Vol.XVII No.VI Pg.3
August 1980

Points On Progress

Dan S. Shipley

"Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permit." (Heb. 6:1-3)

Spiritual progress comes only as we "press on unto perfection". In the above text, the inspired writer sets forth some requirements of such progress; some specifically, some by implication. It begins with a sense of dissatisfaction. Apparently many of the Hebrews addressed in this epistle had become self-satisfied and, thus, had not progressed to the point of being able to teach others (5:12). They were satisfied with their diet of spiritual milk and with only the first principles of Christ. Such were good and necessary. Solid foundations are vital but must not become an end in themselves. Things such as faith, repentance and baptism are an integral part of the gospel, but they are not ALL of the gospel! We must press on toward greater knowledge and faith. In doing so we become less satisfied with more of our own shortcomings. There is a close correlation between ignorance and satisfaction. The honest do no better because they know no better. Enlightenment is the great need of a satisfied world. Thus Paul went to the Gentiles that he might "open their eyes" (Acts 26:18). Enlightenment is also the great need of the Lord's church. All need to hear the "whole counsel of God" and to measure themselves thereby. The right standard reveals our wrong conduct and, hopefully, a dissatisfaction that will promote progress.

However, no less essential to our spiritual progress is persistence--the kind suggested by the writer when he says, "let us press on" (v.1). As Paul, we must continually keep before us the goal and its prize (Phil .3:14). To see and be unduly influenced by only "what is near" (2 Pet. 1:9) is to live like the world and to be diverted from the urgent task before us. Heartaches and discouragements will come, but we must press on. Brethren will desert and disappoint us, but we must press on. Tribulation and temptations will continue, but so must we. Even when it looks as if we are making no progress at all, we must press on! Everything depends on it. We must not become weary in well-doing.

Another thing that will help in pressing on is a spirit of determination as suggested in v.3 of our text: "And this we will do...". Webster defines determination as "The mental habit of settling upon some line of action with a fixed purpose to adhere to it; adherence to aims of purposes; resoluteness...". Many make no spiritual progress simply because of this lack of determination. With them the matter of faithfulness is not settled. Consequently, every sort of unfavorable circumstance becomes an obstacle to serving the Lord. Also, as suggested in the latter part of this verse, a sense of dependence is needful to progress. "...if God permit" says that all must be done and viewed with regard to Him who supplies our every need. (Jas. 4:13-15).