Alright, let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 5 looking at the second half of this chapter in verse 11 through 14. So far, I have been considering Jesus as our Merciful High Priest who is for us, interceding on our behalf, and helping to hold fast our confession of faith. We have already seen, right up until this chapter, that Christ is greater than prophets, than angels, than Moses, than Joshua, than Abraham, and the first high priest Aaron.
Christ in Hebrews is definitely being exalted to the highest place, and that is where we ought to Christ as well. Jesus is greater than all because He is not from the line of Aaron, who died. Jesus is related to the priesthood of Melchizedek which has an eternal aspect to it. That means that Jesus is a priest of God eternally. Now Jesus Christ, who perfectly qualified us as His children, gives us eternal salvation because of His office of completing everything a high priest is supposed to do.
He Himself is perfectly qualified as a high priest from the eternal order. He can and will provide salvation to all who ask, making His ministry different and unlike any other ministry in Scripture that has gone before Him. His ministry is eternally effective. Remember, the high priest year after year had to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Christ offers one sacrifice for ever, which means He offers eternal salvation.
If you look at Hebrews 5:9-10, it says:
And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Now with the author’s introduction of this very strange, and elusive, character Melchizedek. His very name, Melech, means the king of in Hebrew. Zedek means one of righteousness. So he’s considered the king of righteousness, who is described in the Old Testament as the priest king. Remember he comes to Abraham as the priest king, and of course Abraham gives him homage and Melchizedek returns on him a blessing.
So we have a very strange thing going on here. We have to ask the question, who is this Melchizedek? So the author actually wants to continue to explain to his listeners who is Melchizedek. He wants to give us more information about this priest king and his connection to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, but he realizes very quickly that he cannot do it. So he is faced with a serious problem, and its twofold.
This is a problem that we are faced with today as well. This is a problem that we have also. It exists within evangelicalism, and I believe more so now than ever before. And you ask, what is the problem? The problem is remaining in a perpetual state of infancy and not growing spiritually. This means that you remain as a spiritual baby! He lays down what he is going to teach about Melchizedek because he realizes that he cannot go any further.
He really rebukes them for being spiritual infants. And believe me, nobody likes to be called a baby. Even little kids when they grow a little bit to get a sense of reality, go call a little boy a baby and he will tell you that he is not. We do not want to be called babies or considered as infants. We want to be considered as someone who is at least maturing. It would be a tragedy if someone did not mature physically. It is a sad thing. But there is greater sadness when someone does not develop spiritually. The question that he is going to deal with in Hebrews 6, which is very controversial, cannot be interpreted without looking at verses 11 to 14. He is setting them up to say to them, “If you are perpetually infants spiritually, maybe you do not have God’s Spirit and you were never saved.”
So he rebukes them and of course it is for us too. It is a challenge, an admonition, and an exhortation for us. Do not ever be satisfied with where you are at spiritually. But that should not just be a dissatisfaction that you are not growing, but also a desire should be there for you to want to grow. God puts that there, it does not come from the flesh, the world, or from Satan. It comes from the Spirit of God who indwells you, that provides a desire to know Him more. You should never be satisfied with what you know about Christ, the Word of God, the Christian life, or the enemy that is against you. You always want to be growing to the place where you become so strong on the Word of God that you can actually detect Satan’s deceptions, identify them, and refute them with Scripture. That is where you want to be.
Any athlete is never satisfied where they are at. Anybody who aspires to anything that takes a lot of work and discipline is never satisfied. They always know that there is someone else they can look to who is better than them. They aspire to be like them, but they know that it takes more discipline and practice to get there.
Just a day or so ago, I was in Washington D.C. and we had a chance to go see the Marine Corps silent drill team and band. And believe me it was so awesome, but you know that all the precision and all the ability to flip rifles and be able to catch them without even looking takes day in and day out, week in and week out of practice. That is until when you get before a crowd and not make a mistake. And everything was perfect, it was awesome. It was very challenging and great to see, that all the work and discipline that they put in is able to be pulled off. Because you cannot do it unless you put the time in to practice.
So no one wants to be called a spiritual baby. I hope you do not. The author confronts them with two problems. Look at Hebrews 5:11, and it really is an immense problem:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
The first problem is an immensity of the subject matter, and that is because of the person involved, “concerning him!” The him is Melchizedek, but also what he represents. Remember I said last time that Melchizedek is a theophany, which is a representation of a type of what Christ would be. Remember, Melchizedek has no lineage. He has no time when he was born, and it says that in Hebrews 7. So this character is very unusually. But everything in his character points to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. That is a heavy issue when you talk about being taught who Christ is because He had a lot to teach the people.
