GraceLife Church of Pineville

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Our Map at the Midpoint: Paths and Patterns of the Elementary Principles of the Oracles of God

Table of Contents

Change Course, Catch Up, or Keep Going

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.1Hebrews 13:8. It is only because of His constancy through yesterday, today, and forever that you can have any confidence in your yesterday, today, and forever.

We have varying amounts of yesterdays behind us. We all have the same amount of forever in front of us. And we all stand in the midst of today.

Every moment that is called “today” is a choice of whether we will live out the gracious promise of our redemption.

As to our yesterdays, here are some choices:

  • You have a choice to believe that forgiveness is real.
  • You have a choice to remain committed to already established foundations.

As to our forever, here are some choices:

  • You have a choice to believe that God’s justice and mercy will work for your ultimate good.
  • You have a choice to purify your vision in the light of Christ’s promised return.

We’ve reached the midpoint of all our journeys—this thing we call today—because we’ve reached the midpoint of our Oracles of God series. Of the six elementary principles of the oracles of God that we’re discussing (based on Hebrews 5:12), three are behind us, and three remain. As you’ll see, these principles situate themselves nicely in terms of yesterday, today, and forever. We are in the today section. So before we move along the trail, let’s stop to consider some waypoints.

This won’t be a mere reminder of where we are in this sermon series. It’s not a pointless review. It’s an exhortation to challenge you to ask whether you’ll keep going—not in this study, but in your story.

[This is] not a pointless review. It’s an exhortation to challenge you to ask whether you’ll keep going—not in this study, but in your story.

Our stories differ.

You may need to come to the realization that you’re not on the right trail; you either missed the trailhead or wandered on to some other path. Change course.

Maybe you’re on the right trail, but you’re dragging your feet a bit. You’re not as far along as you should be. Catch up.

Or maybe you’re newly baptized, in which case you’re likely breathing fresh air of first steps as disciples of God. Keep going.

These three things are your charges as we revisit the map here at the midpoint: Change course, catch up, or keep going.

Those charges are in keeping with the theme of Hebrews. In fact, the author of Hebrews talks about his audience’s particular journeys as individuals: Some had strayed from the path, while others were slowing down. But he shoots straight with his readers. Here’s the passage that we’ve been journeying through in this series (the six elementary principles are bolded):  

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk instead of solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about baptisms2The NASB translates this word as “washings.” and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. (Hebrews 5:12–6:3)

Oracles in Relation to Time: Yesterday, Today, and Forever

The oracles mentioned in Hebrews 6:1–2 organize nicely in terms of time (yesterday, today, and forever). This is not an arbitrary division, nor just catchy rhetoric. The language of Christ’s unchanging nature also comes from the book of Hebrews (13:8). You can also think of them in terms of the past (yesterday), present (today), and future (forever).

Yesterday (The Past)

The first elementary principle is repentance from dead works. It is a statement about things that should remain in the past. It is the yesterday of God’s interaction in human history. It speaks of works that have no place in present living because the Bible describes them as dead.

This first principle is paired with the second: faith toward God. Although faith is certainly ongoing, we consider it in terms of yesterday, because

  1. Our faith in Jesus has settled all our accounts, permanently. It is done. It is finished.3Cf. John 19:30.
  2. It is an established foundation upon which our lives are subsequently built. Christ is the foundation of our faith. He is the foundation of your individual faith and the foundation upon which the faith and the church are built.

The first two principles—repentance from dead works and faith toward God—frame yesterday, or the past, in terms of a negative and positive:

  • There is something in the past that should be forsaken: Repent from dead works.
  • There is something in the past that should already be established, something that should be our firm foundation: Have faith toward God.

Today (The Present)

The next two elementary principle we can categorize as today (the present) are baptisms and the laying on of hands. These elementary principles represent the life of the disciple.

Baptism is a declared identity in Christ and a declared allegiance to Christ. When you build upon that idea, you need to understand that the faithful disciple cannot declare allegiance to Christ without also declaring allegiance to the church, because it is the body of Christ.

The faithful disciple cannot declare allegiance to Christ without also declaring allegiance to the church.

And as we will see when we explore the topic in upcoming sermons, the laying on of hands is an activity that takes place within the church. At GraceLife, where I serve as pastor, it’s on display as we lay hands on the deacons elected by members, in order to commission them in service of this church.

This ritual of laying on of hands within the church gives us an opportunity to dwell upon the authority within the church and the ways in which its members interact and function.

Having just finished exploring the topic of baptisms, we stand now in the middle of these two great ideas: baptism—the beginning of your life as a disciple—and the laying on of hands—a continuation of your life as a disciple within God’s church.

It is unfortunately common for many people to get baptized and then forsake their involvement in the church. Keep going! Do not forsake the church. If you do that, then your baptism will become a one-time public spectacle. It is designed to be the entrance into public service. Keep going.

A reminder to all believers, from Paul in the book of Romans: We have been baptized into Christ Jesus, and thus we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that we may walk in newness of life.4Romans 6:4. There is purpose that results from our baptism. The baptism that He gives by the Spirit empowers us to walk this new life.

