In prep for Hebrews 6, I did quite a bit of studying and praying. William Barclay wrote this about verses 4-8 in The Letter to the Hebrews: “This is one of the most terrible passages in Scripture.” Awesome. If you think that since I write Bible studies I have it all figured out, you are mistaken. This can be an intimidating chapter and so I decided (mostly for my own sanity) that instead of jumping into the deep end of the pool (and yes, I would’ve pulled you in with me) we are going the gradual entry route. This week, we’re only going to cover the first three verses.
If you’re a new believer – you’ve come to the right entry point because we’re going to talk about foundational, spiritual teachings (aka: the shallow end of the pool). If you’re a seasoned believer – you’ve come to the right entry point because you should be teaching these truths to new believers and I will provide you with a clear framework to do so. Regardless of where you are on your walk, this Word is for you. So, here we go:
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”
- Remember when we see “therefore” we must ask what it’s “there for.” At the end of the previous chapter, we talked about believers needing meat and not allowing the babes in Christ to willingly accept just any kind of spiritual food. This same idea continues in these verses from chapter 6: we must strengthen our spiritual jaws and chomp on the Word of God.
- “…let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ…” This is a central Truth to stay focused on when it comes to our walk: it’s about Christ. Recently, we’ve been taking communion each week at our fellowship. I love the sacred reminder it provides each time we consume the symbol of the body and the blood of Christ. This world tosses us back and forth with the waves of brokenness, and the table allows us to refocus our hearts on what matters most. And that’s Jesus, our Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).
- “…be taken forward to maturity…” While we will review the six building blocks of the Christian faith, remember that you are not meant to remain in this state. It would be like pouring the foundation of a house, but not building anything further. As we review these six principles, ask God to reveal to you if you have truly been taken forward to maturity. Here are the six principles excavated from these three verses:
1. Sin. “…not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death…” Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and we get a better understanding of those “acts that lead to death” from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The Word of God is quite clear about who will not be in heaven, and there’s no room for misinterpretation here. Make special note that these individuals were characterized by their sin. It’s not saying that those who have committed these sins will not inherit the kingdom, but we the individuals who have a lifestyle of sin will not. Romans 3:24 goes on to tell us that we are all justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus, which leads us to talk about our next principle: faith in God.
2. Faith. We’ll soon learn in Hebrews 11 how faith is the “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” A key principle of the Christian faith is having faith. Even though we cannot see God, we must have hope and assurance in what He has accomplished through His Son, Jesus. Faith is not a bare belief or an intellectual comprehension. It is a willingness to trust. That word willingness is key. We have this “Can you? Will you?” question we use at my work. They are two critical questions we ask when we’re considering someone’s performance. Often, it’s not a “can” issue, it’s a “will” issue. Meaning, it’s not that they can’t perform, they just aren’t willing to work that hard at it. The same can be true for us. We must be willing to see Jesus. We must be willing to study out God’s Word (even when we don’t understand it) and not just get frustrated and quit. Real faith produces action and takes us onward. There’s no static mode in our walk – we’re either moving forwards or backwards. I know you can move forward with the enablement of the Holy Spirit. The question is, “Will you?”
3. Cleansing. If you’ve ever studied Leviticus (which is a fascinating book that points to Christ repeatedly), there are several rituals for cleansing. For example, the cleansing ritual for a healed leper (which, by the way, a leper was never healed until Jesus came on the scene), purification after childbirth, and washings for the Day of Atonement. You were to be physically clean and set apart from an Old Testament standard. The blood of Christ was the ultimate cleansing agent (move over, Oxy-Clean). 1 John 1:7 tells us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Of course, as New Testament believers, we aren’t under Levitical washings because those were fulfilled through Christ. However, we do experience another form of washing, and that is baptism—a symbol of our death in Christ and rising again with Him. We are called now to be spiritually clean and set apart for His work. Amen!
4. Laying on of hands. Remember that the writer of Hebrews is talking to people who used to practice Judaism. In Jewish practice, the laying on of hands had a tri-fold significant because it was the sign of the transference of guilt, the transference of blessing, and the setting apart of some special office. We read in 1 Timothy 5:22 that we shouldn’t be “too quick in the laying on of hands…” which reminds us that we should allow people’s character to develop before we appoint a man to a ministry role. This is wise counsel for us, especially in a day and age where instant gratification and impatience is common. Time will test the heart.
5. Resurrection of dead. Paul writes in Philippians 3:10-11 “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Knowing Jesus means knowing His power and the new life that is imparted to us through His death. He’s not just speaking of the power it took to raise Christ from the dead, but the power that is provided to the believer’s life on earth along with eternal life with Him.
6. Eternal Judgment. Every person is held accountable for their actions. If our name is in the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28 and Revelation 3:5), then we know we will not perish. But, it’s clear in Revelation 20:11-15 that God will judge both good and evil, and reward or punish accordingly.
Okay, now that we’ve spent some time understanding the basic principles of the Christian faith, let’s take a few moments and allow God to reveal to us areas we may not have a deep understanding. This isn’t a time to feel bad or discouraged about not knowing something (remember how I shared with you earlier that I’m still learning, too). Own where you are and ask God to help you to move forward. There are several resources available to you online to help you grow in the basics. I would encourage you to download the Blue Letter Bible app on your phone. It has some great audio messages, along with text commentaries. Spending consistent time in the Word and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you will construct the foundation you need.
And speaking of foundations, let’s swing back up to verse 1 where it says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation…” The foundational reference in this verse is about Jesus. It speaks of Jesus being the Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22, Luke 20:17, Mark 12:10) and this is a critical point for us to grasp. Without a foundation, it’s impossible for us to grow. The parable of the wise and foolish builder provides a cue for us: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” We want rock-solid foundations, so it’s important that we understand these rock-solid truths, teach them to others, and then move forward. Amen.