Hebrews 5:11–14

We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

– Hebrews 5:11–14, HCSB

Today we’ll be returning to our Hebrews commentary series. Today’s passage is brief, and serves as a transition between what was said previously and what will come.

Our author begins by telling his audience that he has a great deal to say about “this.” Now, there is always some discussion when this kind of statement is made as to what “this” actually is. Does “this” refer to everything up to this point, or only to the immediate context.

Given that what our author says previous to this is about Melchizedek and his priesthood, and given that what he follows this section with also leads into a discussion of the Melchizedekian priesthood, it seems reasonable to believe that “this” refers to that.

Our author here has strong words for his audience. Because they have become lazy or sluggish, teaching them has been difficult. The word translated as “lazy” here is also used in Proverbs 22:29 to describe the “obscure” or “insignificant” men who the diligent will not stand before. The idea here is that our audience has not been diligent in their studies, and thus our author has had to spend much time reviewing basic truths about Christ. What are these basic truths? Namely that Jesus is truly God, and that he truly became man.[1]

While it would be unusual to see a modern pastor chastise his congregation in such a way, it was for their own good. Rather than coddle them and teach only to their felt needs, limiting himself to “what they can handle”… our preacher here explains to them that they ought to be moving on from the basics of Christianity, and proceeding to learn and digest the more complex aspects. One of the many Pauline concepts that lend credibility to the idea that our author was someone in Paul’s immediate context, our author draws on the familiar imagery of Milk and Meat.

This section sets us up for what comes next, which will be meat indeed.

  1. Given that there is wide agreement that the book of Hebrews was written in the mid-60s AD, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 68, this passage serves as strong proof against the hypothesis that the earliest Christian testimony was that of a so-called low Christology which is advocated by many liberals. The truth of the matter is that this letter, written only 30 or so years after the death of Jesus not only assumes the Hypostatic Union is a widely spread doctrine… it assumes that it is a basic doctrine that all Christians not only accept, but understand. Where the liberal critics correct, this could not be the case.

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