Growing up into Christ
© C. O. Bishop, 5/17/17: THCF 5/21/17
Hebrews 5:10-14; 6:1-3, Ephesians 1:1-14; 4:11-16
We’ve been studying through Hebrews…We spoke about the priesthood of Christ, and mentioned Melchisedec, in passing, because Jesus was said to be a “priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.” We only briefly explored that connection, as there simply is not a lot said about Melchisedec. Let’s see what the writer of Hebrews has to say about why there isn’t much said.
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
The “of whom”, here, is in reference to Melchisedec, not Jesus. The writer will make some rather mind-boggling points about Melchisedec, later, but for the moment, he is only making the statement that his audience is not fit to hear it. They are dull of hearing. He says that they have become less mature, not more, since becoming believers. This is an important point, as it underscores an uncomfortable truth about the new birth: it is possible to be saved and still be in terrible condition. Your position in Christ is perfect and eternal. Your condition, however, can change daily, or even on a moment by moment basis.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The believers are the ones he is talking to, here: he says they have been believers long enough that they should have been teaching others by now: instead they require a teacher themselves. He does not say “you are still babies”, but that “you have become babies”—incapable of taking food more substantial than milk—incapable of chewing and digesting solid foods. They have regressed! The words translated “strong meat” in KJV (Greek “stereas” and “trophe”) simply mean “solid food”. Old English used the word “flesh” where we would use “meat”, today; “meat” simply meant “food.” It is not a mistranslation, just evidence that the English language has changed over time.
So he is sharply admonishing the Hebrew believers that they need to grow up. He says that he is limited as to what he can teach them because of their continuing immaturity. This is the passage we are referring to when we say, “I am tired of milk; I want the meat of the Word.” We mean, “I don’t want “baby-food” teaching. I want something age-appropriate.” Well, you do have to be able to chew and digest it. He says that a person “unskillful in the Word of Righteousness” is not able to handle serious teaching. They are still babies, spiritually. But these folks had regressed to babyhood.
The word used here for “unskillful” is the Greek word “apeiros”, which comes from the verb “peirao”, meaning to try, or, to “test.” One “untested” in the Word is someone who has never had to use the Word of God in a real struggle. They have never had to lean completely on God’s Word instead of their own understanding, as The Proverbs command. So they have limited their understanding to human reasoning, which God says is rudimentary at best. Colossians 2:8 warns against being “taken captive” through philosophy, empty deception, the traditions of men, and the elementary principles of the World instead the things which are according to Christ.
There are some choices to be made, regarding God’s Word: when there is a conflict between the written Word (at least as you understand it) and what the World is teaching as “truth,” do you vacillate, trying to decide which one is truth, or can you firmly, immediately affirm in your own heart, “God’s Word is true!” and then move to see if there is simply a misunderstanding? Sometimes the issue is simple: I can misunderstand something in the Bible, and find out later that I was wrong in my understanding, but that the Bible was right all along. But when there is a clear conflict between the Scripture and what the World believes, I need to be comfortable with that conflict, firmly take my stand with the Bible, and cheerfully accept whatever consequences there are to being “out of step” with the World. I don’t need to “pick a fight” over it. I just need to know where I stand, and not have to do a lot of soul-searching over it.
My faith—faith in God’s Word—not the consensus of human opinion, has to direct my steps. We do not determine right doctrine, nor right behavior, by popular opinion, consensus, or a vote. The Righteousness and Authority of God are declared and taught in the Bible, and, whether I like it or not is not the issue. Only whether I subject myself to it: either I obey or I do not.
So: these folks were already believers, as a group—there were some among them who were uncommitted, as we have seen in the several warnings so far, but, as a whole, most of them were believers, and the writer is not questioning their status in the body of Christ. He was complaining that they had regressed in their faith. They had gone backward! How is that possible?
It is important to recognize that we still have two natures. We can still feed our old nature (and we often do!) If we revert to feeding the old nature instead of the new, then the old nature will regain strength, and the new will become weak and sickly. All the positional truths that are ours by virtue of the new birth will still be ours, but will be relegated to a “back-burner” status. We are still saved, but will not be living in the obedient, victorious life God has called us to enjoy.
All the things of the believers’ birthright were still the possession of the believers in this account: So, what did that include? What is the foundation we have to work with?
