Solid Food For The Mature
Key Verse 5:14
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Look at verse 11. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.” First of all, let me say that the ESV says “dull of hearing” of the words “slow to learn” while the New NIV says: “Because you no longer try to understand.” I still have a lot of things to tell you about this subject, the author says to those he is writing to. What subject though is he referring to? Of course, the subject of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus, especially in the order of Melchizedek. So the apostle has been talking about the high priesthood of the Lord Jesus, almost in detail, and we’ve been following his Scripture. But now he tells the Hebrew Christians he’s writing to them but that he’s still got a whole lot more to tell them on the subject. But then he tells them that it’s not going to be easy for him to do so. Why? He says because you no longer try to understand. Another version puts it like this: because you are dull of hearing. Whether one is dull of hearing or he no longer tries to understand is the same thing. Let’s see why he came down on them so hard like that.
Generally speaking the gospel is simple to understand. Even a child can understand the facts of the gospel— that the good God in heaven created man in his own image to be good— and showed him how to be good. But man didn’t listen to God and wasn’t able to live up to God’s expectation. He needed a Savior to save him from his sins. And God loved man so much that he sent his Son Jesus to save him. Jesus was punished on the cross for our sins and was raised to life to open the door for us to go back to heaven. Those who believe this gospel, repent of their sins and put their trust in the Lord Jesus are saved. That’s the gospel in its simplest form that even children can and do understand it. But that’s not all there is to the gospel. There are also the “Deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10). The teaching about the Lord’s priesthood in the order of Melchizedek is one of them. Such teachings are not simple nor were they intended to be simple. They were not intended for perusing our casual reading or hearing. In other words they were not intended for the casual Christian with dull ears, nor for those who are slow to learn or who no longer try to understand. As the author says later, they are meant for the mature.
It’s not right to move on without mentioning the significance of what the author is saying to us. Dull ears that are slow to learn or ears that no longer try to understand are really the scourge of the modern church. It’s an affliction that paralyses most Christians and keeps them in an infant state unable to mature— Christians who no longer try to understand— Christians who do not understand the Deep things of God— nor try any longer to understand the Deep things of God. Christians who are satisfied to be secured with salvation, but who have absolutely no deeper understanding of salvation by which the Savior in all his glory accomplished, not only during his days on earth, but from before the foundation of the earth, and after his ascension to his throne in heaven. They think it unnecessary to know these deep things of God as long as they have the assurance of heaven. But because they no longer try to understand, they are like infants that constantly need their diapers changed— a heavy burden to bear by their constant care.
Jesus frequently gave parables that ended with words like, “whoever has ears, let them hear” (Rev 2:7). He also talked about the heart being like a field where seeds of the word of God that one hears can fall on. It all depends on how you listen to the word of God; With what attitude you attend to the word of God; How much more you want to study the word of God. Jesus told us very clearly and seriously: “Consider carefully what you hear,” … “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you— and even more.” (Mark 4:24). And to those who do measure the word of God with respect and honor, who give it the time and heart it deserves, Jesus promises that the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven will be given, and in abundance (Matthew 13:11,12). There’s nothing more satisfying and joyous than when the heart captures some Biblical truth! Listen to what 1 Cor. 2:9 says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” This, we can experience even now if and when we don’t stop trying to understand, and continue hearing, asking, studying, meditating, and listening to the word of God. Thank God we have a ministry built on Bible study, whose forte is Bbible study, whose passion is Bible study, whose gift is Bible study. If you’re not studying the Bible and teaching the Bible, you’re no longer trying to understand.
Read verse 12. “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. You need milk, not solid food!” Let me explain to you what the author was talking about in regards to his readers, those Hebrew Christians themselves first, before we can see how it applies to us. In other words let’s see what he meant in relation to them first. He’s accusing them of degenerating: “You should be teaching others these things by now. But look at you! You seem to want someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word again.” By “elementary truths” he doesn’t mean the basic facts of their faith in Christ Jesus. They had faith in him. What he’s talking about are the Old Testament teachings which they should have already known and which he likely describes later in 6:1-2. What he’s accusing them of is degenerating in that they seem to be stuck in the Old Testament faith when they should have matured into New Testament faith. The milk for infants he talks about referring to the elementary teachings, describes the Old obsolete covenant and those who continue in its practice, like these people seem to have been doing. [It’s mind boggling that someone who actually continue in an old and useless covenant when the teaching and truth of a perfect and glorious new covenant and Christ had emerged]. I know this might be a bit confusing, but that’s exactly what happens when we don’t care to listen to the Deep things of God, and we try to get by just with basic elementary teachings of the Bible. We stop understanding. Then we stop trying to understand. Then we get confused.
