THE DANGER OF NOT GOING ON TO MATURITY

HEBREWS 5:11 - 6:12

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:3-5).

Do you remember the story of Peter Pan? He was the little boy who decided that he never wanted to grow up ó that he would rather remain a little boy forever.

Many people seem to suffer a Peter Pan Syndrome when it comes to spiritual matters. They donít mind having a little religion once in a while as long as it is confined to the proper building and held on the proper day of the week. It mustnít begin too early and must never go beyond a certain time. But anything more than this kind of short religious interlude is in danger of being labeled fanaticism. After all, we canít live all out lives in the Bible. We have to come back to the real world.

The book of Hebrews is written to a group of people who suffered from the Peter Pan Syndrome.

And then they became Christians. They heard the message that Jesus had died for sins and had risen again from the dead. They believed that message and joined the local group of believers which followed the teachings of Jesus. But then persecutions began to arise. They began to wonder if they wanted to be Christians after all. After all, they had been happy when they had been under the spiritual infancy of the Law. And so, they decided to go back to the Law. Like the storybook character, they decided not to grow.

 

THE NEED FOR MATURITY

Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Throughout the fifth chapter of Hebrews, the writer has been showing that Jesus is a priest of a better priesthood than that which came from Aaron.

Aaron

Jesus

Aaron was a High Priest.

Jesus was the Great High Priest.

Aaron was tempted in the same way we are.

Jesus was tempted in the same way we are, yet without sin.

Aaron offered sacrifices.

Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate and final sacrifice.

Aaron was a member of an ancient priesthood.

Jesus is a member of an eternal priesthood.

Now, as we come to verse 11, there is a change. The writer will insert a parenthetical warning. He will pause from what has been his main theme to address an important issue.

  1. A Parenthetical Warning: Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing (5:11).
  2. This verse introduces a parenthesis. The writer has introduced the subject of Melchizedek and he is going to amplify his teaching on the subject of this one named Melchizedek. But first he is going to give a warning.

    You see, the book of Hebrews is not merely a collection of really neat truths which have been thrown together for the benefit of those who get a fiendish delight in the study of doctrinal trivia.

    This book is practical. It is written to change your life. It has truths in it that will enable you to live differently. It is not to be read only on Sunday and then forgotten. Its truths apply to Monday through Saturday and Sunday, too.

    What is the nature of the warning which will be given? It will be a warning against remaining in immaturity.

    The Nature of the Warning: You have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God (5:12).

    These Jews had heard the message of the gospel. They had come to Christ. They had joined the ranks of the Christians. They had pledged themselves to Jesus Christ.

    But now they are turning away. They are turning back to their former Judaism. They are turning back to their previous religious system and telling themselves that it will be okay because it is still the same God.

    But, in doing this, they are ignoring the oracles of God. They are ignoring the fact that their Old Testament Scriptures which they are trying to return to are the very ones which bear witness of Jesus Christ.

  3. The Need of the Warning: You have come to need milk and not solid food (5:12).

These Jews are likened to babies. At a time when they should have been teachers, spreading the gospel to others, they needed to be fed the milk of the gospel.

Now I want you to notice something. Being a baby does not necessarily refer to an immature believer. It merely describes one who is unlearned and helpless. Indeed, in both 1 Corinthians 3:1 and Galatians 4:1-3 it is used to describe an unbeliever.

I want to suggest that the same thing is described in our passage in Hebrews. This is written to Jews who had heard the gospel and who had initially accepted it but who have now turned away. These were Jews who need to be taught the ABCís of the Old Testament. At a time when they ought to have been teaching in the Jerusalem Bible College, they needed to go back to spiritual kindergarten.

 

THE CALL TO PRESS ON TO MATURITY

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, lest us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we shall do, if God permits. (Hebrews 6:1-3).

This passage has been greatly misunderstood. It has been taught that this is a call for believers to grow and to mature and to become more knowledgeable in the Scriptures. But such an interpretation is completely at odds with the context.

These were not merely baby believers who needed to grow. These were people who were turning from the faith. These were Jewish converts who were returning to their Judaism.

They had turned from Christ and now they were going back into the Temple and offering their sacrifices and trying to please God by keeping all of the Old Testament ordinances.

  1. Elementary Teaching versus Maturity: Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, lest us press on to maturity (6:1).
  2. These Jews are advised to leave the elementary teaching about the Christ. This is not a call to abandon Jesus. Rather, it is a call to abandon the elementary teachings about Messiah and move on to the more advanced teachings of Messiah.

    What are the elementary teachings about the Messiah? They are the same as the elementary principles of the oracles of God described in Hebrews 5:12 (the same words are used in the Greek). They are the types and shadows and the prophecies on the Old Testament. These all looked forward to Christ. They are the ABCís of the Messianic truths.

