Greater than Elementary Things

Still hanging around in Christian kindergarten?

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection… Hebrews 5.12-6.1

Why elementary school?
Why do we send children to elementary school? Is it because we want them to spend the rest of their lives there? Or do we have some higher aspirations?

Of course we do. We want those kids to get the basics of information and skills, so they can progress through the rest of the educational system, and end up being productive citizens and contributors to society and culture.

What would we think of parents who were content to let their children languish in elementary school year after year? The very thought of it seems absurd. At least, where the education of our children is concerned.

But for many Christians, hanging around in elementary school has become the normal Christian life. The writer of Hebrews laid into his readers precisely because, having embraced the elementary things of Christian faith and life, they weren’t willing to go any further. For as long as they had been believers, they should have been feasting on solid food; but they were still sipping milk. They should have been actively involved in teaching others about the great salvation of the Lord; however, they were keeping a low profile as witnesses and disciple-makers, and were in need of being taught even the basics of the faith all over again.

To put it briefly, out of fear of how their neighbors might react to a more serious commitment to Christ on their part, the believers to whom the book of Hebrews was addressed had settled into elementary school, with no desire to graduate or grow, and they were neglecting their great salvation.

They needed to move on.

Our proper place
Every Christian is called to the task of making disciples. We are to love and encourage our fellow believers, sharing our own experiences of Christ freely and seeking to edify every other believer into greater heights of Christlikeness. That is, we “ought to be teachers,” as Jesus explained (Matt. 28.18-20).

Further, we must prepare ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word so that we can teach those who are not yet in Christ, but who see something in us for which they would like a reasonable explanation (1 Pet. 3.15). We are to be disciple-makers and witnesses, and we will not fulfill this calling as long as we continue in the elementary school of faith.

The basic doctrines of Christian faith – repentance, faith, baptism, the coming resurrection and judgment, and so forth – are meant only to provide a foundation for our faith. They are not the sum and substance of the faith, but merely the “elementary principles” of Christ and His great salvation.

Grasping these remarkable and amazing truths should spur us on to greater growth and to an insatiable hunger for the truth that sets us free and fits us for following Jesus in every area of life (Jn. 8.32; 2 Tim. 3.15-17). Initial repentance and faith in Jesus is a way of life for mature believers, not a milestone which, having passed, they can check off their spiritual to-do list. Baptism introduces us into the community of Christ, as members of His Body, in which we are to exercise all manner of spiritual gifts to build up one another and our congregation in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Baptism should be seen as launching us into a life of learning, growing, and ministering, and not just one more item on a basic list of “done that.” The laying on the hands indicates the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit and a calling to a specific sphere and ministry – your part of the world that Jesus is reconciling to God – where we are to seek the Kingdom of Jesus and do all things for the glory of God. And the coming resurrection and judgment should be for us a powerful impetus to grow in the Lord, becoming more like Jesus in life, work, witness, and worship.

This is our proper place in the life of faith, not hanging around the kindergarten, waiting for mommy or daddy to come and take us home in joy.

No wonder we have but little concept of how great our salvation is. We have not dared to invest ourselves in those higher grades of education, training, skills, and wisdom which prepare us for citizenship in the Kingdom of our God and King.

On to perfection
The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to move on from these elementary principles. And not just a little: “let us go on to perfection.” 

Perfection is only found in Jesus Christ, which is why, in the book of Hebrews, so much emphasis is placed on seeing and considering Jesus. We are to learn Jesus (Eph. 4.17-24), put on Jesus (Rom. 13.14), be transformed into Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-18), think with the mind of Jesus (1 Cor. 2.16), and to consider Him, both as our faithful High Priest and Ruler of His house (Heb. 3.1-3), and as the Example of heroic, self-denying, joyful obedience to God (Heb. 12.1, 2). We do this so that we can run the full course of our lives, every course in every grade and all the knowledge and skills with which that solid food will fit us for our race, and to realize that we must never be satisfied, never think we have arrived, never believe we have exhausted the richness and power of the life of faith. And we must never, never, ever be content merely to lounge around the Christian kindergarten with other complacent believers, telling one another that this is as good as it gets, right?

You will never know how great our salvation is until you determine to learn Jesus, grow in Jesus, be more like Jesus, and live for Jesus every day in every aspect of your life, even if it costs you to do so.

How great is your salvation?

For reflection
1.  If you were to compare your walk with Jesus to progressing through the educational system (kindergarten to graduate school), where would you place yourself? Why?

2.  How would you describe your grasp of the “solid food” on which mature, disciple-making witnesses of Christ feed as their regular fare?

3.  How can Christians encourage and assist each other to “go on to perfection”?

Next steps – Preparation: Share your answers to the three questions above with a fellow believer. Discuss how you can help one another move beyond elementary things to the solid food of maturity in Christ.

T. M. Moore

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This week’s study is part 1 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 1, “Little Things.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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