1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
not laying again the foundation
The author now laid out six foundational truths that were not to be laid out again. Some of these doctrines come short of Christian teaching although they have some similarities, such as repentance and faith. They are Old Testament allusions to Christianity. All six doctrines listed here were part of the Mosaic economy. All six have similarity to Christianity. These items were Judaistic teachings. The “foundation” here, then, is the depiction of Christ by Old Testament doctrine.
The phrase “not laying again” reinforces the idea of leaving the “elementary” principles of the earlier part of the verse. The author was not going back to teach the basics again. He would show them how to advance into more mature doctrine.
The “foundation” here is Judaism. It is like the foundation to the superstructure of a building. The Old Testament built a foundation for the New Testament. The ceremonial shadows became the substance or reality in Christ.
Those readers who harked back primarily to the Old Testament way of life were laying a completely different foundation than that of New Testament Christianity. This would put the Christian back under a preliminary view of the coming Messiah.
Now the author listed several Old Testament doctrines that distorted the beliefs of those living during the church age. The things to be laid aside were the things of verses 2 and 3. There is little in these items that is distinctively Christian; however, all of them can be clearly classified as Jewish. We can divide these six Jewish doctrines into three categories.
—repentance and faith
— washings and laying on of hands
— resurrection and eternal judgment
Nothing is exclusively distinctively Christian in these categories. They were “elementary” or “beginning” in the sense that they were basic Old Testament concepts. It is true that elements of these doctrines surfaced in Christianity later, but similarity is not the same as substance. The error is to take something similar and confuse it with something different. Each of these items would acquire a new significance in Christianity. Reversion to these doctrines would not advance the Christian way of life.
of repentance from dead works
“Dead works” were works that had no value. Dead works signifies a state of non-function. The works were “dead” because they were worthless in God’s eyes. They were pointless because they pertained to regulations of the Levitical priesthood. The “dead works” were external regulations under the Levitical priesthood (He 9:10, 14).
“Dead works” were to be laid aside when the ultimate High Priest came. There was no effectiveness in what they did. Reversion to the Old Testament doctrine and way of life was radically different from New Testament living.
Those who reverted to Old Testament repentance were not able to do what living under the new economy does because the type (sacrifices) cannot do what the Antitype (Christ) can do (He 6:4–6). Reversion would blunt development or maturity in Christ. The readers needed to repent from the type because it was impossible for the type to do what the Antitype did. “Repentance” means change of orientation or attitude.
The words “dead works” occur again later in Hebrews referring to Levitical ritual (He 9:14). The “dead works” refer to external regulations of the Levitical priesthood (He 9:10). The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin; it only illustrates the One who did take away sin by His blood.
and of faith toward God,
The thrust here is “faith toward God,” not Christ. People of the Old Testament had “faith toward God.” This is not the same as “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac 20:21). Faith here is more than belief in God’s existence; it is trust in Him to provide.
Leaving the New Testament as the basis of our belief will distort the Christian way of life.
There are Christians who revert to their traditions that are not biblical. However, it is ridiculous to constantly lay the foundation of one’s faith. There is an impropriety to leaving New Covenant life for something less. Some evangelicals today go back to teachings in church history that are not biblical.