Back to basics

“Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2 NET).

I’m sure if we were to draw up a “list” of the basic teachings about Jesus that all of these would be on our list. Sure, some of these would be, but I am confident that most of us would be unfamiliar with at least a few of them. What are these “elementary instructions about Christ” that we need to move beyond in order to become mature Christians?

The first one, “repentance from dead works and faith in God,” would undoubtedly be on our list. We realize that we cannot do enough good to earn our salvation. It is about believing and trusting God. We often refer to this as God’s grace. God paid the price so that we can have eternal life.

What about “teaching about ritual washings”? The word in the original language is baptismos from where we get our English word “baptism.” This does not seem to be referring to the immersion in water to have our sins forgiven through Jesus – it would seem that this would be included with repentance and faith. The Jews practiced ritual washings – some involved totally submerging your body in water while others were simply washing hands. Jesus dealt with those who thought that these washings were what was most important (see Matthew 15:1-20). He said that it is what comes out of the heart that we need to consider, not ritual washings.

Most of us would not be familiar with “laying on of hands.” Again, this was a Jewish practice when assigning a person a task. We see this in Acts 13:3 when Barnabas and Saul were set apart for the work of taking the gospel into new areas. We find that the sick often had hands laid on them and prayers said (see Mark 7:32; 16:18). The ability to do miraculous things by the Holy Spirit was also imparted by the apostles laying their hands on someone. Timothy was warned not to lay hands on someone too quickly – again the context is in appointing someone as an elder for God’s people. Perhaps we would do well to study more what is involved in selecting people to be involved in work for the Lord.

Once we get to “resurrection of the dead” and “eternal judgment” we probably feel we are on more familiar territory. Most of us have heard lessons on these matters. But are we really ready to face eternity? Do we realize that we will be given a new body designed for eternity? Do we realize that the “eternal judgment” isn’t so much of a trial but a sentencing – the trial is taking place now as we live our lives?

We need to understand these things but we need to move beyond these if we are to grow and mature as Christians. These are the basics that we should all know and be grounded in. Sadly, many seem to need to be taught again these basic instructions about Jesus and being his follower.

If we are grounded in these basic instructions about Jesus, we will be able to remain faithful to him. It is when we turn our back on Jesus, having “tasted the good word of God” that we “are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Let us continue to study and learn about Jesus from God’s word.

Readings for next week:
19 March – Philemon
20 March – Hebrews 1-2
21 March – Hebrews 3-4
22 March – Hebrews 5-6
23 March – Hebrews 7

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