Hebrews 6:12
That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) That ye be not slothful.—Rather, that ye become not sluggish. The same word is used as in Hebrews 5:11, there applied to apprehension of truth, here to the Christian hope and life; if the truth be not welcomed, there will be no vigour in the life.

Followers.—Better, imitators. (Comp. Hebrews 13:7; 1Corinthians 11:1, et al.). They are not the first to whom “hope” has been given, and who have needed zeal that they might not fail of their hope. As in Hebrews 11 the writer appeals to precursors of faith, so here of hope; to men who, having lived in hope, passed to the actual possession of the promised blessings by means of faith (which accepted and clung to the promise) and patience. The last word is not that which occurs in the similar exhortation in Hebrews 10:36. That is a brave endurance; this is the word usually rendered “long-suffering,” which here and in James 5:7 signifies patient waiting.

Hebrews 6:12. That ye be not slothful Νωθροι, careless and negligent, or dull, sluggish, and indolent, namely, in the use of the means of grace, or in those works of piety and virtue which are the proper fruits of faith and love; but followers μιμηται, imitators; of them who through faith — In God, and in the truths and promises of his holy word; and patience — Or, long-suffering, as Μακροθυμιας rather signifies, enduring long in the constant exercise of faith, hope, and love, notwithstanding any or all opposition, and the bearing all trials and troubles, of whatever kind, with composure of mind and resignation to the divine will; inherit the promises — Dr. Whitby would render it, inherited the promises, supposing that the expression refers to the promises made to Abraham and the other patriarchs respecting the multiplication of their seed, their being put in possession of Canaan, and the various other promises made to them, the accomplishment of which they afterward received. But the participle, κληρονομουντων, being in the present tense, will hardly bear to be so rendered, signifying literally, are inheriting, namely, the promises. Pierce and Macknight, therefore, understand it of the believing Gentiles, who at the time when the apostle wrote were inheriting those promises made to Abraham concerning all nations of the earth being blessed in him and his seed. But, as Dr. Doddridge observes, if this were intended as a hint to stir up the Jews to emulation, as is supposed, “it was indeed a very obscure one; for, comparatively, it is a low sense in which Christians, in this imperfect state, can be said to inherit the promises. It seems rather to refer to all good men, who were departed out of our world, whether in former or latter days, and under whatever dispensation they died. Taking it in this view, it is a conclusive argument against the soul’s continuing in a state of sleep during the intermediate period between death and the resurrection.” This certainly seems the most natural interpretation of the verse, namely, that “the apostle meant to lead his readers to meditate on the happiness of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Job, and all those who had on earth lived by faith in the promises of God, especially the great promise of a Saviour, and eternal salvation by him; and had patiently waited, laboured, and suffered in the obedience of faith; and in consequence were at the time, when the apostle wrote this, inheriting the promises of God, of eternal blessings, through Christ, to all believers.” — Scott.6:11-20 The hope here meant, is a sure looking for good things promised, through those promises, with love, desire, and valuing of them. Hope has its degrees, as faith also. The promise of blessedness God has made to believers, is from God's eternal purpose, settled between the eternal Father, Son, and Spirit. These promises of God may safely be depended upon; for here we have two things which cannot change, the counsel and the oath of God, in which it is not possible for God to lie; it would be contrary to his nature as well as to his will. And as He cannot lie; the destruction of the unbeliever, and the salvation of the believer, are alike certain. Here observe, those to whom God has given full security of happiness, have a title to the promises by inheritance. The consolations of God are strong enough to support his people under their heaviest trials. Here is a refuge for all sinners who flee to the mercy of God, through the redemption of Christ, according to the covenant of grace, laying aside all other confidences. We are in this world as a ship at sea, tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. We need an anchor to keep us sure and steady. Gospel hope is our anchor in the storms of this world. It is sure and stedfast, or it could not keep us so. The free grace of God, the merits and mediation of Christ, and the powerful influences of his Spirit, are the grounds of this hope, and so it is a stedfast hope. Christ is the object and ground of the believer's hope. Let us therefore set our affections on things above, and wait patiently for his appearance, when we shall certainly appear with him in glory.That ye be not slothful - Indolent; inactive. This was what he was especially desirous of guarding them against. By diligent and strenuous effort only could they secure themselves from the danger of apostasy.

