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Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Therefore - "Since, as was stated in the previous chapter, you ought to be capable of comprehending the higher doctrines of religion; since those doctrines are adapted to those who have been for a considerable time professors of Christianity, and have had opportunities of growing in knowledge and grace - as much as strong meat is for those of mature years - leave now the elements of Christian doctrine, and go on to understand its higher mysteries." The idea is, that to those who had so long been acquainted with the way of salvation, the elements of Christianity were no more adapted than milk was for grown persons.
Leaving - Dismissing; intermitting; passing by the consideration of with a view to advance to something higher. The apostle refers to his discussion of the subject, and also to their condition. He wished to go on to the contemplation of higher doctrines, and he desired that they should no longer linger around the mere elements. "Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge than the mere elements of the subject." On the sense of the word "leaving," or quitting with a view to engage in something else, see Mat_4:20, Mat_4:22; Mat_5:24.
The principles - Margin: "The word of the beginning of Christ." Tyndale renders it: "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian man." Coverdale, "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian life." On the word "principles" see the note on Heb_5:12. The Greek there, indeed, is not the same as in this place, but the idea is evidently the same. The reference is to what he regarded as the very elements of the Christian doctrine; and the meaning is, "let us no longer linger here. We should go on to higher attainments. We should wholly understand the system. We should discuss and receive its great principles.
You have been long enough converted to have understood these; but you linger among the very elementary truths of religion. But you cannot remain here. You must either advance or recede; and if you do not go forward, you will go back into entire apostasy, when it will be impossible to be renewed." The apostle here, therefore, does not refer to his discussion of the points under consideration as the main thing, but to their state as one of danger; and in writing to them he was not content to discuss the elements of religion as being alone suited to their condition, but would have them make higher attainments, and advance to the more elevated principles of the gospel.
Of the doctrine - Literally, "the word" logon - "reason, or doctrine of the beginning of Christ." That is, the word or reason that pertains to the elements of his system; the first principles of Christian doctrine.
Of Christ - Which pertain to the Messiah. Either what he taught, or what is taught of him and his religion. Most probably it is the latter - what pertains to the Messiah, or to the Christian revelation. The idea is, that there is a set of truths which may be regarded as lying at the foundation of Christian doctrine, and those truths they had embraced, but had not advanced beyond them.
Let us go on - Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge and holiness. The reference is alike to his discussion of the subject, and to their advancement in piety and in knowledge. He would not linger around these elements in the discussion, nor would he have them linger at the threshold of the Christian doctrines.
Unto perfection - compare the notes on Heb_2:10. The word here is used, evidently, to denote an advanced state of Christian knowledge and piety; or the more elevated Christian doctrines, and the holier living to which it was their duty to attain. It does not refer solely to the intention of the apostle to discuss the more elevated doctrines of Christianity, but to" such an advance as would secure them from the danger of apostasy." If it should be said, however, that the word "perfection" is to be understood in the most absolute and unqualified sense, as denoting entire freedom from sin, it may be remarked:
(1) that this does not prove that they ever attained to it, nor should this be adduced as a text to show that such an attainment is ever made. To exhort a man to do a thing - however reasonable - is no proof in itself that it is ever done.
(2) it is proper to exhort Christians to aim at entire perfection. Even if none have ever reached that point on earth, that fact does not make it any the less desirable or proper to aim at it.
(3) there is much in making an honest attempt to be perfectly holy, even though we should not attain to it in this life. No man accomplishes much who does not aim high.
Not laying again the foundation - Not laying down - as one does a foundation for an edifice. The idea is, that they were not to begin and build all this over again. They were not to make it necessary to lay down again the very cornerstones, and the foundations of the edifice, but since these were laid already, they were to go on and build the superstructure and complete the edifice.
Of repentance from dead works - From works that cause death or condemnation; or that have no vitality or life. The reference may be either to those actions which were sinful in their nature, or to those which related to the forms of religion, where there was no spiritual life. This was the character of much of the religion of the Jews; and conversion to the true religion consisted greatly in repentance for having relied on those heartless and hollow forms. It is possible that the apostle referred mainly to these, as he was writing to those who had been Hebrews.
When formalists are converted, one of the first and the main exercises of their minds in conversion, consists in deep and genuine sorrow for their dependence on those forms. Religion is life; and irreligion is a state of spiritual death, (compare the notes on Eph_2:1), whether it be in open transgression, or in false and hollow forms of religion. The apostle has here stated what is the first element of the Christian religion. It consists in genuine sorrow for sin, and a purpose to turn from it; see the note on Mat_3:2.
And of faith toward God - see the note on Mar_16:16. This is the second element in the Christian system. Faith is everywhere required in order to salvation, but it is usually faith "in the Lord Jesus" that is spoken of; see Act_20:21. Here, however, faith "in God" is particularly referred to. But there is no essential difference. It is faith in God in regard to his existence and perfections, and to his plan of saving people. It includes, therefore, faith in his message and messenger, and thus embraces the plan of salvation by the Redeemer.
There is but one God - "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and he who believes in the true God believes in him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Author of the plan of redemption, and the Saviour of lost people. No one can believe "in the true God" who does not believe in the Saviour; compare Joh_5:23; Joh_17:3. He who supposes that he confides "in any other" God than the Author of the Christian religion, worships a being of the imagination as really as though he bowed down to a block of wood or stone. If Christianity is true, there is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in, any more than the God of the Brahmin has an existence.
To believe "in God," therefore, is to believe in him as he "actually exists" - as the true God - the Author of the great plan of salvation by the Redeemer. It is needless to attempt to show that faith in the true God is essential to salvation. How can he be saved who has no "confidence" in the God that made him?