“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 the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permits.” Hebrews 6:1-3
No true interpretation of Scripture can be clearly understood when that scripture is isolated from its context. Not only must the expositor consider the relation of the text to the context, but in order to arrive at a correct exposition, he must know the historical background of the book and the theme and purpose of its author.
Dr. Charles Ratz
The reason that I have chosen this portion of Scripture from the commentary by Dr. Charles Ratz on Hebrews is the fact that Hebrews 6:1-3 has often been used by many well-known men of God to establish a sure platform of truth for the New Testament believers of the present day Church. However, in tholeir desire to lay down a sure foundation of truth for NT believers, they have overlooked the overall theme of the book of Hebrews in that the Hebrew believers continually longed to return to their old familiar and seemingly reliable traditions, This is why the writer of Hebrews presents a contrast in the first 3 verses of chapter 1, making a clearly distinction between the Old and the New Covenants. The difference is Jesus Christ Himself, not another substitute person or any other Jewish means of sanctification, but God speaking in these last in His Son, i.e. in the Greek “in Son.”
With this is in mind we need carefully study the background truth to not be taken in by the seemingly apparent development of truths as NT teachings. In a most careful study Dr. Charles Ratz has presented us with a most excellent insight into these Scriptures. Trusting these truths may be used to correct current inaccurate interpretations regardless of how well meant they are.
Heb 6:1 Therefore, (leaving) having left the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again (the) a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.
John Mol, M. Div.
Excerpt from Outlined Studies in Hebrews
The proposition set forth in this epistle is to show that the New Covenant is superior to, and supplants the Old Covenant. These Hebrews who had been brought to the knowledge of the New Covenant were in danger of lapsing back to the Old Covenant with its types and shadows, and its multiplicity of symbols and sacrifices. Though they had been made ‘partakers of the heavenly calling” they were sluggish, they had make no progress. The apostle had given them a serious rebuke for their spiritual inertia. Instead of being teachers, they were only babes needing instruction in the first principles of the oracles of God. (Heb. 5:11-14)
In the first three verses of chapter six the apostle exhorts the Hebrews to progress in spiritual realities. They were to abandon the first principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection. The strong appeal is found in the words ‘leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection” This does not mean, as many have thought, leaving the elementary Christianity and going on to the higher life. The principles which these Hebrews are exhorted to put away, are not the teachings taught by Christ, nor the fundamental principles of the Christian religion. They refer to the Levitical ritual and things taught in Judaism in their time of infancy, when Israel was under the Old Covenant.
There was a time of infancy such as we see in the fourth chapter of Galatians where Judaism is spoken of as a period of infancy, when ‘a child differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. (Galatians 4:1-5, 3:24,25) “The Law was a school master to bring us to Christ.” The fullness of time had come. Christ had redeemed them from the law. The time of infancy had come to an end. These Hebrews are no longer under tutors and governors. They had graduated from the kindergarten of law to the university of grace in accepting the new covenant. They were now under a new instructor, the Holy Spirit, who would guide them in all truth.
The Hebrews were dull of apprehension in the spiritual realities. (Heb. 5:11) They were in constant danger of lapsing back into earthly types and shadows. (Heb.10:1; Col. 2:17) The apostle appeals that they progress and go on into perfection. The word ‘perfection’ here can be translated ‘maturity.’ To remain or to turn to the old covenant with its symbols and sacrifices demonstrated that these Hebrews were immature. Since the new covenant had been ushered in by the death of the Messiah, they were to leave the principles of he doctrine of Christ, leave the shadows and go onto perfection which is only realized by embracing the new covenant.
The law made nothing perfect. It was holy, God given, but weak through the flesh. The old covenant could not make the comers or worshipers perfect, pertaining to the conscience. (Heb.10:1-4) These Hebrew believers are strongly urged to be borne along in the new covenant and thus go on to perfection, which is only possible through the mediation of the new covenant. To go back to the old covenant would be laying again the foundation, the principles of the doctrine of Christ, namely Levitical ritual.
The word ‘perfection’ and its cognates appears 13 times in the epistle. It is found 12 times translated from the Greek word ‘teleos’ meaning to mature or equip. It is found once translated from the word ‘katartitzo’ meaning to adjust.
The former word, ‘teleos’ meaning to mature or equip can be illustrated as follows: “An institution brings perfection when it effects the purpose for which it is instituted and produces a result that corresponds with the idea of it.” For example, a college which is equipped with the proper facilities, is provided with an efficient staff of teachers, and has all that which is required to fulfill the purpose for which it was intended, is fully equipped. It is a perfect institution.
