Summary: How to avoid the risk of backsliding and become a mature Christian
Hebrews 5:11-6:20 The Road to Maturity
Signs of spiritual infant 5:11-14
· The right choice 6:1-3
· The wrong choice 6:4-8
The road to maturity:
· Remember the past 6:9-10
· Act on the present 6:11-12
· Look for the future 6:13-20
John Stott, a prominent Christian spoke in Canberra last year. He asked: “what is the greatest need of the church today?” His answer was: “the church needs greater number of deep Christians – Christians that are not shallow nor superficial but deep and committed”.
Richard Foster made a similar point in his book “Celebration of Discipline” - “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people”.
This is also the message of today. The author of Hebrews called for his audience to grow up in their Christian lives.
Some of you may think then this message is not for you. However, we should note that the address was directed to the entire Christian community, the entire house church, it was not addressed to selected individual in that church. So, it is a message for everyone.
The author of Hebrews made it very clear. They should be mature (5:14). They should eat solid food.
However, sadly speaking, they were still spiritual infants, they still needed milk rather than solid food.
We as parents love our babies. They are cute, lovable, enjoyable and innocent. But they are also ignorant and dependent. We always have fond memories when our sons and daughters were lovable and cute babies. However, if after 10-20 years, they still behave like babies. Our joy will surely turn to sorrow.
Illustration: In the course of their conversation at a dinner party, Albert Einstein’s young neighbour asked the white-haired scientist, "What are you actually by profession?"
"I devote myself to the study of physics," Einstein replied.
The girl looked at him in astonishment. "You mean to say you study physics at your age?" she exclaimed. "I finished mine a year ago."
Some Christians, like the little girl, are often content not to grow up. They are content to be a spiritual infant all our lives.
Signs of spiritual infant
There are four signs of a spiritual infant according to the author:
First, they were sluggish with regard to hearing (v11). There is an amazing similarity in the Greek, Hebrews and Chinese vocabulary – “to hear” and “to obey” are the same word. The author said in 5:11 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn”. Literally, the term “to learn” means sluggish with regard to hearing (God’s words). DeSilva in his commentary on Hebrews says it is “not merely of nodding off during his sermon, but failing to respond honourably and wisely to the message of God. Not giving that message its due attention with all diligence”.
Second, they ought to be teachers. We may not be all bible study teachers or Sunday school teachers. But we are all teachers in the sense that we should demonstrate our faith and our conviction to those around us through our deeds and our words. He does not mean that they ought all to become public teachers, or preachers of the gospel, but that they ought to be able to explain to others the truths of the Christian religion. As parents they ought to be able to explain them to their children; as neighbors, to their neighbors; or as friends, to those who were inquiring the way to life.
To be teachers can also be a blessing. It means a community of individual members reinforcing (and supporting, and challenging) one another’s hold on the minority culture’s value and goals.
However, instead of teaching others, they still needed to go through the elementary teaching (the milk diet) again (v12).
Third, they were unskilful (inexperienced) in the word of righteousness (v13). Some commentators understand this as a technical term and associate “word of righteousness” with martyrdom (Polycarp – letter to the Philippians). It is a term associated with discipleship. In other words, the author is telling his audience, they are unskilled and uncommitted to the call of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Fourth, they lacked discerning power (v14). They couldn’t tell right from wrong, good from evil. Similarly, the spirit of discernment is especially important in the modern society, there are many grey areas in our lives, in our society. We need the spirit of discernment to guide us.
After providing a diagnosis of the spiritual condition of his audience, the author presented them two options: either move forward (and become mature – attain perfection) or fall back (and become ineffective of being a Christian at best or even out right renouncing our faith).