King James Version (KJV)
5.14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
In the previous chapter the writer put forth a great explanation of, not only the fact that the Hebrews have a High Priest, that is greater in every way than that of the Levitical Priesthood, but also why. A Spiritual Priesthood that was ordained in the forethought of God before the foundation of the World. Though the Levitical Priesthood was also foreordained, it was fundamentally flawed in that it was of a carnal nature, only mirroring the Perfect which was spiritual. This view of existential reality, among several instances within the Epistle, is representative of the influence of Platonic thought. It should be noted that Greek thinking, or Hellenistic thinking, had by this time permeated almost every intellectual discipline, and had influenced religious thought. Though the Jews of Palestine tried to resist, it failed to keep Judaism perfectly insulated from its sway. The Diaspora Jews, some of which had settled and lived in areas that would later become a part of the Greek, and also the Roman Empire, had firmly embraced Greek thought. These Jews were much more Hellenized than those of Palestinian Jewry. Once again, the Apostle Paul fits the bill. Saul of Tarsus was a Roman Citizen by birth. Tarsus is located in South Central Turkey, and was heavily Hellenized by the mid 4th century BC. It continued to be a major location of influence during the times of the Roman Empire as well. Plato suggested that the ideas of things were that which represented perfection, while the physical representation of things were flawed. By 361 BC his thinking on the immortality of the Soul had gained influence as well. He believed heavily that the metaphysical realm represented that which was true, and unchanging. For More see: http://www.egs.edu/library/plato/biography/ .
The writer is not by far finished with his discussion of the Superior High Priesthood, but pauses to admonish this congregation for it’s non-excusable spiritual immaturity. He once again quotes the Psalms with reference to Melchizedek, but then states, that we have much to say about this subject, that is hard to explain to you! The reason for this is that you fail to remember, and comprehend what is said to you. Thus due to this immaturity of the knowledge of Christ the writer admonishes them with the Verse above. Hoping that He might light a fire in them, and bring forth growth in them. The writer is not trying to be offensive, mean, or crass here, but He is trying to motivate them to Be Earnest in their belief and practice. If the writer fails, they will fall away, and lapse back into Judaism. The writer now goes on with His admonition:
6.1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Notice the very particular wording here by the writer, “…let us go on unto perfection; (completeness, maturity), not laying again the foundation of repentance, (turning around, reversing direction), From Dead Works, (of the Law), and of Faith toward God, ( the reversal of direction from the former),
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
I think the wording for this verse in the Revised Standard Version of the NT is more exact in meaning than the KJV above:
2 “with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (RSV)
The RSV was and is known to be very exact in it’s translations of the Greek Text. See the ranking chart for 20 translations as compared to over 15,000 variant readings of NT Text toward the bottom of this document at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novum_Testamentum_Graece .
“With instruction about ablutions,” to me seems much more understandable than, “of the Doctrine of Baptisms.” The reason is that this in the KJV appears to be speaking of Water Baptisms, of which Paul says there is Only One, and this is not referencing different formulas for water baptism. With this consideration in mind, and the above text from the KJV, having the word Baptisms, plural, could and has created some confusion. Instruction about ablutions, however, is more understandable, as this assembly was for the most part Jewish. Being that they still were clinging to the Law of Moses, they probably still practiced ritual washings, with the use of Mikvehs, much like a baptismal pool. Below is a Mikveh from Herodian around 69 AD. To see more examples visit at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikveh
The Laying on of Hands, goes at least as far back as Moses and further, who laid his hands onto Joshua while commissioning him to carry on the Work of God. The Resurrection of the Dead, and Eternal Judgement were fundamental Pharisaic, Essene, and Christian beliefs, not however for the Priesthood in Jerusalem. The writer wants to move on past these elementary things, not that they are unimportant, but that there is so much more.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
In other words, we are going to go on now, and if God permits this, then you will able to comprehend what we have to say.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
This verse above is very important to understand within it’s proper historical context! This is not talking about quitting a church, or changing churches, for one that may have different doctrinal positions on particular issues than another! This is speaking of some who had received the Holy Ghost, experienced the truth of the Prophets concerning the Spirit, and also became Partakers of the Holy Ghost. This involves partaking in the New Covenant coming into their hearts when receiving the Spirit, and being baptized into Christ’s Body by the Spirit. Someone who has partaken in all the Benefits of Christ’s Death on theTree, His Resurrection, and his Ascension, then His sending back the promise of the Father, the Holy Ghost. Someone that has tasted the gifts of the Father!
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
They have experienced the great promises in the Word of God, and the Mighty Power of God, that will be fully realized, and always present in the World to come.
