It’s just plain ol’ common sense: if someone begins to construct a building that will stand firm and last a long time, they should always begin with a solid foundation. If you don’t have a solid, strong foundation, whatever you construct on that foundation will fall apart and collapse. God is engaged in the lifelong process of “constructing” or “building” you into a mature, full-grown son or daughter of his. And . . . He’s also building his Church using “living building stones” ( That’s us!) as we read in various places in the New Testament.
When you were born again, born anew, born from above) as a new Jesus-creation, you started out as a “baby” follower of Jesus. At the atomic second you were born again, God permanently lodged Holy Spirit deep within your spirit and began the lifelong process of growing, developing, and maturing you into an “adult” believer and “fitting” you as a “living building block” into his Church.
Oh, you were already fully and completely saved 2,000 years ago, but at the precise moment you were born again, you received that salvation no matter what chronological age you were when you were born again; you started out as a new “baby” follower of Jesus. Then it takes a lifetime after a person is born again to grow from a baby into a mature, adult follower of Jesus. To fully develop his newborn children, God always begins with a strong, solid foundation. And, to build his Church He is also building on a firm foundation—Jesus.
In the Bible, on one occasion Jesus addressed that very issue of building on a solid foundation. In the 6th chapter of Luke in the New Testament, here is what Jesus said: “Whoever comes to Me, hears my sayings, and obeys them is like a person building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the water beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was built on a strong foundation of rock. But the person who hears my sayings and does not obey them is like a person who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the floods beat vehemently and immediately the house collapsed.” Yes, Jesus is presently “building” both your new life and his Church; He wants to ensure your life and the Church are being built on a firm, solid foundation. What is that foundation? First, let me tell you what it is not.
For many years I taught various Bible topics and biblically based subjects which I honestly believed at the time to be the most foundational or most fundamental teachings in the Bible. These were various biblical subjects I honestly believed my students needed to know as being foundational to their spiritual lives—subjects such as prayer, being effective witnesses, reading the Bible, attending church, tithing to God, living a clean life, etc . . . subjects like that: all of them good in and of themselves, but they were not God’s foundational truths taught in the Bible. Yes, I’m sure you recognize the types of subjects—and more—to which I refer.
Religious bookstores are replete with books and leaflets about the “Christian basics,” such as those I mentioned above. Such materials are touted on religious radio and TV all the time. Most of them are very good, but they are not the foundational teachings found in the Bible. Remember, the good is always the enemy of the best! Most of those subjects are good, but they are not the best. Most of them don’t provide a solid biblical foundation upon which followers of Jesus can build their lives, grow in grace, and—most important—make meaningful and lasting changes in their thinking and behavior throughout their mortal lives. Okay, that’s what the foundations are not.
Here’s what the foundations are. Please open your own Bible and read Hebrews 5: 11 – 6: 2. You’ll just have to trust me at this point when I say: there is no other place in the entire Bible where you will find any other references to faith’s foundations. Of course we know that Jesus is the bedrock foundation of our faith (1 Corinthians 3: 1 – 14). Notice how that reference alerts us to be careful how we build upon that foundation. The foundational teachings given in Hebrews 6: 1 and 2 must be built upon Jesus, the only solid, firm foundation in the universe. If you can find any other foundational teachings in the Bible, please notify me.
Depending upon which version of the Bible you prefer, (and the English sentence construction of the verses) there are either six or seven foundations of the faith taught in Hebrews 6: 1 and 2; I choose to believe there are seven of them. Seven seems to be a good Bible number, often symbolizing totality, completeness, or wholeness. The seven foundations of the faith in Hebrews 6: 1 and 2 put us well on our way to wholeness and completeness. They are the starting point—the foundation—for God to build both our individual lives and his Church.
The seven foundations of our faith are: Repentance . . . Abandoning Dead Works . . . Faith . . . Baptisms . . . Laying On Of Hands . . . Resurrection From The Dead . . . Eternal [age-lasting] Judgment. These are the seven foundational truths I’ll be sharing in this teaching. If you feel these are not really the foundations of faith you believe in, well, you can simply stop reading and perhaps read another one of our teachings on this web site that might interest you more; there are over 100 of my teachings to choose from.
If you’re an older follower of Jesus, your immediate response might be: “Why? Why do you feel I need to study these foundational truths, Bill? I’ve been a Jesus-believer for ________ (you insert the numbers of months or years). Why should I go back to ‘kindergarten’ and study foundational truths again?” Read 1 Corinthians 3: 1 – 14 again. What have you been building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ in your life since you became an authentic follower of Jesus? Ask yourself what “wood, hay, and stubble” and “gold, silver, and precious stones” symbolize in these verses.
What do these six things symbolize in your life? What foundation have they been built upon in your life? You alone can answer such questions. At this point I encourage you to take a long, hard look at Matthew 7: 24 – 27, too. Let me share with you some thoughts I’m having as I ponder those verses. Jesus is teaching here about obeying or disobeying his teachings; if we obey, we are changing, growing, and developing—building our lives upon a solid foundation.
If we disobey his teachings, we are building our lives upon sand. Three calamities befall those who build upon sand: rain falls, floods inundate, and winds blow. Remember Hurricane Katrina which devastated the southern Gulf Coast in 2005? Rain may expose a leaky covering, floods might reveal a weak foundation, and winds could reveal a faulty superstructure. Are you catching any of my thoughts with your “inner being”? Are you perceiving and comprehending them? Jesus said those who have ears to hear will hear, and those who have eyes to see will see . . . When the storms of your life are raging, upon what type of foundation are you building to withstand them—and overcome them?
Unfortunately, because of our relative abundance and gross materialism to distract us from a deep relationship with God, there are many European and North American followers of Jesus the past couple of generations who have never grown, changed, and developed very much into Jesus’ likeness and image as most followers of Jesus do in other, less fortunate, parts of the world. Why is that the case?
There are many answers to that question—more than I can cover in this teaching—but a small part of the answer is that perhaps early in their newly created lives they were somehow distracted by seeking “instant gratification” in their lives and thus bypassed these foundational truths in Hebrews 6: 1 and 2, going on to build the superstructure of their lives upon shifting, sinking sands, so to speak. We want so many things in our lives to happen instantly, often causing many new followers of Jesus to want to bypass taking the time to build upon a solid foundation. That’s only a partial answer to the above question, but at least it’s something to think about . . .
The more they attempt to change and grow, the more frustrated they become because of their lack of progress. It’s like building a skyscraper which keeps sinking because it doesn’t have an adequate foundation. Have you seen a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy? It doesn’t serve the purpose for which it was intended because it was not built upon a solid foundation. Some followers of Jesus don’t serve the purposes for which God intended them because they have not built their lives upon a solid foundation anchored to the bedrock foundation, Jesus.
In our world, it is often sad to know “special needs” persons who have adult bodies but whose minds have never developed beyond the level of children. It is even sadder to know people who have been followers of Jesus for many years who have not changed, grown, and developed in their spirits and souls and in their relationship with God; they may have been followers of Jesus for 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years, but they remain spiritual infants or babies. Or, sometimes I call them “eternal teenagers” because they simply have not grown beyond their spiritual teen years.
You know the type of Jesus’ followers I’m writing about; there are many of them. It seems like every church congregation has at least a few of them. They’ve just never grown up as followers of Jesus! They’re still babies, children, or teenagers spiritually, still speaking Jesus-believer “baby talk” and behaving like children . . . God expects—requires, demands—that we change, grow, develop, and mature spiritually. He requires us to grow into the image and likeness of Jesus—who is God’s Pattern Son, his Firstborn, Son, his Prototype Son: the only Begotten Son who is the True Image of God. (2 Corinthians 3: 18)
The major reason many followers of Jesus are not growing into Jesus’ image is that they have missed learning—truly learning, assimilating, practicing, and obeying—the foundations of the faith. It is not enough merely to learn them mentally; we must translate head knowledge into action and into meaningful and lasting behavioral changes in our lives. If you are somehow stalled in your own spiritual growth and development, perhaps these lessons about the foundations of faith will be especially helpful to you. If you are a relatively new follower of Jesus, they are a must. If you’ve already studied them and put them into action—if you are already building upon them—well, we can all stand a good refresher course now and then just in case we’ve missed or overlooked something.
So . . . here are the seven foundations of the faith as taught in Hebrews 5: 11 – 6: 2.
FOUNDATION NUMBER ONE
Okay, are you ready? Let’s go. Foundation number one: Repentance. Whew, even the sound of that particular word evokes all sorts of negative images in the minds of many people, doesn’t it? Those negative images are wrong. Honestly! They really are. The concept of repentance has been given some pretty bad, untrue publicity by Hollywood movies, by some fictional novels, by well-intended hellfire and brimstone preachers, by some religious TV personalities, and by some poor teaching about repentance in the Bible.
Here’s just one just one bad example among many of what I’m talking about. The other evening we watched the movie “Evan Almighty.” There’s one scene in the movie where a freshman Congressman, Evan, tells another, long-time Congressman, Mr Long, that he needs to repent. You could just see on Mr Long’s face what he was thinking when Evan tells him he needs to repent; it was a totally negative image of repentance that Mr Long had in his mind. To him, the very thought of repenting was humiliating, ugly and distasteful—something he wasn’t about to do, especially in front of other people. That’s because his idea of repentance was incorrect.
There are two words (and their derivatives) used in the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible which have been translated “repent” or “repentance” in English. The most basic meanings of those Hebrew and Greek words are to change one’s mind. That’s it. That’s all repent means—to change one’s mind. Maybe right now you’re thinking that it means a lot more that that, but it doesn’t! It simply means to change one’s mind. It does not mean to cry, to moan, to sob and weep at a church altar or in a tent revival meeting, to be extremely sorry for wrongdoing, to promise never to do something again, to promise to turn away from sin. Nope. None of those. It means to change one’s mind. Period!
That’s a real basic definition. Let’s expand it a little to give you just a bit more of a feel for what it means. Here’s an expanded, amplified meaning: Repentance is to live in a continual state of changing mental awareness whereby we see life and reality more and more as God sees them, and think more and more like God thinks. How do we reach such a state of awareness and comprehension?
By continually reading and studying the Bible and letting Holy Spirit point out what we need to change our minds about. It means that—based upon the Bible’s teachings—we are constantly changing our minds throughout our lifetimes so that we develop godly minds and think more and more like God thinks. There are many references in the New Testament that teach this concept; I’ll let you look up those references for yourself. The spiritual life of a follower of Jesus is a continual, lifelong state of repentance, of changing our minds.
Repentance is NEVER just a one-time act a person commits in order to be saved! It’s a lifelong process of changing our minds. Also, it does NOT mean deliberately “doing penance” for a period of time after we repent or continuing to be “penitent” for a period of time after we have repented. The concepts of Penance and Penitence are man-made traditions not found anywhere in the Bible! Oh, after we have repented of a particular sin, transgression, or wrongdoing, there may be a period of remorse or regret; there may be a time when we feel contrite; that’s pretty normal for most people; that’s okay.
No Penance Or Penitence
But, nowhere does the Bible teach there should be a volitional period of penance or penitence after we have repented (changed our minds) about something. So, go ahead and feel remorse or regret or contrition if you have sinned and repented of it. That’s pretty human. But don’t feel you need to spend a time of penance or penitence to make the repentance “stick,” or to prove to yourself or others that you’re truly sorry; that’s simply not taught anywhere in the Bible.
You may be asking, “Bill, isn’t it almost blasphemy to teach we can think like God thinks?” I’ll let you answer that question for yourself after you read and ponder just a few references from the Bible: Romans 12: 1 and 2; 1 Corinthians 2: 16; 2 Corinthians 10: 5; Ephesians 4: 23 and 24; Philippians 2: 5; and Hebrews 8: 10. Don’t all such references say teach either directly or by inference that we are to develop the mind of Jesus? How do we develop the mind of Jesus so we think like He thinks? By constantly repenting—constantly changing and renewing our minds based upon what we read and study in the Bible!
Three Basic Reasons To Repent
There are three basic reasons (actually there are many, many reasons) why we need to develop a lifestyle of repentance. I want to make this point first—before we go any further: God doesn’t change our minds for us, and our minds don’t change by means of some sort of spiritual magic. No! We change our own minds using the inner power of Holy Spirit God has already placed within us. Once we change our minds, then Holy Spirit empowers us from within to change our attitudes and our behavior—based upon our change of mind. You may ask, “Isn’t that some sort of brainwashing by God?” As a matter of fact, yes, it is brainwashing. I don’t know about you, but I need my brain washed and cleaned up!
Here are those three reasons why we need to repent—change our minds. First, God commands us to repent. You can read about that in Acts 17: 30 and 31. Repentance is not optional. Does God have the right to command us to repent? C’mon now. Who’s in charge? Who has the final word? Yes, the Almighty God who’s in charge of everything—the Creator of the entire universe and of you—has the right to command us to repent. It’s not a suggestion. We are commanded to change our minds. And, when God directly commands us to do something, it’s probably best if we obey Him. Disobedience can land us into all sorts of negative situations.
