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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Back to the Bottle?

We need to make sure of the fundamentals.

You Ought to Be Teachers! (4)

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. Hebrews 5.12

The problem with the Christians to whom the book of Hebrews was addressed was that they were not quite getting to their responsibility for teaching one another and bearing witness to the lost. They had settled into the elementary principles of the faith, and they just weren’t moving along. They were disciples who were neither growing in the Lord nor helping other disciples to grow in Him.

The writer of the book of Hebrews was not questioning their salvation; he was convinced by the good works of love he had seen in them that they really did know the Lord (Heb. 6.9, 10). But he warned them against becoming complacent, lest he and they should be found to be wrong about them, and they be discovered not to be followers of Christ at all.

Following Jesus is more than just starting well. “Getting saved” is not an end-point for salvation, but it’s the beginning. If we as disciples want to grow in the Lord and be bold about Him, not cowering before the threats of sinful people; if we are to know joy and confidence in our faith, rather than doubting and slipping back into unbelieving ways; and if we hope to fulfill our calling and teach one another and the lost, and thus imitate the great heroes of the faith who have gone before us, we will need to move on from “first principles” and begin taking in more of the “solid food” of faith (Heb. 6.11, 12).

We must not be sluggish, like some of them had become – hanging around the basic teachings of the faith, not willing to take up the more demanding truths of the Gospel, or to practice their faith with boldness and consistency. Such people, the writer warned, were in danger, not of falling away from the faith, but of being discovered never truly to have believed in the first place (Heb. 6.1-9).

Move on!
Despite the evidence of real faith in his readers, the writer insisted that they must move on.

But before they did, they needed to revisit those basic teachings – the “milk” of Christian doctrine – once again. Because it was a sure bet they wouldn’t be able to teach one another or bear witness to the lost until those basics were firmly rooted and beginning to bear even more fruit in their lives.

The basic doctrines of faith are the essential foundation on which we grow our lives as disciples. We want that foundation to be sure, sure enough that we are never shaken from it, and that we can teach it confidently to others. The basic doctrines of Christian faith may be basic, but they are indispensable.

So what were these basic doctrines?

But first, a review
We alluded to them previously. The writer sketches those basic faith principles in Hebrews 6.1, 2, and we may summarize them succinctly.

First is the doctrine of Jesus Christ (v. 1). You can’t be a Christian and you won’t be able to teach others until you understand and believe that Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, that He fulfilled all the righteousness God requires of people, bore our sins in His own body on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God. From there He is upholding the cosmos by His powerful Word and advancing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, until the day He returns to take His Church unto Himself. By believing in this Jesus we are justified before God, adopted into the household and community of faith, indwelt by the Spirit of God, conveyed into the Kingdom of God (Col. 1.13), and set on the path of being ready to follow Jesus.

This is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. There is no other Name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4.12). No one can be a Christian who does not confess this, and all who confess it will “go on to perfection” (Heb. 6.1) and bring their lives into increasing conformity with what Jesus teaches (Matt. 28.18-20).

That includes repentance from sin, the second basic principle of the faith (v. 1). Repentance is an act of faith and obedience in which a believer, convicted of some sin in his life, confesses it to the Lord, puts it aside, and takes up a course in life more consistent with the example of Christ and the teaching of His Word. You cannot be a Christian and not practice repentance. Following Jesus requires that we lay aside everything that is displeasing to Him and that we work hard, day by day, to be renewed by His Spirit into the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.17-24; Phil. 2.12, 13).

Next is the doctrine of the Church – here alluded to by the reference to baptism and the ordaining of church officers (laying on of hands, v. 2). If you are a Christian, you are a member of the Body of Christ. Building His Church is the Lord’s agenda, and every follower of Jesus becomes a co-laborer in that work. Each of us has something to contribute to the growth of our church and its ministry, and our job is to discover what that is and work hard to realize it (1 Cor. 12.7-11; 1 Pet. 4.10, 11). Disciples are not lone rangers; we need one another, and we are to contribute to one another’s growth in the Lord by our example, teaching, and encouragement (Heb. 10.24).

Finally, living toward the resurrection and eternal life is basic to the life of faith (v. 2). “What manner of people ought we to be,” Peter asked, since we are destined to live forever with the Lord (2 Pet. 3.11-14)? And John said the prospect of being with Jesus forever should make us eager to be pure, as He is pure (1 Jn. 3.2, 3). If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we will live forward, toward the coming day of resurrection and eternal life. We will prepare ourselves every day for this great homecoming, to make sure, when we arrive at the marriage feast of the Lamb, that we’re properly clothed in the garments He alone can supply. Paul said that he was always pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ, and that all who were mature in the Lord were of precisely that mind (Phil. 3.14, 15).

These are the foundational doctrines of Christian faith. All disciples understand and embrace these doctrines; and they are the foundation on which we build our lives and churches as holy temples unto the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 6.19; Eph. 2.19-22). Christians who live for future glory – there and then and here and now – don’t dawdle in the break room of faith. They’re busy and eager about the business of following Jesus, each according to the work they’ve been given to do.

These are the elementary teachings of the faith, the “milk” of belief. You can’t follow Jesus if you’re not settled in these most basic principles of Christian belief. If these are not in place and bearing fruit in your life, well, it may be time to return to the bottle once again. Not to remain on the bottle, but to make certain that your foundation for being and making disciples is sure.

For reflection
1.  What are some reasons believers don’t seem to grow in the Lord like we might expect they should?

2.  Should we be concerned about ourselves, if we don’t seem all that interested in growing in Christ? Explain.

3.  What can Christians do to encourage one another to grow in the Lord?

Next steps – Conversation: Talk with some Christian friends about growing in the Lord. What do they do to keep growing? How are they able to tell when they’re making progress? How could you encourage one another to grow in the Lord?

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.

Two books can help you prepare for teaching opportunities with the lost people in your Personal Mission Field. The first, Understanding the Times, provides background understanding for what lost people think and how they live. Order your free copy by clicking here. The Gospel of the Kingdom will allow you to work through your understanding of the Gospel, so that you’re ready to teach it whenever an opportunity arises. A free copy can be yours by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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