V. Warning and Encouragement (Hebrews 5:11–6:20)

5:11-12 In spite of the author’s desire to help his readers and teach them how Christ is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, they had become too lazy to understand (5:11). The Greek word translated “lazy” can mean “dull” or “stubborn.” So, in other words, they had become mule-headed and refused to grow spiritually. And even though they should’ve been teachers by the time the letter was penned, they needed someone to teach them the basic principles of God’s revelation again (5:12). Sadly, they weren’t experiencing Christ’s deliverance because they were still in spiritual elementary school!

6:7-8 The author supports his argument with an illustration about a plot of ground. When land has been cultivated and experiences the goodness of God in the form of rain (6:7), it can produce either useful vegetation or thorns and thistles. What should a farmer do if the soil proves to be worthless? His field will be burned. The purpose of the burning isn’t to destroy, however. The ground is burned to remove the thorns and thistles in order to make it productive again.

The author is not describing eternal judgment. The Bible speaks of fire in hell, but fire is also used to describe God’s discipline of believers (see 1 Cor 3:11-15). At the judgment seat of Christ, then, a believer’s faithless works will be burned up. “He himself will be saved—but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). So don’t give up. Persevere! If you’re falling down, get back in the game. If you’re too weak to get up, ask your fellow believers for help so that you can press on to maturity.

6:9-12 Even though the author spoke harshly, he is confident that God has better things in store for his hearers (6:9). He’s like a parent who spanks a young child and then hugs him with the assurance, “I did this because I love you.” The author is convinced that his readers are better than the poor ground in his illustration; he feels they’ll continue in faith. Though God hasn’t forgotten their past faithfulness when they had a passion for ministering to others (6:10), he wants them to demonstrate diligence and to imitate others who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance (6:11-12).

God’s purpose in saving you was not merely so you could go to heaven when you die; he wants to use you here until you die. and then reward you with your kingdom inheritance when he returns (see Luke 19:11-19). Your usefulness increases as you grow in spiritual maturity during your pilgrimage from earth to glory, from time to eternity. By developing in maturity and usefulness, you will obtain your full inheritance. This inheritance is not your salvation; rather, it’s the good things God has in store for you in this life and in the life to come.

6:13-15 How did promise and perseverance play out in the life of Abraham, that great hero of the faith? Twenty-five years passed between God’s promise of a son and the birth of Isaac. Then many further years passed before that fateful day when Abraham faithfully offered Isaac on the altar and God swore by himself (6:13) that he would bless and multiply Abraham (6:14). Long, patient waiting was required before Abraham obtained the promise (6:15).

6:16-19 To demonstrate his unchangeable purpose, God guaranteed his promise by swearing an oath (6:16-17). Now, of course, it is impossible for God to lie. To do so, he would have to cease being God. But by these two unchangeable things—the promise and the oath—he gives his children strong encouragement to seize the hope set before them (6:18-19). Hope is a confident expectation of God fulfilling his promises.

To put it simply, God’s promise is his declaration of what he will do, and his oath is his announcement that he is ready to do it. God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, but many years passed before he swore the oath in Genesis 22:16-17. In between, there was a long gap of preparation.

During gaps, God prepares the promise for the person and prepares the person for the promise. In the case of Israel, God made a promise to deliver the land of Canaan to them. But during their time of preparation, they refused to move forward. So the oath God swore to them was a negative one: “They will not enter my rest” (Heb 3:11). This is why persevering in faith is so important.

6:20 Here the author finally returns to the topic of Jesus as a high priest . . . according to the order of Melchizedek (see 5:10). Given their recent struggles, he needed to give them warning and encouragement to keep moving forward (5:11–6:20) before introducing them to the spiritually mature discussion about Melchizedek.

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