    These Jews who had initially come to Jesus and had then turned away were going back to the elementary teachings of Messiah - they were going back to the Temple sacrifices and the rituals which pictured the Messiah who was to come.

    They need to leave these things. They need to move on. They need to graduate to "Jesus 101." They need to go on to maturity. What kind of maturity is this? Is it spiritual maturity? Is it some kind of spiritual level that a Christian attains to by doing all of the right things like praying and witnessing and giving money and Bible study? No. It is simply a reference to the salvation which is found in Jesus Christ.

    Donít miss this! This "maturity" is a description of the man who has come to Christ in faith. This will be seen when we come to chapter seven.

    Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11).

    The word "perfection" in this verse comes from the Greek root word teloV. It is the same word which is translated "mature" in Hebrews 5:14 and "maturity" here in Hebrews 6:1. Elsewhere, it has been translated "complete, finished, fulfilled."

    The point of the passage is that perfection never came through the Levitical priesthood. Therefore, if you want to reach that perfection, you need to leave that Levitical priesthood behind and hold to that which is perfect and complete - Jesus Christ.

    We could chart it like this:

    Old Testament Symbols

    Jesus Christ

    You have need that someone teach you again the elementary principles of the oracles of God (5:12).

    By this time you ought to be teachers (5:12).

    You have come to need milk (5:12).

    You are not eating solid food (5:12).

    Milk is for babies (4:13).

    Solid food is for the mature (4:14).

    Leave the elementary teachings about Christ (6:1).

    Press on to maturity (6:1).

    Approaching God on the basis of the Old Covenant.

    Approaching God on the basis of the New Covenant.

    The Jews are to leave their past heritage of infancy behind and to hold to that which is the fulfillment and the completion of all of the Old Testament types and shadows. They are to hold to Jesus.

  3. Former Foundations: Not laying again a foundation (6:1).

We must always remember that this is written to Jews. They had a spiritual heritage. That heritage is the foundation for the gospel. But now that the gospel has come, it is time to leave the foundation and hold to the gospel.

These Jews were doing just the opposite. They were abandoning the truth of the gospel and returning to the Old Testament foundation on which the gospel was built. This foundation was made up of a number of teachings. There are six mentioned here.

a. Repentance from dead works.

b. Faith toward God.

c. Instruction about washings.

d. Laying on of hands.

e. The resurrection of the dead.

f. Eternal judgment.

Each of these teachings was an Old Testament teaching. Each one of these teachings had a legitimate use. But each one is wrong if it is used to detract attention away from Jesus Christ.

There is an important lesson here. Anything which takes my attention away from Jesus Christ is wrong. It might be a good thing. But it is being wrongly used if it takes me away from the Lord.

 

THE DANGER OF FALLING AWAY

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Now we are faced with a serious warning. I want you first to notice to whom this warning is directed. This is spoken to those who...

These people had originally worshiped the Lord through the Old Testament sacrificial system. They had believed in a future coming messiah. But then they heard the gospel. They heard about Christ and the salvation that He brings. They trusted in Him as their Messiah. They witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit. They heard the preaching of the Word of God. They saw miracles. And then hard times came. In the midst of those hard times, they are being tempted to abandon their faith and to return to the way things used to be. They are being tempted to return to the Old Testament sacrifices and the waiting for a future messiah.

Here is the warning. There is nothing left for them. They cannot go back to the Levitical Law and expect God to honor their worship because they have turned from the One who fulfilled the Law. They cannot go back to the Temple and offer a sacrifice, since they have already rejected the Ultimate Sacrifice.

They again crucify to themselves the Son of God (6:6). This is spoken to Jews who are turning away from Jesus. They are trying to leave the cross and go back to the temple sacrifice. They are trying to leave the reality and go back to the type.

In doing so, they are turning their backs upon Jesus. Less than forty years earlier, another generation of Jews had turned from Jesus. They had manifested their hatred of Jesus by crucifying Him. Now, these Jewish people are in danger of doing the very same thing.

Summary: This is written to Jews who have heard the gospel and have accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah. They are told that if they now reject the Messiah and fall away from the gospel, it is impossible for them to repent and return to the Law and thereby renew their old pre-cross relationship with God, since to do so would be to crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

 

THE PROMISE OF JUDGMENT

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." (Hebrews 6:7-8).

These two verses form an illustration. They serve to illustrate the truths that have just been taught. The rain represents all of those things which God has sent in verses 4-5 to convince men of the truth of the salvation that Jesus provides. This rain has been offered to all. But it has a different effect in some areas than it has in others.

In some areas, it bears fruit and is blessed by God. In other places, it bears thorns and is destroyed by God.

Illustration

Truth that is Illustrated

Rain falls from heaven.

Truth has been given from heaven.

The rain lands on everything.

The gospel has been given to all men.

