Summary: Some believers seem stuck in spiritual infancy; the author of Hebrews urges them to advance to the "meat" of Christian faith & doctrine and start discipling others.
“On To Maturity” Hebrews 5:12-6:12 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
For a young couple, there’s nothing more wonderful than the birth of a baby. But as much as the parents and grandparents love to hold that bundle of joy, it’s their desire that this little baby grows up to enjoy a full life as a mature adult. God has the same desire for us, His children. That’s why He compels us in Hebrews to “Go on to maturity”. We love it when a baby says “mamma, dada,” but parents would be devastated if their child remained immature.
The author of Hebrews challenges baby-like believers to move from milk to solid food. After church, we’ll have lunch—for most of us, this means grown-up food—not Gerbers! Milk is for beginners; solid food is for the mature. In the Christian life, after awhile we should move beyond the basics and get into the “meat” of God’s word. We’re no longer learning the foundational ABC’s of God’s revelation; we’ve progressed beyond that. But regrettably, some believers who by now ought to be teaching others still need instruction; they’re stuck in spiritual infancy. They’re inexperienced in applying God’s truth to their lives--so much so that they’re in need of having someone sit down with them and go over the basics again. Here’s my point--are we growing, or are we still “baby believers”? Our church’s mission statement indicates that we take spiritual growth seriously: “We proclaim Christ, counseling and instructing all people with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone complete (mature) in Him” (Colossians1:28).
According to the author of Hebrews, we ought to be discipling others; this could mean teaching a Sunday School class or leading a small group Bible study, or by mentoring someone who’s new to the faith. Some parents rely on Sunday School because they’re not equipped to teach their children, and they struggle to answer their kids’ questions about God. We can only lead people as far as we are ourselves.
In II Corinthians we see what’s supposed to occur after initial trust in Jesus: “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old life is passing away, and all things are becoming new” (5:17); this process of growth is supervised by the Holy Spirit. But it’s a cooperative effort; we can stunt our own growth if we don’t do our part. Plenty of spiritual food is available, but God’s not about to force-feed us. The last verse of Hebrews 5 says that mature believers “train themselves.” This is sports language, an athletic term referring to physical exercise at a gym. Some sluggish and unskilled believers are in dire need of a spiritual workout!
The writer then in chapter 6 lists 6 foundational truths, what he refers to as the “elementary teachings” of the spiritual life. The first two items, repentance and faith, mark the first steps of salvation. Faith means trusting God, and repentance is a change of mind and a new direction. We turn from sin and self to God, inviting Jesus to be in charge of our lives.
The next two items, baptism and laying on of hands, refer to our relationship to a local body of believers. We are set apart by belonging to a community of faith, a commitment that shows our identification with Christ. Some churches practice laying on of hands for new converts at baptism and at confirmation and ordination. It is an act conveying affirmation and blessing.
The last two items, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, refer to understanding our eternal destiny, the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us. We recently examined these elementary teachings in our series on the Apostles Creed. To use a military analogy, we’re done with Basic Training, and now we now need to serve as soldiers in God’s Army! We’ve enlisted, and now we’re committed. An Army cadence call heard often during early morning unit runs goes: “Ain’t no use in looking down; ain’t no discharge on the ground!” If we’re slacking in our faith, we may need to “get with the program”! It’s essential that we know what we believe and why, that we have some substance to our convictions, and that we practice our faith.
Next, the author explains why there’s no turning back. If we could abandon and lose our faith, hypothetically, there’d be no chance to be restored. But that’s not even a remote possibility--verse 9 states, “We are confident/convinced of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.” The author is not trying to frighten the readers but to assure them. Our secure hope, in verse 19, is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” While some people use this passage to teach that believers can fall away and lose their salvation, the Bible is very clear throughout that genuine believers will hold on and persevere to the end. The words “fall away” in the original language form the word we call “apostasy”, a theological term that needs to be defined: Apostasy indicates a falling away of those who appear to be Christian but over time are shown to be unregenerate. Authentic Christians do not depart. We are being prayed for by Jesus, Who holds us in His hand and assures us that He will not let go. We are His people and we will never perish (John 10 & 17). True salvation is eternal life, a secure hope, not something we are in one day and out the next. However, our secure position is no excuse for laziness. We have tenure; but that doesn’t mean we stop working! Let’s not drag our feet; let’s stay the course.