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Clear Words

Clear Words – Milk and meat (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 5-7

Today’s Reflection:  Hebrews 5:11-14

11) About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13) for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

If the writer of the book of Hebrews is the apostle Paul, as most theologians believe, here is one of the places where he sounds most Paul-like: chastening his fellow Jews about the difference between what they know and how they behave.

Paul recognizes that there is a period of growth believers must go through upon receiving the Gospel.  They start out as spiritual children, weaned on milk, learning what the writer might call the elementary doctrines of the Gospel.  But just as a child grows up into the stage of being able to eat solid food, so too must the Christian grow into spiritual maturity.

And what does the eating of solid food imply?  The understanding of higher or more substantial doctrine?   Actually no.  It is those simple elementary doctrines that are most important.

1 Timothy 1:5 – The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

So what is Hebrews talking about when it mentions the maturity to eat meat or solid food?

John 6:27 – Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 4:34 – Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

So meat is not about greater doctrine than milk, but it is about applying that doctrine in the challenging reality of daily life, in the face of fear, trial and temptation.  It is going beyond knowledge and understanding of the Word of God and to living that word out.

James 1:22-24 – 22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24) For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

Hebrews goes on to echo James warning about those who hear the word but do not do it.

Hebrews 6:4-8 – 4) For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Once we receive the truth we are changed.  But that change can take us down two paths: the path of obeying what we have received which leads us to spiritual maturity and the path of disobeying or only partially obeying what we have received which leads us to becoming lukewarm, a state that makes us ‘dull of hearing’ and useless to God.  ‘Hot’ acts of obedience make the lukewarm blind to the spiritual destructiveness of their ‘cold’ acts of disobedience and deaf to words of correction.  It is impossible for any works, no matter how good to compensate for crucifying Jesus once again.  In fact God would prefer we be completely spiritually cold than lukewarm.

Revelation 3:15-17 – 15) “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Fortunately for the audience of Hebrews and for us, God is merciful, gracious and willing to forgive and restore.

Hebrews 6:9-12 – 9) Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10) For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11) And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12) so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

The question is will we receive words of warning and correction?  Will we walk in the way that we have learned, teaching others to become disciples of Jesus as well?  Or will we become cautionary tales, believing in our own righteousness right up until judgment casts us into utter darkness?

Matthew 7:22-23 – 22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

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