The author of Hebrews is
concerned for his readers because they have not
risen above the elementary teachings of the gospel.
They haven't grown spiritually.
He has given them a stern
rebuke of spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:11-14). He
wishes to instruct his readers regarding the solid
food found in the fulfillment of the Melchizedek
priesthood in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
"Concerning Him we have much to say" is referring to
both Melchizedek and Christ.
However, some in his
audience are "dull of hearing." They are sluggish
spiritually and lazy mentally. They have been in
this state for so long that they cannot even
comprehend the simplest teaching regarding Christ.
If they had been truly born again they should have
by now become spiritually mature so as to be
teachers in the local congregation. Every believer
is expected to be able to share his testimony of
God's saving grace and defend the Gospel. These
readers are like spiritual children; they cannot
understand basic spiritual truth.
In the context of Hebrews
five and six we are discussing the ABC's of
Christianity, the most basic knowledge of what it
means to become a Christian. These individuals
cannot discern the most basic element of the
righteousness of God. The "word of righteousness" is
referring to God's revelation about righteousness of
every believer. It is a right relationship provided
by God in His grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
Without His saving grace no one can possibly be
saved. If that does not translate into a changed
life something is wrong. We reach maturity through
the word of righteousness. It is inexcusable that
some of these individuals are inexperienced in the
doctrine of the Christian faith. They have had
plenty of time to mature. Some in the church are of
full age and have advanced spiritual understanding.
They are mature or full grown in the deep mysteries
of God. This maturity is gained by mixing the
promises of the Word of God with faith.
In the passage before us
let's be care not to do eisegesis, reading into the
Scripture what is not there.
Let's go on to
spiritual maturity (Heb. 6:1-3)
"Therefore leaving the
elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press
on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of
repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
of instruction about washings and laying on of
hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal
judgment. And this we will do, if God permit"
(Hebrews 6:1-3, NASB95). All Scripture
references are from the New American Standard Bible,
1995 Update unless otherwise noted.
elementary teaching about Christ"
That would seem strange
at first. Why would we want to leave the elementary
teaching about Christ? There are some basic,
fundamental teachings that never change. Our author
wants to take his readers from first grade on to
second grade without repeating the basic doctrines.
"Leaving behind the discussion of the beginning
about Christ," paraphrases A. T. Robertson.
What are these
"elementary teachings about the Christ"? The
metaphor for "foundation" refers to the ABC's or
elementary truths as opposed to maturity. "The
elementary teaching about Christ" is literally, "the
word (or teaching) of the beginning of Christ." It
is suggestive of the first presentation of the
gospel, the plan of salvation.
Some of his readers have
identified themselves to some extent with the
Christian believers and have professed themselves to
be Christians, but there is no evidence their
profession is genuine. There is probably not much
difference between them and their Jewish friends.
They have distanced themselves some from Judaism,
but have not been regenerated. They must make a
break with Judaism in order to go deeper in the
Christian life. Judaism laid the foundation for the
coming of Jesus Christ and the preparation for their
entering into the new covenant with God. But it was
only a foundation. These individuals must go on to a
mature faith in Christ.
The readers are assumed
to be Christians. However, like any congregation
there are those who attend who do not have a saving
relationship with Christ. Some scholars see this as
a hypothetical case to encourage the true believers
to not drift back into Judaism because of the
superiority of Christ's atoning sacrifice and the
new covenant. I take it as a mixed congregation of
believers with some unbelievers who give all the
outward appearances of being Christians, but have
never been regenerated spiritually. The specific
hard words are addressed to these unbelievers who
are tempted to go back to the Jewish rituals at the
Temple. The true believers will take the words at
heart and focus their minds on Jesus, the author and
finisher of their salvation.
Note the contrast in
these opening verses between the mature believers
who want to make progress in their Christian life
and those who are lingering behind. The author is
not saying the Christian should despise or abandon
the elementary doctrines of Christianity. The
fundamentals are always basic to every stage of
spiritual growth. We never forsake them; we grow on
them. There is no stopping-place in the Christian
life. We go from one stage to the next as we grow in
our knowledge and faith in Christ.
"Press on to maturity"
"Let's be moved along" is
not our personal effort, but "a personal surrender
to an active influence," says B. F. Westcott.
