Got Solid Food? Two Unchangeable Things

For the promise to Abraham or to his decendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith [Romans 4:13 (HCSB)].

Was (were) Abraham(’s decendants) promised that (t)he(y) would “inherit the world”?!  Yes … according to the Holy Spirit (!).  Romans 4:13 is the source of such information; nowhere within the Old Covenant Scriptures is any such indication to be found.  Despite progressive revelation, multitudes today confine the promises by YHVH [to Abraham (and his seed)] to the physical land of Canaan [disregarding, of course, Joshua 21:43 (“So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it”)].  Jesus’ declaration that “[y]our father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it, and rejoiced[]” is relegated to a “hard saying of Jesus”.

The Holy Spirit, again via Paul (via his letter to the churches of Galatia), informs us – unequivocally — as to the identity of the beneficiaries of the promises by YHVH [to Abraham (and his seed)]; to wit:

Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, so understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons.  Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’.  So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith [Galatians 3:6 – 9 (HCSB)].

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  He does not say ‘and to his seeds,’  as though referring to many, but ‘and to your seed,’ referring to one, who is Christ (v. 16).

And if you are Christ’s, then your are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (v. 29).

Lamentably, multitudes today insist that we “make God a liar”, simply/ironically because we believe Him (!); their system-driven theology blinds them to crucial Truth.  Their Israel-centered hermeneutic has wrought/wreaks church-eviscerating doctrines which Dr. John MacArthur rightly recognized as woeful error and, concomitantly, wrote (decades ago) The Gospel According to Jesus.  In response, classical dispensationalists (Dr. Charles Ryrie led the charge), rightly recognizing that doctines such as Jesus’ Lordship are antithetical to dispensationalism, besieged Dr. MacArthur, who then wrote Faith Works/The Gospel According to the Apostles, and proclaimed himself a “leaky dispensationalist”.  Dr. MacArthur, of course, adhered and adheres to the Israel-centered hermeneutic — satisfied to be “leaky” — and is today a champion of those who insist that we “make God a liar”.  Discouraged but undeterred, we pursue Truth.

We’ve seen that the Writer of Hebrews “sets the table” for the “solid food” (5:12) about to be fed to those with appetite for “solid food” {those upon whom the warning (6:4 – 8 ) is not operative [such warning being operative upon those self-satisfied with “milk” (5:12)]} with “God[‘s … ] promise to Abraham” (v. 13).  We’ve also seen that we’re to be “imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance[]” and that the key to that clause — which ends the sentence which comprises v v. 11 – 12 — is “the promises”.

Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us [Hebrews 6:17 – 18 (HCSB)].

At p. 168 of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews, Dr. MacArthur categorically asserts that “[t]he two unchangeable things are God’s promise and His pledge, His promise and His oath” (emphasis sic).  Surprisingly, Edgar Andrews, at p. 182 of A Glorious High Throne [note:  For links to any commentary not linked within the instant “post”, please see previous “posts” (click link below to The Book of Hebrews or to Jim McDermott)] , concurs, as does Paul Ellingworth, at p. 342 of The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Epistle to the Hebrews.  The broader context, however, indicates otherwise.

The ‘two unchangeable things’ of 6:18 are the two parts of Psalm 110:4, to which the author alludes:  ‘You are a priest forever’ and ‘in the order of Melchizedek.’  The allusion as used here begins a transition back to a discussion of Melchizedek in chapter 7.  In that chapter the author expounds the two parts of Psalm 110:4 in inverse order:

‘You are a priest forever’ (Heb. 7:15 – 28).

‘In the order of Melchizedek’ (Heb. 7:11 – 14).

Why are these two proclamations by God ‘unchangeable’?  In the words of Psalm 110:4, ‘The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind.’  God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).

George H. Guthrie and Douglas J. Moo, Hebrews, James  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, p. 41.

Dr. Guthrie, via Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G.K. Beale and D.A Carson, eds. (2007, Baker Academic), additionally asks and answers at p. 967:

Why do these two facts give encouragement to those who have fled to God to take hold of hope (6:18 – 19)?  Christ has become our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (6:20) in fulfillment of the psalm’s prophetic oath.

