Describing infancy of faith, the author reveals to us the foundations of faith.
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.
In Acts, when Peter gives his big sermon at Pentecost and the audience asks, “what shall we do?” he tells them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is what the beginning of our relationship with God looks like. Having been revealed our need for God in our lives and instructed how to develop our relationship with Him, we learn these foundations.
This is the spiritual act of turning away from a destructive life and refocusing your life on God. This isn’t a one-time event but a constant battle. This is the life of being a follower of Christ; we follow Him instead of what the world tells us we should follow. I follow a ministry called Third Option Men whose premise is that we have 3 options in this world: live for self, live for worldly recognition, or live for God (hence choosing the third option). This is foundational because if we don’t live a life of repentance (constantly turning away from the world and turning towards God) we aren’t really following Him.
This is more than getting wet in front of a bunch of people. This is an outward demonstration of faith and commitment. It is the second part of repentance: going public. I battled this part for a while when we started attending our home church because my attitude towards it was that it was just some ritual that pastors try to get you to do. But the truth is that merely staying quiet about your faith, only doing it in your head, really isn’t good enough. James lays it out clearly in his book that if we truly say we have faith then we have to put it to work. Baptism is the ultimate sign of the washing of hands (a Jewish ceremonial act to represent cleanliness). Your baptism is a moment in your life you will always be able to look back on to remember your dedication to follow Christ. It is the shaking of hands with God in a covenant like manner promising to follow Him.
Laying on of Hands
In the Book of Acts, there is a lot of this going on. It represents the body of Christ (aka The Church) petitioning God on behalf of a person. It is about accepting and recognizing the person into the Family of God. It is more than a tradition or outward response to one getting baptized; it is how we let each other know that we are not alone. One of the biggest lies the enemy uses against us is that we are alone: our friends abandoned us, our spouses don’t understand, our family will shame us, and God doesn’t care. These are all lies and by the constant laying on of hands and joint prayer, we are united together with God and inseparable. We are not alone.
Understanding what it is all about.
If any of you have gone through boot camp, you will remember that a lot of it, especially in the beginning, was confusing. People are yelling and telling you what to do. You’re suddenly doing things 1) you didn’t think was possible and 2) that you might not really understand. After a while you learn how to conform and obey orders and realize that it doesn’t really matter if you understand what is happening, just as long as you do what they say. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t work this way. Certainly, there are some things about God we simply cannot comprehend, but in regards to our daily lives it is important to understand why we do what we do. For a long time I’ve had a problem with ritual. Making a routine of things spiritual makes me feel like eventually I just wind up going through the motions instead of appreciating and understanding why I do what I do. So, even if you are “cut to the heart” by the hearing of God’s truth, don’t just blindly follow someone else who tells you what to do. Seek out God’s truth and understanding why we need to repent, the purpose of baptism, and the importance of community.
I think that sometimes in our desire to fit in or “discover God” we actually rush the process. We start going to church, we become a member, we get baptized, we start tithing, and a year later we look back and wonder what the point was in all of it. We never understood anything we did and additionally question our faith and belief in God because we “grew up” too fast. We never stopped to think about the purpose of what we were doing. We never asked the important questions of which we still do not have the answers. In this passage the author urges those who have become stagnant in their infancy to strive for spiritual maturity, but only if we are ready. I believe this is why the author says if God permits. We must operate on God’s timing, not our own: not too fast and not too slow. If we go to fast we will burn out quickly and too slow we will never grow up.