But let me explain to you what I meant when I said that the author was accusing them of degenerating in that they were stuck in Old Testament faith when they should have matured into New Testament faith. These people had faith in Christ. But their faith was in the Christ of the Old Testament, where the Scriptures prophesied Christ and his coming on many occasions, and portrayed him in many ways. We need not go into this in detail. But we know for example that in many ways Christ was symbolized and his coming was prophesied in the Old Testament. But all these ways were only symbols and shadows of the real thing— that is, of Christ himself. Old Testament saints who longed for the Christ and for his coming had the same exact faith in him as you and I do. They were saved by the same faith, and their hope rested on the same Kingdom. But when the Christ finally came a new Day dawned. It was the time of a New Covenant. The Old was done away with. The shadow was turned to Reality. The God-Man mediator was now the victor over sin and death. The High Priest of a new humanity, the Christ was finally on his throne in the Heavens. That was all New Testament faith, of which they were babes, just infants to this glory. They couldn’t see Christ who had ascended to his throne. But they could still see the Jewish Temple with all its glory. So their hearts went to the temple which they could see where they longed to worship and sacrifice— although their faith was in Christ. They remained in their Old Testament faith. For that he rebuked them.
“You ought to be teachers, but you need someone to teach you the elementary teachings about God’s word! When you should be eating solid food, you are still sucking milk.” He tells them that they ought to be teachers. This is not a new teaching, it’s an old one. In fact every believer is called to be a teacher. (Col 3:16; 1 Pet 3:15; Deut 6:7; 2 Tim 3:15; John 21:15) If these Hebrew Christians were really living in obedience to the gospel, they would have been passing the gospel message on to others. They would have been teaching the word of God to others. And in teaching others they would have learned many things. The most important thing one learns in teaching others is humility, and in humility comes maturity. And in maturity comes a deeper sense of learning. And in all learning and teaching only one thing rises above all else: How close to Christ did you get; How much of him did you come to know and gain. Indeed every believer should teach the word of God because it’s a calling and a command, but also because it’s a glorious process of learning.
Every time I study the word of God I realize my utter ignorance, how utterly unqualified I am to understand, let alone to study or teach the Bible. Sometimes I break out in cold sweat when I am called on to teach the word of God. I tremble and get nervous as the time of my appointment get nearer. So I’ve learned to be humble and reverent before the word of God, and the word of God speaks for itself. In as much as I teach others, I’ve learned that I need to learn and be taught by others as well. But I’ve known those who have become Pharisees upon teaching others. The more they teach, the prouder they get, as if teaching is a matter of knowledge and of self glory. When a person becomes a Pharisee he or she can no longer be taught, because they think they are full. But without humility and reverence, and repentance before the word of God, they are no more than overgrown infants, ugly babies on milk. They can’t mature because they have cut themselves off from solid food. But as for you, you ought to be teachers, he says. You ought to be humble teachers, teaching the word of God, because in teaching, there is learning and maturity. The apostle clearly relates teaching to solid food.
Clearly they should be on solid food by now, but they were crying out for their milk. The apostle gives them a stern warning in verse 13. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” He warns them that as long as they insist on living only on milk and remaining infants in the faith, they will not develop in their understanding and wisdom in regards to the word of God. Generally, the teaching about righteousness is the entire word of God. But specifically, the author is talking about the message about the righteousness of Christ that we have by faith (Romans 3:21) — the gospel of our salvation— the gospel of God’s grace which we have received through Christ our Savior. The teaching of righteousness is beautiful beyond measure because it explains how a sinner like me, worthless and unworthy and destined for destruction, was found, carried, tended to and healed, adopted, given a new identity and new life, and set free, and transported from a world of sin to the kingdom of light, and is being made in the likeness of his Savior. That’s how beautiful and deep and effectual the teaching about righteousness is. It teaches me how I was delivered, and the power the Lord exerts right now in my life. And it is crucial for every Christian to be acquainted with this, to be nurtured by it, and to mature in it, and that for many reasons. First, without being thoroughly acquainted with the teaching of righteousness, no one can hope to mature and conquer the sinful nature and grow in the image of the Lord. Second, Without being thoroughly acquainted with the teaching of righteousness, we cannot distinguish good from evil (as we will see later in verse 14). Finally every Christian should be thoroughly acquainted with the teaching of righteousness, and more, so that we might be ready to pass it on to others, or explain it to those who are suffering from unrighteousness. As I said before, it is our God given duty to be teachers.
