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Lowell Brueckner

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Greater than Our Fears


An expository study of the book of Hebrews 

 Chapter 6

1. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

2. of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

3. And this we will do if God permits.


Six foundational principles

 Whenever I read these three verses in Hebrews, I always think of a classroom, in which the teacher is anxious for his or her class to advance and the greater part of the students want to learn. However, there are some people, usually sitting in the back of the room, who just don’t care. In fact, they create disturbances, hinder progress and they themselves have not even learned the basics of the course. This is a serious matter in the Kingdom of God, because there is a maxim at its core that says, “If you don’t go forward, you will surely regress.”   

 There are a couple things that we have to know in relation to this matter of progressing in the Christian walk. It does not mean that a believer leaves the gospel and goes on to ‘deeper’ things. It means that he goes deeper into the gospel. It does not mean that he leaves the foundation, but simply that he leaves off laying it, so that he can build upon it. In my version of the Bible, the NKJV, you will notice that it states, leaving the discussion, which seems to indicate that, in the writer’s teaching, he will now go on to more mature matters. Taking away the chapter division, it is a continuation of the subject of milk and solid food in the last verses previous to this chapter. Perfection in this case means maturity, which is precisely the subject matter at hand.

 Commentator Warren Wiersbe said: “When I was in kindergarten, the teacher taught us our ABCs. You learn your ABCs so that you might read words, sentences, books – in fact, anything in literature. But you do not keep learning the basics. You use the basics to go on to better things.  


 Everyone needs to know that God will permit us to go on, only if the foundation has been soundly laid. How can a faulty foundation be built upon? It is God’s will that the work go on to completion, not held back by the negligent, who refuse to lay a good foundation. We must cater to those who will zealously go forward, not to those who willfully hold back and disrupt the eternal good of others. As in worldly education, those who will learn must be given all that is needed in order that they can effectively serve society. Society will suffer if the stragglers hold up education. Some must receive a failing grade, in order that standards are held high. How much more important is the Kingdom of God?

 We must also watch out for the trap of perpetual preparation. There are those who are continually getting training, but never put it into practice. Paul teaches Timothy about those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 T.3:7). These are the ones, who are “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 T.3:5). Stay away from those who do not need the power, because they are continually in a classroom and not in the real world of Christian life. We need to understand that the milk, in this lesson, is not out of a bottle, but out of a mother. A baby lives off milk that his mother produces. The Christian must learn to nourish himself.

Twenty centuries after the New Testament church, we need to check the basic principles to see if this foundation has been laid in our lives. I will also give New Testament references to these basic Christian principles. These are also Jewish doctrines, which apply more completely in Christianity, and so a Jew is more or less familiar with them. “Salvation is of the Jews,” Jesus told the Samaritan woman (Jn.4:22), and Christianity is grafted into that root.  

 1. Repentance from dead works occurs once in a believer’s life and especially for a Jew, it was a major step. He was immersed in an effort to try to complete the law and in 9:14, we have this statement: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Works were attempts to make a person righteous, striving to serve and please God, but accomplished absolutely nothing. He had no spiritual life and his efforts were as absurd as that of a corpse, trying to bring itself to life. The Jew endeavored to keep the law and the Gentile worked at the norms of his religion and, in order to serve the living God, dead works must be abandoned once and for all. Ro.3:28; 4:6; 11:6; Gal.2:16; Eph.2:8-9; 2 Ti.1:9; Tit.3:5

 2. Repentance and faith come simultaneously to the life of a convert. He leaves his own works, in order to trust in God. He will see God in His holiness as never before, causing him to understand that all other help is futile, and so he receives faith, that is, he puts his trust completely in God. Through the blood of Christ, God has provided totally for his salvation, and in Him, he deposits faith.  Those verses, to which we referred under the first principle, also apply to this. We might add: Heb.3:12; 11:1, 6

 3. The doctrines of baptisms are two. John Wesley, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, and Matthew Henry all agree on these two baptisms with slightly differing details concerning them. There is the public testimony of water baptism, following repentance and faith. It symbolizes, by immersion in water, a burial of the former life of sin and self-righteousness, and a resurrection into a new life in Christ. The other baptism is that of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon him and empowers him for supernatural life and service. a) Ac.2:38; 8:36-38; 16:31-34. b) Ac.1:5, 8; 8:17; 10:44-46; 19:6.

 4. The doctrine of laying on of hands is tightly related to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership” Today, older Christians commonly lay hands on people to induct them into the ministry, as was done in the New Testament, upon elders and deacons. We also do this, I think very correctly, at weddings to commit the couple to the Lord’s service. Perhaps we ought to see more of this for the common believer, all of whom have a specific purpose in the Kingdom of God. Ac.6:5-6; 13:3; 2 T.1:6.

