MAY 26 – ARE YOU A SETTLED AND CONTENTED CHRISTIAN?

…Let us go on unto perfection….

HEBREWS 6:1

I wonder why the people of God in our churches are so reluctant to leave the things which are the “first principles” of the doctrine of Christ?

Some of you have heard the gospel many times. You say you have believed and that you have turned away from idols to serve the living God and to wait for His Son from heaven—and yet you do not behave as though you are a settled and contented Christian!

You are not satisfied until you have tried out the latest gospel peddler or the sensationally popular evangelistic services down the street.

If a gospel troupe comes along, you are satisfied for a while because they have cowbells and a musical handsaw and a lot of other gadgets.

In our day we seem to overlook the divine principle of what ought to happen in the life of a truly born-again person. What do we do? We get them into church and then after we get them in, we try to “work” on them. My reading tells me that in an earlier day believers were better Christians when they were newly converted than many of today’s so-called deeper life people—because a miracle had taken place!

They would not accept a pale, ineffective and apologetic “believing.” They insisted on a miracle taking place in the human breast. Jesus Christ was their Hope, and they knew full well the guarantee—God had raised Him from the dead![1]


6:1 The warning which began in 5:11 continues throughout this chapter. It is one of the most controversial passages in the entire NT. Since so many godly Christians are disagreed on its interpretation, we must not speak with dogmatism. We present the explanation which seems most consistent with the context and with the rest of the NT.

First of all, the readers are exhorted to leave the elementary principles of Christ, literally, “the word of the beginning of Christ” (FWG), or “the beginning word of Christ” (KSW). We understand this to mean the basic doctrines of religion that were taught in the OT and were designed to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah. These doctrines are listed in the latter part of verse 1 and in verse 2. As we shall seek to show, they are not the fundamental doctrines of Christianity but rather teachings of an elementary nature which formed the foundation for later building. They fell short of Christ risen and glorified. The exhortation is to leave these basics, not in the sense of abandoning them as worthless, but rather of advancing from them to maturity. The implication is that the period of Judaism was a time of spiritual infancy. Christianity represents full growth.

Once a foundation has been laid, the next step is to build upon it. A doctrinal foundation was laid in the OT; it included the six fundamental teachings which are now listed. These represent a starting point. The great NT truths concerning Christ, His Person, and His work, represent the ministry of maturity.

The first OT doctrine is repentance from dead works. This was preached constantly by the prophets as well as by the forerunner of the Messiah. They all called on the people to turn from works that were dead in the sense that they were devoid of faith.

Dead works here may also refer to works which formerly were right, but which now are dead since Christ has come. For example, all the services connected with temple worship are outmoded by the finished work of Christ.

Second, the writer mentions faith toward God. This again is an OT emphasis. In the NT, Christ is almost invariably presented as the object of faith. Not that this displaces faith in God; but a faith in God which leaves out Christ is now inadequate.[2]


  1. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2. instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Instead of teaching the elementary truths of God’s Word once more (see 5:12), the author urges his readers to go beyond these truths. They are not ignorant of the basic teachings of Christian doctrine; they need to be stimulated to progress in their understanding of the faith. They ought to review the elementary teachings about Christ, so that they are ready to receive further instruction.

The introductory word therefore is retrospective. In the preceding verses, the writer contrasts the spiritually weak believer with the mature Christian. And the model he holds before his readers is that of the believer who strives for maturity. He exhorts them to go on to perfection after having left the elementary teachings behind. Actually the author is saying, “Let us … go forward to adult understanding” (Phillips), and together we are able to do this. The verb (“let us go on”) that the author employs is a key word because it conveys the idea of actively exerting oneself to make progress. He includes himself and places himself on his readers’ level even though he, as the teacher, really occupies a higher position than the recipients of his letter. This implies that the writer has not yet achieved maturity in spiritual matters. Therefore, the author does not explain the “elementary teachings about Christ” but merely outlines them.