“[T]he promise to Abraham is the theological basis for ultimate fulfillment of that promise in ‘the heirs’ (6:17) — that is, the new-covenant community”.  * * *  God’s “nature being what it is, therefore, his oaths carry a lasting certainty.  Specifically for Hebrews, since God has sworn an oath in the form of Ps. 110:4 (109:4 LXX), therefore, Jesus has become the guarantor or guarantee of a better covenant (7:22), being a ‘permanent’ high priest (7:24).  He is the same — yesterday, today, and forever (13:8).  This provides strong encouragement for those of the new covenant, because their relationship with God could not be more stable.”  Id. at 966.

Thus, believers have fled to take hold of the hope — the ‘horns of the altar’ where atonement has been made for sins through Jesus’ high priestly offering (see also Lev. 16:18 [see Ex. 30:1 – 10]).  This hope, therefore, enters ‘behind the curtain’ (6:19) and gives us a place of refuge.

* * *

For the author of Hebrews, the Christian’s hope is to enter the inner sanctuary behind the curtain because that is where Jesus has gone as our high priest.  In the old covenant religion, only the high priest could enter the inner sanctuary, and he could do so only once a year on the Day of Atonement.  Jesus, however, has entered the true Most Holy Place, heaven, and there intercedes always for us (Heb. 7:25).  Thus our hope is made as sure as it could be, Jesus providing a superior, lasting covenant that guarantees our permanent audience with the living God.

Guthrie, Moo at 41 – 42.

“Since the ancient promise is finally fulfilled in Christ, only those can benefit who have fled to Him for salvation.”  Andrews at p. 183; Andrews aptly quotes from two hymns (the first, anonymous; the second, Augustus Toplady):

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He has said,

You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

 

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling.

“The divine kingship and efficacious work of our High Priest is the basis of our security.  There can be no greater safety.”  Id. at 185.  Deo volente, we’ll more closely examine the “solid food” that is the teaching about our Priest/King next time.  Again:  How’s your appetite?!

10 thoughts on “Got Solid Food? Two Unchangeable Things

  1. Good morning;
    I’m not sure i agree that the “2 things” referenced in heb 6:18 are that: 1. Jesus is a High priest forever and 2. of the order of Melchizedek. I would say that comprises one of the two “unchangeable” things mentioned… the other one being listed in vs 17…{the”unchangeableness” of His purpose} (NASB.) His purpose is listed as “unchangeable” as is the priesthood of Melchizedek….(lasts forever.) These are the “2 unchangeable things” listed in heb 6:18. They are essentially, the Promise and the means by which it is fulfilled. Excellent post Jim!

  2. Thanks, Pat; of course, the quoted commentators warrant appreciation! I “endorse” Dr. Guthrie’s view for the reason I indicated: The broader context. Hebrews seems to most to be “disjointed”; nothing is farther from Truth (as you well understand)! The King/Priest theme is central to exposition of the New Covenant; exposition of the New Covenant is the essence of Hebrews (again, as you well understand). Psalm 110, of course, underlies the Writer’s very first sentence of the epistle!

    Just as Hebrews itself is uber-coherent (despite perception otherwise by most), Hebrews is our Lord’s means for revealing that the entirety of His Word is uber-coherent (despite perception otherwise by most). Again, I know that you know that; I don’t assume that all who read this do, of course!

  3. Jim,

    I have to agree with Pat. I think the context of the passage demands such an interpretation. The 2 unchangeable things seem to be the promise to Abraham and the oath in Psalm 110. In what way does that miss the context of Hebrews?

    Mike

  4. I’ve acknowledged the apparent meaning of “two unchangeable things” as the prevalent view (your view), Mike [and Pat (Pat’s assertion is not quite the prevalent view)], and, again, it’s no “hill to die on” (not even one to arm-wrestle on!). Again, Guthrie’s [small (minority)] view is the best “fit” vis a’ vis the broader context (“a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”). The prevalent view does “fit” the immediate context — indeed, better so — and, again, may be correct. As my next “post” (King of Righteousness, King of Peace, Priest of the Most High God) begins to delineate, the redemptive-plan-context centers on our Priest-King.

  5. I have reflected on this passage much over the years and, while the interpretation of ‘the promise and the oath’ being the ‘two unchangeable things’ does seem to be broadly and understandably accepted, I have never been fully satisfied by this. The language is just not precise and explicit enough to be over-definite. Let me throw in another idea I have played with …

    How about the nature (which would include the immutability of His purpose) and the promise (include the oath in this) of God; i.e. what He is and what He says. God’s very nature/character is the primary thing that makes it impossible for Him to lie, hence v. 13: “… since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself …”

    This is reflected in Psalm 110:4: “The Lord has sworn …” (promise/oath – what He says) “… and will not change His mind” (character/nature/immutability of purpose – what he is).

