The foundation doctrines of Christ

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement." (Hebrews 6:1-2) NKJV

The writer of Hebrews is here making it clear that these doctrines constitute the "elementary principles," the "foundation" of the teachings concerning Christ. The purpose of his exhortation is that we should "go on to perfection," thereby leaving these doctrines as the builder leaves the foundation and continues constructing his building. However, the building cannot be erected unless a complete and stable foundation has first been laid. Therefore, before a Christian can go on to maturity, he must first be well grounded in the six successive doctrines mentioned here. These are:
i) repentance from dead works;
ii) faith toward God;
iii) the doctrine of baptisms;
iv) the laying on of hands;
v) the resurrection of the dead;
vi) eternal judgement.

1. Repentance from dead works

Repentance (Greek metanoeō) means "to change one's mind or purpose, always, in the NT, involving a change for the better" ... and always, except in one instance, of "repentance from sin." [1] Thus the basic significance of repentance in the NT, is not an emotion, but a decision; a decision to turn from sin. In the OT the word most commonly translated as repentance means literally "to turn," "to return," "to turn back." [2] Whereas the NT word refers to the inner decision, the OT word refers to the outward action which is the expression of the inner change of mind. Therefore the complete biblcal picture of repentance is an inner decision to turn from sin, resulting in an outward turning around to move in a completely new direction.

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A tragic example of the fact that biblical repentance does not mean an emotion such as remorse, is found in the New Testament reference to the story of Esau, who had "despised his birthright." [3] By implication he also despised the promises and blessings of God that were associated with the birthright. Afterward, when he regretted what he had done, he shed bitter tears of remorse and tried to regain his birthright. But "he was rejected," because "he could bring about no change of mind." [4] As the Amplified puts it, "he could find no opportunity to repair by repentance what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made." And so we too can, by a seemingly trivial act, decide the whole course of our lives and our destinies for eternity, if we despise the promises and blessings of God.

Paul tells us that it is God Himself who "commands all men everywhere to repent..." [5] Repentance is the first response to the gospel that God demands, and nothing else can take its place. We read of "repentance from dead works" [6] and of "repentance toward God." [7] This means that, in the act of repentance, we turn away from our own dead workds and we face toward God, putting our faith in Him. Without true repentance, faith alone is merely an empty profession; faith must be built upon the foundation of scriptural repentance. Dead works are 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 distinction, therefore, between dead works and faith. Because of the contrary nature of dead works and faith, the former must be abandoned before the latter becomes possible. These dead works include the activities of professing Christianity (eg. church attendance, public prayers, charity, etc) if reliance is put on them for justification, because then "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags ..." [8]

Scriptural repentance is something that begins with God and not with man. Apart from the working of God's grace and the moving of God's Spirit, man cannot of his own unaided will repent and turn to God. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." [9] When we accept the Spirit's drawing to repentance, it leads to saving faith and eternal life. If we continue to reject it, we can pass the place of repentance so that the Spirit of God will never again draw us and all hope will thus be lost, because "... unless you repent you too will all perish." [10]

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2. Faith toward God

Faith (Greek pistis) means primarily a "firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing (akin to paithō, to persuade)." [11] It is used in the NT always of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual. The three elements of faith in its relation to God are i) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth; [12] ii) a personal surrender to Him; [13] iii) a conduct inspired by such surrender. [14]

2.1 A full acknowledgement of God's revelation means to place our faith in God's Word; in the invisible and eternal truths of God. "For we walk by faith not by sight." [15] In spiritual experiences, sight comes after faith not before it. Jesus told Martha, "If you would believe you would see all the glory of God." [16] The mistake we tend to make is to reverse this order. But a true faith will reckon a thing to be true because God has declared it to be true, even when no evidence of its truth may be manifested to the senses.

2.2 We personally surrender our lives to Christ when we confess that a) He was delivered by God the Father to the punishment of death on account of our sins; b) He was buried: c) God raised Him from the dead on the third day. God credits us with righteousness in response to our faith in Him. [17] Just as Abraham believed God "and it was credited to his account as righteousness", [18] in the same way we are "justified by faith" [19] when we "call upon the name of the Lord." [20]

2.3 Conduct inspired by such surrender. Although we have been saved by faith and not works, [21] our salvation consists of "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." [22] If we have thus been born again as children of God, and made new creatures in Christ, then the life of God takes control of our natures and will be expressed in a new way of living. If our faith is not expressed in such "works," then our faith is "dead." [23]

3. The doctrine of baptisms

The word "baptism" is the Greek baptisma which refers to "the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from baptō, to dip ...)" [24] Scriptural baptism thus means a total immersion in the element of the baptism. As far as the believer is concerned, four baptisms are mentioned in Scripture:

3.1 Baptism into the Body of Christ. When a repentant sinner turns to God in faith, the Holy Spirit baptises him into the Body of Christ. [25] In the sight of God, he is then justified, sanctified and redeemed. [26] A new life is produced in him which must be encouraged to grow, [27] while the old life must be reckoned as crucified with Christ. [28]