If God tarries, tomorrow will make its trade with today. And the future will transform into yesterdays. Each moment for us in this ongoing exchange will be an opportunity for obedience. Choose obedience. In the words of the faithful Joshua, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (24:15, italics added).

Forever (The Future)

The last pair of elementary principles look forward to our forever future: resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment. Without this future, there is no reason to forsake the past, and no reason to forge ahead in the present. So let the future call to you in the present. That’s the message of Hebrew 11. If the Lord does not return in your lifetime, you want to be someone who “died in faith”:

All these5The author has just reviewed a list of faithful followers of God, from Abel, Enoch, and Noah to Abraham and Sarah. died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

What an epitaph it would be—a tombstone with your name, the dates you lived, and then this simple testimony: “Died in faith.”

The promise of the Scriptures is that God will rescue us from this world and deliver us into heaven. That, of course, is the message of Christian salvation.

Oracles in Salvation: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification

In addition to being parsed in relation to time, the six oracles of God can also be divided in terms of phases of salvation. Those phases are justification, sanctification, and glorification.


Repentance from dead works and faith toward God (the first two oracles) speak to our justification. We are justified—that is, declared righteous based on our faith (toward God) in Jesus and not on (dead) works.

This was the reminder the Galatians needed. Paul lovingly rebuked them, saying, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” (3:1). The Galatians had exchanged the concept of the free gift of eternal life for a concept of eternal life being something you could work for. As Paul reminded them:

… knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)


The next pair of principles, baptism and laying on of hands, speak to our sanctification. They are practices of the body of Christ by which our faith is enlivened. They’re actions that help us conform more to the image of Christ.

We’re baptized because we have faith. We enter into practices like laying on of hands as people of faith. As James tells us,6See James 2:24, 26, for example. these acts, these works, enliven our faith. They’re not dead works. And this process—the ability to keep going—is a gift.

This process—the ability to keep going—is a gift.


Resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment (the last two oracles) speak to our glorification.

A glorified resurrection from the dead is our birthright by faith. And eternal judgment will tie all of this together, because each individual is judged in relation to faith and works, in relation to justification and sanctification. Everyone will be either delivered into the glory of eternal bliss or consigned to the darkness of eternal hell. It’s your choice. You don’t have to be condemned—you can be justified in Christ (saved from the penalty of sin), sanctified (saved from the power of sin), and glorified (saved forever from the presence of sin). The elementary principles speak to all of these things.

I repeat the words of Paul you heard in the close of our section on baptism: “Work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12). The time is coming when no work can be done (see John 9:4). While there is still time, build upon your justified foundation in Christ: Strive toward a sanctification that will result in expanding glory.

Other Ways to Divide the 6 Oracles

There are some other ways that you could divide the six elementary principles. For example, you could divide them according to their nature, their focus, church life, and well-being.


  1. Spiritual (repentance and faith are acts of the mind)
  2. Physical (baptisms and laying on of hands are works of the body)
  3. Holistic (resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment will bring about the restoration or consummation and the reconciliation of the physical and spiritual)


  1. Doctrine (you should be a faithful disciple because you are grounded in the truth of right doctrine about the law and repentance)
  2. Discipleship (doctrine should always move us into discipleship—we get baptized and serve within the church out of obedience to Christ)
  3. Deliverance (having believed in Christ for eternal life, and having served Him well, we have the blessed hope of the resurrection from the dead for those who have believed in Him)

As we focus on today, notice again the interconnectedness of these ideas. You should be a faithful disciple because you are grounded in the truth of right doctrine. And you are grateful for the deliverance that will one day be yours.

Church Life

You could also divide the principles in terms of the levels of church life:

  1. Individual
  2. Local
  3. Universal

Each individual who is to become a member of the body of Christ must make an individual choice to believe in Christ—to not trust in his own works, but to trust in the finished work of Christ. We’re to repent from dead works and have faith toward God. But then, we are to enter into the life of the local church. A baptism declaring your allegiance to Christ leads to participating within His body. The local body of the church of Christ shall one day be all together. And on those streets of gold, there’s not one church on one side and another church on the other. The universal body of Christ is one.


I could keep going, but here’s just one more possible division of the oracles:

  1. That by which we are healed
  2. That with which we are helped
  3. That in which we have hoped

Summary & Conclusion

Following is a table recapping the categorizations I’ve just described (plus one more), along with their relationships to the three pairs of oracles from Hebrews 5:12:

I encourage you to look for these themes and patterns in your own study time. Wed doctrine and determination, and determination with obedience. Realize that this journey—your journey—has purpose; this study on the elementary principles of the oracles of God has purpose. We’re midway. Consider the path and keep going.

You may know that the early Christians were not called “Christians” but “followers of the Way.” The Way signified that there is a path—a way to follow. Anytime you’re following the path, you’re on a journey. So this practice of stopping to consider, “Where have I been?, Where am I now?, and Where am I going?” helps orient you in the right direction.

Let’s look at the conclusion of the book of Hebrews for some encouragement in how to keep going and finish well. The passage begins (in Hebrews 12:12–13) with a metaphor of walking (on a path)—a metaphor seen throughout Scripture.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.

For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 12:12–13:21)