Works of Arthur Pink: Pink, Arthur - An Exposition of Hebrews: 023. Infancy and Maturity. Hebrews 6:1-3

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Works of Arthur Pink: Pink, Arthur - An Exposition of Hebrews: 023. Infancy and Maturity. Hebrews 6:1-3

TOPIC: Pink, Arthur - An Exposition of Hebrews (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 023. Infancy and Maturity. Hebrews 6:1-3

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An Exposition of Hebrews


Infancy and Maturity.

(Hebrews 6:1-3)

The interpretation which we shall give of the above verses is not at all in accord with that advanced by the older writers. It differs considerably from that found in the commentaries of Drs. Calvin, Owen and Gouge, and more recently, those of A. Saphir, and Dr. J. Brown. Much as we respect their works, and deeply as we are indebted to not a little that is helpful in them, yet we dare not follow them blindly. To "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21) is ever our bounden duty. Though it is against our natural inclination to depart from the exposition they suggested (several, with some diffidence), yet we are thankful to God that in later years He has granted some of His servants increased light from His wondrous and exhaustless Word. May it please Him to vouchsafe us still more.

The writers mentioned above understood the expression "the principles of the doctrine of Christ," or as the margin of the Revised Version more accurately renders "the word of the beginning of Christ," to refer to the elementary truths of Christianity, a summary of which is given in the six items that follow in the second half of verse 1 and the whole of verse 2; while the "Let us go on unto perfection," they regarded as a call unto the deeper and higher things of the Christian revelation. But for reasons which to us seem conclusive, such a view of our passage is altogether untenable. It fails to take into account the central theme of this Epistle, and the purpose for which it was written. It does not do justice at all to the immediate context. It completely breaks down when tested in its details.

As we have repeated so often in the course of this series of articles, the theme of our Epistle is the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Unless the interpreter keeps this steadily in mind as he proceeds from chapter to chapter, and from passage to passage, he is certain to err. This is the key which unlocks every section, and if attempt be made to open up any portion without it, the effect can only be strained and forced. The importance of this consideration cannot be overestimated, and several striking exemplifications of it have already been before us in our survey of the previous chapters. Here too it will again stand us in good stead, if we but use it. The apostle is not contrasting two different stages of Christianity, an infantile and a mature; rather is he opposing, once more, the substance over against the shadows. He continues to press upon the Hebrews their need of forsaking the visible for the invisible, the typical for the antitypical.

That in taking up our present passage it is also of first importance to study its connection with the immediate context, is evident from its very first word, "Therefore." The apostle is here drawing a conclusion from something said previously. This takes us back to what is recorded in Hebrews 5:11-14, for a right understanding of which depends a sound exposition of what immediately follows. In these verses the apostle rebukes the Hebrews for their spiritual sloth, and likens them to little children capacitated to receive nothing but milk. He tells them that they have need of one teaching them again "which be the first principles of the oracles of God," which denoted they had not yet clearly grasped the fact that Judaism was but a temporary economy, because a typical one, its ordinances and ceremonies foreshadowing Him who was to come here and make an atonement for the sins of His people. Now that He had come and finished His work the types had served their purpose, and the shadows were replaced by the Substance.

The spiritual condition in which the Hebrew saints were at the time the Holy Spirit moved the apostle to address this Epistle to them, is another important key to the opening of its hortatory sections. As we showed in our last article, the language of Hebrews 5:11-14 plainly intimates that they have gone backward. The cause of this is made known in the 10th chapter, part of which takes us back to a point in time prior to what is recorded in chapter 5. First in Hebrews 10:32 we read, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great flight of afflictions." This "great flight of afflictions" they had, as verse 34 tells us, taken "joyfully." Very remarkable and rare was this. How was such an experience to be accounted for? The remainder of verse 34 tells us, "Knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance."

But this blessed and spiritual state which characterized the Hebrews in the glow of "first love" had not been maintained. While affections were set upon things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, whilst faith was in exercise, they realized that their real portion was on High. But faith has to be tested, patience has to be tried, and unless faith be maintained "hope deferred maketh the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12). Alas, their faith had wavered, and in consequence they had become dissatisfied to have nothing down here; they became impatient of waiting for an unseen and future inheritance. It was for this reason that the apostle said to them, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:35, 36).