A second part of the first problem is in Hebrews 5:11, where it says that it is hard to explain. This is because of the revelation involved. He realizes here that to explain who Melchizedek is and how he is connected to Christ is a very hard subject. So if it is a difficult subject, then the person listening also has to be able to understand. If something goes over your head, like the math explained with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, we would be sinking in our seats. That is unless you can understand that kind of information.
You read the Word of God and look at the Old Testament, but do you understand everything you read? No, because it is going to take year after year for you to study it. The Christian faith is by no means an easy thing. It is not easy grasp, and it cannot be learned in a day or in a few moments, but it must be a daily exercise of the mind on truth which you cannot back away from. If you back away from it for a long period of time, you are already in trouble, just like you would back away for anything which you have to be at your best.
Fighters in the ring, for example. They cannot lay off training for a year, or they will get creamed. An un willingness to work out the deeper implications of the gospel in your lives and to remain reluctant to give serious thought to the ongoing exposition of Scripture. They have to think about the arguments going on with Scripture so they can implement it in their lives! Otherwise, this will hinder spiritual growth.
The second problem is found in the last part of Hebrews 11, which talks about the ineptitude of the students. He mentions how the students have become “dull of hearing,” slow, or sluggish. The word was used in literature to mean the numb limbs of a sick lion. Then hunter eventually becomes the hunted. That in the wild kingdom is sad and pathetic tragedy.
But there is a greater tragedy for a believer, for the church. Their ineptness really results in two things that are in our passage of Scripture. From an office perspective, the communication was restricted. He was not able to give them the meat and potatoes of Scripture because what he had to say was difficult stuff. Another thing from the student’s perspective is that it restricted their comprehension, they were not able to handle what he had to say. The believer’s mind remains numb and their mind stops feeding on spiritual truth. And that means they will not grow spiritually, which is a very sad thing.
If God at conversion gives you new life and He gives you the Spirit of God, that very principle means God starts and continues the growth. But we can get in the way, Satan gets in the way, and in this case because we already saw that the author really is talking to believers, and they somehow God into this state. He does not tell us why they got into this state, but it could be that they got into this state because they were not willing to suffer for truth. They are in a place where the pressure is on them. And they were thinking about going back to Judaism, where they did not have to worry about losing jobs or a place in the community or family.
It could be that these Hebrews did not want to suffer like their Savior. They did not want to come under God’s discipline, which is mentioned in chapter 12 and also the Old Testament. We should not despise when God comes into our lives and spank us spiritually to get us on track. This brings us to repentance and to a place where we are spiritually keen. This means you are hungering for the Word of God. Notice what it says in Hebrews 5:11, “since you have become dull of hearing.” This implies that the hearers have fallen into a sluggish laziness. This also gives some home and those who are listening that their sluggishness need not be permanent if it is taken care of.
One thing that you and I have to realize that our culture and modern evangelicalism does not help rescue anyone from this condition, but often encourages one to stay in it. Just go into your local Christian bookstore, there is often not much worth reading. A lot of the stuff you find has nothing to do with expositional preaching.
There was a preacher in London fifty years ago, Martin Lloyd Jones, who said something very applicable today. He observed that there are those who believe the Bible must be put into such simple terms and language that anyone taking it up and reading it is going to understand all about it. He adamantly responds in this way, “This is nothing but sheer nonsense. We must do what we can to educate the masses of people up to the Bible, not bring the Bible down to their level. One of the greatest troubles in life today is that everything is being brought down to the same level and is being cheapened. The common man is made the standard and authority and it is he who decides everything. Everywhere, standards are coming down. Are we asked to do the same with the Word of God?” He says absolutely not. But that is exactly what is happening everywhere and it is even happening in the church.
You have teaching today that says that clear issues about the Word of God are no longer clear anymore. They are up for much debate and interpretation, where throughout the centuries people have died for those truths and now they are not as important. Also Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a great preacher of the past that I respect greatly, said succinctly, “If we keep the holy Scriptures you cannot go wrong. With such a standard we know that we are right. This is the Word of God and if we teach it, we teach that which the Lord will accept and bless.” Those two quotes show that there is an attempt by some Christian leaders to dumb down the Word of God to be relevant to the world. But with this philosophy, the church runs the risk of becoming so much like the world that one will not be able to tell the difference.
