You Talkin’ To Me?! (“Got Solid Food?” series)

Here is the critical basis for understanding the epistle [to the Hebrews]; and here is where people often get mixed up, especialy in interpreting chapters 6 and 10.  * * *  The key to interpreting any part of Hebrews is to understand which group is being addressed.  If we do not understand that, we are bound to confuse the issues.  … .  We must always understand what group it is to whom He speaks .  … .  The primary message is addressed to believers.  Periodically, there are interspersed warnings to the [ ] unbelieving groups.  In a masterful way, in a way that could only be divine, the Holy Spirit speaks to all [ ].  He meets every one of their particular needs and their specific questions in this one supernatural masterpiece.

None other than Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr., wrote what you’ve just read [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary ~ Hebrews (pp. xi, xv)]!  Not only is the foregoing quote apt, employment of it provides opportunity to acknowledge more prominently than via comments that the contributions of Dr. MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary in the pursuit and teaching of Truth are, arguably, unparalleled.  That fact, however, cannot offset the simultaneous opposition to Truth resultant from  Spirit-quenching, dogged adherence to their Israel-centered hermeneutic.  Mike Adams’ TMSJ/NCT series, rather than “Got Solid Food?” — the instant post, anyway — is the locus of teaching most pertinent to that issue, though.

 Hebrews 6:9 is the text at immediate issue:  Even though we are speaking this way, dear friends, in your case we are confident of the better things connected with salvation.  (HCSB)

A paraphrased reading would be, ‘Beloved fellow Christians, though we have been speaking about these awesome and fearful warnings to unbelievers, we know that far better things apply to you.  You have the accompaniments of salvation, not of unbelief.  These warnings to apostates [ ] are put in this letter to you because these people are in your midst.

MacArthur at 153.

“Dear friends”.  Those two English words are key to understanding 2 Peter 3:9, as they’re the first two words of 3:8 and of 3:1.  As 3:1 informs us that “this is the second letter [Peter has] written to you”, and 1 Peter 1:2 informs us that Peter wrote to the “elect” (NKJV), we unequivocally understand that the “any” in “not wanting any to perish, but to come to repentance” are the elect!

 “Dear friends” at Hebrews 6:9, though, requires that we understand the original language in order to understand the referent.  George H. Guthrie and Douglas J. Moo, at p. 39 of Hebrews, James (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary), instruct:

The verb form of this word, agapao, was used at times in Greek literature to mean ‘greet with affection,’ and the use of the word agapetos in 6:9, as indicated by the NIV, is meant to be an affectionate greeting.

New Covenant Theology Pastor Kerry Kinchen (Bridgeway Bible Church, San Antonio, TX), as delineated via Biblically Defending Salvation (his book; available to be read online), observes as to “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking this way”:

This statement of being “convinced” of better things concerning you (‘you’ meaning saved Hebrews) is reflective of what Paul wrote to the Philippians:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

[T]he writer has been talking about unsaved Hebrews with the pronouns — “they” and “those” — who had been enlightened, tasted, and shared … .  But, now the writer turns his attention to the truly saved Hebrews, calling them “we”, “you”, and “beloved” … .

Pastor Kinchen’s analysis is, of course, far more in-depth than any excerpt may demonstrate; his work is there (see link above) for the edifying, and he would surely be edified by comments thereto.  As he has commented to previous “Got Solid Food?” posts, we must understand that the Writer of Hebrews employs “brothers” to address fellow ethnic Israelites, and “holy brothers” (hagios) to address fellow Christians (including some fellow ethnic Israelites); furthermore, we must understand grammatical indicia such as Greek verb tenses, which voice is employed, etc., if we are to understand what was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  As Haddon Robinson teaches, it can never mean what it never meant.  It can’t mean today what it didn’t mean then.  It can’t mean to us what it didn’t mean to them.  That is, of course, considering progressive revelation!

Moo and Guthrie (at p. 39) comment as to “in your case we are confident of the better things connected with salvation“:

Expressing confidence in an audience or recipients of a letter was a rhetorical device used to create a sense of obligation or to persuade those addressed to take a certain course of action.  Paul uses the device to good effect, for instance, at Romans 15:14:  ‘I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another’.

