The Book of Hebrews #18 chapter 5:10-14
The Book of Hebrews
The Tragedy of Rejecting Revelation #1
Hebrews 5:10-14
         
I think I mentioned to you last week or the week before that the focus or theme beginning at 4:14 and continuing through chapter 10 is the superiority of Christ as the Great High Priest.  It is the central theme of the book, and the reason for that is because of the emphasis on the priesthood in Judaism.  And as the author writes to these Jews, he really bears down on this point.
 
Now tonight we are going to look at a portion of that larger section at
 
5:10-14
 
Now remember the larger theme of the book of Hebrews is Jesus as High Priest and it’s written as encouragement to those who’ve been saved that they’ve made the right decision.
 
But inserted into that discussion are five warnings that are directed at non-Christians to warn them about the danger of missing or rejecting Christ.   
 
They are not warnings to the saved about losing their salvation so much as they are warnings to the lost about never getting saved.  And his message is the same to both groups and that is Jesus is all you need.  There is no need to stay with the Old Covenant or return to the Old Covenant because Jesus fulfills it and is everything you need.
 
Now, this third warning follows the same pattern of the first two.  He is speaking to the same group of individuals.  But this time he is saying, "You need to grow up. Stop fooling around with the ABCs of the old covenant and graduate up to the Christ of the New Covenant.  If you don’t you’re going to miss salvation and wind up being lost forever.
 
In fact, by the time we get to verse 4 of chapter 6, he is saying, “You’re in danger of falling away after you've once been enlightened; and, if you do that, you can be lost eternally. Don't do that. You need to come all the way up to salvation."
 
Now I realize what I will teach you tonight is a different approach than most people take with these verses.  But I will tell you I’ve been studying these verses for 30 years and I’ve never been satisfied with the idea that they are addressed to Christians, especially when we get on over into the following chapters and verses. So let me share with you where I am right now (I reserve the right to change my mind).
 
I will admit that at first reading these verses appear to be addressed to Christians and he's saying to Christians, "You shouldn't be immature Christians. You should be grownup Christians." And that's a good principle. In fact, that's a great principle; a Biblical principle and I wish more people would take it seriously.
 
But I’m not convinced that's what’s being taught in this passage.  I think here he's talking to Jews who are intellectually convinced about Jesus, but still hanging onto Judaism.
And he is saying to them, "It’s past-time for you to grow up and leave behind Judaism and fully embrace Christianity.”  Therefore the issue is not whether one’s a baby Christian or a mature Christian.  The issue is a salvation issue.
 
Many of these readers were very close to salvation and may have even professed to believe, but they're still hanging onto Judaism. They wouldn't let go and because of that they weren't saved, and they're in great danger (6:4) of falling back and missing salvation completely.
 
Now I realize that is a little foreign to most interpretation, but I believe it is consistent with the New Testament and certainly consistent with the context of the book of Hebrews.  So for the next two or three weeks, I'll try to defend that position.
 
Here’s what I see the writer presenting in these verses.  The old covenant, Judaism, was the alphabet. We could call it baby talk.  It is very elemental; the letters and sounds of a child's vocabulary.  In fact, when you teach a child to read, you don't begin with an encyclopedia.  You show him pictures and make sight identifications.  A picture of a ball is followed by the word and the sounds.
 
Then later on you give him more information.  That is exactly what the Old Testament is. God spoke to them in pictures. "Here's a feast, and here's a sacrifice, and here's a certain kind of clothes, and here's a ceremonial washing, and here's a this, and here's a that," and it's all pictures of that full revelation that will eventually come. So the Old Testament is baby conversation. God's speaking in simple terms, in pictures, if you will.
Then when we get to the New Testament we get the full impact in grown-up language.  That’s what the Holy Spirit is saying in 5:11 through 6:3.  "Grow up from the ABCs of Judaism and come all the way to maturity. Leave Judaism and come to Christ.”
 
Then in 6:4-8, he says, "If you don't, you're in serious danger of coming all the way up, hearing all of the truth, then falling away, and being lost forever." If a man hears all the truth of Jesus Christ, considers it carefully, and walks away, he's hopeless. What else can God do once he's known the truth?
 
Then, in verse 9, he turns his attention to Christians and confronts them with the need to grow spiritually and to make sure they, too, don't fall back into old patterns.
 
So let’s look, first of all at the message to the lost.
 