Now it was this discontented and impatient condition of soul into which they had fallen, which accounts for the state in which we find them in Hebrews 5:11, 12. So too it explains the various things referred to in chapter 6. That is why the apostle was moved to set before them the most solemn warning found in verses 4-6. That is why we find "hope" so prominent in what follows: see verses 11, 18, 19. That is why reference is made to "patience" in verse 12. That is why Abraham is referred to, and why his "patience" is singled out for mention in verse 15. And that is why in our present passage the Hebrews are urged to "go on unto perfection," and why the apostle interposes a doubt in the matter: "This will we do, if God permit" (verse 3), for there was good reason to believe that their past conduct had provoked Him. Thus we see again how wondrously and how perfectly Scripture interprets itself, and how much we need to "compare spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:13).

The sixth chapter of Hebrews does not commence a new section of the Epistle, but continues the digression into which the apostle had entered at Hebrews 5:11. In view of the disability of those to whom he was writing receiving unto their edification the high and glorious mysteries which he desired to expound, the apostle goes on to set before them various reasons and arguments to excite a diligent attention thereunto. First, he declares his intention positively: to "go on unto perfection" (verse 1). Second, he names, what he intended to "leave," namely, "the word of the beginning of Christ" (verses 1-3). Third, he warns of the certain doom of apostates (verses 4-8). Fourth, he softens this warning in the case of the converted Hebrews (verses 9-14). Fifth, he gives an inspiring encouragement to faith, taken from the life of Abraham (verses 15-21).

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ" (verse 1). As already pointed out, the first word of this verse denotes that there is a close link between what has immediately preceded and what now follows. This will appear yet more clearly if we attend closely to the exact terms here used. The word "principles" in this verse is the same as rendered "first" in Hebrews 5:12. The word "doctrine" is found in its plural form and is translated "oracles" in Hebrews 5:12. The word "perfection" is given as "of full age" in Hebrews 5:14. Thus it is very evident that the apostle is here continuing the same subject which he began in the previous chapter.

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ." The rendering of the A.V. of this clause is very faulty and misleading. The verb is in the past tense, not the present. Bagster’s Interlinear correctly gives "Wherefore having left." This difference of rendition is an important one, for it enables us to understand more readily the significance of what follows. The apostle was stating a positive fact, not pleading for a possibility. He was not asking the Hebrews to take a certain step, but reminding them of one they had already taken. They had left the "principles of the doctrine of Christ," and to them he did not wish them to return.

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ." More accurately, "Wherefore having left the word of the beginning of Christ." Bagster’s Interlinear, which gives a literal word for word translation of the Greek, renders it, "Wherefore, having left the of the beginning of the Christ discourse." This expression is parallel with the "first principles of the oracles of God" in Hebrews 5:12. It has reference to what God has made known concerning His Son under Judaism. In the Old Testament two things are outstandingly prominent in connection with Christ: first, prophecies of His coming into the world; second, types and figures of the work He should perform. These predictions had now received their fulfillment, those shadows had now found their substance, in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Son of God. This, the "holy brethren" (Heb. 3:1) among the Jews had acknowledged. Thus they had "left" the ABC’s, for the Word Himself, the pictures for the Reality.

"Let us go on unto perfection." There is the definite article in the Greek, and "The Perfection" is obviously set in apposition to "The word of the beginning of Christ:" note, not of "the Lord Jesus," but of "Christ," i.e., the Messiah. It is the contrast, once more, between Judaism and Christianity. That which is here referred to as "The Perfection" is the full revelation which God now made of Himself in the person of His incarnate Son. No longer is He veiled by types and shadows, His glory is seen fully in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). The only begotten Son has "declared" Him here on earth (John 1:18); but having triumphantly finished the work which was given Him to do, He has been "received up into glory" (1 Tim. 3:16), and upon an exalted and enthroned Christ the affection of the believer is now to be set (Col. 3:1).

