Matthew R. Perry

Are You Settling for Preschool When You Could Have Graduate School?

In Sermons on July 3, 2007 at 9:35 am

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 6:1-3, ESV).

The writer beckons his readers to “go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1, ESV). The writer of Hebrews has this theme in mind all through his letter. In Hebrews 2:1, he exhorts, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” He expects not to drift and coast in our kingdom walk — otherwise we will drift right over the waterfall! He expects us to leave the basics and go on to maturity.

Did you notice, dear church, this is not an individual endeavor only? Did you notice that all of these exhortations and warnings, including the exhortation found in Hebrews 6:1 always includes the church as a whole? He says, “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” Maturity means “completeness” or “perfection.” While we use the word ‘perfection’ to mean that we have reached the ultimate limit in improvement, the writer conveys in the words of Phil Newton “growth in the direction of completing the course set before us by the new birth. ” Later in Hebrews, the writer implores us to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, ESV). We see this as the Apostle Paul’s desire as well:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV).

To press on to maturity means taking architecture lessons from the Great Architect. My parents live in North Carolina. When they moved to North Carolina from Florida in 1996, they found a piece of property on which to build a new house. My father secured some plans, secured some workers to implement the plan, and they began the work. Yet, could you imagine how much ridicule my father would have received if he had simply told the workers to lay down a foundation and, once completed, informed them that he would no longer require their services. He would simply set up their home on that foundation and nothing else. Sure, they would be on solid ground, but they would not be protected from the elements nor have a secure place to store their possessions nor a warm place to find rest.

The foundation is important, for the author of Hebrews notes that we must not lay again “a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” — that is the negative and position aspects of God’s converting work. Faith in God does not exist without repentance from dead works. The writer then talks about the external workings and rituals of the Jewish faith: “instruction about washings, the laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2b, ESV). Finally, he addresses issues of the end times: “the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” The issues of faith, the fruit of that faith, and the final chapters of the created order. These elements are crucial. These elements should already be in place. With this, the writer beckoned them to press on to maturity. So must we, but only on the condition given in the last phrase of this passage: “If God permits” (Hebrews 6:3b, ESV). God is sovereign over all things. Here, we see that God is sovereign even over our sanctification. John Piper notes, “God’s sovereign work in us is our only hope that we will press on to maturity.” God brings us along, each at a different rate of maturity. Some grow mature quickly. Others grow more slowly. Yet the question is, do you desire to press on? Then God will permit that maturity to take place.

(This is part of a sermon I preached on Sunday, July 1, 2007 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington.  To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click here.)

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