************ Sermon on Hebrews 6:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 28, 2016
Hebrews 5:11 - 6:3
"Go On To Maturity"
On Wednesday I showed up early for a Rotary meeting at the Visalia Convention Center. So, I dropped in on the Tulare County Spelling Bee. Do you think the judges picked out simple one or two syllable words? WATER. Spell out the word WATER. DOG. Spell out DOG. Of course not. In a day with spell check on computers and cell phones these kids were amazing. They were mature spellers. They were way past the simple ABC. They were asked to spell out words like ASTHMOGENIC, PERESTROIKA, PHILHELLENISM, SAPIENTIAL.
This past week, Rick Postma of Word & Deed and Neal Hegeman of MINTS both stayed with us. When it was time to eat, do you think we warmed up a jar of our grand-daughter's baby food and put that on the table in front of them? Baby food is meant for babies like Adriana, not for grown-ups like Rick and Neal.
Our Bible passage this evening tells us about long-time Hebrew Christians who had not advanced to maturity in Christ. They were still eating baby food instead of solid food and were still learning their spiritual ABCs.
I God Wants Growth
A What does God want from His people? What is it that He is looking for in your life and my life? We all should know that God wants to see spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and spiritual development in the lives of His children. I am reminded of what Paul writes in his letter to Ephesus:
(Eph 4:12-15) [God desires] that the body of Christ may be built up (13) until we all ... become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (14) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ... (15) Instead, ... we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.Do you hear the language of spiritual growth used by Paul? Paul uses phrases like: built up, become mature, attain to the measure of Christ, no longer infants, and grow up.
Our text from Hebrews 6 makes the exact same point: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity ..." (Heb 6:1). Do you know what Hebrews is saying? It is saying, "Grow up." "Become mature." "Develop in the faith." That is what we are being told. That is what God wants. That is what God is looking for in your life and in my life.
Don't forget the letter in front of us is written to Hebrew Christians who wanted to leave Jesus for Moses, who wanted to go back to the safety of the old covenant with its works of the law, who wanted to do anything but become mature in the Christian faith and godliness.
B What is the growth that God is looking for, that He wants to see in your life and my life? Listen to the following texts as they tell us the kind of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity and spiritual development that God is searching for:
(Rom 8:29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son ...
(2 Cor 3:18) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever- increasing glory ...
(Eph 4:13) ... become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
All these verses come down to the same thing. God's goal is that we become like Jesus: conformed to His image, transformed into His likeness, attaining His fullness. God's goal for us is nothing short of the perfection of Jesus.
Perfection. Think about this. What do you think this is like?
What do you think this congregation would be like if she was perfect? We wouldn't have any gossip about each other, we would encourage each other instead of talk about each other, we would love each other instead of being envious, we would be one in heart and soul and mind. We would know our Bibles and our Catechism and recognize correct doctrine. We would win so many souls for the Lord we would have to quadruple the size of our building and parking lot or start a bunch of daughter churches.
What do you think your children would be like or your parents, if they were perfect? What do you think your spouse would be like if he or she was perfect? What do you think your brothers and sisters would be like if they were perfect? No more fights and quarrels, no more family tensions, always harmony and peace and love. They all would be so much easier to live with, wouldn't they?!
But now the most important question, what do you think you would be like if you were perfect? You would be easier to live with too, much easier. If you were perfect, like God your Father wants you to be, you would be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you were perfect, like God your Father wants you to be, you would be fully in tune with the will of God; you would know that will and do that will and submit to that will in all things. If you were perfect, like God your Father wants you to be, you would be a source of wisdom, strength, and encouragement instead of foolishness, weakness, and discouragement for those around you.
This kind of perfection is what God wants and looks for. This kind of perfection is what God wants us to work toward. This kind of perfection is to be the goal of your life. But this kind of perfection God has found only once in this life, on this earth, and in this flesh. Only Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, has been perfect (Heb 2:10; 4:15; 5:8f). Only Jesus has attained a level of absolute spiritual maturity. Only Jesus has fully and completely displayed in His life all the fruit of the Spirit. Only Jesus has been an absolutely reliable source of wisdom, strength, and encouragement. Because of this He is our Mediator Who saves us from our sin.
God wants us to walk the holy road. He wants to see us progress along the way of sanctification. He wants to see us overcoming the effects of the Fall into sin. He wants us to become more and more like Jesus. He wants us to grow up into Christ. He wants us to become mature, able "to distinguish good from evil." By this Hebrews means we are to be able to distinguish good conduct from evil conduct, true doctrine from false doctrine, and right teaching from wrong teaching.
C Needless to say, God is very disappointed when He doesn't see this kind of growth in the Christian life. God is disappointed when year after year goes by with no change or progress in the life of His children. I am reminded of what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
(1 Cor 3:1-2) Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. (2) I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
Do you know what this tells me? This tells me that the situation addressed by our passage is not at all unique. Throughout the history of the church, I am afraid, there have been Christians and churches who have stubbornly refused to grow in faith, wisdom, and godliness. Throughout the ages there have been those who have been content with staying stagnant in their spiritual life. Throughout the ages there have been those who have felt no need for maturity.