First he talks about
 
1. The Problem
 
He will eventually give them the solution and the warning and the illustration. But he starts with problem, and that’s all we’ll get to tonight. Now, just to keep it in our mind, the writer is just beginning to deal with the heart of the epistle which is the priesthood of Christ.
 
Central to the whole of Judaism is the work of the priest.  They had to have a high priest in their contact with God and that's exactly what the writer says in Hebrews 4:14, "We have a great High Priest. Ours is Christ. He's greater than any other high priest."
Having said that, he then begins this lengthy discussion about the priesthood of Christ. He’s already talked about Jesus and Aaron and Melchizedek. And he wants to continue that thought line.
 
But notice verse 11 of chapter 5.
 
He says, I've got a lot to tell you about Melchizedek and how Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek, but you're dull of hearing.  He can't tell them what he wants to tell them because they're dull of hearing. He feels it very important to convince the Jews that Jesus is a priest greater than Aaron, after the order of Melchizedek. The whole comparison to Melchizedek and the priesthood of Christ is rich and meaningful, but it can't be understood by his hearers because they're dull of hearing.
 
And it's going to be especially hard, if they’re not saved.  They might see it historically, but they couldn’t grasp it spiritually.  So he's saying, "I can't get this stuff across to you at this point, because you're dull of hearing.
 
Now, I want you to see what the word dull of hearing refers to.  It comes from two Greek words. One is no, and the other is to push. It means “no push”. Being slow or sluggish is the indication. And the application in this verse is to comprehending truth.
 
He says, "You people have a problem. You are sluggish and that makes it very difficult to teach you.”   You and I have seen that.
 
 
Somebody hears the Gospel, and it stirs them, and it's fresh, and it's exciting, but they don't commit themselves to Christ and the longer they hear it, the more sluggish they get.  And eventually, they can sit there and it’s like water off a duck's back because they've neglected it so long. And that’s why he’s warning them so they don’t get to that place.
 
verse 12
 
Now notice the little phrase, “by this time”.  Because of the length of time in which they were under instruction by teachers teaching New Testament truth, they knew enough that they should be teaching it, but they hadn't even accepted it yet.
 
There is some commentary on that just a few verses later in chapter 6 verses 7 and 8.
 
It's the same earth that gets the same rain; but some of it brings forth herbs and other parts brings forth thorns and briars and he's saying, "You're like earth that has soaked it up and soaked it up, and you should be producing herbs but instead you’re producing weeds.
 
They had enough information and experience to be teaching it, but they hadn’t even committed themselves to. I’ve had that experience with people who’ve been in church for a long time but have never been saved.  They know all the answers; the plan of salvation; the theology of hell; the incarnation and resurrection and all of that.  But it’s just head knowledge.
 
In fact, look at verses 4-5 and 7-8 of chapter 6
 
Look at the word pictures in these verses. They tasted the good Word of God. They received a part of it. They absorbed some of it. But the results weren't right. So, as a result of that, what had begun so well was going to end in tragedy because they were becoming sluggish, stupid, dull of hearing; and they needed to be taught all over again.
 
People can get there.  They can hear it so much they get numb to it.  And that's exactly what's happened here. They couldn’t be taught the deeper illustration of Christ from the life of Melchizedek or be moved from Judaism to Christianity because they were too spiritually stupid. They had rejected it so long they became thick-headed.
 
And notice he says, “You need to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God.” (verse 12).
That's what they needed to learn again. What are the first principles of the oracles of God? Well, let's take it apart and see.
 
Principles are the simple elements. And grammatically speaking it refers to the ABCs. In physics, it's used to speak of the four basic elements of earth. In geometry, it's used to speak of the basics of form like the point and the straight line. In philosophy, it's used to speak of the elementary principles for beginning students. It always refers to very basic principles.
 
Now notice the word first, the first principles. In the Greek usage, it refers to the first in a series or the very beginning of something. So when we put all that together, what he is saying is "You need to be taught the very beginning elements or the beginning point of the oracles of God."
Now we need to know what the oracles of God are.  Some say, "That's the Gospel." I say, "No, it's not.”  That answer comes from a 21st Century Christian perspective and that’s not who the author is addressing.
 
He is speaking to Jews who will hear that phrase in a 1st century Jewish frame of reference, and I would suggest they would respond by reading you Romans 3:1-2. "What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? What good is it to be a Jew?" Listen. "Much every way; chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God."
And there we have a direct reference from Paul to the oracles of God being the Old Testament law.
 