  1. Foundation of
  2. repentance
  3. faith in God
  4. Instruction about
  5. baptisms
  6. laying on of hands
  7. resurrection of the dead
  8. eternal judgment
  9. “Not laying again the foundation.” Does the author refer to a standard of instruction in the church of the first century? Perhaps. F. F. Bruce points out that the items listed among the elementary teachings are as much Jewish as they are Christian. We assume that these doctrines were given much more prominence in the Christian church than in the Jewish synagogue. These truths also may have been used as a catechism that new converts were required to learn before they were fully accepted.

Because the readers know that to be members in the church they must have a foundation of repentance and faith, the writer states that it is not necessary to lay that foundation anew. He is spelling out for his audience the difference between the basic doctrines (which he calls a foundation) and the deeper truths of Scripture (which believers ought to study in order to progress in their spiritual lives). He concludes that because of their membership believers already have laid the foundation.

  1. “The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.” The first component of the Christian’s spiritual foundation is repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19). This means turning away from something that is detrimental to one’s being. Basically repentance constitutes a negative action, in this case a change of mind that results in no longer performing “acts that lead to death.” Repentance, then, is an activity that involves the mind and thinking of a person—a complete turnabout in the life of the believer. No longer does he show an interest in activities that lead to his destruction. He now shuns the effects of sin that bring about death (Rom. 5:12, 21; 6:23; 7:11). Consequently, it would not be necessary for the author to ask his readers to lay the foundation of repentance again.
  2. “And of faith in God.” Laying a foundation of faith in God was a positive action that believers had taken when they accepted Christ in faith. They turned from their “acts that lead to death” to life in Christ through faith. We would expect the author to write “faith in Christ” instead of “faith in God,” for Jewish converts to Christianity did not need to be instructed in the doctrine of faith in Israel’s God. The difficulty disappears, however, when we realize that throughout his epistle the author speaks of God as revealed in Christ (3:1–6; also see Acts 20:21; 1 Thess. 1:9–10). Indirectly, the author reminds the reader of Jesus’ word, proclaimed at the beginning of this ministry: “The time has come.… The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). This twofold message from the lips of Jesus is repeated by the apostles. For example, Peter on the day of Pentecost called the people to repentance, and as a result three thousand believers were added to the church (Acts 2:38, 41).

Of course, faith is a prominent theme in Hebrews. Chapter 11 with its brief definition of faith and list of the heroes of faith is eloquent testimony to the author’s interest in this theme. For the writer, faith constitutes complete trust as demonstrated by Joshua, who because of his faith entered the land God had promised (4:8). Everyone who puts faith in the gospel, says the author of Hebrews, enters God’s rest (4:2–3).

  1. “Instruction about baptisms.” Next to the foundation of repentance and faith comes the instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. The first phase in the believer’s instruction is the teaching concerning baptisms. Interestingly enough, the writer uses not the common Greek word baptisma (baptism), but rather the term baptismos (washing; Mark 7:4; Heb. 9:10). Furthermore, the word is in the plural.

What is the writer saying? Use of the plural provides sufficient reason to assume that he calls attention to washings other than Christian baptism. What these washings are has been debated at length by numerous scholars. I mention only a few interpretations:

  1. purification ceremonies (Qumran)
  2. triple immersion in the name of the Trinity
  3. multiplicity of baptismal candidates
  4. baptisms of water, blood, fire, and the Holy Spirit
  5. Levitical washings and Christian baptism

The New Testament does refer to the baptism of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:7; Mark 11:30; Luke 7:29; John 3:23; 4:1; Acts 1:22; 10:37; 18:25) that was still practiced more than twenty-five years after his death (Acts 19:3). Also there is the Jewish rite of baptism for proselytes.

The word baptismos (which signifies “the act alone,” whereas baptisma is “the act with the result”) is a Jewish-Christian term. The expression in the plural probably expresses a “contrast between Christian baptism and all other religious washings … known to the readers.”18

Finally, the four Gospels and Acts mention the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11 and parallels; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Although this particular form of baptism is different from the washing that the word baptismos describes, it has significance for the next phase of instruction, the imposition of hands.

