Hebrews 6:1
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VI.

(1) Therefore.—Since “for the time ye ought to be teachers,” but have so perilously sunk down into the lower state of Christian knowledge and experience.

The principles of the doctrine.—Rather, the doctrine of the first principles. The margin gives the literal meaning of the Greek, the word of the beginning. Comp. Hebrews 5:12, “the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God.”

Let us go on.—Better, let us press onwards unto perfection. There is an urgency in the words which is missed by the ordinary rendering. The word “perfection” (teleiotes) answers to that rendered “full grown” (teleios) in the preceding verse, and expresses maturity, fulness of growth. There the contrast is with “babes,” and the whole context relates to Christian instruction—the elementary and the complete. The closeness of the connection would seem to show that the same meaning must be intended here also: “Let us—I, as your teacher, leading you on with me—press on to maturity of Christian knowledge.” But if what precedes makes this reference clear, the following verses show not less clearly that teaching and learning are not alone in the writer’s thoughts. The relation between Hebrews 6:3-4 proves that, as is natural, he assumes a necessary union between learning and practice: indeed, the connection between immaturity of apprehension of Christian truth and the danger of apostasy is a thought present throughout the Epistle. Hence, though the direct meaning of “leaving the doctrine of the beginning” is ceasing to speak of elementary truths, there is included the further thought of passing away from that region of spiritual life to which those must belong who choose the “milk” of the Christian word as their sole sustenance.

Not laying again the foundation.—Better, a foundation. There can be no doubt that the particulars which follow are intended to illustrate the nature of the elementary teaching which will not be taken up in this Epistle. It will be observed (1) that there is no disparagement of these subjects of teaching. They belong to the foundation; but neither teachers nor learners must occupy themselves with laying a foundation again and again. (2) That the subjects here specified are not in themselves distinctively Christian. One and all they belonged to the ancient faith, though each one became more or less completely transformed when Jesus was received as the Messiah. Hence these were literally first principles to the Hebrew Christian,—amongst the truths first taught and most readily received. We have many indications, both within and without the pages of the New Testament, that the tendency of Jewish converts was to rest satisfied with this class of truths.

Repentance from dead works.—Of “dead works” we read again in Hebrews 9:14, “shall purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (see Note). The meaning cannot be “works that bring death,” as some have supposed; rather, works in which there is no principle of life, wrought by those who are “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18), in whom there is not the spirit of “life in Christ Jesus.” The law, indeed, promised that the man who should do “its statutes and judgments” should find life in them (Leviticus 18:5, quoted in Galatians 3:12); but even these works are “dead,” for no man can show more than partial obedience, and the law exacts the whole. The first step toward Christianity involved the acknowledgment of this truth, and the separation by repentance from all “dead works.” On the importance assigned to repentance in the Jewish creed little need be said. The teaching of the prophets (Ezekiel 18, et al.) is faithfully reflected in the sayings preserved in the Talmud: “The perfection of wisdom is repentance;” “Repentance obtains a respite until the Day of Atonement completes the atonement;” “Without repentance the world could not stand.”

Faith toward God.—Rather, faith upon God. (Comp. Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5.) The Hebrew doctrine of faith connected itself closely with a cardinal passage of prophecy (Habakkuk 2:4), “the just shall live by his faith; and there is a Jewish saying that on this one precept rest “all the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Law.” (See the Note on Hebrews 10:38, and the Excursus on Romans 1:17, Vol. II., p. 274.) This faith became new and living when the Jew believed in God through Jesus the Christ (John 14:1; 1Peter 1:21). It is hardly necessary to say that it is of repentance and faith as a foundation, not as belonging to later Christian experience, that the writer speaks.

Hebrews 6:1-2. Therefore — Seeing that most of you have continued so ignorant, although you have been so long favoured with the light of the gospel, and various means of edification, it is high time for you to labour for more knowledge and grace, and for me to instruct you further; leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ — That is, saying no more for the present, of those things in which those who embrace Christianity are wont to be first instructed. The original expression, τον της αρχης του Χριστου λογον, is, literally, the word of the beginning of Christ, as in the margin; and signifies those parts of the Christian doctrine which men were usually and properly first instructed in; and which the apostle immediately enumerates. They are the same with the first principles of the oracles of God, mentioned Hebrews 5:12. But it must be observed that the signification of the words must be limited to the present occasion; for if we consider the things here spoken of absolutely, they are never to be left, either by teachers or hearers. There is a necessity that teachers should often insist on the rudiments, or first principles, of religion; not only with respect to them who are continually to be trained up in knowledge from their infancy, but also those who have made a further progress in knowledge. And this course we find our apostle to have followed in all his epistles. Nor are any hearers so to leave these principles, as to forget them, or not duly to make use of them. Cast aside a constant regard to them, in their proper place, and no progress can be made in knowledge, no more than a building can be carried on when the foundation is taken away.

Let us go on unto perfection — Unto a perfect acquaintance with the more sublime and difficult truths, and the high privileges and duties of Christianity; not laying again — What has been laid already; the foundation of repentance from dead works — That is, from the works done by those who are dead in sin, or who, through sin, are under condemnation to the second death, are alienated from the life of God, and carnally minded, which is death, Romans 8:6. See note on Ephesians 2:1-2. Not only are known and wilful sins, which proceed from spiritual death, and if not pardoned and taken away, end in death eternal, here intended; but even all works, though apparently moral, charitable, and pious, are but dead works, before the living God, if they do not proceed from spiritual life in the soul, or from living faith, even the faith which worketh by love, (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:3,) as their principle, and be not directed to the glory of God as their end.

And faith toward God — Looking to, and confiding in him for pardon, holiness, and eternal life, through Christ. Of the doctrine of baptisms — The apostle does not speak of the legal washings in use among the Jews, whether by immersion, ablution, or sprinkling; (for why should those who believed in Christ be instructed concerning these?) but John’s baptism and that of Christ, which were distinct from each other, and were subjects of disputation with many among the Jews, Mark 7:3-4; John 3:22-26. John admitted the penitent to the baptism of water; and, in obedience to the command of Christ, (Matthew 28:19,) the apostles baptized all that professed to believe in him, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Or, as Whitby thinks, the apostle is here to be understood of the double baptism “of which John spake, when he said, I baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire, Matthew 3:11; and of which Christ spake to Nicodemus, (John 3:5,) saying, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. For this, in order, followed the doctrine of repentance, and of faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And the laying on of hands — The imposition of hands was used by the apostles and first Christian ministers in the healing of diseases, and in setting persons apart for the work of the ministry; but neither of these were common to all Christians, nor joined with baptism; nor were they reckoned among the principles of the doctrine of Christ, or the initiatory doctrines of the Christian faith. We must therefore understand this of that imposition of the apostles’ hands which was wont to be used, after baptism, to confer upon the persons baptized the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. See Acts 8:14-17; Acts 19:6. And this was a matter wherein the glory of the gospel and its propagation were highly concerned; indeed, next to the preaching of the word, it was the great means used by God for bringing both Jews and Gentiles over to the faith of the gospel, or for establishing them therein.