And just for a New Testament reference, jot down
Acts 7:38 where we find reference to Moses receiving “the living oracles of God”. I guarantee you these Jews knew what the oracles of God were, and they were the Old Testament laws not the New Testament plan of salvation.
 
So when the writer is saying, "You need to be taught the very beginning elements of the oracles of God," he is saying, "You don't even understand the meaning of your own law." That's what he's saying. "You need somebody to go back and show you the pictures again." Get the point? "I can't give you the book to read because you don’t understand the alphabet.”
 
The elementary doctrines are the types and pictures of the Old Testament. Ordinances, ceremonies, feasts, sacrifices, holy days, washings, the whole thing, all of which foreshadowed Christ.
And they couldn't understand the Word unless they understood the pictures. So he says, “You need someone to start over with you to learn your ABCs.”
 
Then he describes their condition at the end of verse 12.  It is characteristic of a little baby that he can only handle milk.  There is no way he can feed them Melchizedek when they’re on milk.
 
Now notice verse 13, and we'll get this a little more defined.  The characteristic of a baby he zeroes in on is lack of experience.  Babies have no experience.  In their case, their only experience was with the ABCs and they missed the meaning of those.  They had no experience with the “word of righteous”.  You’ve played with the letters but you haven’t formed the word or sentence of righteousness.
 
He uses the milk diet here to refer to those who are without experience in the matter of righteousness. Now that can't be a Christian because a Christian can’t be without experience in the matter of righteousness. If you're a Christian, you have absolute righteousness before God because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You cannot be a Christian and be without experience in the matter of righteousness.
 
And by the way, before we leave this verse let me just point out that the term babe doesn't have to refer to a Christian. It can refer to anybody who's immature. It’s used here as a sign of immaturity in spiritual knowledge.  Now, to the Jew, a babe was anybody who was uninstructed. It had nothing to do with salvation, and it does not imply salvation. And I realize we all use that terminology.  We all reference a new Christian as a babe in Christ.
That's interesting, because that's one way that it's never used in Scripture.  It certainly can refer to a new Christian. And it’s a wonderful illustration. A new Christian is like a baby in a lot of different ways.
But the Bible doesn't choose to use that term to describe new Christians. Now that raises the question, “What about 1 Corinthians 3:1?
 
Let’s look at that. It certainly appears that new Christians are called babes.  But the truth is, he wasn’t talking to new Christians.  The reason he talked to them as babes is because they were not spiritually minded; they were carnal. They were fighting like children.
 
And they had ample time to become mature. They had been Christians six years. So his metaphor is not referring to new Christians. In fact, if you like at the whole sentence he doesn’t end the sentence at the word babes.  He adds, “in Christ”.
 
That's to make sure you understand that here the babes are Christians; because, elsewhere, they may not be. And in this case, Paul says, “You're on milk and you need to get off.”
 
In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter says, “Mature believers need to get on the milk.” Is that a contradiction? No, it's just two different uses of a metaphor.  Paul simply uses the metaphor of a baby and milk in one way. Peter uses it in another way. Peter is saying, "You know how a baby goes after milk and nothing but milk? That's the way a Christian ought to go after the Word.
 
Paul's uses the analogy of a baby to say, "You need to grow up to full faith in Jesus Christ."
So I believe that this text refers to the unsaved, but unenlightened Hebrews who were intellectually convinced, but had not yet received Jesus Christ; and he warns them, verse 6, or chapter 6 verses4-6, "You better go on or you may fall away and be lost eternally."
 
What they needed was maturity in righteousness and there’s only one way that happens and it is instantaneous maturity that comes through salvation
and that's exactly what he's asking 'em to do.  Get mature by getting saved.
 
Now notice verse 14
 
Grownup people like meat, solid food. They know what's good. They know what's bad. They can be discerning. Babies can't discern. Put a baby on the floor and they’ll eat whatever they find without the faintest idea of what the effect is going to be. Doesn't know what's good and what's bad.
 
The contrast here is simple. One who is a baby has no discernment because they have not experienced righteousness.
 
The standard of righteousness is Jesus Christ and the one who's full-grown, who is eating solid food and knows what righteousness is, can discern what is good and what is bad.
 
Let’s pray

 

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