Friday, March 27, 2009

Tasted… (Hebrews 6:1-8) 27 Mar 09

I love to eat, though I don’t live just to eat. I enjoy good food, because it makes me happy. And God is a joyful God; He wants me to be happy. Therefore, the best proof of the existence of God is there is good food!

The author of Hebrews starts chapter 6 by continuing his agony about his readers’ immaturity for not able to take solid food, by exhorting them to ‘press on to maturity’ (v1). And to do so, they have to start from the foundation, but not laying it again. I think the author means that there is no need to re-confess Jesus as Lord again, which also means that the previous time they accepted the Lord, it is done and their salvation is still intact.

I think this gives me a great assurance of our reform faith as Presbyterian, for we believe the doctrine of Perseveration of the saints. But what is the author referring to when he says the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (v1)? George H. Guthrie suggests that the structure of verses 1 and 2 would imply the following:

the foundation of repentance and faith = instruction about
· baptisms
· laying on of hands
· resurrection
· eternal judgment

The “repentance from dead works” and “faith toward God” (NRSV) constitute a summing up of the initial step of Christian commitment. The former refers to the turning away from acts of immorality committed by those apart from God (cf. Rom. 6:21), and the latter the basic orientation for those who have turned to God in belief and obedience.

Although the “baptisms” has been understood by many commentators to refer to specifically Christian baptism, the plural makes this interpretation problematic. It may be that the word refers instead to the internal spiritual cleansing from sins found in the new covenant, which was associated with the outward rite of baptism. Or the author may be referring to repeated ceremonial washings as found in expressions of first-century Judaism.

The “laying on of hands” was also a practice associated with the beginning of Christian commitment, specifically having to do with the coming of the Holy Spirit or anointing for ministry.

If these two “instructions” have to do with the beginning stages of Christian commitment, “resurrection of the dead” and “eternal judgment” provide theological cornerstones related to the end of the age.

Having this backdrop in mind, we can then understand verses 4 to 6. The author reminds his readers of what they have ‘tasted’ in the past: heavenly gift (v4) and the good word of God (v5). Of course, they are also the partakers of the Holy Spirit (v4) which is an expression of tasting the heavenly gift, and the powers of the age to come (v5) through the tasting of the good word of God. And he makes it very clear that, if anyone tasted all these and fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and pit Him to open shame (v6).

This has great implication. Does it mean that if we fall away from God after experiencing and tasting the goodness of God such as heavenly gift and good word of God, we will be doomed? Is there no more hope for us? Is there no way for us to repent and go back to God? Is there an unforgivable sin?

I believe such questions bother you as they bother me for years. But the good news is that God is so gracious. The idea about the impossibility to renew is an impossibility to renounce the work of Christ on the Cross. There is no need to re-crucify Christ. His work on the Cross is complete. No matter what we do, we cannot get Him to be crucified again for us, because what Christ did on the Cross is sufficient. This is it. Go ahead and taste the goodness of God, and do not worry that we may fall away and then impossible to come back. There is no such thing. We do not need to live in fear and worry and refrain ourselves to experience God and His grace and taste His goodness.

As the church has opened up to the work of the Holy Spirit, do not restrict ourselves to certain understanding and experience. Let us not be weary and fearful to taste God’s goodness. There will be always sufficient grace following out from the Cross for you and for me.

Let’s go, taste and see that God is good.


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