(Turn to Ephesians 1:1-14)
What things does God say are already true about us?
Because we are in Christ, we are:
- Already blessed with ALL spiritual blessings, (Ephesians 1:3)
- in the heavenly places
- in Christ. (This is the heart of “positional truth” (true because I am “in Christ.”)
- Already chosen in Him (in Christ) (Ephesians 1:4)
- Already predestined to be “adopted”; that is, recognized as full heirs with Christ. (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:23)
- Already accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)
- Already Redeemed through His Blood (Ephesians 1:7)
- Already Forgiven for our Sins (Ephesians 1:7)
- We have already obtained an inheritance in Him. (Ephesians 1:11)
- We are already sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
- We already have the “earnest” of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit, who will stay with us until the redemption of the “purchased possession”—us! The Church! (Ephesians 1:14)
- Further, according to Ephesians 2:6, we are already seated in the heavenlies with Christ.
Much of the above is simply beyond my comprehension. I accept it by faith. But I don’t see these things…I don’t see myself as “seated in the heavenlies with Christ.” I see myself trudging along, day by day, muddling my way through life on earth. I need to understand that God’s viewpoint is eternal, and correct. I am seeing things from a viewpoint completely limited to time and space, besides being distorted by my sin nature, and my wrong thinking.
So, the question remains: how can we step beyond the usual “wrong-headed” experience in life, and see things from God’s perspective?
We walk by Faith, not by sight
The first step is to accept God’s point of view as correct, by faith in his character, not because it “makes sense” to us. I need to trust him because He is trustworthy, not because I can prove all the truths in His Word. (I can’t, by the way.)
God says we are already separated from our old sin nature, positionally, and that we are to live as those resurrected from the dead. Now, I don’t feel very dead…does that affect the truth in any way? Nope. God says it is true, and it is true. I am not required to “feel” anything. I am required to accept God’s truth by faith, and depend upon the fact that I am dead in Christ.
That death, reckoned as being mine, is what sets me free from sin. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
We Feed on the Word
The second thing is that God says we are to hunger for His Word, that we may grow thereby. (1st Peter 2:1-3) The scripture is the food for our spirit, and the food by which our new nature can grow strong. If you keep feeding your old nature, it will stay strong, and torment you daily with the struggles of the flesh. If you feed your new nature regularly, it will grow strong, and you will stabilize in your walk with God.
We are also fed and taught by the shepherds God has assigned to the church.
Turn to Ephesians 4:11-16 (read it)
Here we see that Jesus gave certain people as gifts to the church. The shepherds and teachers, as well as the other office-gifts, are given for a specific purpose: the building up of the Body of Christ, for the work of the service of God…the work of the Ministry.
And, notice that a time clause is given, here. These gifts are given “until we all come into the unity of the faith”, with the result that we are mature, and no longer easily swayed by bad doctrine, among other things. He says we will grow up into Christ, the head of the Body, in all things. The end result will be the increase of the body, in terms of both numbers and strength.
Hebrews 6:1-3 says that we are to press on, leaving baby food behind, and move toward maturity.
6: 1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
The message is that we are to go ahead and leave childhood behind, and grow up. Settle the fundamentals in our minds, once for all, by faith, and move on to deeper truth. It is no longer appropriate to “wade”…we need to learn to swim, so to speak.
I recall, when I was about nine years old, going to swim with my Dad and younger brother, in the Santiam River, at Waterloo, somewhere near Lebanon, Oregon. I was able to swim, but was anxious about the depth of the water, because I was not yet a strong swimmer. So I kept asking my Dad, “How deep is the water, here?” He was finally exasperated, and said “It doesn’t matter how deep the water is! When you swim, you stay on top of the water!”
Dad was right! If you are only wading, then you are dependent upon being able to reach bottom. But if you are swimming, you are completely suspended in the water, and not concerned with touching bottom.
That is true in spiritual matters as well. If you intend to live in your own strength, then you are limited to what you can handle. If you are dependent upon God, and walking with Him, then the circumstances are immaterial. He is the one managing life’s struggles, not you!
Lord Jesus, help us to grow up into you, and to trust your Word more than we trust our own judgment, strength, and wisdom. We know that apart from you we can do nothing. Help us to feed upon your Word, and to grow thereby. Make us the Men and Women of God that you have called us to be.