Literally, the author says, "let us be carried
forward," with the idea that it is not the learners
being carried by their instructor, but of both the
learner and the instructor being carried forward
together by God. This is the work of the Holy
Spirit. It has been called the divine passive,
implying the agency of God. The reader is impelled
by the Holy Spirit. Christ is moving or carrying all
things on to God's eternal purpose for them. We need
to get out of the way and let Him do it in and
through us to His glory. The believer needs to make
himself available to Christ so that he will be borne
along unto perfection. He refuses to go back over
old ground with his students. "For all who are being
led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God"
(Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit is the true dynamic
of spiritual growth.
The word for "maturity"
or "perfection" is from teleios meaning
mature. Let's move on from spiritual babes to mature
adults. Let's move on from milk to solid spiritual
food. As one of my seminary students who is a third
grade teacher said recently, let's go on from second
graders to third graders. Evidence of spiritual life
will be seen spiritual development and progress
toward Christian maturity. If there is no progress
toward maturity it should be questioned if there is
any genuine experience of the Holy Spirit. When the
gospel seed has been planted in good soil it will
produce a harvest to the glory of God. Where is the
evidence of a right relationship with God in Christ
The full revelation of
God to man has been made in the person of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God. He is no longer veiled in
shadows and types as seen in the Old Testament
revelation, but now the full glory of God is shown
in the person of His Son. "For God, who said, 'Light
shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has
shone in our hearts to give the Light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ"
(2 Corinthians 4:6). The types have been fulfilled
in Christ Jesus; now let's move on to a mature faith
The author is not
referring to "leaving" as in the sense of
repudiating the basic teaching, but let move on to
maturity. Let's go beyond the basics. Let's build on
the basic doctrines and go on to Christlikeness. We
will arrive at spiritual maturity when we allow the
Melchizedek priesthood of Christ to work in our
Are the six doctrines
given in verses one and two Christian or Judaism?
Important to the discussion is that only true
believers could be challenged to "press on to
maturity." Someone who is unregenerate cannot be
expected to become a mature believer. They are still
dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3).
F. F. Bruce made this
observation about the doctrines listed in these
verses. He writes, "It is remarkable how little in
the list is distinctive of Christianity, for
practically every item could have its place in a
fairly orthodox Jewish community. Each of them,
indeed acquires a new significance in a Christian
context; but the impression we get is that existing
Jewish beliefs and practices were used as a
foundation on which to build Christian truth" (NIC,
Commentary on Hebrews, p. 112). Christianity
rests on the promises and prophecies of the Old
Testament. We know this to be a fact because the New
Testament records the facts of this fulfillment.
These are the ABC's of our faith.
These Hebrew readers of
this letter were tempted to go back and lay the
foundation again. They were tempted to turn from
Christ and go back to Judaism. The author tells his
readers, "Let's be carried on to maturity, and not
go back again to the first grade. Let's build on the
ABC's, but let's not stay there."
The apostle Paul would be
the first to tell us it is a relative perfection.
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid
hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what
lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians
3:13-14). But there is day coming when we shall see
Him as he is and be like Him (1 John 3:1-3). That is
our blessed hope in Christ. Therefore, let us move
on to perfection. The highest and most glorious
things are found in Christ. As we make progress in
the knowledge of Divine truth we will press on
toward maturity. Jesus told His disciples, "You
believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1). It
is a walk by faith and some of his readers were
"Repentance from dead
The last of the Old
Testament prophets, John the Baptist issued a call
to repentance. The message of the early church was a
foundation of repentance and faith. The unbeliever
must repent; have a change of mind, attitude, and
behavior toward Jesus Christ, by putting his trust
in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Repentance
is the complete turnabout in the unbelieving sinner
"from dead works." The apostle Paul said, "As sin
reigned in death, even so grace would reign through
righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ
our Lord" (Romans 5:21). "Therefore repent and
return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in
order that times of refreshing may come from the
presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). The author of
Hebrews will write later, "How much more will the
blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit
offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
(Hebrews 9:14) Repentance is not enough to bring a
person to God. Jesus said, "Therefore I said to you
that you will die in your sins; for unless you
believe that I am He, you will die in your sins"
What is to be turned from
are the "dead works" because they produce death.
"The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a). His every
sin is a dead work; it produces dead works because
he is unregenerate. Men's works are "dead in
trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5). They separate
man from a holy God. The Levitical sacrifices were
ineffective for dealing with sin. They foreshadowed
the perfect sacrifice for sin. "How much more will
the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit
offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
(Hebrews 9:14). "When you were dead in your
transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven
us all our transgressions" (Colossians 2:13).