 That said, Paul Ellingworth, via NIGTC/Hebrews [for link, see “Plowboy Would ‘Get’ This?!” (Feb. 24)], observes that the original language indicates “that the author does not disown what he has just written; indeed, he will return to the same theme in 10:26 – 28.”.

Deo volente, we’ll get to that “same theme” at Hebrews 10; first, though, we must consider the balance of Hebrews 6, then … drumroll please … the “solid food” (Hebrews 7:1 – 10:18)!  Of course, Mike’s TMSJ/NCT series is all about “solid food”; Hebrews 7:1 – 10:18 is key to full understanding thereof.

23 thoughts on “You Talkin’ To Me?! (“Got Solid Food?” series)

  1. Hey Jim..helpful stuff. Seeing as you mentioned 2Pe3v9 again, forgive me if I comment. You may be right about the reference there referring specifically to the elect. However, 1Tim2v3-6 clearly refers to God’s desire for the salvation of all men. 2Pe3 refers its hearers to the situation of those who are not anticipating any sudden judgment and treat God as if he is slack concerning his promise, when in fact he is longsuffering towards them. At least, the non-elect are not necessarily excluded from that.

  2. Also, Jim, I just thought…it’s self-evident that God doesn’t want the elect saved perishing, so it only makes sense if God’s delaying is for the sake of the unsaved which case Peter couldn’t uniquely address them,or refer to his saved hearers as such.

  3. “For this is the will of God, … : that you should abstain from sexual immorality; … .” 1 Thess. 4:3

    Is that express will of God “thwarted”, Phil? Of course it is! Does that mean that man’s will is sovereign and God’s isn’t? Of course not! This but one example of the danger of relying on English in determining doctrine. If Bible passages seem to conflict, first examine them in the original language; you generally will need pursue no further examination! Indeed, as you’ve observed, even in English, the context alone may suffice.

    By-the-way, Phil, I sympathize AND empathize; I pray that you’ll soon be reminded what it’s like to feel “yourself” again! However long it may take, hang in!

  4. Hey Jim…I don’t quite follow your first paragraph…are you suggesting God’s will is revealed to us as dual-faceted in ‘desire’and ‘ decree’?In which case I happily concur! I think that scripture is meant to be perspicuous to the greek and hebrew illiterate like me. Some good english translations should be sufficient. Tho I can see it can be a buttress and help at times like you’ve used above. Have you been ill in a similar way?thank you for what you wrote…I appreciate it muchly!

  5. FUTURE ISRAEL series is quite pertinent to TMSJ/NCT series (while “there”, check summer archives for Dr. Waldron’s series pertaining to MacArthur’s Manifesto); as to this year’s Shepherd’s Conference: (one of many sites which is “covering” it; Pulpitblog provides most detail) (while “at” FIDe-O, look for BONES along right margin, then enter March 2007, scroll, and become immersed in indispensable information as to TMSJ/NCT).

    This has been a public service announcement(!).

    Phil ~

    From later March of ’90 through later March of ’91, I indeed was in the grip of the symptoms you’re battling. When it “lifted”, it was phenomenal to feel healthy again. My understanding was that my immune system didn’t “shut off” after battling a flu; many of the symptoms of illness are actually due to the body’s allocation of its resources to fighting the virus — rather than due to the “bug” itself. Again, hang in; may your “switch” be “flipped” soon!

    I won’t argue that it’s impossible to understand Scripture absent knowledge of original languages; my point is that many make “hills to die on” of matters which stem from such absence. By-the-way, my usage of 2 Peter 3:9 was not intended to “open the door” to the issue to which that verse pertains. Whether it may be fruitful at all to “discuss” such issue, it’s not at issue wrt the instant post.

  6. Jim,

    I’m still unconvinced by your argument that the writer of Hebrews is going back and forth between believers and another group that he suspects of unbelief. I think the context of this warning passage, as well as the other ones in Hebrews won’t allow it. I’m always a little skeptical about running quickly to word studies to prove my point. I don’t think Scripture is that difficult to figure out and context is always the bottom line in interpretation. You’re still faced with the question of what 6:9 means in the context. The writer uses some parallel themes in the warning passage in chapter 10:26-39. If we employ the interpretive principle you’re advocating, then it seems we are free to pick and choose what parts of the warning apply to us and what parts don’t.