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (KJV)
This verse above is speaking of Apostasy! In essence falling back into the carnal, and weaker covenant that could not put away sin, Judaism. Not that the Law is in any way a bad thing, meaningless, or unholy, but by it’s very purpose could not redeem from sin in that it was weak. The blood of other animals could not sanctify the Soul, and Spirit of Man. They cannot be renewed again, because they have rejected the New Covenant, also the Holy Ghost, and virtually supposing there is a better way. They by returning to the weaker elements of the Former Covenant, have put Christ Jesus, all of his suffering, and his death upon the tree to an open shame. In a sense re-crucifying him again, and again. By turning back to Judaism in it’s purely legal form, they have renounced the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and all of God’s redemptive work, and His Gifts. They have grieved the Holy Spirit of God which is one way to Blaspheme. Actually it would be a better thing to have never known the Holy Spirit, and the Father, through Jesus, than to have known and then reject and deny His redemption, for weak carnal ordinances that cannot save the soul. That is a slap in God’s face for all that God was doing for them. There is one thing that Needs to be Remembered here, and that is that God, and only God, knows the Heart of a Man, or Woman. Do not judge on how things seem to be!!6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. (RSV). This spells it out very clear. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: Those who cultivate the ground in preparation for the rain, bring forth herbs, and fruit. They provide for growth by what God gives! 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. Those who do nothing with the ground in preparation for what God gives, and just lets it go, brings forth weeds, briars, and thorns. Whose end is to be burned! There is responsibility on our parts with God! We must bear fruit, or we are useless, and not pleasing to God! This means more than Believing in God! Once again, Satan believes in God, and trembles. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. The writer does see some growth, and fruit borne by this assembly, and therefore persuaded of things that belong to those of salvation. They have done a work for God, but seem to be falling back due to some kind of oppression, and persecution. This would be very understandable being a Christian Assembly in Jerusalem, surrounded by tremendous opposition, from family, friends, employers, and those of the Temple, and Synagogue. Their belief, and acceptance of Christ as Messiah, was Costing them things that were dear to the Jewish community, especially family, and Religion! 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. The writer is assuring them that God will never forget what one does in their work, and labor of love for others. In this time it was more troublesome by far to the Hebrew Christians to show love toward His Name and others of His Name, for every Jew was watching these Nazarenes closely, and any acts of kindness, love, and or loyalty could cause them so much harm, in so many ways. At this very time, the Temple, and the Synagogue, were separating themselves from them. These Christians were losing family, belongings, their businesses, their properties, everything that had been their life. But God would not forget this for the ones who stayed the course. God rewards both in this life, and in the one to come! The writer maintains that He knows they still minister to the saints of Christ Jesus. 11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: This very love for others, was the commandment given by Christ Jesus! The writer desires for all of them to also show that same diligence to and of their Hope to the very end, for Jesus said, “…for he that endureth to the end shall be saved!” He is also saying, don’t be afraid, and do not back off from what you at the first received from Christ Jesus, hold fast to your faith no matter what happens. 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Do not get lazy or lax concerning your walk with God, keep doing the will of God, as He reveals it to you day by day. Stay busy with God, and His Word, keep loving, and meeting the needs of others where you can. Bring forth fruit! Plant and water, one or both. Keep the ground of your heart fertile, and freshly plowed, that when the rain comes increase will come forth. Stay in the Holy Ghost as much as possible! If one does that, you will not break the commandments, and you will not even consciously know that you are keeping them! Just Love God with all your Heart, seek Him in the Holy Ghost daily, and you will not even come close to offending the commandments. This is what Jewish people could never grab ahold of. Serving the Mosaic Law will not redeem, it only points out sin. It was not a remedy. The Holy Ghost within however, will keep you far from sin by HIS Power, not yours or mine. That is because the Holy Ghost is writing the Laws of God in our Hearts, not on stone for us to Obey, but into the fabric of our very souls, and spirits. It takes time however, and continual submission to the will of the Spirit, for the Carnal Nature to be conquered in a life. The work of Grace is ongoing throughout one’s Lifetime. A continual conquering of our natures by the Power of the Holy Ghost. As Paul said, “…I die daily…!” This why Paul also said in paraphrase, …the very things I do not want to do, they are the things I do, while the things I want to do, are the very things I do not do…! The carnal nature fights the Spirit. The Spirit eventually conquers the carnal nature. Each life is different within this process, and this is why we should not compare ourselves. As the work of Grace continues we should follow the great examples of faith throughout the Word of God, that was alive in the hearts of those who did receive the Promises of God, emulate them. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Think about how Great God is, that He in all His glory would even speak to Abraham, let alone Swear an Oath, even by himself to assure Abraham of His promises! God has also made an Oath to us through Christ Jesus, to become joint heirs with the Son of His Inheritance from the Father. God is Awesome! He is Greatly to be Praised, and Worshipped by those that are His Own. He is so Great that all are welcome with the very same benefits afforded as for those that have served Him for a Lifetime. His mercy endureth forever! In His presence is the fullness of Joy, and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore. It is Righteousness, Peace, and Joy IN THE HOLY GHOST! Not in ourselves, but in HIM. 