And the resurrection of the dead — Namely, of the bodies of the dead; and of eternal judgment — The future and general judgment, called eternal, because the sentence then pronounced will be irreversible, and the effects of it remain for ever. In which two last-mentioned articles, the penitent and believing, that had been admitted to baptism, were more fully instructed, as being most powerful motives to engage them herein to exercise themselves to have always consciences void of offence toward God and toward all men. “Interpreters observe,” says Whitby, “that the doctrine of Origen, touching the period of the torments of the damned, is here condemned; and indeed the primitive father’s not Origen himself excepted, taught the contrary. ‘If we do not the will of Christ,’ says Clemens Romanus, ‘nothing will deliver us from eternal punishment.’ ‘The punishment of the damned,’ says Justin Martyr, ‘is endless punishment and torment in eternal fire.’ In Theophilus it is, ‘eternal punishment.’ Irenæus, in his symbol of faith, makes this one article, ‘that God would send the ungodly and unjust into everlasting fire.’ Tertullian declares, ‘that all men are appointed to torment or refreshment, both eternal.’ And ‘if any man,’ says he, ‘thinks the wicked are to be consumed and not punished, let him remember that hell-fire is styled eternal, because designed for eternal punishment; and their substance will remain for ever whose punishment doth so.’ St. Cyprian says, ‘The souls of the wicked are kept with their bodies to be grieved with endless torments.’ ‘There is no measure nor end of their torments,’ says Minutius. Lastly, Origen reckons this among the doctrines defined by the church; ‘That every soul, when it goes out of this world, shall either enjoy the inheritance of eternal life and bliss, if its deeds have rendered it fit for bliss; or be delivered up to eternal fire and punishment, if its sins have deserved that state.’”6:1-8 Every part of the truth and will of God should be set before all who profess the gospel, and be urged on their hearts and consciences. We should not be always speaking about outward things; these have their places and use, but often take up too much attention and time, which might be better employed. The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. Of these it is said, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Not because the blood of Christ is not sufficient to obtain pardon for this sin; but this sin, in its very nature, is opposite to repentance and every thing that leads to it. If those who through mistaken views of this passage, as well as of their own case, fear that there is no mercy for them, would attend to the account given of the nature of this sin, that it is a total and a willing renouncing of Christ, and his cause, and joining with his enemies, it would relieve them from wrong fears. We should ourselves beware, and caution others, of every approach near to a gulf so awful as apostacy; yet in doing this we should keep close to the word of God, and be careful not to wound and terrify the weak, or discourage the fallen and penitent. Believers not only taste of the word of God, but they drink it in. And this fruitful field or garden receives the blessing. But the merely nominal Christian, continuing unfruitful under the means of grace, or producing nothing but deceit and selfishness, was near the awful state above described; and everlasting misery was the end reserved for him. Let us watch with humble caution and prayer as to ourselves.Therefore - "Since, as was stated in the previous chapter, you ought to be capable of comprehending the higher doctrines of religion; since those doctrines are adapted to those who have been for a considerable time professors of Christianity, and have had opportunities of growing in knowledge and grace - as much as strong meat is for those of mature years - leave now the elements of Christian doctrine, and go on to understand its higher mysteries." The idea is, that to those who had so long been acquainted with the way of salvation, the elements of Christianity were no more adapted than milk was for grown persons.

Leaving - Dismissing; intermitting; passing by the consideration of with a view to advance to something higher. The apostle refers to his discussion of the subject, and also to their condition. He wished to go on to the contemplation of higher doctrines, and he desired that they should no longer linger around the mere elements. "Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge than the mere elements of the subject." On the sense of the word "leaving," or quitting with a view to engage in something else, see Matthew 4:20, Matthew 4:22; Matthew 5:24.

The principles - Margin: "The word of the beginning of Christ." Tyndale renders it: "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian man." Coverdale, "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian life." On the word "principles" see the note on Hebrews 5:12. The Greek there, indeed, is not the same as in this place, but the idea is evidently the same. The reference is to what he regarded as the very elements of the Christian doctrine; and the meaning is, "let us no longer linger here. We should go on to higher attainments. We should wholly understand the system. We should discuss and receive its great principles. You have been long enough converted to have understood these; but you linger among the very elementary truths of religion. But you cannot remain here. You must either advance or recede; and if you do not go forward, you will go back into entire apostasy, when it will be impossible to be renewed." The apostle here, therefore, does not refer to his discussion of the points under consideration as the main thing, but to their state as one of danger; and in writing to them he was not content to discuss the elements of religion as being alone suited to their condition, but would have them make higher attainments, and advance to the more elevated principles of the gospel.

Of the doctrine - Literally, "the word" - λόγον logon - "reason, or doctrine of the beginning of Christ." That is, the word or reason that pertains to the elements of his system; the first principles of Christian doctrine.

Of Christ - Which pertain to the Messiah. Either what he taught, or what is taught of him and his religion. Most probably it is the latter - what pertains to the Messiah, or to the Christian revelation. The idea is, that there is a set of truths which may be regarded as lying at the foundation of Christian doctrine, and those truths they had embraced, but had not advanced beyond them.

Let us go on - Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge and holiness. The reference is alike to his discussion of the subject, and to their advancement in piety and in knowledge. He would not linger around these elements in the discussion, nor would he have them linger at the threshold of the Christian doctrines.

Unto perfection - compare the notes on Hebrews 2:10. The word here is used, evidently, to denote an advanced state of Christian knowledge and piety; or the more elevated Christian doctrines, and the holier living to which it was their duty to attain. It does not refer solely to the intention of the apostle to discuss the more elevated doctrines of Christianity, but to" such an advance as would secure them from the danger of apostasy." If it should be said, however, that the word "perfection" is to be understood in the most absolute and unqualified sense, as denoting entire freedom from sin, it may be remarked:

(1) that this does not prove that they ever attained to it, nor should this be adduced as a text to show that such an attainment is ever made. To exhort a man to do a thing - however reasonable - is no proof in itself that it is ever done.

(2) it is proper to exhort Christians to aim at entire perfection. Even if none have ever reached that point on earth, that fact does not make it any the less desirable or proper to aim at it.

(3) there is much in making an honest attempt to be perfectly holy, even though we should not attain to it in this life. No man accomplishes much who does not aim high.

Not laying again the foundation - Not laying down - as one does a foundation for an edifice. The idea is, that they were not to begin and build all this over again. They were not to make it necessary to lay down again the very cornerstones, and the foundations of the edifice, but since these were laid already, they were to go on and build the superstructure and complete the edifice.

Of repentance from dead works - From works that cause death or condemnation; or that have no vitality or life. The reference may be either to those actions which were sinful in their nature, or to those which related to the forms of religion, where there was no spiritual life. This was the character of much of the religion of the Jews; and conversion to the true religion consisted greatly in repentance for having relied on those heartless and hollow forms. It is possible that the apostle referred mainly to these, as he was writing to those who had been Hebrews. When formalists are converted, one of the first and the main exercises of their minds in conversion, consists in deep and genuine sorrow for their dependence on those forms. Religion is life; and irreligion is a state of spiritual death, (compare the notes on Ephesians 2:1), whether it be in open transgression, or in false and hollow forms of religion. The apostle has here stated what is the first element of the Christian religion. It consists in genuine sorrow for sin, and a purpose to turn from it; see the note on Matthew 3:2.