Reason number two: Please refer to Romans 2: 4 for this one. We need to practice changing our minds because God is a good God—not a bad God. God is always good and never bad. (also see Psalms 119: 68) One significant flaw in the lives of many followers of Jesus is that they really don’t think God is inherently and intrinsically good. If we really believed that God is good—everything about Him, everything He does—our lives would change dramatically.
When we really begin to see that God is altogether good—not a stern, judgmental, vindictive tyrant sitting on a cloud just waiting to throw thunderbolts at us—we will just naturally want to change our minds in order to be more like Him. What thinking person doesn’t want to be genuinely good? Not to be “goody-goody” or “holier-than-thou,” but just good: loving, upright, honorable, honest, clean, reliable, wholesome, dependable . . .
There are some followers of Jesus and church congregations that seem to feel a need to constantly remind people how bad they are; they feel need to keep hearing about the severity and judgment of God—his “badness”—all the time in order to get them to repent. They almost have a mindset about morbidly dwelling on what they consider God’s “badness” rather than God’s goodness.
Such well-intended (but wrong!) followers of Jesus seem to feel a need to constantly dwell on “hell fire and brimstone,” on the horrible judgments of God, on all the bad things that happen to people, on the awful calamities that people experience because they are “lost and undone” sinners. They feel that constantly reminding people of their sins will drive them to God. That approach has never worked well, doesn’t now, and never will.
The Bible is very clear in Romans 12: 3; it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance, not his “badness.” Most people know they are sinners without us who are followers of Jesus constantly harping on their sin and its consequences. See John 16: 7 and 8, which makes it quite clear that Holy Spirit is very capable of convicting people of sin all by Himself, without our feeling we need to assist Him in that endeavor!
What’s reason number three? Read 2 Corinthians 7: 10. It says “Godlike sorrow produces repentance.” You might ask: “Does that mean I have to weep and moan and be sorry for something?” Nope, not necessarily, although sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a good cry and being sorry for something we’ve done wrong; as mentioned above, it’s okay to feel remorse, sorrow, and contrition. That’s not what this reference is saying, however. It’s saying: If you have sorrow like God’s, you will change your mind.
What is sorrow like God’s? When is God sorrowful? Well, for starters He’s sorrowful when He sees how we hurt ourselves and are often negative about ourselves. He’s sorrowful when we choose not to live up to our full potential as his sons or daughters. He has sorrow when we hurt and are in pain . . . when our relationships become broken or fragmented . . . when we hurt ourselves and others physically or with the strange, negative mind games we sometimes play with one another . . .
Yes, God sees all those things in our lives—and more—and it causes Him to be sorrowful—not angry. That reference is about how God feels toward us at times. Sometimes we need to see ourselves as God sees us—how we’re often our own worst enemies and cause ourselves so much pain and harm. Sorrow about things we say and do—from God’s viewpoint—causes us to repent. This is not referring to a human type of sorrow which is usually only a mere emotion or feeling and doesn’t result in lasting and meaningful changes in our lives; in contrast with human sorrow which doesn’t produce true and lasting repentance, when we have godly sorrow it does produce meaningful and lasting changes in our behavior.
Those, then, are three main reasons provided in the Bible why we regularly and consistently need to practice the process of changing our minds . . . day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year throughout our entire mortal lives on planet earth. At this point, your “homework assignment” is to stop where you are and turn to our companion teaching on this web site entitled: Change Your Mind. Honestly, stop what you’re doing and study that teaching before you come back to this one. Please . . .
Okay, that ends our teaching about Faith’s Foundation Number One: Repent—if you’ve read my companion teaching, Change Your Mind. If you haven’t read that teaching, then my teaching—for you—is not complete. If you haven’t read that teaching, you’ve missed out on an entire body of teaching about this subject and you will not have a complete view of what repentance is all about. You will have missed out on fully understanding the first foundational truth. Please read that teaching before you go any further!
FOUNDATION NUMBER TWO
Let’s move right on to Foundation Number Two: Abandon Dead Works. What are dead works? Why does God want us to abandon them? Someone might even ask, “Who cares—if they’re already dead works? What harm can something do if it’s dead? I guess the simple answer to such questions is “God cares” and commands us to abandon dead works; that alone makes it important that we obey Him in this matter.
Again, what are dead works? Most biblical scholars define dead works as useless religious acts. I think that’s a pretty good working definition. After all, the Book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew people who had been practicing bloody animal sacrifices and elaborate religious rituals for hundreds of years. So . . . basically this reference says to the Hebrews (actually Hebrew followers of Jesus): “Stop practicing all those sacrifices and rituals; you don’t need to do that anymore!”
Why not? The New Testament is replete with references teaching that Jesus is God’s sole, complete, final, and supreme sacrifice for all the sin of all humankind. For everyone. Everywhere. Once for all time. Once for all people! Those other sacrifices the Hebrew people had been killing for hundreds of years were no longer necessary; they became useless and purposeless the moment Jesus of Nazareth died at 3: 00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon approximately 2,000 years ago. Whoops! You thought He died on a “good” Friday, didn’t you? That’s another story altogether.
If you’re interested in pursuing the story about Wednesday vs Friday, I invite you to read another companion teaching on this web site: “72 Hours Of History!“
“Well,” you might be thinking, “that’s okay for those Hebrew people who had been practicing animal sacrifices for hundreds of years before the time of Jesus-—up to the moment of his death, but what’s that got to do with me 2,000 years after his death? I haven’t been offering God any bloody, animal sacrifices.” I guess to answer that type of question I’ll answer with some other questions: “What types of empty sacrifices, useless religious acts, and elaborate rituals are you performing in order to get God to be pleased with you and to accept you better?
What might you be doing to try to impress God about what a fine follower of Jesus you are? What might you be doing to make God love you more? Isn’t that what many of the religious acts we practice are all about?” C,mon now, be honest with yourself. Maybe that’s not how some of your religious acts got started, but that’s what they often become as time passes. What can I do to please God and cause Him to accept me or love me better? There is nothing—absolutely nothing—no sacrifice or religious act—you or any other human being can perform in order to please God.
Stop it! Abandon dead works! God has totally, completely, no strings attached . . . accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on your behalf and there are no acts or behavior you can perform which will add to Jesus’ sacrifice and cause you to become more acceptable to God. Right now, right this moment as you read these words you are as fully accepted by God—in and through Jesus—as you will ever be for all time and eternity.
You see, in and through Jesus, God’s love for you will never be fuller than it is this very instant. Your standing with God will never be more solid than it is right now. Your acceptance by God is as complete just now as it will ever be. Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf is finished, never to be added to . . . ever. God’s attitude toward you flows from his love, grace, and personal commitment as a loving Father to your highest good.
Any anger or punishment which might have been directed at you or due you was poured out—and emptied—upon Jesus on the cross, instead of upon you. God’s requirement for a sacrifice for your sin was paid in full by Jesus—and, any wrath God may have felt against you was completely poured out on Jesus and completely dissipated. You are no longer subject to God’s wrath!—if you have accepted your salvation by the shed blood of Jesus.
That’s why God wants you to abandon dead works. Stop performing useless religious acts. They’re no good. They’re not necessary. God’s done it all for you. It’s all taken care of. Your sin-debt is paid in full. You’re wasting precious time. It’s purposeless. There are better things to do with your time, talents, and treasures God has given you. There is absolutely nothing you can do (or not do) that will cause God to love you any more or less than He does right this instant.
When Jesus cried out “It is finished!” just as He died, what do you think He meant by that? He meant just that: “It is finished!” It’s done. It’s complete. It’s total. The God-Man has made a complete finished sacrifice on behalf of all humankind—never to be duplicated, added to, or supplemented. So . . . abandon dead works. Quit performing useless religious acts and rituals in order to please God or make Him love you more.
On one occasion John the Baptizer pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29) Did Jesus take away the sin of the world when He died on the cross—or didn’t He? Did He take away all of your sin (past, present, and future) when He died on the cross? If He did, then there’s nothing more you or I or anyone else can do to add to his total and complete act of taking away all sin for all time. It’s up to you whether or not you believe that and place your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Right now I’m going to write something I’ve never before said or written; I’ve thought it, but I’ve never said it or printed it. There are reasons I haven’t done so, but I choose not to tell you those reasons right now. Here it is: There are only two viable religious acts to be found anywhere in the Bible (after Jesus’ finished sacrifice on the cross on our behalf) which God commands us to perform; they are (1) the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist or Communion) and (2) baptisms.
I honestly can’t find any others, and, believe me, I’ve been searching the Bible for many years. If we’re performing any other religious acts (besides those two) in order to please God or to make ourselves more acceptable to Him in terms of our finished, completed salvation, then we need to abandon them; they are useless religious acts.
God is as pleased with you this very moment as He will ever be for all time and eternity. He accepts you right now as fully and completely as He ever will throughout all time and eternity. There are no acts you can possibly perform which will add to his full pleasure and acceptance of you, or his love for you. So . . . you must abandon dead works. “Bill, are you saying we should not perform any good works as believers in Jesus?” No, I’m saying the Bible teaches we should abandon useless religious acts and works. By all means, God wants us to perform useful, good works.
But, on the other hand He commands us to abandon any useless works which we perform in an effort to become “better” saved or “more” saved. Potentially, we’re already as completely and as totally saved as we’re ever going to be—even in the next “stage” of our journey after death. We have been saved from the PENALTY of sin (past tense); we are being saved from the POWER of sin (present tense); and we will be saved from the PRESENCE of sin (future tense). But it’s all based upon that once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, not upon anything we do or don’t do in terms of good works which we feel might add to Jesus’ finished work.
Let’s spend a few moments looking at some of those good works God wants us to perform since He fully accepts us because of what Jesus did on our behalf. I’ve already mentioned two of them God commands us to perform: Communion (or the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Memorial Meal—whatever you choose to call it) and baptisms. Those are two of the good works God requires us to perform.
What are some others? First, look at Ephesians 2: 8 – 10. Verse 10 tells us that after we are saved by God’s grace, we should perform good works as a result of our salvation . . . as a natural outgrowth of our salvation. But the good works God mentions in verse 10 are unspecified good works which God planned ahead of time for us to perform. How can you determine what those good works are . . . specifically? Well, that’s between you and God; you must ask Him what they are. He has custom-tailored your good works for you and mine for me. I don’t know what yours are, but God will tell you if you ask Him. Have you asked Him?
Let’s leave Ephesians 2 and let’s look again at 1 Corinthians 3: 1 – 15. This is a touchy one. Some of our works are useless, dead works and will be “burned” like wood, hay, and straw. By the way, this has nothing to do with burning in hell; don’t get sidetracked here. And, some of our works will be good, useful works and emerge as gold, silver, and precious stones (all three of which are “created” by and become “valuable” by means of intense heat and pressure). Which is which? Which of our works burn up? Which become more valuable and beautiful by means of fire and pressure? I won’t presume to tell you. Again, you’ll have to ask God which are which.
Somehow, which works are which are connected with our faith—or lack of it. See 1 Peter 1: 7. And, what we do or don’t do in terms of our good works clearly follows us into the next stage of our journey through the ages of time as implied by Revelation 14: 13. Somehow I feel I’m not doing a very good job here of contrasting “good works” with “dead works.” It’s because the Bible really doesn’t spell them out as clearly as you might think. Oh, we’ve each been taught a behavioral “list” of do’s and don’ts which we carry around with us in our minds and consciences, but most of our lists are of our own making and have little or nothing to do with what God considers good works and dead works.
And the only way to find out what’s on “God’s list” for you is to ask Him. Remember, He lives inside of you in unbodied Spirit form and is your teacher, counselor, instructor, trainer, and guide as you make your daily choices and decisions in life. Yes, you can learn much about good works and dead works from the Bible, but ultimately it’s God inside you who illuminates and interprets the Bible for you personally. All I can teach you is that you must abandon dead works and useless religious acts. On the other hand, God wants you to heartily perform “live” good works and useful religious acts. You must decide which is which.
Here are some other references and tips which might be helpful in your decision-making process about determining which good works God wants you to perform. Remember to consistently maintain an attitude of repentance (of changing your mind) so you always remain teachable and open to God’s delicate, quiet, whispering voice inside you. He transmits his thoughts from your spirit (where He lives inside you) into your mind in the form of thoughts and creative ideas that form in your mind. That’s not how He always “speaks” to us, but that’s how He most often speaks. Learn to listen to his voice. Over time, you’ll learn to know if it’s Him speaking to you, transmitting his thoughts into your mind from where He lives in your spirit, or . . . if it’s simply your own thoughts. Learn to hear the voice of your Shepherd as noted in John 10 four times.