"Wherefore having left . . . let us go on unto perfection." The first word looks back to all that the apostle had said. It is a conclusion drawn from the contents of the whole preceding five chapters. Its force is: In view of the fact that God has now spoken to us in His Son; in view of who He is, namely, the appointed Heir of all things, the Maker of the worlds, the Brightness, of God’s glory, and the very Impress of His substance, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power; in view of the fact that He has by Himself "purged our sins," and, in consequence, has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having been made so much better than angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they; in view of the further fact that He was made in all things like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things God-ward, to make propitiation for the sins of the people, and having, in consequence of His successful prosecution of this stupendous work been "crowned with glory and honor;" and, seeing that He is immeasurably superior to Moses, Joshua and Aaron;—let us give Him His due place in our thoughts, hearts and lives.

"Let us go on unto perfection" has reference to the apprehension of the Divine revelation of the full glory of Christ in His person, perfections, and position. It is, from the practical side, a "perfection" of knowledge, spiritually imparted by the Holy Spirit to the understanding and heart. It refers to the mysteries and sublime doctrine of the Gospel. It is a perfection of knowledge in revealed truth. Yet, of course, it is only a relative "perfection," for an absolute apprehension of the things of God is not attainable in this life. Now "we know in part" (1 Cor. 13:9). "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). Even the apostle Paul had to say, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13, 14).

"Let us go on unto perfection." Students are not agreed as to the precise force of the plural pronoun here. Some consider it to be the apostle linking on the Hebrews to himself in the task immediately before him; others regard the "us" as the apostle graciously joining himself with them in their duty. Personally, we think that both these ideas are to be combined. First, "let us go on:" it was his resolution so to do, as the remaining chapters of the Epistle demonstrate; then let them follow him. Thus considered it shows that the apostle did not look upon the condition of the Hebrews as quite hopeless, notwithstanding their "dullness" (Heb. 5:11)—I shall therefore go on to set before you the highest and most glorious things concerning Christ. Second, the apostle condescends to unite himself with them in their responsibility to press forward. "Wherefore:" in view of the length of time we have been Christians, let us be diligent to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was, thus, a call to stir them up.

"Let us go on" is passive, "be carried on." It is a word taken from the progress which a ship makes before the wind when under sail. Let us, under the full bent of our will and affections be stirred by the utmost endeavors of our whole souls, be borne onwards. We have abode long enough near the shore, let us hoist our sails, pray to the Spirit for His mighty power to work within us, and launch forth into the deep. This is the duty of God’s servants, to excite their Christian hearers to make progress in the knowledge of Divine truth, to urge them to pass the porch and enter the sanctuary, there to behold the Divine glories of the House of God. Though the verb is passive, denoting the effect—"Let us be carried on"—yet it included the active use of means for the producing of this effect. "All diligence" is demanded of the Christian (2 Pet. 1:5). Truth has to be "bought" (Prov. 23:23). That which God has given us must be put into practice (Luke 8:18).

"Let us go on unto perfection." What, we may ask, is the application of this to Christians today? To the Hebrews it meant abandoning the preparatory and earthly system of Judaism, (which occupied their whole attention before believing in Christ as the sent Savior) and, by faith, laying hold of the Divine revelation which has now been made in and through Him: set your affection on an ascended though invisible Christ, who now serves in the Heavenly Sanctuary on your behalf. For Christians it means, Turn away from those objects which absorbed you in the time of your unregeneracy, and meditate now on and find your joy and satisfaction in things above. Lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets, and run with perseverance the race that is set before us, "looking off unto Jesus"—the One who while here left us an example to follow, the One who is now enthroned on High because of the triumphant completion of His race.

To the Hebrews, this much-misunderstood exhortation of Hebrews 6:1 was exactly parallel with the word which Christ addressed to the eleven immediately prior to His death: "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1): Ye have long avowed your faith in "God," whom, though invisible, ye trust; now "believe also in Me," as One who will speedily pass beyond the range of your natural vision. I am on the point of returning to the Father, but I shall still have your interests at heart, yea, I am going to "prepare a place for you;" therefore, trust Me implicitly: let your hearts follow Me on high: walk by faith: be occupied with an ascended Savior. For us today, the application of this important word signifies, Be engaged with your great High Priest in heaven, dwell daily upon your portion in Him (Eph. 1:3). By faith, behold Christ, now in the heavenly sanctuary, as your righteousness, life, and strength. See in God’s acceptance of Him, His adoption of you, that you have been reconciled to Him, made nigh by the precious blood. In the realization of this, worship in spirit and in truth; exercise your priestly privileges.

