Basic Doctrinal Principles
Hebrews 5.12: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (13) For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
(6.1) “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this will we do, if God permit.”
Here the “first principles of the oracles of God,” are the “foundations” of the structure of right doctrine. The RSV translates them as “elementary truths.” These are for beginners in the study of the Word, and for “babes” in Christ who have not yet reached maturity. So these should be taught and learned before the deeper doctrines which actually depend upon these “first principles” for understanding.
These are the six principles:
(1) Repentance from dead works
(2) Faith toward God
(3) Laying on of hands
(4) Doctrine of baptisms
(5) Resurrection of the dead
(6) Eternal judgment.
The first thing a sinner needs to learn is repentance. RSV translates it as “the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.” He must be convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sinful condition before he can truly repent.
To repent means not only to change one’s mind, but also must include a change of the heart and even of one’s identity. It is not merely a mental, logical, change of one’s opinions, but rather is a change of what one loves and hates. It is not merely a change of one’s will, but a complete rebirth, a new creation.
(2) Faith Toward God
Faith in God is a prerequisite for understanding Biblical doctrine. Without faith, one cannot believe in the doctrines and teachings of the Bible. All of the historical, archaeological, and scientific facts will not compensate for a lack of faith, – pure, simple, childlike faith that there is a God, that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and that He has given us His Word, Hebrews 11:6.
(3) Doctrine of Baptisms: (Scripture references are not exhaustive; you may find more.)
A. John’s baptism was “unto repentance,” Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24.
B. Water Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is commanded: Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 10:44-48.
C. Baptism symbolizes Death, Burial, Resurrection and Exaltation: Romans chapter 6; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:9-3:11; I Peter 3:18-22. Therefore, the young believer should understand that water baptism indicates his total unconditional surrender, dedication and commitment to Jesus.
(4) Laying on of Hands
This is one of the “first principles” to be taught and learned by the babes in Christ. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit which was in evidence in Acts 8:17-20, where the disciples laid their hands on the people and they received the Holy Ghost.
It was also evident in I Timothy 4:14 where it is stated that the laying on of hands of the presbytery and prophecy imparted to Timothy a spiritual gift.
Mark 16:18 says: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
(5) Resurrection of the Dead:
We must teach the resurrection of Christ. Romans 19:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” I Corinthians 15 gives a full exposition of the importance of this doctrine.
It is also important to teach that Christ raised some from the dead during His earthly ministry. Ephesians 1:20 and 2:6 show that, in Christ, we are raised from the dead with Him, and exalted with Him.
(6) Eternal Judgment:
Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
These basic principles underlie the more advanced study of the Biblical doctrines. For example, eschatology. Much confusion has resulted from the prominent and predominant teaching of “end-times” and “prophecy” without these basic principles.