And of faith toward God - see the note on Mark 16:16. This is the second element in the Christian system. Faith is everywhere required in order to salvation, but it is usually faith "in the Lord Jesus" that is spoken of; see Acts 20:21. Here, however, faith "in God" is particularly referred to. But there is no essential difference. It is faith in God in regard to his existence and perfections, and to his plan of saving people. It includes, therefore, faith in his message and messenger, and thus embraces the plan of salvation by the Redeemer. There is but one God - "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and he who believes in the true God believes in him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Author of the plan of redemption, and the Saviour of lost people. No one can believe "in the true God" who does not believe in the Saviour; compare John 5:23; John 17:3. He who supposes that he confides "in any other" God than the Author of the Christian religion, worships a being of the imagination as really as though he bowed down to a block of wood or stone. If Christianity is true, there is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in, any more than the God of the Brahmin has an existence. To believe "in God," therefore, is to believe in him as he "actually exists" - as the true God - the Author of the great plan of salvation by the Redeemer. It is needless to attempt to show that faith in the true God is essential to salvation. How can he be saved who has no "confidence" in the God that made him?

CHAPTER 6

Heb 6:1-14. Warning against Retrograding, Which Soon Leads to Apostasy; Encouragement to Steadfastness from God's Faithfulness to His Word and Oath.

1. Therefore—Wherefore: seeing that ye ought not now to be still "babes" (Heb 5:11-14).

leaving—getting further forward than the elementary "principles." "As in building a house one must never leave the foundation: yet to be always laboring in 'laying the foundation' would be ridiculous" [Calvin].

the principles of the doctrine—Greek, "the word of the beginning," that is, the discussion of the "first principles of Christianity (Heb 5:12).

let us go on—Greek, "let us be borne forward," or "bear ourselves forward"; implying active exertion: press on. Paul, in teaching, here classifies himself with the Hebrew readers, or (as they ought to be) learners, and says, Let us together press forward.

perfection—the matured knowledge of those who are "of full age" (Heb 5:14) in Christian attainments.

foundation of—that is, consisting in "repentance."

repentance from dead works—namely, not springing from the vital principle of faith and love toward God, and so counted, like their doer, dead before God. This repentance from dead works is therefore paired with "faith toward God." The three pairs of truths enumerated are designedly such as Jewish believers might in some degree have known from the Old Testament, but had been taught more clearly when they became Christians. This accounts for the omission of distinct specification of some essential first principle of Christian truth. Hence, too, he mentions "faith toward God," and not explicitly faith toward Christ (though of course included). Repentance and faith were the first principles taught under the Gospel.Hebrews 6:1-3 The higher doctrines of Christianity are proposed to

be treated of.

Hebrews 6:4-9 The guilt and danger of apostacy.

Hebrews 6:10 Charitable deeds will not be forgotten of God.

Hebrews 6:11,12 An exhortation diligently to imitate the faith and

patience of those who inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 The promise of God to Abraham a sure ground of hope.

The Spirit having reproved these Hebrews for their fault, doth now counsel and direct them to amend it.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ; seeing ye have lost so much time already, and made so little progress in learning Christ, let us not therefore stay any longer in the principles of it, but proceed to some higher degree: pursuant to which he layeth down the principles of Christian doctrine in which these Hebrews had been initiated, and the doctrine of perfection which they were to pursue.

Leaving is an omitting or letting go, as to any sticking or standing in, so as to make no further progress, but to gain higher degrees of knowledge in the doctrine of the gospel, which enters novices into Christ, having attained the beginning, the matter or work of entrance into the Christian religion, now not to stick at this first and imperfect inchoation in this doctrine.

Let us go on unto perfection; a regular motion must succeed, according to the great Mover, incessantly, for our attaining the perfection of the doctrine of Christ. This perfection notes height of knowledge, faith, utmost repentance and spiritual change, greatest strength of understanding, and the fullest operation, according to the doctrine of Christ, in doing and forbearing, the fullest perseverance of the mind in the knowledge of it, and of the will in cleaving to it.

Not laying again the foundation: that which would hinder this was reiterating foundation work, which the apostle laid with them by initiating of them into the first principles of Christianity, the knowledge and faith of which they professed to receive, 1 Corinthians 3:11 Ephesians 2:20, and were therefore obliged to proceed in the building both of persons and truths on it: and lest they had forgot, or other’s were ignorant, what those fundamental principles and doctrines of the gospel were, he layeth down six heads of them in this and Hebrews 6:2, which was the common method of teaching either the children of Christians or infidels, that they might be Christians, at least professedly, or upon their lapse to restore them.

Of repentance from dead works: the first Christian principle or doctrine to be learnt, was that of repentance, which is the fundamental change of a sinner’s mind, and, in that, of himself; it carrieth in it knowledge, conviction of sin by God’s law, bitter sorrow for it, and full conversion of the soul to God from it, as it is described, 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; as from all sinful works flowing from it while lapsed from God; dead in sins, which would have eaten out and destroyed their souls for ever, Romans 6:23 Ephesians 2:1,2. It supposeth the knowledge of other truths preceding it, as their creation in God’s image, their apostacy from it, the misery consequent. &c. These Hebrews were to proceed and advance daily in the exercise of this grace.

And of faith towards God: the second Christian principle or doctrine is of faith on God, comprehending the habit and acts of that Divine grace, of evidence, subsistence, assent, and affiance, Hebrews 11:1, all the effects of it; and this exercised on God in his essence, relations, especially in his gracious contrivance and execution of the work of redemption for sinners; as giving reconciliation, righteousness, holiness, adoption, and eternal salvation, through Christ, fulfilling all righteousness by his death, as a sacrifice satisfying his justice, and meriting, as purchasing, all these blessings for believers, and effectually from heaven is dispensing them to them.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,.... The Gospel is the doctrine of Christ, and is so called, because Christ, as God, is the author of it; as Mediator, he received it from his Father; as man, he was the preacher of it; and he is also the sum and substance of it: the principles of this doctrine are either the easier parts of the Gospel, called milk in the latter part of the preceding chapter; which are not to be left with dislike and contempt, nor so as to be forgotten, nor so as not to be recurred to at proper times; but so as not to abide in and stick here, without going further: or rather the ceremonies of the law, which were the elements of the Jews' religion, and the beginning, as the word may be here rendered, of the doctrine of Christ; which were shadowy and typical of Christ, and taught the Jews the truths of the Gospel concerning Christ: in these the believing Jews were very desirous of sticking, and of abiding by them, and of continuing them in the Gospel church; whereas they were to be left, since they had had their use, and had answered what they were designed for, and were now abolished by Christ.