Thus, the "perfection" of Hebrews 6:1 is, strictly speaking, scarcely doctrinal or experimental, yet partakes of both. "The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did" (Heb. 7:19). It is Christ who has ushered in that which is "perfect." It is in Him we now have a full revelation and manifestation of the eternal purpose and grace of God. He has fully made known His mind (Heb. 1:2). And, by His one all-sufficient offering of Himself, He has "perfected forever" (Heb. 10:14), them whom God set apart in His everlasting counsels. Christ came here to fulfill the will of God (Heb. 10:9). That will has been executed; the work given Him to do, He finished (John 17:4). In consequence, He has been gloriously rewarded, and in His reward all His people share. This is all made known to us for "the hearing of faith."

"Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works" (verse 1). It is most important to see that the contents of the second half of verse 1. and the whole of verse 2 are a parenthesis. The "Let us be carried on to perfection" is completed in "this will we do if God permits" in verse 3. That which comes in between is a definition or explanation of what the apostle intended by his "Having left the word of the beginning of Christ." The six items enumerated—"repentance from dead works," etc.—have nothing to do with the "foundations of Christianity," nor do they describe those things relating to the elementary experiences of a Christian. Instead, they treat of what appertained to Judaism, considered as a rudimentary system, paving the way for the fuller and final revelation which God has now made in and by His beloved Son. Unless the parenthetical nature of these verses is clearly perceived, interpreters are certain to err in their exposition of the details.

"Not laying again the foundation," etc. It is to be remarked that there is no definite article in the Greek here, so it should be read, "a foundation," which is one of several intimations that it is not the "fundamentals of Christianity" which are here in view. Had these verses been naming the basic features of the new and higher revelation of God, the Holy Spirit had surely said, "the foundation;" that He did not, shows that something less important was before Him. As said above, this "foundation" respects Judaism. Now there are two properties to a "foundation," namely, it is that which is first laid in a building; it is that which bears up the whole superstructure. To which we may add, it is generally lost to sight when the ground floor has been put in. Such was the relation which Judaism sustained to Christianity. As the "foundation" precedes the building, so had Judaism Christianity. As the "foundation" bears the building, so the truth of Christianity rests upon the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, of which the New Testament revelation records the fulfillment. As the "foundation" is lost to sight when the building is erected on it, so the types and shadows of the earlier revelation are superseded by the substance and reality.

"Not laying again a foundation," etc. This is exactly what the Hebrews were being sorely tempted to do. To "lay again" this foundation was to forsake the substance for the shadows; it was to turn from Christianity and go back again to Judaism. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were being harassed by Judaisers, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Heb. 3:24). To which he at once added, "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Thus, under a different figure, he was here in Hebrews 6:1 simply saying, Let us be carried on to maturity, and not go back again to the things which characterized the days of our childhood.

"Not laying again a foundation," etc. It will be noted that the apostle here enumerates just six things, which is ever the number of man in the flesh. Such was what distinguished Judaism. It was a system which appertained solely to man in the flesh. Its rites and ceremonies only "sanctified to the purifying of the flesh" (Heb. 9:13). Had the fundamentals of Christianity been here in view, the apostle had surely given seven, as in Ephesians 4:3-6. The first which he specifies is "repentance from dead works." Observe that it is not "repentance from sins." That is not what is in view at all. This expression "dead works" is found again in Hebrews 9:14 (and nowhere else in the New Testament), where a contrast is drawn from what is said in verse 13: the blood of bulls and goats sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, then much more should the blood of Christ cleanse their conscience from dead works. Where sins are in question the New Testament speaks of them as "wicked works" (Titus 1:16), and "abominable works" (Col. 1:21). The reference here was to the unprofitable and in-efficacious works of the Levitical service: cf. Hebrews 10:1, 4. Those works of the ceremonial law are denominated "dead works" because they were performed by men in the flesh, were not vitalized by the Holy Spirit, and did not satisfy the claims of the living God.

