on Hebrews 6 :2
Of the doctrine of baptisms - "There were two things," says Dr. Owen, "peculiar to the Gospel, the doctrine of it and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Doctrine is called baptism, Deuteronomy 32:2; hence the people are said to be baptized to Moses, when they were initiated into his doctrines, 1 Corinthians 11:2. The baptism of John was his doctrine, Acts 19:3; and the baptism of Christ was the doctrine of Christ, wherewith he was to sprinkle many nations, Isaiah 52:15. This is the first baptism of the Gospel, even its doctrine. The other was the communication of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5; and this alone is what is intended by the laying on of hands; and then the sense will be the foundation of the Gospel baptisms, namely preaching and the gifts of the Holy Ghost."
I am afraid, with all this great man's learning, he has not hit the meaning of the apostle. As teaching is the means by which we are to obtain the gifts of the Holy Ghost, surely the apostle never designed to separate them, but to lead men immediately through the one to the possession of the other. Nor is the word baptism mentioned in the passage in Deuteronomy which he quotes; nor, indeed, any word properly synonymous. Neither βαπτισμος, baptism, ῥαντισμος, sprinkling, nor any verb formed from them, is found in the Septuagint, in that place. But the other proofs are sufficiently in point, viz. that by baptism in the other places referred to, doctrine or Teaching is meant; but to call Teaching one baptism, and the gifts of The Holy Ghost another baptism, and to apply this to the explanation of the difficulty here, is very far from being satisfactory.
I am inclined to think that all the terms in this verse, as well as those in the former, belong to the Levitical law, and are to be explained on that ground.
Baptisms, or immersions of the body in water, sprinklings, and washings, were frequent as religious rites among the Hebrews, and were all emblematical of that purity which a holy God requires in his worshippers, and without which they cannot be happy here, nor glorified in heaven.
Laying on of hands - Was also frequent, especially in sacrifices: the person bringing the victim laid his hands on its head, confessed his sins over it, and then gave it to the priest to be offered to God, that it might make atonement for his transgressions. This also had respect to Jesus Christ, that Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The doctrine also of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment, were both Jewish, but were only partially revealed, and then referred to the Gospel. Of the resurrection of the dead there is a fine proof in Isaiah 26:19, where it is stated to be the consequence of the death and resurrection of Christ, for so I understand the words, Thy dead shall live; with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. The valley of dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1, etc., is both an illustration and proof of it. And Daniel has taught both the resurrection and the eternal judgment, Daniel 12:2 : And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Now the foundation of all these doctrines was laid in the Old Testament, and they were variously represented under the law, but they were all referred to the Gospel for their proof and illustration. The apostle, therefore, wishes them to consider the Gospel as holding forth these in their full spirit and power. It preaches,
1. Repentance, unto life.
2. Faith in God through Christ, by whom we receive the atonement.
3. The baptism by water, in the name of the holy Trinity; and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
4. The imposition of hands, the true sacrificial system; and, by and through it, the communication of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the instruction of mankind, and the edification of the Church.
5. The resurrection of the dead, which is both proved and illustrated by the resurrection of Christ.
6. The doctrine of the eternal or future judgment, which is to take place at the bar of Christ himself, God having committed all judgment to his Son, called here κριμα αιωνιον, eternal or ever during judgment, because the sentences then pronounced shall be irreversible.
Some understand the whole of the initiation of persons into the Church, as the candidates for admission were previously instructed in those doctrines which contained the fundamental principles of Christianity. The Hebrews had already received these; but should they Judaize, or mingle the Gospel with the law, they would thereby exclude themselves from the Christian Church, and should they be ever again admitted, they must come through the same gate, or lay a second time, παλιν, this foundation. But should they totally apostatize from Christ, and finally reject him, then it would be impossible to renew them again to repentance - they could no more be received into the Christian Church, nor have any right to any blessing of the Gospel dispensation; and, finally rejecting the Lord who bought them, would bring on themselves and their land swift destruction. See the 4th and following verses, and particularly the notes on Hebrews 6:8-9 (note).
on Hebrews 6 :2
Of the doctrine of baptisms - This is mentioned as the third element or principle of the Christian religion. The Jews made much of various kinds of "washings," which were called "baptisms;" see the note on Mark 7:4. It is supposed also, that they were in the practice of baptizing proselytes to their religion; see the note on Matthew 3:6. Since they made so much of various kinds of ablution, it was important that the true doctrine on the subject should be stated as one of the elements of the Christian religion, that they might be recalled from superstition, and that they might enjoy the benefits of what was designed to be an important aid to piety - the true doctrine of baptisms. It will be observed that the plural form is used here - "baptisms." There are two baptisms whose necessity is taught by the Christian religion - baptism by water, and by the Holy Spirit; the first of which is an emblem of the second.