  1. “The laying on of hands.” In Acts the imposition of hands results in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For example, Peter and John visited the believers in Samaria and placed their hands on the Samaritans, who as a consequence received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17). Ananias put his hands on Saul (Paul), who received both his sight and the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). In Ephesus, Paul laid his hands on some disciples of John the Baptist who were recipients of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).

Other passages show that the practice of laying hands on someone relates to the ceremony of ordination to service: ministering to the needs of the poor (Acts 6:6); proclaiming the gospel (Acts 13:3); or pastoring the church (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

Apart from the instances that mention the imposition of hands in connection with healing (Matt. 9:18; Mark 5:23; 6:5; 7:32; 8:23; Luke 13:13; Acts 28:8) and with Jesus blessing the children (Matt. 19:13, 15; Mark 10:16), the New Testament is silent.

What did the practice of laying hands on a believer mean to the first recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews? John Calvin declares that baptized children, after a period of instruction in the faith, received another rite—that of laying on of hands. This rite was intended as confirmation of their baptism and originated in the time of apostles. This may very well be the explanation of the practice, although substantiating evidence is scarce.

  1. “The resurrection of the dead.” The next phase in the believer’s instruction is his knowledge concerning the resurrection of the dead. Already in Old Testament times the doctrine of the resurrection was known (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:10; Dan. 12:2). In the days of Jesus and the apostles, the general public knew the teaching about the resurrection from the dead (John 11:24), and the Pharisees separated themselves from the Sadducees because the two groups disagreed about this doctrine (Acts 23:6–7).

Jesus taught the doctrine of resurrection by claiming it for himself: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); the apostles made this teaching the foundation of their gospel proclamation (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:37; 17:31–32; 26:23). The author of Hebrews also refers to this doctrine directly (11:35) and indirectly (2:14–15).

  1. “And eternal judgment.” The two doctrines of the resurrection and of eternal judgment are logically related, but I do not think that we should explain the first as the resurrection of the righteous and the second as the judgment on the wicked. The author does not provide sufficient information, and therefore we do well to understand the words as general references to these teachings.

Hebrews 6:2 is the only text in the New Testament that gives the reading eternal judgment. The passage that is somewhat similar is Acts 24:25, which says, “Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” That Jesus returns “to judge the living and the dead” is a basic teaching eventually formulated in the three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian.[3]


Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (6:1–2)

The key ideas are leaving and press on to maturity, and are really two parts of the same idea. Together they are the first step in these Jews’ becoming spiritually mature. They had to leave once and for all their ties with the Old Covenant, with Judaism, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. They should do it immediately, without further hesitation. The maturity that salvation brings is not a process. It is an instantaneous miracle. The maturity about which this passage is talking is that of leaving the ABC’s of the Old Covenant to come to the full revelation and blessing of the New.

Leaving in the Greek is aphiēmi, which means to forsake, to put away, let alone, disregard, put off. It refers to total detachment, total separation, from a previous location or condition. The Expositor’s Greek Testament translates Hebrews 6:1, “Let us abandon [give up] the elementary teaching about Christ.” Alford comments, “Therefore … leaving (as behind, and done with; in order to go on to another thing).”

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul uses aphiēmi in speaking of a Christian husband’s not sending away (that is, divorcing) his unbelieving wife. Divorce is total marital separation, complete abandonment of the relationship. It is wrong in relation to marriage but mandatory in relation to leaving Judaism for Christ. The unbelieving Jew must completely divorce himself from his former religion before he can be saved.

The same Greek word is often used of forgiveness of sins (as in Matt. 9:2, 5, 6; Rom. 4:7; and James 5:15). When we are forgiven, our sins are put away from us, separated from us, divorced from us. In Matthew 15:14 the same term is used to speak of separating ourselves from false teachers, and in Mark 1:20 it is used of James’s and John’s leaving their father, Zebedee, in order to follow Jesus. As far as their life’s work was concerned, they abandoned, completely separated themselves from, their father and his fishing business.