The 12th chapter of Romans is chock-full of teaching about good works. Notice that the chapter begins, however, with an appeal by God for you to renew your mind (by changing it . . . repenting) so that you may understand God’s will for you in terms of the good works which are listed later in the chapter. And we’re also encouraged right up front not to have an exaggerated opinion of ourselves in terms of the good works we do; we must be very humble about any good works God gives us to perform. It’s always easy for pride to enter the picture. Look at that lengthy list of good works from verse 4 clear to the end of the chapter. I’m not going to re-list them for you. I suggest you take some time and just simply write down the ones you find, and then begin to ask God which might be some specific ones He wants you to practice. The chapter closes by stating that ultimately we overcome evil with God’s good (works).
Look at John 9: 4. Jesus is talking here about works we need to do while it is daylight. Night is coming when we won’t be able to do good works. I’ll let you decide what “daylight” and “night” mean in this reference. Don’t get way out in left field. It has nothing to do with hell, tribulation, the “end-times,” antichrist . . . all that kind of stuff. Just ask God what it means for you . . . now.
Turn to Acts 13: 2. Some of the followers of Jesus in the local church located in the ancient city of Antioch were worshipping God and fasting. Now there’s something think about: have you done any fasting lately? Just asking. While those followers of Jesus were worshipping God and fasting, Holy Spirit said . . . . Has Holy Spirit “said” something to you lately? Just asking. Anyhow, Holy Spirit said, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” What work have you been set apart and called to while you’ve been worshipping God and fasting? Just asking.
Here’s a tricky one: Philippians 2: 12. This says we are to work out our own salvation. Whoa! Wait a minute. “Bill, didn’t you just say a few paragraphs ago that we couldn’t work toward our own salvation?” Yes, that’s what I said. How are you going to reconcile the two seemingly opposing views? All I can do is encourage you to ask God to explain to you what this reference means. It’s a paradox: we are already completely and totally saved, but we are still supposed to work out our own salvation; ask God to help you figure out the paradox.
Turn to 2 Timothy 3: 16 and 17. Here God tells us that the Bible is given to us for instruction and teaching, for reprimand, for correction of error, and for training in righteousness. Why? So that a follower of Jesus will be complete and proficient, well-fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. Do you think the Bible is important in your training and development? In your quest to discover what good works God wants you to perform? Are you having difficulty in determining just what good works God wants you to perform? Are you reading and studying your Bible regularly? Do you think there’s any connection between whether or not you read and study your Bible and discovering what good works God wants you to perform?
Let’s conclude this rather brief safari through part of the Bible with Colossians 3: 23. Whatever you end up deciding which is which about good works and dead works . . . Whatever you determine it is that God wants you to do in terms of good works . . . However you get that all sorted out . . . work at it heartily as something done for the Lord and not for other people.
How much of what we do is done to please or impress other people? How much of what we do is somehow to gain acceptance or praise from other people? How much of what we do is done to please our parents or some other significant person—even though they may have died years ago?! Whatever you come up with about what dead works are and what good works are, abandon the dead ones and work heartily at the good ones—as something done for God and not for other people.
I hope it’s clear enough now. We’re commanded to abandon dead works—useless religious acts. But we’ve also seen that we are to perform “live” works—good works. One of the reasons we are to abandon dead works is so there is more “room” in our lives for the good works God wants us to perform. Leviticus 26: 10 contains, in principle, an interesting “credo” I have lived by for many years. We need to clean out the old, useless religious acts in our lives to make room for the new, useful good works God wants us to perform.
What are those good works? That’s between you and God to discover as you read and study your Bible and ask Him to show you which good works are tailor-made just for you. But start by cleaning out the old, dead ones. But our emphasis herein is on abandoning the dead works, not upon performing the good works; the complete biblical subject of performing “live” good works is a whole other teaching in and of itself—a subject I won’t spend any more time on in this teaching.
Remember, we must abandon performing any useless religious works or acts of any type which we mistakenly believe will “add” to our salvation—or impress God—or please God. The penalty for our sin has been paid by Jesus once-for-all. God’s requirements that we fulfill his laws are completely taken care of. It is not fiction—it is not religious mumbo-jumbo—to state that the complete righteousness of Jesus has been “credited” to our sin-debt account and the “accounting books” about our lives are clear of any entries.
God has fused you and Jesus into such an inseparable union that when God looks at Jesus He sees you; when He looks at you He sees Jesus. All of Jesus’ spiritual “assets,” so to speak, have been merged into your life and “credited” to your account. Thus, when God looks at you, He does not see you alone. He sees you and Jesus united and fused as one. Since Jesus is totally righteous, God sees you as totally righteous. You are constituted as one with Jesus, sins all paid for: you are complete in Jesus!
In one amplified version of the New Testament, Colossians 2: 10 puts it this way: “Since you are absolutely filled with Jesus—and since Jesus is absolutely filled with God—then you are complete!” That’s why we need to abandon dead works. They’re not necessary anymore. They’re useless. You’re wasting valuable time doing something you don’t need to do anymore. Jesus has taken care of it. Any religious acts you feel you need to perform, He has performed on your behalf. Stop performing useless religious acts!
Again, notice one other point in Ephesians 2: 8 – 10; we are not saved by our good works, but we must not ignore good works, for one of the purposes for which God has saved us in order that we might do good works. Because God has saved us—because we are his workmanship—we should ask God what good works He wants us to perform . . . and where He wants us to perform them . . . and with whom . . . and when . . . and in what circumstances.
Yes, God has purposed ahead of time—before the foundation of the world—that there are good works for each of us to perform in his great epic of creation, redemption, and the restoration of all things. But we need to clean out the old, dead works—our useless religious acts—in order to make room for the new, good works.
One final thought—just to leave you thinking very seriously about this command of God’s for us to abandon dead works. Read Matthew 7: 21 – 27 about various types of “mighty works” done by some people who wanted God’s approval. There is much I could teach about in this reference, but I’m going to focus on verse 23.
Here’s what Jesus is saying to you in that verse—in plain, amplified, modern English: “Sure, now you come clamoring for my recognition and approval. Back off! In the first place, you didn’t even bother asking Me what works I wanted you to perform, but just went ahead and performed some on your own. I never put my prior stamp of approval on your works, but now you want me to commend you for what a good job you did. Huh uh! You’d have done a much better job if you had asked first for my approval, and then did as I instructed you—instead of just going ahead and performing works on your own. Remember, the good is always the enemy of the best! When will you ever learn?”
What useless, dead works were these people performing simply because they did not bother to ask Jesus about them first—before they went ahead and performed them? Yes, we need to ask God what good works He wants us to do. And then we need to obey what He tells us. Many people don’t know what God wants them to do because they don’t ask Him; it’s as simple as that: Ask. Listen. Do.
FOUNDATION NUMBER THREE
Beyond our five senses, deeper than our mind, beyond our own thoughts, deeper than our consciousness or subconsciousness . . . lies an inner, limitless expanse of faith “residing” in our spirits. What is faith? How many definitions of faith have you read or heard in your life? Confusing, isn’t it? I’m not going to spring anything new on you. The best definition I’ve found anywhere is right where some people least expect to find it.
Where might that be? Surprise! Surprise! Right in the Bible! Follow me carefully here. I want you to turn to a reference in your Bible, but not in the old King James version; that version was written almost 400 years ago. English is a “living” language, which means the language is constantly changing and growing. In some respects, 20th century English is much different from what it was 400 years ago. Having said that, please turn to your own Bible’s definition of faith. It is Hebrews 11: 1.
Here’s that definition of Hebrews 11: 1 in modern English: Faith is being confident of what we hope for—the evidence of the reality of phenomena we cannot perceive with our five senses. Let’s analyze that definition. Before we do, though, please turn to Romans 4: 18 – 21 and read that reference, too; it’s about Abraham’s faith being a “model” or “prototype” for our faith. It’s one of the Bible’s own examples of how faith in Hebrews 11: 1 “works.”
Notice that Abraham had given up hope by reason of his five senses, but he hoped by faith; he was confident—his faith did not weaken. He didn’t waver by unbelief or distrust, but was strong and empowered by faith to trust that God would keep his word and do what He had promised. That is why his faith was credited to his account as right standing with God. That’s just a little bit about what this reference teaches us about faith. There’s more, much more.
From the instant you were conceived, everything you have ever learned or experienced has come to you through your five senses; think about that: besides your genetic, biological being—your entire self-ness—that which makes you “you,” has all occurred as a result of data entering you from outside you through your five senses. Your five senses are how you perceive all the data coming into you from your external world.
Yes, everything outside your skin comes to you through your five senses. In other words, by means of your five senses you have “constructed” the person living inside your skin whom you call “me” (and whom others call “you”) out of the quadrillions and mega-quadrillions of bits of data you have received from outside your skin since the instant you were conceived.
Wait a minute, though, doesn’t the Bible’s definition say faith perceives as real fact what is not revealed to the senses? Yes, it does say that. So where does faith come from? It comes from inside of us. Faith comes to us from God who lives inside of us in his unbodied Spirit form. For purposes of illustration at this point, let’s say that in manner of speaking faith is another “sense” (not the traditional sixth sense, however) that receives data from inside our skin rather than from outside our skin.
The Bible says in Romans 12: 3 that God has given every human being a certain “measure” of faith as an unmerited, free gift. Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 addresses the same matter. You have a certain measure or portion of faith. I have a certain measure or portion of faith. Another way of putting it is that God has given each of us an appropriate amount of faith. None of us can say we don’t have faith. We all have faith.
The important point is in how we “use” our faith. Some people place their faith in money . . . or cars . . . or in other people . . . or in dead, manmade religious works . . . or in houses . . . or in Hollywood . . . or in their intellect or knowledge . . . or in reason and logic . . . or in their evolutionary, humanistic, or relativistic worldviews . . . or in famous people in sports or government . . . or in their own physical beauty . . . or in nothing at all. And, some people place their faith in God. That’s what this third foundation is all about in Hebrews 6: Faith in God. The differences in how people use their faith lie in the object of their faith, not in the faith itself. Faith is faith. And God has given each of us an appropriate amount of faith. How are you using your faith? What’s the primary object of your faith?
Yes, Holy Spirit who lives inside each of us “transmits” reality (by means of faith) to our “inner person” from the inside where he lives in our spirits; this is in addition to our perception of the material, physical reality which comes to us from the outside by means of our five senses. There’s another way in which faith is transmitted to us, too. Yet, it originates from the same Holy Spirit who lives inside each of us. Faith also comes from the Bible. Look at Romans 10: 17. Who caused the Bible to be written? Holy Spirit. So . . . faith comes from the Bible, too. As we read and study it—and obey it—Holy Spirit makes it “alive” and real to us.
That’s how we know the Bible really is the written, living “Word” of the Living God—not by means of our five senses, but by means of our greater, inner “sense”—faith! The Bible is unlike any other book ever written; it is actually full of super-natural, dynamic power and is LIFE-giving as Holy Spirit uses it to “grow” and strengthen our faith. (see Hebrews 4: 12, especially in The Amplified Bible)
Yes, from inside of us Holy Spirit makes the Bible come alive as we read, study, and obey it. He’s the one who causes the Bible to actually become “food” for our inner persons. See Matthew 4: 4. He’s the one who causes the Bible to be more than mere paper and ink. By faith it is a power-full, living book Holy Spirit uses to help transform and “grow” our lives. By means of our faith-sense, the Bible actually imparts God’s own eternal, self-existent, uncreated, abundant LIFE to us.
Only by faith can we really know that the Bible is the actual infallible, inerrant, Living and Written Word of the One true and Living God. Oh, I can try to explain to you by logic or reason that it’s unlike any other book ever written on this planet—that in some mysterious way it is LIFE-giving and full of power, but that really won’t mean anything to you. No, you can only discover for yourself—by your faith-sense—that it is THE Word of the true and Living God! That cannot be “proved” in any other way than by faith.
Don’t even try to understand the Bible by logic, reason, your intellect, or by any of your five senses; it just won’t make any sense if you do. Don’t ever try to prove to someone who is not a follower of Jesus that the Bible is God’s Word. People who try to understand the Bible that way only end up believing it’s not God’s Word, doubting it, “disproving” it, and explaining it away in their own minds. It’s a “spiritual” book and can only be known as God’s written Truth by your faith-sense originating in your spirit.
Why do we need faith in addition to our five senses? We need faith because it is the only “sense” with which we can perceive God and the invisible realm of the Spirit. For example, Hebrews 11: 6 says that whoever comes to God must believe God is. Faith is the means by which we believe God is and by which we can “see” into the invisible realm in which He lives. Some call that invisible world RealRealm, as contrasted with the world in which we live and move and have our mortal beings: ShadowLand. ShadowLand is—well—just a dim, murky, shadowy world compared to the vast, limitless, bright, invisible realm of RealRealm in which God lives in his eternal state of being.
Education, science, logic, reason, philosophy—each of these has to do with the five senses, and they all have their places in God’s grand scheme of things. But our five senses cannot “find” God or “prove” He exists. Only by using our “faith-sense” can we believe God is and believe the Bible to be God’s Word. How do we have faith in God, as our third foundation states? God who lives inside of us in the unbodied form of Holy Spirit gives us faith to believe He is. That’s the only way we can really know and experience a vital, living relationship with God.