Look at verse 13 again. These Christians didn’t seem to be growing in the faith and the teaching of righteousness as they should. They were overgrown infants who demanded simpler teachings, and more relevant sermons. When they heard a sermon they couldn’t understand, their minds went blank, and their eyes became glazed, and they daydreamed. When a Biblical teaching demanded some effort and concentration on their part, they became easily irritated and quickly bored. They had basic faith in Christ, but since they had not matured inwardly in the word of God, the church was more like a nursery than a training ground for God’s World Mission Center. It is tragic that today we face the same issues the Hebrews author faced in writing these infants in the faith. So many people in the churches who have been in Christ for so many years, who should be the model of Christ and the hope for the church, are only infants since they are not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. They are easily angered; quick to judge; full of condemnation for those who hurt them; they have no patience with one another; love is rare even among those who are family members; there is indifference and callousness of heart among the young; caring comes only if there is benefit to gain. We hear arguing and complaining and accusing and whining like children in the playground. Yes there is faith in Christ, but there seems to be no inner maturity that raises a church to the level of a model for Christ, and a beacon for those in the world to come and learn about the life of righteousness and freedom that are in Christ. A church that is acquainted with the teaching of righteousness heads towards maturity. There are problems of course, but they are dealt with through the fruits of the teaching about righteousness. They are dealt with in the maturity that is in Christ Jesus, in love and faith, in hope and forgiveness, in patience and long suffering. Next time we decide to throw a tantrum, let’s think twice about this passage first.
Read verse 14. “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The apostle really loved them. Even though he was a little harsh in his speech with them, warning them about remaining infants and sucking milk, his desire for them was that they mature into strong and healthy servants of God who would become the teachers of their own generation. So he urged them to go on to solid food. He also urged to something else. He urged them that taking solid food was a matter of constant use. It was a matter of self training. He said, “Who by constant use have trained themselves.” Now these words are very important to us who are serious about honoring and serving God in our lives. If a Christian man or woman wants to stand out in the Lord, they must by constant use of the word of God, or by constantly taking in solid food, or by constantly being acquainted with teachings about righteousness— all the same— train themselves. It will take self discipline and self training to do so. Some misunderstand that they will simply mature with the passing of time. Others brag about how long they have been Christian as if that’s an indicator of how mature they are. But that’s not true at all. A high school principle promoted a man with just ten years’ experience to an important position. Then another person with twenty years on the job complained. So the principle said: “You have one year of experience repeated twenty times. He has ten years of experience.” Spiritual growth is really not a matter of time. It’s your attitude. It’s how much you train yourself in the word of God. As I said earlier, without being thoroughly acquainted with the teaching of righteousness, and especially as he says here it comes by constant use, and self training, you cannot hope to distinguish good from evil. But you will have to train yourself to take the study of God’s word seriously and then the practice of God’s word seriously as well.
“Distinguishing good from evil” What the author is talking about here is the distinguishing what is truth and what is error. There were many errors that Hebrew Christians were ready to accept since they were not properly equipped with the teaching of righteousness. So it had been easy to lure them into Scripture traps that the enemies of the gospels had set for them. And that is not too hard to understand. Even Satan used Scripture in his attempt to tempt Jesus to give up the cross of his mission. Likewise, the Hebrew Christians were in a perilous place being tempted to give up their faith and to return to the old ways of doing things. Those who tempted them were showing them how good it was for them to do so, and how evil it was that they were still following the Crucified Lord. But the truth as we know was opposite. Usually what is good for us is what ends up edifying us, and helping us grow closer to our Lord Jesus, even if it causes us pain and suffering. And what is evil is what causes us to sin against the Lord and makes us break fellowship with him and with our brothers and sisters. What is evil is usually clear to those who are familiar with the teachings of the Bible and cannot be tempted to by nice sounding words that appeal to the sinful nature. And what is good is also usually clear as well because they are always looking to that which glorifies and honors the Lord. Even if it looks good and harmless and it harms no one, if it does not glorify the Lord, God’s mature children will usually stay away from it— whatever it may be! But how can we know what is good and what is evil? Most do not. So many jump into decisions willy nilly because they believe that it is what God wants them to do. Most plan out their lives and do things from day to day based on how they feel and how they think, believing that it is good just because to their own eyes it is good. But we must be careful. (Isaiah 5:20) We must train ourselves through the word of righteousness, by constant use until we are mature, and until we can distinguish what is good and what is evil. We must believe this because it is the promise of God. (2 Tim 3:16-17)