Up to chapter 5:10, Hebrews has been telling us about Jesus. We've been told Jesus is better. Jesus is better than the prophets. Jesus is better than the angels. Jesus is better than Moses and Joshua. Jesus is better than Aaron and the high priests who followed him. So don't leave Jesus because Jesus is better. In the first verse of our Bible reading tonight, the author of Hebrews admits "We have much to say about this ..." (Heb 5:11). Much to say, that is, about Jesus. Much more, in fact. But instead of saying more about Jesus he takes a detour about Christian maturity.
Says Hebrews, "It is hard to explain because you are slow to learn" (Heb 5:11). This does not mean they are dumb or intellectually inferior. It does not even mean they are spiritually inferior. The problem is that they are lazy, slack, and happy with the way things are. The problem is that the Hebrew Christians are like little children. The problem is that the Hebrew Christians are still eating baby food. The problem is that the Hebrew Christians are still learning their ABCs. They may be old in years, they may have been converted years before, they may have known the gospels since infancy, but they have not matured at all. They are baby Christians.
Hebrews complains that "by this time (they) ought to be teachers" (Heb 5:12). This does not mean that they all ought to be teaching church school or catechism or leading Bible Studies. Rather, they ought to be sufficiently advanced in their understanding of the Bible and Christian doctrine to be able to teach and instruct and edify those who are still young in the faith. They "ought to be teachers" by now. Yet, they "need someone to teach (them) the elementary truths of God's word all over again" (Heb 5:12).
Hebrews says, "You need milk, not solid food!" (Heb 5:12). To go on living on milk, mere baby food, means they are not growing and developing properly. Whereas, to live on solid food means growth and maturity and development. Spiritually, these Christians are immature and childish and weak rather than mature and grownup and strong.
Our author explains that "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness" (Heb 5:13). These baby Christians do not want further instruction about sovereign grace, election, and reprobation. They see no need to further understand the teaching that Christ is our righteousness, the teaching of justification by grace through faith, the teaching that there is no righteousness in ourselves, the teaching that we can not practice a work's righteousness. These baby Christians do not try to understand the meat of the Gospel, the solid diet of the doctrine of the high-priesthood of Jesus Who is the King of Righteousness (Heb 7:1f).
D Therefore, says our text, "let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity." I don't know about you, but this statement has always struck me as a little odd. It seems to me that we can never leave the "elementary teachings about Christ," nor should we. But that is not what the author means.
Think of a pupil who has learned the ABCs. He can never dispense with the alphabet, saying that now that he knows it he doesn't need it anymore. The letters of the alphabet are needed for all further learning and progress in school. But, he doesn't keep relearning the alphabet. He doesn't even have to keep reviewing it. Once you know it, you know it for all time and it underlies everything else done in the class. In the same way, the "elementary teachings about Christ" and the "elementary truths of God's word" are basic to all further spiritual growth, maturity, and learning. They are essential but there is no need to keep relearning the basics. When you know them they should be with you forever.
Just as an aside, what are these elementary teachings about Christ? Hebrews 6:1-3 mentions them: repentance, faith, baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection, eternal judgment, and the sovereignty of God. In this church we have all these elementary teachings in one place. We will be confessing it together later. I am talking about the Apostles' Creed.
The elementary teaching of the Apostles' Creed is the starting point of the Christian life. But ahead of this stretches the road to spiritual maturity. The starting point is not the ending point; it is the beginning, not a stopping-place; it is the door to progress and the springboard to achievement.
II Growth Through the Spirit and the Word
A Our text says "let us ... go on to maturity" (Heb 6:1). In the Greek text this actually means "let us be carried forward to maturity." Both Peter and Paul (Rom 8:14; 2 Pet 1:21) also use the phrase "go on" or "carried forward." By it Hebrews, Peter, and Paul describe the work of God and His Spirit.
To spiritually grow and develop and mature we need to be carried forward by the Spirit.
This reminds me of what Paul writes to the church of Corinth. He talks about the work of Paul and Apollos. One man plants the seed and the other waters "but only God ... makes things grow" (1 Cor 3:5-9).
B It is the Spirit that brings growth. But notice how it brings the growth: when man plants and waters. Or, to put it another way, the wind of God is always blowing, but you must put out your sail.
How is it that we are to plant and water? How is it that we are to put out our sail? Very simple really: by the use and frequent study of the Bible. That is the way to spiritual growth and maturity. The Psalmist tells us that the man who meditates on the law or Word of God day and night is blessed (Ps 1:2). The Psalmist knows that is the only way to growth, maturity, and development in the Christian life.
If you want to grow, you need to spend time with the Word. If you want to grow, you need to read the Word, memorize the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word, and hear the Word. But if you don't want to grow, if you want to remain a baby Christian, if you want to keep learning the ABCs, then don't spend time with the Word.
The problem is not a lack of solid food -- but that many Christians haven't progressed beyond baby food.
So what is the goal of your life? Do you want to grow and develop and mature spiritually? I hope so because that is what God wants for you.
One last point: you may want to grow, but it is not easy. It takes time, energy, dissatisfaction with your present life, and the willingness to make changes. In fact, growth is tough.
But remember this: just as babies go from milk to solid food, so Christians should go from milk to solid food; just as students go from learning the ABCs to learning other things, so Christians should go from learning the elementary things about Christ to deeper things.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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