3.2 Baptism in water. The new believer is then baptized in water by another believer in obedience to the command of the Lord. [29] Baptism in water is the response of a good conscience toward God, [30] and symbolizes identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. [31]

3.3 Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Baptizer, [32] and during the baptism two things happen to the believer: Firstly, as Jesus "pours out" the Spirit on him, [33] he is "filled" with the Spirit, i.e. he receives the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within himself. Secondly, as outward evidence of the baptism, the believer should then speak in tongues. [34]

3.4 Baptism in suffering. This baptism is effected by the world on the true child of God, just as it had been fulfilled in Jesus' life. [35] Believers are to expect it [36] and desire it [37] as true followers of Christ. [38] If it is true suffering for Christ, believers are to rejoice in it, [39] because through suffering they are being perfected, [40] and because their reward will be great. [41]

4. The laying on of hands

The laying on of hands is an act, usually accompanied by prayer and/or prophecy, done by one believer to another. It signifies one or more of three things: i) the imparting of spiritual blessing or authority, ii) the public acknowledgement that such blessing has already been received from God, and iii) the public committal to God of the person for some special task.

The laying on of hands was an accepted practice in OT times: It was done eg. by Jacob, when he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh. [42] Also by Moses, when he imparted authority to Joshua and commissioned him publicly as the new leader of Israel. [43] According to NT examples, there are five purposes for the laying on of hands:

4.1 To bless children. Jesus laid His hands on the little children who were brought to Him and blessed them. [44]

4.2 To heal the sick. The context of Mark 16:15-18 suggests the preaching to and laying on of hands for the healing of the unconverted. However, a sick believer is commanded to "call for the elders ... and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil ..." [45] The oil here is a type of the Holy Spirit ministering divine life and healing to the sick person.

4.3 To receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As Jesus is the One who baptizes "with the Holy Spirit and with fire," [46] this sometimes takes place with the laying on of hands, [47] and sometimes without it. [48] During this act there is a direct spiritual contact between the two believers, and therefore Paul gives the following warning to Timothy: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure." [49]

4.4 To impart spiritual gifts. Paul states that he longs to see the Romans in order to impart to them "some spiritual gift" to make them strong.[50] In Timothy's example we see that the gift he received was first revealed through prophecy and then made effective through the laying on of hands. [51]

4.5 To acknowledge ministries. Out of the five prophets and teachers at the Antioch church, the Holy Spirit chose two, Paul and Barnabas, for a definite spiritual ministry. After a period of fasting and prayer, the rest of them "laid hands on them" and "sent them away;" [52] thus acknowledging that they had been called to a special task and claiming for them the spiritual wisdom, grace and power they would need.

The first deacons of the church at Jerusalem were chosen by the congregation, but the apostles laid hands on them, confirming that they had been chosen by the Holy Spirit. [53] Although Paul admonished Titus to "appoint elders," [54] he told the Ephesian elders that they had been appointed by the Holy Spirit. [55]

5. The resurrection of the dead

In contrast with the previous foundations, the resurrection of the dead belongs not to time, but to eternity. Eternity is the nature of God's own being, the realm in which He Himself exists. The ultimate destiny of all souls consists of two things: the resurrection of the dead [56] and eternal judgement. [57] Because judgement concerns "the things done in the body," [58] the resurrection of the body must precede judgement.

Daniel the prophet spoke of the resurrection of "some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." [59] So also Jesus distinguished between "the resurrection of life" and "the resurrection of condemnation." [60] Paul indicated that the resurrection will consist of three successive phases: i) "Christ, the firstfruits," ii) the believers, "at His coming," and iii) the non-believers, at "the end," [61] i.e. the end of Christ's earthly reign of 1000 years. Then the sea, Death and Hades will deliver up all the dead in them to be judged. [62] Most of these will be resurrected to face condemnation: "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

As Christ is the "first fruits" of the resurrection, He serves as the example of what will happen to "those who belong to Him ... when He comes." [63] When He died His body went to the grave, [64] His soul went to paradise, [65] and His Spirit was committed to God. [66] When He was resurrected, His Soul/Spirit was reunited with His original body [67] which had, however, been changed. [68]

Paul tells us that our bodies will be "raised ... spiritual bod(ies)," [69] i.e. they will no longer be subject to the limitations of a mortal body. As, for example, Jesus could suddenly appear behind locked doors. [70] We shall "bear the image of the heavenly man." [71] Those believers still alive at His coming will be changed "in a flash." [72] then both the resurrected dead and the changed believers will be "caught up ... to meet the Lord in the air." [73]

As to when this "rapture" or "snatching away" will occur, there is considerable difference of opinion, based on different Scriptures: some place this event before the tribulation; [74] some believe that only truly committed Christians will ba raptured before the tribulation; [75] and others believe that the rapture will take place after the tribulation, at "the last trumpet." [76] But whatever our particular beliefs may be, Jesus commanded us to "be ready," because He "will come at an hour when (we) do not expect Him." [77]