The elementary teaching about the Christ (Messiah) that the unbelieving Jews were to leave was the Old Testament teaching about Him—another indication that it is not immature Christians (“babes”) that are being addressed. We are never to leave the basics, the elementary teachings, of the gospel, no matter how mature we grow in the faith. Remember, the issue here is not that of growing in spiritual maturity as a Christian, but of coming into the first stage of spiritual maturity by becoming a Christian. It is a matter of dropping, leaving, putting away, that which we have been holding onto and taking up something entirely new. Therefore it can only be a reference to unbelievers, because at no time does the Word of God suggest that a Christian drop the basics of Christianity and go on to something else.

It is the provisions and principles of the Old Covenant, of Judaism, that are to be dropped. It is not a question of adding to what one has. It is a question of abandoning what you have for something else. This is precisely what the Holy Spirit asked the Hebrews to do—to abandon the shadows, the types, the pictures, and the sacrifices of the old economy and come to the reality of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. A paraphrase could be, “Leave the pictures of the Messiah and go on to the Messiah Himself,” or “Drop the Old Covenant and accept the New.”

Incomplete Old Testament Features

The foundation, the Old Covenant, had six features that are pointed out in verses 1–2. These are: repentance from dead works, faith toward God, instruction about washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. These are not, as is often interpreted, elementary Christian truths that are to be abandoned in order to go on to maturity. They are Old Testament concepts. To be sure, they pointed to the gospel, but they are not themselves part of the gospel.

Repentance from Dead Works

Repentance from dead works is turning away from evil deeds, deeds that bring death. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13–14). “The soul who sins will die,” said Ezekiel (18:4). In the New Testament the truth is expressed as, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The Old Testament taught that a man should repent and turn from his evil works that brought about death. But this Old Testament pattern is only the first half of repentance. Men only knew that they were to turn away from evil works and turn toward God. That was the whole doctrine they knew.

In John the Baptist’s preaching, and even in Jesus’ own early ministry, the basic message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Only repentance was preached. Turn from evil toward God. But the doctrine of repentance becomes mature, complete, in Jesus Christ. Paul reminded the elders of the Ephesian church of his “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In his defense before King Agrippa, Paul mentioned that he had “kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). But he went on to explain that the focus of this message was Jesus Christ and His work of salvation (v. 23). It no longer did any good simply to turn from evil works toward God. A person could come to God only through Jesus Christ.

Now that the New Covenant is in effect, repentance is meaningless without faith in Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father, but through Me,” said Jesus (John 14:6). A person who, no matter how sincerely, seeks to repent of his sins and turn to God apart from Christ will never reach God. Jesus Christ is the only way to Himself that God has provided.

Repentance from dead works is simply turning from evil, and is an important and wonderful truth of the Old Testament. But it is not complete. It is fulfilled, made effective, only by a person’s also coming to Jesus Christ in faith. An incomplete dealing with sin must be abandoned for a complete one.

Faith Toward God

The meaning of faith toward God has already been touched on. It does no good at all today to have faith in God unless there is also faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God. Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). There is no acceptable repentance apart from faith in Christ. The only repentance that “leads to life” is that which is related to belief in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17–18). The only faith toward God that is now acceptable is faith in God the Son. There is no way to the Father except through the Son.

The Old Testament taught repentance from dead works and faith toward God. The New Testament teaches repentance in faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Way to God. The distinction is clear. The Jews addressed in this letter believed in God; but they were not saved. Their repentance from works and faith toward God, no matter how sincere it may have been, could not bring them to God without Christ. “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Instruction About Washings

The King James translation (“doctrine of baptisms”) is misleading, especially since everywhere else, including Hebrews 9:10, the same Greek word (baptismos) is translated washings. It is not baptizō, which is always used for the ordinance of baptism. It may have been that the King James translators assumed this passage was addressed to Christians, in which case “baptisms” might be appropriate. But the use here of baptismos rather than baptizō is another strong indication that the passage is not addressed to Christians.

