Sunday, July 24, 2011

Going on to Perfection

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 judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 06:01-03, NKJV).

There are no worldly solutions to the world's problems. No amount of legislation, no charismatic leader, no attempt to police human morals or discourse, nor fear of punishment will make life on this planet any less prone to tragedy, loss, violence and death.

Only changed human hearts result in changed human behavior, and the only way a human heart can be changed is through faith in Christ, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Only in this way will murderers become life-savers, criminals become responsible citizens, and would-be conquerors become peacemakers. There is no other remediation  and no other hope.

Yet the world system continues to disparage the Christian faith, and consistently uses any means available to denigrate and marginalize men, women, and children of faith.

This is nothing new, of course, and has gone on since The Fall in Eden. But what is increasingly evident in these last days is the prevalence, frequency and intensity of the anti-God propagandists, and the growing eagerness of their intended audience.

Such should not be so in the church, however. Within the body of Christ, as the world worsens, Christians should become that much more immersed in the truth of God, and committed to living out a life of faith regardless of the seeming hopelessness and ever-growing chaos of the modern world.

Thus, the verses above continue the exhortation of the previous chapter to mature beyond being infants of the faith, and to desire a broadened and deepened knowledge of all that God offers in His Word.

Like any journey, there are the necessary steps along the way, requiring us to move out of our respective areas of comfort, and to travel further in our quest for truth. These necessary steps are what is need to go on to perfection. The word translated perfection is from the Greek root meaning completeness, lacking nothing. It does not mean sinless, moral perfection (though it certainly does not exclude such in the ultimate sense).

It does mean seeking to be fully equipped in whatever is needed to finish a journey, fulfill a task, purpose or goal, which, in this context, means living a life exclusively for Christ.

Step one is to go beyond the starting point of the gospel by leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ. Please note that word, discussion. The writer encourages us to move forward, not by discounting the vital importance of the gospel message, but to not stop there. To use it as the bedrock and build upon it.

This is an apt interpretation, since the very next phrase speaks of not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works. Justification (being declared innocent) is by faith alone in Christ alone. No amount of ritual, ceremony or system of works can earn pardon from the penalty of sin. Believing (faith toward God) in Christ's substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf is the only means of earning God's favor. Nothing else will suffice, which means that until we completely abandon any and all attempts to save ourselves, we cannot be saved.

Yet we are not to stop there, either.

Like dead works, those other symbolic rituals that can be used to substitute for true faith (and are, in fact, obstacles to true faith), must also be abandoned. We are not regenerated by baptism, infant or otherwise, nor does the laying on of hands endue us with redemption. Rock-solid acceptance and reliance on these are truths are fundamental to saving faith, but again, we cannot stop there.

Nor are we to be satisfied with the promise of resurrection of the dead, as our ultimate motivation to follow Christ. Nor should the prospect of eternal judgment being our destiny without Him be the primary reason we desire to follow Him.

While all these are true, we should seek to go beyond these, for it is CHRIST HIMSELF who is to be our supreme motivation. Knowing Him, walking in intimate fellowship with Him, being conformed into His image is the perfection we are to strive to journey toward.

And these goals are based, not just on His redemptive and saving work, as monumentally important and significant as these are, but on His magnificence and supremacy to all things as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This is what the writer is diligently communicating throughout this presentation of the measureless worth of the One who came to save us.

As loving, faithful, gratefully obedient children of God, we must not be content with anything less than knowing Him as completely as possible this side of eternity.

That is our goal. That is our destination. We are to forsake all else.