"Faith toward God"
The Old Testament
covenants were based on faith in God (Gen. 15:6;
Hab. 2:4). If repentance is the negative, turning
from sin and unbelief, then faith is the positive
side. It is a 180 degree change. The early church
preached repentance of sin and faith focused on
Jesus Christ. They turned from their dead works to
faith toward God in Jesus Christ. Our author says,
"faith toward God" perhaps with his Jewish audience
in mind. However, he has already stressed that Jesus
is God (Heb. 1:1-3; 3:1-6). Faith in Christ is
a major theme in Hebrews, and the author will make a
powerful application in Hebrews 11. The only way to
enter into God's rest is by faith. "For indeed we
have had good news preached to us, just as they
also; but the word they heard did not profit them,
because it was not united by faith in those who
heard. For we who have believed enter that rest,
just as He has said, "As I swore in My wrath, 'They
shall not enter My rest,' although His works were
finished from the foundation of the world" (Hebrews
4:2-3). The word of promise must be mixed with faith
in order to appropriate it. The apostle Paul went
about "solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks
of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus
Christ" (Acts 20:21).
Repentance from dead
works must be accompanied by faith in Jesus Christ.
"The just shall live by faith" (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11;
Rom. 1:17 quotes Hab. 2:4, "But the righteous man
shall live by faith." A person must put their total
acceptance and absolute trust in Jesus Christ. We
depend upon Jesus Christ for time and eternity. I
repent of my sins and unbelief and place my trust in
Jesus Christ to save me for all eternity.
"For in it the
righteousness of God is revealed from faith to
faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man
shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:17). Faith is simply
the empty hand extended to receive Christ. The
apostle Paul wrote to some believers who were being
threatened by Judaizes who wanted them to go back to
the Law. He said, "nevertheless knowing that a man
is not justified by the works of the Law but through
faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in
Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith
in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by
the works of the Law no flesh will be justified"
(Galatians 2:16). Over and over again, the writers
of the New Testament stressed to their readers:
"faith which is in Christ Jesus." Faith in Christ is
faith toward God. Focus your faith on Jesus Christ.
It is not faith that saves you; it is Christ. Focus
on Christ and that will take care of your faith in
Him. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and
the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me"
(John 14:6). "There is salvation in no one else; for
there is no other name under heaven that has been
given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts
C. H. Spurgeon said, "All
the blessings of the gospel are connected with
faith, but it is faith that rests in Christ.
Justification, resurrection-life, the promises, the
placing of sons, salvation, etc., are all spoken of
as resting from faith which rests upon Christ. . .
The apostle is directing his readers to look away
from self to Christ, the Center, and the Sum of all
blessing. This is not merely 'faith toward God,' but
it is faith which comes to God by the way of the
mediation and merits of His Son."
This is not the term that
is regularly used for Christian baptism (baptisma)
in the New Testament. The author uses the plural
baptismos which refers to Jewish ceremonial washings
(Mark 7:4; Heb. 9:10). The use of the plural
stresses the Jewish instructions regarding ablutions
and cleansing rites (cf. Ezek. 36:25; Num. 19). The
Jews practiced baptism of proselytes.
These ablutions in
Judaism impressed upon the Jewish people that the
LORD God is a holy God and all sin and defilement
must be removed before the worshipper could approach
God. These washings foreshadowed that perfect
cleansing from sin that the atoning blood of Christ
would provide for His people (John 1:29). The
apostle Peter wrote, "knowing that you were not
redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold
from your futile way of life inherited from your
forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb
unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1
Peter 1:18-19). "You know that He appeared in order
to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin" (1
John 3:5). The Levitical washings only foreshadowed
that atoning sacrifice of Jesus because only His
blood can wash away our sins (Heb. 1:3; 9:24, 22,
24-28; 13:20; 1 John 1:6-7). There is no other
It is very doubtful that
Christian baptism is in view here. The plural
expresses a distinction between all kinds of
religious washings and true Christian baptism.
"Laying on of hands"
This was part of the
sacrificial ritual in offering sacrifices (Lev.