6. Eternal Judgement

This is God's judgement of each individual soul, on the basis of his character and conduct, whereby his destiny is settled for eternity.The revelation of God as Judge [78] is tempered by the revelation of His grace and mercy as manifested in the mediatorial office and shed blood of Christ. Because wrath and judgement are alien to God's nature, He has transferred the office of judgement to His Son, [79] who in turn transferred it to the Word. [80] All men must one day answer to the impartial, unchanging standard of God's Word, which reveals that divine judgement will take place according to truth, and on the basis of men's deeds, secrets, words, [81] motives, [82] and light received. [83]

The NT reveals three successive scenes of eternal judgement, each one centering around a specific judgement seat:

6.1 At the judgement seat of Christ, every Christian will give an account of himself [84] and be judged according to his deeds. [85] It will not be a judgement for condemnation [86] but for rewards, based upon his service to Christ. [87] Even if a man's works are totally burnt up in the test of fire, his soul will still be saved. However, before the true Christians are admitted to this judgement seat, the angels will first separate out hypocrites and false Christians, who will receive the judgement due to them. [88]

6.2 At the throne of Christ's glory, after the great tribulation, which will be the judgement of Israel, [89] the Gentile nations will be judged on the basis of their treatment of the Jewish people. [90] The sheep nations will enter into Christ's millennial kingdom, but the goat nations will be banished "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." [91]

6.3 At the judgement of the Great White Throne, after the millennium, the rest of mankind will be judged. [92 The majority of these people will probably not have fulfilled God's conditions for mercy, and will therefore be condemned to the lake of fire.

Conclusion

When our faith is firmly built on the scriptural foundation of these doctrines, it becomes possible to obey the further exhortation of Hebrews 6:1, "... let us go on to perfection ..." We do this when we are fully committed to "God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build (us) up and give (us) an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." [93]

References:
1. Vine, p.962
2. Prince, p.104
3. Genesis 25:34
4. Hebrews 12:17
5. Acts 17:30
6. Hebrews 6:1
7. Acts 20:21
8. Isaiah 64:6
9. John 6:44
10. Luke 13:5
11. Vine, p.411
12. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
13. John 1:12
14. 2 Corinthians 5:7
15. 2 Corinthians 5:7
16. John 11:40
17. Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
18. Romans 4:3
19. Romans 3:28
20. Romans 10:13
21. Ephesians 2:8-9
22. Titus 3:5
23. James 2:26
24. Vine, p.98
25. 1 Corinthians 12:13
26. 1 Corinthians 1:30
27. 1 Peter 2:2
28. Romans 6:6
29. Matthew 28:19
30. 1 Peter 3:2
31. Romans 6:6
32. Matthew 3:11
33. Acts 2:33
34. Acts 2:4; 10:44-46; 19:6
35. Luke 12:50; Mark 10:38-39; 14:30-36
36. John 15:18-21
37. Philippians 3:10
38. 1 Peter 2:20-21
39. 1 Peter 4:12-16
40. Romans 5:3-4; Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9
41. Hebrews 12:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12
42. Genesis 48:14
43. Numbers 27:18-23
44. Mark 10:16
45. James 5:14-15
46. Matthew 3:11
47. Acts 8:18; 19:1-6; 19:17
48. Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46
49. 1 Timothy 5:22
50. Romans 1:11
51. 1 Timothy 4:14
52. Acts 13:1-3
53. Acts 6:3-6
54. Titus 1:5
55. Acts 20:28
56. 1 Corinthians 15:22
57. Acts 17:30-31
58. 2 Corinthians 5:10
59. Daniel 12:2
60. John 5:28-29
61. 1 Corinthians 15:22-24
62. Revelation 20:11-15
63. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23
64. Matthew 27:59-60
65. Luke 23:43
66. Luke 23:46
67. Luke 24:39-40
68. John 20:26
69. 1 Corinthians 15:44
70. John 20:19
71. 1 Corinthians 15:49
72. 1 Corinthians 15:51
73. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
74. Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-37; Jude 14
75. Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 3:10
76. 1 Corinthians 15:52 with Revelation 10:15; 20:4-6
77. Luke 12:40
78. Hebrews 12:22
79. John 5:22
80. John 12:47-48
81. Matthew 12:36-37
82. Hebrews 4:12-13
83. Romans 2:1-16
84. Romans 14:10, 12
85. 2 Corinthians 5:10
86. John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 8:1
87. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
88. Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43, 47-50
89. Jeremiah 3:3-9; Ezekiel 20:37-38
90. Matthew 25:31-46; Joel 3:1-2
91. Matthew 25:41
92. Revelation 20:11-15
93. Acts 20:32

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Douglas, J.D. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982.

2. Prince, D Foundation Series, Chichester, England: Sovereign World, 1986.

3. Richards, L.O. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1985.

4. Thayer, J.H. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Tennessee, U.S.A.: Baker Book House Co., 1977.

5. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983

6. Vine, W.E. Vine's expository dictionary of New Testament words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.:
Hendrickson Publishers, ?

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Posted in: Bible by on April 12, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

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