks to the life of the local church, the apostates felt something of the coming glory of the world to come when Christ returns; but they distanced themselves from it once the going got tough.

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:6 (NIV)

6and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

Hence Verse 6 concludes: “It is impossible…if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.”

Repentance here doesn’t necessarily mean salvation. In Greek it just conveys a change of thought or opinion regarding a matter. In spite of sympathizing with the Gospel for a time, the apostates ultimately denounced it openly and publicly, thus breaking any previous connection they had with the church.

The writer of Hebrews explains that such people cannot be renewed to repentance. Their minds will not be changed. They opted for Moses and with him they will remain. Their counterfeit repentance cannot be renewed afresh. They crush Christ underfoot by approving the religious system that handed Him over to death.

Then their fate is described in 7-8:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:7-8 (NIV)

7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

The LB puts it like this: “When a farmer’s land has had many showers upon it and good crops come up, that land has experienced God’s blessing upon it. 8 But if it keeps on having crops of thistles and thorns, the land is considered no good and is ready for condemnation and burning off.”

This describes the common practice among the Oriental and Roman agriculturists of that day to burn bad and barren lands in hopes of burning off the seeds of the weeds that had ruined it.

 

Notes

Next, it is very important to note at this juncture in the chapter that the writer of Hebrews is careful to distinguish between true saints and hypocrites. After writing Hebrews 6:4-8 he directs himself to the true believers beginning in verse 9 saying,

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:9 (NIV)

9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Notes

In other words, the author knew that the genuine believers were not apostates. He is very conscious of two distinct groups within the church—those authentically birthed of the Spirit, and another group of nominal believers who had never come to the full knowledge of Jesus Christ, and it’s the same in churches today.

By means of these warnings, all professing Christians should examine themselves to see if they are truly of the faith. Having done so, the exhortation found later in Hebrews 10 is to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23).

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

New International Version (NIV)

 

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Note

Next, he turns his attention to encouraging the true believers to continue on in their Christian labors:

 

6:10 “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.”

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)

10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

All that you’re doing is not in vain. You who are true believers doing the work of the Lord will be rewarded. What’s done for Christ is NEVER in vain! In light of that, he prods them to avoid spiritual laziness:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 6:11-12 (NIV)

11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

SLUGGISH is the word for lazy. He wants every Christian (including us) to show the same diligence and hope that the mature believers of that day were showing. Be diligent in the Lord’s work and don’t become sluggish.  

Spiritual laziness was one of their key problems. In 5:11 he’s already said, “you are dull of hearing.” Dull here is the same word as sluggish. They were lazy in their listening; hearing but not doing what they heard. 

 

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 5:11 (NIV)

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

Now he says they’ve also grown lazy in their works. They’ve become like the guy sitting under a palm tree on some Caribbean island with Jimmy Buffet playing in the background, sipping a margarita and letting life slip on by. The writer says, “Get up and get after it. Put feet to your faith and become diligent in the work of the Lord! Get involved in what God is doing. Use your gift. Do some Immanuel labor. Quit wasting your precious time!”

 The Bible teaches that good works don’t save us but good works are evidence that we’ve been saved! For instance, Paul wrote, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

 

Bible Verse

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

In the book of Titus he exhorts Christians to “be ready for every good work” (3:1). And that “those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (3:8). And again in verse 10 “let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they be not unfruitful.”

 

Bible Verse

Titus 3:1,8,10 (NIV)

1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,

8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

And the writer of Hebrews is telling us the same thing—Don’t become lazy in your faith. Get with the program. By faith and perseverance start inheriting the promises and bearing fruit!

 

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