Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
Imagine having to teach a class of students the alphabet or the multiplication table every year because they are not able to go beyond these lessons. The teacher expects the students to make progress so that more things can be taught. The author, having confronted his readers about their lack of spiritual growth and maturity, now spells out (″therefore″, Hebrews 6:1) the basics beyond which they should be going, if they are to mature as Christians. This ″basic Christianity″ list has six items that can be divided into two sections.
The first section includes ″repentance from acts that lead to death″ and ″faith in God″ (Hebrews 6:1). These truths are how one becomes a Christian. Christ and His apostles' initial preaching reflected this when they urged, ″Repent and believe″ (Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19; 20:21). The phrase ″acts that lead to death″ refers to ″useless rituals″ (see footnote in Hebrews 6:1 NIV); the ″lifeless moral code″ is Judaism without Christ.22 Repentance must be accompanied by faith in Christ, a turning to Him for salvation (see 1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is how one begins his Christian journey. But there is more to it than that.
The second section has four items: two to do with the beginning of the Christian life and two with its end on earth. ″Baptisms″ (see footnote in Hebrews 6:2 NIV), probably refers to teachings on ablutions or washings.23 Baptism is how we are initiated into the faith and incorporated into the church, the body of Christ. Jesus commanded His disciples to make other disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) by baptising them (and then teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded). The laying on of hands was practised on a few occasions in the early church for imparting the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17)-a practice still done at baptism in some denominations, for healing (Acts 28:8; Mark 16:18), and for ordaining or commissioning (Acts 6:6; 13:3). The next two items have to do with the end of the Christian journey on earth. The resurrection of the body is a basic Christian belief without which our ministry and faith are futile (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). The doctrine of ″eternal judgment″ (Hebrews 6:3) is also essential for us to know that God will address all injustices and will bring in a new heaven and earth. These are all basic doctrines which are not to be discarded, but to be the foundation on which other Christian teachings can be built.
22R. V. Tasker, quoted in Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, 69.
23Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, 114.
Review the six items in the ″Basic Christianity″ list. What can you say about each? Why are they considered ″elementary teachings″ (Hebrews 6:1)?
What is the difference between discarding the elementary teachings and using them as a foundation to build further? Can you think of examples of heretical teachings and mature Christian teachings? How would we know the difference?