The old covenant was an institution to bring the worshiper to God. However, the Law and Priesthood in this covenant was not perfect. It was not equipped with the necessary thins which would remove sin and its guilt. It did not remove the obstacle out of the way that hindered man from approaching into the presence of God. The blood of the old covenant in spite of its many sacrifices could not remove the sin that was lying on man’s conscience. There was no access to God. Thus the old covenant was imperfect. “The Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did by which we draw night unto God.”
The new covenant mediated by the Messiah through His blood was ushered in at Calvary and is fully equipped and brings perfection to every believer. Only as these Hebrew believers are borne on unto perfection through the new covenant can they realize perfection. Perfection can only be realized through the offering of Christ on Calvary and His own personal life. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ (the Old Covenant) let us go on unto perfection.” To go back to the Old Covenant sacrifices would mean the laying again of the foundation of the old covenant and building upon it again. The apostle describes this foundation as follows: Repentance from dead works and faith toward God, The doctrine of baptisms; laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, eternal judgment. These are the principles of the doctrine of Christ.
- Of Repentance from dead works and faith toward God.
All through the Old Testament repentance was constantly spoken. Perpetually wandering from Him, God was constantly calling the Hebrews back to repentance. Their works were but dead works. You will find no Gentiles ever commanded to repent from dead works. The Gentiles were to repent of sin. Dead works were the works of the law, of no avail as regards to obtaining eternal life. The conscience was cleansed from dead works by the blood of Christ. The law is a ministration of death and must be repented of must as sin must be. Faith toward God is first testament teaching and is contrasted with New Testament teaching of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. No longer resting in dead works of the law but in a faith in Christ and His finished work which alone brings life is the requisite for those who would enjoy the blessing of the new covenant.
- Of the doctrine of Baptisms and of laying on of hands.
This is the next couplet which describes Judaism in its ceremonial character. The teaching of baptisms does not refer to water baptisms, neither John’s nor sill less Christian baptisms and definitely not the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is the same Greek word translated ‘washings’ and a word entirely different from that referring to water baptism or the Holy Ghost baptism. It refers to ceremonial ablutions or washings of Judaism. It had to do with the sprinkling of the blood, the washing of the laver, and other ceremonial ordinances connected with outward approach to God and is typical of the cleansing of the conscience from dead works to serve the living and true God (Heb. 9:14) by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)
The laying on the hands, closely connected with baptisms, is not Christian laying on of hands. If one refers this to things of Christianity, he will miss the entire connection and importance of this passage. It refers to the imposition of hands by the offerer upon the sacrificial offerings. (Lev 1:4) This is also typical of the act of the sinner today laying his hand of faith upon the head of the spotless Lamb of God.
- “And of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
The resurrection of the dead was also an Old Testament doctrine. (Isa. 26:19, Dan. 12:2; Job 19:25) The Jews in the days of the apostle were divided in their opinion respecting a general resurrection of the bodies of men. However, it was a resurrection of the dead, not a resurrection of the saints. The out-resurrection from among the dead indicates there are two resurrections, one of the saints and one of the lost, with a period of time intervening between the two events. This time element between the two resurrections was foreign to the Old Testament. As to eternal judgment, there was no knowledge of the fact that there was no judgment. The old covenant was one of perpetual sacrifices, a remembering of sins every year, but no remission of sins; thus offering only eternal judgment. What a contrast to the new covenant which cries, “There is therefore now no condemnation.” (Rom 8:10 The man Christ Jesus by one offering ‘perfected forever them that are sanctified.’ (Heb. 10:14) when He had Himself purged our sins.
“And this will we do if God permit.” This seems to be a strange statement. The apostle had exhorted that they go on unto perfection and then says, “This will we do if God permit.” It was God’s purpose for these Hebrews to go on unto perfection. But God’s will for these could be thwarted if these Hebrews were not willing to go forward in the New Testament teaching. Though there is such a thing as the sovereign grace of God, yet there is also such a thing as the free will of man. God never violates man’s free will in that which pertains to his salvation and spiritual development. The choice of progressing, going unto perfection depended upon these Hebrews. Either they would go back to the Old Hebrews. Either they would go back to the Old Covenant or progress in the New Covenant. To persist in spiritual declension would eventually put them beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. They are warned against hardening their hearts. To harden their hearts to the Holy Spirit would lead them into apostasy.
Study taken from Outlined Studies in Hebrews, by Dr Charles A. Ratz.
Used by permission