Let us go on to perfection: in a comparative sense, to a more perfect knowledge of things, which the clear revelation and ministry of the Gospel lead unto; and which the rites and ceremonies, types and figures of the law, never could:

not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works; the Syriac version reads this by way of interrogation, "do ye lay again, &c." and makes the third verse to be an answer to it: the phrase, "not laying again the foundation", is to be read in connection, not only with this article of repentance, but with each of the other five articles, the foundation of which is no more to be laid again than this: and not laying it again, either means not teaching it, and so refers to the apostle, and other ministers of the word, who should not insist upon the following things, at least not stick there, but go on to deliver things more sublime and grand; or not hearing it, and so refers to the Hebrews, who should seek after a more perfect knowledge of evangelic truths than the following articles exhibited to them: and the several parts of this foundation, which; are not to be laid again ministerially, by preachers, or attended to by hearers, design either the first things, with which the Gospel dispensation was ushered in; or rather, and which I take to be the true sense, the general principles and practices of the Jews under the former dispensation; for these are not the six principles of the Christian religion, as they are commonly called, but so many articles of the Jewish creed; some of which were peculiar to the Jews, and others common to them, with us Christians: thus,

repentance from dead works, does not intend evangelical repentance, the doctrine of which is to be ministerially laid, and the grace itself to be exercised over and over again; but a repentance which arose from, and was signified by the sacrifices of slain beasts; for by them the Jews were taught the doctrine of repentance, as well as remission of sin; and in and over them did they confess their iniquities; yea, every beast that was slain for sacrifice carried in it a conviction of sin, an acknowledgment of guilt; and it was tacitly owning, that they, for whom the creature was slain, deserved to be treated as that was, and die as that did. So the Jews (f) say,

"when a man sacrifices a beast, he thinks in his own heart, I am rather a beast than this; for I am he that hath sinned, and for the sin which I have committed I bring this; and it is more fitting that the man should be sacrificed rather than the beast; and so it appears that, , "by the means of his offering he repents".''

But now, under the Gospel dispensation, believing Jews, as these were to whom the apostle writes, were not to learn the doctrine of repentance from slain beasts, or to signify it in this way; since repentance and remission of sins were preached most clearly to them in the name of Christ: nor were they to lay again another part of this foundation, or a second article of the Jewish creed,

and of faith towards God; which article is expressed in language agreeable to the Jewish dispensation; whereas evangelical faith is usually called the faith of Christ, or faith in Christ, or towards our Lord Jesus Christ; but this respects faith in God, as the God of Israel: hence says our Lord to his disciples, who were all Jews, "ye believe in God": ye have been taught, and used to believe in God, as the God of Israel; "believe also in me", as his Son and the Messiah, and the Mediator between God and man, John 14:1, so that now they were not only to have faith towards God, as the God of Israel, and to teach and receive that doctrine; but to have faith in Christ as the Saviour of lost sinners, without the intermediate use of sacrifices.

(f) Nizzachon Vet. p. 11. Ed. Wagenseil.

Therefore leaving the {a} principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; {1} not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

(a) The first principle of Christian religion, which we call the catechism.

(1) Certain principles of a catechism, which comprehend the sum of the doctrine of the gospel, were given in few words and briefly to the poor and unlearned, that is, the profession of repentance and faith in God. The articles of this doctrine were required from those who were not yet members of the Church on the days appointed for their baptism. Of those articles, two are by name recited: the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Ed.)

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 6:1-3. It is disputed whether in these verses the author carries out his purpose of advancing, with the pretermission of the Christian elementary instruction, to objects of deeper Christian knowledge; or whether there is contained in the same a summons to the readers, no longer to cling to the doctrines of the first principles of Christianity, but to strive to reach beyond them and attain to Christian maturity and perfection.[77] The former supposition is favoured by Primasius, Luther, Vatablus, Zeger, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, Piscator, Schlichting, Grotius, Owen, Limborch, Wolf, Bengel, Peirce, Cramer, Michaelis, Morus, Storr, Abresch, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Klee, de Wette, Stengel, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Bisping, Reiche (Comment. Crit. p. 36 sqq.), Conybeare, Reuss, M‘Caul, Hofmann (Komm. p. 231), and many others; the latter, on the other hand, by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Photius, Gennadius (in Oecumenius), Theophylact, Faber Stapulensis, Calvin, Clarius, Justinian, Jac. Cappellus, Böhme, Stuart, Bleek, Ebrard, Hofmann (Schriftbew. I. p. 636, 2 Aufl.), Moll, and others. The connection with the preceding and following context decides against the first acceptation and in favour of the second. The author has just now charged the readers with dulness, and complained that they are still children in Christian understanding. It is not possible, therefore, that he should now continue in the strain: “on that account he purposes, passing over the doctrines of the initial stage, to treat in his address of objects of higher, profounder Christian knowledge;” whereas, on the other hand, the exhortation to ascend to a higher stage fittingly links itself to the complaint of the lower standpoint of the readers, which still continues unchanged notwithstanding all legitimate expectation to the contrary. No wonder, then, that expositors have been forced, in connection with the first-named explanation, to have recourse to arbitrary interpretations of the διό, Hebrews 6:1; either in completing the idea, as Grotius, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Bisping, and others, by: “therefore, because surely no one of you wishes to remain a ΝΉΠΙΟς,”—which, however, as the middle term, must have been expressly added, since no reader could divine this from that which precedes,—or in referring it, as Schlichting and Reuss, to the first words of Hebrews 6:11 : ΠΕΡῚ ΟὟ ΠΟΛῪς ἩΜῖΝ Ὁ ΛΌΓΟς ΚΑῚ ΔΥΣΕΡΜΉΝΕΥΤΟς ΛΈΓΕΙΝ, and regarding all that intervenes in the light of remarks appended by way of parenthesis,—which, nevertheless, is to be rejected, even on account of the intimate connection of ΔΥΣΕΡΝΉΝΕΥΤΟς ΛΈΓΕΙΝ, v. 11, with the following ἘΠΕῚ Κ.Τ.Λ.,—or finally, what is lexically impossible, denying to it a causal signification, and then translating it either, as Morus, by “yet” (doch), or, as Zachariae, by “nevertheless” (indessen), or as Abresch, by vero, enimvero.

But no less does the coherence with that which follows decide against the first interpretation and in favour of the second. For it is quite comprehensible how the reason given, Hebrews 6:4 ff., should be able to lend emphasis to a preceding exhortation, but not how the declaration of the author, that he now intended to pass over to more difficult, more profound themes for instruction, should be explained thereby. (See on Hebrews 6:4-6.) In ἀφέντες there lies no decisive ground in favour of either the one or the other view (against de Wette, Bisping, and others), and ἘΠῚ ΤῊΝ ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗΤΑ, as also ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΒΑΛΛΌΜΕΝΟΙ, is more relevant to the case of the readers than to that of the author (vide infra).

Διό] therefore, i.e. since the solid food is suited only to τέλειοι, ye, however, do not yet belong to the number of the ΤΈΛΕΙΟΙ.

ἈΦΙΈΝΑΙ
] is not only employed by orators and historians to indicate that they intend to pass over some subject or leave it unmentioned (comp. e.g. Demosth. de Falsa Legat. p. 433, 28: πάντα τὰ ἄλλα ἀφείς, ἃ πάντες ὙΜΕῖς ἼΣΤΕ ἘΡῶ), but serves with equal frequency to denote the leaving unnoticed or leaving aside of an object in actual conduct. Comp. e.g. Mark 7:8 : ἀφέντες τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ κρατεῖτε τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων; Luke 5:11 : ἈΓΈΝΤΕς ΠΆΝΤΑ ἨΚΟΛΟΎΘΗΣΑΝ ΑὐΤῷ; Eurip. Androm. 393: ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀγχὴν ἀφεὶς πρὸς τὴν τελευτήν, ὑστέραν οὖσαν, φέρῃ; In our passage it is the leaving aside of the lesser, in order to reach beyond it and attain to the higher. Entirely akin to the ἈΦΙΈΝΑΙ ΤῸΝ Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟΥ is that which Paul, Php 3:14, denotes as ἘΠΙΛΑΝΘΆΝΕΣΘΑΙ ΤᾺ ὈΠΊΣΩ. As in the passage named Paul speaks of a forgetting of that already attained upon the path of Christian perfection, only with a glance at the goal as yet unattained, and not in an absolute sense,—as though he would in reality deny all actual significance to that which was already attained,—quite so does the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews stir up the readers to an ἈΦΙΈΝΑΙ ΤῸΥ Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟΝ, only inasmuch as they are called to rise, beyond that which forms a mere preliminary stage, to something higher, without in any way implying thereby that the Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟς, which certainly, as a base presupposed as already present, remains necessary for all subsequent building, should at all cease to be their possession. The objection, that ἈΦΈΝΤΕς cannot be referred to the readers, because instead of a leaving aside (letting go) a holding fast or renewing of the Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟς must rather be demanded as a means for attaining to the ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗς, has therefore no force. Comp. Calvin: Jubet autem omitti ejusmodi rudimenta, non quod eorum oblivisci unquam debeant fideles, sed quia in illis minime est haerendum. Quod melius patet ex fundamenti similitudine, quae mox sequitur. Nam in exstruenda domo nunquam a fundamento discedere oportet; in eo tamen jaciendo semper laborare ridiculum.

