For by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.
My youngest daughter recently graduated from pre-K. It was heartwarming to see her dressed up in her little graduation outfit, so proud that she was “going to big girl school” (i.e., kindergarten) next year. It caused me to reflect that, God willing, she’ll be in another graduation outfit getting her high school diploma before I know it.
Right now she is learning to read, write, and add numbers. She is trying to memorize the days of the week. She’s working on learning to tie her shoes. That is as it should be right now…but would it still be proper for her to still be getting a grasp on basic arithmetic and literary skills by the time she gets that high school diploma? Of course not. The purpose of education is to keep learning, to grow in one’s knowledge and understanding of how to apply that knowledge to everyday life.
Christianity is supposed to be the same way. In chapter 5 of Hebrews, the writer wanted to start a discussion about Jesus and Melchizedek (v. 10). However, he couldn’t. As he explained in verse 11, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”
Dull of hearing. You know all those jokes you give to the preacher about dozing off during the sermon? Are you the kind of person who sits in the pew at church but never opens their Bible or pays attention to the sermon or the classes? Does your Bible sit in your car or on your coffee table unopened throughout the week? If so, you are dull of hearing and that means you’re not learning nor growing.
That’s how it was with the Christians to whom the Hebrew author was speaking. As verse 12 states, they apparently had been in the church for a while, enough time for them to learn enough to become teachers themselves. Yet instead, they needed someone to teach them once again “the basic principles” of Christianity.
To compare with secular education, “the basic principles” are what my little girl is learning right now and will continue to learn in grade school. By the time high school and college roll around, she should be well past the basic principles. If she isn’t, there’s a serious problem. There was a serious problem with these Christians. They were stuck in spiritual elementary school. They weren’t growing.
As verse 12 also states, they needed milk rather than solid food. Can you imagine a child who never moves beyond a milk diet? It would be unnatural and unhealthy. So it is with disciples of Christ. “…Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). Those who would follow Christ must continually be growing in two ways. First, grow in knowledge through daily study of God’s Word so you know His will. Second, grow in maturity and wisdom by taking what you learn from the Bible and putting it into daily practice in every aspect of life. That’s how you come to fully know what is right and wrong.
The Hebrew writer concludes, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits” (6:1-3). Note what he associates with “elementary doctrine” and the “foundation.” He talks of repentance from dead works. Can you correctly define repentance? What dead works does he speak of? He mentions faith toward God. Do you have a biblical understanding of faith? The “washings” he mentions…do you know what he’s talking about? Can you explain to someone what the Bible teaches about “the laying on of hands,” “the resurrection of the dead,” or “eternal judgment”? Have you moved up from the grade school level of Christianity?
It’s something worth considering.