Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:11-14

Midway through a lesson, the teacher encounters a problem. He could not make progress with his lesson. Did the problem lie with the teacher? No. Was it the lesson? No. Or was it the students?

Yes, indeed, such was the case of the inspired writer and teacher in the book of Hebrews in these verses. He has been teaching his audience of mainly Jewish Christians the lesson that Christ is superior over all practices, offices, and persons in the Old Testament. This lesson was urgently needed because these Christians were being influenced by false teachers called Judaizers, who taught people to return to Old Testament practices and, in so doing, reject Jesus Christ. His students needed to understand that this was false teaching and be duly warned about the seriousness of it.

Christ is superior over all! God has, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son and this is a superior revelation and speech over the Old Testament prophets. He is superior over the angels. He is superior over Moses. But, now, as the inspired writer begins to show just how Christ’s priesthood is so wondrously superior to that of the entire priesthood of Levi by bringing in the deeper subject of Melchizedek, he finds that he cannot make progress with his lesson. He will have to wait till chapter seven to begin doing that.

First, the biblical writer had to address a serious problem. The problem is that his students were “dull of hearing” (v. 11). This means that they were “slothful” (6:12) or lazy hearers and students of God’s Word. The sin of laziness, characterized by a lack of activity and zeal on the part of the believer, is addressed extensively by Scripture in many places and in various ways. In Proverbs 6:6, we are admonished to learn from the example of the ant: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise.” In Philippians 3:13-14, we are encouraged by the Holy Spirit to take heed to the example of the apostle Paul, to be positive and determined in our attitude and thereby make progress in our walk of life: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Here in Hebrews, we are being instructed that being lazy hearers and students of the Word is a serious problem and thus exhorted to make progress in learning doctrine (6:1).

Whether in the form of instruction, exhortation, encouragement, or admonition, we are roundly being taught by the Holy Spirit not to be lazy hearers and students of the Word. Do you take this teaching seriously? When it comes to hearing properly a sermon and learning from it, some people “switch off” the moment the sermon begins. Others “switch off” when the admonitions or commands of God’s Word are applied to the congregation. “These things apply to others but not to me,” is the thought here. However, such thinking fails to embrace the truth that grace is conferred by means of admonitions (Canons III/IV, Art. 17). Still others “switch off” when the sermon is giving sound explanation of good doctrine. “Doctrine is not for me, but for ministers and elders; the preacher needs to be practical,” is the thought here. This likely also was the thought and attitude of some of these Jewish Christians who were not but really ought to have been making progress with further doctrine and instruction concerning Melchizedek in relation to the topic of Christ’s superior priesthood (vv. 10-11a).

Such was the seriousness of the problem that the time had now come that they ought to have been teachers of the Word (v. 12a)! Bible commentators estimate that these people had been believers for well over twenty years, and thus should have been able to teach their children and teenagers and explain their faith clearly with biblical proofs to others outside of the church. They ought to have been spiritually mature, full-grown men and women (v. 14). But instead, they were, in the judgment of the Spirit, mere spiritual “babes” (v. 13)!

They were spiritual babes after being in the church for over twenty years! They were spiritual babes who were unable to discern good and evil in both doctrine and life (v. 14), and were thus in real danger of embracing false teaching and rejecting Christ! They were spiritual babes who needed to be taught again and had not yet transitioned from the milk of God’s Word to the meat of God’s Word (v. 12).

There is great need for every believer to transition from milk to meat. To be sure, both the milk and meat of God’s Word provide good, wholesome spiritual nutrients for spiritual life. The milk of God’s Word, also described as “the first principles of the oracles of God” (v. 12), refers to the very basic doctrines of faith such as repentance and faith (cf. 6:1). In our day, this also includes a simple understanding of the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. To be sure, there is a place for basic doctrines and just a simple, perhaps not very detailed, explanation of them in the church. They are necessary and useful for evangelistic purposes and also for instruction of our covenant children when they are young. To young believers who have little background of the Bible, the milk of God’s Word is all they can handle. We do not give them the meat of God’s Word, which includes not only a fuller explanation of basic doctrines but also less basic but just as important biblical doctrines (cf. the Three Forms of Unity) because they are not yet be able and ready to handle them.

However, while the milk of the Word is good and necessary for spiritual infants, it does not have sufficient spiritual nutrients to support continued growth when age has set in. This is much like earthly life and mother’s milk: while mother’s milk is good and necessary for little infants, it does not have sufficient nutrients to support the necessary growth of a child as he gets older. Just as the growing earthly child needs to transition to solid food, so also the growing spiritual child of God needs to transition to the strong meat of the Word.

The need to transition from milk to meat is great! Without transitioning to and feeding on the meat of God’s Word, we will not make progress in doctrine or life. We may be at church services regularly, but we will either be childish believers or spiritual babes who have little use for the preaching. Being unskillful in the word of righteousness (v. 13) and thus unable to discern between good and evil (v. 14), we will be weak members in the church, vulnerable to the tiniest of troubles, temptations, and assaults of Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh. This will bring many griefs to ourselves, our family, our church family, and all who love us.

Dear reader, do you not agree that transitioning from milk to meat is crucial for your spiritual health and life? Is it not a great and urgent need?

Christ recognizes and has met this great need! Because of Him, we are able to, desire to, and will make this transition from milk to meat! For Christ’s death on the cross is not only for our justification but also for our sanctification: “Sanctify them according to thy truth. Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Did not Christ make this petition unto His and our Father in His high priestly prayer leading up to His death on the cross? He, who is the author and finisher of our faith, will necessarily finish the work He has begun! Our salvation in Christ is a complete salvation! Thanks be unto God for our faithful Savior Jesus Christ! Thanks be unto Christ for His blood and the gift of His all-powerful, indwelling Spirit!

Will you, therefore, not make this transition from milk to meat, dear reader? We who do so will become of full age and, by reason of the use of this Word in our lives, have our senses exercised or “trained” to discern between good and evil (v. 14). We will make progress in doctrine and life by the grace of God. We will grow and flourish in our mind, heart, and soul—becoming more and more mature thinkers, speakers, and doers of the Word. We will take a healthy interest in the spiritual and heavenly things of God, and be active and zealous servants of His in our homes and families, and in the life of the church where we are members.

What tremendous blessings God gives us in the way of taking heed to His Word!

Seeing this, let us transition from milk to meat, and be diligent hearers and students of God’s Word.