“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Though 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, for 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.”
Earlier in one of my re-posts we have seen that accumulating theological information does not equal Gospel-maturity. This is precisely because, “The mind moves a little faster than the heart.” What our minds perceive as truth must be translated into our hearts in real life. In the article we saw how easy it is “for us to intellectually apprehend truth than it is for us to actually embrace it.” Put simply, the Word must be lived out. And that there is a “hiatus between the arena of spiritual growth and what we already know intellectually about this arena. In other words, many of us could talk the day lights out of justification, getting the concepts down and the order right, but never really living in the fullness of what it means to be justified.”
Hebrews 5: 11 says: “About this [Gospel] we have much to say.” The entire verse preceding this, from 1-10 talks about Jesus Christ. Christ is a large and inexhaustible subject in the Gospel ministry, and what a Gospel minister delights to dwell on extensively. According to the writer of Hebrews, this Gospel “is hard to explain,” not necessarily because it is difficult to articulate well, but because people “have become dull of hearing.” Certainly, the priesthood of Christ, after the order of Melchizedek does open up some difficult questions. But, here, the Gospel has become “dull” in their hearts. In a manner of speaking, people had “outgrown” their need of the Gospel. Because “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…” (Jeremiah 17:9 ). “For this people’s heart has become calloused..” (Acts 28:27 ). Paul rightly said: “They will turn their ears away from the truth…” (2 Timothy 4:4 ). “Their hearts are callous and unfeeling” (Psalm 119:70 ).
The Gospel is often perceived as a “basic or elementary” doctrine which a person receives at the point of conversion and then grows into a more “advance” form of Christian spirituality etc. Hence our understanding goes that the Gospel is primarily for the non-believers; which a person receives at the point of conversion. And discipleship is for the Christian, who had believed the Gospel and now then grows into spiritual maturity. (see post).
Here, the writer says to them: “Though 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.” They had heard the Gospel for many years, and had professed to be Christians for a very long time but have not grown much. Why? They have been reasonably well instructed in the things of God so as to be able to instruct others by this time. But their immaturity is largely owing to the fact that they have grown dull of hearing the Gospel. Always learning, and never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.
Dull hearers make the preaching of the gospel difficult, and even those who have some faith may be dull hearers, and slow to believe. Much is looked for from those to whom much is given. To be unskilful, denotes want of experience in the things of the gospel. Christian experience is a spiritual sense, taste, or relish of the goodness, sweetness, and excellence of the truths of the gospel. And no tongue can express the satisfaction which the soul receives, from a sense of Divine goodness, grace, and love to it in Christ. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
So spiritual immaturity is largely marked by being “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” But true spiritual maturity is defined as having our “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” as we grow in the Gospel. In simple words, the Gospel is to be lived out constantly in thought, word and deed, and daily. Our “powers of discernment” are being “trained” by the Gospel. The Gospel shapes the way we think, feel and act.
The aim of biblical Gospel-maturity is thoughtful, balanced, careful, informed, humble, experienced, wise and Jesus-exalting in the way we think, talk and act in regard to all matters of life — and in relation to people completely different from ourselves. Therefore it is heart-changing and life-altering.