When It’s Time to Grow Up (A Study in Hebrews)

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We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 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! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Key Observation: We should not stand still in our faith after we believe in Christ. We should be more spiritually mature and able to withstand more temptation and opposition the longer we have been with Christ.

Understanding the Word

At this point, Hebrews interrupts its train of thought again to warn the church of its need to continue in faith. We have seen two of these interruptions so far. The first was at the beginning of chapter 2, after showing that Jesus was greater than the angels. The second was in Hebrews 3, after showing that Jesus was greater than Moses. Here, the author is in the middle of argument that Jesus is a greater priest than any earthly priest. Hebrews 5:11–6:8 is the strongest of all the warnings in this sermon. It seems significant that it is the mention of Jesus as High Priest that sparks this warning. Given the chapters that follow, it is very likely that one of the biggest reasons for the church’s doubt had to do with atonement. They just were not sure that Jesus had taken care of all their sins.

As we look back, it seems obvious that Jesus has taken care of our need for animal sacrifice. The Jewish temple has been gone for almost two thousand years. There has been no animal sacrifice among Jews for as many years. I have never seen an animal sacrifice and would have to travel to some obscure location in the world to find one. It is easy for me to believe that we need no temple or sacrifice any more.

But this was not the case at the time of the New Testament. The language in these verses is strong, even though the author will soften his tone in a moment. He was making a point in a strong, culturally appropriate way. It was appropriate rhetorically in the first century to overstate your case and move the audience in the right direction.

There is a little bit of shame in these words. The author told the audience that they should know better by then. They have been Christians for a long time. What was wrong with them? They should have been teaching such things by then. They should have known that they never needed to worry about atonement. Jesus had taken care of it. They did not need the temple in Jerusalem or the synagogue in town. Jesus paid it all.

Apart from these specifics, we learn from these verses that a Christian should grow spiritually over the years. Some Christians may struggle with certain temptations when they are young in faith. Some Christians may be troubled by lesser challenges when they first come to faith. But if we have been Christ-followers for a while, we should not still be struggling with the same temptations of our Christian infancy.

As we grow, we should be able to handle more significant challenges. And as we face them, we should find it easier and easier to overcome them. A pattern of complete surrender should become part of who we are. If twenty years later we are still where we were at first, then something is significantly wrong! In particular, we should be able to tell the difference between good and evil. We should be able to tell the difference between what is of the Holy Spirit and what is of the devil. It is not always the case, unfortunately

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you grown since you first believed on Christ? Can you handle more opposition than at first? Is it easy to resist things that would have brought strong temptation before
  2. Can you see growth as a church over the years? Is there a core group of believers who have come for a long time and who collectively provide wisdom and strength for any challenge?
  3. Does the world outside your church see something different about your church that they don’t see in other places? Can they tell you are Christians by your love?

Did you find this entry helpful? It is part of Ken Schenck’s Bible study, The Letter to the Hebrews (OneBook Daily-Weekly). This eight week book study with accompanying video sessions is perfect for Sunday School or small groups. It is a perfect study for anyone seeking to: 1) Be encouraged to press on in the midst of a culture that’s unfriendly to the Christian life, 2) See more clearly Jesus’s sacrifice and what it meant for abolishing the Jewish system of the Old Testament. Quantity discounts are available for group studies. Get your copies from our store here.

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Ken Schenck (PhD) is dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University, as well as a professor of New Testament. An ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church, he is the author of more than thirty books, including Understanding the Book of Hebrews; Paul: Soldier of Peace; and Jesus: The Mission. He and his wife, Angela, have four children: Stefanie, Stacy, Thomas, and Sophia.

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