Going on to Perfection

Hebrews 6:10  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 12
It is clear that we are enjoined to "go on unto perfection," but it certainly is not to perfection in the flesh. This was the error of the Galatian believers, and brought upon them apostolic censure. They were remonstrated with by the Spirit of God as "foolish," "bewitched," and as those who did "not obey the truth," in that, having "begun in the Spirit," they afterward sought to be made perfect in the flesh (Gal. 3:33Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)). They "did run well," but they seemed to have lost sight of what Christ crucified had done for them, and to have forgotten that they had two natures—that which is born "after the flesh," and that which is "born after the Spirit"—and let slip the blessed fact that they were not now in the flesh (though the flesh was in them), but in the Spirit, a new creation in Christ Jesus, which neither circumcision, law, nor any ordinances of any kind could bring about or alter. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Gal. 6:1515For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Galatians 6:15).
It is certain then that the going on to perfection, here set forth, in no wise favors the false notion, so subversive of Christianity and so severely censured in the Scriptures, of seeking to be made perfect in the flesh. As to moral principle, we should as God's children seek to imitate our Father; therefore our Lord said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." But this is a widely different thought from being made perfect in the flesh. The truth is that the believer will not lose this evil principle in him which is born after the flesh, in which dwells nothing good, until the Lord comes, or he falls asleep through Jesus, and is forever with the Lord.
In order to understand what is here meant by "let us go on unto perfection," we need to remember that the epistle is written to the Hebrews, and that the expression occurs nowhere else in Scripture. Those addressed had been born and educated in a religious order of things which, though it recognized man in the flesh, under law, and of the world, was divinely instituted before Christianity was brought in, though these Jewish things abounded with types and shadows of realities now made known. They had been accustomed to think of the elementary truths of "repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God"; they were familiar with divers washings or "baptisms," "laying on of hands" on the sacrifices, and believed in "resurrection of the dead" and "eternal judgment." But these things were the beginning of the doctrine of Christ, infantile truth, the "milk" of divine revelation compared with "strong meat" which God has given us since the accomplished work of His beloved Son, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Many of these Hebrews were still looking at Christianity as connected with a system on earth, and were taken up with the first buddings of divine revelation, with which Jews were familiar, instead of knowing God's Son now glorified as the central object of God's present ways. The consequence was, there was no spiritual progress. Instead of being teachers, as they ought to have been, they needed to be taught again "the first principles of the oracles of God"; so there was no hope of their getting on a truly Christian footing and progressing in the truth until they received in faith the "strong meat" which communicated to souls the perfections of the Person, work, and offices of a Messiah not now on earth, though He will be, but glorified in heaven (chap. 5:11-14).
"Therefore," said the writer to these Hebrews (observe this word therefore as connecting it with what had gone before), "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ," or the word of the beginning of Christ, or first principles, "let us go on unto perfection." What seems to have brought the writer to this point in the epistle was, he desired to say "many things" to them about the "high priest after the order of Melchisedec," the Son in heaven; but they were "dull of hearing"; they had not the sense of the contrast between Judaism and Christianity, but were so taken up with Jewish things which dimly pointed to Christ, instead of with Christ Himself where He is, that their state of soul was low indeed. The inspired writer knew they would not advance until they had to do with Messiah now in heaven as a totally distinct thing, and in contrast with the Jewish system which still surrounded them; for the temple was then standing, and shadowy things in measure still going on. For such there was no deliverance but being taken up with the personal glory of the Son, the eternal efficacy of His one offering, His all-prevailing and unchangeable priesthood, and His present intercession for us in the sanctuary above. Here we have perfection, a perfection which not only had its source in divinely "perfect love," but gives "perfect peace" to the believer, because he has a perfect conscience and a perfect way of approach to God.
It was then to Christ in heaven the writer of the epistle directed the hearts of these Hebrews; and, when we are under the Spirit's guidance, we pass through the various chapters with our feet consciously on earth, but our eyes every now and then specially directed to the glorified Son of man in the heavens. Let us observe some of the instances of this.
In chapter 1 we are invited to look at the Son, by whom the worlds were made, who after He had died for our sins, sat down on the throne of glory. "When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." v. 3.
In chapter 2 the proper attitude of a believer on earth is described as gazing on the Lord in glory. "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor." v. 9.
In chapter 3 we are enjoined to consider Him, not only as the One who came down from heaven, but who is also gone up there and entered upon His priestly office for us. "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." v. 1.
In chapter 4 we are bidden to behold Him as man passed through the heavens, yet Son of God, and there our sympathizing High Priest, so that we hold fast our confession, and approach God's throne with boldness as a throne of grace to find grace for seasonable help. What unutterable blessedness we know in present intercourse with the Son of God where He is now! "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession" (confession). "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." vv. 14-16.
In chapter 5 we behold Him as the Man, yet God's Son, who was on earth offering up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him out of death, but now Priest by divine appointment after the order of Melchisedec. "So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made a high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee.... Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec." vv. 5-10.
In chapter 6 we see Him as the forerunner who is gone inside the veil for us who are still running the race here. Blessed object for the contemplation of our hearts! "Within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." vv. 19, 20.
In chapter 7 we are still gazing on the Son in heaven in His eternal and unchangeable character, as able to save us right on to the end, and ever living to make intercession for us (vv. 24-28).
In chapter 8 He is presented to us a sitting Priest, and active in the sanctuary in heaven. These were entirely new ideas to a Jew. Their priest, from Aaron downward, could never sit down, but was always standing because of having to offer many sacrifices which could never take away sins. But "We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." vv. 1, 2.
In chapter 9 we learn that He went into heaven itself by His own blood, and now appears before the face of God for us, having obtained eternal redemption, and has made the power of it known to us by the eternal Spirit while going on to our eternal inheritance (vv. 12-24).
In chapter 10 we are instructed that we have liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus where He is, and are assured by the witness of the Holy Spirit that our sins and iniquities will be remembered no more, and that the coming of the Lord is nigh. "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." (vv. 14, 19, 37.)
In chapter 12 we are enjoined to look away from every other object to Him who ran the race of faith perfectly, who endured the cross and despised the shame, and is now as man, who resisted sin unto blood, sitting at the right hand of the throne of God. While running on to meet Him at His coming, we are sustained and cheered by thus being occupied with Him where He is. (vv. 1, 2.)
In chapter 13 we are supposed to be so occupied with Him, and all the goodness and mercy of God to us in and through Him, as to be offering "by Him" the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks "to His name," and like Him, not forgetting to minister to those around us.
Nothing more need be quoted to show how clearly it is the mind of God that we should now while on earth know the heaven opened over us to faith by the rent veil, and have personal occupation with our Lord Jesus Christ there as truth which delivers from a weak and infantile state of soul, and is not "milk," but "strong meat," because it ministers to us the perfections of Christ in heaven, the eternal efficacy of His one offering and of His divinely appointed and unchangeable priesthood as sitting on the throne of God.
It is well to lay this to heart, and to often ask ourselves, Am I taken up with the Son of God in glory on account of what He is in Himself, what He is to God, and as the One in whom are all my resources, blessings, joy, strength, and inheritance? The more we ponder this epistle, the more we shall be convinced that our souls have not accepted the blessings which the accomplished work of the Son entitle us to enjoy, unless we are consciously inside the veil where He now is, and offering to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as purged worshipers.