1“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
2 with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
3 And this we will do if God permits.” Hebrews 6:1-3
These verses are the introduction to one of the great warning passages of Scripture, but we will leave those verses for another posting at a later time. What I find fascinating about these first three verses of Hebrews 6 is the writer of Hebrews view of what consists of the elementary doctrines of Christianity.
The writer is calling for us to move on into maturity in our faith and leave the elementary doctrines of Christ. One of these more mature teachings is about what happens if we fall away from Christ and that is the central message of the great warning passage that follows verses 1 through 3.
We are in no means being told to abandon these elementary teachings as if they were pap for children and we now need adult food. He is simply saying these things should be so ingrained in your hearts and minds that you can now move on to grasp the implications of the Gospel for your life.
The hearers of Hebrews are to build on the themes of repentance, faith, resurrection, and eternal judgment in the light of Jesus being our great high Priest. This is what it means to be mature in the faith.
A better translation of the phrase “and go on to maturity” is “Let us be taken forward to maturity.” Peter O’Brien in his wonderful commentary on Hebrews points out, “The passive voice (be taken forward) draws attention to the need for personal surrender to God’s active influence within the community, rather than one’s own striving for a goal. The end in view is not ‘perfection’ in contrast to sin, but the maturity of ‘insight and commitment’ that the author seeks to inculcate in his listeners, which stands over against the immaturity and infancy described in 5:11-14.” The Letter to the Hebrews p. 212
We are now given the six foundation truths of the Christian Church. Again we need to remember our preacher (writer) of Hebrews wants them to move beyond the basics but this involves building upon them not replacing them. The sequence of these six truths, repentance, faith towards God, ablutions, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment, lead us from repentance to the judgment in an orderly fashion.
Conversion consists of turning away from sin, repentance and turning towards God through faith. This is the foundational principle that constitutes our relationship with God. But, what are these dead works that repentance leads us away from? In Hebrews 9:14 we read, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
While Hebrews 6:1 says “repentance from dead works,” Hebrews 9:14 reminds us that it is the blood of Christ who purified our, “conscience from dead works.” O’Brien points out, “In Hebrews where the term has strong religious overtones, the ‘conscience’ has a divine orientation and describes the whole person in relation to God (9:9, 14; 10:2, 22; 13:18).” The Letter to the Hebrews p. 324
He goes on to state concerning these dead works, “Rather, they are the practices and attitudes that belong to the way of death, that defile a person’s conscience, erect a barrier between him or her and God, and incur divine judgment.” The Letter to the Hebrews p. 325
Now this is important, because what the author of Hebrews is saying is that when the blood of Christ confronts us we have a change of heart. The conscience is pricked and the old way of thinking, living, and acting are replaced with the knowledge (experience) of entering into a saving relationship with Jesus. This gives us assurance and calms the soul. We no longer have to be afraid of life because we can now embrace it with the full assurance of redemption and a wonderful future.
As Christians we don’t have to go over and over the experience of hoping that we are free of condemnation. Our consciences are free because we know that we are saved by the grace of God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus our substitute. We are not enslaved to the taskmaster of our conscience that drags up every sin from our past and makes us doubt whether we are worthy of salvation. Instead we can rest assured that even though we will never be worthy of redemption we are redeemed all the same because we are loved beyond measure and Jesus provided the way home.
This should be fundamental to our understanding of Christianity, but for so many Christians it isn’t. They believe that they can never be good enough; they are too sinful, too far away from God for Him to ever love them. They believe they have passed the point of no return so they give up defeated and beaten by a conscience that condemns and discourages. But that is not the gospel.
Jesus loves me when I’m good and He loves me when I’m bad. He cries out to me from the cross “of course you’re not good enough, but that is the point of what I am doing here. I love you, I’m head-over-heels in love with you and I want you back.” The difference between a redeemed person and a lost person is grace. The lost rejects God’s love while the redeemed rejoice in it.
All the things that come between God and us are dead works. The idols we make for ourselves, the fears that paralyze us from trusting Jesus, the feelings of inadequacy and despair all crush down our longing to believe. Brennan Manning, I believe, is right when he says that God only has one question to ask you—do you believe that I love you? Do you? Everything else is dead works, all our church serving, attendance, Bible study, prayer, mission trips, good deeds, feeding the poor, and helping old ladies across the street. We can do all these things and not believe Jesus loves us unconditionally.
I’ll tell you what God wants from you. He wants to be able to see you afar way off and come running to you and throw His cloak of love, righteousness, grace, and peace over you. He wants to hug you and never let you go. He longs to invite you in to sup with Him and enter into communion with Him. He longs to throw a banquet on your behalf and invite the angels of Heaven to the party in your honor. He hangs on a cross and sheds His life-blood through the wounds in his hands, feet, side, and head so that you can never experience that separation He felt that day from the Father’s love. How can this be?
God is love. Yes the basic teaching of the Christian church is that dead works are nothing in light of the awesome grace of our salvation. When we hang on to these works we belittle Jesus, His sacrifice, the Gospel, the Scriptures, The Father, the work of the Spirit and throw away the joy of our heart. Repent from believing that God doesn’t love you with everything He has and have faith in His love for you.
So what is the maturity we are to go on to? It is our trust in Jesus in spite of our failures, set backs, discouragements, and sins. It is saying unto Jesus that I will trust you in the storms, in the pain and through the troubles of life and regardless of what comes my way I will continue to believe you love me unconditionally.
That is the maturity that saves us from falling away, which is the topic of the warning that follows Verses 1-3. To fall away from God is to reject His love and wander back to the failed works of our past with all its idols, fears, and tears.
Our God is big. Our God is good. Our God is love. Our God is compassion. Our God loves us with all He is. Our God loves us madly!
A clip from a movie about Rich Mullin’s life called Ragamuffin
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…