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. Of a Surety I WILL BLESS THEE! How would you like that? Well He has said that to you and I as well! For a little bit later in this Epistle, the writer will explain that Levi, Abraham’s Great Grandson paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham, even though He was still in his loins! Therefore all of the blessings, and promises to Abraham, were to Levi, and all of Abrahams progenetry. Yes, even Ishmael, received these blessing too. Now we Gentiles are Blessed in Abraham as well by being grafted into the tree, through the BRANCH, Jesus of Nazareth. We too have the promises and blessings of Abraham. The Promises of God are Yea and Amen to them that Believe God, Not to them that are perfect! To them that Believe. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Notice He did not say after He waited Patiently, but said after He had Patiently Endured! This speaks Volumes to everyone who waits and supplicates for the promises of God. There will be rough, and tough times, mountain tops and valleys. There will be severe strains, and great times of rejoicing. It is God who appoints the time of our Blessing for well doing, and for FAITH in God! Not so much in His existence, but in His timing, in His will for us. Abraham had times of impatience as well. He and his wife Sarah decided that he should try to help God, thus having a Son through Hagar, the Egyptian Maid Servant. This eventually caused Abraham tremendous heartache when He had to push away His eldest son because he loved him very much, and so did God! They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give you the Desires of Your Heart! Trust Him, and worship him while you trust Him, he will grant your requests. Abraham endured for a very long season, and when it seemed an impossibility, God kept His promise. Then came Isaac the child of Promise, when Abraham was old. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Men swear by something greater than themselves, and an Oath means it is as good as done. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: When God swears something, it is Immutable! When He gives an Oath it is Done! 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: The first immutable thing is that it is impossible for God to Lie, thus giving us a strong consolation that His word is forever True! With this fact comes our unfailing Hope. As we look at this verse closer we see an interesting statement within the context of verses 17-20! “…we might have a Strong Consolation, Who Have Fled For Refuge To Lay Hold Upon The Hope Set Before US:” Who have Fled for Refuge! Who is “WE?” Is is it the speaker, and the writer? Or is it the speaker, writer, and this Assembly? I notice also that the writer says in verse 10, “…And Do Minister!” It is as if the writer has some relationship or connection, perhaps more than one, within this Assembly, because He shows that He knows what they are currently doing. Could it be the very Bishop (after the death of James), and Deacons, that fled for Refuge? Though separated from the assembly, yet is still maintaining close contact with them? What was happening at the time that caused these leaders to flee for refuge? This would present a difficulty, if this is the case, for the speaker, and writer to be Paul, and Luke. It is also further complicated by the writer knowing current efforts by this congregation! James the brother of the Lord was killed in 62 AD (Josephus) which I believe to be correct. The other possibility was 69 AD (Hegesippus). James was greatly revered by the Ebionites, and was the Bishop of the Hebrew Assembly in Jerusalem. There is some historical evidence of the Assembly at Jerusalem fleeing to Pella, either just before, or in the beginning of the Siege by Titus between 68-70 AD. It could be that some of James leadership fled after James was killed by the Jews, but kept close contact with the Assembly while in refuge. Also that these leaders who fled, went to a different location than the Assembly who fled to Pella. Something was certainly happening to this Assembly, both with James the brother of Jesus being killed, and also the coming siege, and this may have perpetuated their fleeing for refuge. With this being the case I find it almost impossible that Paul is the source for this Epistle, unless this refers to Paul appealing to Caesar, after his arrest in Jerusalem, in order to avoid certain death by those zealous for the Law in Jerusalem. If all of this is connected as it appears, I would have to lean heavily toward Barnabas, Paul’s one time associate, friend, and classmate in the school of Gamaliel. Barnabas was also a devout Jew, and given with Paul the right hand of fellowship by James, Peter, and John, to minister to the Uncircumcision, as the writer (Tertullian). This would provide for the similarity to Pauline thought, for like Paul, Barnabas was a Hellenistic Jew from Cyprus. It would also provide for the exceptional understanding of the Priesthood, and the Office of the High Priest, for Barnabas was a Levite. It is important here to note that Paul, and Barnabas parted ways over a difference concerning John Mark. The break did seem somewhat severe, considering this broke asunder an ordained Ministry to the Gentiles. This is problematic, however, because Barnabas is reported to have died a Martyr, at Cyprus in 61 AD. 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Our Hope because it is based upon the fact that our God is Truthful, and Keeps His Promises, is most certainly an Anchor of the Soul! The second immutable promise is that we have a High Priest in Christ Jesus that enters into that within the veil. 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. God swore an oath, that Jesus, his only begotten Son, would be made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus forever atones for us, through His sacrifice of Himself, and is deeply compassionate for us and toward our infirmities. He Loves Us, and represents us, before the Father. For this reason we are abundantly healed, and blessed within, to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost to live within our hearts, and to have his Love shed abroad in our Hearts throughout our entire lives.