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. [6:1]Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.
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.
The verses from 5:11-6:20 aren’t really a development of the author’s line of thought, which deals with the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the Aaronic priesthood. They are a result of the difficulty the author felt in trying to communicate with his readers, who were perhaps developing incorrect views of Christ and who were thus in danger in going back to the familiar and beloved OT ritual. Perhaps persecution was also beginning to arise. So he turns from his line of thought about priesthood and writes about what they needed to do to correct some difficulties in their beliefs and behavior – and to continue his warning to them.
The title from the post comes from v. 14, where the writer mentions “exercise.” He wasn’t referring to physical exercise, but to that exercise of the mind and heart which distinguishes both good and evil (emphasis added). Not everything that looks good in this world is good; evil usually comes attractively packaged.
His readers should have advanced to the point where they could explain to others the basics of the Christian faith. They had not, but themselves needed to be reminded of these truths. However, they weren’t supposed to stay there, but were to advance to maturity and understanding.
But the writer doesn’t merely “point the finger” at his readers. He says in 6:1, let us go on. He included himself. None of us is to the point where we ought to be. None of us has arrived at that conformity with Christ which is the ultimate goal of our salvation, and which won’t be fully realized till we get to heaven.
Unitl that happens, there are things for us to do. As Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6, stir up the gift which is in you…. While that was written specifically to Timothy, the application may be made to us as well. The word translated “stir up” means “to rekindle.” Even as the fire on the altar of the Tabernacle needed daily tending, so also our own lives need fresh and daily infusions of grace. We do this through reading and study of the Word, through prayer and through fellowship with other believers. Two or three times a year, or a haphazard approach to this won’t work. In this regard, truly no one lives to himself.
The goal of the Christian life is “perfection,” that is, maturity, not “sinlessness.” Indeed, the more one measures himself by the Word, the less he thinks of himself. I’ve known people who will categorically say, “I do not sin,” but such a person neither knows himself nor the God of the Bible. Those in the Scripture who had the highest praise from God had the lowest regard for themselves. Cf. Job 40:4 and Romans 7:15-24.
People tend to condemn Job for some of the things he said. And maybe he said some things he wouldn’t have said if he hadn’t suffered the things that he did. However, in rebuking Job’s three friends, God said, “…you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has,” Job 42:7. What Job said didn’t bother God; it shouldn’t bother us. In fact, some of the greatest testimonies of faith in Scripture were uttered by Job. For example, “…after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God,” Job 19:26, after which he said, “How my heart yearns within me!” v. 27. And Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (!)
As for Paul’s lament in Romans 7, some folks say that that was written about his life before the Damascus Road. However, before that fateful day, (though there was no “fate” about it), Paul was more than content with his spiritual condition. He tells of his pre-conversion life in Philippians 3:4-6, in which, among other things, he says, concerning the righteousness which is in the law, [I was] blameless. See also Galatians 1:13, 14. It was only after he met Christ, or rather, that Christ met him, that he said of all those things, [I] count them as rubbish. The KJV translates it, count them but dung. The Greek word means “excrement,” or “that which is thrown to the dogs.” “Dogs” weren’t the friendly, lovable pets we have, but were detested wild scavengers.
In 6:1, the writer speaks of leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ. This does not mean, “abandoning” them. There are apparently some folks in our day who believe that a sign of “maturity” or “growth” is to do that very thing. That holding the tenets of Scripture is a bad thing. That it is a good thing to “dialogue” with other religions and try to “understand” them. I freely admit that in the US, we have “freedom of religion,” though many seem to think that means “freedom from religion.” However, people seem to overlook that part of the 1st Amendment which says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” I have no right in this country to force anyone to believe as I do, but then neither have they the right to force me to believe as they do. This has largely been lost sight of in our current society.
We are to hold on to the basic truths of Christianity, not leave them altogether. After all, those “basics” are the foundation of everything else. If they’re destroyed, nothing is left.