Lesson 13: "Let Us Go On. . .This We Will Do" (Hebrews 6: 1,3)
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson #13, may I say, welcome again! Our text is at the beginning of Heb. ch. six. What our writer said (at the end of ch. 5) is perhaps the strongest rebuke in this whole book. It is only when you get this in the true context of the state of the church in the AD 60's in and around Jerusalem that this begins to bear down with real meaning and real insight for us. This writer struck at the very heart of their problems THEN and as we turn it around and project the same light of scrutiny upon ourselves 1900 years later, we find the writer has identified the very root of OUR problems also. AND, I don't think there's any question; but that the writer has stated the case in the extreme. I do not infer that there was not a single man or woman of faith and vision among those brethren in and around Jerusalem. Our writer is speaking from a general point of view, as we are sometimes prone to do and as we sometimes over do. Please keep in mind, this was/is written to members of the church. It was not an analysis of the general population then and we must not try to apply it to the general population now. This applies to the church. Now, I'm not talking about denominationalism, I'm talking about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We simply do not take it serious enough and we don't put enough effort into it. What is said here is given to us through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It is said in such a way that anyone can understand it. So, the next question comes or should come to our mind, what can we do about it? Cry about it? Give up? Throw in the towel? Start a new religion? Become an atheist? Well, you know I'm being facetious. But, what is the solution? Well, our writer put'er down in black and white. In v.1 of ch. 6, he said, "let us go on..." What does that mean? I suggest you underline that at least twice. This is what we must do, start from where you are. The apostle Paul gave this principle in I-Cor. 7:17 and in the verses that follow he repeated it about two or three times and even illustrated it a couple times. I would say it like this: Start from where you are. If you are going to take a trip, any place, i.e. arrive at a given location, you must first of all recognize where you are. Start from where you are. Heaven is our destination.
Now, if you were going to Washington D.C. in which direction would you start? Well, it depends on where you are. If you were in Florida, you would go north. If you were in New York City, you would go south. If you were in Kentucky, where I am, you would have to go east. You see, it depends upon where you are as to what you MUST DO to "GO ON" as the writer said. And if you are not doing it, you know where you are. If you are not a child of God, then you must first become a Child of God, you must obey first principles (hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus and be baptized). You see, you cannot travel in any direction until you first become a traveler, i.e. a pilgrim citizen of Christ's kingdom, spiritually speaking. You can't travel in any direction until you get that spiritual visa. Now, if you have obeyed first principles and you understand where you are, then you need to get on your way. If you have not been studying, then start from there. If you are not attending the worship assembly and not taking the Lord's Supper as prescribed in the book; then start from there...do that. If you are not fellowshipping, you are not edifying yourself every day, if you are not participating in the evangelizing of others, if you are not giving as you should and as you have been prospered; then, start from that direction. Now, if you have not obeyed first principles (as mentioned back in 5:12); then of course, you must start there. You know where you are! Don't you? You see any journey begins with the first step in the right direction. To be a legal traveler, i.e. on the trip to heaven, spiritually speaking, you must have obeyed first principles. Any one who tries to do it another way is a thief and a robber and will be dealt with as such. Jesus said (in John 10:1), "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, is a thief and a robber." Jesus there used the figure of a "sheepfold" to represent the church. For a sheep to be in a sheepfold, they must be put there by the shepherd. Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). In like manner, the Lord adds us to the church (Acts 2:47). Who does he add? Well, study Acts ch. 2, it's those who believe and are baptized. Check it out. If you have obeyed first principles, then you are in the church; because, Jesus adds those who obey him to his church. The church is the saved (Acts 2:47). When you rise out of that watery grave of baptism (Rom. 6:4), you are in the church. One is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27) and Christ is the "Door" of the sheepfold (John 10:9). There is one Door, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Now, if you have done that even 100 years ago, you'll still not get to heaven as long as you stand at the door of first principles. That's what our writer is saying to those Christians in and around Jerusalem. So, what must they do? What must we do? "Let us go on..." Go on where? "unto perfection" (6:1). Now, you will never reach perfection in this life. But, you must start in that direction. You can't stand at the door for ever. "Let us go on..." Do you see the writer's thesis? Get as close to perfection as you can. YOU must do that. Now, if YOU do that (i.e. faithfully work at it); then, in the resurrection and in the judgment, Jesus will make up for what you lack, and believe me, all of us have same lacks. Jesus is our Master. WE are His servants. "To his own master [a servant] standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:4). However, that same God has conveyed a message to us by his Son, Jesus the Christ. And, that, message reads: "not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21). So, our writer is not just spinning his wheels. There is a real life-and-death message here. Let's read it! We're going to read Heb. 6:1-3, have you got it? Let's read! "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit."
O.K., back up and let's re-do it! Chapter 6 begins with that big word, "therefore." In other words, in going back to that which has been said, here is the conclusion. What has been said? Some need to be taught again the first principles. Some have forgotten why they were purged from their sins (end of ch. 5). Now, what's the conclusion? Leaving first principles of the doctrine of Christ, "let us go on unto perfection." Our text does not say, "first principles" here in v.1 (KJV); however, I believe that is the implication. Most other translations say either "first principles" here, as the ASV uses, or they express that thought in some way. Obviously, the writer is not saying just leave everything. He is saying we must not work on the foundation for ever. If you are going to build, i.e. build a building (a figure that is used over and over in the N.T.), then the first step is to lay the foundation. Everything is predicated upon the foundation. If the foundation is not solid, the building will not hold. It's just that simple. Take the time to lay a good foundation. Jesus used this illustration (in Matt. 7:24-27). However, a building would never be built, if the builder spent for ever on the foundation. So we must be practical. Now, we must not forget the foundation is there; but, there comes a time when we must go on and start work on the superstructure (so-to-speak), start laying some sills, some subflooring, putting in some walls and going on up to the roof. The writer says, "this we will do, if God permit." That's like saying,
if the Lord wills (do you remember James 4:15?) and if the Lord will give time enough. Thus, it's imperative that we start now; because, we know we are not going to live for ever and the Lord has not promised an endless period of time...not in this life. So, we need to get started NOW. It can't be done yesterday and tomorrow may never come. So, that leaves when? ...today! Right now! Today is the day of salvation (II-Cor. 6:2). This is the appointed time for me. I must do it now. Most excuses start out, JUST AS SOON AS. Have you heard that? Lord just as soon as, I get new false teeth. Lord just as soon as, I buy the kids a new wardrobe. Lord just as soon as we get a new car, we're going to start going to church and Sunday School every Sunday. Have you heard that? Lord, just as soon as I make my first million, I'm going to start obeying. That is foolishness. You know it and I know it. It's just like saying, tomorrow never comes. Oh, it might; but, you can't depend on it.