Every Jewish home had a basin by the entrance for family and visitors to use for ceremonial cleansings, of which there were many. It is these washings that the readers are told to abandon and forget. Even the Old Testament predicted that one day its ceremonial cleansings would be replaced by a spiritual one that God Himself would give: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezek. 36:25). The old washings were many, physical, symbolic, and temporary; the new washing is once, spiritual, real, and permanent. It is the wonderful, effective, and eternal “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). It is the being born (regeneration) of water and the spirit that Jesus told Nicodemus was necessary for entrance into the kingdom (John 3:5).

Laying on of Hands

This laying on of hands has nothing to do with the apostolic practices (Acts 5:18; 6:6; 8:17; 1 Tim. 4:14; etc.). Under the Old Covenant the person who brought a sacrifice had to put his hands on it, to symbolize his identification with it (Lev. 1:4; 3:8, 13).

Our identification with Jesus Christ does not come by putting our hands on Him; it comes by the Spirit’s baptizing us into union with Him by faith. “Forget the teaching about laying hands on the Temple sacrifices,” the writer is telling these immature Jews. “Lay hold of Christ by putting your trust in Him.”

Resurrection of the Dead

The Old Testament doctrine of resurrection is not clear or complete. We learn of life after death and of rewards for the good and punishment for the wicked—and not much more about resurrection than this. From Job, for instance, we learn that resurrection will be bodily, and not just spiritual (Job 19:26). There is little else that we can learn of it from the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, of course, resurrection is one of the major and most detailed doctrines. It is the theme of apostolic preaching. It comes to fullness in the very Person of Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The resurrection body is described in considerable detail in 1 Corinthians 15; and in 1 John 3:2 we are told, “We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” Why should anyone be content with trying to understand the resurrection from the limited and vague teachings of the Old Testament?

Eternal Judgment

We can learn little more from the Old Testament about final judgment than what is given in Ecclesiastes: “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:14). Punishment would come to the wicked and blessing to the good.

Again in the New Testament, however, we are told a great deal about eternal judgment—much more than many people like to hear. We know what is going to happen to believers. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We will have to stand before the Lord and have our work judged—for reward or lack of reward—but we ourselves will not be judged (1 Cor. 3:12–15). We also know what is going to happen to unbelievers. We know about the judgment of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31–46), and the judgment of the great white throne (Rev. 20:11–15). We know that to Jesus Christ has been committed all judgment (John 5:21–29). We know this and much more about judgment from the New Testament.

The point of Hebrews 6:1–2 is simply that the unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immature, elementary shadows and symbols of the Old Covenant and take hold of the mature and perfect reality of the New. The Holy Spirit is calling for them to leave the ABC’s of repentance from dead works for the New Testament teaching of repentance toward God and new life in Christ. Leave the ABC s of faith toward God for faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. Leave the ABC s of ceremonial washings for the cleansing of the soul by the Word. Leave the ABC’s of laying hands on the sacrifice for laying hold of the Lamb of God by faith. Leave the ABC’s of the resurrection of the dead for the full and glorious resurrection unto life. Leave the ABC’s of eternal judgment for the full truth of judgment and rewards as revealed in the New Covenant.

These six doctrines were the basics of Judaism that were to be laid aside in favor of the better things that come in Christ. The Old Testament is incomplete. It is true. It is of God. It was a necessary part of His revelation and of His plan of salvation for man. But it is only partial revelation, and is not sufficient. Judaism is abrogated. Judaism is nullified. It is no longer a valid expression of worship or of obedience to God. It must be abandoned.[4]


6:1a “The elementary teachings about Christ” is literally “the word of the beginning of Christ,” an idiom similar to that in 5:12 (see Notes), but now with the specific mention that it is Christian teaching, not just OT Scripture, that is in view. The call to “leave” this basic teaching does not mean it is now to be discarded as something they have outgrown; TNIV rightly translates “move beyond.” That basic teaching is the launching pad from which they ought now to “go on”; the verb means literally “to be carried,” the passive probably implying God’s agency rather than their “being borne along on the flood tide of the author’s argument” (Montefiore, 104). The goal is “maturity” (the same word group as in 5:14) rather than “laying again the foundation,” a metaphor that speaks for itself in that a foundation once laid is there to be relied on but does not need to be revisited.

