Author Archive

Interpreting and Preaching Hebrews 6.1-8, part 5

DavidAllen2

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Learn more about Dr. Allen, HERE.
Follow @DavidLAllen on Twitter HERE.

Follow on Facebook HERE.

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The majority of contemporary commentators affirm that the group described in Heb 6:4–6 are genuine believers. The ablest defender in recent times of the viewpoint that 6:4-6 speaks of false believers is Wayne Grudem, who argued the terms alone are inconclusive as to whether the people referred to were genuinely converted.[1] Grudem correctly recognized that until the mention of what he calls “apostasy” in v. 6, “there is nothing negative in the description: the terms all indicate positive events that are generally experienced by people who become Christians.” He then argued that in spite of what is said about them in Heb 6:4–5, the group described possessed none of the signs of saving faith.

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Interpreting and Preaching Hebrews 6.1-8, part 3

DavidAllen2

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Learn more about Dr. Allen, HERE.
Follow @DavidLAllen on Twitter.

Follow on Facebook HERE.

The key section of Hebrews 6:1-8 which causes so much angst for preachers is the middle sub-paragraph 6:4-6. Before we can begin to think about how to outline and preach this passage, we must untangle the Greek syntactical structure. Heb 6:4-6 comprises one sentence in Greek. The subject of the sentence actually does not appear until v. 6 — the infinitive phrase translated “to renew again unto repentance.” The predicate is an understood linking verb translated “is” followed by the predicate nominative “impossible,” which is the first word in v. 4 of the Greek text. The main clause of the entire three verse sentence thus reads: “To renew again unto repentance is impossible,” or to put it in a clearer way: “It is impossible to renew [them] again unto repentance.”

The question then is who is being referred to; who is it impossible to renew to repentance? Asked in another way, what is the direct object of the infinitive “to renew”? The direct object is actually five participles in vv. 4–6a grouped together by the Greek accusative plural article translated “those who.” The sense is “it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who . . .” and then follow five participles describing and defining the people to whom the author refers.

They are said to be those (1) “who have once been enlightened,” (2) “who have tasted the heavenly gift,” (3) “who have shared in the Holy Spirit,” (4) “who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,” (5) and “who have fallen away.” Thus, to this point, the sentence reads: “It is impossible to renew again to repentance those who have been once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift . . . and who have fallen away.” In v. 6, the infinitive phrase translated “to be brought back to repentance” is followed by two adverbial participial phrases translated “because they are recrucifying the Son of God and subjecting him to public disgrace.” These two participles define the cause or reason for the impossibility of repentance.

The first major exegetical question has to do with the nature of the five participles in vv. 4–6: are they to be construed as adjectival (substantival) or adverbial? The first four participles are easily identified as substantival participles since they are governed by the article tous in v. 4. Grammatically, an articular participle rules out the adverbial (circumstantial) usage. The key question has to do with the fifth participle in the list, parapesontas translated “falling away:” is it substantival or adverbial? Many construe this participle to be adverbial because of its distance from the article and its negative connotation whereas the other four participles express positive notions. It is sometimes given a conditional translation as in the NIV: “if they fall away,” a temporal translation as in the NRSV and the NASB: “then have fallen away,” or a simple adverbial rendering “falling away.”

Although the adverbial usage is certainly possible in this context, it seems much better, on grammatical and semantic grounds, to interpret parapesontas as parallel to the previous four participles. There are three key clues that point in this direction. First, the use of the article in v. 4 at the very least clearly governs the first four participles, and there is no reason to think it does not modify the fifth as well. All five participles in Greek are in the accusative case, masculine in gender and plural in number. All five function as the direct objects of the infinitive translated “to renew again.”

The second clue is the use of the Greek conjunctions te…kai…kai…kai linking the five participles. These are often overlooked by those who assign an adverbial meaning to the fifth participle “falling away.” This use of parallel conjunctions serves to bind these participles together as a unit.

The third semantic clue that these participles are to be viewed as substantival in nature is their bracketing within a single clause which serves to “package” them into a single unit.

The significance of this for interpretation is two-fold. First, the five participles identify and describe one group of people. Second, since the participle is not adverbial, it cannot be given a conditional or temporal translation. Whether the group described in 6:4–6a should be identified with genuine believers or not is a question that awaits examination of the meaning of each participial phrase in vv. 4–5 and the interpretation of parapesontas in v. 6.

Next post: Do these statements in vv. 4-6 refer to someone who is a genuine believer or not?

 

Preaching Heb. 6.1-8, part 2

DavidAllen2

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Learn more about Dr. Allen, HERE.
Follow @DavidLAllen on Twitter.
Follow on Facebook HERE.