We have to be different. The great scandal of today’s church is Christians without Christian minds. Is that possible? When you look at Scripture, the Bible says we have the mind of Christ. Well there is the problem that we have today. The Word of God is still difficult in many portions and if you are not able to handle it, you will not be able to be taught the doctrines of predestination or election.
He explains their ineptitude in this chapter. These Hebrew Christians, after many years in the faith, have grown spiritually dull. Enough time has passed for them to have developed to become mature Christians. A mature Christian at least is able to articulate to someone else the basics of the gospel. A feeling or experience is part of being saved, but it is not the argument. You need to be able to articulate what changed in your life and what you are learning in the faith.
Here is the painful diagnosis in Hebrews 5:12-13:
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 and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
This is not a teacher in the sense of a theological professor, pastor, or elder. But it is a teacher in the sense that you can explain the gospel. Look at Hebrews 6:1:
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
In other words, the elementary teaching about Christ. There are certain elements of the teaching about Christ that are simple. Part of that, even though we know the gospel is broad and deep once you get into it. But initial conversion really is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, right? It is a turning from your way, an acceptance of God’s way, and knowing that only through Christ can you be forgiven, saved, and right with God.
That is pretty simple. Those are some of the elementary things. These believers were not even able to do that. He says secondly coming from verse 12, that they never got past the rudimentary basics. The same students needed to be taught again the same subject by another teacher. In other words, someone needed to teach them the ABC’s of Christianity. Spiritually, that is where they were which is pretty sad. He’s aspiring to encourage them not to ever get to that place.
Look at the second part of verse 12 again:
You have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God.
This refers back to some of the Old Testament principles of the prophets prophesying Christ of being the Messiah and Savior. Then he says this, you need even to be bottle fed, to be fed with milk and not solid food. The only ones who use milk are babies, or someone who is ill and has to go back to drinking milk. But in this case, they could not even do that. They just had a bottle. They were little babies that could not handle any kind of solid food so that was the condition of these people. This is a tremendous rebuke to them and should be to us too.
And in verse 13 again he says this:
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
Remember, when you are taught the Word of God it is going to lead to this. The Word of God has everything to do with righteousness. Righteousness is right thinking and living before God. It is a practical thing, you learn the doctrine first and then practically live it out. And then you know when Satan comes against you and accuses you of being a dirtbag, you can say that may be true but Christ has saved you and has given you a place that no one else can provide.
If you know these things, you are able to do them. But in this case, they were not accustomed to the word of righteousness because they were babies, which do not know how to do things right. Little children cannot even put their toys away when told to do so. You have to teach them over and over again until it becomes a habit.
There is the problem, the issue, and the spiritual state of the people. The solution to the problem is in Hebrews 5:14. It is to get in and stay in the spiritual gymnasium. The greek word here is our word for gymnasium. It means to exercise vigorously the mind or body.
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
There is that word, which is to train to discern good and evil. He gives them the solution to the problem, to get back under the Word of God and learn doctrine again. Also, he says for the Christian to not be removed by anything but instead be faithful to the listening and meditation on the Word of God. So as one becomes accustomed to the Word of God by constant use, the mind will be transformed so that you will be able to make correct judgments between what is good and pleasing to God, and what is evil or what to stay away from.
What we have here in this section is what it called an inclusio in literature, which is like a sandwich. He lays out the top layer of bread before he gets to the bottom because he goes through this whole section from chapter 5 verse 11 to chapter 6 verse 12. How do I know this? In Hebrews 5:11 says:
Since you have become dull of hearing.
And then look at Hebrews 6:12:
So that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
He is admonishing them, saying that this is where they are at now but they do not have to stay there. He gives the listeners hope and says to them that they can come to a place where they learn God’s truth through diligence and to be able to imitate those who through faith and perseverance have inherited God’s truth and promises.
That is why when you get to Hebrews 11, it talks about people who have persevered in the truth. They saw a city whose Maker and Builder was God but did not see the city on earth. We have a promise and through that, we have eternal life. We are going to die physically and will go into that eternal life, which is our hope, because God tells the truth. He has accomplished it for me.
