In this series of articles, we have argued that the
audience of the writer of Hebrews consisted of Hebrew Christians who were being tempted to revert to Judaism. If they do so, he affirms that it will be impossible for them to repent
of their failure to trust in Christ alone. Moreover, they will be like
unproductive land choked out with thorns and thistles, and fit only for burning.
I do not believe he was talking about burning in hell. Rather, he was
describing what happens to land that is unproductive and choked with
thorns and thistles. It is burned, not to ruin it forever, but to make
it more productive. But in the process, Christians miss out on rewards
and ministry they might otherwise have enjoyed. This purging is
described, I believe, in 1 Cor. 3:10-15.
In this section the writer is convinced of a better end for his readers
than being burned. Let us examine what he states about them in Hebrews
6:9-10. In Hebrews 6:9-20, the writer is seeking to persuade his
readers toward Christian maturity. In Hebrews 6:9-12 the writer states
his desire for the readers' maturity. In Hebrews 6:9-10 he states his
conviction that there is a better end for them than being discarded
from ministry and effective service through "burning." He writes,
"But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you,
things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this
way" (Heb. 6:9). How does he describe this "better end?"
Convinced of a Better End for the Readers
- Better things: "But beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you." (Heb. 6:9)
- "Beloved" – We begin by noting that the writer refers to his readers as "beloved," agapētós (27), "beloved, dear, very much loved" (excerpted from Friberg).
This is the only time the writer of Hebrews uses this pronominal
adjective. But its use elsewhere in the NT consistently refers to
believers in Christ. The writer was convinced his readers were
believers in Christ.
- "we are convinced of better things concerning you" – "we are convinced" is the 1st Person Plural Perfect Indicative Passive of peíthō (3982). The Perfect Passive means to "be convinced or certain of something (Luke 20:6)" (Friberg). The writer was convinced or certain
of a better outcome for his readers than the tragedy of forfeiting
rewards that could have come their way (Heb. 6:8; 1 Cor. 3:10-17). The
two words "better things" translates the Accusative Neuter Plural of the Comparative Adjective kreíttōn (2909), "the comparative of kratus (strong) used as a comparative of agathos (good), opposite to esson (the worse); ta kreissona more useful things (Heb. 6:9)" (excerpted from Friberg).
So we could translate this clause, "we are convinced of more useful
things concerning you." This fits in nicely with the idea of a rewarded
and thus rewarding Christian life as opposed to a life bereft of many
tangible rewards for eternity because one's life has been invested in
wood, hay, and stubble that cannot survive the fire of judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-17).
- An outcome consistent with salvation: "and
things that accompany salvation,"
- "Things that accompany" translates the Neuter Accusative Present Middle Participle of the verb échō (2192). This fluid verb typically carries the meaning of "have" or "hold" or "possess." The Middle voice appears only as a participle in the NT. Here it means "of inherent association belong to (Heb. 6:9)" (Friberg). "Things that accompany" is a good translation.
- "Salvation" is the Genitive of the noun sōtēría (4991),
almost always translated by the NASB "salvation," twice, "deliverance" (Acts
7:25; Php. 1:19) and once, "preservation" (Acts 27:34). Friberg identifies three different meanings: "(1) physically, as rescue from danger deliverance, preservation, safety (Heb. 11:7); (2) as a religious technical term safety of the soul in a spiritual sense salvation (2 Cor. 7:10); (3) of the messianic deliverance at the end of the present age salvation
(Rom. 13:11)." It is certainly possible that the writer might have
meaning #2 in mind. But frankly, in view of the agricultural
illustration in Heb. 6:7-8, it seems more likely that he has a mixture
of meanings #1 and #2 in mind – rescue from the danger of disciplinary
burning of one's life's work. As Paul mentioned, if a believer's life
work turns out to be wood, hay, and stubble, it will be burned up and
the Christian will suffer loss. Yet "he himself will be saved," the Future Indicative Passive of the verb sṓzō (4982), the verbal counterpart of the noun "salvation," sōtēría (4991), "yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15).
Put another way, the author of Hebrews is persuaded that his readers
have a better outcome in their lives presently, and thus, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, where their life's work will be evaluated. For a more extensive insight on "salvation," see the author's Glossary Entry on Salvation. See also the author's Index Page to Soteriology, the study of salvation.