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Hebrews 6:4–6 is the crux interpretum of 5:11–6:8, and really for the entire book. Critical for our interpretation and preaching of the passage is the question of just how vv. 4-6 connect to the previous paragraph 6:1-3. Semantically, the clause “Let us press on to maturity” in v. 1 is the focal point of vv. 1-3. Verse 4 begins a new sub-paragraph with a subordinating conjunction translated “for.” This conjunction indicates that vv. 4-6 will function as the grounds or reason for the statement in v. 3 “if God wills,” or perhaps even the grounds for the entire paragraph 6:1-3. Heb. 6:4-6 explains the reason why those who “fall away” cannot be renewed to repentance, namely, because God will not permit it. The final sub-paragraph is vv. 7-8, also introduced by the same subordinating conjunction as v 4. Here the author presents an illustration to explain further his intended meaning.

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Outlining Ephesians 4:1-6

DavidAllen2

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

These six verses clearly form a paragraph unit. The paragraph in English is composed of two sentences (1-3 and 4-6). The paragraph in most Greek New Testaments is likewise subdivided right in the middle. However, most Greek New Testaments don’t place a period at the end of verse 3, but rather place a colon marker (raised period) to indicate a partial stop, but not the end of a sentence. Thus, the Greek New Testament editors view Ephesians 1-6 as a single sentence.

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Outlining Hebrews 10.19-25, Dr. David L. Allen

DavidAllen2

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

One of my favorite texts to preach is Hebrews 10:19-25. Its importance in the overall structure of Hebrews is difficult to overestimate. It is the opening paragraph of the third and final major section of the epistle: 1:1-4:13; 4:14-10:18; 10:19-13:25. On first blush, it appears to be somewhat involved in structure. But on further investigation, it turns out to be surprisingly simple and clear.

Hebrews 10:19-25 consists of two subparagraphs: verses 19-21 and verses 22-25. Verses 19-21 function as a summary introduction to verses 22-25 and also serve as a summary back reference of what the author has taught concerning the superiority of Christ as our High Priest. Two primary propositions are stated in 19-21: 1) We have boldness to enter the Holy Place by the blood of Jesus; 2) We have a Great Priest (Jesus) over the house of God. These two truths function as the grounds for the three commands that are given in 10:22-25.

Verses 22-25 comprise the second half of the paragraph and contain three parallel command forms (hortatory subjunctives in Greek): Draw near (22); Hold fast (23); Consider one another how we may stir up to love and good deeds (24). Each of these main verbs is modified by a number of other clauses.

Consider v. 22. We are exhorted to draw near and this verb is modified by four clauses in groups of two: 1) with a sincere heart; 2) with full confidence of faith; 3) having had our hearts cleansed; 4) having had our bodies washed. Though unstated, the one to whom we are to draw near is God. The primary focus is on corporate worship, but personal worship is not excluded. This “drawing near” has a subjective aspect and an objective aspect to it. Subjectively, the first two clauses indicate the attitude we as believers are to possess as we “draw near.” Objectively, the final two clauses indicate what God has already done for us to enable us to draw near (note the tense and voice in Greek): having had our hearts cleansed and having had our bodies washed with water (an OT metaphor of priestly cleansing and not a reference here to water baptism). On the basis of the objective truths we are able to draw near and should do so with the attitudes of sincerity and confidence.

In verse 23, we are exhorted to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” This proposition is further modified by the statement “for he who promised is faithful.”

In verse 24, we are exhorted to “consider one another how we may stir up to love and good deeds.” This is further modified by two participial clauses, one negative and one positive, in verse 25: 1) “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; 2) encouraging one another. This final clause is followed by the final proposition in the paragraph: we are to do these things (probably a reference to all three commands) “all the more as we see the day drawing near (probably a reference to the return of Christ and the judgment it brings on unbelievers along with the accountability it brings to believers).

From this analysis we may lay out the outline structure of the passage as follows:

Introduction (19-21)

I. Draw Near (22)

            A. with sincerity

            B. with confidence

            C. having had our heart cleansed

            D. having had our bodies washed

II. Hold Fast (23)

            A. because of the promise of God

III. Consider one another to stir up to love and good deeds

            A. not forsaking assembling together

            B. encouraging one another

            C. do this with an eye toward the return of Christ and our accountability to Him

From this structure, you are now prepared to create a preaching outline which may or may not make use of the actual terminology in the text. The sermon will have three main points because the text has three main points. Point one is modified by four clauses which need to be reflected somehow in the outline and sermon. Point two is modified by one clause, and point three is modified by a pair of clauses expressing negative and positive means to accomplish the imperative. The entire passage concludes with a statement concerning the return of Christ which motivates us to a serious attempt to obey these three commands.

From this structural outline, relate how you would state the three main points in the text in your preaching outline!