If God Permits
“And this we will do if God permits” (Heb. 6:3).
The author of Hebrews encourages his audience to press on to maturity in the faith. This maturity is something that the original audience should have possessed, and it is a maturity that many of us should also possess. If we have been Christians for some time, we should not have to lay again the foundation of our faith, that is, the basic and elementary doctrines that all of our beliefs are built upon (6:1).
The author now proceeds to list these elementary doctrines of the faith. Though we will be studying verses 2–3 today, the first of these doctrines is found in 6:1: “repentance from dead works and faith toward God.” This refers to our resolve to leave the works of the flesh and place our faith in Christ alone for salvation. This resolve is present for the first time at our conversion and continues daily throughout the rest of our lives. Note that faith and repentance belong together. You cannot truly have one without the other.
In 6:2, the author also lists “washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” as being part of the elementary doctrines of Christ. The reference to resurrection and eternal judgment refers to the doctrines of physical resurrection and conscious eternal punishment of the the wicked that were a part of the faith of the Old Testament church (Dan. 12:2). The reference to washings and the laying on of hands is somewhat more obscure. John Owen says that the reference to washings refers to the idea that there is only one baptism. Though many baptisms occur because more than one person needs to be baptized, ultimately there is only one baptism, the baptism into Christ. The laying on of hands, according to Owen, refers to the laying on of hands that occurs during, or right after baptism. Just as the Spirit seals salvation to us in baptism, so too does He grant gifts to us through the laying on of hands that occurs at baptism.
Finally, note in 6:3 the strong affirmation of God’s sovereignty. In 6:1, the author declares his desire to move the audience forward into maturity and repeats it by saying “we will do” in verse 3. Yet the author concludes the verse saying “if God permits,” demonstrating that though he wants to lead his audience into maturity, he will only be able to do so if God is willing.
All of life is lived under the all-encompassing sovereignty of God. Though we make many plans in life, we will only be able to carry them out if God is so willing. When you make plans for the future, be careful about being too confident of their success, and remember that both your plans and their success depend on the will of God.
Passages for Further Study
Deut. 6:4–5; Micah 6:8; Rom. 10:9–10; 1 Tim. 3:16
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