You see, God is Spirit (John 4: 23), meaning He is “composed” of invisible “spirit-substance.” In contrast, we are “composed” of visible, physical and material “substance.” Anyone or anything which is spirit cannot be perceived or known by the five senses—only by means of faith. That’s why we need the faith God has given to each of us; it’s the only means by which we can know Him. Faith is the connecting link between the visible material universe (ShadowLand) and the invisible spiritual universe, the Kingdom of God (RealRealm).
Yes, there is an entire “alter universe,” so to speak, known as the Kingdom of God. It is an invisible Kingdom within us, and it is also an invisible Kingdom outside of us: a Kingdom greater, larger, and more real than the physical or material universe we know by our five senses. That unlimited, invisible Kingdom of God can be known and understood only by means of faith. Simultaneously, it’s both “smaller” than time and space and “larger” than time and space.
Also, the Bible is the other “gateway” or connecting link through which we can cross back and forth between RealRealm from ShadowLand. It is the Bible “mixed” with our faith that allows us to see into the unseen, hear which cannot be heard with our physical ears, touch the untouchable, and experience that which we cannot experience with our five senses.
Also, the only means by which we can really know Jesus—God the Son—is by faith, too. Look up Acts 20: 21. Jesus isn’t here on earth in the flesh anymore. We can’t perceive Him by means of our five senses. The only way we can believe in Him and know Him personally is by our faith-sense. We weren’t here when He was here on earth in person, so we can’t really “know” by our five senses that He ever was here. Oh, there’s plenty of historical evidence that He was here, but we generally believe such evidence with our five senses and they don’t “prove” He was here. Only our faith-sense can do that.
In our world and universe (ShadowLand)—which is a physical, material world and universe—we perceive everything by our five senses; we all grew up learning to rely almost 100% upon our five senses. Through our own life experiences, through our education, through our relationships with other people, we came to believe that if we can’t know or experience something with our five senses, it either doesn’t exist or isn’t real. We say, “Seeing is believing!” meaning if we can’t perceive something with our five senses then it isn’t real.
That’s why it’s relatively difficult for many people to know and believe God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and the Bible. Because they can’t be known by our five senses in the same way we know and perceive most material reality—and they keep “looking” for God with their five senses and with their own intellect and reason. They won’t find Him using their five senses. We haven’t been conditioned to trust our “faith-sense” like we’ve been conditioned to rely upon our five senses. It’s not that faith isn’t as real as our five senses; actually, it’s more real! We simply don’t know how to use our faith, rely upon it, exercise it, focus it—like we do our five senses.
When God dispenses the appropriate amount of faith to each of us, it comes to us at first in sort of a vague “form;” for most of us when we became new followers of Jesus, at first our faith is unfocused and undifferentiated. God wants us to exercise it and focus it towards Him. He wants us to train ourselves to use our faith properly.
Let me try to explain it this way. Light takes various forms. Light in a common household light bulb is unfocused; it’s called radiant light, meaning it radiates out from its source equally in all directions; it’s not focused in any manner. On the other hand, there is light such as laser light which is very narrowly focused into a compact, powerful beam which can be pointed or focused in a specific direction. God wants us to learn how to focus our faith like laser light—pointed specifically at Him. He doesn’t want our faith to spread out randomly in all directions (and thus lose some of it’s radiant “power”). Rather, He wants our faith to be narrowly and powerfully focused towards Him.
Let’s continue on with some general teaching about our faith. We know a little about how our five senses function. We know a little about auditory nerves, olfactory lobes, tactile nerve endings, taste buds, etc. But what do we know about how faith works and functions? More than you might think. How do we know? From the Bible. From Holy Spirit communicating to us from within us and showing us how to apply the Bible to our lives. For example, we have already pointed out that God gives each of us an appropriate amount of faith. The Bible teaches that we must “exercise” that faith just as we exercise our muscles and minds. We exercise our faith by “releasing” it toward God and “attaching” it to Him: by believing in Him, trusting Him, “seeing” Him revealed in the Bible, praying to Him, obeying Him, listening to Him with our “inner ears,” seeing Him with our “inner eyes,” etc.
As we exercise our faith in those ways, our faith is honed, sharpened, and focused; it becomes more use-able. God becomes more “responsive” (in a sense) to our prayers, to our trust, to our use of our faith. Not that we manipulate God with our faith or that He is some sort of cosmic servant who responds to our every whim; no, nothing like that! It’s just that as we open up our inner selves and use our faith more often and in a more focused manner, we become more and more aware of just how the entire, invisible, spiritual realm of faith operates. We become more aware of “spiritual laws” and how they operate, just as we have become aware of how natural laws operate in the material universe.
Just as we read, study, experience, and learn more about our physical, material universe by “exercising” our five senses, we perceive and comprehend more and more about God and our non-physical, non-material, invisible, spiritual universe (RealRealm) by exercising our faith-sense. By our five senses we are aware of our connectedness with other people, with planet earth, with the material universe.
In contrast, by our faith-sense we are aware of our connectedness with another universe—the limitless expanse of the Kingdom of God, RealRealm—which transcends the material universe. We’ve read that one of the things God wants us to do with the amount of faith He has given us is to have faith in Him. God has given us the appropriate amount of faith so we may direct and focus it toward Him and thus believe in Him, know Him personally, and trust Him—but not with our five senses. With our faith! Believing in Jesus means we have a firm, steadfast reliance upon Him—by faith.
There are other uses to which God wants us to put the faith He has given us. First, we use our faith to believe that Jesus paid the supreme penalty for our sins and restored us to a proper relationship with God. See Romans 3: 25. What Jesus did on our behalf happened in historical time and space 2,000 years ago. We weren’t there at the time of his cruel death and the empty tomb. We didn’t see those events, experience them, or hear them at that time; our five senses are unable to “prove” that Jesus gave his life and shed his blood for all humankind, including you and me—and then arose from the dead. Only faith can “prove” inside of us that Jesus actually did what He did; we cannot know the reality of it by any other means.
Closely tied to that aspect of our salvation is the simple fact we could not even believe the simple Gospel—God’s Good News for all people—without our faith. The only way we can “believe” the Gospel is by faith. God’s Good News is not good news when perceived by the five senses. Actually, for the most part it is irrational and illogical nonsense to our five senses; it’s foolishness. But faith makes it possible for us to understand it’s the greatest, most power-full Good News ever proclaimed to humankind! (see Romans 1: 16)
Well, those are only a few examples of how we are to use our faith: to believe in God, to believe in what Jesus did for us, to believe the Bible is God’s Word, and to believe, comprehend, and understand God’s Good News about our full and complete, eternal salvation. I very, very seldom—almost never—quote poetry or music in my writings, but if you were right here in our home office with me as I compose these words, I think I would probably sing you a song.
Since I can’t sing it to you, I’ll write some of the words. Why? This song was the precise, divine instrument God used at what I call a “magic moment in time” to cause me to give my life to Jesus and to begin to understand the nature of faith; it’s very personal to me and I sometimes cry when humming or singing it to myself. Here are some of the words of that song:
Oh, how well do I remember how I doubted day by day
For I did not know for certain that my sins were washed away.
When the Spirit tried to tell me I would not the truth receive;
I endeavored to be happy and to make myself believe.
But it’s real! It’s real! Oh, I know it’s real!
Praise God! The doubts are settled and I know, I know it’s real.
So I prayed to God in earnest—
And not caring what folks said—
I was hungry for God’s blessings, my poor spirit must be fed.
When at last by FAITH I touched Him,
Then like sparks from smitten steel–
Just that quick salvation reached me.
And Praise God, I know He’s real!
But it’s real! It’s real! Oh, I know it’s real!
Praise God! The doubts are settled and I know, I know it’s real.
Dear readers and friends, that’s what faith has done for me! And I’ve lived by faith for many years now. Oh, there’s always an interplay between my five senses and my faith. That’s true of all of us. Just like there’s always an interplay between ShadowLand and RealRealm. After all, we’re human; we’re a “blend” of both material beings and spiritual beings. But beyond my human senses, logic, reason, education, and intellect, faith is the means of my direct connection with God and with all that comprises the limitless, boundless, eternal Kingdom of God.
We are not human beings having spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having human experiences! I could teach you much more about living by faith, about reaching out to other people by faith, about “seeing” into invisible RealRealm by faith, about being “co-creators” with God by faith, about dealing with dark, unseen forces by faith, about being aware of angels by faith . . . yes, there’s more, there’s more. And it’s all by faith.
I’m not suggesting that any of us demean or minimize the five senses. They’re a necessary part of our mortal life here on planet earth. That’s just what life is all about. I use my five senses; I believe in education, the intellect, logic, reason—all of those are necessary parts of our lives and the world we live in—ShadowLand. For example, I have a great deal of formal, higher education for which I am very grateful to God; I never denigrate or minimize education, reason, logic, or human intellect.
But in addition let us also determine to live and move and have our being in that realm beyond the five senses—by faith! For one final thought about our faith as being foundational to our spiritual growth and development, I invite you to turn to Colossians 2: 6 to ponder and meditate upon. I even recommend you memorize that verse as a key reference in your repertoire of faith references in the Bible. Yes, faith is absolutely essential to our growth and development while we live our mortal lives “in Him,” as this reference points out.
FOUNDATION NUMBER FOUR
Ok, let’s now move on to Faith’s Foundation number four: baptisms. I don’t know what version of the Bible you generally use, but in the original Greek language of the New Testament, that word “baptisms” in Hebrews 6 is plural, not singular. How many different types of baptisms can you find in the New Testament? There are four or five that I can count—maybe more, depending upon how one understands certain references. Does that surprise you? Did you think there was just one baptism mentioned in the New Testament? Generally, when the average person thinks of baptism, he or she thinks of baptism in water. But there are more baptisms than just being baptized in water.
How many can you come up with? I come up with these—give or take one or two: (1) baptism in water. (2) Baptism in the Body of Christ. (3) Baptism in the sufferings of Jesus. (4) Baptism in the Holy Spirit. (5) Baptism in fire. There may be more, there may be fewer, depending on how you count them or how the various references read when translated from the original Greek language.
The point I’m making is this. If the reference is plural in Hebrews 6 (and it is), then we need to stretch our thinking beyond what we usually think of when we think of baptism. C’mon now, wasn’t your first thought about water baptism when I mentioned the fourth foundation of the faith? If you’re like most people, it was. But we need to think beyond that to the other types of baptisms that are part of the fourth foundation of our faith found in Hebrews 6.
Let’s keep going. This reference in Hebrews 6 teaches us that we must consider baptisms (plural) as being part of the very bedrock foundation of our Christian faith. I’m going to try to somehow lump all these together and show you how all four or five baptisms (or less, or more) might actually be component parts of one baptism that should happen to all followers of Jesus when they are baptized in water. I think God intended for all these baptisms to occur simultaneously-—all at once—when we are baptized in water. But . . . because we humans tend to categorize life into separate experiences on separate occasions, now—2,000 years after Hebrews 6 was written—we have done just that type of categorization concerning baptisms.
We have taken an awesome “total package” of experience which God probably intended to occur all at once and we have separated these various aspects of one baptism into different experiences which we now think are the norm. The norm is actually one “composite” baptism for followers of Jesus, but we have separated that one baptism into four or five baptisms instead of one, all-encompassing baptism. Confusing so far? I hope not. I’ll do my best to straighten out the entire matter before we conclude studying about foundation number four.
A great deal of the confusion about foundation Number 4, baptisms (plural) can be avoided if we understand what the word means in the Greek language in which it was written in the Bible. In every instance, the word “baptism” means “immerse,” “plunge,” “sink down into,” “go completely under,” “saturate.” That’s it. That’s all the word ever means in the New Testament. Nowhere in the original Greek language of the New Testament does the word ever mean “sprinkle,” “dip,” “pour,” “spray,” “wet,” “drizzle,” or any other similar meaning. In the New Testament, baptism always means to totally immerse, submerse, or saturate. Always!
When did followers of Jesus begin to sprinkle new believers with water—or pour water on them—instead of immersing them—as the Bible clearly teaches? When did infant baptism begin to occur, for example? When did baptism by pouring a few drops of water on someone begin to occur?
I’m generalizing and vastly oversimplifying with this answer to those questions, but baptism by non-immersion began to occur around the year 325 A.D. when the Roman Emperor, Constantine, decreed a royal edict which proclaimed: “Ok, everyone in the entire empire—men, women, children, and babies—will now become followers of Jesus—whether you like it or not or whether you want to be or not. By my royal edict, next Monday everyone in the empire will become followers of Jesus by imperial fiat. If you don’t, you’ll be punished!” Yes, in a nutshell, that’s sort of what really happened.