Now, if you haven't laid the foundation of first principles, start now. If you have laid the foundation and you are now on vacation, get back to it and start building. Your building will never get built if you just lay the foundation over and over. Look at those words close! Our writer says (v.1): "not laying AGAIN the foundation of repentance." If your foundation is solid, then start building.
O.K., now notice, the foundation mentioned here (v.1) is "of repentance from dead works, and [#2] of faith toward God, [#3] of the doctrines of baptisms, and [tt4] of laying on of hands, and [#5] of the resurrection of the dead, and [#6] eternal judgment." Several blocks in this foundation. Now, please notice, these are all part of the foundation. Let's inspect that foundation again before we start building. What is "repentance from dead works?" And what is "faith toward God?" Alright, one must hear about Jesus and one must have faith in Jesus to repent. It would seem at first, that the writer has these two foundation items backward; because, you can't repent from dead works until you believe in Jesus or have faith (same thing). However, our faith does not stop when we initially believe in Jesus. Faith comes by degrees. Our faith grows even after we repent. And obviously, it's that growing faith, maturity in faith that the writer is talking about (here). His emphasis is upon that "let us go on..." principle. Do you remember Peter's list, "add to your faith" (II-Pet. 1:5)? Then, before we move on, take another squint at that block in the foundation that our writer terms: "repentance from dead works." What's that? Well first of all, what are "dead works?" Well;, dead works are dead, those works don't have to do with life. Isn't that reasonable? So, I think it is fair to conclude, that some works lead to life and some works are already dead. You see, when we repent we change our mind, we decide to change our course, we decide to take another route. Do you remember the parable of the Two Sons? (Matt. 21:28). "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went." This young man repented and went. What did this young man do? He changed his mind. He changed from rebellion to obedience. Thus, "repentance from dead works," simply means for one to change their mind and decide to turn from the works that lead to death (i.e. that will ultimately cause them to be lost) and change to a new course that leads to life. Have you got it?
Then #3 in our list is "the doctrine of baptisms." So, what's the doctrine of baptisms? You noticed, I trust, the word "baptisms" is plural. This word "baptism" is used about a half dozen different ways in the New Testament. At first came the baptism of John the Baptist. John's baptism served its purpose. John's baptism is no longer in effect...if you remember the first few verses in Acts ch. 19? Then, next, there was the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16). It took a special baptism for Jesus. Our Lord had no sins. We talked about this in Heb. 4:15, only a couple lessons back. Then, what about great commission baptism, i.e. baptism for the remission of sins? That's the baptism Peter preached first on pentecost. That's the baptism that Paul was discussing with the Romans (in Rom. ch. 6). This is the baptism that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:27). This is the only baptism still in force today (Eph. 4:5). Now, we have discussed how many? Three I guess! There are still three or four more. Oh! Yes. The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts ch. 2). Then the word is used in a figurative sense a time or two, e.g. in I-Cor. ch. 10, where the Israelites are said to have been baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Another place Jesus applied this word to one overwhelmed with sorrow, or this is sometimes termed the baptism of suffering (as in Mark 10:38-39-40). How many is that? Six or seven? Perhaps there's another one I'm over looking. However, the point is: there are several baptisms mentioned in the N.T. and this is undoubtedly the meaning of the phrase, "doctrine of baptisms^." You see, a new convert needs to know this. It's part of our basic understandings as a Christian.
Then [#4] in our list is the "doctrine... of laying on of hands." This especially has to do with the way the word came down to us before revelation was complete. [tt5] We have "of the resurrection of the dead." New converts must understand that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, its part of the gospel. And, new converts need to understand that Christ is coming again and there is going to be a general resurrection of the dead. Without this understanding, Christianity wouldn't be very exciting, very meaningful or very weighty. Then finally [#6] there is the doctrine "of eternal judgment." Not everyone is going to heaven. There's going to be a screening after death. Jesus will be the Judge (John 5:22). Then, Matt. 25:46 says, the unrighteous "shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into' life eternal." You see, here is the great forewarning, the final straw of great significance. Thus, the HEBREWS writer terms these things first principles (Heb. 5:12). However, you can understand all these basic principles of doctrine and give mental assent and still never serve the Lord a day in your life. Jesus said, "not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." In this lies the thesis of our writer, "let us go on unto perfection." As necessary as first principles are, this is part of the foundation. The foundation is the starting place, it's not the destination. Oh, the foundation is very important. You cannot come from a place where you have never been. Thus, you cannot arrive in heaven without starting from these necessary foundation blocks, here termed: first principles. We go on to spiritual maturity from there. Those in and around Jerusalem were falling short. How do YOU measure up? How do I measure up? Do you have your senses exercised to discern both good and evil? Are you going on unto perfection? I'll be with you in lesson # 14. Until then, go on, have a good day.