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Themes in Hebrews – Lesson 4, Part 2.

30/01/2012

The second part of last Saturday’s lecture on Hebrews…

2. Christians Must Progress in Knowledge. Hebrews 5:11-14

Now the author turns to a thorny issue among the believers. He wants to teach them more about the High Priesthood of Christ, and especially about the ‘order of Melchizedek’ – but there is a problem. This teaching content is going to be difficult, and these Christians have made very little progress in knowledge of the faith, they are spiritually deaf, dull of hearing; they don’t want to learn! There is a major problem in every church in every age. Christians who simply refuse to grow up spiritually. Just because someone has been a Christian for many years does not mean that they are spiritually mature – especially nowadays, when much preaching lacks any teaching content, and when some hymns and spiritual songs have become little more than expressions of subjective emotion, bereft of any real doctrinal content.

A lady who had been a teacher for 25 years applied for a promotion at her school. Someone who had a much shorter length of service was successful, and the older teacher complained. The principal of the school responded to her complaint by telling her that she hadn’t had 25 years of teaching experience as she claimed. What she’d had was one year of teaching experience, twenty five times over!

So it may be with many Christians, who simply haven’t made any progress whatsoever in understanding the Christian faith, and want to make no effort to do so. So it was with the Hebrew Christians.

* They suffered from DULLNESS OF HEARING. Heb. 5:11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
This prevented the writer from continuing his argument, for the material was hard to explain – not just because of the difficulty of the material, but because of the inability of the hearers. They had lost their appetite for Christian truth. They had become sluggish in their pursuit of doctrinal faithfulness. Perhaps developed a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to Bible Study, with no attempt at a regular methodical reading of the Word.

They may not always have been like this. When the Author speaks of their dullness, he speaks of how this happened in the past. γεγονατε ταις ακοαις They have BECOME dull of hearing.

I hesitate to make too much application in these lectures, but I think we need to examine ourselves at this point. Ask yourself some searching questions… Is the Bible dull, is the Bible Study meeting dull? Is anything that is spiritual in nature dull, like prayer, singing hymns? Don’t blame the prayers or the hymns, look inwardly, for perhaps we have become ‘dull of hearing.’

* They had no ability in teaching others. Heb. 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.
These Hebrew Christians were unable to explain the basics of their faith to others. In other words their ignorance had led to ineffectiveness. They had been Christians for some time, (by this time you ought to be teachers) – they’d had time to grow, and time to learn. They’d had time to bear fruit, and one way hat we bear fruit is by sharing and teaching the Christian faith, explaining the basic principles of the gospel. Man’s sinfulness, the mercy of God, the work of Christ on the Cross, the way of salvation, the simple message of the Gospel. Yet they were incapable of this basic activity. In fact…

* They still needed ‘spoon-fed’. Heb. 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. The author uses the analogy of childhood growth. You don’t feed a baby on steak, but on milk, – but you don’t expect that baby to remain on a diet of milk. Growth requires a gradual strengthening of the food content. Babies need to be weaned, to come off milk and on to solid foods. Similarly, Christians need to grow.

Be aware that the Author’s assertion that these Christians have not grown as they should have is not to despise those who have little or less biblical understanding because of intellectual inability or because they are new believers. The problem with the Hebrews is that while they are capable of growth, they have been too sluggish, too lazy to exercise themselves to learn. The church has a responsibility also to those who are still ‘on milk’ because of their spiritual childhood, or because of their inability to learn, and Isaiah 28:10 gives us hint of how that task is approached. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little,

I made this point in a service. One nice lady disagreed with me. ‘No’ she said afterwards, “We need to keep our faith simple, we don’t need all this doctrine and theology, all we need is a simple, child-like faith.” (True, in that all we need is a simple, child-like faith to be saved, but we need to make progress)

Now, actually, that’s a fairly common perception. Let’s keep it simple, so that everyone can understand. Don’t preach any doctrine. Tell lots of stories, show lots of pictures, use visual aids, but don’t make us have to think. But it’s that kind of thinking that’s keeping the church open to error, and this is the very point that the Author makes next…

* Lack of spiritual growth hinders SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT. Heb. 5:14 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.
Matthew Henry comments, There are spiritual senses as well as those that are natural. There is a spiritual eye, a spiritual appetite, a spiritual taste; the soul has its sensations as well as the body; these are much depraved and lost by sin, but they are recovered by grace. It is by use and exercise that these senses are improved, made more quick and strong to taste the sweetness of what is good and true, and the bitterness of what is false and evil. Not only reason and faith, but spiritual sense, will teach men to distinguish between what is pleasing and what is provoking to God, between what is helpful and what is hurtful to our own souls.

Spiritual growth will develop spiritual awareness. We learn to have a sense, an instinct, for for what is right and wrong, what is biblical and what is unbiblical, what is good and what is evil. We begin to apply spiritual principles to specific situations. Discernment grows as we grow in knowledge. Sadly, in the modern visible church discernment is sadly lacking, and it’s probably because of the paucity of teaching and the sluggardly attitude of the hearers.

Part three tomorrow!

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