There are four connectives between these sections, which I will get to in detail when I cover those passages. In Hebrews 5:11-14, he calls the people to be attentive hearers as he tells them they are spiritually immature. In Hebrews 6:1-3, he calls them to correct their present course and move towards spiritual maturity. In Hebrews 6:4-8, he warns them about the devastating consequences of apostasy. Remember, an apostate who leaves the faith cannot be renewed to repentance again because they denied the full blown faith and gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 6:9-12, he exhorts them that they can overcome their dullness by hearing God’s truth, growing to understand the deeper, more difficult portions of Scripture, etc. You may not understand it right now but gives yourself the truth. God in His time will develop in your mind this whole scope and panoramic view of what He is doing in His whole plan of salvation from beginning to end. Then you begin to fill in the blanks and fill in the pieces of the puzzle. The more you grow in Christ each year, you begin to grow more confident in what God is doing and you feel stronger in the faith not to be moved or tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching.
Of the attacks on Scripture, it was the inerrancy of Scriptures in the 50s and 60s, the sufficiency of Scripture in the 70s and 80s, and now we have the clarity of Scripture. Satan attacks Scripture and he does it often through “evangelical Christian movements.” You cannot believe everyone who is out there.
Just the other day I was having a conversation with a person who was watching someone on TV tell them everything they ever wanted to know. They told him that it was alright to be bitter and angry at God. I am saying to myself, “I never read that in Scripture.” This does not mean we will never be bitter and angry at God, but that is not a good place to be. We need to be taking care of anger and bitterness and the roots of those things or else they will destroy you. This evangelical preacher was saying the opposite, that it is okay. That is bad if people walk away from your message like that. That is just pop psychology. That does not help you deal with the root of your sin at all.
We have to ask the question about whether God cares that you grow spiritually. Absolutely! In fact, God cares about the strength and maturity of His children. Some think that it is normal for Christians to remain in spiritual infancy for the duration of their lives. That as long as they have professed Jesus Christ as Lord sometime in the past, they are satisfied and think that God expects no more of them. That is simply not true of Scripture! But what kind of father would want to have ten children and then not care about whether any of them grow spiritually or to physical maturity. In the same vein, what kind of father would God be if he adopted so many children into His family through Jesus Christ and did not care about whether they grew up in the faith?!
God is not a deadbeat dad. He is always working toward the spiritual growth of the members of His church. In fact, God cares about the growth of His older children as well. Remember when Paul wast teaching the Corinthians and he said in 1 Corinthians 3:1:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.
He wanted them to be spiritual men. He wanted them to be growing. God cares so much about this growth that He even commands it in His younger children. It says in 1 Peter 2:2:
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.
God wants His little children who just accepted Him as Lord and Savior to grow. Also there is 2 Peter 3:18 which says:
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.
There is the key: keep growing! I do want you to also turn to 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. Remember when the people were arguing as to who were their leaders? Well it says here:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
God is behind the salvation of His children and He causes the growth in your life. Not only in initial conversion, but in every situation in your life. Really it is Scripturally impossible to say that someone can stay in a perpetual state of infancy or to remain a babe in Christ, especially if they have the mental capacity to grow in Christ. And in that case, the Lord understands in His grace. But for the majority of believers, they can definitely grow. They grow in their secular jobs and in their knowledge of things they like.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:12 it also says:
May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.
The members should care about their own continued growth as well as the growth of other sheep in the flock, where the Word of God in Ephesians 4:14 it says:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
The Lord is concerned about our spiritual growth. Even if you slip into a state of dullness, which you probably will. I hated being there myself, and the Lord had to teach me some things in that place. When I got out, I had to know more. I had to know the deeper things of God and He is going to do the same for you. He does not allow His children to stay there, and it could be the discipline of the Lord that gets you out.
I was just having a conversation with a man who used to come here and had moved away. He got into his business and the way of life where he moved and ultimately got away from going to church. I just saw him a couple of weeks ago and he was telling me that he is serving the Lord now but he was not. He was on vacation one day and got a call from his doctor that he should go to the nearest hospital immediately. He had an enlarged heart, which people can die from very quickly. So he goes in and a week later he is having open heart surgery. They had to replace the valve and it took him a year to heal. When he goes back to the doctor a year later, they said that it did not work and they have to do surgery again. At that point he realized that he and his wife needed to get back under the Word of God, and now He is teaching in his church.