ΤῸΝ Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟΝ] the word of the beginning concerning Christ, i.e. the Christian doctrine in its first rudiments or elements. τῆς ἀρχῆς locks together with ΤῸΝ ΛΌΓΟΝ into a single notion, and upon this total-notion ΤΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ depends. The whole expression, however, amounts to the same thing as was before (v. 12) denoted by ΤᾺ ΣΤΟΙΧΕῖΑ Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤῶΝ ΛΟΡΊΩΝ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ.

Ἡ ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗς
] in connection with our apprehension of Hebrews 6:1-3, determines itself naturally as perfection, i.e. manhood and maturity in Christianity, and that in an intellectual respect, not in an ethical or practical one, in which latter sense the expression has been accepted—arbitrarily, because opposed to the connection with v. 11–14—by Chrysostom (βίος ἄριστος), Gennadius (ΧΡΗΣΤῊ ΠΟΛΙΤΕΊΑ ΚΑῚ Τῆς ΠΊΣΤΕΩς ἈΞΊΑ), Photius (Ἡ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἈΡΕΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΚΟΠΉ, Ἡ ΤῶΝ ΘΛΊΨΕΩΝ ΚΑῚ ΔΙΩΓΜῶΝ ΚΑῚ ΠΕΙΡΑΣΜῶΝ ὙΠΟΜΟΝΉ), Oecumenius (Ἡ ΤῶΝ ἜΡΓΩΝ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΊΑ), Clarius (non solum superioris illius de Christo theologiae comprehensio, quantum homini fas est, verum etiam profectus in virtutes et afflictionum persecutionumque tolerantia), and others. Those who find in Hebrews 6:1-3 a statement of the author concerning his intention, must naturally understand ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗς of the perfection of doctrine, i.e. of the deeper disclosures with regard to Christianity. But this is, at all events, a forced interpretation of the simple notion of the word, such as neither corresponds to the usage in other cases (comp. Colossians 3:14), for in our passage appears in keeping with the context. For, since immediately before the discourse was of τέλειοι in opposition to ΝΉΠΙΟΙ, so here only the condition of the ΤΈΛΕΙΟΙ can consistently with nature be the meaning of the ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗς. Had the author intended the perfection of doctrine, he must at least have written ἘΠῚ ΤᾺ ΤῶΝ ΤΕΛΕΊΩΝ instead of ἘΠῚ ΤῊΝ ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗΤΑ; for only in this way would he have acquired a notion corresponding to the preceding Ἡ ΣΤΕΡΕᾺ ΤΡΟΦΉ, v. 14.

ΦΕΡΏΜΕΘΑ] The author includes himself in the exhortation (cf. Hebrews 6:14, al.), and thereby tempers the same. φέρεσθαι ἐπί τι, to be carried away to something, to strive with zeal after something.

θεμέλιον καταβάλλεσθαι] a formula fully current in later Greek style (Dionys. Halicarn. 3:69; Josephus, Antiq. xi. 4. 4, al. [whereas Paul and Luke employ τιθέναι, 1 Corinthians 3:10; Luke 6:48; Luke 14:29]), to denote the laying of the foundation. Even on account of the usualness of this mode of speech, it is quite a misapprehension of the meaning when Ebrard would here vindicate for ΚΑΤΑΒΆΛΛΕΣΘΑΙ the signification: “demolish.” But also the position of the word decides against this, since ΚΑΤΑΒΑΛΛΌΜΕΝΟΙ, must have its place before ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟΝ, whereas the placing of it after shows that the emphasis must fall upon θεμέλιον, not upon the verb; ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟΝ thus stands in antithesis to the following ΤΕΛΕΙΌΤΗΤΑ. The participial clause: ΜῊ ΠΆΛΙΝ ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΒ. Κ.Τ.Λ., accordingly forms an elucidation to ἈΦΈΝΤΕς ΤῸΝ Τῆς ἈΡΧῆς ΤΟῦ ΧΡΟΣΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟΝ.

The genitive ΜΕΤΑΝΟΊΑς, etc., indicates the material with which the foundation is laid, and, indeed, each two of the instances named belong together, so that three pairs of the first principles of Christianity are enumerated. The article before the single substantives is omitted throughout; not, as Böhme and Bleek suppose, out of a consideration for the rhythm, lest otherwise the articles should too greatly accumulate, but because the sense is: with things such as μετάνοια, etc.

Further, as subject in ΚΑΤΑΒΑΛΛΌΜΕΝΟΙ we have to regard the readers of the epistle (not the author), because the same subject is presupposed for the μετάΝΟΙΑ and the ΘΕΜΈΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΒΆΛΛΕΣΘΑΙ; but the ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑ, which cannot denote the doctrine of the change of mind,—since otherwise, as with the words in Hebrews 6:2, the addition of διδαχή could not have been wanting,—but expresses the act of the change of mind itself, beyond doubt relates to the readers of the letter, not to the author.

Not anew are the readers to lay the foundation by μετάνοια ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων and ΠΊΣΤΙς ἘΠῚ ΘΕΌΝ; since this foundation has with them already been laid, it is now thus only a question of continuing to build upon the foundation laid. Not in such wise are they accordingly to behave, that the primary requirement of turning from the ἜΡΓΑ ΝΕΚΡΆ and having ΠΊΣΤΙς towards God, must ever afresh be made with regard to them.

The construction ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑ ἈΠΌ, as with ΜΕΤΑΝΟΕῖΝ, Acts 8:22; LXX. Jeremiah 8:6.

ἈΠῸ ΝΕΚΡῶΝ ἜΡΓΩΝ] By ΝΕΚΡΆ the works are not characterized as sinful, and by sin occasioning death (Piscator, Schlichting, Jac. Cappellus, Limborch, Peirce, Abresch, Bisping, Stuart, and others), nor as defiling, as according to the law of Moses contact with a dead body defiled (Michaelis, al.), but as in themselves vain and fruitless [see on Hebrews 9:14]. Perhaps the author has—what is on no sufficient grounds contested by R. Köstlin (Theol. Jahrbb. von Baur und Zeller, 1854, H. 4, p. 469 ff., Remark), Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 568), and Kurtz—before his mind the service of works under the Mosaic law, from which the readers had not yet been able to free themselves. A contradiction, as Riehm supposes (l.c. p. 835 f.), of the fact recognised, p. 16, that πίστις with the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not, as with Paul, involve an opposition to the ΝΌΜΟς and the ἜΡΓΑ ΝΌΜΟΥ, lies not in this expression. For neither in our passage is mention made of ΝΕΚΡᾺ ἜΡΓΑ in relation to ΠΊΣΤΙς, but only in relation to the factor of the ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑ which precedes the ΠΊΣΤΙς.

ΚΑῚ ΠΊΣΤΕΩς ἘΠῚ ΘΕΌΝ
] The positive reverse side to the negative ΜΕΤΑΝΟἼΑς ἈΠῸ ΝΕΚΡῶΝ ἜΡΓΩΝ. The ideas conveyed by the ΜΕΤΑΝΟΕῖΝ and ΠΙΣΤΕΎΕΙΝ, the ΜΕΤΆΝΟΙΑ and the ΠΊΣΤΙς, likewise associated with each other, Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21. These words, however, are to be understood, as Abresch, Bleek, and others rightly insist, in accordance with the signification, which the author is otherwise wont to attach to ΠΊΣΤΙς, of the believing confidence in God, as the one who in part has already fulfilled the promises of salvation given in the person of Jesus Christ, in part will yet completely fulfil them.

[77] Delitzsch and Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 781 f.), to whom Maier, Kluge, Kurtz, and Woerner have given in their adhesion, have thought to be able to escape the stringency of the above either … or … They will have us recognise the one to the non-exclusion of the other, in that they find expressed at the same time the exhortation to the readers to strive after the τελειότης, and the design of the writer to lead forward the readers to the τελειότης. But this (comp. also Reiche, Comment. Crit. p. 37, note 2) is an unnatural, absolutely impossible assumption. The announcement of the author’s design to advance to a more difficult section of his disquisition, and the exhortation to the endeavour after Christian maturity addressed to others, are two so mutually irreconcilable declarations, as not possibly to admit of being compressed at the same time into the φέρεσθαι ἐπί, ver. 1, and τοῦτο ποιεῖν, ver. 3. Just as little can at the same time be indicated by τελειότης, ver. 1, the condition of ripe age in Christianity, and the Christian teaching activity of another in reference to higher things. If, therefore, the author had designed to express both together,—alike an incitement of the readers, as also the carrying out of his own intention,—he must necessarily have brought under review each one separately, i.e. first the one and then the other. In addition to this, there is the further consideration that the view of Delitzsch and Riehm bears the character of half measures. For they do not even venture to push it to a consistent conclusion, in that surely the same two-sidedness of reference which attaches to the principal verb φερώμεθα (and to the τοῦτο ποιήσωμεν which resumes the thought of the same), must also attach to the participles ἀφέντες and καταβαλλόμενοι; but as it is, the participles are supposed to have grammatically, it is true, the same two-sided subject as the principal verbs; logically, on the other hand, to refer preponderantly (i.e. according to the preceding remark in Delitzsch, p. 209, init.: exclusively) to the author!Hebrews 6:1. Διὸ “wherefore,” i.e., because beginnings belong to a stage which ought long since to have been left behind (Hebrews 5:12), ἀφέντες … let us abandon [give up] the elementary teaching about Christ and press on to maturity. [Of the use of ἀφιέναι in similar connections Bleek gives many instances of which Eurip., Androm., 393 may be cited: ἀλλὰ f1τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ. ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα is an expression which was in vogue in the Pythagorean schools. [Westcott and Weiss press the passive. “The thought is not primarily of personal effort … but of personal surrender to an active influence.” But φέρομαι is used where it is difficult to discover a passive sense.] It is questioned whether the words are merely the expression of the teacher’s resolution to advance to a higher stage of instruction, or are meant as an exhortation to the readers to advance to perfectness. Davidson advocates the former view, Peake the latter. It would seem that the author primarily refers to his own teaching. The context and the use of λόγον favour this view. He has been chiding them for remaining so long “babes,” able to receive only “milk”; let us, he says, leave this rudimentary teaching and proceed to what is more nutritious. But with his advance in teaching, their advance in knowledge and growth in character is closely bound up. What the writer definitely means by τὸν τ. ἀρχῆς τ. Χριστοῦ λόγον, he explains in his detailed description of the “foundation,” which is not again to be laid. It consists of the teaching that must first be given to those who seek some knowledge of Christ. Westcott explains the expression thus: “the word, the exposition, of the beginning, the elementary view of the Christ”; although he probably too narrowly restricts the meaning of “the beginning of Christ” when he explains it as “the fundamental explanation of the fulfilment of the Messianic promises in Jesus of Nazareth”. Weiss thinks the writer urges abandonment of the topics with which he and his readers had been occupied in the Epistle [“also des bisherigen Inhalts des Briefes”.] But this is not necessarily implied, and indeed is excluded by the advanced character of much of the preceding teaching. What was taught the Hebrews at their first acquaintance with the Christ must be abandoned, not as if it had been misleading, but as one leaves behind school books or foundations: “non quod eorum oblivisci unquam debeant fideles, sed quia in illis minime est haerendum”. Calvin: as Paul says, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος, Php 3:13. μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι “not again and again laying a foundation”. θεμέλιον possibly a neuter (see Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 119) as in Acts 16:16; certainly masculine in 2 Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:19 twice. καταβαλλ. the usual word for expressing the idea of “laying” foundations, as in Dionys. Hal., iii. 69; Josephus Ant., xv. 11, 3; metaphorically in Eurip., Helena, 164; hence καταβολὴ κόσμου, the foundation of the world. Then follow six particulars in which this foundation consists. Various arrangements and interpretations have been offered. Dr. Bruce says: “We are tempted to adopt another hypothesis, namely, that the last four are to be regarded as the foundation of the first two, conceived not as belonging to the foundation, but rather as the superstructure. On this view we should have to render ‘Not laying again a foundation for repentance and faith, consisting in instructions concerning baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment.’ In favour of this construction is the reading διδαχήν found in B, and adopted by Westcott and Hort, which being in opposition with θεμέλιον suggests that the four things following form the foundation of repentance and faith.” But Dr. Bruce returns to the idea that six articles are mentioned as forming the foundation, and Westcott, although adopting the reading διδαχήν, makes no use of it. Balfour (Central Truths) in an elaborate paper on the passage suggests that only four articles are mentioned, the words, βαπτισμῶνχειρῶν being introduced parenthetically, because the writer cannot refrain from pointing out that repentance and faith were respectively taught by two legal rites, baptism and laying on of hands. The probability, however, is, as we shall see, that six fundamentals are intended, and that they are not so non-Christian as is sometimes supposed. These six fundamentals are arranged in three pairs, the first of which is μετανοίαςΘεόν “repentance from dead works and faith toward God”. Repentance and faith are conjoined in Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9. They are found together in Scripture because they are conjoined in life, and are indeed but different aspects of one spiritual act. A man repents because a new belief has found entrance into his mind. Repentance is here characterised as ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων. Many explanations are given. [“Hanc vero phrasin apud scriptores Judaicos mihi nondum occurrisse lubens fateor” (Schoettgen).] The only other place where works are thus designated is Hebrews 9:14, where the blood of Christ is said to cleanse the conscience from dead works and thus to fit for the worship of the living God; on which Chrysostom remarks εἴ τις ἥψατο τότε νεκροῦ ἐμιαίνετο· καὶ ἐνταῦθα εἴ τις ἅψαιτο νεκροῦ ἔργου, μολὐνεται διὰ τῆς συνειδήσεως, as if sins were called “dead” simply because they defile and unfit for God’s worship. [On this view Weiss remarks, “wenigstens etwas Richtiges zu Grunde”.] Others think that “dead” here means “deadly” or “death-bringing”; so Peirce; or that it is meant that sins have no strength, are “devoid of life and power”; so Tholuck, Alford; or are “vain and fruitless” (Lünemann). Hofmann says that every work is dead in which there is not inherent any life from God. Similarly Westcott, who says: “There is but one spring of life and all which does not flow from it is ‘dead’. All acts of a man in himself, separated from God, are ‘dead works’.” Davidson thinks that this is “hardly enough,” and adds “they seem so called because being sinful they belong to the sphere of that which is separate from the living God, the sphere of death (Hebrews 2:14, etc.)”. Rather it may be said that dead works are such as have no living connection with the character but are done in mere compliance with the law and therefore accomplish nothing. They are like a dead fleece laid on a wolf, not a part of his life and growing out of him. Cf. Bleek and Weiss. Such repentance was especially necessary in Jewish Christians. καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν, the counterpart of the preceding. The abandonment of formal, external righteousness results from confidence in God as faithful to His promises and furnishing an open way to Himself. What is meant is not only faith in God’s existence, which of course had not to be taught to a Jew, but trust in God. Faith is either εἰς, πρός, ἐν, or ἐπί as union, relation, rest, or direction is meant (Vaughan).1. leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ] Lit., “leaving the discourse of the beginning of Christ,” i.e. getting beyond the earliest principles of Christian teaching. He does not of course mean that these first principles are to be neglected, still less forgotten, but merely that his readers ought to be so familiar with them as to be able to advance to less obvious knowledge.

let us go on] Lit., “let us be borne along,” as by the current of a stream. The question has been discussed whether the Author in saying “let us,” is referring to himself or to his readers. It is surely clear that he means (as in Hebrews 4:14) to imply both, although in the words “laying a foundation” teachers may have been principally in his mind. He invites his readers to advance with him to doctrines which lie beyond the range of rudimentary Christian teaching. They must come with him out of the limits of this Jewish-Christian Catechism.

unto perfection] The “perfection” intended is the “full growth” of those who are mature in Christian knowledge (see Hebrews 5:14). They ought not to be lingering among the elementary subjects of catechetical instruction which in great measure belonged no less to Jews than to Christians.

not laying again] There is no need for a foundation to be laid a second time. He is not in the least degree disparaging the importance of the truths and doctrines which he tells them to “leave,” but only urging them to build on those deep foundations the necessary superstructure. Hence we need not understand the Greek participle in its other sense of “overthrowing.”

the foundation] Lit., “a foundation.” The subjects here alluded to probably formed the basis of instruction for Christian catechumens. They were not however exclusively Christian; they belonged equally to Jews, and therefore baptised Christian converts ought to have got beyond them.

repentance from dead works] Repentance is the first lesson of the Gospel (Mark 1:15). “Dead works” are such as cause defilement, and require purification (Hebrews 9:14) because they are sinful (Galatians 5:19-21) and because their wages is death (Romans 6:23); but “the works of the Law,” as having no life in them (see our Article xiii.), may be included under the epithet.

faith towards God] This is also one of the initial steps in religious knowledge. How little the writer meant any disparagement of it may be seen from Hebrews 11:1-2; Hebrews 11:6.Hebrews 6:1. Διὸ, wherefore) It might be thought that we should say δὲ, but: but the particle διὸ, wherefore, is better fitted to rouse. So Paul also, Romans 2:1, note.[38]—ἀφέντες, leaving) in this discussion. In other respects these heads of doctrine are not thrown away, but are taken for granted. The apostle speaks, in his own name and in the name of the other teachers, in the plural number.—τὸν λόγον, the doctrine, the word) ch. Hebrews 5:11 [ὁ λόγος].—τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, of the principles of Christ) Three pairs of particulars (heads), which are enumerated in this and the following verse, were of that kind, that a Jew, well instructed among his countrymen out of the Old Testament, ought to have applied them for the most part to Christianity. Regarding repentance, the resurrection, and the judgment, the point is clear; for inasmuch as eternal life is only mentioned by implication among these, and expressly in the antithesis, Hebrews 6:5, it also agrees with the system of both testaments: as also the apostle speaks of faith toward GOD, not toward the Lord Jesus; comp. Acts 11:21, note. He speaks of baptisms in the plural, of which the Jews had various kinds for the purpose of initiation; and the imposition of hands (Numbers 27:18; Numbers 27:23) was very much practised among them. Whosoever was well acquainted with these two, quickly comprehended the doctrine of Christian baptism and of the imposition of hands by the apostles; and this is the very reason why these two particulars are interwoven with other points more fundamental; namely, because the gift of the Holy Spirit corresponds to these in the antithesis, of which each refers to perfection, not to initiation. Therefore these six particulars were the principles of the oracles of God, ch. Hebrews 5:12; likewise the ἡ ἀρχὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, principles of the doctrine of Christ, viz. among those learning Christ; for Christ is often used by Paul, by Metonymy of the concrete for the abstract, for Christianity: Galatians 4:19; Php 1:21, “my life, or abiding in the flesh, is Christ,” that is, is the work of Christ. Add Colossians 3:11, note. These particulars had been, if we may say so, the Christian Catechism of the Old Testament; and such Jews, who had begun to recognise Jesus as the Christ immediately upon the new light being brought to bear (being shed) on these fundamental heads, were accounted as having the principle of the doctrine of Christ. Perfection—i.e. the perfect doctrine concerning Christ Himself—is opposed to this beginning principle (ἡ ἀρχὴ) [Hebrews 6:4-5].—φερώμεθα, let us go on, or be carried forward) A word implying active exertion. He properly puts this subjunctive before the indicative, ποιήσομεν, we will do, Hebrews 6:3.—πάλιν, again) Again, Hebrews 6:6, accords with this.—θεμέλιον, foundation) A synonym of ἀρχῆς, of the beginning principle.—καταβαλλόμενοι laying) An architectural term.—μετανοίας, κ.τ.λ., of repentance, etc.) He might have said, concerning GOD and faith in Him, concerning sin and repentance; or at least, concerning repentance from dead works, concerning faith in GOD; but he forthwith says, the foundation of repentance, etc. Therefore we ought not to delay in the consideration of sin, but to begin with active repentance. Therefore we ought to connect faith with the first mention of GOD. Therefore Theology is practical.—ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων, from dead works) So ch. Hebrews 9:14. This term implies a loathing of sin.

[38] The illative particle, as being the stronger, absorbs the transitive partide.—ED.Verses 1, 2. - Wherefore (since it is so incumbent on us to advance out of the state of milk-fed infants), leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us press on unto perfection (τελειότητα, continuing the image of maturity). The proper translation of τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Ξριστοῦ λόγον is doubtful, the question being whether τῆς αρχῆς is to be connected with λόγον as an adjective genitive (so taken, as above, in the A.V.; cf. Hebrews 5:12, στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς), or with τοῦ Ξριστοῦ, the word of the beginning of Christ, meaning discourse concerning the first principles of Christianity. "Initium Christi, soil. Apud discentes Christum, saepe quippe Christus dicitur Paulo per metonymiam conereti pro Christianismo" (Bengel). A further question is whether the writer merely expresses his own intention of proceeding at once in this Epistle to the more advanced doctrine, or whether he is exhorting his readers to make spiritual progress, using the first person plural, φερώμεθα (as in Hebrews 2:1 and Hebrews 4:1, φοβήθωμεν) out of sympathetic courtesy. The correspondence of this delicate form of exhortation with that of the earlier passages, the very words φερώμεθα, "let us be borne on," "press forward" (implying more than mere passing to a new line of thought), and τελειότητα (which expresses personal maturity, not advanced subject of discourse), as well as the earnest warnings that follow against falling back, seem to necessitate the second of the above views of the meaning of this verse. The writer has, indeed, in his mind his intention of proceeding at once to the perfect doctrine; for he hopes that what he thus exhorts them to do they will do, so as to be able to follow him; but exhortation, rather than his own intention, is surely what the verse expresses. Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. What was meant by τὰ στοιχεῖα, etc., and τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς, etc., is here specified under the new image of a foundation on which a superstructure should be raised (cf. for the same figure, 1 Corinthians 3:11, a further instance of Pauline modes of thought). Of course no disparagement of the importance of this foundation is implied: it is necessary for the superstructure: it has in itself the elements of the superstructure, which rises from it in the way of growth. What is meant is, "With us this foundation has been already laid; I will not suppose any need for laying it anew: let us, then, go on to contemplate and understand the building that rests on and rises from it." The fundamentals enumerated are six - two essential principles of the religious life, and four heads of doctrine; for the word διδαχῆς rules βαπτισμῶν and the three succeeding genitives, but not μετανοίας and πίστεως which precede. These are the fundamentals, or first principles, of Christianity; but (as has been intimated) so defined as to express no more, by the language used, than what even enlightened Jews might accept and understand. Fully understood, they carry the Christian superstructure; but they are such as a "babe" in Christ might rest content with; without seeing their ultimate bearing. The principles first mentioned are repentance and faith, the requisite qualifications for baptism, the essence of John the Baptist's teaching, and announced by Christ at the commencement of his ministry as the first steps into his kingdom: "The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15; cf. also Acts 20:21). By the dead works, from which repentance is to be, the Fathers generally understand simply sinful works, which may be so called because of sin being a state of spiritual death, and having death for its wages (cf. "dead in trespasses and sins," Ephesians 2:1), or as being in themselves barren and fruitless (cf. τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀραρρποις τοῦ σκότους Ephesians 5:11). In an enumeration of elementary principles like this, the allusion, supposed by some commentators, to the deadness of "the works of the Law," as set forth by St. Paul, is not likely to have been intended. The faith spoken of is not faith in Christ, but simply "faith towards God," which is, of course, the foundation and necessary preliminary of Christian faith. The reason for the expression is to be found in the writer's intention to specify only the first principles of the gospel, in which the Christian was still on common ground with the Jew (cf. John 14:1, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me"). The four fundamental doctrines follow.

(1) Of baptisms. Observe, the word is not βάπτισμα, invariably used elsewhere for Christian baptism, but βαπτισμὸς, and that in the plural, βαπτισμῶν. In other passages βαπτισμοὶ denotes the various lustrations practised by the Jews - "washings of pots and cups" (Mark 7:8); "divers washings (Hebrews 9:10). Hence we may suppose these to be included in the general idea, and also the Jewish baptism of proselytes. On the other hand, the elementary doctrines of the gospel being here spoken of, there can be no doubt that the doctrine of Christian baptism is in the writer's view, but only with regard to the first simple conception of its recanting, which it had in common with other symbolical washings, the significance of which was understood by enlightened Jews (cf. John 3:10, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?").

(2) The doctrine of laying on of hands. This also was a Jewish rite, understood as signifying the bestowal of blessing and of power from above (cf. Genesis 48:14; Deuteronomy 34:9; Mark 10:13), and was, as well as baptism, adopted into the Christian Church, acquiring there a new potency. The apostles practiced it for conferring the gifts of the Spirit after baptism (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6), for ordination (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), and also for reconciling penitents (1 Timothy 5:22), and for healing' (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8). Mentioned here immediately after "the doctrine of baptisms," and in an enumeration of elements in which all Christians were concerned, we can hardly fail to understand special refer-once to the imposition of hands after baptism, i.e. to confirmation. The two remaining doctrines of

(3) the resurrection of the dead, and

(4) eternal judgment, were also understood and generally accepted by enlightened Jews, and at the same time are necessary to be mentioned for a complete account of the foundations of the Christian faith. These foundations are, as has been seen - repentance and faith (qualifying for admission into the Church), and then the doctrine of remission of sins (expressed and conveyed by baptism), of enabling grace (expressed and conveyed by confirmation), of the life hereafter, and of final judgment. Of these an elementary conception was level to even babes in Christ, fresh from Jewish training; fully understood, they form the basis of the whole structure of the highest Christian doctrine. It is obvious from the purport of the passage why neither the historical articles of the creed in which Christians were instructed (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 1 Timothy 3:16), nor the doctrine of the Eucharist (which belonged to the more advanced teaching), are included in this enumeration of the στοιχεῖα. Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ (ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον)

Lit. leaving the word of the beginning concerning Christ. Ἀφέντες leaving or dismissing does not imply ceasing to believe in elementary truths or to regard them as important, but leaving them "as a builder leaves his foundation in erecting his building" (Bruce). The word of the beginning of Christ is practically equals the rudiments of the beginning, Hebrews 5:12; that rudimentary view of Christ's person and office which unfolds into the doctrine of his priesthood. Up to this point the writer has shown only that the permanent elements of the old covenant remain and are exalted in Christ. The more difficult point, which it will require matured perception to grasp, is that Christ's priesthood involves the entire abolition of the old covenant.

Let us go on unto perfection (ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα)

Lit. let us be born on to completeness. The participial clause, leaving, etc., is related to the verbal clause as expressing a necessary accompaniment or consequence of the latter. Let us be born on to completeness, and, because of this, leave, etc. This sense is not given by the Rev. Τελειότης only here and Colossians 3:14. Rend. completeness. The completeness is viewed as pertaining to both the writer and the readers. He proposes to fully develop his theme: they are exhorted to strive for that full Christian manhood which will fit them to receive the fully-developed discussion.

Not laying again the foundation (μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι)

Not explanatory of leaving, etc. The following words, describing the elements of the foundation, - repentance, baptisms, etc., - simply illustrate in a general way the proposal to proceed to the exposition of the doctrine of Christ's priesthood. The illustrative proposition is that a building is not completed by lingering at the foundation; and so Christian maturity is not to be attained by going back to subjects which belong to the earliest stage of Christian instruction. He purposely selects for his illustration things which belong to the very initiation of Christian life.

Dead works (νεκρῶν ἔργων)

The phrase only in Hebrews. Comp. Hebrews 9:14. Not sinful works in the ordinary sense of the term, but works without the element of life which comes through faith in the living God. There is a sharp opposition, therefore, between dead works and faith. They are contraries. This truth must be one of the very first things expounded to a Jew embracing Christianity.

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