Journal – January 30, 2022
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
THE PERIL OF NOT PROGRESSING (PART 1)
Vs. 1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the purpose of the words Therefore, leaving the discussion are to be limited to the present occasion. Consider what is spoken of absolutely, they are never to be left either by teachers or hearers. Teachers should insist on the rudiments, or the first principles of religion, and this we find that the Apostle does so in in his epistles. Neither are any hearers to leave these principles to forget them, or not regularly make use of them. The elementary principles of Christ are the doctrines of the gospel as preached and taught. Now the principles of the gospel are those beginnings which men were usually first instructed in, and which from their own nature it was necessary they should be. Now what these doctrines are, the Apostle declares in the rest of this verse and in the next. He declares that for the present he would omit and pass them by, so that he in teaching, and they in learning might go on toperfection. This means such a knowledge of the mysterious and sublime doctrines of the gospel as those who were completely initiated and thoroughly instructed were partakers of. This perfection is comparative, and not absolute. The Apostle denies absolute perfection in himself, not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me (Philippians 3:12). By perfection is intended such a degree and measure as God is pleased to communicate to believers in the ordinary use of means; it is a clear perception of the mysteries of the gospel, especially of those which concern the person and offices of Christ, and particularly His priesthood. Let us go on the word is emphatic, let us be carried on with the full intent of our minds and affections with the utmost endeavor of our souls. Observe:
- It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to take care not only that the doctrine they preach be true, but also that it be seasonable to the state and condition of their hearers.
- Some important doctrines of truth may, in the preaching of the gospel, be omitted for a season, but none must never be forgotten or neglected.
- It is a necessary duty of the dispensers of the gospel to excite their hearers by all pressing considerations to make progress in the knowledge of the truth; because their hearers do greatly need the exercise of it, they are apt to be slothful and weary; also the advantage which professors have by a progress in the knowledge of spiritual things makes it a necessary duty to stir them up and lead them on therein.
- The case of that people is deplorable and dangerous whose teachers are not able to carry them on in the knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. The key of knowledge may be taken away by ignorance as well as by malice.
- In our progress towards an increase in knowledge, we ought to go on with diligence, and the full bent of our wills and affections. This exercise includes diligence in the use of the best means to the end in view, also the diligent practice of what we know.
Not laying again the foundation, the Apostle knew they had been instructed in these truths which are the foundation of a true profession of the gospel, and so he says he will not at this time go over them again. He then begins to declare some of those doctrinal principles which he had in general referred to, and which he will not now insist upon, of repentance from dead works, this expression is peculiar to the Apostle and to this epistle (see 9:14). Elsewhere he speaks of men being dead in trespasses and sins. What he there imputes to their persons he here imputes to their works. The sins of unregenerate persons are called dead works in respect to their nature, they proceed from a state of spiritual death, and in respect to their end, they are dead because deadly, they procure death, and end in death. That which is required and which they were taught with respect to these dead works is repentance. Repentance is the first thing required of them who take upon them the profession of the gospel, without this whatever is attempted or attained to is only a dishonor to Christ and a disappointment to death. This is the method of preaching, confirmed by the command and example of Christ Himself; Repent and believe the gospel. And almost all the sermons that we find, not only of John the Baptist in a way of preparation for the declaration for the gospel, but of the apostles also in pressing the actual reception of it on the Jews and Gentiles, have this as their first principle, namely the necessity of repentance. Hence in the preaching of the gospel, it is said, God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
It is therefore evident that this was the first doctrinal principal, as to their own duty, which was pressed on and fixed in the minds of men in their first instruction in the gospel. The supreme original cause of repentance is the goodwill, grace, and bounty of God. It is immediately collected in the souls of men by Jesus Christ as is a fruit of His death, and the nature of it is expressed in the conversion of the Gentiles—it is unto life (Acts 11:18). Repentance is a change of mind concerning dead works, everything that hath the nature of sin is now seen to be evil, evil in itself, evil to the sinner, evil in its present effects and consequences. Repentance respects the will and affections; the change of the will, or the taking away of, the will of sinning, is the principal part of repentance; it is a repentance from dead works, that is, to the relinquishing of them. There is no interest in Christ or Christian religion to be obtained without repentance from dead works, the Lord Jesus came not only to save men from their sins, but to turn them from their sins,–to turn them from their sins that they may be saved from them. That any person living in sin without repentance should have an interest in Christ is inconsistent with the glory of God and the honor of Jesus Christ.And of faith toward God repentance is coupled with faith, they can never be severed; where one is there is the other, and where either one is missing neither of the two is present. The whole is expressed in repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). The apostle Paul testified both to Jews and Greeks repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Faith in God, as to the accomplishing of the great promise in sending His Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, is the great fundamental principle of our interest in and profession of the gospel. The promise of sending Jesus Christ was the first express engagement that God ever made of His faithfulness and veracity unto any creatures. Therefore, this was the first and immediate object of faith in man after the fall. The first thing that was proposed to man was to believe in God, with respect to His faithfulness in the future accomplishment of this promise; and faith concerning its actual accomplishment is the first thing required of us. This is the greatest promise that God ever gave to the children of men, therefore, faith in Him with respect to this is both necessary unto us and tends greatly to His glory.