1b–2 The “elementary teachings about Christ” are now summarized in three pairs of phrases that presumably would have been familiar enough to the original readers but that cause some surprise to us as a summary of the Christian basics. None of the phrases are exclusively Christian, and all could have been agreed to in some sense by most strands of first-century Judaism. In particular, they include no mention of Christ and of his saving role, which is, in fact, the main theme of this letter.

The first pair is the least surprising: repentance and faith. The two terms occur together elsewhere as a summary of the gospel imperative (Mk 1:15; Ac 20:21) and neatly express the twofold nature of Christian conversion, turning from the “acts that lead to death” or “useless rituals” (see note) and turning to God in faith.

The second pair of elements in the Christian “foundation” is less obvious. Later Christian sacramental usage suggests to many readers that the terms “baptisms” and “laying on of hands” refer to the Christian rituals of baptism and what would later be called either confirmation or ordination. But it is not likely such a technical sense of the latter phrase could have been assumed at this stage. And two peculiarities of the wording here point away from Christian baptism. First, the word here is “baptisms” (plural), and there is no other NT instance of baptism being referred to in the plural; indeed, its character as a single initiatory act makes such a usage very unlikely. Second, the Greek noun here is not baptisma (GK 967), which is used in the NT for Christian baptism (and for that of John the Baptist), but baptismos (GK 968), which is used elsewhere in the NT only for Jewish ritual washing of utensils (Mk 7:4; Heb 9:10; there may be a use for Christian baptism in Col 2:12, but the text is disputed). So despite the similarity of the Greek words, TNIV is right to avoid the loaded word “baptism” here and use instead “cleansing rites.” Whether these “cleansing rites” were the same as those of Judaism or some Christian development from them (see comments at 10:22), and whether baptism itself may have been included among them, it is impossible to say. “Laying on of hands” is a broader term with many possible applications. In the OT, hands were laid on people as a mark of blessing or consecration, including commissioning for God’s service (Nu 27:18–23), but also on sacrificial animals as a mark of identification (Lev 1:4; 16:21; etc.). In Christian circles, hands were laid on in connection with healing (Mk 6:5; Ac 9:17), commissioning (Ac 6:6; 13:3; 1 Ti 4:14), and the gift of the Spirit (Ac 8:17; 19:6). Thus it seems the Christian basics our author assumes included some form of ritual either taken over from Judaism or developed as Christian equivalents to the Jewish rites. We have here, then, perhaps a glimpse into an early strand of “Messianic Judaism” that continued to accept as normal aspects of Jewish ritual or Christian substitutes for them for which we have no evidence in the Pauline churches of the NT.

The third pair of Christian basics introduces a more doctrinal note. The “resurrection” referred to is not that of Jesus but that of dead people more generally. And that resurrection leads to an “eternal judgment,” which will be mentioned again in 9:27 as something all people must face. These beliefs, which occur together in Daniel 12:2, would have been shared by many Jews at that time, so that the readers may have already accepted them before they became Christians. But they remain an essential aspect of the Christian gospel, and the special role of Jesus as the judge (Mt 25:31–46; etc.) gives them added force.

The three pairs of “basics,” therefore, strike us in different ways. The first pair would be in anyone’s summary of what the Christian gospel is about; the second pair have little place in our understanding of faith as Gentile Christians; the third pair expresses an aspect of Christian (and some Jewish) belief that modern Christians would accept but perhaps might not have chosen for emphasis in such a short list of the basics. It is in this curious mixture of Jewish and Christian elements that the readers are still stuck; surely it is time to move on to a more distinctively Christian understanding.[5]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2172–2173). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, pp. 152–156). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 136–141). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 81–82). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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