Daily Devotion for Tuesday 9th July 2024

Hebrews 5:11–6:8 
11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore let us go on towards perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith towards God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.

You could reword this text along these lines: ‘Following Jesus is like riding a bicycle. You need to keep pedalling. If you give up and freewheel for a while, you won’t just lose momentum. You might lose your balance too, and fall off.’
The readers of this letter were running out of energy. Their enthusiasm, confidence and desire to grow as Christians had waned. One factor was external pressure – more about this later (10:32-39, and 13:1-13). But certainly they were not progressing as strongly as the writer of Hebrews had hoped. So this letter is a friendly and quite elaborate attempt to give them a firmer grasp of what they believed. Yet it carries a note of warning too. If they abandon their commitment to Jesus Christ, there will be no easy way back, no obvious switch to throw to restore the connection (v.4). It would be much better to press on ‘toward perfection’ – to a fuller and more mature faith (v.1)
Six elements appear to count as ‘basic teaching about Christ’ (vv.1-2) – repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection and judgment. Indeed this list resonates with some other New Testament summaries of the gospel. ‘Repent, be baptised and you will receive the Spirit,’ says Peter’ (Acts 2:38). [‘Receiving the Spirit’ here may correspond to ‘laying on of hands’ in Hebrews.] ‘Repentance, resurrection and judgment,’ says Paul (Acts 17:30-31).
These six elements are, according to Hebrews, ‘the foundation’ (v.1). Now the writer wants to build on this, in the chapters ahead, by focussing strongly and directly on the person of Jesus and the meaning of the crucifixion. So what would be in your list of Christian basics? And what would you expect of yourself and others, as indicators that you were growing and progressing in Christ?

On my days of insight, growth and delight,
On my days of stumbling, struggling and sinking,
Christ be beside me,
    to mentor, motivate and move me forward,
    to touch me, tend me and teach me,
    to give me balance and momentum on the journey.

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