The recipients – the key of understanding a passage from the Bible

These past days I have received a message, where its’ author, Adrian, asks me how to understand the passage from Hebrews 6:4–6. The question is detailed and this text comprehends some things that arouse discussions and different opinions between Christians. Here is what the passage says:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4–6)

The key of understanding this passage is to observe carefully all that the author writes in this epistle about its recipients. In this article we will look at all things that are written about the recipients from the beginning of the epistle to this passage and what is the relation between each reference to them with understanding this passage from chapter 6:4–6.

1.The recipients are Hebrews, the people of God, who “have been enlightened” and “have tasted the good Word of God”. The Epistle begins this way:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1–2)

God spoke continuously to this people. He spoke to them long ago in the prophets in many portions and in many ways and in these last days He has spoken to them in His Son. In this chapter, the author presents Jesus Christ, as the Creator, “radiance of God’s glory” and “the exact representation of His nature”. The author starts this chapter showing who is Jesus Christ because he wanted to eliminate the wrong opinions of some people who thought that Jesus Christ was an angel. The rest of the chapter answers to these questions and proves the distinction between Jesus Christ and angels and shows that their Redeemer is not an angel. What is interesting that all arguments that the author shows are from the books of the Old Testament – “the good Word of God”, through which the Hebrews “have been enlightened”.

2.If the recipients (the Hebrews) don’t believe the revelation of the Old Testament about Jesus Christ, then they will drift away from the inheritance of God’s promises to them.

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:1–4)

 For the recipients of the epistle, to pay much more closer attention to what thay have heard, means to believe in the revelation of God, His Word from the Old Testament and to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. If they don’t believe that He is the Son of God, “radiance of His glory” and “the exact representation of His nature”, then this means disobedience, that will bring a just penalty upon them and they will not escape. In the second part of the chapter 2, the author explains another question of the recipients – why was it necessary for Jesus Christ to become a human being.

3.The recipients are partakers of the heavenly calling. Chapter 3 begins with:

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)

Furher on, the author says that the Jewish nation are the house of God, where Moses was a servant, but Christ is a Son, the heir over the house of God. And here the author explains who is going to remain to be the house of God, when he says:

but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house – whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. (Hebrews 3:6)

So, those who do not accept Christ as their Savior through faith can no longer be the house of God. Further on, it is written the example of the Jews who came out of Egypt and rebelled against God with unbelief. They didn’t inherit the blessings of God’s promises, that was to enter in Canaan. The whole law of the Old Testament led to Christ. If one doesn’t believe in Christ and ask for salvation, that means rebellion and tempting God.

Chapter 3 contains one more important truth that explains the phrase:“they became partakers of the Holy Spirit”. When the author quotes a passage from the Old Testament, he says:“ Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,” and then follows the passage. So, the Jews, were partakers of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Scriptures.

4. The recipients of the epistle are adviced to enter the rest of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The exemple of those who grumbled in wilderness comes as a conclusion:“So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19). that is why chapter 4 begins with this advice:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said. (Hebrews 4:1–3) 

Further on is repeated the same advice, that says:

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11)

The author refers to the example of those who didn’t obey God in the wilderness. They didn’t enter in Cannan and in the same way those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ will not enter in the true rest of God. This chapter ends with an advice for the recipients to enter in the covenant with Jesus Christ, he says:

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

5.Some recipients were slow in understanding the Word of God. After the author proves according the Old Testament that you can enter the true rest of God only through faith in Jesus Christ, he urges the recipients in chapter 5 to enter in this rest and he proves them that Jesus Christ is the only High Priest who can bring us in the presence of the Lord through fogiveness of our sins. The author explains deep truths from the Old Testament, but at one moment he says:

We have much to say about this (according Jesus Christ and His role in people’s salvation), but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. (Hebrews 5:11)

Then he explains why they are slow to learn and infants in their minds – beacause they fed themselves with milk, that means with elementary teachings and they didn’t look to understand the Word of God deeply. The author says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12–14)

6.The recipients that don’t tend to mature teachings have the risk to fall away. The author of the epistle begins chapter 6 with the advice:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ (about Messiah, a concept spread among Hebrews), let us press on to maturity (thing that they could not understand now, that Jesus is not an angel, that He becamea man, that Jesus is the true High Priest, that only through faith in Him one can enter the true faith of God) (Hebrews 6:1)

Immediately after this, the author shows the danger that follows the overlooking of these mature teachings about Jesus Christ and His salvation. Tha danger is falling away and the author says that those who fall away can not be renewed anymore. Those who do not receive the mature teaching (the whole doctrine) about Jesus Christ fall away and can not be renewed. Don’t forget that the recipients are the Jews who received a permanent revelation of salvation from God. Their great problem is that when God came to show the mature teachings about Jesus Christ, some of them didn’t want to understand them and received only the elementary teachings. In this way, they dishonored the person and work of Jesus Christ. And if they do this, what sacrifice can save them now? There is no some other sacrifice. The same truth was declared by the apostles when they stood in front of the Jewish Council and said about Jesus:

He is the Stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11–12)

That’s why it is very important to put priority on studying the Scripture, so that we could avoid the situation of the recipients. God had been waiting from them to be teachers, but they were still infants and could not distinguish between good and evil, because they were not accustomed to do this.

Translated by Djugostran Felicia