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ReVision

Seeing Is Believing

You can see faith at work, if it's there.

You Ought to Be Teachers! (5)

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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. Hebrews 6.4-6

The meaning of faith
We need the milk of Christian faith. It’s the starting point for all we believe and everything we seek as disciples of Jesus. We need to linger a bit more over the basic principles of the Christian faith, as the writer of Hebrews referred to these in Hebrews 5.12, and sketched them in Hebrews 6.1, 2.

The question he is focusing on in this passage – a question central to his entire book – is what it means to believe in these basic principles and elementary doctrines. This is a difficult passage and can only be fully understood in the light of Hebrews 6.9-12: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 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. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Here the writer tells us how we can be confident that we do believe the things we profess, and thus are true disciples of Jesus, and able to help others grow as disciples. One reason many who profess to believe in Jesus have not begun to teach their fellow believers or to share the Good News of Jesus with their lost neighbors is that they’ve never come to saving faith themselves. Thus, they lack the Spirit of God to empower them for witness or to enable them to teach others the things of Jesus Christ. That this might have been the situation of at least some of those to whom the book of Hebrews was addressed is certainly possible.

Alternately, some believers may not be confident about their salvation, so that they freely and happily talk about it with others. They may have been truly saved, but because they lack assurance of salvation or outward evidences of it, they had no confidence in their ability to teach it to others.

All diligence?
Look, in Hebrews 6.4-6, at the cautious and tentative way the writer refers to some people who never go on to maturity or to their responsibility to teach the things of Christ. He mentions those who have been once enlightened in God’s truth, perhaps just enough to help them see that they needed something more than what their sin-darkened lives were providing. So they came to the church, and there they tasted – just tasted – of the heavenly gift of salvation and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, perhaps by merely being in the presence of those in whom the Spirit dwells. Partaking of something is far different from being really part of it. I might partake of a lively conversation by simply listening in without adding anything of my own. Am I really part of that conversation?

So these new church members, rather than surrendering to the Holy Spirit and being filled with Him, simply sipped His presence from the mature believers around them. They were enlightened by Gospel truth and tasted of the power of the Kingdom and the age to come; but they weren’t being fed or sustained on any of this. If they were, if the Spirit of God had truly wrought salvation in their souls, then the evidence would have been visible in good works of love, increased faith in God, a hunger to know more of His promises, and diligence in seeking more of the salvation of the Lord (vv. 9-12).

In the Christian life, seeing is believing, because true faith, the faith of those who are disciples of Jesus, is both an inward assurance of the things we hope for, and the outward evidence that grows and issues from that inner assurance (Heb. 11.1).

Peter said as much as well. He exhorted his readers to give all diligence to make sure – to confirm for themselves and others – that God had really saved them. To do this, they had to work hard at repentance and Christian growth, and not just be content to dabble in basic teaching or hang out with the redeemed (2 Pet. 1.5-11). 

What shall we take from this? Simply this: While the milk of God’s Word is just that – basic, fundamental, elementary teachings that anyone who would be a disciple of Jesus must embrace – we cannot be sure that we have embraced those teachings until our tasting and partaking become hungering and thirsting for the Word of God, issuing in passion for good works, and a determination to know more of everything God has to teach and intends to do through us.

Not by works, but unto them
We need solid food. Milk won’t sustain us. We’ll never move on to maturity in following Jesus if we refuse to get off the bottle and get on the meaty cuisine. Because only solid food is sufficient to equip us for our calling as teachers of others. And those who just don’t seem to have the appetite for solid Biblical teaching should examine themselves to make sure they’re really the followers of Christ they claim to be (2 Cor. 13.5).

This is not salvation by works; it is salvation resulting in works (Eph. 2.8-10). And unless our claims to faith in Jesus begin leading to appropriate works, we’d better revisit the basics until we learn them enough to live them consistently.

For if we fail to master the milk of discipleship, we’ll never get on to maturity, never be able to fulfill our calling to teach, never follow Jesus as He intends, and we may even find ourselves disappointed and dismayed when, on that last great day, we stand before the Lord of glory Himself, only to hear Him say, “I never knew you.”

For reflection
1.  Is it possible for someone to be enlightened, to taste, and to partake of the things of Christ, and yet not truly know the Lord? Explain.

2.  Meditate on Hebrews 11.1. How would you describe the inward experience of true faith? What are some aspects of the outward evidence such faith spawns?

3.  Is moving on in faith something a follower of Jesus does because of a sense of duty or because of love? Explain.

Next steps – Demonstration: What should you be looking for in your own walk with the Lord as evidence that your faith is helping you to be more consistent as a disciple of Jesus?

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.

Two books can help you prepare for teaching opportunities with the lost people in your Personal Mission Field. The first, Understanding the Times, provides background understanding for what lost people think and how they live. Order your free copy by clicking here. The Gospel of the Kingdom will allow you to work through your understanding of the Gospel, so that you’re ready to teach it whenever an opportunity arises. A free copy can be yours by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this daily ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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