Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taste and See that the Lord is Good

I've been thinking about Heb 6:4-8 NASU which reads:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Here the writer of Hebrews is attempting to define what marks a Christian. Five things are listed:

1. enlightened
2. tasted the heavenly gift
3. partaker in the Holy Spirit
4. tasted the good word of God, and
5. tasted of the powers of the age to come.

The question is, how do these concepts relate to each other? Do they all refer to the same thing, are they sequential, or something else?

Enlightened must refer to coming into a knowledge that you didn't have before. A light bulb just turned on over your head. The same writer uses this term to refer to conversion in Heb 10:32. Paul in Eph 1:18 prays that the eyes of our understanding be enlightened. So not only does this term relate to conversion, but to our ongoing relationship with the Lord. John 1:9 tells us that Jesus is the true light that enlightens (gives light to) every man. It means to receive the knowledge of the truth. So being a Christian means being enlightened.

To what does 'tasting of the heavenly gift refer'? Justification - the forgiveness of sins - is a gift. Salvation is a gift. The Holy Spirit is a gift. The gifts of the Spirit are a gift. Jesus himself is God's gift to us. We are to eat his flesh and drink his blood, metaphorically speaking of course. So it could relate to communion. Maybe our attention needs to be on tasting instead of gift. Since in Heb 2:9 Jesus tasted death for us all, tasting cannot mean a brief, shallow, experience. Peter tells us (1Pet 2:3) that we have tasted the kindness of the Lord. The Psalmist (Ps 34:8) exhorts us to taste and see that the Lord is good. To taste is to experience, to know through experience. We've tasted - experienced - the salvation that God has given to us in Christ. It would be hard to nail it down any finer than this. But notice the emphasis on taste - experience.

A partaker in the Holy Spirit is someone who has experienced the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans and the Ephesian disciples lacked this, and it was noticeable. We are all given the Holy Spirit to drink, but drink we must. And when we do drink, we experience.

Tasted the good word is to experience the gospel.

And taste the powers (dunamis) of the age to come. This seems to refer to those powers or gifts of the Spirit that the Spirit gives to us all. I like what Hughes says in his commentary on Hebrews. "These powers may confidently be identified with the signs, wonders, and miracles mentioned earlier in 2:4 as accompaniments of the preaching of the gospel. They are the dynamic evidence of the activity of the Holy Spirit within the community of believers, manifested particularly perhaps in miraculous healings and deliverances. As such, moreover, they testify to the fact that "the age to come" is already upon them, since its powers are operative in their midst."

It seems that according to the writer of Hebrews that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is part of what makes a Christian a Christian. Yet so many have not drunk what they have been given to drink. Or maybe the land that drinks is not producing fruit? I hope not. Like the writer goes on to say, we are convinced of better things of you. The exhortation is to experience what God has given. Mental assent is not what it is all about. A theoretical belief is inadequate. Experiencing the reality of salvation, the gospel, and the Holy Spirit is our portion of the edible God.

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