But followers - Imitators - that you may live as they lived.

Of them who through faith and patience - By faith, or confidence in God, and by patience in suffering - referring to those who in times of trial had remained faithful to God, and had been admitted to heaven. In Hebrews 11, the apostle has given a long list of such persevering and faithful friends of God; see the notes on that chapter.

The promise - The promise of heaven.

12. be not—Greek, "become not." In Heb 5:11, he said, "Ye have become dull (Greek, 'slothful') of hearing"; here he warns them not to become "slothful absolutely," namely, also in mind and deed. He will not become slothful who keeps always the end in view; hope is the means of ensuring this.

followers—Greek, "imitators"; so in Eph 5:1, Greek; 1Co 11:1.

patience—Greek, "long-suffering endurance." There is the long-suffering patience, or endurance of love, 1Co 13:4, and that of faith, Heb 6:15.

them who … inherit the promises—Greek, "who are inheriting," &c.; to whom the promises are their inheritance. Not that they have actually entered on the perfect inheritance, which Heb 11:13, 39, 40 explicitly denies; though doubtless the dead in Christ have, in the disembodied soul, a foretaste of it; but "them (enumerated in Heb 11:2-40) who in every age have been, are, or shall be, inheritors of the promises"; of whom Abraham is an illustrious example (Heb 6:13).

That ye be not slothful: if you will be diligent, away with sloth: you are inclined to it, Hebrews 5:11, and though you be quick in affection, yet slow in understanding the mysteries of God; and though you have laboured, yet not with that intense labour to which he here presseth them, even to an utter abolition of all the degrees of sloth.

But followers of them; mimhtai, strictly, imitators, in diligence and pains-taking, of the believers who have performed this duty before you.

Who through faith and patience inherit the promises: in their graces imitate them, as in faith, by which they rested on, as credited, God’s promises revealed to them of things invisible, excellent, and distant, and which by no creature power but only God’s could be attained, Hebrews 11:1,9,10,16 13:7. In patience, because the things promised are future, and at a great distance from them, waiting for them, suffering many evils from many, passing through fire and water, Isaiah 43:2, and staying God’s leisure to obtain them, Hebrews 10:36 12:1 Romans 15:4,5 Jas 1:3. Those they were to imitate, were heirs of blessed promises, Hebrews 6:14, of spiritual blessings in Christ, the blessed Seed, in whom themselves and all nations were to be blessed, Genesis 22:18. It may be queried: How did Abraham inherit the promises, when he did not receive them, as is testified, Hebrews 11:13? This is certain as to the promises of spiritual saving, and universal concernment to them, as of justification, sanctification, adoption, and salvation by Jesus Christ; these they received, as is evident, Hebrews 11:10,14,16 Ro 4:8-25: such promises as were of special consideration and reserved to a set time, as the possession of Canaan, and Christ’s incarnation, John 8:56. These they did not receive, though they saw them sure to their seed by faith, but for salvation, and glory, and heaven, carried in the covenant of grace, they did personally enjoy; of the others they were heirs as given by God to them. That ye be not slothful,.... With respect to hearing the word, and attendance on every ordinance; with respect to the use of means for the increase of knowledge, faith, and hope; and with respect to ministering to the saints; but on the contrary, should take every opportunity of improvement and doing good:

but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises; or things promised; not the land of Canaan, nor the coming of the Messiah; but either grace and salvation by Christ; or eternal Life, which is expressed by a promise, to show that it is not by any works, or merits of men; that it is wholly of grace, and shall certainly be enjoyed: and it is expressed in the plural number, "promises", because it is the grand promise, which is inclusive of all others; and because it has been given out at various times, and in different manners: and the possession of it being signified by "inheriting", it shows that this is their Father's gift and legacy, which they have as children; and which comes to them through the death of Christ, and of which the Spirit is the seal; and comes not by works of righteousness done by them: and the means through which saints that are gone before are come to the enjoyment of this happiness, are "faith and patience"; not that "faith" is the cause of, or what gives right to the inheritance, but it designs a course and walk of believing, at the end of which, saints come to glory; and faith is connected with salvation, and salvation with that; and through faith believers are preserved unto it: and "patience" is joined with faith, as a fruit and evidence of it; and supposes troubles which are patiently endured before men come to the possession of the inheritance: now the apostle exhorts these Hebrews to be followers and imitators of such, in diligence, faith, and patience, when they need not doubt of inheriting the same promised blessedness they do.

