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Hebrews 5:116:12comment (0)

August 14, 2008

By Jerry W. Batson

Related Scripture: Hebrews 5:116:12

Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity (Retired), Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

A Maturing Life
Hebrews 5:11–6:12

Watching your children mature is one of the great blessings of parenthood. Later the blessing extends to watching grandchildren grow toward maturity — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Occasionally, and for various reasons, some people do not grow physically as expected. Others do not mature mentally or emotionally.

Sadly far too many Christians do not grow spiritually. Failure to mature spiritually falls short of God’s expectation. Some do not develop spiritually because of lack of effort. Hebrews was addressed to people with some among them who were failing to experience a maturing life in Christ. Our passage sets forth three guidelines for developing a plan to grow spiritually.

Discern Good and Evil (5:11–14)
The Hebrew Christians were spiritually immature. Evidence of their immaturity showed up in several ways. They were slow to understand the things of God. As a result, they were unable to teach others God’s truth. They had been believers long enough to have become teachers of others, but they lacked the maturity to do so. In fact, they needed to be retaught the elementary truths of God’s Word. Their immaturity made them unable to distinguish between good and evil. “Training” to discern between good and evil implies an ongoing, daily effort. Many people are devoted to “working out” in gyms and health clubs. Believers are called to be diligent in “working out” spiritually with a deliberate routine.

Believers need to possess a holy discontent with spiritual immaturity. All of us should make it our goal to grow spiritually. Growth doesn’t just happen; we must work at it. Salvation is a free gift, but spiritual growth in salvation demands effort.

Be Fruitful and Blessed (6:1–8)
This is one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament. People approach it in different ways. One way is to read it in light of the agricultural illustration in verses 7–8. The illustrated point deals with fruitfulness that reveals the quality of the ground under cultivation. God discerns immediately when genuine faith is present.
Human eyes, however, cannot discern genuine faith except by seeing the outward evidence of fruitfulness.

Because of their immaturity, many Hebrew Christians showed little or no evidence of being true believers.
Some made what appeared to be a good start in the Christian life, but later the lack of fruitfulness made it evident that they were never genuine believers. Their faith had been faulty from the first.
Another approach to this passage is based on Greek grammar that allows the passage to be read as a hypothetical case raising the question, “What if a true believer were to abandon faith?” While the reality is that this cannot happen, the hypothetical case would lead to the conclusion that if a person were a true believer who could abandon faith and become unsaved, then that person could never be saved again. It would be impossible to renew him or her again.

This reading of the passage actually makes it one of assurance to immature Christians as verses 9–12 imply.
Since one who is born again cannot become unborn, the readers, though woefully immature, were not to think for a moment that they had lost their salvation — something that would render them forever lost with no recourse for a second chance.

Read this way, the passage is a kind of backhanded affirmation that also encourages the readers to remain fruitful and thereby give evidence of being blessed by God.

Demonstrate Diligence (6:9–12)
Even though writing as he had done in the preceding verses, the writer expressed confidence in the readers. He commended them for their works and love. The letter encouraged them to continue unto full maturity and not become lazy. They were showing one of the evidences of saving faith — faith that shows itself in good works.
Faith that is genuine is not only “working” faith but is also “persevering” faith.

The ultimate demonstration of genuine saving faith is its perseverance to the end. Maturing believers demonstrate diligence.

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