Other posts in this series:
- Part 1: three verbs that describe someone who has encountered Jesus Christ
- Part 2: comparing Hebrews 6 with Luke 8 (the parable of the four soils)
- Part 3: Who is the third soil?
Finally, let’s discuss the believers of the fourth soil. They are those who press on in their walk with the Lord by the power of His Spirit. Their choice is to daily surrender to Jesus’ Lordship over their lives: “And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. . . . And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:8 & 15). In other words, those who represent this soil have gone through intense trials, tragedies, failures, brokenness, repentance, humbling, and dying to self according to Luke 9:23-24: “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’”
What is also important in Luke 8:15 (above), is that the Greek verbs “hold fast” and “bear fruit” are in the present tense, indicating an ongoing and continuous action through all of life’s pain, disappointments, heartaches, personal failures, etc. It is because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and their “daily” choice to continue to walk in Luke 9:23-24 above that they are enabled to “continually hold fast and bear fruit with perseverance.” The phrase, “honest and good heart” is in no way saying that as unregenerate men, our hearts are able—by themselves—to be “honest and good.” If this were the case, then we could, by our own works, save ourselves, but biblically, that is profoundly untrue!
Thus, the following three passages make it abundantly clear that as human beings, we are corrupt to the core and nothing good dwells in us:
1) Genesis 6:5: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
The phrase “every intent” is a very powerful and all-inclusive term. The noun “intent” is from the Hebrew verb יָצַר (yaƒar), which we have already seen means “to form, fashion, devise, produce and create.” The noun יֵצֶר (yeƒar), therefore, carries the idea of the very formation of a thought (i.e., everything that goes into the very outline and framing of a thought in our imagination). In other words, according to the Bible, the very inception of our thoughts is rooted in evil, and even before our thoughts are cognitive to us, their motivation is evil and apart from God! And not only that, but “every intent . . . was only evil continually.” The adverb “only” means that “evil” and “evil” alone was the driving force behind their thoughts and actions. Thus, even what they thought was “good” was rotten to the core in comparison to God’s standard of righteousness.
2) Psalm 14:1-3: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. 2 The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”
In verse 1, a very dogmatic declaration is made: “there is no one who does good.” Clearly this is not just referring to the “fool” who overtly says “there is no God,” but rather it is referring to the whole of mankind as is confirmed in Romans 3:9-12. However, what is even more interesting is the play on words in the actual Hebrew text. The word used for “no” in the fool’s response that “there is no God” is ***** (’ayin), which is the most intense, negative particle in Hebrew. In essence it means “there doesn’t exist” whatever it is modifying, and in this instance it is referring to God. The Lord, through the Psalmist, in turn replies in the same verse that “there is no one who does good.” Here too, the word used for “no” is also *****(’ayin), thus the Lord is saying “there doesn’t exist anyone doing good,” and this encompasses the whole of mankind.
Verse 2 asks the question if there is anyone who “understands” (i.e., who cause themselves to have godly insight). The implication is: No, there is not. In addition, is there anyone who is truly “seeking after God”? (i.e., who is truly wanting to inquire of godly wisdom and insight). And here too, the implicit answer is no. Verse 3 makes it quite clear that the indictment of sin and corruption includes the whole of mankind: “they have all turned aside”; “together they have become corrupt (i.e., as one unit, all mankind shares the same depraved condition from the fall, and in addition, they exacerbate this sinful condition in one another through their attitudes, choices, and actions toward each other on a small scale [person to person], as well as a large scale [community, city, state, nation to nation])”; “there is no one who does good, not even one (here again the Hebrew word *****(’ayin) is used in the two places I have underlined, stating categorically that not one person exists who does good in themselves according to God’s standard of righteousness).”
3) Isaiah 64:6: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
The phrase, “like one who is unclean,” is referring to the levitical law of uncleanness which covered a wide variety of things, from dietary laws, to unclean animals, to illnesses, etc. The person who became unclean, therefore, had to go through certain steps before he could be declared clean again, such as sin offerings, to periods of separation from the populous.
The second matter of great importance in this passage is the following statement, “and all
our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” The English translation often does not convey the impact of the actual Hebrew wording. The words translated “filthy garment” in Hebrew are עִדִּ֖ים בֶּגֶד (beged ‘iddîm), and this literally means “a cloth of menstruations.” In other words, all our righteous deeds are like “a used menstrual cloth”! In Leviticus 15:19-30 we are told what a woman is to do during her menstrual period, as well as what others must do who may come in contact with her:
When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20 ‘Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 22 And whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 23 Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. 24 And if a man actually lies with her, so that her menstrual impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. 25 Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean. 26 Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and every thing on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. 27 Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 28 When she becomes clean from her discharge, she shall count off for herself seven days; and afterward she shall be clean. 29 Then on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and bring them in to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the LORD because of her impure discharge.’
As you can see from this passage, whoever might touch her bed, or anything she sits on, had to wash their clothes, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Consequently, if merely touching an area where she had been sitting or laying down made one unclean, how much more so would one be defiled by touching the actual menstrual cloth she used during her menstrual cycle! Thus, the very best our “righteous deeds” can come up to is a used menstrual cloth that would have been considered the apex of uncleanness by Jews at that time.
The Hebrew verb “to wither” in Isaiah 64:6 is נָבֵל (nabel), and it is also the same form for the word “foolish” נָבָל ( nabal). Thus, the idea of a leaf “withering” and dying as it is separated from the tree, which is its source for life and nourishment, is also true of mankind when we are separated from God who is our source for life and nourishment. Indeed, for the unregenerate man, he becomes more and more foolish until he destroys himself through his foolishness, which destruction is also what ultimately happens to a leaf after its separation from the tree.
In the next post, I will tie these wonderful truths from Luke 8 back to our passage in Hebrews 6 and conclude our blog series. Stay tuned and let us know if you have any questions!