4 MARKS OF SPIRITUAL DELINQUENTS – IT’S TIME TO GROW UP
Definition of Delinquent: “failure in or neglect of duty or obligation”
The author of Hebrews feels the need to take a timeout in his presentation of the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus Christ – patterned after the order of Melchizedek – to rebuke some of his audience for their surprising spiritual immaturity. Whether these are backslidden believers who need to grow up or unbelievers who have never truly moved on to the reality in the New Covenant, they need a kick in the rear.
A. M. Stibbs: Note the detailed contrast between the two types (a child and the mature), their condition (unskilled and faculties trained by practice), and their diet (milk and solid food). Note that ability acquired, through the word of righteousness, to distinguish good from evil is evidence of maturity.
I. (:11) CAN’T FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL TRUTH
A. Impacts Quantity of Intake of Doctrinal Truth
“Concerning him [i.e. the way Melchizedek prefigures the priesthood of Christ] we have much to say,”
B. Impacts Understanding of Intake of Doctrinal Truth
“and it is hard to explain,”
Hewitt: The subject of Christ’s priesthood was one of considerable difficulty but it was certainly not beyond explanation, nor was it beyond the writer’s ability to explain it, but his readers had become confused and limited in their minds through apathy and mental listlessness.
C. Impacts Concentration Regarding Intake of Doctrinal Truth
“since you have become dull of hearing.”
Kent: characterized as lazy or sluggish. At the moment they were already this way in their hearing. The danger was that this might soon characterize their very selves. We note also that this condition was an acquired one. They have become (gegonate) dull in the hearing. Their original eagerness to hear and respond to the Word of God had cooled. Now they were no longer ready listeners. Other interests had captured their attention.
R. Kent Hughes: When people truly come to Christ, their initial posture is one of intense listening.
Lenski: The perfect tense implies that the readers were once keen of hearing but have fallen into a dulled condition. This is now their state, and it is due to their inclination no longer to believe in Christ Jesus.
David Curtis: the word “dull” is nothros, which comes from two Greek words; one meaning: “no” and the other meaning: “to push”, hence its meaning is: “no push” thus to be slow or sluggish. It is used only here and in 6:12 in the New Testament. It appears in 1 Clement 34:1, where it refers to a lazy and careless workman. Here it has the idea of mental laziness. So dull hearing doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your physical ears. It means there is something wrong with your heart. The heart is not eager and diligent to embrace the promises and turn them into faith and patience. To a person in this state, it is very difficult to explain anything, for nothing, however simple in itself, can be understood if it is not attended to. They were spiritual sluggards.
II. (:12a) CAN’T TEACH DOCTRINE EVEN AT THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL
A. Compromising the Mission of Making Disciples
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers,”
B. Regressing in the Understanding of Doctrinal Basics
“you have need again for someone to teach you
the elementary principles of the oracles of God,”
David Curtis: These Hebrew believers should be able to teach others, but the writer says, “You need someone to teach you again” – this implies that spiritual laziness not only prevents progress in the Christian’s life, but it produces retrogression. If you’re not moving forward, you are going to be going backward. The second law of thermodynamics is the law of increasing disorder. This law works in our Christian lives. You don’t just stand still; if you’re not growing, you’re moving backward.
III. (:12b-13) CAN’T HANDLE SOLID FOOD THAT NOURISHES RIGHTEOUS LIVING
A. (:12b) Regression in Diet
“and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”
R. Kent Hughes: He assaults his friends with a grotesque image – adult infants who are still nursing. Think of the tragic absurdity of full-grown men and women in diapers who are neither capable or, nor desire solid food and who sit around sucking their thumbs.
B. (:13) Regression in Spiritual Development
1. Lacking Wisdom for Righteous Living
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed
to the word of righteousness,”
Constable: The writer’s point in these verses is not just that spiritual babies lack information, which they do, but that they lack experience. A person becomes a mature Christian not only by gaining information, though that is foundational, but by using that information to make decisions that are in harmony with God’s will.
2. Functioning at the Level of Infancy
“for he is a babe.”
IV. (:14) CAN’T EXERCISE DISCERNMENT BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
A. Missing Out on the Healthy Diet
“But solid food is for the mature,”
B. Missing Out on Healthy Development
“who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Kent: The milk user in this illustration is the infant who is confined to milk. He has not grown sufficiently so as to tolerate more solid food. The illustration is applied to the spiritual infant who is incapable of anything except the simplest of spiritual truths. His spiritual perceptions are not yet accustomed to the word of righteousness.
Hewitt: They who are of full age have reached an advanced stage of spiritual understanding. They are mature or full grown in the deep mysteries of the Word of God. This condition is not gained by apathy or by slothfulness, for there is no room in the Christian life for mental laziness. It is gained by the regular exercise of the spiritual faculties in the Word of God and in the doctrines of the Christian faith, for there is no easy way to spiritual maturity. From this position those of full age can discern both good and evil; they have an exact, or right, judgment in all things.
David Curtis: The writer of Hebrews is afraid that his readers may choose poison, the poison of apostasy. That under the pressure of circumstances and trials, they’ll get discouraged and give up. They’ll throw their Christian faith overboard and walk away. Very often when a game gets tough, people quit; especially children. And when the game of life gets tough, when it’s difficult to persevere in the pathway of obedience to God, a Christian, particularly an immature one, may say, “I quit.”
Lenski: The rebuke is ended, and the writer counts on its effect, namely that his readers will shake off their sluggishness in hearing, will not compel him to begin their instruction over again but will rise to sufficient maturity to profit by what he will tell them as simply as he can regarding Melchizedek and Jesus.