REPENTANCE: An Elementary Principle
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
— Hebrews 6:1,2
What would you think of a full-grown adult who never got serious about learning his ABCs and therefore had to keep repeating the first grade over and over again? Imagine 50 or so years passing since that person first entered grade school. As he nears his sixtieth birthday, there he still sits at a tiny little desk in a room full of first-graders.
Would you find that situation normal, or would you find it strange? It would be especially bizarre if that old man was mentally sound, yet found himself still sitting at a tiny desk in a room full of first-graders because he’d been too slothful to apply himself to learn.
Strange as that scenario may seem, it happens all the time in the Christian community. Many believers who have known the Lord for years have remained at the same level of spiritual immaturity ever since they were baby Christians. They never applied themselves or got serious about their spiritual growth, and thus, they perpetually remain spiritually immature. Although they’ve been saved for many years, they are still sitting in “beginners’ class” in Sunday school with children, figuratively speaking. They should be much further along in their spiritual growth, but because they were never diligent about their walk with God, they just keep repeating the basics over and over again.
In Hebrews 6:1, the writer of Hebrews listed what he referred to as “the principles of the doctrines of Christ.” The word “principles” is the Greek word arches, which denotes something that is original, early, or from the beginning. In Hebrews 6:1, this word arches specifically refers to the elementary principles of Christ. These elementary principles comprise the fundamental doctrine for beginners. They encompass the basic spiritual principles that every new believer should know, as well as the first steps of faith that every baby Christian should be able to take. In other words, these are the ABCs of the Christian faith.
The problem is, most Christians aren’t very familiar with these elementary principles. In fact, some don’t even know them at all! Furthermore, this failure to know the fundamental truths of the Christian faith causes them to struggle in life. Had they applied themselves at an earlier age, they would be much further along in their walk with God and therefore able to overcome the difficulties that confront them in life. But because they never took time to learn the basics, they are still sitting in a spiritual “beginners’ class”!
The first vital, elementary principle that the writer of Hebrews listed was “…the foundation of repentance from dead works….” This word “foundation” is the Greek word themelios. It is an early combination of the Greek word lithos, which means stone, and the word tithemi, which means to place. When these roots are combined, the new compound word denotes something that is set in stone; a foundation that cannot be easily moved or shaken; or something so solid that it will endure the test of time. Taken together, these different nuances of meaning are the reason the word themelios came to be translated as the word “foundation.”
By using the Greek word themelios, the writer of Hebrews was teaching us that if we are serious about our walk with God, our understanding of repentance should be set in stone. This truth should be so rock solid in our lives that we are immovable and unshakable when it comes to the subject of repentance!
However, this is sadly not the case for many believers in the modern Church. In fact, the survey results we read earlier found that a majority of regular churchgoing Christians could not provide an accurate definition of the word repentance! This is very alarming to me because it reveals that most believers are in a stunted state of spiritual maturity. Regardless of their age or how many years they’ve been saved, most of them are still in “Beginners’ Class” spiritually. If they still can’t articulate an answer to such a simple question, they are still in spiritual kindergarten!
Furthermore, Hebrews 6:1 clearly states that our knowledge concerning repentance should be so set in stone that it should never have to be repeated or taught to us again. It reads, “…not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works.…” The words “not laying again” are derived from the Greek word kataballo, which is a compound of the words kata and ballo. The word kata means down, and the word ballo means to throw. When these two words are joined together, the new word means to throw something down or to lay something down.
The use of the word kataballo in Hebrews 6:1 tells us something very important: The elementary principles of the Christian faith should be laid down in our lives like a strong foundation as soon as we come to Christ — and once this foundation is set in place, there should never be any need for it to be laid down again.
In fact, Hebrews 6:1 says that seasoned believers should be able to leave the fundamental truths behind and “go on unto perfection.” The word “leaving” in this verse is from the Greek word aphiemi, which means to leave it or to let it go. It does not refer to the abandonment of truth, but rather the realization that maturity requires pressing upward to the next level.
The beginning is not a stopping point — it is only a beginning!
This is the reason the writer of Hebrews continued by saying we must “…go on unto perfection….” The words “go on” are derived from the word phero, which means to carry or to bear. However, the tense used in this verse paints the picture of a force that carries one onward or a force that bears one further. It could literally be translated let us be carried, and it conveys the idea that as we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit picks us up and personally carries us forward in our knowledge and understanding of God.
Where is the Holy Spirit carrying us? Hebrews 6:1 tells us that He is carrying us toward “perfection.” The word “perfection” is the Greek word teleiotes, which refers to a child graduating from one class to the next until he finally reaches maturity. This means that until we meet Jesus face to face in Heaven, there is no end to our spiritual growth. That’s why it is so very serious when an older Christian who has been saved for many years can’t even articulate the meaning of the word “repentance.” He should be much further along in his spiritual growth, but instead of reaching maturity, he has been content to remain in spiritual kindergarten.
Why is it so essential and elementary that we know and understand the doctrine of repentance? As we have already seen in the March 18 Sparkling Gem, the word “repentance” in the New Testament depicts a complete, radical, total change. It is a decision to completely change or a decision to entirely turn around in the way that one is thinking, believing, and living. It describes a person who is undergoing a complete and radical transformation that literally affects every part of his or her life.
Repentance is not a fleeting, temporary sorrow for past actions. Rather, it is a solid, intellectual decision to turn around and take a new direction in order to completely change the patterns of one’s life on every level. It is a mental choice to turn toward God with all of one’s heart in order to follow Jesus. It is the birth canal through which we are born into the Kingdom of God.
Repentance is the starting place for all believers, and that is why Hebrews 6:1 lists it as an elementary principle of the doctrines of Christ. It is the place where our turning away from sin begins, and it is the point from which we submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Repentance is your starting place — so make sure that your understanding of it is laid down like a strong, immovable foundation in your life. Then once you know you are well established in your own personal act of repentance, let the Holy Spirit carry you onward and upward as you reach toward spiritual maturity.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I want to thank You for helping me understand the importance of repentance and the need to establish this truth as a strong foundation in my life. Please help me meticulously examine my life to see if there are any areas in which I have never fully surrendered to your Lordship. I make the decision now to turn those areas over to You, starting today. I have made my choice that I will no longer live for myself. I purpose to live the remainder of my life to please and serve You with all of my heart. By the help of the Holy Spirit, I move onward and upward in my spiritual growth and press on toward spiritual maturity!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that Christ set me free and I have turned from the past sins, habits, and bondages that once held me captive. Those chains may no longer lord themselves over my life. Since I came to Jesus, I have renounced my past ways of thinking and living. Now I live to please Jesus. To serve Him with all of my heart and strength is my highest priority. Jesus is Lord of my life! I live to satisfy Him, and I am being carried onward and upward by the Holy Spirit to new levels of spiritual growth and maturity!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!