"And of faith toward God." Of the six distinctive features of Judaism here enumerated, this one is the most difficult to define with any degree of certainty. Nevertheless, we believe that if due attention be given to the particular people to whom the apostle was writing all difficulty at once vanishes. The case of the Jew was vastly different from that of the Gentiles. To the heathen, the one true God was altogether "unknown" (Acts 17:23). They worshipped a multitude of false gods. But not so was it with Israel. Jehovah had revealed Himself to their fathers, and given to them a written revelation of His will. Thus, "faith toward God" was a national thing with them, and though in their earlier history they fell into idolatry again and again, yet were they purified of this sin by the Babylonian captivity. Still, their faith was more of a form than a reality, a tradition received from their fathers, rather than a vital acquaintance with Him: see Matthew 15:8, 9, etc.

Israel’s national faith "toward God" had, under the Christian revelation, given place to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A few references from the New Testament epistles will establish this conclusively. We read of "the faith of Jesus Christ," and "the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:16, 20); "your faith in the Lord Jesus" (Eph. 1:15); "by faith of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:9); "your faith in Christ" (Col. 2:5); "the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 3:13). As another has said, "All the blessings of the gospel are connected with ‘faith,’ but it is faith which rests in Christ. Justification, resurrection-life, the promises, the placing of sons, salvation, etc., are all spoken of as resulting from faith which rests upon Christ... ‘Hebrews’ reveals Christ as the ‘one Mediator between God and men.’ It reveals Christ as ‘a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,’ and urges the divine claim of the Son of God. The apostle is directing his readers to look away from self to Christ, the Center, the Sum of all blessing. This is not merely ‘faith toward God,’ but it is faith which comes to God by the way of the mediation and merits of His Son."

"Of the doctrine of baptisms" (verse 2). Had the translators understood the scope and meaning of this passage it is more than doubtful if they had given the rendering they did to this particular clause.

It will be observed that the word "baptism" is in the plural number, and if scripture be allowed to interpret scripture there will be no difficulty in ascertaining what is here referred to. It is neither Christian baptism (Matthew 28:19), the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:5), nor the baptism of suffering (Matthew 20:23), which is here in view, but the carnal ablutions which obtained under the Mosaic economy. The Greek word is "baptismos." It is found but four times on the pages of the New Testament: in Mark 7:4, 5 and Hebrews 6:2; 9:10. In each of the other three instances, the word is rendered "washings." In Mark 7 it is the "washing of cups and pans." In Hebrews 9:10 it is "meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal (fleshly) ordinances," concerning which it is said, they were "imposed until the time of reformation."

It is to be noted that our verse speaks of "the doctrine of baptisms." There was a definite teaching connected with the ceremonial ablutions of Judaism. They were designed to impress upon the Israelites that Jehovah was a holy God, and that none who were defiled could enter into His presence. These references in Hebrews 6:2 and Hebrews 9:10 look back to such passages as Exodus 30:18, 19; Leviticus 16:4; Numbers 19:19, etc. Typically, these "washings" denoted that all the defiling effects of sin must be removed, ere the worshipper could approach unto the Lord. They foreshadowed that perfect and eternal cleansing from sin which the atoning blood of Christ was to provide for His people. They had no intrinsic efficacy in themselves; they were but figures, hence, we are told they sanctified only "to the purifying of the flesh" (Heb. 9:13). Those "washings" effected nought but an external and ceremonial purification; they "could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience" (Heb. 9:9).

"And of laying on of hands." The older commentators quite missed the reference here. Supposing the previous clause was concerned with the Christian baptisms recorded in the Acts, they appealed to such passages as Acts 8:17; 19:6, etc. But those passages have no bearing at all on the verse before us. They were exceptional cases where the supernatural "gifts" of the Spirit were imparted by communication from the apostles. The absence of this "laying on of hands" in Acts 2:41; 8:38; 16:33, etc., shows plainly that, normally, the Holy Spirit was given by God altogether apart from the instrumentality of His servants. The "laying on of hands" is not, and never was, a distinctive Christian ordinance. In such passages as Acts 6:6; 9:17; 13:3, the act was simply a mark of identification, as is sufficiently clear from the last reference.

"And of laying on of hands." The key which unlocks the real meaning of this expression is to be found in the Old Testament, to which each and all of the six things here mentioned by the apostle look back. Necessarily so, for the apostle is here making mention of those things which characterized Judaism, which the Hebrews, upon their profession of their personal faith in Christ had "left." The "laying on of hands" to which the apostle refers is described in Leviticus 16:21, "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." This was an essential part of the ritual on the annual Day of Atonement. Of this the Hebrews would naturally think when the apostle here makes mention of the "doctrine (teaching) . . . of laying on of hands."

