Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
For me, this little bit of text always brings me up short, for we see that the things we almost always talk about are the “elementary teachings,” the “milk” but not “solid food” of maturity at all! Let’s take a closer look:
“…not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God…” This is something we need to see in a different way, for it isn’t maturity in Christ. What is this “foundation” for repentance from sins and faith in God?
It is the cross. All of us take everything back to the cross, and properly so, but we normally do that as if the cross was the end, but it is not the end; the cross is the beginning of the story. Yes, it’s true, as awe-inspiring, wonderful and amazing as it is in its fullness and mercy and love, the cross is the beginning, not the end of maturity. “Cleansing rites” for us today would be in the same category as rituals, ceremonies, styles of worship and so forth. These things are elementary, “young” and baby milk things, not the sort of things that the mature in the faith are much concerned with. “Laying on of hands” and other spiritual gifts are wonderful, but elementary. Resurrection, eternal life, and judgment are at the beginning of the process, wonderful promises, and highly instructive at an early stage of growth, but they are not in and of themselves maturity in Christ. Can you see why I said that these are things we always talk about? Yet, they are milk, not solid food for adults; God permitting, we will move on from these things.
Before I close out this section, let’s pause and take stock. Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians in Rome who are being persecuted by the Emperor Nero, one of history’s most notorious criminals. The author is writing this to encourage them, to instruct them and to hopefully energize them so that they do not give up their faith in the stress of persecution. Doesn’t it seem reasonable to suggest that their “elementary” spiritual development might be the cause of their temptation to drift away? I hope that we too, will reflect on this.