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 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.
13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.
14 Solid food is for those who are 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 six months of age. Why is this so? Newborn babies need six months of breastmilk or formula for their stomachs to mature to handle solid food. And breastmilk or formula is the best thing for a baby, perfectly designed for a baby’s body to give all the proper nutrients during the early months of their lives.
By the age of 4 to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating moderate amounts of solid foods to complement breastfeeding or formula-feeding.
People may disagree about the exact amount of time required. Some people think babies need to be breastfed for two years (although that is not exclusive breastfeeding), but no doctor recommends that a 14-year-old be fed breastmilk or formula. Or even a 3-year-old (Mayo Clinic).
Why? Because breastmilk or formula for babies. And no 3-year-old wants to be called a baby. Doctors will tell you that too much milk (and not enough solid 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 who had recently become the Father’s children were indeed spiritual babies. They need baby food, the milk of the Word. On the other end of the continuum, there are mature, spiritual children of the King who handle 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 Christ.
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]?
Often, a Greek term contains subtle nuances that provide a deeper understanding of what Paul is saying in our English translations. To help to understand better, it is beneficial to know and comprehend these finer points.
The Greek word translated as natural man [unbeliever] is psuchikos. Psuchikos has the sense ofbeing characterized by merely soulish reasoning. This Greek term is also translated as 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. Sarkinosmeans 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 merely human, focusing on being weak, sinful, or transitory.
The Greek word translated as fleshly [controlled by your sinful nature] is sarkikos. Sarkikosmeans to be characterized by the flesh. “Although the Corinthians are Christians indwelt by the Spirit, their divisive behavior shows that they act 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 progress toward spiritual maturity and then retrogress and go backward. That is precisely what happened to the Jews for Jesus 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 the Father’s eyes, maturity is not the same as getting older. Spiritual growth requires the 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, explaining it clearly (2 Timothy 2:15). This requires practice, practice, practice.
The most important practice to cultivate is 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 wholly 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 a 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.
© Dr. H 2022