These are stated to be among the "elements" of Christianity, or the things which Christian converts would first learn. The necessity of both is taught. He that believeth and is "baptized" shall be saved; Mark 16:16. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," John 3:5. On the baptism of the Holy Spirit, see the Matthew 3:11 note; Acts 1:5 note; compare Acts 19:1-6. To understand the true doctrine respecting baptism was one of the first principles to be learned then as it is now, as baptism is the rite by which we are "initiated" into the Church. This was supposed to be so simple that young converts could understand it as one of the elements of the true religion, and the teaching on that subject now should be made so plain that the humblest disciple may comprehend it. If it was an element or first principle of religion; if it was presumed that anyone who entered the Church could understand it, can it be believed that it was then so perplexing and embarrassing as it is often made now? Can it be believed that a vast array of learning, and a knowledge of languages and a careful inquiry into the customs of ancient times, was needful in order that a candidate for baptism should understand it? The truth is, that it was probably regarded as among the most simple and plain matters of religion; and every convert was supposed to understand that the application of water to the body in this ordinance, in any mode, was designed to be merely emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit.
And of laying on of hands - This is the FourTH element or principle of religion. The Jews practiced the laying on of hands on a great variety of occasions. It was done when a blessing was imparted to anyone; when prayer was made for one; and when they offered sacrifice they laid their hands on the head of the victim, confessing their sins; Leviticus 16:21; Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 8:12. It was done on occasions of solemn consecration to office, and when friend supplicated the divine favor on friend. In like manner, it was often done by the Saviour and the apostles. The Redeemer laid his hands on children to bless them, and on the sick when he healed them; Matthew 19:13; Mark 5:23; Matthew 9:18. In like manner the apostles laid hands on others in the following circumstances:
(1) In healing the sick; Acts 28:8.
(2) in ordination to office; 1 Timothy 5:22; Acts 6:6.
(3) In imparting the miraculous influences of the Holy Spirit; Acts 8:17, Acts 8:19; Acts 19:6.
The true doctrine respecting the design of laying on the hands, is said here to be one of the elements of the Christian religion. That the custom of laying on the hands as symbolical of imparting spiritual gifts, prevailed in the Church in the time of the apostles, no one can doubt. But on the question whether it is to be regarded as of perpetual obligation in the Church, we are to remember:
(1) That the apostles were endowed with the power of imparting the influences of the Holy Spirit in a miraculous or extraordinary manner. It was with reference to such an imparting of the Holy Spirit that the expression is used in each of the cases where it occurs in the New Testament.
(2) the Saviour did not appoint the imposition of the hands of a "bishop" to be one of the rites or ceremonies to be observed perpetually in the Church. The injunction to be baptized and to observe his supper is positive, and is universal in its obligation. But there is no such command respecting the imposition of hands.
(3) no one now is intrusted with the power of imparting the Holy Spirit in that manner There is no class of officers in the Church, that can make good their claim to any such power. What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is imparted at the rite of "confirmation?"
(4) it is liable to be abused, or to lead persons to substitute the form for the thing; or to think that because they have been "confirmed," that therefore they are sure of the mercy and favor of God.
Still, if it be regarded as a "simple form of admission to a church," without claiming that it is enjoined by God, or that it is connected with any authority to impart the Holy Spirit, no objection can be made to it any more than there need be to any other form of recognizing Church membership. Every pastor has a right, if he chooses, to lay his hands on the members of his flock, and to implore a blessing on them; and such an act on making a profession of religion would have much in it that would be appropriate and solemn.
And of resurrection of the dead - This is mentioned as the fifth element or principle of the Christian religion. This doctrine was denied by the Sadducees Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8, and was ridiculed by philosophers; Acts 17:32. It was, however, clearly taught by the Saviour, John 5:28-29, and became one of the cardinal doctrines of his religion. By the resurrection of the dead, however, in the New Testament, there is more intended than the resurrection of the "body." The question about the resurrection included the whole inquiry about the future state, or whether man would live at all in the future world; compare the Matthew 22:23 note; Acts 23:6 note. This is one of the most important subjects that can come before the human mind, and one on which man has felt more perplexity than any other. The belief of the resurrection of the dead is an elementary article in the system of Christianity. It lies at the foundation of all our hopes. Christianity is designed to prepare us for a future state; and one of the first things, therefore, in the preparation, is to "assure" us there is a future state, and to tell us what it is. It is, moreover, a unique doctrine of Christianity. The belief of the resurrection is found in no other system of religion, nor is there a ray of light shed upon the future condition of man by any other scheme of philosophy or religion.
And of eternal judgment - This is the sixth element or principle of religion. It is, that there will be a judgment whose consequences will be eternal. It does not mean, of course, that the process of the judgment will be eternal, or that the judgment day will continue forever; but that the results or consequences of the decision of that day will continue for ever. There will be no appeal from the sentence, nor will there be any reversal of the judgment then pronounced. What is decided then will be determined forever. The approval of the righteous will fix their state eternally in heaven, and in like manner the condemnation of the wicked will fix their doom forever in hell. This doctrine was one of the earliest that was taught by the Saviour and his apostles, and is inculcated in the New Testament perhaps with more frequency than any other; see Matthew 25; Acts 17:31. That the consequences or results of the judgment will be "eternal," is abundantly affirmed; see Matthew 25:46; John 5:29;; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Mark 9:45, Mark 9:48.
on Hebrews 6 :2