In order to obey the Emperor’s edict and get everyone baptized quickly, some of those who were already followers of Jesus bowed to Constantine’s pressure, dreamed up “holy water,” and began to sprinkle whole groups of people—sometimes entire villages at once, whether or not they were actually followers of Jesus—just to obey the Emperor. You may find that either sad or humorous, but that’s essentially how it all began—with notable exceptions, of course. Then, since approximately 325 A.D. when the Church first got into the “numbers game” of counting to see how many “members” it had on its membership rolls, it could quickly increase its numbers and keep them inflated by baptizing babies and infants and counting them as members.
For example, if your particular church baptizes babies and infants, take a count of how many people are actually present for your services from week to week in comparison to the numbers on your legal Church membership rolls. They’re probably counting as members all those dipped or sprinkled babies, thus inflating the membership numbers. Just something to think about . . .
Most of the confusion might never have occurred—maybe—if most followers of Jesus had stuck to their convictions and continued to baptize only by immersion, which is what the Greek word, baptizo, always means. But I’m not on a one-man crusade to undo history and rewrite it. What’s done is done, and God is sovereign over the affairs of his Church and human history. We can only forge ahead with the understanding we presently have. My studied opinion is that the only followers of Jesus who should be immersed are persons who have a responsible awareness of what is happening to them at the time they are immersed; that certainly includes children of various ages who responsibly know what they are doing when they ask to be immersed.
Would I baptize babies or infants? Have I done so? Yes, as long as whoever presents the infant for baptism understands it’s not a magic ritual that somehow “saves” the baby or infant. If people are honestly persuaded in their own minds and spirits that they need to have a baby or infant baptized, that’s okay. I’m happy to do so. But the “sponsors” must understand the baby or infant should be taught that he or she has a responsibility to grow up, receive Jesus as their personal Savior, and live a committed to Him. Whatever views we hold about baptism, we must understand it is merely a beginning, never an end. Whew, I’ve probably “beaten a dead horse” enough as far as the definition and implications of baptisms (plural) taught in Hebrews 6. I left a lot of room for discussion. But let’s not argue, okay?
The New Testament is abundantly clear that new followers of Jesus should responsibly choose to be baptized in water. Read Matthew 28: 19 and 20 and Acts 2: 38. Throughout the Book of Acts and early Church history up until approximately 325 A.D. (with some exceptions), when someone responsibly chose to become a follower of Jesus, they chose to be immersed in water. That certainly appears to be the norm for the experience of new followers of Jesus.
What does water baptism accomplish? I used to think I knew all the answers to that simple question; I’m not so sure I do anymore. I’ve been studying that question for many years now—and have been practicing water baptism for just about as many years. At the very least, it’s a solemn and meaningful initiation rite into the Church, the Body of Jesus. At the very most, it’s an integral and necessary beginning to the lifelong process of receiving one’s salvation and then growing in Jesus which we embark upon when Jesus enters our lives in the unbodied form of Holy Spirit. Should you be baptized in water? You betcha! That’s all I’ll say about baptism (immersion) in water.
The Bible teaches more than one baptism. It’s my studied opinion that God intends for all of the baptisms in the New Testament to occur simultaneously as one awesome, total experience, but we are the ones who have pigeon-holed them into separate experiences. That is only my studied opinion, and I am keenly aware that all the data is not in yet. I have much to learn. But at least let me try to explain my present understanding.
Jesus began to build his Church 2,000 years ago. It’s not complete yet. He’s still building it. He’s building it out of living building materials—out of people. Jesus is the Source of his Church; it flows out of his very being—out of his life, death, resurrection, and present ministry in the Church by means of Holy Spirit. Jesus is the “head” of his Church and people comprise the “body.” Yet, the head and body cannot be separated. They are one. If we are authentic followers of Jesus, we are part of that awesome Body which God is building throughout the earth—everywhere and everywhen.
People become a vital part of the Body of Jesus by means of being immersed in it. For example, read Romans 6: 1 – 12 about how we are immersed in Jesus’ Body. When we are immersed in water, we are simultaneously connected in some miraculous manner with Jesus’ Church, his Body. When we are immersed in water, it’s like dying with Jesus and being buried with Him. When we come up out of the water, we are “resurrected” (in a sense) into new life in his Body, the Church. Yes, at the time of our immersion in water, we are also immersed in the Church. That immersion in the Church is sort of like a “second” baptism although it occurs simultaneous with our water baptism.
I recently wrote the following words in another context: “Under normal circumstances, a person cannot be considered to be a vital, growing follower of Jesus unless he or she is actively involved in the total life, service, and witness of a visible, local expression of [the Church] . . . ” If you have been baptized into the Body of Jesus (when you were baptized in water), you need to be an active part of that Body; it’s not optional—if you’re an immersed believer. There is no such thing as a “lone ranger” follower of Jesus living and operating outside a local expression of the Body of Jesus. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you must be vitally and actively connected with a local segment of Jesus’ Church, or you probably shouldn’t claim to be a follower of Jesus.
Well, what about another one of the baptisms: being immersed in Holy Spirit? Remember, I mentioned that baptisms is plural in Hebrews 6. We’ve already looked at two of them: water baptism and baptism into the Body of Jesus. What in the world does baptism in Holy Spirit mean? A couple of key references for this subject are Luke 24: 49 connected with Acts 1: 5 – 8. Being immersed in Holy Spirit is like being “clothed” or “saturated” with Holy Spirit. He comes upon us, covers us, immerses us, empowers us—and fills us (see acts 4: 31 and similar references), in order for us to be witnesses on behalf of Jesus.
In other words, we’re completely saturated with Holy Spirit when we’re baptized in Him. In another sense, when we are immersed in Holy Spirit (who already lives inside us in our spirits), He is sort of “unleashed,” “unharnessed,” or “loosed” from our spirits into our souls (our minds) so that He is freer to do more in us and through us and as us.
Oh, we could get into such matters as “speaking in tongues” and other super-natural, power-full gifts of Holy Spirit (for example, see 1 Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, and 14). Or, we could teach about the fruit of Holy Spirit as we read in Galatians 5: 22 and 23. But that’s not my purpose here. The main reason for being baptized in Holy Spirit (which should occur simultaneous with baptism in water) is so we will be effective, super-naturally empowered witnesses for Jesus—with the supernatural gifts of Holy Spirit operated through us as required . . . the best gift for the occasion, so to speak.
If you’re interested in exploring the super-natural, power-full gifts of Holy Spirit, I invite you to read our companion teaching on this web site: “Gifts Of Holy Spirit.” It’s not a complete teaching on the subject; it’s more of an outline or synopsis of the gifts of Holy Spirit and how He operates them in our lives. I have also written about them in my book about Holy Spirit, entitled Friends Forever, available at amazon.com.
Speaking of witnesses in the paragraph above, here’s a quick sidebar . . . There’s no such word or concept in the New Testament as, for example, when people say: “Let’s go witnessing,” or “I witnessed to a friend today.” No, the word “witness” in the New Testament is always a noun, never a verb. We are witnesses; we are never commanded or instructed to go witnessing. Think about it. Immersion in Holy Spirit is to turn us into living witnesses for Jesus, not to go out witnessing. If you can understand that concept in your mind and spirit, it will revolutionize how you relate to people concerning God’s Good News about Jesus. Just relax and be a witness; stop trying so hard to do witnessing. We are human beings, not human doings. That’s just some extra teaching I threw in for free . . .
Ok, so immersion for a follower of Jesus is in water, in the Body of Jesus, and in Holy Spirit. Baptism in water so as to be identified and marked as a follower of Jesus, baptism into the Church so as to become an active and vital part of Jesus’ Body, and baptism in Holy Spirit so as to be an effective witness for Jesus. There are two more baptisms taught in the New Testament. One of them is baptism in fire. Read Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1 for that teaching. I won’t teach any more about it in this teaching because I have written another teaching about our baptism in fire. I invite you to turn to that other teaching and read it before continuing with this teaching; it is titled “Fire!” and is found elsewhere on this web site.
What other baptism is there? Baptism in Jesus’ sufferings. Whoa! That’s a big one! We don’t talk much about that subject these days—at least not among North American and European Christians. Travel most anywhere else in the world (outside of Europe and North America) where there are other followers of Jesus, however, and you will instantly understand what it means to be baptized in Jesus’ sufferings.
For starters, turn to Matthew 20: 22, Matthew 26: 39, and Luke 12: 49 and 50. Focus on the two words “cup” and “fire.” Then turn to Romans 6: 3 – 5 again and ask yourself what it means to be baptized into Jesus’ death. Did Jesus’ death involve suffering? Let me just put it to you this way: Approximately 400,000 Christians around the world will suffer and be killed for their faith this year! Approximately two in every two hundred of God’s workers (missionaries) will be killed this year. Ask yourself if any of those fellow followers of Jesus hae been immersed in Jesus’ sufferings.
Let me sum up my teaching about the fourth foundation of our faith found in our text in Hebrews 6: 1 and 2: baptisms. First of all, any time you see the English word “baptism,” remember it’s an English-ized translation of the Greek word, baptizo, which always and ever means immerse, saturate, plunge, sink under, etc. It never means pour, sprinkle, dip, etc. If you can make that necessary adjustment in your understanding, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy understanding of baptisms. Have you been immersed, truly immersed? Have you been baptized?
FOUNDATION NUMBER FIVE
If it had been my choice (and not God’s) I would not have picked this fifth foundation. If it had been up to me to choose one of the most important foundational subjects a new follower of Jesus should understand, I wouldn’t have chosen this one in a million years. At least I wouldn’t have until I began to study the subject in depth a few years ago. Boy, were my eyes ever opened about how important this one is. What is the fifth foundation of the faith taught in Hebrews 6? Laying on of hands. A few years ago I reached out to lay my hands upon a man in the audience where I had been teaching. He shouted at me: “Get your damn hands off of me!”
Wow, was he ever angry! Here’s what happened. I was teaching at a sizeable gathering; after I concluded my teaching I began to ask God on whom He wanted me to place my hands for the reasons we’ll be studying in a few minutes. Last minute change: As I was beginning to type this very paragraph you’re now reading, I intended to finish my story about the man who shouted at me; now, that’ll have to wait for another time . . .
You see, as I began my input into the computer in order to finish the story, Holy Spirit “spoke” to me (from inside me where He lives in my spirit) and said, “Bill, I’m going to teach this fifth foundation directly to your family of readers.” I responded, “Yes, I know that; I always trust You to be the real teacher—through me.” “No”, he replied, “that’s not what I mean. What I’m going to do is set you aside completely and teach this subject without teaching through you.” That hurt my pride a little, but I asked Him to explain what He meant.
Here’s what He told me: “Bill, all I want you to do in the space remaining for this subject is list some biblical references I’ll furnish you. As your readers look up the references, I’m going to really hammer home some clear teaching about the laying on of hands. Some of your readers won’t bother to examine the references, but those who do research them will find some profound changes occurring inside them. They’ll be greatly enriched! They’ll learn more about laying on of hands directly from Me to them . . . more than you could ever teach them. Just leave everything to Me.”
I replied: “Okay, Holy Spirit, you’re in charge! This is a little different approach for me (actually a whole lot different–), but I choose to obey You.” Here are those references Holy Spirit furnished me to pass on to you; please read, study, and pray about them in their contexts; take some notes; using a good concordance of the Bible, look up some other references to laying on of hands, too, if you want to; these few I’m furnishing you are simply the ones Holy Spirit told me to give you. Expect Holy Spirit (Who lives inside you) to teach you some life-changing truths—directly from his heart to your heart! He must really want you to get a good grasp of this subject since He has decided to teach you directly.
The only point I want to make is that throughout the Bible, often the act of laying on of hands had to do with “anointing” someone (or something) in order to do what God wanted done:
- Genesis 48: 8 – 16
- Numbers 27: 18 – 23 (compare with Deuteronomy 34: 9)
- Mark 10: 13 – 16
- Mark 16: 17 – 20
- Acts 6: 1 – 7
- Acts 8: 14 – 19
- Acts 9: 10 – 18
- Acts 13: 1 – 4
- Acts 19: 1 – 6
- 1 Timothy 5: 22
- 2 Timothy 1: 6
Boy, that was a short lesson on my part, wasn’t it? I’m glad Holy Spirit taught you directly. What an exciting privilege for you. You now know some fantastic stuff about laying on of hands. Be sure to obey what you’ve just learned!
FOUNDATION NUMBER SIX
I love the way the word “Anastasia” sounds to my ear when it’s pronounced as the Germans or Russians pronounce it. It has a mysterious, yet clear ring to it when pronounced the way they do. Are you asking what in the world this has to do with any of the seven foundations of the faith. Anastasia has everything to do with this subject. Here’s why. Anastasias (with an “s” at the end) is the Greek word which is most commonly translated into the English word “resurrection” in the New Testament. Why is the subject of resurrection so important? Why does God consider it the sixth foundation of the faith in Hebrews 6?