{6} That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

(6) He shows in these verses that they need to go forward constantly, for their own good: that is, of charity, and patience; and lest any man should object and say that these things are impossible to do, he asks them to consider the examples of their ancestors and to follow them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 6:12. Further prosecution of πρὸς τὴν πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἄχρι τέλους, Hebrews 6:11.

ἵνα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε] that ye become not sluggish. The γένησθε, pointing to the future, stands in no contradiction with γεγόνατε at v. 11. There, the sluggishness of the intellect was spoken of; here, it is sluggishness in the retaining of the Christian hope. There is therefore no need of the conjecture νόθοι (after Hebrews 12:8) for νωθροι (Heinrichs).

μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας] but rather imitators of those who, through faith and perseverance, inherit the promises. Of the two substantives πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας, the latter forms the leading idea; comp. Hebrews 6:15, where only μακροθυμήσας is placed. καί is therefore the more nearly defining “and indeed.” Thus: by faith, and indeed by persevering constancy in the same.

The μακροθυμία, elsewhere usually the divine attribute of long-suffering or forbearance, is likewise predicated of men, Colossians 1:11; Jam 5:7-8; Jam 5:10; LXX. Isaiah 57:15 (ὀλιγοψύχοις διδοὺς μακροθυμίαν), and frequently, and in the first-named passage combined with ὑπομονή as a synonym.

The ἐπαγγελίαι are those given by God in the time of the Old Covenant, which by means of Christianity attain to their full realization. Comp. Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:33; Romans 9:4; Romans 15:8; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 3:16. Comp. also the singular ἡ ἐπαγγελία, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:39.

κληρονομεῖν τὰς ἐπαγγελίας denotes: to enter into the heritage of these promises, i.e. to attain to the enjoyment or possession of the blessings placed in prospect by them. That in our passage (comp. Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:39) κληρονομεῖν τὰς ἐπαγγελίας cannot be understood, with Schulz and Bleek, of the mere “receiving of the imparting of the promises as such, apart from their fulfilment,” is shown by the very position of the words, according to which the main force of the statement is contained not in τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, but in κληρονομούντων. Comp. also Hebrews 6:15, where for the same reason ἐπέτυχεν is placed before the substantive τὰς ἐπαγγελίας. Besides, it is also evident from the fact that in such case there would be nothing in Hebrews 6:12 to correspond to the conception of the ensuing possession itself, indicated as this is in the ἄχρι τέλους of Hebrews 6:11.

