Responding To Opportunities To Grow
A vital link in the argument stated in the book of Hebrews is: Jesus is our access to God. He is our great High Priest. But He is not part of the Levitical order of priests. He is our Priest, not as in Levi, but as in Melchizedek. The author needed to develop this point, but his readers were "dull of hearing." The passage is Heb. 5:11-14.
"...of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
"Dull Of Hearing"
The Hebrew writer needed to teach them about Jesus as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," but there was a problem: his readers were "dull of hearing." This word "dull" is the Greek word NOTHROS, and it means slow-moving in mind. This is not about being old and forgetful. This doesn't mean they were mentally deficient or incompetent; and this is an not involuntary learning disability. They had the mental ability, but they were lacking growth an diligence in using the ability and opportunity given to them. So the writer had "much to say" about Jesus as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," but ran into this barrier: they were dull of hearing.
"By This Time"
Someone might be tempted to ask, "How long should it take, after baptism, until you have enough knowledge to teach others about the gospel?" Of course, this passage doesn't give a specified time (a year, two years or three). The specific span of time will vary from individual to individual, depending upon their capacity. Yet there comes a time when it is obvious, people have had sufficient time and opportunity to grow, learn and have the maturity necessary to teach others. Some need to be admonished: "You
have had time, but you haven't used it. You have had opportunities, but you didn't respond. You should, by now, be able to teach others - at least the basics; but you have been sluggish; you are 'dull of hearing'." It does take time to grow and acquire knowledge, but it should not take forever. In the case of the Hebrew Christians, they had the time and opportunity to grow and qualify themselves to teach others. Yet, they hadn't responded with diligence, so the writer said: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers . . . you need someone to teach you
"The First Principles Of The Oracles of God"
Though they had the time, they needed to be taught "the first principles of the oracles of God." We've all heard about children, going through twelve years of public school, yet they cannot write a paragraph, fill out an application correctly, or add and subtract. This is usually not about mental ability or disability. This is about being diligent and serious to use the time, opportunity and privileges of education. Many enjoy good teachers, useful textbooks and every encouragement to learn - but they don't learn. So, after twelve years of school they need someone to teach them again the "three R's." Likewise, consider a person, baptized twenty years ago or more; a member of a good local church with good teaching and preaching; all kinds of time and opportunity to learn. But this person cannot tell their neighbor what the Bible says about baptism. Do you see the problem? "...of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God..."
"You Have Come To Need Milk And Not Solid Food"
Generally speaking, milk is good for babies. But if a fifteen year old boy is still eating the same diet he started with as an infant, that's a problem. Gaining a useful knowledge of God's revealed will is a graduated process, similar to the steps we go through in physical growth. And the problem is, some people just remain spiritual babies, in spite of all the time and opportunity they have to mature. They are afforded every good opportunity and encouragement to gain experience, to learn to discern between good and evil and be able to teach the gospel to others. But they don't respond to the opportunities, use the time or accept the challenge! (See the same milk/meat contrast, 1 Cor. 3).
Though they have been blessed with the resources, they have not applied themselves. They "have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
We can grow, but it will not happen if we are sluggish and dull in responding to the opportunities we have. We can learn more and more; we can become "skilled" in the application of God's Word; we can tell the good news to others and strengthen ourselves for adversity. But it will not happen if we fail to use the time we have.
Do you read the Bible every day?
Do you take advantage of all the opportunities provided by the local church for learning?
Do you sacrifice time and effort and give serious priority to the task of edification?
Is it possible that some of the Bible teaching you have difficulty with is due to your stunted spiritual growth?
"...Let us go on to perfection!" (Heb. 6:1)
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 4.5; May 1997