The discussion they were having centered on Hebrews 6:1-3, and it is, I believe, a much over-looked passage. Yet it is vital to a Christian’s life, and I daresay, most of our churches don’t teach of its significance and the part it plays in a Believer’s growth and maturity. So, let’s dive right in, shall we? Scripture says, “Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ, the Messiah, advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belongs to spiritual maturity. Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works, and of the faith [by which you turned to God, with teachings about purifying [washings], the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago. If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advanced teaching]”.
I want to stop there, and avoid the oft-disputed verses that follow and have become a breeding ground for theological conflict between Calvinists and Arminians as to whether one can lose their salvation. So, I want to stay focused on the importance of these three beginning verses.
First of all, were you even aware that Christ had a “doctrine”? And did you know the substance of it? The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that there is such a doctrine, and practicing it is the elementary stage of our salvation process. Secondly, did you notice the six precepts of Christ’s doctrine? They are 1) repentance from dead works; 2) faith in God; 3) the purification by washing; 4) the laying on of hands; 5) resurrection from the dead; and 6) eternal judgment and punishment.
Before we examine each of these and see if we, as the Western Church, understand them fully and have accomplished them, perhaps we need to take a look at what the purpose of a doctrine actually is. It is my understanding that a doctrine is to set forth a body of teachings according to a specific plan or system. In this case, Christ has declared that these six precepts are the foundation of reaching a goal of spiritual maturity in Him. Not only are they the introductory stage of our salvation process, but they are to be accomplished in this order before we can go on to “advanced teaching”.
Have you ever had this explained to you in your Church? I certainly never did, but as I have stepped outside the “box” and let the Holy Spirit lead me, I am seeing these elements of Christ's doctrine in new and stronger terms. They are no longer the watered down versions that 2,000 years of man’s manipulative interpretation has wrought! And I will tell you, that I am humbled by my lack of understanding and I will never again regard them in anything less than the holy reverence they deserve.
Why has this new discovery [for me, at least] moved me so much? It is because I now see the power of God in each of these doctrinal precepts that Jesus laid down as our foundation. They are more than rituals to be marked off our Christian checklist. They are life to a new Believer and should propel us to greater heights in our Christian walk. And here is why … true repentance should bring us to our knees, weeping for the offences we have rendered against our holy God. When we realize how easily we commit the works of our flesh that bring us spiritual death, just saying “I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again” is not enough. When we can see that, without true repentance, Anger can lead us to Unforgiveness, and Bitterness easily turns to Rage, we see how easily a shallow repentance keeps us in bondage to those spirits that separate us from a holy and righteous life. That’s what Jesus has called us to. It’s unacceptable to God that we simply “try” to live a righteous life, thinking that He knows we’re human and He expects us to slip up now and then. No! A real, life-changing repentance is required to take the next step.
If you can accomplish a soul-searching, heart-searing repentance, then you can fully appreciate faith in God. You know what it is to trust Him -- truly trust Him! -- because you know it is only by His power that you can turn away from that sin you just repented for. You can believe in His promises, and can count on His faithfulness to you. To live the life that Christ has called us to, it is necessary to have faith in God. If we claim we trust Him and His power to render us born again, yet continue to sin, then we are being hypocritical, because God is holy. And if we try to turn away from sin on our own, without trusting Him, then we either fail or become puffed up in pride. Real faith is an essential part of the foundation of our spiritual journey.
The concept of "purification by washing" encompasses several things, and it is by the power of God that they are all accomplished. First, we understand that baptismal immersion is the initial purification, or cleansing, when one comes to faith. We are washed of our sins; dying to self and rising to Christ, receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Then with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we receive the power to carry out the Great Commission -- healing, casting out demons, raising the dead. But we are also cleansed "with the washing of water by the Word." The Word of God contains power to cleanse our minds and our hearts. And working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, the Word cleanses us with a purifying fire that results in a new nature, ready to grow in spiritual maturity.
The laying on of hands exemplifies both the power of God to heal through us and our touch, and the power He gives to those who have been prayed for and elected to serve Him in the administration of His Kingdom. And one cannot consider the resurrection of the dead without seeing the power of God in that act. A Believer's life becomes pointless without that reality. If there is no resurrection, then there is no point in living an obedient life. And the very power that raises one from the dead lives in us, and gives us the ability to defeat the Enemy. Finally, the resurrection shows us that God is just, and there is an eternal reward for living a righteous and holy life; and there is eternal punishment for rejecting the life God offers.
In the end, it is the power of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes all of these fundamental principles possible. And the writer of Hebrews says that these are the "elementary" stages in the teachings of Christ's doctrines. In other words, they are the basic, introductory steps in pursing the process of salvation. He says let us not have to continually return to this "milk" that all Believer's should have consumed by now. It's time to move on to the "advanced" phases of Christ's doctrine, which would be His high priesthood and His sacrifice.
Believer's should understand the power of God in His Kingdom on earth and be approaching the completeness and perfection of walking in the image of Christ. But how many Christians today truly understand those elementary steps? How many understand the display of God's power in repentance? In baptism? How His power can manifest through our faith? Or that He wants to see His power displayed in us raising the dead? And how many truly understand the power that will be evident in His wrath on Judgment Day? These might have been basic steps for Baby Christians in the days of the writer of Hebrews, but I'm afraid we might not past the writer's test today. When it comes to the state of our spiritual maturity, I'm afraid we're a long way off from complete and perfect.
Ephesians 1:19 "and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength"