I want to be mature. I don’t want to be a baby. I want to grow up and be an adult. I don’t want to stay in elementary school. I want to graduate. I want to move on!
Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about the Messiah and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits. | Hebrews 6:1-3 (Christian Standard Bible)
No one can escape coming into the world as a baby because that is the only way to get here! But it is tragic when a baby fails to mature. No matter how much parents and grandparents love to hold and cuddle a baby, it is their great desire that the baby grow up and enjoy a full life as a mature adult. God has the same desire for His children. That is why He calls to us, “Go on to maturity!”
It is a call to spiritual progress. If we are going to make progress, we have to leave the childhood things behind and go forward in spiritual growth. Hebrews 6:1 literally reads, “Therefore, having left [once and for all] the elementary lessons [the ABCs] of the teaching of the Messiah.” When I was in kindergarten, the teacher taught us our ABCs. (We didn’t have television to teach us in those days.) You learn your ABCs so that you might read words, sentences, books—in fact, anything in literature. But you do not keep learning the basics. You use the basics to go on to better things.
The phrase, “Let us go on,” could be translated, “Let us be carried forward.” It is God who enables us to progress as we yield to Him, receive His Word, and act on it. A baby does not “grow himself.” He grows as he eats, sleeps, exercises, and permits his body to function. Nature, as ordained by God, carries the baby along day after day, and gradually he matures into an adult. It is normal for disciples of Jesus to grow; it is abnormal for them to have arrested growth.
The writer lists six foundational truths of the discipleship life. If the readers of this letter went back to Judaism in order to escape persecution, they would only be abandoning the perfect for the imperfect, the mature for the immature.
The first two items (repentance and faith) are Godward and mark the initiation of the spiritual life. To repent means to radically change one’s mind. It is not simply a “bad feeling about missing God’s goal (aka sin),” because that could be regret or remorse. It is changing one’s mind about missing God’s goal to the point of turning from it. Once a we have repented (and this itself is a gift from God, then he is able to exercise faith in God. Repentance and faith go together.
The next two items (baptisms and laying on of hands) have to do with a person’s relationship to the local assembly of believers. In the New Testament, a person who repented and trusted the Messiah was baptized and became a part of a local assembly. The word “baptisms” is plural and can be translated “washings”. While water itself can never cleanse sin, baptism is a symbol of spiritual cleansing as well as our identification with Jesus in death, burial, and resurrection. The “laying on of hands” symbolized the sharing of some blessing or the setting apart of a person for ministry. “Laying on of hands” often accompanied baptism for reception of the Holy Spirit
The last two items, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, have to do with the future. Both orthodox Jews and Christians believe in these doctrines. The Old Testament teaches a general resurrection but does not make the doctrine clear. The New Testament teaches a resurrection of the saved and a resurrection of the lost.
The lesson of the paragraph is clear: “You have laid the foundation. You know your ABCs. Now move forward! Let God carry you along to maturity!”
Here is the literal translation:
Therefore [because you’re like infants and need to mature] leaving the Messiah’s initial word [= the ABCs of the gospel, called in 5:12 “the initial elements of God’s oracles”], let us allow ourselves to be carried on to maturity, not laying again the foundation consisting in repentance from dead works and in faith toward God, in teaching about baptisms and laying on of hands, and [in teaching] about the resurrection of dead [people] and eternal judgment. And we’ll do this, if in fact God permits.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 295–296). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Heb 6:1–20). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 885). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.