    I think the context drives us to consider the warning passages as warnings to those professed believers to persevere in loving Jesus. If they fail to persevere to the end and abandon the faith, they obviously don’t love him and their profession is exposed as a false one. But I don’t think the writer can see into their hearts any more than you or I could if we were writing to dear friends today who were professed believers, but who were wavering because of persecution and loss of familial and social comforts. We would (I hope) come along side and lovingly encourage and warn them to continue in the faith. I think that’s all the writer of Hebrews is doing. To take it in the direction you are taking it, means that I am free to tune out because this section isn’t written to believers.

    I think MacArthur is wrong in saying that the letter is written to both believers and intellectually convinced unbelieving Jews and it’s up to me to employ pronoun and word studies to figure it out. This letter applies to us as believers and it is a warning to persevere to the end. That’s the context, both here and in chapter 10.

  7. Perhaps I should have done more than linked to NCT Pastor Kerry Kinchen’s (online) book and broadly referred to it; when Hebrews 10 is at issue, we’ll revisit the matter. Kerry’s arguments greatly exceed “word studies”! In combination with Dr. MacArthur’s analysis (which, of course, greatly exceeds what I’ve recapitulated), the argument that the Writer addresses varying groups and that we can know whom it is that he’s addressing is formidable. Context is indeed determinative; “pick[ing] and choos[ing]” is obviated.

    Again, the warning is operative upon those satisfied with “milk”; for those with appetite for “solid food”, the warning is crucial information (to be anything but “tune[d] out”!). We don’t need to “see into their hearts”; their satisfaction with “milk”/lack of appetite for “solid food” is our cue that they need to hear the RHEMA (“word” in Romans 10:17; the message of the substitutionary atonement — the Gospel)! Encouragement and/or exhortation “to continue in the faith” is sorely misplaced and futile when there’s no saving faith in which to continue! Again, it’s more loving to heed indicia of unbelief (regardless of contraindicators) and, thus, focus on the Gospel than to ignore the “red flags” and foster the faith-professing unbeliever’s self-deception.

    Perseverence by the regenerate elect is a “sure thing”; we minister to ONE ANOTHER when we encourage/ehxort our brothers and sisters in the lord to persevere, but, perseverance is nonetheless ensured. Part-and-parcel of perseverance (assuming mental capacity) is appetite for “solid food”; faith without appetite is dead!

    The new heart, of course, produces — inter alia — transformation by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). The church overflows with folks who claim to love Jesus but who, tragically, have no true appetite for Truth. The Church is comprised of those who have appetite for “solid food” (again, assuming mental capacity).

    True appetite for “solid food” notwithstanding, Truth, of course, may be quenched. System-driven theologies are the prevalent means of quenching, but, the source of the quenching is pride.

  8. in response to mike also i would add the parable of the soils is in view here. the message jim is relaying is not just/only found in hebrews 6. it is also represented in the rocky and thorny soil. indeed, the same (thorns) metaphor is used in both passages. Jesus tells us that unbelieving professors will be part of the kingdom. lack of appetite/lack of faith/lack of obedience…all comprise lack of perseverence. believers are fruit bearers and will never “be snatched” from the Father’s hand…a marked contrast to the warning of hebrews 6.

  9. For what it’s worth Jim and Pat, you stirred me heart when i read ya both above 🙂

  10. I think there’s a definite parallel between Hebrews n Romans. Paul addresses believers in the letter to the Romans,but in systematically describing the faith he addresses (imaginary? or at least typical) unbelieving objectors(e.g. Ch2,3,6). The writer to the Hebrews in his systematic contrast of Old and New Covenants brings it to bear in a pastoral setting that necessitates addressing real groups of people similarly,albeit this time, more directly. Just a thought.

  11. Mike, I agree on the word study stuff. If I read it right, as informed by Conrad Murrell, Paul deliberately shunned the use of his considerable rhetorical powers when coming to the intellectual Greeks at Corinth,so that their faith shouldn’t rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Quite an informative example!