For starters, look at it this way. The death of Jesus, all by itself, was just another death by the common Roman method of crucifixion, another end of a good person’s life. The Romans crucified hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Roman Empire. After He was killed, Jesus of Nazareth would have likely sunk into oblivion and been totally forgotten, but for one thing: He came back to life! He was resurrected! He was raised from the dead by the power of God’s Spirit! Oh, maybe the world might have remembered some of his teachings and wise sayings, but without having come back to Life, Jesus would have been just another dead religious teacher, his body buried somewhere along the pathway of history.
Everything ever written about Jesus has been written since his resurrection. It is the resurrection of Jesus which sets Him apart from all other religious leaders in all of history: they’re still dead. He’s alive! Take away Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ church and the Kingdom of God collapse. Your faith is in vain. Nothing about Jesus would be worth discussing or writing about if He is not alive at this very moment . . .
Why is resurrection so important? Billions and billions of people have lived and died on planet earth. Did they just die—and that’s it? Is that all there is? Is death the end of it all? Thousands of years ago, an ancient biblical figure named Job asked that question: “When people die, will they live again?” (Job 14: 14) Hundreds of years after Job died, Jesus answered Job’s age-old question: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, although he or she may die, will live again.” (John 11: 25)
Sometimes I visit two cemeteries not far from my home. My great-grandparents, my grandparents, my uncle, my parents, my sister, my sister-in-law, and other relatives are buried there. Is that it? Are they just going to lay there forever? What’s it all about? Also, I have a dear friend who will likely die within just a few days; I’m going to visit him tomorrow morning—probably for the last time. After he dies, will I see him again? Jesus’ death, his burial, and his resurrection are three golden threads tightly interwoven and divinely inter-connected in God’s eternal purposes and plans for you and me. The three events cannot be understood apart from one another, for together they exhibit some of the infinite plans and purposes of God for all humankind.
Previously, I have written about how we are “one” with Jesus’ death and burial. We are somehow vitally fused with Him, too, in his resurrection: we are one in his resurrection, too. Far away in the depths of my spirit today I have a very real awareness—by faith—that I was “there” to die with Jesus and was buried with Him. I was “there” with Him, too, in his resurrection. And that’s what we will now study together for a few moments: how we literally and actually rose from the dead with and in Jesus. We will touch upon amazing forces and events which were set in motion that bright day when Jesus strode forth from death’s dark tomb, the New Man, the Man from Heaven, the First-Born Son of a new race of beings! That’s us . . . that’s us!
Back to anastasias. What does the word mean? It means to awaken from sleep. It portrays a simple picture of awakening in the morning and getting out of bed after sleeping during the night. That’s what resurrection is: to awaken from the sleep of death and get up. It’s really that simple. It won’t matter how long any of us sleep the sleep of death; we’ll awaken in the “morning” and get up. 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 is only one of many biblical references that clearly teach we mortal humans are created with three “components”: body, soul, and spirit.
I’m condensing a great deal of teaching with this next statement: when we die, our spirits instantly return to God, but our bodies and souls (our “personhoods”) sleep the sleep of death. When we are resurrected at Jesus’ return, our sleeping bodies and persons instantly awaken to be reunited with our spirits.
There’s a lot of speculation about when and how we’ll awaken, what we’ll look like, how “old” we’ll be in our new, glorified bodies—stuff like that. I won’t go into any of those subjects. I’m actually condensing approximately 40 hours of teaching about the resurrection in these few pages, so all we’ll be studying are a few of the highlights; there just isn’t space for more at this time without writing pages and pages and pages. In brief, it seems clear to me from the Bible that when we die our spirits return to God, while our bodies and our soul-selves sleep in the grave, awaiting God’s summons for us to awaken from our sleep of death and get up some bright morning.
The Bible teaches that the person sleeps in death after the spirit has returned to God—the person as well as the body sleeps, because the person and the body cannot really be separated. My “personhood” is not just in my brain; it’s in every cell of my physical body, too. The Bible doesn’t limit death to the body alone. When one sleeps at night it is the person who sleeps, not just the body. There is no consciousness in truly sound sleep. All dreaming occurs in the twilight area between consciousness and deep sleep.
The sleep induced by general anesthesia for surgery is a good example of the deep sleep of death. When we fall asleep in death it is comforting to know the sleep obliterates the interval of time between the moment of death and the moment of resurrection. To our consciousness, the moment of our resurrection will seem to instantly follow the moment of death—whether we’ve slept in death a thousand years, a few centuries, or only a few days by solar time. As far as your consciousness is concerned, the next fraction of a second after you die you will be awakened in your resurrection. Yes, death brings instant awakening to full consciousness in your resurrection.
Incidentally, we’ve read and heard much the last few years about so-called near death experiences when people leave their bodies, travel down long tunnels, meet relatives and friends who have died, experience being engulfed in a bright light, etc. In my thinking, those are not near death experiences; rather, they are future-visions of actual death experiences in which the persons experiencing them have actually died—and then “instantly” awakened in the future at their resurrection. That’s why it seems to them only moments after their death that they begin to have those experiences.
Please understand that is mere speculation on my part, but it seems more reasonable to me and seems to better “fit” what I understand of death and resurrection from the Bible—never having experienced either of them yet! I have no idea why such visions of death experiences happen to some people; however, I believe they are real. I just happen to think they’re visions of actual death experiences rather than near death experiences—based upon my present understanding of what the Bible teaches about such matters.
Let’s return to the subject of death being mere sleep. The best biblical example is that of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. He had been dead for four days (John 11: 17), but was awakened from the sleep of death by Jesus. As far as we know, Lazarus had no consciousness during those four days—rather, he was in the deep sleep of death. Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I will awaken him from his sleep.” (John 11: 11) If you want to know a little of what your own resurrection will be like, this incident about Lazarus is the pattern or prototype—not in every detail, but somewhat of a prototype or pattern. He was simply awakened by Jesus.
The following is not a point I would argue with anyone, because there is so much about the subject of resurrection we simply don’t know since it hasn’t happened yet to any of us who are still living this mortal life. It seems clear to me the Bible teaches there will be two resurrections (or maybe they’re just sequentially two points on a continuum). Here are some references you can study yourself and see why I feel that the Bible teaches there will be two resurrections:
- First resurrection: 1 Thessalonians 4: 14 – 17; 1 Corinthians 15: 49 – 53; Revelation 20: 4 – 6.
- Second resurrection: John 5: 28 and 29; Acts 24: 14 and 15; Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14; Revelation 20: 4 – 15.
I’ve taught again and again and again through the years (in person and in print) that we are in Jesus. We are fused and connected with Him in his death and burial. You must come to see you are also in Him in his resurrection, too. Old things passed away when we became one with Jesus in his death and burial; now, behold!, all things become new in our being one with Him in his resurrection. Just as certainly as Jesus was raised from his sleep of death by the power of God’s Spirit, from the vantage point of eternity we are already risen with Him, Children of the Resurrection! (Luke 20: 36)
We must understand clearly the resurrection is not merely a hopeful, comforting event which will occur sometime in the distant future. The great fundamental fact we must comprehend is that the resurrection is above all else a Person, and that Person is none other than our Lord Jesus who died, who was buried, and who rose again!
The day will come for each of us when family and friends will place our bodies in a coffin (or our ashes in an urn) and bury us under the ground or at sea (or burn our bodies like they do in some cultures). I cannot believe that such an event is gross, morbid, distasteful, or horrible to any person who has identified himself or herself with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. It is but a brief interval of peaceful sleep which the Bible calls being “asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 14) Your resurrection in Jesus is the difference between meaningless, dark, and dreadful death with no hope beyond the grave—and true LIFE incorruptible and eternal. He who died and was buried is forevermore alive. He is risen. Hallelujah, He is alive and we shall live also!
There is a concept taught in the Bible having to do with the Feasts celebrated by the ancient Israelites (and by many Israelites yet today). It is a concept containing many metaphors and symbolic word-pictures about our resurrection. The concept is that of “First Fruits.” The ancient Israelites celebrated three major Feasts annually (those same feasts are still celebrated to some degree by certain modern Israelites—and even by some followers of Jesus). The three major Feasts are the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23) Also celebrated during or “within” those three major Feast-events were seven “minor” events: three during Passover, one during Pentecost, and three during Tabernacles.
Jesus “fulfilled” the first Feast by being the Passover Lamb who was THE sacrifice and whose blood was shed for the sin of all humanity. At the conclusion of the first Feast, Passover, the ancient Israelites would take one sheaf of newly ripened grain and wave it before God as the first sign of a ripening harvest to come. With the waving of that first sheaf of grain, the Israelites were reminded of the fact that a great harvest was soon to be gathered in. 1 Corinthians 15: 20 and 23 calls Jesus the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. At his resurrection, He was “waved” before God signifying a great harvest to follow. What is the great harvest to follow? We are! Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. If it dies, however, it springs forth into an abundant harvest of grain.” (John 12: 24)
But . . . the New Testament teaches we who are “in” Jesus are also a type of first fruits of the coming harvest (James 1: 18 and Revelation 14: 4). Jesus is the first fruits, but we are also part of that first fruits because we are “in” Him. I’m only touching upon the highlights of the marvelous teachings found in these three major Feasts (including the seven minor events contained within them). We won’t have space to teach anything at all about the second major Feast, Pentecost. Maybe some day . . . The third major Feast, Tabernacles (sometimes called the Feast of Ingathering, too), contained three “minor” events: the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Trumpets suggests to us that there will come a time when those who are asleep in Jesus will hear a trumpet call resounding so loudly from the portals of eternity that the dead in Jesus cannot help but be awakened from their sleep (1 Corinthians 15: 52). Ancient Israel had two (sometimes three) growing seasons, each one ending in a great harvest. I’ve already mentioned waving the sheaf of grain (Jesus) to signify a great harvest to follow (us) at the end of the first growing season.
The great harvest during the last Feast, the Feast of Ingathering, is when all people who are asleep will be “harvested.”—all those in addition to those who have been sleeping in Jesus. (John 5: 27 – 29) It is the great harvest at the end of the ages of time when all persons will be summoned to the judicial courtroom of God, there to give an account of what relationship (or lack of one) they have had with Jesus.
Jesus, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. Then those who are in Him, the following first fruits. Finally, the remainder of humankind who sleep in death. When all is said and done, it all rests upon one person, Jesus, and upon one event: Jesus’ resurrection. He is the resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Him, though they are dead, shall live! Earlier, I referred to a couple of nearby cemeteries which I sometimes visit. I don’t do so in order to be morbid or sad. They’re quiet, serene places at the eastern edge of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.
To the west, the beautiful hills begin their climb to the heights. To the east, the rolling Dakota prairies begin their long march to the Missouri River and beyond. The soft winds whisper through the pines and the prairie grasses. The sun and rains and winter snows gently caress the mown grasses of the cemeteries. They are peaceful places situated on gently sloping hillsides—places full of rich memories and comforting thoughts I have of loved ones who have fallen asleep before me.
My memories are rich and full as I contemplate those who have preceded me in the great mysterious adventure we call death. From God’s eternal perspective not limited to time or space, I know they have already awakened (in a manner of speaking) from their long sleep and are already basking in the golden glow of God’s bright splendor on heaven’s rich table lands. They wait for me to join them there some bright morning. On the gravestone of one of my ancestors—a great-great-uncle whom I never knew and who died at an early age—there is this faded inscription, almost unreadable now from the ravages of winds and storms and the passing years:
“Another link is broken in our family band,
But a golden chain is forming in a better land.”
In Jesus, we are one with Him, one with all those who have preceded us in the sleep of death, one with all those who live now, one with all those who will yet live in Jesus. We all march on inexorably through the passing centuries to our final time of sleep. But some bright morning, we shall see the Lord of Harvest face-to-face when He summons us to come forth and awaken from the long, long sleep of death. Yes, because He lives, we can face all our tomorrows and the inevitability of death, knowing it is merely a falling asleep followed by an “instant” awakening.
I have not written these words in an attempt to convince you of the reality of your resurrection. Either you are in Jesus and believe you will be resurrected, or you do not believe you will be resurrected. Neither have I written in order to reaffirm my own faith in the resurrection; I settled that issue in my own spirit and mind many years ago. My own resurrection is as real to me as living this mortal life is real to me. In some ways my resurrection into an immortal life in RealRealm is even more real than the mortal life I now live in ShadowLand.
No, I have not written fervently and at length about the sixth foundation of faith, Resurrection, simply because it is one of the seven foundations of our faith taught in Hebrews 6. It is a subject each of us needs to settle in our own minds and spirits before we can proceed to additional teaching as we read in Hebrews 6: 3. If you don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection and in your own, I ask you this question: “Why even bother considering yourself a follower of Jesus?”
