In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! - Vs 12 (NIV)
The letter of Hebrews is written to Jews. Thus, the name. This was more than likely a congregation of believers who lived outside of Israel – possibly in Italy. Within this congregation were believers, but also those who professed belief, but were not living it out in their daily lives. Their common bond, besides the gospel, was their Jewish heritage. For some this was posing a problem. Their "Jewishness" was making it difficult for them to embrace faith in Christ completely. They had been exposed to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but as chapter 4 seems to indicate, they were being disobedient to it. They were hearing God's voice, but hardening their hearts (4:7). Now they are confronted with the reality that even though they had been raised on the Old Testament teachings of God and had been around the gospel message of Jesus Christ for some time now, they were still immature in their faith. They had not grown. They were like infants spiritually, who couldn't handle the "meat" of God's word concerning Christ. "Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food" (NLT).
The writer has been telling them about the high priestly role of Jesus. That even though He wasn't born into the priestly tribe of Levi, Jesus was appointed to be a high priest by God Himself. In that role, Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of man, His own life. "In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him" (Vs 9, NLT). And while the author of this letter (probably Paul) would love to tell them more, he can't, because some in his readership have become dull of hearing. They are spiritually slow to learn, difficult to teach, and unresponsive to instruction. So they are not able to grasp the significance of all the talk about priesthoods, sacrifices, and the order of Melchizedek. Their dullness is what is behind their spiritual child-likeness. Because they cannot or will not hear the truth of God, they end up remaining in spiritual infancy – stuck on the elementary or basic teachings about God, faith, and salvation. They never progress, never move forward in their faith. They're stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy.
How many in the church struggle with the same problem today? They have been exposed to the Word of God. They have heard the message of the gospel. But they can't grasp the significance of it all because they are dull of hearing. They sit in pews Sunday after Sunday, hearing the message of salvation, but refuse to accept it by faith. Even believers can be exposed to the deeper truth of God's Word and refuse to obey what they have heard. John MacArthur has this to say:
When we do not trust and act on any part of God's truth that we know, we become hardened to it and less and less likely to benefit from it. Or we can avoid delving into the deeper parts of God's Word, being satisfied with the 'basics,' we insulate ourselves from the Holy Spirit to that extent.
We become satisfied with what we have and what we already know. We refuse to go deeper. We become content with milk and not meat. We remain in spiritual infancy when we should be progressing into spiritual maturity. We turn up our noses at the "solid food" of God's truth. Yet Paul closes this chapter with the warning, "Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right" (Vs 14). So how's your hearing? Better yet, how's your appetite? Do you crave the meat of God's Word or are you satisfied with the basics? Are you content with milk or have you moved on to the main course – the word of righteousness that can change your life and lead to spiritually maturity? By now you ought to be the one teaching. Are you?
Father, we have far too many infants in the church. Not new believers, but long-time converts who have refused to listen to Your Word and have remained in spiritual infancy. Show us how to help them gain an appetite for the meat of Your message. To grow and mature in their relationship with Christ. So that they can become teachers and instructors of others. So that they can know right from wrong and truth from falsehood. May spiritual maturity become a real priority and a constant pursuit among Your people. Amen