  12. Either that, or, 1Cor2,he lets us know his speaking abilities are not like his ability to express his arguments in letter writing.

  13. Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Truth Matters. The Holy Spirit inspired precise words to express Truth; those words (in the original language) simultaneously guide and limit us in our pursuit of Truth.

    Click link to Dr. Waldron’s blog (see comment #5 above), and (please) read comments to his Future Israel series post #16 (those by me, Mike Adams, Dr. Waldron, and Prof. Barcellos, at least).

  14. I read the comments, Jim. Interesting. (I would say the old covenant lost its divine sanction at the cross,not AD70. AD70 removed any last props for it being still conscionable)…I hope you agree that God’s truth is not limited to those with capacity for more than their mother’s tongue, to act as teachers. In his book Steve mentions linguists who argue their lives away with others equally capable and still miss the point. We’re not to miss the wood for the trees. Many of the Apostles were unlettered…

  15. …God could have called seminarians and those with IQ’s that could boil (American) water, but he didn’t by and large. Overturning the wisdom of the wise without over-turning wisdom itself…well its back to Herb Alpert.

  16. I agree (x 2), but … . A.D. 70 was yet future when Hebrews 8:13 was written; “the Old Covenant indeed lost its divine sanction at the cross”, but didn’t “pass away” until A.D. 70.

    As I’ve indicated, languages other than the koine Greek indeed communicate Truth; the original language, though, is the ultimate source of Truth. We’d be spared unto’ld bad theology were koine Greek the universal language! Folks — including brothers (sisters, too!) — seem willing to die on hills based on erroneous understandings of English translations of Scripture. It’s not the arrogance of the “lettered”, … . What passes for Christianity today in America (at least) causes me to shudder to think what it would be but for “seminarians and those with IQ’s that could boil (American) water”! The Church, of course, would be well; the church would be even worse. Prideful, faith-professing-but unregenerate men who claim to wield the sword of Truth are the bane of the Lord.

    American water? Herb? (You can explain next time you comment; I may begin writing my next “post” shortly.)

  17. I think I disagree on Heb8v13 chum. The statement is that something ‘soon to disappear’ is the logical consequence of that something being old. The writer’s not saying he expects the old covenant to vanish future-he’s saying this is the reason it’s already gone in God’s eyes…can you see that you’re saying God could have delivered us better theology if he’d arranged we all spoke NT Greek?!

  18. Sorry,Jim-only half of your post came up before I posted that above. You measure temperature in fahrenheit, we in celsius. Water’s boiling point is then 212 for you chaps,100 for us. Herb…just found a cd earlier and listening to it!

  19. Yes, I’ve considered God’s reasons for allowing man’s pride to pervert His Truth, Phil. By-the-way, I realized “on second thought” that your reference was to F/C.

    “Historico-grammatico” hermeneutic serves us well as to Hebrews 8:13; as Howard Hendricks said: If we don’t know the context, we tend to supply it. We must be quite careful to not eisegete! for Dr. Waldron’s review of FUTURE ISRAEL (n.b. comments to #16).

    I’m about to turn my attention to my next “post”; hopefully, recent comments have drawn attention to the instant 23-day-old “post”!

  20. I’ll give heb8v13 some more thought as your comment suggests!I hope the writing goes well. Yeah, I do seem to be filling out some of these posts. Hopefully some good stuff is in there. Goodnight from your ‘progenitory’ country my friend 😉

  21. Some Scriptures are difficult to figure out, and I think we all really do know this.

    Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 go hand in hand in demonstrating that the writer of Hebrews encourages true Christians that they are Once Saved In Eternal Spiritual Salvation (OSIESS), and that other unsaved Hebrews are not, and must turn to Christ, rather than turn away from Him at that present time. Hebrews 10 supports this fact in parallel with Hebrews 6 in a consistent way, as it should, since this is what the author intended to do.

    Blessings in Christ the Covenant,
    K Kinchen
    Isaiah 42:6, 49:8, 55:3-4

  22. Your book helps one to “figure out” the warning passages, Kerry; thanks (again). Chapter ten won’t be at issue for many moons; D.V., we’ll “dig deeper” then.

    May folks join me in praying for you & Bridgeway!

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