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. (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 fulness 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.
They were in constant danger of lapsing back into earthly types
and shadows. The apostle appeals tat 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. (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 worshipper 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.
1. 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.
2. Of the doctrine of Baptisms and of laying on
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 (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.
3. "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.'
( 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.