“About this we have much to say…” (Hebrews 5:11). This connects us back to the prior paragraph. In the last paragraph the writer of Hebrews showed how Jesus was the perfect high priest THROUGH the suffering he experienced. Even though he was a son, he learned obedience through his suffering. The writer of Hebrews is driving this point into our hearts because we have given the status of sons of God. But even though we are children of God, we also must learn obedience to our Father through our suffering. This is an important message in the book of Hebrews. But the author ended with an important declaration. Look again at Hebrews 5:9-10.
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:9–10 ESV)
Now this connects what the author says in verse 11, “About this we have much to say.” There is much to say about Jesus being designated by God to be a high priest, not in the priestly order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek. There is an extensive message that can be considered about Jesus belonging to the priestly order of Melchizedek. This declaration leads us to think that he is going to talk about that right now. But the author says it is going to be hard to explain to these Christians, “since you have become dull of hearing.”
Dull of Hearing (5:11-14)
A lot of translations have tried to capture the picture of this Greek phrase. Here are some of the readings: “Too lazy to understand” (CSB); “you no longer try to understand” (NIV); “spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen” (NLT); “dull in understanding” (NRSV); “sluggish in hearing” (NET); “sluggish in understanding” (Mounce); “too lazy to pay attention” (God’s Word). The author is charging these Christians for being lazy listeners. The reason you do not understand is because you are not paying attention. I think of them like how a teenager listens: often not carefully. They catch some of it but they are not intently listening to all of what is being said. They are hearing the words of God but it is not sinking into their minds and hearts. They are lazy listeners.
How does he know that they are lazy listeners? He knows this because of the lack of fruit observed in their lives. In verse 12 he tells them that they ought to be teachers at this point in their walk with the Lord. Everyone should grow to a point where they are teaching the things of God. This is not referring to being formal Bible teachers. But they should be at the point now where they have enough spiritual maturity that they can teach others. They are in a pitiful spiritual condition. For rather than being able to teach others, they are still needing to be taught the basic principles of God’s teachings. They need milk when they should be needing solid food. Think about this with a child. It is not long when the child should be eating solid food. In fact, there is something wrong if the child is still asking for the milk when the child should be maturing and growing into the wonderful world of solid foods. They have gone back to the basics and are not moving forward.
This is further observed in that these Christians are unskilled in the word of righteousness (5:13). They are without experience and without skill in God’s word, revealing that they are still spiritual infants. So they lack observable fruit as not being teachers of God’s word and they lack observable fruit of not being experienced and skilled in God’s word. Now I want us to think about this for a moment. The author of Hebrews says these Christians not being teachers and their inability to skillfully use the word of God meant one thing to him: they are lazy listeners. Lazy listening leads to spiritual immaturity. This was a point that Paul made to the Corinthians. Their immaturity was seen in their behavior: jealousy, strife, and acting like mere humans (1 Corinthians 3:2-3).
In verse 14 the writer of Hebrews gives a picture of spiritual maturity: their powers of discernment have been trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (ESV). God’s word is what gives us the power of discernment to train our senses so that we have spiritual insight and wisdom. I offer to you that this is why the writer of Hebrews will later tell these Christians to imitate the faith of their leaders (13:7) and to obey them and submit to them (13:17). They are to have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice. They are to have the spiritual maturity that the flock is to listen to and follow. These Christians lacked that spiritual discernment and this is why speaking about Jesus is going to be difficult for them to understand.
The Solution (6:1-3)
So what is the solution? Look at Hebrews 6. “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity….” They need to stop retracing the basics. The author then describes some of the basics that they have been rehearsing again and again. Listen to the problem. Staying in the basics has stunted their growth. Staying in the milk has harmed their development. It is important that we see that the solution is not giving more milk. The solution is to move on to the challenging teachings of Jesus. A child will not move to maturity by taking a steak and putting in a blender. How do we move our children to maturity? We give them small pieces of solid food so that they can taste it and enjoy it so that they will no longer want milk. This is what we have to do ourselves. Stop retracing the stuff you know and move on to the things in the scriptures that you do not know. This is what these Christians are lacking and what they must do to move on to maturity. We must not remain in the “easy” teachings or the non-controversial teachings. We need to press on to maturity.
The writer of Hebrews is challenging these Christians to want to move on and want to grow. I think there are many ways for us to consider how we can evaluate this. How much of the scriptures do we know? Our latest gospel meeting just revealed so much depth to the scriptures and how easy it is for us to remain shallow and basic with God’s word. Desire to learn the depths of God’s word. Read the scriptures that you have never read before. Study the scriptures that you do not understand. Desire the depth and desire to learn.
Further, we should not mentally check out when we study the depths together. Sometimes we avoid the Bible studies we offer because we do not understand it or find it difficult. But we need the difficulty to grow. We need to the challenge to press on. When a sermon is from a complicated text or maybe someone during Bible class is making a complicated point, do not give up and no longer try to understand. This mentally is what God Israel into its problem in the first place. Turn to Isaiah 29.
For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.” The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:11–13 NIV)
Notice that we have a revelation from the Lord given in a scroll. Someone comes up to the person and says to read this message from the Lord. What do the people say? They say that it is sealed and they cannot open it. They will not put in the effort to open the scroll and see what God has to say. Then the scroll is given to someone who cannot read and, rather than learning how to read what God has said, they quit and do not read it. They are disinterested and do not want to read it or learn what God has to say. This is why they do not understand. This is why they cannot understand. So then the Lord says that they say all the right things but their hearts are far from God. Remember that Jesus quotes this concerning the people in his day in Matthew 15:8-9 and Mark 7:6-7. Isaiah and Jesus say that the people have a bad heart and that is why they do not want to understand and grow. The writer of Hebrews says that the problem is the same. The people’s hearts do not even want to grow or understand. They are just arguing over the basics and never pressing forward to maturity.
So the question that is posed to us is very simple but quite challenging. Do you want to grow? Do you want to know more about God? Do you want to have spiritual maturity and depth? It does not happen by accident but by choosing to move on from the basics. We must spiritually challenge ourselves with God’s word so that we can grow. The writer of Hebrews has given us a consideration for our lives to determine how we are doing. The writer of Hebrews declares that by this time these Christians ought to be teachers. Have you been walking with the Lord for a few years but you still are not teaching God to others? Do you still need to be taught the basics or are you teaching the basics to others? Are we able to look at our time with the Lord and see spiritual growth?
Before we end, I want to draw your attention to Hebrews 6:3. “And this we will do if God permits.” Let’s move forward with God’s teaching so we can grow. God gives us spiritual stability and spiritual growth through his word. We cannot will ourselves to grow. Our growth depends on the Lord. What will you do differently this week so that you can begin to grow? What will you change in your schedule so that you will spend more time with God and his word? What scripture do you need to spend time in because you do not know much about it? I cannot tell you how many times I have been surprised by scriptures that were intensely helpful to my life when it was a book that I did not think it would do that but did. Studying 2 Corinthians helps give so much comfort through suffering. Studying Habakkuk is great for times when you do not understand what God is doing in your life and in this world. Paul was absolutely correct that all of the scriptures are profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Let us move on from the milk to the meat of God’s word.