 5. The last two elementary principles regard future events. Christians in the future will be resurrected from the dead, which clearly shows that they are not to leave any of these six doctrines, as part of their past. Obviously, he is still looking forward to his resurrection. As we saw in the NKJV in the first verse, the writer is going to leave the discussion of these basic creeds and go on to doctrines for the mature.  Paul devoted 1 Corinthians 15 to the doctrine, teaching that the Christian’s body would be raised from the dead, transformed into an eternal state, and adapted to the heavenly realm. The resurrected body of Christ shows us some of the properties of that state, because He is the first fruits from the dead, meaning that much fruit will follow Him. They will rise from the dead, just as He did, with similar bodily characteristics (1 Co.15:20, 23).

 Then Paul taught the Thessalonians that they would reunite with their Christian companions, who had died: “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope… God will bring with Him (meaning Christ) those who sleep in Jesus… we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Th.4:13-18). Obviously, earthly relationships will continue in heaven. Jn.5:28-29; 11:24.

 6. This basic Christian creed, teaching eternal judgment, in other words, judgment that will determine man’s eternal state, is closely related to the doctrine of the resurrection. There is a resurrection and judgment of the just and the unjust. The believer will be judged and receive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Ro.14:10 and 2 Co.5:10). Again, it is clear that he does not leave that hope behind, but it serves as motivation for his time on earth. One thousand years later, the sinners will be resurrected and judged before the Great White Throne (Rv.20:5, 11-15). Lk.14:14; Jn.5:28-29; Ac.17:31; 24:15.

 4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,

5. and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

6. if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

7. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;

8. but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.


The accuser of the brethren

 You must know and not forget that Satan is an expert in Scripture! He uses it, as a Federal Prosecutor would use the Constitution, in order to accuse the believer. This is, if not his major purpose, certainly one of them: “For the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down” (Rv.12:10). Please understand that you and I are no match for this supernaturally-equipped and intellectually-powerful deceiver.  We must have help. To counteract the favorite attack of the enemy, the Lord has given us a Defense Attorney from the godhead! It is the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Greek: parakletos, a defense attorney, literally, one who is called alongside), that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth. (Jn.14:16). He makes similar statements in 15:26-27 and 16:7, 13-15. The Spirit of Truth will counter the clever lies of the enemy with perfect truth.

 I would encourage every reader to study Isaiah, chapter 7 and 8, to see the claims of the enemies of Israel, refuted by the Lord Himself: “It shall not stand, nor shall it come to pass” (Is.7:7). The portion, into which we will now look, is one of the devil’s favorite tools. He has used it against countless true disciples of Christ, and has applied it with such powerful impact upon their minds, that it made their blood run cold! Some of you, who are at this moment reading this article, might be among his victims. You may even think that you are so entrenched in hypocrisy, that you are deceived about truly seeking Christ. I am praying and it is my intention, with God’s help and that of some from His servants, to remove his doubts from your mind.

 One time in Slovakia, I tried to encourage the parents of a young lady, who was terribly possessed by demon powers. I told true accounts of very difficult cases of people, bound by the enemy, who were eventually set free. In the end, the girl spoke: “Those cases are not like mine. Mine are much more complicated.” I thought, “I have heard that voice before, speaking inside my head.” It was the deceiving voice of spiritual forces with one of their most difficult lies to counter. In essence, it states… your case is unique. But don’t you think that Christ knew the tactics of the enemy? That is why He said, Everyone who asks receives…” (Mt.7:7) and “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jn.6:37). John states in the very last chapter of the Bible, in Revelation 22:17: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”  There are no exception or cases too difficult for the Lord.

 A faithful man of God, A. W. Tozer, a generation ago, stated the following fact very simply: “If you think that you have committed the unpardonable sin… you haven’t!” That, my friend, is true and it is true for this reason; an apostate has his “conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Ti.4:2). His conscience does not bother him, because his heart is incurably hard. He is not concerned about his spiritual condition and his will is turned irrevocably against God and His Christ. He has no intention of repenting.

 Your reaction actually proves the opposite; your conscience is tender and therefore you were susceptible to entertain the thought, however untruthful it may be, that these verses are applicable to your spiritual state. They are not… and neither do they even apply to a Christian with besetting sins, a Christian who is less than wholehearted, and less than totally honest and sincere. This portion describes a sworn enemy of Christ, as the Pharisees and Sadducees, who sought His crucifixion. Even in their case, the warning went out from Christ about the danger that they were in, indicating that they were not yet hopeless, but could still come to believe in Him.