1:4). An essential element in the Day of Atonement
ritual was laying on of the hands by the High
Priest. "Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on
the head of the live goat, and confess over it all
the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their
transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he
shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it
away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who
stands in readiness" (Leviticus 16:21). I am
convinced this is the reference to which the author
of Hebrews is referring. It is the identification of
the sinner with the substitutionary sacrifice that
"The resurrection of
The resurrection of the
dead was a doctrine of the Jews (Psa. 16:10; Isa.
26:19; Ezek. 37:10; Dan. 12:2). Only the Sadducees
did not accept it (Acts 23:8). The Jewish people
worshipped the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob, implying they were all living (Mark
12:26-27; Luke 20:37-38). Martha expressed this
common belief to Jesus when she said to Him, "I know
that he will rise again in the resurrection on the
last day" (John 11:24).
resurrection of the dead is a core belief in
Christianity because Jesus is "the resurrection and
the life." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will
rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the
life; he who believes in Me will live even if he
dies" (John 11:24-25). The apostles testified to His
resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:10). "The God
of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to
death by hanging Him on a cross" (Acts 5:30). The
writer of Hebrews says, "Women received back their
dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not
accepting their release, so that they might obtain a
better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35).
The apostle Paul
declared, "But this I admit to you, that according
to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God
of our fathers, believing everything that is in
accordance with the Law and that is written in the
Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men
cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a
resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked"
(Acts 24:14-15). "For the Lord Himself will descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead
in Christ will rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The Jewish belief in the
resurrection was closely connected with their
doctrine of judgment. "For God will bring every act
to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it
is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
When we turn to
Revelation chapter 20 we find the full detail of
judgment before the Great White Throne. Hebrews 6:2
is the only verse in the New Testament that reads
"eternal judgment." That is not to imply the
doctrine is not taught in the New Testament, of
course. There is a day of judgment coming and
everyone must stand before the Lord God and give an
account to Him.
The message of the gospel
is that we must turn from trying to earn our
salvation by trusting in our own self-righteousness,
which is no righteousness, and receive by faith the
gift of righteousness in Christ. This is what
changes us from dead in trespasses and sins to a
regenerated living child of God.
The important question is
what did these practices mean to the first readers
of the book of Hebrews? These readers had for the
most part confessed their faith in Christ and had
forsaken the shadows and types for the Substance who
is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Persecutions had
come and their faith had waned. They were now
tempted to abandon their profession of faith and
return to Judaism. By so doing they would return to
the foundation which they had left behind.
Therefore, he encourages them to move on to maturity
or perfection, full growth in their Christian faith.
Put your trust in the all-cleansing, all-sufficient
blood of the Lamb of God who takes always all sin.
These are the ABC's. Don't go back to the ABC's;
build on them and go on to maturity.
Principles and Practical Applications
When you stop and take
spiritual inventory of your relationship with God,
do you see a pattern of change in your life? Have
you repented of dead works and put your faith in
Jesus Christ? Have you broken with your old life of
unbelief and trusted Christ? We have to turn away
from dead works that cannot save and place our faith
Yes, it is possible for a
person to participate in church where they
experience enlightened instruction in the Word of
God, see great worship services where people repent,
and where the Holy Spirit is at work in powerful
ways, but have never been born again, and have never
had a true, saving response to the Good News in
Jesus Christ. They can be quite emotional, and have
a great religious experience and never be
regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They are like land
that receives much rain but bears no good fruit.
They bear only thorns and thistles and weeds. They
may have participated outwardly in worship services,
and the blessings of Christian fellowship, but like
the seed that fell on rocky ground in the parable of
the sower, they have no spiritual roots. They fall
away; there is no life. They truly never had a
spiritual birth. They are still dead in trespasses
If a person continues to
neglect the work of the Holy Spirit in his life he
will demonstrate that he was only the subject of the
pre-evangelism work of the Holy Spirit and was never
regenerated. We know we have been born again because
of continuance in the word of Christ. If we love Him
we will obey Him. It is continuing in faith in
Christ that demonstrates that true mature spiritual
"The greater the sinner I
know myself to be, the greater my need of Christ,
and the more I am suited to Him, for He died for the
'ungodly' (Rom. 5:6)." A. W. Pink. Faith looks away
from self and self-righteousness and is occupied
entirely with Christ. Christ, not faith, is the
sinner's Savior. What have you done with Jesus
"If you confess with your
mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for
with the heart a person believes, resulting in
righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses,
resulting in salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). There is
no other way to be saved. That is your part. The
Holy Spirit will do His work in you.
6:1-3 Go on to Spiritual Maturity