In connection with τῶν κληρονομούντων almost all expositors, including Böhme, Bleek, de Wette, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Bisping, Delitzsch, Kluge, think of the patriarchs, especially Abraham, and of them either alone or with the inclusion of all believers of the New Covenant. This interpretation, however, to which they were without any necessity led by the consideration of Hebrews 6:13, is untenable. For, in order to harmonize with it in its first-named form, the writing of κληρονομησάντων would have been necessary,—for which, accordingly, many will have the participle present to be taken; to harmonize with it in its last-named form, the writing of κληρονομησάντων τε καὶ κληρονομούντων would have been required. The characterizing οἱ διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομοῦντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας is, on the contrary, quite a general one, and the participle present marks out that which assuredly takes place, or in accordance with a constant and fixed rule (as a rewarding of the fulfilled preliminary condition of πίστις καὶ μακροθυμία). The thought is therefore, not that the readers should take the patriarchs as a model, but in general that they should take as such those who manifest persevering constancy in the faith, and, on that very account, beyond doubt attain to the possession of that which is promised.Hebrews 6:12. ἵνα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε: “that ye become not sluggish,” “be not, misses the fine delicacy of the writer” (Alford). “The γένησθε, pointing to the future, stands in no contradiction with γεγόνατε at Hebrews 5:11. There, the sluggishness of the intellect was spoken of; here, it is sluggishness in the retaining of the Christian hope” (Lünemann). Sluggishness would result if they did not “manifest diligence”. μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν …: “but imitators of those who, through faith and patient waiting, are now inheriting the promises”. The positive aspect of the conduct that should accompany cultivation of hope. They were not the first who had launched into that apparently shoreless ocean. Others before them had crossed it, and found solid land on the other side. There are many who are fairly described as κληρον. τὰς ἐπαγγελίας. Whether alive or now dead, they have entered on possession of that good thing which they could not see but which God had promised. Alford, apparently following Peirce, denies that κληρονομούντων can mean “who are inheriting,” and renders “who are inheritors”. To this conclusion he is led, as also Peirce, by the consideration that in c. xi. it is said of Abraham and the other heroes of faith that they did not receive the promise. But it is also indicated in the same passage that by the coming of Christ the fulness of the promise was fulfilled. It was only “without us” of the Christian period that the patriarchs were imperfect. Those who are presently enjoying the promises attained their present victory and joy, διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας. Necessarily, they first had to believe the promises, but faith had to be followed up by patient waiting. Alford translates μακροθ. by “endurance,” but this word rather represents ὑπομονή, while μακροθ. indicates the long-drawn-out patience which is demanded by hope deferred.12. that ye be not slothful] Rather, “that ye become not slothful” in the advance of Christian hope as you already are (Hebrews 5:11) in acquiring spiritual knowledge.

followers] Rather, “imitators,” as in 1 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6, &c.

through faith and patience inherit the promises] See Hebrews 6:15, Hebrews 12:1; Romans 2:7. The word rendered “patience” (makrothumia) is often applied to the “long suffering” of God, as in Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20; but is used of men in Colossians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 6:6, &c., and here implies the tolerance of hope deferred. It is a different word from the “endurance” of Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 10:36.

inherit] Partially, and by faith, here; fully and with the beatific vision in the life to come.Hebrews 6:12. Νωθροὶ, slothful) There follows presently after the antithesis, διὰ πίστεως, by faith, etc. They were νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς, dull of hearing, ch. Hebrews 5:11 : he now cautions them, not to become slothful absolutely, viz. also in mind.—διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας, through faith and patience) So Paul, 2 Timothy 3:10, and Jam 5:8. There is the patience or long-suffering of love, 1 Corinthians 13:4 : there is also the long-suffering of faith, Hebrews 6:15.—κληρονομούντων) The participle of the imperfect tense; comp. Hebrews 6:15 : for Abraham is referred to.—ἐπαγγελίας, promises) By this very word their confidence is roused; and ἐπαγγειλάμενος, having promised, presently follows.Verse 12. - That ye become not slothful (νωθροὶ, the same word as was used in Hebrews 5:11, νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς. There, with regard to intelligence, they were accused of having already become so; here, n here a hopeful view is taken of their prospects, the writer delicately avoids implying that they were so yet in regard to their desire of making progress), but followers (i.e. following the example - surely a better English word than imitators) of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. The present participle κληρονομούντων does not confine the sense of the expression to those who are now so inheriting. Abraham being presently adduced as an example, it refits to all who at any time so inherit, equivalent to, "the inheritors of." The drift is - Faith and patience are ever required in order that the Divine promises, however assured, may be inherited: these qualifications (in opposition to your being νωθροὶ) are what you want for securing your own inheritance. Slothful (νωθροὶ)

See on Hebrews 5:11. Or sluggish, as you will become if you lose hope.

Followers (μιμηταὶ)

Rend. imitators.

Faith and patience (πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας)

For patience rend. long-suffering, and see on James 5:7. Faith and long-suffering go together. Faith does not win its inheritance without persevering endurance; hence long-suffering is not only presented as an independent quality, but is predicated of faith.

Inherit (κληρονομούντων)

Notice the present participle, are inheriting. Their present faith and perseverance are now making for their final inheritance. Comp. Ephesians 1:14.

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