- Despite frightening speech: "though
we are speaking in this way." The language the writer has been using
has been ominous, in fact, frightening. He has stated that, despite all
the benefits and experiences he has described them as experiencing in Heb. 6:4-5, that, if
they have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them to repentance
(Heb. 6:6). That is, frankly, terrifying. And if they fall into that
category, they are like land that produces only thorns and thistles,
and can anticipate only the fires of divine discipline (Heb. 6:8; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Quite obviously the writer is using this language to frighten his
readers into stepping back precipitously from the temptation to ease
the persecution they are experiencing by reverting to Judaism, adding Judaism to their faith in Christ. He is convinced they will choose to turn aside from that temptation and remain loyal solely to Christ.
The Reason for the Writer's Confidence
- The justice of God in not forgetting ... (Heb. 6:10): "For God is not unjust so as to forget" – "unjust" is the Nominative case of the adjective ádikos (94). Generally, this adjective refers to one who is "characterized by violation of divine law; (1) as doing contrary to what is right, unrighteous, wrong (Matt. 5:45), opposite díkaios (1342) (righteous, just); ... (3) as characterized by lack of integrity dishonest, untrustworthy (Luke 16:10), opposite pistós (4103) trustworthy, faithful;" (adapted from Friberg). "So as to forget" is the Aorist Infinitive of the verb epilanthánomai (1950) "(1) literally forget (Mark 8:14); (2) figuratively; (a) neglect, disregard, care nothing for (Heb. 13:2); (b) escape notice, be overlooked, or forgotten (Luke 12:6)" (Friberg).
The writer is saying that God is a God of integrity. He will not
overlook what they have already done in the past. He proceeds to expand
on what they have already done:
- Their work: "your work" – the Genitive Neuter of the noun érgon (2041), "(1) generally work; (a) active, anything done or to be done deed, work, action (John 3:21)" (excerpted from Friberg). This is a general reference to all that they had done already to serve Christ. He will now expand on this meaning.
- Their love: "and the love which you have shown toward His name,"
- "the love" is the Genitive Feminine of the noun agápē (26),
"love; especially as an attitude of appreciation resulting from a
conscious evaluation and choice; used of human and divine love love, devotion;" (excerpted from Friberg).
In Scripture, love is characterized by obedience toward Christ (John
14:15, 21; 15:10).
- "which you have shown" – the Aorist Indicative Middle of the verb endeíknumi (1731). This verb appears only in the Middle "in the NT; (1) as giving outward proof show, demonstrate (Heb. 6:10)" (excerpted from Friberg).
The writer is saying that the Hebrew Christians to whom he is writing
had demonstrated or proven or exhibited their love for Christ. He will describe how
- "toward His name" – It was not just love in some
ill-defined way. The love which the Hebrew Christians had demonstrated was
towards the name of Christ. "Name" is the Accusative of the noun ónoma (3686), "name." In the arenas of God and Scripture, names are exceedingly important. One of the first processes Adam
engaged in was to name the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). God gave special
names to people (Gen. 17:5, 15). God's name is to be set apart (Matt.
6:9). We are to believe in the name of the Son of God (John 1:12; 2:23;
3:18; 20:31). Loyalty to the name of Jesus despite opposition is
crucial (Matt. 10:22). Exhibiting love toward the name of Christ was
exhibiting love toward Him.
- Their ministry to the saints: "in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints."
- "in having ministered" – the Nominative Active Aorist Participle of the verb diakonéō (1247). This verb is used "(1) generally, of services of any kind serve (Matt. 4:11); (2) of supplying with life's necessities support, take care of, minister to (Matt. 25:44); ..." (excerpted from Friberg).
Probably the writer of Hebrews had in mind at least definition 1, but,
more likely, definition 2. This is service they had rendered in the
- The writer had previously applauded these Hebrew Christians for the love they had exhibited toward Christ's name (Heb. 6:10).
- Here he is quantifying their love for Christ's name. It is demonstrated by their past and present ministry to the saints. In the NT, some of the ways in which Christians
exhibit love toward one another include the following: by abstaining
from wronging a
neighbor (Rom. 13:10); by building up others (1 Cor. 8:1); by patience,
kindness, and the absence of jealousy, braggadocio, and arrogance (1
Cor. 13:4); by showing tolerance for one another (Eph. 4:2); by
speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15); by building one another up
(Eph. 4:16); by stressing unity (Col. 3:14); by esteeming their leaders
highly because of their work (1 Thess. 5:13); by brotherly kindness (2
Pet. 1:7); by laying down their lives for the brothers, as Jesus did (1
John 3:16); by sharing this world's goods with a needy brother (1 John
3:17); by supporting traveling evangelists (3 John 1:5-8).
- In summary, the writer is using the past and present ministry of these Hebrew
Christians to other Christians as solid evidence that they will not revert to Judaism, but will remain loyal to Christ alone. Their works reveal their real heart.
(Scripture quotation taken
the NASB 1995.)
Updated February 28, 2022