There was a time for the “tutoring” of the way to Christ (Gal 3:24) among whom God knew the generality of those instructed would not move on to its completion. For those He knew would (Jewish Christians), and those He knew who would follow (Gentile Christians), God is bringing about an eternal kingdom, a place “without end” (Eph 3:21).
: Then came the time “to leave the rites and ceremonies of the law, which were the rudiments, or first principles of the Gospel, and go on to a more perfect knowledge of Gospel truths.”
No Turning Back!
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1, 2).
As with these Hebrew believers, so in Christendom, nowhere is the darkness and ignorance of God’s Word greater than amongst those who cling to tradition and religious ritual. Occupied with mere forms and dazzled by sensuous religion that stirs the emotions, and ministers to the natural mind (all which I believe God used to draw their attention—NC) people are blinded to the Gospel of the grace of God unfolded in the Word of God.
To meet this snare the Apostle’s exhortation is, “Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to what belongs to full growth.” He then refers to certain fundamental truths known in Judaism before the Cross, and suited to a state of spiritual infancy. In contrast to these truths the Apostle presents the full truth of the Person and work of Christ, now revealed in Christianity, which he speaks of as “perfection.” By clinging to truths which were for the time before Christ’s incarnation, these believers hindered their growth in the full revelation of Christ in Christianity.
The Apostle speaks of repentance from dead works, faith in God, of the doctrine of washings, of imposition of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. These truths were all known before the Lord Jesus’ time. The faith he speaks of is faith in God, not personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The washings refer to Jewish purifications, not Christian baptism. The laying on of hands refers to the way by which the Israelite identified himself, as the offerer, with the victim he offered. Resurrection is “of the dead,” not from among the dead as in Christianity. Martha, in the Gospel story (John 11:24—NC), believed in the resurrection of the dead (at the last day—NC): she found it difficult to believe in the Christian truth, that one could be raised from among the dead while the others were left in death (prior to the last day—NC).
Having sought to meet the difficulties occasioned by their dull spiritual condition, the Apostle passes on to warn these believers of the serious danger to which they were exposed. The fact that they were clinging to the forms and ceremonies of Judaism might indicate that some who were enlightened by the truths of Christianity, and had tasted its privileges, had given up their profession and returned to Judaism. For such there would be no recovery. This “falling away,” of which the Apostle speaks, is not the backsliding of a true believer, but the apostasy of a mere professor.
The passage speaks of enlightenment, not of new birth, nor of eternal life. It speaks of the outward privileges of Christianity, the presence of the Spirit, the preciousness of the Word of God, and the outward manifestation of power in the Christian circle. All this could be felt and known by those brought in among believers, and yet could give up their profession and return to Judaism. In so doing, they returned to a system that has ended in the crucifixion of the Messiah. They virtually, for themselves, crucified the son of God, and put Him to an open shame; for, by their action, they practically avowed they had tried Christ and Christianity, and found Judaism better.
It removes all the difficulty from the passage when we clearly see that the Apostle is not supposing the possession of divine life, or a divine work in the soul, but merely tasting the outward privileges of the Christian circle.