#2) Do you desire to ‘mature in the faith’ or are you maturing in the faith?

November 18, 2008

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first 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 unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Hebrews 5:12-14

When a newborn baby proceeds from its mother’s womb, it is a rather helpless being. It is completely dependent on someone to take care of it in all ways. Mother’s in particular attest to the truth of all the time and effort that is required to raise a child from infancy. Namely, a child cannot proceed from the womb expected to devour any solid food. The stomach and digestive system is sensitive and delicate as it cannot absorb hard or non-liquid substances. In fact, it does not even go past the mouth, for an infant has no teeth. It cannot chew anything. The baby is born only able to drink milk or purely liquid substances. Since it is unable to consume or “take in” anything else, milk is the only thing that satisfies and nourishes the child. It is the same with all other mammals of other types on the planet. Without milk, there is no life. With milk, there is potential to satisfy the desire of hunger that also provides the ability to grow and develop into other types of foods to consume. Eventually, the baby will no longer need only milk as the majority of its diet, but other more solid foods will be the majority.

Spiritually speaking, the difference between milk and solid food demonstrates the progressive stages of spiritual maturity in the Christian. The writer of Hebrews beautifully and harmoniously portrays the spiritual and physiological contrast that humans [Christians] face daily. As even an atheist would tend to agree about the requirements for the nourishment of an infant, so it is regarding the Christian and the progressive stages of maturity. In essence, the level of maturity divides Christians [professors] in the form of doctrine. According to Hebrews, it is in the exercising of the spiritual faculties [the Holy Spirit] to discern good and evil that differentiates one who eats solid food and a babe who drinks mostly or only milk.

One who is ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness,’ may typically be one who has developed itchy ears and purposefully diverts the word of God to believe and practice fables and lies developed by men.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Upon conversion [if truly converted], although this person is perfectly aware of the truth of the word of God, he needs to be taught the basic principles. Because milk is the majority of the spiritual diet, he delights in the basics. His soul produces very minimal effort to seek to understand the deep things of God. If a man has an adult physical body, a diet consisting mostly of milk does not provide the nutritional value it needs. An adult would be malnourished very soon after consuming only milk. As milk is the necessary means for a baby to develop into an adult since it is a sign of birth, so it maintains that solid food is the necessary means for an adult to survive and be nourished enough to continue and thrive. In the same way, a man who delights in the basic spiritual principles cannot thrive. His own sin will be the stumbling block that prevents him from discerning good from evil. His judgment of the sinful nature will be like sap running down a tree. It is not quick, but drips slowly while soaking up everything in its way. He may even delight in his sin for a season, not recognizing how heinous it is before the infinitely Holy God.

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”

Hebrews 6:1-6

Those who have been truly wrought of the Holy Spirit cannot and do not ultimately forsake the faith. The pendulum of the Christian faith in the sinner sways whichever way the Sovereign Lord wills. It is the Lord who grants the precious gift of repentance as well is well as unveiling the eyes and ears to have faith. The production is the eternal salvation of the soul. A man alone cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, but it is the efficacy of the Holy Spirit alone that transforms the heart to have affections for God. Therefore, the only true enlightenment is by the Spirit and what God alone has done. Man is able to foster mimics of the same effects, but these effects are not ultimately produced by the righteousness of the Spirit. One who is religious cannot and will not ultimately come to true faith, apart from God bringing the soul to life. They, like Judas Iscariot, may walk with Jesus’ people for a time. They may also appear righteous before men. But, in the end, they crucify the Son of God and put Him to an open shame by the way they live their lives. It is their true hatred for God that dominates the affections to the eternal ruin of the soul.

However, to the chosen vessels who truly bear the name of Jesus Christ and whose names are written in the book of life, solid food [by Grace] dominates the spiritual diet. Solid food rejoices in sound doctrine and the soul consisting of this diet is never satisfied with only milk. Although milk plays a role at the beginning of every Christian life, the ever increasing sanctification provided by the Spirit causes the diet to shift. This is none other than the Grace of Our Lord alone, providing the way. The religious self-effort of man ends him up in utter despair and ruined in sin. That is the natural tendency of every man. Hebrews exhorts, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.” Hebrews 6:9 Our earthly glorifying of The Lord is viewed dimly due to the presence of sin in and among God’s people. But, in the things that accompany salvation, the emission of sound doctrine provided by the Spirit and the Word is the cross hairs nearing the bulls eye.

Spiritual milk initiates the basic understanding of the word of God. Words like prayer, reading, God’s will, seeking, knowing and being obedient are probably understood most often in the predominately milk diet [not that these are less important or ever become that way]. Words like, propitiation, expiation, justification, mediation and reprobation are more likely to be understood and theologically practiced in a predominately solid food diet. The purpose of Paul and the writer of Hebrews speaking about ‘solid food’ is not to cause a believer or new believer to feel inadequate in knowledge or spirituality [although we truly are]. Neither is it to exalt or glory in the knowledge of man. Eating solid food or practicing sound doctrine is what best reflects the Glory of God in the accuracy of the teaching of His inspired Word.

What we say about our Creator is either true according to His Word, or it is false, according to His Word. The way we grow more intimate with our Father is by understanding more of who He is. Like our earthly fathers, we know more about them by spending time in communion with them. We find out how they think, react and respond to certain situations. In the end, we grow to love them more by knowing them more. It is the same with our Creator. The more time we spend in communion with Him, the more we understand how He thinks and the more intimate the relationship becomes. Thus, it creates a greater understanding of His infinite glory and our eternal worthlessness. As we grow to understand of the true Character of God in that, he hates as well as loves and he condemns as well as justifies, the effects produced are the breaking of the hearts of feeble men where they stand, in humility. The more we see and understand His Holiness, the more we see our unholiness and thus desire to be Holy. The more we see and understand His hatred for sin and rebellion, the more we see our sin and rebellion and learn to hate it, etc.

The lifelong blessedness of solid food, i.e. practicing sound doctrine, provokes an orthodox [biblical] view of the illumination of the person of Jesus Christ. The blessed ability to see the eternal counsel of God in the person of Christ is indeed an anointed understanding. It is not only an understanding, but a multitude of facets are sought to be treasured and understood because of their eternal worthiness. These spiritual facets are the simultaneous understanding of particular doctrines and the role that Jesus Christ plays in each. Eternality, Love, Sovereignty, Hate, Mercy, Grace, Glory, Justification and Reprobation are all biblical doctrines that explain Jesus Christ and His eternal counsel in redemptive history. Only the illumination caused by the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to see the blessedness and eternal reality of the Glory of God and His fame. We understand this by seeking God in His word with a humble heart, moving on to perfection and laying aside the temporal desires of this world that fade before our very eyes.

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.”

Hebrews 6:10-11

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