 Let me give you the case of a particularly sinful and evil king of Israel… in fact, the worst in all their history. Here is the biblical assessment of King Ahab: “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took a wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshipped him… Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger.” (1 K.16:30-33). The Bible states further in 1 Kings 21:25: “There was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord… and he behaved very abominably in following idols…”  

 Ahab continued to do horrible deeds, to the point that God sent Elijah to pronounce fierce judgment upon him. However, when he heard Elijah’s words, he fasted, put on sackcloth and mourned.  The Lord had mercy on him and told Elijah (vs.29): “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days.” Even the wickedest king of Judah, Manasseh, son of good king Hezekiah, was forgiven and restored (see 2 Chron.33:1-13).

 Every true servant of God, who knows Him and His nature, will tell you the same thing that I am now telling you. It is contrary to God’s character to turn anyone away, who comes to Him and begs for mercy, even though they may be imperfect in their search. Different men have different ways of looking at these verses, but none of them believed that anyone seeking mercy would be turned away. 

Here are comments from Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019), who was pastor of Moody Memorial Church: “These verses have given people cause for worry and concern, mainly because they have been misunderstood and misapplied. I have received phone calls from upset people who have misread this passage and convinced themselves (or been convinced by Satan) that they were hopelessly lost and had committed some unpardonable sin.” He goes on to notice that in verse 4, “the writer changed the pronouns from ‘we’ and ‘us’ to ‘those’. This change suggests that he had a hypothetical case in mind.” He was not writing about his readers, whether they were true Christians or possibly still unconverted. I will have to go ahead to verse 9 to prove the point: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.”

 Albert Barnes (1796-1870), a Presbyterian Calvinist, comments: “If we should say, ‘had a man fallen down a precipice it would be impossible to save him’, or ‘had the child fallen into the stream he would certainly have been drowned’… it is material to remark here that the apostle does not say that any true Christian ever had fallen away. He makes a statement of what would occur on the supposition that such a thing should happen, and yet it be morally certain that the event never would happen. It would be easy to suppose what would happen if the ocean should overflow a continent, or if the sun should cease to rise, and still be entirely certain that such an event never would occur.”

 I now quote Adam Clarke (1762-1832), a Methodist and certainly non-Calvinist: 1) I do not consider them as having any reference to any person professing Christianity. 2) They do not belong, nor are they applicable, to backsliders of any kind. 3) They belong to apostates from Christianity; to such as reject the whole Christian system, and its author, the Lord Jesus. 4) And to those of them ONLY who join with the blaspheming Jews, call Christ an impostor, and vindicate his murderers in having crucified him as a malefactor; and thus they render their salvation impossible, by willfully and maliciously rejecting the Lord that bought them. No man believing in the Lord Jesus as the great sacrifice for sin, and acknowledging Christianity as a divine revelation, is here intended, though he may have unfortunately backslidden from any degree of the salvation of God.  

 Matthew Henry (1662-1714), lived in the times of the non-conformists, who were persecuted by the state church. He held the view that I have always personally favored: “They may be enlightened, they may taste of the heavenly gift, yet be like persons in the market, who taste of what they will not come up to the price of, made partakers of the Holy Ghost, they may have cast out devils in the name of Christ, and done many other mighty works; they may taste of the good word of God, and they may have tasted of the powers of the world to come. Yet it is not here said of them that they were truly converted. This therefore is no proof of the final apostasy of true saints. These indeed may fail frequently and foully, but yet they will not totally nor finally fall from God... (The apostates) declare that they approve of what the Jews did in crucifying Christ, and that they would be glad to do the same thing again if it were in their power. They pour the greatest contempt upon the Son of God.” Matthew Henry is saying that the ones described in these verses are like those, of which the apostle John wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of us… but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 Jn.2:19). He calls them antichrists (1 Jn.2:18).


9. But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.

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.

11. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,

12. that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.


Gentleness with the beloved children of God

Observe the care of the Holy Spirit, working through the writer in divine love and kindness, averting the possibility of frightening them or placing doubts in their minds and hearts. We can be sure of one thing: If we have been upset by the former portion, God’s Spirit is not the one who planted fearful doubts. On the contrary, the inspired writer seeks to comfort and assure them. Here are the sentiments of the triune God, manifested through Jesus Christ: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the extreme, perfectly, eternally(Jn.13:1 alternate readings). Paul expresses the same from the beginning of his first letter to the Thessalonians: “Knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Th.1:4).

 After careful study of the priesthood of Christ, I have been saying to the church, “Your security before God does not depend on you, but upon your Priest. If Christ is your priest, interceding for you before the Father, you can be assured that He will not fail. We will study this verse more thoroughly in chapter 7, verse 25: “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Lk.22:31-32). Did Jesus’ prayer ever fail to reach the Father’s ear or go unattended? Obviously, never. Then, did Peter’s faith fail? If you answer in the affirmative, then you do not understand biblical faith. Christ’s intercessory priesthood is unfailing.

 Another principle to consider is the Father’s perfect discipline. We will also look further into this subject in chapter 12. At the present, we will simply refer to verse 10. “For (our human fathers) indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” Can our heavenly Father be anything less than perfect in His discipline? Will it accomplish His purposes? Unfortunately, too few Christians understand the love that there is in discipline. They need to study it in the book of Proverbs.

