Agonizomai: Heb 6:1-3 - Christ - The Only Way

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Heb 6:1-3 - Christ - The Only Way

Heb 6:1-3 - Christ - The Only Way

Heb 6:1-3 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 and of instruction about washings, {Or baptisms (that is, cleansing rites)} the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

Because greater learning/understanding/practice/maturity are the duty of all believers, we ought to earnestly study what God has said. We can’t keep on going back to the beliefs and practices from which the gospel of Jesus Christ has made us free. But if we fail to grow and to abound in grace - if we neglect the graces of study and prayer then, amazing as it may first seem, we are capable of sliding back into old beliefs and the old practices, and lifestyles in which they resulted. Fruit springs only from abiding in the vine. {John 15:1-5} Abiding in the vine is a lot more than having the mindset that once you are "saved" you are "in," and can consequently neglect your salvation. You may, by this, discover that you never really had it to begin with.

The Apostle Peter is careful to make this clear when he speaks of Christian growth - by which he means through abiding in Christ {2Pe 1:1-10}, and where he says that if we have the virtues that grace can supply, and they are increasing, they will keep us from being unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (By knowledge is meant not just head knowledge, but that sort of intimate knowledge that springs from a growing relationship). Note the need for movement. Movement is a sign of life; growth is a sign of life; progress in maturing is a sign of life. These things are not accomplished merely by knowing facts - but neither are they accomplished absent the knowledge of the facts. To know Christ requires a continual effort to understand what he has revealed about himself. This is contained in the Bible. The Bible is the A to Z of God’s purposes in redemption for the glory of his Name in Jesus Christ.

It is true that the Bible is not the Living Word to us apart from the illuminating grace that the Holy Spirit of God provides to every believer. But it is also true that the Holy Spirit works to reveal Christ not by mystical visions and impressions, but through the inerrant and sufficient Word.

Crude epithets like "use it or lose it" do have some bearing on the question of the need for every believer to be growing in grace and in the knowledge of his Lord and Saviour. However, such sayings can, by themselves, be symptomatic of a mindset that just wants to sum everything up in a word, without bothering to delve seriously into the matter. The scripture is a much better speaker on the subject, and Paul (by the Spirit) laid out to the Corinthians long ago the need for every believer to look at his own heart’s condition, from time to time. {2Co 13:5}

It is a paradox that Christians have entered into God’s rest, and that they rest in the finished work of Christ - and yet unless they strive to be entering in a the narrow gate and to be found in the narrow way all the days of their lives, they may run in vain. But it is never an attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are accepted in the Beloved. It is a struggle to believe that we are accepted unconditionally, despite our own failures, and despite the trials of living in a fallen world, or coming under the chastening hand of God. It is through believing to the very end that all things are working together for our good, because we belong not to ourselves, but to our Redeemer, who bought us with his blood and delivered us from the wrath of God. Our citizenship (commonwealth) is in heaven and from it we look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. {Php 3:20} God for us? Who against?" is the heartfelt underlying, moving, motivating, energizing reality of the faith God works in us.

The writer to the Hebrews considers that, if the hearers were doing it right, they would be looking heavenward at, and for, Christ who is the ne plus ultra of existence. They ought to have learned and held onto this. They ought to have thoroughly assimilated the doctrine of "repentance from dead works" - by which is meant the absolute bankruptcy and ineffectualness of human self-justification before God through religious ritual and observances. When and if they accepted Christ, then they repented of this sort of religion.

In repenting of dead works as a means of justification, they ought to have accepted that faith towards God was the true way. Similarly, cleanliness was a matter of the new heart given by God, and not of the outside of the mortal body, which would pass away and be replaced one day. Dead works and external ritual cleansing were both a part of the old Judaism (and every other religion) which, while figures of the spiritual nature of redemption and life in Christ, were of no avail of themselves. They were not to be relied upon, but the Person Whom they prefigured.

Also, in Judaism there existed a number of sects - the errors of both of which Jesus confronted and admonished during his incarnation. The Pharisaical aspects of ritual religion we have dealt with here - but there were also the Sadducees. That particular flavour of Judaism was the humanist branch. To them, there was no resurrection and, therefore no judgement of the dead.

But all these errors are, in principle, immediately settled once the work and the authority of Jesus Christ are established in the heart and mind of the believer. Conversion is conversion - it means there is a sea change in outlook originating from regeneration. The holy seed is planted and it springs forth to everlasting life in Christ. The sheep hear his voice and he calls them by name. We know that the whole reason for the advent was so that we could have everlasting life in Him {John 3:16} and avoid the universal condemnation of all who do not receive Christ, at the certain and coming judgement, when unbelievers will be cast eternally into the lake of fire, and thenceforth suffer everlasting torment.

Every spiritual babe knows John 3:16 and the simple truth contained in it. All should know the truth regarding condemnation which is found in the same context (John 3:17-18). These truths are the milk of the gospel. If they are truly the foundation of our understanding and belief then we not only must, but will be able to press onward and upward into Christ. But if there are uncertainties, doubts, reservations, second thoughts - about these things, then all future building may be on perilous and unstable sand.

The writer is exhorting the Hebrews to remember and to grow in the truth. If indeed they have truly been born again, then they ought to move past the milk and on towards the maturity of knowing and abiding in Christ in any and all circumstances.

But note the deference shown by the writer to the purposes of God. Nothing - not even Christian growth - can occur unless God Himself permits it. Is this just a figure of speech? Is it a ritual tip of the hat - a superstitious crossing of the heart - a touching of wood? Or are the writer, the Holy Spirit and the Bible serious when they lay all events at God’s feet and acknowledge His sovereignty?

In the final analysis, salvation is a work of God from start to finish. This is the truth that the Hebrews ought to have moved into, instead of being tempted to go back to the self-justification of dead works. There is no salvation with which any measure of human contribution, however small, can be acceptably mixed. In Christ God once for all emphatically provides salvation, and the faith to believe it, to those who come to believe and who, through trust in Him, endure on account of that belief, to the end.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so comforting to see the sovereignty of God in our lives. No matter what is going on, we can trust that He has orchestrated it for our growth. It's not always pleasant, but we can trust Him and not be afraid. Glory to God in the highest!

7:08 pm  

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