We just wrapped up a series of posts on foundational doctrines of Christianity (click here to start from the beginning). In Hebrews 6, the writer lists “repentance from dead works,” “faith toward God,” “the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” as elementary principles of the doctrines of Christ.
The writer of Hebrews led-in to this list by telling his readers it was time to move forward, so it seems fitting that we now ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” First, though, let’s take a look at the warning that comes right after the list of doctrines.
Danger of Rejecting Christ
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Heb. 6:4-6)
The description of those who were enlightened refers to people who understood and accepted the foundational “principles of Christ.” Those who’ve repented and turned to God in faith have been enlightened, and tasted the gift of God’s grace. When we commit to Him in baptism and receive the laying on of hands, we’re made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Tasting the good word of God includes all the doctrines, and the doctrines of resurrection and eternal judgement relate to the “powers of the age to come.”
Those who know and understand these elements of faith, and then willfully carry on sinning are in grave danger. Jesus asked His Father to forgive His murderers, “for they know not what they do,” yet if we Christians reject Him now it’s like we’re there shouting “crucify Him” while knowing full-well that He’s the promised Messiah. Ignorance is no excuse any more.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29)
That’s how serious God takes our reception of the foundational doctrines. Every one of them is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, and to stop keeping His word is to stop respecting Him. These passages are scary, and they’re supposed to be — a good teacher warns students of what will happen if they reject his teachings. If you’re in a chemistry lab and your teacher says not to mix two chemicals together because they will explode, you can choose whether or not to follow their advice but it won’t change the outcome. Believing and trusting will keep you safe, rejecting the laws will endanger you.
Grow Toward Salvation
Hebrews 6 doesn’t just leave us on this somber warning. God always provides a reason for hope — a “life” alternative to choosing “death.” As this particular passage continues, the writer is downright encouraging.
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb. 6:9-12)
Even those with a good reason for hope benefit from warnings. They also benefit from encouragement to keep doing “things that accompany salvation.” These include agape love, diligent service, faithfulness and patience — things that demonstrate we’re following the doctrines of Christ and learning to walk in His ways.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:12-14)
This is what we’ve been building up to — having a sturdy foundation so that we can help others. The writer of Hebrews said all the mature Christians “ought to be teachers.” We’re not supposed to just kick-back and relax, assured that the ministry will take care of all that. God expects every one of us to be able to teach others what He is teaching us. We need to become skilled “in the word of righteousness” and exercise mature discernment. God wants us actively involved in our own salvation (Phil. 2:12-13), and also in helping others toward salvation.
Deep Things of God
A complete list of truths God teaches to mature Christians are outside the scope of this blog post — or indeed all the blog posts I could ever write. But we can get a glimpse of their endless depth in the scriptures that talk about God’s mysteries.
I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col. 1:25-28)
Foundational truths are included in the mystery — for they are not revealed to the whole world — but “Christ in you” is a much deeper subject. Let’s take a moment and do as instructed in Hebrews 3 and “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” He’s the Foundation we build on, the Master Builder who guides our growth, the Teacher who gives us building materials, the Messiah who makes our path toward eternal life possible.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)
Jesus Christ is “simple” enough to be grasped by the smallest child (2 Cor. 11:3), and yet His mysteries are deep enough to fascinate Christians over our whole lives. Everything we study hinges on Christ, for God the Father has made Him the agent of creation (Heb. 2:10; Rev. 3:14), our Salvation (Acts 4:12), and the all-powerful head of the church (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22). We can study Him and our Father forever and still not learn all there is to know.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33)
We will never run-out of things to learn from God. We can never be so hungry for His word that He can’t fill us. So long as we are seeking Him and walking in His ways, He will keep growing us toward perfection and equipping us to teach others. I can’t think of a better resolution for this new year on the Gregorian calendar than growing to appreciate the deep things of God.