    Although I’m not suggesting the writer had the following passage in mind, the same two things might also be reflected in Psalm 138:2: “You have magnified Your promise (what you say?) according to all your name (what you are?).

    Although I do like the idea of the two things being the ‘high priest forever’ and ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’, this interpreatation does seem a bit of a long shot.

  6. Hi, [SSS — I didn’t see a name on the website]; thanks for asking. Geoff Volker, IDS Director, surely appreciates your asking even more so; I defer to him wrt your inquiry. Please elaborate regarding the school project; thanks!

    Thanks, ALISTAIR, for your comment; I maintain that Jesus as King / Priest is integral to the revelation of our Lord’s plan of redemption as delineated via Apollos’ (?!) epistle to the Hebrews. The concept, of course, is not the quintessential revelation [I contend that Hebrews 9:15 – 17 (cf. Galatians 3:16, 29) is] vis a’ vis the plan of redemption; Jesus as King / Priest is nonetheless integral to such.

  7. The theological aspect about these two unchangeable things of which all of you are right but not quite, in the sense that at the end we fail to pin point the exact thing.
    1. those who say its the promise are right , but in the new covenant what is the promise.
    2. Oarth – by the means of which it was fulfilled ,- what is it that by which it was fulfilled.

    Of which we know the Old testament was the shadow of the things to come. The point is The coming of Christ was that promise – His life and dearth on the cross which give us redemption and was fulfilled to showing that God does not lie, as we see through the ages he was promised starting even in the garden of Eden, to Noah to Abraham promised as THE SON through whom all men shall be blessed.

    2ndly . The oarth as is said in Plaslm has to do with living forever in which we get introduced to the figure of Melchizedek who has no beginning or end : -Therefore the oarth is the resurrection and ascention of Christ Jesus where he entered the holy place and lives forever to intercede for us.

    In summary two unchangeable things are : 1. Christ came died for our sins.
    2. He rose again from dead, and is seated onn the right hand of God.

    Those two things are unchangeable, no matter how they may ague about the authenticity of of Christ as our salvation. No one can and will never be able to change that. It is though those two unchangeable things that we receive all our promises and hope that goes through the veil.

  8. Pardon the incoherence of my train of thought (in stark contrast to the uber-coherence of the Author’s!)…

    It seems to me that there are two major (main?) points to the epistle’s exposition of the Superior, All-Sufficient work and Person of Christ Jesus – (1) The Blood of the New Covenant, and (2) The Great High Priest of the New Covenant. [Similarly to what Mr. Ziki points out; His death, and His Resurrected Eternal Life.] In 10:19-22 we are told that the Blood and the High Priest are the Basis for our full assurance of faith (10:22.) Is it possible then, that these are the Two Immutable Things by which we may be greatly encouraged (6:18b?)
    The Blood and the Priest?

    According to the verse, God swore an oath in order to provide us great encouragement. While the oath itself is the confirmation, resting our hearts and souls on the Ultimate Credibility of the Swearer, I just can’t get behind the Promise and the Oath being the two things, despite their immutability and inherent encouragement. That would seem to me to be God saying “I promised to save you, and I swore an oath to confirm it. Now take encouragement from those two things.” Yes, they are encouraging, but my soul really takes encouragement, and gains its confidence to draw near to the One Above the Mercy Seat by the Blood and the Priest.

    They are, of course, also linked in 12:24 (the still-speaking, and presumably eternally-speaking Blood, and the Eternal Mediator) and in 13:20 (Eternal Blood and Living Shepherd,) not to mention chapters 9 and 10.

    Does this resonate with anyone?

    [As a side note, the Author uses the example of God swearing by Himself in Gen 22 in the Abrahamic covenant reiteration, but there are several examples (many perjorative) of Him swearing by Himself throughout the Scriptures; so is it possible that despite the importance of the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in his Seed, that the illustration of Gen 22 is merely an example in this context?]

  9. Thanks, Messrs ZIKI and McAnnally, for your comments. Indeed, the new covenant is the ultimate fulfillment of YHVH’s promise to Abraham. Blood is, of course, metonymn for sacrifice; Jesus, our great High Priest ~ and (reigning Davidic) King ~ is also the propitiatory sacrifice. The ultimate priest is the ultimate — and only propitiatory — sacrifice; while such was eternally planned, I remain satisfied that the referent is our eternal Priest / King.

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