When the rain brings forth vegetation, it results in a blessing.

When the gospel is believed and brings salvation, it results in a blessing.

When rain brings forth thorns and thistles, it is worthless and ends up being burned.

When the gospel is not believed, the result is a curse.

The warning is clear. What kind of ground are you? Are you holding fast to Jesus Christ? Or are you abandoning Him to chase the wind?

 

THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:9-12).

Having seen the extreme hazard of falling away from Christ, we are now faced with a sobering question. Is it possible for a Christian to loose his salvation? Is it possible for one who has been saved to now become unsaved?

No, it is not. The Bible is very clear in this teaching. One who hears the truth of Jesus Christ and comes in faith is saved forever and can never be lost.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28).

When God gives eternal life to one of His people, it is eternal life. It is not probationary life. It is not life until you sin again. It is not life until you fall from grace. It is eternal life.

But that is not the only work that God does when He saves you. He also changes your way of thinking. Indeed, the only reason that a person ever really believes in Jesus Christ is because God has already been at work in that personís life, changing his thinking.

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws Him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ĎAnd they shall all be taught of God.í Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." (John 6:44-45).

Donít miss this! When a person comes to Christ and believes in Him, it is the outward manifestation of the invisible work of God upon his life. Such a man will not come unless God draws him. And when God does draw a man and puts truth into his heart, that man comes to Christ.

Now we come face to face with a problem. What about the man who comes to Christ and then falls away? What about the man who becomes a Christian and then becomes disillusioned with his Christianity and goes out and rejects God?

There are one of two possible answers. Either that person is only experiencing a temporary period of rebellion, or else he was not saved by God in the first place.

You see, there are many people who hear the gospel and are initially attracted by some aspect of it. Judas Iscariot was an example of this. When a person departs from the faith, they are showing their true colors. They are showing that they were never really children of God in the first place.

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19).

Do you see the implications of this? There are people who hear the gospel and make a decision to accept it and who join the ranks of the Christians for a time, but who then turn from the faith and fall away. The reason that this takes place is because they were not really of the faith in the first place. They came, but they did not come to stay. They came, but they were not drawn by the Father. And so, they departed.

The good news is that we have a continuing hope of salvation. This is the note on which the writer of this epistle closes this section.

We are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation (6:9). The writer feels certain that there is more to these Hebrew Christians than "thorns and thistles."

He knows that they are being tempted to depart from the faith, but he does not think that they have done so yet. He does not believe that they have reached the point of no return. He does not believe that they have fallen away. Why? Because he has witnessed the evidence of their salvation.

I cannot see your faith. I do not know that you are a believer by looking at your faith. I can only see the results of that faith. The actions in your life are an evidence of what you believe.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name (6:10). These Hebrews had come to Christ. Since they had come to Christ, their faith had produced corresponding works in their life. These works were not the cause of their salvation. Rather, these works were the evidence of their salvation.

God does not forget that evidence. He has promised to keep those who are His. They will not be permitted to fall away because He will hold on to them.

Now letís make this personal. If, as we have suggested, there are "saints" and "ainíts" in the church, then how do you know which one you are? God does not say, "Trust in Me and I will make you wait for the rest of your life wondering if you are really Mine." Instead, He gives you three kinds of evidence of assurance.

1. The Evidence of Your Life (6:10).

We read that God will not forget your work. This relates specifically to your life. If you want to know if you are a Christian, then look from where you have come and look at the direction in which you are going.

Are you a practicing atheist? If you woke up tomorrow and found out that Christianity wasnít true, would it make a difference in your life? What is it in your life that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural? When you see a turtle on a gatepost, you know that he didnít get there by himself.

2. The Evidence of Your Love (6:10).

Jesus said that people would be able to identify His disciples by their LOVE. The problem is that we started defining love as an emotional feeling that you get; something akin to heartburn. But love in the Scriptures is always an action word. The way that you love your neighbor as yourself is by treating him the way you want to be treated.

3. The Evidence of Your Diligence (6:11).

Verse 11 encourages us to "show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end."

A Christian is not someone who never falls down. A Christian is someone who keeps getting back up again. The Christian race is a marathon and the prize only goes to those who have crossed the finish line.

4. The Evidence of Your Faith (6:12).

How do you enter into this relationship with Christ? How do you become a "Saint" instead of an "Ainít"? Verse 12 tells us that it is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises.

Which promises are these? They are the same promises that were given to all of the Old Testament saints. They are the promises that were given to Abraham. They are the promises of a heavenly inheritance.

There is a promise here for you. God has you in His hands. If you have come to Him in faith, then you are His special child. He will never let go of you. And, if you begin to slip, He will not forget. If you fall into sin, He does not ignore the past evidence of your salvation. He will continue to hold you so that you can realize the full assurance of hope until the end.