With our focus being on this idea of growth, one might be wondering, “Why is growth so important to the Christian’s walk? As long as I believe in Jesus and read the word of God once in a while, that’s sufficient…right?” As was mentioned last week, the journey homeward is filled with peaks and valleys, where we experience times of tremendous challenge and great heights of joy. Like the apostle Paul, I realize that I have not “already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on” (Philippians 3:12) towards my heavenly home. Unlike the church in Laodicea, spoken of by John in Revelation 3:14-21, I don’t want the Lord to find me “lukewarm…neither cold nor hot” (v16). Being purposed in maturing in Christ is what can help to keep this from happening. In our mid-week study we have been going through Hebrews. A letter written to Jewish Christians who seem to find themselves going back to their old teachings.
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…
The writer, guided by the Holy Spirit, appears to suggest a level of expectation from those reading this letter; that is, they “ought to be teachers”. I thought of James 3:1 where Christians are cautioned, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” So, which is it? James is cautioning members from assuming a teaching role before they are ready. The writer of Hebrews is saying, they should be ready and are not; instead, they need to be taught the “first principles of the oracles of God” again. The essential nature of maturity is then stated, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (v13). Unskilled simply means inexperienced in, without experience of. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul expresses why this maturity is so essential, for it will keep us from being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” When one comes to Christ, they should “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1st Peter 2:2). But that same word of God also contains solid food that can help us continue to grow in Christ, equipping us for every good work (2nd Timothy 3:17). What is some of that work?
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.
Listen to how the NIV translates part of this verse, “…who by constant use have trained themselves.” This comes from the word the NKJV translates exercised; which means to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind. One commentator explains that this word “is used in Greek writings for the training which an athlete undergoes.” This intentional effort enables the believer to discern; that is, distinguish both good and evil, or as one commentator writes, they can “pass discriminating judgment on moral situations as they arise.” Thus, there was then, and there is now, a good reason for Christians to mature: for it is essential to the cause of Christ and to the Christian’s spiritual life!