“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb 6:12). This verse summarizes the main message of this difficult (and often misunderstood) section of the epistle. Israel wanted to go back to Egypt; and, as a result, a whole generation failed to inherit what God had promised. They were safely delivered out of Egypt, but they never enjoyed the promised rest in Canaan. We believers today can make the same mistake. If you keep in mind that the emphasis in this section is on making spiritual progress, you will steer safely through misinterpretations that could create problems.

The writer is about to begin his explanation of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, but he is not sure his readers are ready for what he has to teach. The problem is not that he is a dull teacher, but that they are dull hearers! The word translated “dull” in Heb. 5:11 is translated “slothful” in Heb. 6:12. It refers to a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual development. What then, are the marks of spiritual immaturity?

Dullness toward the Word (v. 11): These believers started on their “backward journey” by drifting from the Word (Heb. 2:1-4), and then doubting the Word (Heb. 3:7-4:13). As a result, they were now “dull of hearing”; that is, unable to listen to the Word, receive it, and act on it. One of the first symptoms of spiritual regression, or backsliding, is a dullness toward the Bible. Sunday School class is dull, the preaching is dull, anything spiritual is dull.

Inability to share (v. 12a): The ability to share spiritual truth with others is a mark of maturity. Not all Christians have the gift of teaching, but all can share what they learn from the Word. The recipients of this letter had been saved long enough to be able to share God’s truth with others. But, instead of helping others to grow, these Hebrew Christians were in need of learning again the simple teachings of Christian life. They were experiencing a second childhood!

A “baby food” diet (vv. 12b-13): The writer defines the “milk” as “the first principles of the oracles of God” (v. 12). The “meat” of the Word is the teaching about our Lord’s ministry now in heaven as our High Priest. The writer wanted to give this “meat” to them, but they were not ready for it. The “milk” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ did on earth. The “meat” of the Word refers to what Jesus Christ is doing now in heaven. Of course, even the maturest adult never outgrows milk. As believers, we can still learn much from our Lord’s work on earth. But we must not stop there! We must make spiritual progress, and we can do this only if we learn about Christ’s priestly ministry for us in heaven.

Unskillful in using the Word (v. 14): As we grow in the Word, we learn to use it in daily life. As we apply the Word, we exercise our “spiritual senses” and develop spiritual discernment. An immature believer will listen to any preacher on the radio or television and not be able to identify whether or not he is true to the Scriptures. Just as our physical bodies have senses without which we could not function, so our inner “spiritual man” has “spiritual senses” (see Ps. 34:8 & Matt. 13:16). As we feed on the Word of God and apply it in daily life, our inner “spiritual senses” get their exercise and become strong and keen.

The ability to discern good from evil is a vital part of Christian maturity. The nation of Israel in Moses’ day lacked this discernment and failed to claim its promised inheritance. The readers of this letter were in danger of making the same mistake. It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life: we either go forward and claim God’s blessing, or we go backward and wander about aimlessly. Most Christians are “betweeners,” they are between Egypt and Canaan – out of the place of danger, but not yet into the place of rest and rich inheritance; they are between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – saved by the blood but not yet enjoying newness of resurrection life.

Hebrews 5:11-14 Reflection Questions:

Are you a “betweener”?

Are you taking advantage of your rich inheritance?

Have you become spiritually lazy or are you spiritually active?


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