Hebrews 5:11-6:3 can be a convicting passage. In it, the author challenges us to go beyond the elementary teachings of our faith. To begin to eat solid food rather than being satisfied with milk. Unfortunately many today are like the original audience for this letter. While we should be qualified to pass on the truths we have learned, we are content with just learning the basic truths over and over again.
Not Even Trying to Understand
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.Hebrews 5:11 NIV
The author of Hebrews has just recently turned his attention to the priesthood of Jesus. And will soon turn to the sacrifice he offered on our behalf. But here he adds a bit of chastisement to his listeners. It seems clear that the author has good knowledge of his audience. Otherwise, this passage really does not make sense. It would seem he has been over this with them before and knows their reaction.
The author expresses his frustration with his audience. He has a lot that he wants to teach them. But he is finding it to be very challenging. Not because what he wants to tell them is overly complicated. But because they are not really interested in understanding what he has to teach them.
I can understand his frustration here. There have been many times when I have taught something that I thought was exciting and important. Yet those I were trying to teach were looking at me with a vacant gaze. It could well be that I was at least partially at fault. But I am convinced that many believers really are not interested in putting forth the effort to go beyond the elementary truths of our faith. It seems to have little value to them.
A Failure to Learn
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.Hebrews 5:12a NIV
We cannot reasonably expect a new believer to be able to teach from God’s word. They are still learning the basic truths of the faith themselves. There is no real timeline for how long it should take before a new believer has a good grasp on Christian theology 101. It is dependent on the person, their access to good teaching, and the encouragement they receive. But it really should not take a long time.
The author believes that many within his audience should now be qualified as teachers, able to pass on to others, not just the basics, but also some deeper truths. But they could not. They were like believers today who sit in a Sunday school class for years, or even decades, learning the same basic truths over and over again. But when they walk out of the class, they are unable to express what they should have learned.
Still Need Milk
You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.Hebrews 5:12b-13 NIV
Newborn babies require milk. It is all they are capable of processing. But as they grow we expect them to eventually begin eating solid food and drinking less milk. We would think it strange indeed to see a youth or an adult who was still sucking on a bottle and eating little, if any, solid food. We would rightly assume that something was wrong.
Yet all too often we see nothing wrong with people who have been believers for many years, and who are an active part of a local church, but have only a rudimentary understanding of our faith. They are content to just suck on a bottle and never develop a taste for meat.
But what is this milk, these basic foundational truths of the faith? It would include believing in the existence and love of God. Knowing that we were sinful. That Christ died to forgive us our sins. That we must believe in him to be saved. And that, if we believe, at the end of this life we will experience eternity with Jesus. These are, without question, important. But there is so much more we should be learning.
Solid Food for the Mature
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.Hebrews 5:14 NIV
In contrast to milk is solid food. These are truths that build on the elementary teachings and take us deeper into an understanding of God, his purpose for us, and how we should live. But these truths do not come simply by study.
Solid food does not make us mature believers. Rather, solid food is for mature believers. Only mature believers are able to grasp these deeper truths. To the immature, they will be incomprehensible. But if solid food does not make us mature, then what does?
The author here tells us that maturity comes from living in faithful obedience to what we have learned. It is by putting what you know into practice that enables you to learn even more. The knowledge of good and evil does not come from eating from the tree (Gen. 3:1-5). But from constant practice. As we live out the truths of the word, we learn to distinguish good from evil, even over things that are not explicitly mentioned in the Scripture. And as we do that, we grow in maturity.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV
So after the author’s comments about the reluctance of his audience to be growing in their faith and knowledge, he commits to going on beyond the elementary truths. He lists a number of basic beliefs that form a foundation. We would all probably agree that repentance, faith, resurrection, and judgment are foundational. But cleansing rites and laying on of hands are, I suspect, outside the experience of most of us. But they were clearly important to the believers this was written to.
It could be that his move beyond the elementary teachings begins with what follows. But I suspect that it actually involves what he has already taught as well. He has been giving us meat. And he will continue to do so. This passage here is only an interlude. To pay attention because what he has to say is for the mature. For those who are willing to invest the time and effort in growing deeper in their faith.
The four gospels paint a picture of Jesus and his earthly ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection. But the author of Hebrews is taking us well beyond that. He does not contradict anything in the gospels. But he takes us much deeper into who Jesus was and what he did.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)