Don’t Remain Like Babies; Go Beyond the Basics
11There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognise the difference between right and wrong.
6 1So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. 4For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.Heb 5:11-6:6
What are the signs that we too, like the Israelites in the wilderness and the Jewish Christians in the first century, could be spiritually dull? The writer spells some of the signs out for us.
- Spiritually dull and find spiritual things difficult to understand.
- Don’t seem to listen.
- Have been a believer for a long time but never taught a younger believer what you know.
- You need someone else to go over and over the basic things about God’s Word.
- You still can’t handle solid food; deeper spiritual truth.
- Still a baby Christian lacking a sense of right and wrong in Bible terms.
- You still need to go over and over the basic Bible teachings about Christ:-
- Laying on of hands
- Resurrection from the dead
- Eternal Judgment
If you look back over the list that the author of Hebrews has given us, it soon becomes clear. The author is talking to believers who have been believers for a long time but have never developed spiritual maturity. He is not talking to or about new baby Christians, who are still feeding on milk and not solid food. His message is for those who ought to have gone on to maturity but have not. As I pointed out in the previous Gem, he places the responsibility on the hearers for their development as Christians. They have no one to blame but themselves. It was the hearers who find things difficult to understand. It was the hearers who don’t seem to really listen. The author can explain the deeper things to them. He tells them there is much more to say about this but he can’t explain it to them. Why?
- Because he doesn’t have the words to explain it?
- Because he doesn’t fully understand himself?
No! He tells them via the royal “we” that he has much more to say about this topic. So why was it “difficult to explain”? It was difficult to explain things that were for mature Christians to people who were still babies in their faith and would not understand the deeper things of God. How do you explain deep things to people who don’t fully understand the basic elemental things of Christian teaching? The passage which comes immediately to my mind is found in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.
After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?John 3:3-12
I think this conversation from Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus explains exactly what the author of Hebrews was talking about. How can you understand the deep things of God if you don’t understand the basics? The scary thing about this passage from John and what the author of Hebrews wrote is that in each of these cases the people spoken to were those who ought to have gone on to maturity.
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.Hebrews 5:12
Instead you are needing someone to teach you again and again the basic things. The [stoicheia] “basic things” are the fundamentals, the basic principles, the rudimentary concepts about Christ and His teachings, His rabbi’s yoke. The rudiments, the first principle, basic concepts of Christianity. In this word [stoicheia] are the letters of the alphabet. Just as the letters of the alphabet are the building blocks to reading, so too the basic principles of Jesus’ teachings are like the letters of the alphabet. How can you hope to have a discussion about deeper things when you are still struggling to understand your ABC’s? How am I able to teach you all I want to say, when you are needing someone to remind you of the basic things already said?
The author of the letter tells them, “You have been believers a long time and by now you ought to be the one teaching others.” But you fail to go beyond the elemental things of Christian teaching. You are still at the level of kindergarten and yet you want me to teach you deeper spiritual truth. How is that possible?
He made his point even clearer at the beginning of Robert Estienne’s chapter 6. But it is actually a continuation of what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews has been saying all along. Only he speaks in a hortatory kind of way. By that I mean, he is exhorting them to come on . . . let’s stop going over the basic teachings about Christ over and over and over and over. Let’s move on to higher, deeper things. Let’s leave behind things like:
- Laying on of hands
- Resurrection from the dead
- Eternal Judgment
“No, hang on a moment. Please, teach us more about these things you tell us we should leave behind. ‘Repentance’ has always bothered me. Please tell me more. ‘Faith’, I have never really understood the concept of “faith”. I just don’t get it. And how are we supposed to understand the saying “the just shall live by faith”? I mean what does that even mean? And please tell us more about the laying on of hands; I haven’t even heard that term before! You can’t mean we’re not going to talk about ‘the resurrection from the dead‘ anymore. I want to know more about that. Please, can we have another class on that; I have so many questions. No more on ‘eternal judgment”. You can’t be serious!”
I rest my case.
If you want something really deep just look at verse 13!
“What Ian? That verse I understand. I don’t need that explained.”
You see the NLT translation of verse 13 above:
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. [NLT]Heb 5:13
But what about that same verse in a literal version?
for everyone partaking of milk is without experience in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant. [LITV]Heb 5:13
Or let’s take it in an easy to read version which is accurate:
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. [ESV]Heb 5:13
Am I making my point? Is it becoming clearer to you now?
No matter how smart we are, our understanding will never catch up with our experience.Ian
Life Is Not About Understanding Your Practices But Practicing Your Understandings.Robb Thompson
Gathering information is KNOWLEDGE; Interpreting the meaning is UNDERSTANDING; (then) DOING what’s right is WISDOM.Rick Warren
Your level of Influence reflects your level of Understanding. You can never influence what you do not understand.Jose Carol
I believe your understanding of a thing is dependant upon the degree to which you are willing to ask the hard questions.Ian
Understanding can wait; obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions.Bob Gass
If we do what others aren’t willing to do in our quest to probe the depths of the Bible, we’ll have greater understanding than others have.Ian
The astute ones among you will realise I have given you seven quotes; I wonder why?