There are some very definite points which the writer to the Hebrews has made crystal clear up to this point in the book of Hebrews. He has set forth in bold relief that Jesus Christ is the very effulgence of God’s glory, the expressed image of his being.
Such was the burden of the writer’s message up to this point in the first four and one half chapters. We ought to review the following points very briefly. In the first place, the writer pointed out that in these last days God has spoken in His Son, and that this Son has now sat down on the right hand of God in the majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-4) Secondly, the author pointed out that this exalted Christ is far above the angelic glory of the inhabitants of heaven. This is evident from the many Psalms which the writer quotes. The entire Old Testament Scriptures speak thus concerning the Christ. The writer gives us a good example of the basic principles of interpretation, better known as the science called Hermeneutics. Thirdly, the Son could only be exalted in the deep way of his suffering. He is exalted at the right hand of God because of the suffering of death. Thus he brings many sons to glory. (Hebrews 2:5) He is indeed a brother amongst the brethren, like unto us in all things, sin excepted. He destroyed him who had the power of death. He is the faithful and merciful high priest in the things which pertain to God. Fourthly, it is for this very reason that we must not look back to Moses or to an Aaron in the Old Testament dispensation, but we must look forward to Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our profession. Christ is greater than Moses, exceedingly greater. As much as the builder of the house is greater than the building, so much is Christ greater than Moses. Wherefore we must not have in us an evil heart of unbelief, but we must enter into the rest. This rest is not a mere temporary and typical rest, but is the final rest, the eternal Sabbath. Fifthly, Christ is the perfect high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, according to the order of Melchizedek. He has brought about our salvation through the strong crying and, tears, and having become perfected he was greeted of God a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
The chief part of the message of the writer to the Hebrews we must still consider. The writer will have much to say concerning the priest after the order of Melchizedek. He will demonstrate in detail from the Old Testament Scriptures the great thoughts of God concerning His son, when he swore with an oath: thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, (Hebrews 5:6; Psalm 110:4) This one is the appointed Son of God, who is called Jesus because He it is that I will save His people from their sins. The writer will be explaining from the Old Testament Scriptures concerning this priest after the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:1 through Hebrews 10:18. Such is, of course, the next major section of the book of Hebrews which we I will now be considering.
However, before entering upon this discussion the writer signals a difficulty in explaining this to the Hebrews. It is not basically a difficulty of applying sound rules of interpretation. The matter itself is clear and perspicuous enough. It is not difficult to develop the difference between the Old Covenant of the shadows and the types and the New Testament reality. He will surely shew the difference and the relationship between the priesthood of Aaron and that of the better and the abiding priesthood of the Son of God in human nature.
That is not the difficulty.
The difficulty lies in those who must be instructed. They are become dull of hearing. Really they are spiritual dullards. And unless the basic attitude change on the part of the hearers, Christians out of the Jews, it will be impossible to have them press on tom the perfection in Christ, and see the great lines of the teaching of the Scriptures.
Wherefore before the writer will explain these great Biblical truths he admonishes the readers to press on to perfection. They must prove themselves to be true sons of Abraham, having the same full assurance of hope to the end.
THE HEBREWS REPROVED FOR THEIR BEING DULL OF HEARING Hebrews 5:11-14
In every teaching situation there are really three separate factors which enter into consideration. First of all there is the teacher. He must be equipped and able to teach. Next, there is the matter of the pupil who must receive the instruction. Lastly, there is the element of the subject matter which must be taught. For a successful instruction and pedagogy each of these elements must be in proper focus. If one of these is missing there is no instruction, or if one is impaired there is no successful fruition of the instruction.
It is one thing to have children which did not learn well in the first place. But it is quite another when we have come to the age when we should be matured and be teachers of others, and then once more revert to the condition where one, is still in the kindergarten class. If there is healthy instruction there must be a corresponding growth and a coming to the full manhood, to ripe maturity.
