Sunday, 21 October 2018
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, Hebrews 6:1
The word, “Therefore,” begins Chapter 6, asking the reader to consider what was just presented. In verses 5:12, 13 concerning “the first principles of the oracles of God,” he noted that his audience ought to be teachers by now, and yet, they remained “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” They had so far devolved in their thinking that they had abandoned the concept of salvation by grace through faith. They had shunned the truth that this had replaced works of the law, and they had fallen back on observances which only shadowed the coming work of Christ. Now he implores them to get back on the right page and to move ahead in Christ. And so he next says, “leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ.”
The Greek says, “the word of the beginning.” It is not the same word used in verse 5:12, translated as “first principles.” What he is doing is saying that the “first principles” of 5:12 were the replacement of the law with that of a New Covenant built on faith-based righteousness. The law was a mere shadow pointing to Christ. Contained within this New Covenant are teachings that came right at the beginning which anyone should immediately learn concerning this new faith. He calls these “the word of the beginning.” With this understanding, he then goes on to name what this involves by first stating, “let us go on to perfection.” The word signifies “completeness,” as if arriving at the end of a thing. It includes the idea of either moral or mental attainment of a thing.
What he is doing is preparing his reader for understanding the end goal of doctrine concerning faith-based righteousness in Christ. Now, in order to accomplish this, he names the basic doctrines within that system. These are the early truths of the faith, which should come along with faith (which is that upon which all else rests). But he will only name them, not go through any explanation of them. Because they come along with early faith, they are almost a part of it. Anyone who has believed should know them. When he says, “not laying again the foundation,” he is speaking of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.
The thought then is that, in verse 5:12, he mentioned the “first principles” of the oracles of God. These are those principles which speak of the understanding of the righteousness which comes by faith in Christ. When that is understood and accepted, there are certain doctrines associated with that foundational faith. These will now be listed, but not explained. What would be the point? Now that he has reintroduced to them the purpose of the “first principles of the oracles of God,” they should also remember these other doctrines which follow immediately along with that faith.
And so he says first, “of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” This is the sum of the “first principles of the oracles of God” mentioned in 5:12. The “dead works” are works of the law which can never save. The “faith toward God” is the understanding that if works cannot save, then faith in Christ to come (and who has, indeed, come) is how righteousness is attained.
Again, the clause, “of the repentance from dead works and faith toward God,” is not a part of the list found in the next verse. Rather, it is the sum thought of the “first principles of the oracles of God.” Along with that faith then come the rudimentary doctrines which any should know and understand.
Life application: Verse 6:1 is a bit confusing, and scholars tend to mix “the first principles of the oracles of God” of verse 5:12 with the “elementary principles of Christ” together as if they are speaking of the same thing. Once it is understood that they are different things, the author’s intent clears up. In the end, the important thing is to understand that a person is not saved – in any way, shape, or form – by works of the law. They are saved by grace through faith. That is the foundation. From there we begin to grow (hopefully) in doctrine until we come to the consummation of knowledge concerning the magnitude of what God has done for us in the Person and work of Christ.
Lord Jesus – Your word implores us to move on from basic teachings to those things which are deeper and which lead us to a fuller understanding of You, Your plan for us, and the glory displayed in this plan. Give us wisdom to use our time rightly so that we will have our priorities properly laid out in order to achieve this goal. Thank You for Your guidance in this petition. Amen.