If there is no resurrection, there is no Church; there are merely a lot of nice sayings by a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived and died and who was buried many centuries ago. If there is no resurrection, his body has since turned to fine dust and has been dispersed to the four corners of the earth by the relentless winds of time. No resurrection, no living Lord Jesus. No Church. No reason to pretend. No reason to play at being a follower of Jesus in whom Jesus lives. No Holy Spirit who lives inside us, energizing, empowering, and motivating us to live in Jesus and follow Him. If there is no resurrection, none of it makes any sense; it is all nonsense and religious foolishness. As the Bible puts it, if there is no resurrection, our faith is in vain and we are of all persons most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15: 19)
Dear reader, you need to settle this issue in your own spirit and mind. Is Jesus alive today? Is He alive in you? Does He live in other people? Is He the Resurrection and the Life? Is He your resurrection and your Life?
FOUNDATION NUMBER SEVEN
This is a heated, contentious, controversial one: Eternal Judgment. Yes, it’s a controversial subject, one which has created divisions, anger, hostility, vicious writings, cries of “heretic”—and worse—throughout the centuries of church history. I hope my approach to the subject will be a balanced and moderate approach, one which will serve to unveil some of the wonderful, eternal plans and purposes God has in mind for you.
I’m going to try very hard not even to let you know what my own views are; some of my readers already know my personal views on the subject, but the majority of you do not. If you honestly are absolutely breathless to find out and feel you just can’t live one more moment without knowing my own views in full (just kidding . . . ), I encourage you to read our companion teaching on this web site: Beyond The Far Shores Of Time.
Much of what I will write about this subject for the next few pages will be the first time I have ever put it in writing in this format. I have prayed much about how to present the material as I have studied and re-studied it for over 40 years just for this teaching. I simply want to ensure that you gain some balanced, mature insights into a controversial matter.
As I’ve already implied, I will not impose any particular viewpoint upon you, will strive to present four major, prevailing views followers of Jesus have held for centuries—and then let you decide which, if any of them, you espouse. I already anticipate receiving some widely differing e-mail responses—some branding me as a heretic, some claiming I’m “right on,” and some asking me to remove my web site from the worldwide web for even daring to present viewpoints which are not those of the e-mail senders. Nevertheless, I’ll forge ahead and present the four major prevailing views to you.
Long ago, I made this strong commitment to God: It is my determination to remain open and flexible to move into new realms in God as He gives me enlightenment, whatever the cost! I proclaim those words aloud almost every day. Writing about the seventh foundation of faith in the specific manner in which I’ll be doing it is—for me—one of those “new realms.” I shall do my best to share it with you in a balanced and moderate manner. You may not want to hear it. You may not believe me. But I want to tell you an astonishing truth right up front: not all followers of Jesus on this planet believe exactly the same as you do, but they’re still followers of Jesus! I know, I know . . . that’s a real shock to you. I’m sorry I had to be the one to break this news to you, but you’d have probably found it out sooner or later, anyhow.
You see, we who are followers of Jesus tend to feel that other followers hold the same views we do—that is, if they’re “real” followers of Jesus as we are . . . C’mon now, be honest. Don’t we all tend to think a little bit like that? In one area or another of our biblical beliefs? Sure we do. We all hold to certain Bible teachings or biblical doctrines we believe are absolutely true, and if other people don’t believe them the same way we do, we suspect they just might not be genuine followers of Jesus as we are.
In fact, we even tend to congregate with other followers of Jesus who think as we do. It’s less unsettling that way. In some respects, that’s why we have many denominations and non-denominational denominations—so we can be around other people who hold similar views. After all, it’s kind of uncomfortable being around other people who don’t think and talk quite as we do. For some people, it’s actually threatening to be around followers of Jesus who are “different.” We tend to want to be around people who think, talk, and act like we do—and who even carry the same type of Bible we do—in the same type of zipper Bible case.
We think to ourselves: “Let’s see, Jesus lives in me and Jesus is the truth; therefore, my truth about Jesus, about God, about the Bible, about salvation must be the truth, too.” I’m not making fun or being critical. That’s just one of the ways the human mind works. We tend to develop a case of spiritual “tunnel vision” and discount or minimize opposing or contrary views held by other followers of Jesus or other churches as not being the “real” truth like we believe. There’s even a web-shaped group of cells in our brains called the reticular activating system which tends to actually filter out incoming sensory information which doesn’t “fit” our thinking or beliefs.
We say to ourselves, “Okay, maybe (name someone) or the (name another Church or group) are followers of Jesus. . . kinda . . . sorta . . . but not really like we are; after all, we really believe the Bible—all of it—and they don’t—at least not like we do.” I’m being serious here…about a serious problem. God’s universal Church contains far more people than we think it does, and there are far more people who are followers of Jesus than we believe there are. They may dress differently, think differently, worship differently, use a different version of the Bible (and believe some of it differently), and talk differently . . . but they’re still followers of Jesus in all aspects and in all respects just as we are. The Church of Jesus is comprised of everyone everywhere and everywhen in whom Jesus lives in his unbodied Spirit “form.”
Let me give you one example of the spiritual tunnel vision I mentioned earlier. I know of one particular group comprised of numerous followers of Jesus around the world who teach and seriously believe that if you read or study any version of the Bible other than the 1611 King James Version, you cannot possibly be a follower of Jesus! There is a local group of those followers of Jesus that meets in a church building only a few blocks away from where I live; yes, they honestly believe if you don’t use only the King James version of the Bible as they do, you cannot be an authentic follower of Jesus.
Let’s see, I’ve got at least six or seven different versions of the Bible in my bookcase about two feet away from where I’m sitting right now. Not one of them is the 1611 King James Version. Hmmm, where does their kind of thinking leave me? Is it really possible that I’m not an authentic follower of Jesus because I don’t rely solely upon the King James Version of the Bible? Maybe that belief is a bit extreme, but in a less extreme way, what do you believe that causes you to think maybe—just maybe—someone else isn’t really a follower of Jesus because he or she doesn’t believe exactly as you do?
If you feel that way, as author J. B. Phillips once put it, “Your God is too small!” You need to realize there are millions of other followers of Jesus who are not made in your image. God is in the process of creating people in his image, not in your image or in the image of other people who believe as you do. And God’s image certainly encompasses a great many more people than does our image. God’s universal Church is a Church of infinite variety. What does it mean to be created in God’s image? It means we are visible representations of the invisible God. God’s invisible image in us is as diverse as there are billions of people, all different in their comprehension of God, Jesus, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, God’s judgments, etc.
Yes, we need to see beyond our own limited beliefs and doctrines and understand that the Body of Jesus is much larger than our own little worlds we move around in from day to day. God has an innumerable company of sons and daughters who are as much his children as you are and as I am. And the Body of Jesus is comprised of many different parts, some of those parts holding widely differing views. Nevertheless, it’s one composite, many-membered body, with Jesus as the Head!
Whew! “Why in the world,” you ask, “is Bill writing all this stuff?” Thanks for asking. Here’s why. You need to understand there are differing views about many biblical subjects, all held by true, legitimate, honest, authentic followers of Jesus. One particular view—maybe the very belief you embrace—may be only part of the whole truth. Don’t ever be naïve enough to feel that the small limited portion of truth you comprehend and embrace is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (Note: I strongly urge you to read another one of my teachings, titled “Truth,” which speaks to this issue of what truths we believe.)
You need to be tolerant enough to let others hold their views about various biblical subjects without condemning them and excluding them from God’s family of Jesus’ followers. Oh, I’m not saying you need to believe exactly what others believe. But, please, do them the courtesy of “letting” them hold and espouse their views just as you do yours. Their views may be as true, authentic, legitimate and honest as yours. And I’m not talking about certain groups which are clearly cults—way outside the mainstream community of followers of Jesus.
Each authentic group of Jesus’ followers (and each individual follower) has it’s own states of awareness and its own levels of understanding. Our spiritual awareness is based upon such factors as genetic makeup, lifetime conditioning, cultural biases, family traditions, who teaches us the Bible and why, and with what groups we are involved for fellowship and ministry. Do you readily see how each of us comes to various biblical subjects with different states of awareness and levels of understanding?
Oh, we have the same God. The same Jesus. The same Holy Spirit. The same salvation through the shed blood, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The same Bible in most respects, but differing views, doctrines, and beliefs. I want to share with you some different views about one controversial doctrine or view—the seventh foundation of our faith—Eternal Judgment. “But,” you ask, “how can there be differing views? Doesn’t there have to be just one view that’s the correct one?”
The only way I can attempt to answer that without going into a lot of detail is with this simple illustration. The person, character, and nature of God is like that of a many-faceted diamond. It’s the same diamond, but there are many facets to it, each facet just a little different from the other facets. Yes, the same God, the same means of salvation, but differing perceptions of Eternal Judgment depending upon the vantage point from which we approach the subject.
We each have different levels of understanding, different states of awareness, different “filter systems,” different reticular activating systems in our brains, different backgrounds, we come from different eras, we hold different understandings of the meanings of words. Yes, we have many, many types of differences—often leading us to differing conclusions about many matters.
Let’s have God be God, Jesus be the Savior, truth be truth, and Eternal Judgment be eternal judgment, but let’s recognize and acknowledge we don’t all hold the same views of how it all turns out in the end. As long as God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and the Bible are central to our understanding and personal experience, then whatever views we hold about Eternal Judgment are as legitimate as the views held by any other group of followers of Jesus.
Here are the four prevailing views about Eternal Judgment held by the majority of Jesus’ followers for the past 2,000 years. Yes, there are four major views about Eternal Judgment which followers of Jesus all over the world have held in one form or another and to one extent or another for 2,000 years. I’m going to be oversimplifying them and generalizing a little, but here’s a summary of those four views; I’ll bet you believe one of these four views:
- Authentic followers of Jesus die and go to heaven. Pre-followers of Jesus die and go to hell where they are punished for their sins by being burned “alive” and punished forever in the never-ending fires of hell.
- Authentic followers of Jesus die and go to heaven. Pre-followers die and go to hell which burns forever, but the pre-followers themselves don’t burn forever; instead, they are punished for their sins by being annihilated by the fires; they are destroyed and cease to exist. The fires of hell burn forever, but the people in hell don’t burn forever.
- When authentic followers of Jesus die, they first go to a separate, intermediate place of purging by fire before eventually going to heaven after their sins are purged out of them. During that purging process, any sin remaining in their lives when they died is burned out of them before they go to heaven. Pre-followers die and go to hell where they are punished for their sins by being burned “alive” and punished forever in the never-ending fires of hell.
- Authentic followers of Jesus die and go to heaven. Pre-followers die and go to the Lake of fire where they are punished for their sins. But, the fires of that Lake eventually purge their sins out of them, after which they then go to heaven. Their time spent in the Lake of fire is to refine, correct and rehabilitate sinners, not merely to destroy or torment them. When all the pre-followers in the Lake of fire have finally had all their sins burned out of them (no matter how long it takes, but not forever), they will be “transferred” to heaven, and hell’s “unquenchable” fires will then die out for lack of “fuel.”
How in the world do well-meaning, rational, thoughtful, intelligent, serious followers of Jesus get four differing views about Eternal Judgment from the same Bible and, often, from the same references in the Bible? How can that possibly happen? Good question. I’ll attempt to answer that later, but first I want to examine what the four views have in common.
First, all four views teach that authentic followers of Jesus die and go to heaven. One of them teaches they go there through an intermediate “step”: a place of purging. Okay, all four views are pretty close on that point, wouldn’t you agree? Second, all four views teach that pre-followers go to hell (or the Lake of fire?) when they die. Okay, they’re still pretty much on the same sheet of music. All four are still pretty much in agreement.
Third, all four of the views believe that pre-followers are punished for their sin. All four viewpoints still remain pretty close to one another. So far, the four points are still somewhat the same. Now the views begin to diverge, but two are still the same. Views 1 and 3 hold that pre-followers are punished “alive” and tormented forever. Hey, it’s amazing that so many people over 2,000 years of time can be in agreement on at least that much. Not a bad track record. Not bad at all.
The second part of viewpoint number 2 is even reasonably tolerable to those who hold viewpoints 1 and 3. Recently, some major religious periodicals and even some new books by widely respected Bible scholars have mentioned that views 1, 2, and 3 are closer to each other than they are far apart. Many of those who hold viewpoint number 1 have even been talking the last few years about fully accepting into their fellowship some of those who hold viewpoint number 2. That’s good. They’re talking to each other and coming to some agreement. They wouldn’t even have considered doing so a generation ago, but lately there’s been some open and meaningful dialogue between representatives of the two viewpoints.
Where does that leave us now? Viewpoints 1, 2, and 3 are reasonably close to one another. The first part of viewpoint 4 agrees with the first three views. It’s that second portion of viewpoint 4 which creates difficulties. But even at that there are some biblical scholars who have written books lately in an attempt to bridge that final gap. The gap is not completely bridged, but people are at least talking about their differences without shouting and calling one another heretics.
Well, having written all that, let’s go back now and examine the actual words “Eternal Judgment” in Hebrews 6: 2, a basic biblical text on this subject. Almost all modern English versions of the Bible use those two words: “eternal” and “judgment.” The differences in awareness between the various viewpoints lie in how those words are translated, interpreted, and understood. Whenever we read and study the Bible, we must always consider translation, interpretation, and understanding!