This was exactly what was lacking here in the church of these Hebrews. They had come to a rather completed state of spiritual dullards. They were slow and sluggish to learn. The term in the Greek is “noothros,” that is, sluggish, dull. Here it refers to a dullness in mental and spiritual perception. The full reality of what it means to be under the Word did not dawn upon them. In Chapter 6:12 we read “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” There was not simply a danger that these Hebrew Christians would become such sluggish dullards; the sad fact was that they had become such in very deed. The verb in the text is “gegonate,” that “ye have become such up to the present moment.” It is sad reality. This same verb is employed by the writer in Hebrews 5:12 where we read “and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” They were in a state of perpetual learning of “first principles” and not pressing on to learning the full implication of the glory of the gospel of salvation in Christ, to come to a knowledge of the deep truths of the plan and the purpose of God in Christ Jesus.
It is a terrible thing when a fifteen year old young lady or young man once more sits, or is still finding himself in the kindergarten learning the alphabet! One does not forever remain a child naturally unless one is an intellectual moron; and one does not ever remain such that he must be in the catechism class learning the basic principles. They are good at their time, but we must not remain there. God did not prattle in the Bible. His Word is such that it must be studied, and it therefore requires spiritual growth!
Now the writer is going to write on a great subject, He will be writing on the great and profound truths of the Gospel; the truth of the matter that the first temple was made after the type of the tabernacle which is heavenly. He will unfold the real tabernacle of God as this is in the mind and plan of God in the counsel of peace. (Hebrews 8:5b)
But the one difficulty was that those instructed were dull of hearing! It is not the difficulty of the subject. True, the subject is profound which the writer will unfold here in these next few Chapters. But that is not a difficulty as long as the hearers are quick to hear, and eager to learn and to press on. For in the process of learning there is ever the question of, the element of what is called proper “motivation.” In the field of the natural there is the motivation to exceed. We have but to remind ourselves of the tremendous impetus and motivation of the learning of the world in our day. Ever since the appearance of the Russian satellite there has been a tremendous motivation in the field of scientific technology. It is the motivation of survival, to meet the challenge of the looming superiority of other great nations. Then there is the motivation of personal gain in the world, of greed and covetousness. Here there must be a different motivation. It is the motivation for the pressing on to final glory of the believers. It is the full maturity not so much in the ages to come, as the full-orbed understanding of the truth in Christ, so as to discern good and evil. This discernment of “good and evil” refers to what is beautiful and beneficial for the saints, and to what is for their spiritual detriment. What is “good” is the truth in Jesus, the word of righteousness. It refers to the righteousness which is ours in-Christ Jesus, as portrayed in all the sacrifices and as fulfilled in Christ on the Cross. Now one who is dull and is in need of “milk” and not of “solid food” he does not have his “senses exercised by reason of use.” The term in the Greek for sense means: the organs of perception. The eyes, ears, hands, tongue and nose. Here it refers to all the spiritual faculties. It refers to the mind in being able to judge, to perceive, to understand. It is here in the plural: our hearing, seeing, tasting, touching and smelling.
This is to be developed in the truth by use! Perhaps we can clarify this with the example of those-who are trained in their senses to distinguish the good from the harmful in money: real money from counterfeit coin. Such people go to Washington, and for three weeks handle nothing but real, honest and genuine paper money. Thus their feeling, their sense of touch is exceedingly keen. It is the positive approach. Only when they know by reason of the use and exercise of the senses what real money is, will they instantly know when counterfeit money is passed through their hands.
Here is a strong point to be remembered by us.
Only when we are alert and know the truth in Christ in all its ramifications will we be able to detect the lie. This is true in the realm of the gospel centrally, but this is also true in the field of ethics and of all education. The Dutch spoke of their Biblical “voelhorens,” that is, of their being sensitive to the least departure from the truth.
We must be the “perfect,” that is, we must come to the full understanding of the truth. Unless we make progress in the truth we shall surely go back in the grace of Christ. Here is where the great pitfalls for apostatizing from the living God are in evidence.
Therefore having left the principles of the doctrine of Christ let us press on unto perfection.