 Do we understand Christian works? Here again, I am afraid that there is misunderstanding among many believers, because they seem to interpret them, as something akin to the dead works of verse 1. Christian works are the visible fruit of invisible faith; it is the natural outflow of the new nature. God watches while this principle plays out in the lives of His children. They do what they do, because of who they are. Notice the proper priority in the outworking of the two great commandments: 1) Out of love toward His name, 2) they have ministered to the saints and do minister (10). First, they manifest love towards God and then towards their neighbor.

 The Holy Spirit wants this diligence to continue and that continuance will depend upon the full assurance of hope (11). You see, they are not the ones worried about losing their salvation, who work and live better as Christians, but those who have full assurance (Once again, a doctrine widely misunderstood). Hope is a vault that is sure; the promises are bars of gold within the vault that are rich. I tried to show earlier that no one is an exception, but everyone is loved and cared for, and here we have another proof of that truth… we desire that each one of you… Verse 9 is also true of every one of them.

 My dad used to like to say, that biblical hope is not like the hope in society today. It is not a hope so hope. As the word is used and understood, contemporarily, it casts a doubt. “We hope so, but…” Bible hope is fixed and steadfast; it is faith in the future tense.

 Nothing makes a Christian more sluggish (12) than uncertainty and fear. See the three disciples in Gethsemane: “When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow” (Lk.22:45). I like the fact that every time the Amplified Bible mentions faith, it gives space to show its full significance: Those who through faith (that is, by their leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness.) and by practice of patient endurance…


13. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no on greater, He swore by Himself,

14. saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”

15. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

16. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.

17. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

18. that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

19. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

20. where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.


God swears with an oath

 In this section we will see how the believer will grow from the elementary principles of the life in Christ to the maturity of walking under the oath of God. It will show how those not weaned from their mother’s milk, progress to be those who have hope as an anchor within the veil. They will transfer from the shadow of the priesthood of Aaron to the eternal order of Melchizedek.

 In a U. S. courtroom, a witness places his hand on the Bible and swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The reason that is practiced and necessary is because, putting it bluntly, all men are liars. By putting himself under oath, the witness is liable to tell the truth on penalty of perjury. In his testimony, he rises above himself to swear by one, who is greater than he is… so help me God (16). This section, continuing through chapter 7, is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. The quote is from Genesis 22:16-17 and is worthy of the highest level of concentration and meditation.

 See here the will of God for all sons of Abraham in faith. God is willing to go beyond what is necessary, giving that which in the insurance world is called double indemnity. He gives perfect and total coverage twice! It is impossible for His word ever to fail and He cannot lie. Yet God knows our human weakness and the awful slander of the devil as to His character, so He condescends to help us through our temptations with strong consolation. He swears upon His infallible word. God doesn’t want us to be holding on by the skin of our teeth, so He gives us mighty help and confirmation. He wants those who are wise enough to come to Him, to have the absolute highest insurance and assurance. Let the whole world fear, but let God’s people be confident, as testimony to His faithfulness (17).

 The promise and the oath was not just for Abraham. As sure as Abraham obtained that, which God doubly promised him, so will the heirs of the promise also obtain. A word and an oath from God gives us unconditional assurance. (v.11, 7:19). The last clause in verse 18 is based on the Old Testament and comes from Numbers 35:9-28 and Joshua 20:1-9. There were cities of refuge in Israel, so that someone, who accidently killed another, could flee to the closest city of refuge to escape the wrath of the slain man’s relative, the avenger of blood. He could remain there, free from fear, until the priest in that city died, after which he returned to his home.  God has provided refuge for those, who have knowingly sinned and are justly worthy of death. We can dwell there secure with our Priest and, because He lives eternally, we are secure forever in Him. John also tells us of that refuge for he, who trusts in Christ: “The One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him, and the wicked one does not lay hold on him or touch him 1 Jn. 5:18, Amp.)

This hope is not so much an inner feeling of security, but a set hope that is sure and not dependent on our feelings (19). It is firmly and unmovably put before us and we are given opportunity to take hold of it. It is set as an anchor in the Holy of Holies and attached to our souls. Jesus is there on the right hand of the Father, as a forerunner, who has prepared the way for many to follow. He is our undying High Priest, according to the eternal order of Melchizedek, who intercedes there for us (20).

 We should be overwhelmed with the eternal love and care for each one of us, who have come under the influence of the New Pact or Testament. We were total guilty before Him and unworthy of forgiveness. We were rebels, a great dilemma and threat to His kingdom, with nothing good to offer. Yet here we are, His beloved children, redeemed by the blood of His Son and products of His mercy and grace. Where in all the universe can you hear another story like this?













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