- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently by the Rev. Bucas Sterling III at Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro.

After the author [of the Book of Hebrews], whom I believe to be the apostle Paul, abandons a discussion of the pre-eminence of Christ’s priesthood through a comparison to the order of Melchizedek, he chastens the Jewish audience because of their lack of growth.

Though they had been saved a long time, they still had need of a teacher for the discernment of good and evil. The apostle Paul states that he will not go back and deal with the elementary principles, for in doing so the foundations would need to be laid all over again.

However, for the benefit of review for those who already know and for the edification of those who don’t, I have chosen to go back and instruct on the elementary principles as they are mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3, that it might allow us to move on to perfection.

The first point we will examine from this text is “the foundation of repentance.”

In verse No. 1, Paul says we do not want to lay “again the foundation of repentance from dead works.” Repentance comes from the Greek word “metanoia,” which means reversal or to change one’s mind. The phrase “from dead works” is the equivalent of “acts leading to death.” This first pillar of the elementary principles is founded in repentance or changing one’s mind about acts leading to death.

The question is why do we need to repent? We must first understand hamartiology, the doctrine of sin and what sin is. I would define sin as any thought or act or state of being that does not conform to the absolute holiness of God, which incurs guilt before God.

The Old Testament word for sin, used 522 times, means not only to miss the mark but to hit the wrong one. The New Testament word used for sin, used 227 times, means to violate God’s standard. Since Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned” and 2 Peter 3:9-18, makes us aware that God’s desire is that all should come to repentance, therefore, because of sin we all need to repent. Acts 3:19, says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out and refreshing times may come.”

The second area of focus of the elementary principles is found in Hebrews 6:1, “the foundation of faith.”

Faith is a moral conviction of a religious truth and dependence upon God for salvation, or as Webster defines it, belief without evidence. The same question is raised here: Why do we need faith? Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him,” and we know that according to Ephesians 2:8-9, salvation comes by faith. I also need faith to be able to wrap my mind around the supernatural promises of God, to believe that I, too, can have them.

Thirdly, we focus on “the foundation of doctrines,” as Hebrews 6:2 lays out for us. Doctrine is defined as instruction or teaching. It is the systematic belief or teaching established based upon what we believe the Scripture says about a particular thing or subject.

The apostle Paul addresses four foundational doctrines. The first is baptism, which we understand to be the testimony of belonging to the body of Christ. We are commanded in Matthew 28:19 to be baptized.

The second area of foundational doctrine is the laying on of hands. There are several passages in which we see this occurring: James 5:14, 1 Timothy 4:14 and 1 Timothy 5:22. Of these usages, we learn that the purpose is for setting apart, affirmation and transference of power for healing.

Resurrection from the dead is the third foundational doctrine discussed. We should understand that as a result of the resurrection of Christ, we, too, as 1 Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us, shall be raised. And as 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 teaches, we also shall be changed.

The last foundational doctrine is eternal judgment. Revelation 20:12-15 helps us to understand that in the same way that judgment for life is eternal, so, too, is judgment for condemnation eternal.

In closing, yes, it is time for us to move on to perfection and leave the elementary principles behind, but it is first important to know what they are: the foundation of repentance, the foundation of faith, and the foundation of doctrines.

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