"And of resurrection of the dead." At first glance, and perhaps at the second too, it may appear that what is here before us will necessitate an abandonment of the line of interpretation we are following. Surely, the reader may exclaim, you will not ask us to believe that these Hebrews had "left" the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead! Yet this is exactly what we do affirm. The difficulty which is seemingly involved is more imaginary than real, due to a lack of discrimination and failure to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." The resurrection of the dead was a clearly revealed doctrine under Judaism; but it is supplanted by something far more comforting and blessed under the fuller revelation God has given in Christianity. If the reader will carefully observe the preposition we have placed in italic type, he will find it a valuable key to quite a number of passages. "We make a great mistake when we assume that the resurrection as taught by the Pharisees, held by the Jews, believed by the disciples, and proclaimed by the apostles, was one and the same" (C.H.W.). The great difference between the former and the latter may be seen by a comparison of the scriptures that follow.

"After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: and have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:14, 15). That was the Jewish hope: "Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11:24). Now in contrast, note, "He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean" (Mark 9:9, 10). It is this aspect of resurrection which the New Testament epistles emphasize, an elective resurrection, a resurrection of the redeemed before that of the wicked: see Revelation 20:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

"And of eternal judgment." In the light of all that has been before us, this should occasion no difficulty. The Jewish church, and most of Christendom now, believed in a General Judgment, a great assize at the end of time when God would examine every man’s life, "For God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14). This is described in fullest detail in the closing verses of Revelation 20. It is the Great White Throne judgment.

Let us now, very briefly, summarize what has just been engaging our attention. The Hebrews had confessed their faith in Christ, and by so doing had forsaken the shadows for the Substance. But hope had been deferred, faith hath waned, persecutions had cooled their zeal. They were being tempted to abandon their Christian profession and return to Judaism. The apostle shows that by so doing they would be laying again "a foundation" of things which had been left behind. Rather than this, he urges them to be carried forward to "perfection" or "full growth." That meant to substitute "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18), for "repentance from dead works;" trust in the glorified Savior, for a national "faith toward God;" the all-cleansing blood of the Lamb, for the inefficacious "washings" of the law; God’s having laid on Christ the iniquities of us all, for the Jewish high-priest’s "laying on of hands;" a resurrection "from the dead," for "a resurrection of the dead;" the Judgment-seat of Christ, for the "eternal judgment" of the Great White Throne. Thus, the six things here mentioned belonged to a state of things before Christ was manifested.

"And this will we do if God permit" (verse 3). Here we learn of the apostle’s resolution as to the occasion before him, and the limitation of his resolution by an express subordination of it to the good pleasure of God. The "this will we do" has reference to "Let us go on unto perfection." The use of the plural pronoun is very blessed. Though a spiritual giant when compared with his fellow Christians, the apostle Paul never imagined he had "attained" (Phil. 3:12). "This will we do" means, I in teaching, you in learning. In the chapters that follow, we see how the apostle’s resolution was carried out. In Hebrews 5:10 he had said, "an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, of whom we have many things to say." By comparing Hebrews 6:3 with Hebrews 5:11,12 we learn that no discouragement should deter a servant of God from proceeding in the declaration of the mystery of Christ, not even the dullness of his hearers.

"And this will we do, if God permit." This qualifying word may have respect unto the unknown sovereign pleasure of God, to which all our resolutions must submit: "I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit" (1 Cor. 16:7 and cf. James 4:13-15). Probably the apostle also had before him the sad state into which the Hebrews had fallen (Heb. 5:11-14), in view of which this was a solemn and searching word for their conscience: because of their sloth and negligence there was reason to fear they had provoked God, so that He would grant them no further light (Luke 8:18). Finally, we believe the apostle looked to the Divine enablement of himself; were He to withdraw His assistance the teacher would be helpless: see 2 Corinthians 3:5. To sum up—in all things we must seek God’s glory, bow to His will, and recognize that all progress in the Truth is a special gift from Him (John 3:27).