In terms of translation, the Greek word for “eternal” is aionios which comes from the root word, aion, which is where we get the English word “eon,” meaning an extremely long, indefinite period of time—but not never-ending. The word can be perceived that way, or it can be perceived as “eternal” in the usual sense of that word—unending time. It can be translated “age-lasting” or “eon-lasting,” or it can be translated “eternal,” meaning forever and ever and ever without an end.
It’s perfectly legitimate to translate it either one of those ways. It can be interpreted as “lasting for eons of time,” or “lasting for unending time.” It can be understood as enduring for a long period of time—eons of time, which will end at some point in the future. Or, it can be understood as never-ending time: forever, which will never end. Each of those opposing views about the translation of aionios, its interpretation, and how it’s understood—each view is legitimate and “correct” depending upon it’s proponents’ backgrounds, teachings, and underlying beliefs. Yes, both views are correct, and neither are incorrect.
I believe (from what you understand of the Bible) that people who die as pre-followers will be punished for their sins by burning forever, you’ll hold to one translation, interpretation, and understanding of “eternal” as being correct.
On the other hand, if you believe (again, from what you understand of the Bible) that people who die as pre-followers will be punished for their sins, but only for as long as it takes to cleanse their sins from them in the fires—not necessarily forever—then you’ll believe another translation, interpretation, and understanding of “eternal” as being correct. Are you following me so far?
I didn’t ask if you agree or disagree, only if you’re following my train of thought so far. I’m not asking you to either agree or disagree with one or the other of the two views. After all, that’s what the controversy is all about. Likely, you already hold one of those views. Now let’s examine the word “judgment” in Hebrews 6: 2. In the Greek language the word is krima. In the New Testament, krima is translated variously into English as “condemnation,” “damnation” and “judgment,” depending on the context. “Judgment” is a good translation in Hebrews 6: 2. Not much disagreement over that.
But we also need to look at the interpretation and the understanding of the word, “judgment,” just as we looked at the translation, interpretation, and understanding of the word “eternal.” Judgment can be interpreted as having a number of meanings, depending on the context in which it is used. It can mean a legal decision or sentence handed down by a judge. It can mean an obligation resulting from a court order. It can mean the ability to form opinions about a matter, as in “He used good judgment.” Finally, it can mean wise understanding or rational good sense. In the Bible, in many instances the word “judgment” does not necessarily equate with “punishment” or “destruction.”
What about one’s understanding of the word? If you believe (from what you understand of the Bible) that judgment means a final sentence given by God, the Judge, for someone to be punished forever you’ll understand it to mean one thing. If you believe (again, from what you understand of the Bible) that God’s righteous judgment decrees a lengthy rehabilitative or corrective sentence—but does not necessarily mean punishment lasting forever, you’ll understand this scenario to mean something different. It’s like someone being sentenced to punishment in the “prison of Hell,” but eventually being released from prison after a lengthy period of rehabilitation.
I invite you to read another teaching on this website that might throw some light on the matter of God’s judgment: Justice and Judgment
Okay, where are you in your translation, interpretation, and understanding? If you believe that pre-followers of Jesus will die and burn in hell forever, you’re right. If you believe they’ll die and burn in hell only for correction leading to rehabilitation, you’re right. If you believe they’ll go to a hell which burns forever, but they will be burned up or annihilated, you’re right. It all boils down to those three simple processes: translation, interpretation, understanding.
None of those three basic positions I’ve just mentioned in the paragraph above can be “proved” conclusively like certain phenomena can be proved scientifically. It just can’t be done. Oh, you may feel your view is proved conclusively to you and to those who hold the same view, but it really isn’t provable to others in the true, scientific sense of the word “prove.”
Science can prove the law of gravity. It can prove laws of velocity or electrical or thermonuclear matters. It can prove laws governing flight. It can prove many things in the physical or material universe. But we cannot prove—or disprove—with the same conclusiveness and finality—any of the four major viewpoints about Eternal Judgment. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. God will have the final word on the matter of eternal judgment. At some point in the future, God will wrap up this entire disputed and misunderstood matter of eternal judgment to his satisfaction, not ours. I like the way one version of the Bible seems to address God’s final goals for all humankind in 1 Corinthians 15: 24 – 28. Read that a half dozen or so times in a few different versions of the Bible. I especially like the way The Living Bible puts it.
I’ve presented you the four different views held about a very controversial biblical subject. You decide which one you believe, but remain open and willing to move into new realms of truth, awareness, and understanding as God gives you enlightenment. Love God. Accept his great love for you through the saving, reconciling work of Jesus on your behalf. Trust him. Allow him to live his life in you, through you, and as you. Let God have the final word about this thorny subject, and in the meantime, try not to be judgmental of other followers of Jesus who don’t hold the same viewpoint you do.
One major struggle throughout the centuries of humanity living on planet earth is for God to free our souls (minds) from narrowmindedness and shortsightedness. God is still waiting for us to take the shackles off our minds and see Him without limitations. He is still waiting for us to see Him as He is—Jesus the Magnificent, Jesus the Conqueror, Jesus the Coming King, Jesus the “Giant,” Jesus the Everlasting Father, Jesus the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus the Coming Prince of Peace, Jesus the Wonder of the Ages of Time and Eternity!
We’re still on the subject of Eternal Judgment or Judgment of the Ages of time in Hebrews 6. I just shared with you the four, major prevailing theories about the subject. And, they are theories! What’s a theory? It is a speculative idea about how something might happen or about how an event might occur; it’s an idea that hasn’t been proved yet. Unless and until one of those four theories actually happens—unless and until one of them is “proved” by actually occurring in space and time, they remain only theories.
As much as you may believe your view is the correct view—as much as I may believe mine is the correct one, they are not . . . not until one of them (or perhaps a combination of them—or maybe even something altogether different than what any of us expect) actually happens! Yes, only when eternal judgment actually begins to take place will we know the reality and truth of the experience. Until then, no matter how much we believe we can “prove” one of the views from the Bible, all four of them remain only theories . . . until eternal judgment happens.
Until God wraps up this epoch of the human drama by means of eternal judgment, the four theories must remain theories: viewpoints, speculations, ideas, conjectures, suppositions, opinions, or beliefs. But none of the four theories can yet be “proved” as being irrefutable, undeniable fact! That’s why we need to be tolerant of other views which might not be the same as the ones we hold and espouse. We must accept other people as being authentic followers of Jesus—even though they may hold a particular view or belief contrary to what we believe.
A person is a follower of Jesus solely because the living Lord Jesus lives in her or him in the unbodied form of Holy Spirit, not because of what the person believes about eternal judgment, or the judgment of the ages. Please learn to accept the fact that other followers of Jesus don’t necessarily believe everything exactly as you do. That’s just the nature of who we are as humans and as followers of Jesus.
In the Body of Jesus, there is glorious unity in diversity and magnificent diversity in unity!
One final thought and that’s all I’ll teach at this time about eternal judgment as the seventh foundation of our faith. Eternal judgment is based upon righteous, divine justice—the justice of God. (see Genesis 18: 25) Generally speaking, when we humans think of justice or judgment we think about punishment, vengeance, and retribution. Unlike those human concepts, God’s justice and judgment as taught throughout the Bible is predicated upon his all-knowing righteousness and mercy, and flows from God’s all-encompassing love and Jesus’ perfect and complete sacrifice for all persons.
God’s justice is continually working out all things for every person’s highest good. So . . . be open. Be tolerant. Accept fresh enlightenment. Let’s not rule out possibilities beyond our own finite, limited understanding and comprehension. Trust God to work out all things according to his specific plans and purposes for all humankind. In English, the word “judgment” often has negative implications as we mentioned above. But, it is not so in the biblical Hebrew and Greek languages. In the Bible, judgment—when it’s specifically about God’s judgment—is how He runs the entire universe—including all humankind—in a righteous, fair, equitable, and just manner, ultimately resulting in a “right state of affairs” and restoration for his entire creation—including all humankind.
I will share with you this one final thought about judgment; it might give away my own position, but here it is: God’s judgment is never about destruction or punishment; it is about ultimately setting everything right!
Ok, let’s move on from there and attempt to tie together the teaching about the seven foundations of our Christian faith as noted in Hebrews 6. We started out by my stating that Hebrews 5: 11 – 6: 2 is the only reference I can find in the entire Bible in which God categorically lists the basic foundational truths all of us need to know before we can go on to advanced teaching. I’m going to take a few moments right now and just sort of work through that reference in Hebrews 5: 11 – 6: 2, paraphrasing and amplifying the verses, explaining them, and summarizing them a little as we move along. I know you can read them for yourselves, but I thought this approach might shed a little more light on the passage.
The reference begins by stating “There are some truths which are hard to explain to certain people because they haven’t disciplined themselves to listen well with their inner ears of the spirit; they have become lazy listeners. They just don’t work very hard at the business of learning spiritual truths and becoming full-grown sons and daughters of God. The life of the follower of Jesus is a highly disciplined life; one cannot be spiritually lazy and expect to grow and mature as a follower of Jesus. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s true we don’t have to work to become a follower of Jesus. But to become a full-grown son or daughter of God—after one has become a follower of Jesus—does take discipline and a lifetime of strenuous spiritual exercise.
It’s unfortunate that so many followers of Jesus have remained spiritual babies or infants because those persons could be teaching others and helping others to grow and mature in Christ. Because such persons are spiritually lazy, they keep having to re-learn the foundations of their faith over and over again, never quite grasping their clear meaning or making those seven foundations an integral and intrinsic part of their lives. They keep requiring baby bottles and baby food instead of solid food. Such persons don’t ever seem to grow spiritually, remaining mere infants—unskilled, inexperienced . . . always talking spiritual baby talk and living “baby” lifestyles. They should be eating solid, spiritual food, growing up, and teaching others, but, instead, they’re still unable to tell the basic differences between what is good and what is evil. Remember, I’m paraphrasing these verses in Hebrews . . .
Grow up and get on with your spiritual lives and your spiritual growth. Move on to solid food. Learn—really learn—the foundations of the faith. Digest them. Let them become a vital part of who you are as a growing, vital Jesus-believer. If you’ll do that once and for all, then you can proceed to advanced teaching. Then you will be in a position to teach other people the foundations of the faith, too, so that, together, we can all proceed to advanced teaching which will cause us, finally, to become mature, responsible followers of Jesus. That’s what God wants: full-grown daughters and sons who eat solid food, not sons and daughters who remain spiritual babes and infants all their lives”.
Well, that’s sort of a condensed, amplified and expanded version of a commentary and paraphrase of Hebrews 5: 11 – 6: 2. I hope that’s served to shed a little more light upon what I’ve been teaching for 50+ pages of text. Now, let’s simply list those seven Foundations of our Faith one final time: (1) Repentance (changing our minds), (2) Abandoning dead works. (3) Faith toward God. (4) Baptisms (plural). (5) Laying on of hands. (6) Resurrection from the dead. (7) Eternal judgment. Okay, have you got them? If I gave you a “pop quiz” right now, could you list them without having to look them up? Can you give a brief definition of each of the seven? Can you briefly explain them to a new or infant follower of Jesus? Can you find them in your Bible?
Are you experiencing each of the seven foundations of your faith (except for the seventh one, of course)? Do you daily practice those that need to be lived out in your life? Are they part of who you are as a child of God? Have you experienced each of the baptisms? Do you continually change your mind (repent) as God brings matters to your attention that need changed in your life? As God points them out to you, are you continually abandoning dead works and practicing live, vital, good works, instead? Do you practice laying on of hands? Do you live by means of faith as well as by means of your senses and reason? Are you experiencing your new resurrection life in Jesus?
If you can answer “Yes” to questions such as those, then my teaching has not been in vain; I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities as a teacher. I congratulate you upon your completion of this lengthy teaching. You’ve been a good student. I appreciate you. Now you can proceed to advanced teaching. You can now move on to maturity and wholeness (holiness) in Jesus. You’ve built a good, solid foundation for your Christian life.
In closing, I want to share with you just a few other references about foundations found at various places in the Bible.
Here’s the first one, Psalms 11: 3: “If we don’t build our lives on a solid foundation what can [God-believers] do or what can they ever hope to accomplish?!” Proverbs 10: 25: “When the tornadoes of life sweep down upon us, they carry away the wicked, but those who have God’s righteousness have an everlasting foundation.” 1 Timothy 6: 19: “We need to build our lives on a solid foundation for our future, so that we may have God’s very own LIFE for all the ages of time and, later, in the eternal state of being.” 2 Timothy 2: 19: “But the firm foundation laid by God stands sure and unshaken, bearing this inscription: ‘The Lord Knows Those Who Are His.’ Let everyone who belongs to God depart from wrongdoing.” I encourage you with all my heart to build your life solidly upon the only sure foundation to be laid throughout all time and eternity, the Lord Jesus!
Revised and updated March 2023