It was the discipline of God that brought him back. He became keenly aware of what God was doing in his life. He is doing much better now, he is excited and is teaching in his church on spiritual warfare. That is what God does sometimes. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we grow spiritually. He is cleaning our lives up and is making changes so that we will be conformed to God’s will. We are changed from the inside out. God wants to see fruit of what the Spirit of God is doing on the inside. The goal for the Christian life, like in Hebrews 5:13, is righteousness. We are being sanctified so that we will do what is right. In other words, our behavior from the inside out is very important to God. Behavior is the center of sanctification. It shows what is and what is not going on inside of you. No internal transformation may mean possibly that you are a hypocrite.
But the Holy Spirit is inside of us to produce good fruit. We even know ourselves by our good fruit. We know the way we were before and the way we are now because the Spirit of God is working on us. If the Spirit of God is the Writer and Author of Scripture, He is not going to do it apart from His God. He is going to use the Word as His tool. The Holy Spirit convicts about what is wrong and evil, and what is right and pleasing in God’s sight. So, how can you do what is right and pleasing if you have no idea what right and wrong are? He makes this point in Hebrews 5:13-14. Those who are growing in the truth become accustomed to the Word of Righteousness and they begin to practice what they are doctrinally learning in a very practical way. They are training their senses to discern between good and evil. The Word of God is addressing your mind, informing your understanding and is exposing you to truth.
Paul told the Romans in Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
God is bringing us to the point where our minds are transformed so we can know what actually pleases God, what is good and right and what t stay away from. In 1 Corinthians 14:20, it says:
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
The Holy Spirit is making this change in us through the Word of God and transforming our minds. He is changing our old way of thinking and replacing it with God’s way of thinking. The Word of God transforms us so we develop deep biblical convictions. Then, our consciouses will not live against our convictions. We will desire then to live a right pleasing manner before the Lord that is honoring to Him and is an example to others. A righteous life that feeds on God’s Word will be able to exercise mature judgment between what is good and evil. Ask yourself if you are growing in that way. If you are not, you cannot learn the deeper things of even the priesthood of Melchizedek in chapter 7.
Spiritual maturity is within your reach if you simply take God’s Word seriously. Be ready to hear God’s Word with pen and pad or any other device you use to take notes. You may not grasp everything when you first hear it, but when you go throughout the week you can think about it. Do you ever sit there listening and suddenly realize what it means and for you personally? That is how you ought to come to hear God’s Word. Also by giving ourselves to Christian instruction and discipline Bible study until we have a mature grasp on the truth so we can explain it to others and help them grow and live. In other words, we become disciples. Whatever God pours into you, you pour into someone else. Sometimes people can become formal teachers this way, by being pastors, elders, professors, etc. Or you can be a teacher of the Word informally. People like this can apply God’s Word to the decisions of life. That is what the author is saying to his listeners.
Are you growing? Remember the levels of growth, there is the spiritual baby, then the spiritual young man who grows in the knowledge of the Word of God to fight against Satan. The highest live is spiritual fathers, who have learned to live by faith. They know the Word of God so well that the are able to stand strong and live by faith and nothing really moves them. Whatever comes down the pipe, they have a steady pace and they can keep going. These are the kind of people that you can look up to, that you want to be like, that you want to exemplify. Hopefully you aspire to be that kind of person so that when people look at you, they want to be like and grow like you.
So the bottom line is this, it is the responsibility and obligation of every genuine believer to use the tools that God has given us to reach the faith of maturity. Wherever you are now, do not stop. Do not remove yourself or step back. Continue to press on forward. I always recommend to get yourself a daily reading Bible and continue every year to read through the Scriptures. Once you start doing that, you will see a flow of things. As you learn through the Word of God being preached, you begin to put things together and you get the flow of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation. And that is an exciting thing! When you listen to a conversation about the Word of God and you actually know what you are talking about and where it is in Scripture. You cannot explain everything about it, but you have a good grasp.
So let us pray that we grow spiritually to be soldiers, to be spiritual Fathers, so that we can walk and live by faith. Do not remain a spiritual infant because it could mean that you were never in the faith to begin with, you do not have God’s Spirit or His purpose to grow.
Let us pray. Lord, thank You again for the Word of God. It is exciting to know it, Lord. It is exciting to be challenged by it and I thank You so much, Lord, that this section of Scriptures is in there because we need it so much today. I thank You that we are in the same position that this author and these readers were. So I pray that we would take his admonition that we would never be satisfied with where we are and that we would hate the thought of being stuck in infancy or as a babe in Christ. Cause us to press on, to put off patterns of thinking and behavior that are not pleasing to You and to engaging in our mind in the meditation of God’s Word. So Lord, we would become believers that hold fast to the truth. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.