Progress or retrogress
You have become spiritually dull and do not seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. – Hebrews 5:11-12
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you have become spiritually dull and do not seem to listen.
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.
13 For someone who lives on milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
In the 21st century, doctors recommend babies do not have solid food until around 6 months of age. Newborn babies need that 6 months of breastmilk or formula for their stomachs to mature, to be able to handle solid food. And breastmilk or formula is the best thing for a baby, perfectly designed for a baby’s body, to give them all the right nutrients during that first six months.
By ages 4 to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating some solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding.
People may disagree about the exact timing on exactly 6 months. Some people think you should breastfeed for two years (although that is not exclusive breastfeeding), but no doctor in the world recommends that a 14-year-old be fed breastmilk or formula. Or even a 3-year-old (Mayo Clinic).
Why? Because breastmilk or formula or made for babies. And no 3-year-old wants to be called a baby. In fact, doctors will tell you that too much milk (and not enough food) is not good either. It can lead to iron deficiency anemia (http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/10/4-myths-truths-milk.html).
But what about children of the King who are still acting like spiritual babies and partaking only of milk and not solid food?
Paul was quite clear. He understood that people that had recently become the Father’s children are indeed spiritual babies. They need baby food, the milk of the word. On the other end of the continuum, there are mature, spiritual children that have great facility with solid food and the meat of the word.
1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3
14 But a natural man [unbeliever] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.
1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you, I could not talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you were of the flesh [belonged to this world] or as though you were babies in the Christian life.
2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you were not ready for anything stronger. And you still are not ready,
3 for you are still fleshly [controlled by your sinful nature]. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world [unbelievers]?
There are subtle nuances here that are found in the Greek language that are helpful to more fully understand what Paul is saying in our English translations. To help to better understand, it is beneficial to know and comprehend these terms.
The Greek word that is translated as natural man [unbeliever] is psuchikos. Psuchikos has the sense of being characterized by merely soulish reasoning. It could be translated natural, sensual, or soulish.
The Greek word that Paul uses for spiritual is pneumatikos. Pneumatikos means to be characterized by the spirit, that is, a spiritual person
The Greek word that is translated as flesh [belonged to this world], is sarkinos. Sarkinos means to be made of the flesh, in this context, a baby or infant. Paul has a nuanced view of the human condition. He refers to new believers as being merely human, with focus on being weak, sinful, or transitory (Arndt, Danker, Bauer).
The Greek word translated as fleshly [controlled by your sinful nature] is sarkikos. Sarkikos means to be characterized by the flesh. “Although the Corinthians are Christians indwelt by the Spirit, their divisive behavior shows that they are acting like the unbelieving world around them” (ESV Study Bible).
REFLECT & PRAY
It is far past the time for the children of the King to stop acting like babies, and grow up. We have only two choices: progression or retrogression.
Father thank You that You have made it possible to take in and enjoy the lush nourishment from the milk, solid food, and meat of the Word.
There is another subtle danger. It is possible to grow and make progress toward spiritual maturity and then retrogress, go backwards. That is exactly what happened to the Jewish believers in referenced in Hebrews 5. They had become spiritually “dull of hearing.” They began their “backward journey” by drifting from the word (Hebrews 2:1–4) and then doubting it (Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13) (Wiersbe).
Hebrews 5:11-12 You have become spiritually dull and do not seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. In
In the Father’s eyes, maturity is not the same as just getting older. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of the Father (Stanley). To pursue the Father we have to be in His word. We have to handle it, and handle it accurately, being able to explain it clearly (2 Timothy 2:15). This requires practice, continued and repeated practice.
The most important practice to cultivate is a personal devotional time. Since the Father is the source of all spiritual development, you cannot neglect Him and expect to become mature. Transformation begins with time in His Word and prayer (Stanley).
The goal for each child of the King is to pursue maturity, knowing that none of us will ever completely arrive this side of eternity. But it is not enough to merely know the Word and be able to explain it, we have to live it.
Many are stunted in their spiritual growth because of lack of the spiritual nourishment of the milk of the Word. It must be part of our daily “diet.” And then move beyond milk to solid food. Regrettably, both newborn children of the King and those who have been in the Forever Family for a while still eat only spiritual baby food.