Appreciating The Possible By Recognizing The Impossible
1. We treasure the great statements in Scripture about what is possible with God.
a. Abraham was asked, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14).
b. Job confessed, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
c. Gabriel the angel explained to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37).
d. Jesus told the disciples, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
2. It’s worth more than passing notice, then, when the Hebrew writer builds arguments around things he says are impossible.
a. He does so four times, each at a critical juncture in his marvelous epistle.
b. His mention of the impossible is even more noticeable because he says he is writing “word of exhortation” (13:22).
c. His idea is that we may best appreciate what is possible by recognizing the reality of what is impossible.
d. The healthy sense of assurance in the Lord that we all need comes to us through the balance provided by these passages.
1. Impossible to renew again to repentance, 6:4-6
a. We must be careful to see what this thought-provoking sentence is saying.
i. Obviously, it begins with a list of privileges but ends with a shocking impossibility.
ii. Notice, though, that it does not say it is impossible for God to forgive, or that there ever comes a time when he does not want anyone to repent.
iii. It does say that a person can come to the place where it is no longer possible to restore him again to repentance.
iv. That terrible finality occurs, not in the court of God, but in the mind an heart of that individual himself.
v. A person’s heart can finally be so hardened that no power consistent with the nature and will of God can lead him to repentance.
b. When is that point reached? How does such a condition set in? The phrases in the text upon which the line of thought turn tell answer the question.
i. “Those who have once been....” The people under consideration have experience the very best God can give, the best heaven can offer in this life.
ii. “If they then fall away....” Even after turning to the Lord and become acquainted with his good gifts, they have turned away.
iii. “Since they are....” Their rejection for Christ and contempt for him is obvious and permanent.
c. This is very much in keeping with the thinking of this letter to the Hebrews.
i. 3:12-13 – the evil, unbelieving heart that may develop as one is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
ii. 10:26 – go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth
iii. Our sentence here – impossible to restore again to repentance
d. It may well need to be said that anyone who is concerned about whether he has reached this point has not.
i. However, it certainly needs to be said to our arrogant age that such a point can be reached.
ii. The habit of dull indifference that ceases to be responsive to the goodness of God and keeps delighting in evil instead can lead to a point of no return.
2. Impossible for God to lie, 6:17-18
a. The warning we have just observed does not mean that God wants us to live without assurance–far from it!
i. In fact, he has put himself out and he has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to live with the confidence of hope.
ii. He wants us to know that there is security in waiting patiently for his promise.
b. To illustrate this truth, the writer reminds his readers of what God did for Abraham.
i. Abraham showed through his willingness to offer up Isaac his son that he was willing to wait patiently for the promise.
ii. The God who had already made the promise then guaranteed his own promise with an oath, swearing by himself (cf. Gen. 22:16-17).
iii. An oath was a common human practice in legal dealings. In order to be believed, a person would swear by someone enough greater than himself to judge him if he failed to do as he promised.
iv. Since there is no one greater than God, he swore by his own being.
v. He did it, not because he might not be believed otherwise, but as an accommodation to human need: he wanted all heirs of the promise to know that hope in his promise is well-placed.
c. As a result, the writer says, we have two unchangeable things to give us strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
i. One is the promise of a God for whom lying is impossible (v. 18; Tit.1:2).
ii. The other is the oath of that God, his sworn determined purpose to see to it that we obtain the hope he has set before us.
d. A beautiful illustration drives the thought home: we are like ships who have fled to the harbor to find refuge from stormy high seas.
i. They are anchored to the unseen sea bed beneath the surface.
ii. Our souls, however, are anchored in heaven above where Jesus has entered for us as our forerunner.
3. Impossible for other sacrifices to take away sins, 10:3-4
a. Why has any heavenly gift been available to us to start with? Why is there any hope laid up for us there? It’s because one sacrifice has been made that is sufficient to deal with all sins for all time!
b. The writer says that is precisely what “the blood of bulls and goats,” the sacrifices of the old covenant, could not do.
i. If they could have, they would not have been offered continually (v.2), just as a person would not have to continue to take medicine if he were healed.
ii. They could only serve as a shadow of the good things to come (v.1), a sketch whose full meaning still had to be filled out.
iii. Every year when they were offered they were just like a sledge hammer, pounding into the conscience a reminder of the presence of sin (v.3).
c. Cleansing that could take away the consciousness of sin is what was goal of sacrifice.
i. The blood of bulls and goats could serve for ceremony, but not cleanse the conscience of a single human being.
ii. 9:13-14, purify our conscience...to serve the living God
iii. 10:12-14, offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins
d. We must not overlook the impact of this: if the blood of Christ can provide forgiveness of sins, it is impossible that any other sacrifice can (10:18).
4. Impossible to be well-pleasing to God without faith, 11:6
a. Though a sacrifice has been offered that can make anyone who draws near perfect, and a forerunner has entered the inner place for us, and the heavenly gift may be tasted by any of us, no one can please God without faith.
b. Some of the reasons why are fairly obvious.
i. We are dealing with assurance and conviction (v.1), but of things hoped for and not seen.
ii. Neither God nor the things he asks of us are subject to understanding and approval by mere human senses and experience; we are dependent on his word (v.3).
iii. The events his word asks us to believe in are far removed from us by time and space; there is no way to relate to them other than by faith.
c. Whoever would draw near to God will, therefore, find it impossible without faith.
i. One must believe that God exists–that the ever-present, all-wise, eternally unchanging God is.
ii. One must believe that God is good–that he rewards those who seek him, that he will do what is right.
iii. One must actually seek him, and draw near to him, and take him at his word by humbly and obediently acting according to what he says.
d. That is what the writer of Hebrews wants his readers to do and to keep doing (10:22, 39).
1. Here are four very real impossibilities: for God to ever lie, for any sacrifice besides Christ to take away a sin, for any of us to please him without faith, and for one who willfully and purposefully falls away from these things to be renewed again to repentance.
2. But each one of these serves to emphasize a real and present possibility: God has given us reason and opportunity to repent; God’s promises have set a hope before us that we can hold fast; God has given the blood of his own Son to secure eternal redemption for us; and God has called us to walk with him by faith!
3. May we respect the impossible enough to appreciate the possible–and to personally lay hold of it!