About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. –Hebrews 5:11-14
The writer to the Hebrews has so far exposed his deep concern for the original audience that they consider well the supremacy of Christ so that they do not draw back or drift away. He wants them to draw near and hold fast. In all of this concern, though, he has not scolded or rebuked them. That changes in the passage above when he calls them “dull of hearing.” He goes on to tell them that they are immature and unskilled. It is unbecoming for them.
What really strikes to me is that this rebuke doesn’t come because of bad ethics or morals. It comes because their understanding of the “oracles of God” is so bad that they need remedial classes. Not only that, but they’ve had time to learn and mature and train “their powers of discernment.” They “ought to be teachers,” but they are “dull of hearing.”
This sounds an awful lot like today. We have what are called mega-churches and they dominate with their presence. There are many small churches, as well, who are old and have a long history dotting the streets of our fair city. In my comings and goings I meet people almost daily who attend (sort of) these churches and as we talk, I find that their understanding of Christian basics is embarrassing. What is this?
We all need to hear what the writer to the Hebrews has to say. Everyone should repent of experience-based worship and the philosophy that we have to keep it simple so we can be attractive to worldly people who may happen by. Inside the churches, it should not be true that there is an extraordinary ignorance of who Jesus really was and is, what Christians have believed and should believe about God and the world, how the entire Christian story makes sense, what the Bible contains, and how individual Christians fit into God’s bringing his kingdom to bear upon the world.
The writer wants them and us to know the gospel. We should want to be skilled “in the word of righteousness.” For those who are trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil, we will know our way around the whole message of scripture, be able to handle this message in relation to our own lives, our communities and the wider world, and know the supremacy of the high priest who is God’s Son who has secured eternal salvation for us. That’s the gospel.
Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!