“If God Permits”
Going on to Maturity in “The Faith”
Arlen L. Chitwood
“And this we will do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:3).
Hebrews 6:3 should be taken at face value. That is, “Let us go on to perfection (lit., maturity) [vv. 1, 2], if God permits us to go on.” And one is then left with the thought that God may not permit some Christians to go on to maturity.
Leading into Hebrews 6:3, the writer had previously reprimanded a group of Christians for their lack of spiritual maturity. They had been saved for a sufficient length of time that all of them should have been well enough grounded in the Word that they could do two things: (1) be able to understand teachings surrounding the coming Melchizedek priesthood of Christ, and (2) be able to teach others these things as well (5:10-14).
Then, following the reprimand, the writer exhorted these same Christians to leave “the first principles [the rudimentary things of the Christian faith]” and “go on to perfection [maturity in ‘the faith’]” (5:12; 6:1, 2).
Then, after this comes the statement that going on to maturity is conditional. It is conditioned on God allowing the person to go on. But bear in mind that this is not maturity in what might be considered a general sense; rather, the reference is to maturity in a specific sense. This is maturity in that which Scripture calls “the faith” or “the word of the kingdom” (cf. Matthew 13:19; 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 3) — maturity in things surrounding Christ’s coming reign over the earth “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:10ff).
Thus, the writer is dealing with a specific realm of biblical teaching that is little understood in Christendom today. And this would provide a basic explanation (in conjunction with the working of the leaven in Matthew 13:33) for the existing situation. Not only is there a present lack of knowledge (much less an understanding) concerning this whole overall message in Christendom but something even beyond this exists. Along with the lack of knowledge (and understanding), an overt aversion — more often than not — is exhibited toward any teaching on the subject.
This is the one message that Satan does not want taught today, for it deals with his overthrow. He has ruled the earth since time immemorial, but this is about to change. The One whom Melchizedek foreshadowed will shortly appear, at which time the government of the earth will change hands. And Satan does not want this proclaimed.
As a consequence, this is the message Christ will not find being taught to Christians in the churches at the time of His return. Though this is the central message that Christians are supposed to hear once they have been grounded in the rudimentary things of the Word, Christ stated that by the end of the dispensation, at the time of His return, conditions will have become so completely contrary to the way they should exist that He will not find “faith [lit., ‘the faith’] on the earth” (Luke 18:8).
The reason why God will not allow certain Christians to go on into an understanding of these truths is given in the verses that immediately follow (vv. 4-6), which comprise the heart of the warning itself. Verse three forms a connection between that which has preceded and that which follows; and this verse must, accordingly, be understood in the light of the complete context — verses both preceding and following.
Very briefly, note the verses leading into Hebrews 6:3 before going on to the explanation. These verses explain the matter from the standpoint of one type, and then the explanation explains it from the standpoint of another type.
Hebrews, chapter five draws its spiritual lessons from Genesis, chapter fourteen (and Psalm 110, which also draws from Genesis 14). The subject has to do with Abraham meeting Melchizedek following the battle of the kings.
Melchizedek, at this time, brought forth “bread and wine” and blessed Abraham, “of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:17-19). This, of course, points to that day in the antitype, following the battle of the kings (Revelation 19:17-21), when Christ comes forth with “bread and wine” — as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” — to bless Abraham and his descendants, both heavenly and earthly (Matthew 26:29).
Now note something about the type, which must carry over into the antitype. Abraham, after meeting Melchizedek, no longer manifested any interest in the things of this world. The king of Sodom offered him goods, but his response was completely negative. Abraham said to the king of Sodom:
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,
that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ -
except only what the young men have eaten . . . .” (Genesis 14:22-24).
Having met Melchizedek, Abraham manifested total disinterest in that which the king of Sodom had to offer. He had found something so far greater than the things this world could offer that he refused to take anything (other than food) from the king of Sodom. Rather, his interest was focused on the things surrounding Melchizedek (cf. Hebrews 12:2, “Looking to Jesus… [lit., ‘Looking from (the surrounding things of the world) to Jesus…’]”).
Abraham, through this experience, could only have gained a whole new perspective on the present in relation to the future, and vice versa. Thus, Abraham, relative to the magnanimous offer of the king of Sodom, in a word, told the king, No! “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth . . . .”
And that is where Christ comes into the picture in prophecy as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.” The Father — “the Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22) — has given all that He possesses to the Son (cf. Genesis 24:36; 25:5; John 16:13-15); and in that coming day, with the Son occupying both His Own throne in the heavens and David’s throne on the earth, blessings will flow out to the Gentile nations through the seed of Abraham (“Possessor of heaven and earth [through inheritance]”) from both heavenly and earthly spheres.
And when a Christian sees Christ, within this framework, as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” this should drive him to manifest the same attitude toward the things of this world as Abraham manifested toward the things of the world after he met Melchizedek. In the words of the song, “the things of this world” should “grow strangely dim.” The Christian should possess an entirely new perspective on the present in relation to the future, and vice versa.
But, how often is the preceding really the case in the lives of Christians? How many really understand these things? Or, how many really view matters within the framework of “the light of His glory and grace”?
And therein lies the secret to questions surrounding Hebrews 6:3. We are dealing with the very choicest of God’s choice things that He has set aside for Christians, and God has placed certain conditions around allowing Christians to move into a knowledge of the Son in this realm (cf. Philippians 3:10-14). God knows what is in man; and He also knows what man coming into knowledge and understanding of these things will, too often, do.
God knows that numerous Christians, after coming into knowledge and understanding of Christ as King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek,” would not manifest the same attitude at all toward the world as Abraham manifested after he met Melchizedek. They would, instead, either continue in or one day return to their worldly interest and involvement (cf. 1 John 2:15-17), which is within a world presently ruled by Satan and his angels. And by so doing, such Christians could only bring shame upon Christ’s name.
The matter surrounding God allowing or not allowing a Christian to go on to maturity though should be viewed more within the framework of man’s attitude toward these things than it should within the framework of God’s omniscience per se. Scripture clearly states, “If anyone wants to do [‘is willing to do’] His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine . . . .” (John 7:17).
That is, do you really want to know Christ as the “Author [‘source’] of eternal salvation [salvation for the age (the Messianic Era)]”? (Hebrews 5:9). Are you serious about the present warfare and one day coming into a realization of the proffered inheritance? If so, there should be no reason why God would not allow you to go on into knowledge and understanding of the various things surrounding His Son’s coming reign over the earth.
But, if on the other hand, an interest in and seriousness about the matter are not present, there is no biblical reason why God should allow such a person to go on into knowledge and understanding of these things. In fact, within a biblical perspective, the opposite would exist instead. From a biblical perspective, God would not allow such a person to go on, for a revealed reason (cf. Hebrews 6:4ff).