Our text for this morning is Hebrews 5:11-6:3. This text of scripture has been on my mind lately, so it has been the subject of a lot of my study. The text deals with a problem that many, if not all, Christians will deal with at some point in our lives—spiritual laziness. So let us dig in this morning to see how the Hebrew writer concluded that his audience had become spiritually lazy, what solutions he offers for them and us, and what it looks like to have lives of spiritual activity.
The Problem Identified:
The Hebrew writer has spent his letter up until this point expounding on the superiority of Christ. Along the way, he has given repeated warnings to greater faithfulness. These admonitions are normally after a point is made about the excellencies of Christ.
- “For this reason, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so we do not drift away from it” Hebrews 2:1.
- “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” Hebrews 3:1.
- “…DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS…” Hebrews 3:8.
- “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” Hebrews 3:12.
- “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it” Hebrews 4:1
- “Therefore, since we have a great High priest… let us hold fast our confession” Hebrews 4:14.
You can feel in the flow of the text that the writer is working towards a climax. But then he abruptly makes a ninety-degree turn to deal with his audience’s real issue.
Hebrews 5:11, “Concerning him (whom or which) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” The him or which here refers to Melchizedek, Christ, and the likeness of their respective priesthoods. The writer would like to deal with this in more depth, but his audience cannot handle it. Not because the subject is too academic or above them but because of their fundamental heart problem.
“Dull of hearing” – is translated in the NET as “become sluggish.” And in the NIV ’11 as “you no longer try to understand.” These Christians had once been attentive to hearing but had fallen into a hazy and dull condition (DeLong 2014).
Why The Problem Is Accurate:
Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you out 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.”
And here is how the writer knows they have become spiritually stagnated. They were ineffective. They had stunted their growth and were, spiritually, incapable of feeding themselves. Brent Kercheville made a great observation and application from this text. He said:
“I think we need to pause here for a moment. The goal of every Christian is to be a teacher. This does not mean that everyone must teach a Bible class at the building. But it does mean that each of us should be able to explain the basic principles of the oracles of God to people. We may not have a handle on the more difficult concepts and teachings in the scriptures, but every person ought to be able to teach the basic principles. If not, the writer says we have been spiritually lazy toward God’s word” (Kercheville 2009).
These Christians had been in the faith long enough to where the Hebrew writer had the reasonable expectation that these Christians should have been at a certain growth level, but they were not. Paul dealt with a similar situation with the Corinthians, where he said, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able” (1 Corinthians 3:2).
The Solution: Milk
The solution to their spiritual immaturity, to their sluggish laziness, is for them to go back to milk. The writer says in Hebrews 5:12b-14, “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. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
I have often heard “milk and meat” thrown around when talking about teaching Bible. And here is the funny thing, milk is almost always said in a disparaging tone. Also, these two terms are never defined.
- “Milk” – Is the clear doctrinal teaching of the Bible. The Hebrew writer even gives us a framework to help us understand what he means by milk in Hebrews 6:1-2.
- “Solid food” – Is that which requires discernment. The Hebrew writer says in v.14 that solid food is for the mature who “because of practice have their sense trained to discern good and evil.”
Feeding on milk needs to produce discernment (def. the ability to distinguish. To tell the difference) in me.
However, I cannot sustain myself forever on milk. I need to press on to maturity. I never outgrow the need for milk, and Peter would tell us that (1 Peter 2:1-3), but we need to grow to where twe can handle both meat and milk.
The Example of Maturity:
The Hebrew writer doesn’t leave his readers only with admonishment. In Hebrews 6:9, he encourages them by saying, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking this way.” He says, in effect, don’t let my tone or content discourage you because we know that you will rise to the occasion. You will take what I have to say to heart and apply it.
In vv.11-12, the writer gives his audience a picture of maturity for which they should strive. Reading from Hebrews 6:11-12, “And we desire that each of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The word dull in Hebrews 5:11 is translated sluggish in Hebrews 6:12. It is the only two times the word in the Greek appears in the New Testament and tells us that v.12 is the opposite picture of what we say in vv.11-12. So, if I do not want to be dull of hearing, I need to show diligence in my service. I need to realize (fully understand) my assurance and hope in God. This will, or should, result in me pressing on to maturity.
- We have realized that over the last year and a half, I have slipped into spiritual laziness. I need to repent of that and seek out the pure milk of God’s word once again.
- One application that the Hebrew writer made is found in Hebrews 10:23-25 that I need to hold fast to Christ, and two of the ways I do that is by giving thought to encouraging my brethren and not forsaking the fellowship of the saints.
- Take advantage of the opportunities for growth that are all around you. We as Christians have a divine mission to grow up to the level of maturity that belongs to Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). That takes a lot of work to do that. That is why we assemble besides for worship so that we can become who God wants us to be.