Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twelve verses of the sixth chapter. When you approach the sixth chapter of the epistle you will find the language contained therein building upon that which was written in the previous chapter. In fact—I am convinced that if one is to truly and properly understand that which is found in this portion of scripture, one needs to understand the foundation upon which it was built. As you journey into verses eleven through fourteen of the fifth chapter you find the author issuing a provocative warning and word of caution to their audience—one that strikes at the very heart of Christian spirituality. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must and should ask is how do we measure true spiritual growth and maturity. How do we truly measure our spirituality in light of what is contained within scripture? We know that our Lord Jesus the Christ instructed us to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect, but that does that even mean and look like? What does true Christian perfection, and true Christian maturity look like within our lives, and within our houses of worship? What’s more, is I can’t help but ask myself how we even know if we are truly mature in Christ rather than simply babes in Christ. The apostle Paul when writing unto the Corinthian congregation wrote in the first epistle sent unto them how he could not write unto them as spiritual, but carnal—even babes in Christ—because there was division, strife, contention and confusion present among them in their midst. The apostle Paul—when first writing unto the Corinthian saints—denounced and indicted them for their lack of Christian maturity and growth, and he did so on the basis that there were rumors and reports of divisions and contentions present among them. The words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these dear saints must be powerfully understood in light of what we find and read in the epistle written unto the Hebrews if we are to truly understand what it means, and what it looks like to be mature and perfect in Christ.
The words which I find in the final four verses of the fifth chapter, as well as the words which are written in the first twelve verses of the sixth chapter are a powerful word of caution and warning to us who seek and desire to follow Christ. What we find, and what we read in the fifth chapter was a stunning and stunning denunciation unto the Hebrews, for the author writes concerning them that by the time when they ought to be teachers, they themselves needed to be taught. What’s more, is the author of this epistle wrote unto these Hebrews that there was still much to write and much to speak unto them, however, they could not hear or receive it because they were full of hearing. What’s more, is that this actually seems to build off that which the author previously wrote instructing and encouraging them according to the reality and Orin joke of today, for the invitation was for today. The author used the words which were written in the ninety fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of psalms to speak to them of hearing His voice and not hardening their hearts as their fathers did in the provocation. Because their fathers heard the word preached unto them and did not mix it with faith and belief, they transgressed and rebelled against the Lord for forty years in the wilderness. An entire generation was forced to spend forty years wandering in the wilderness because of the dullness of their hearing and the hardness of their hearts. There was an entire generation that experienced the glory and presence of the Lord at Sinai, there was an entire generation that experienced the salvation of the Lord at the Red Sea, and there was an entire generation which experienced deliverance from the slavery, bondage and oppression of the land of Egypt, and yet in spite of all this, their hearts were hardened, and they could not hear the word that was preached unto them. Pause for a moment and consider that for forty years an entire generation wandered through the wilderness living for the day they would die and their bodies fell in the wilderness. For forty years an entire generation was forced to wander in the wilderness because although they heard the word preached unto them, they did not and could not mix it with faith and belief.
When I read the words which were written and recorded in the fifth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, I can’t help but be wonderfully and powerfully gripped by the language contained therein, for the author minced no words and held no punches. The author was absolutely forthcoming with these readers, as they declared unto them the lack of maturity and growth these Hebrews truly possessed within their lives. The author of this epistle began in the fifth chapter by declaring unto them that there was still much to be said, however, he could not write it unto them because of their dullness of hearing. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand, it’s that dullness of hearing and hardness of heart typically and usually go hand in hand. In fact, I would dare say that the inability—perhaps even the unwillingness and refusal to hear is a direct result of the hardening of one’s heart. How we hear, how we listen, and how we respond is directly connected and intrinsically linked to the condition of our heart, for in all reality—our hearing comes first as a direct manifestation of our hearts. Our ability and our willingness to hear is directly linked and connected to the condition of our heart, for we hear first with our hearts before we hear with anything else. Please note and understand that when I write and speak of our hearing with our hearts first and foremost, that which I am speaking of in no way diminishes the fact that we have two ears with which we are to hear. I fully recognize that in the natural and physical sense we have two ears with which to hear, but if we are honest with ourselves we must admit that hearing truly does begin with our heart, for with our hearts we make a conscious decision whether or not we are going to be sensitive enough to hear, and to listen, and even to respond to that which we have heard. What’s more, is that when we read the word of God and the words contained within and upon the pages, our hearing of those words begins with our heart, for it is with our hearts where our sensitivity to the voice and speaking of the Holy Spirit is truly manifested. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to this reality, for how we hear and the condition of our hearts are directly connected to our growth and maturity.
Before we get into that which is found and contained within the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews it is absolutely imperative and necessary that we once more encounter the words which are found in the final four verses of the fifth chapter. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote beginning with the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter through the fourteenth verse:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are full of age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5>11-14).
The words which are written and recorded in this particular location within the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews must also be carefully understood and considered in light of that which is found, and that which is recorded in the second chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter the apostle Paul writes the following words unto this particular congregation:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with e noticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:1-8).
These words must also be read and understood in light of that which the apostle Paul wrote at the beginning of the very next chapter within the same epistle. Beginning with the first verse of the third chapter the apostle Paul writes the following words:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strive, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
As you read the words found within this particular passage of Scripture you will notice a few different realities manifested and contained therein. The apostle Paul began by writing unto the Corinthian congregation in this first letter how he could not write and speak unto them as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. The apostle Paul then goes on to write how he fed them with milk, and not with meat, for they were not able to bear it previously, nor were they even at the time of the writing of this epistle able to bear it. Within the first two verses of this particular chapter of the epistle we not only find the apostle Paul declaring unto them that he could not speak unto them as spiritual, but we find him declaring unto them how they were carnal, and were even babes in Christ. The apostle Paul went on to write and declare unto them that he could not feed them with meat, but with milk, for they were not able to bear or handle it. This is actually quite a stunning denunciation that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for the apostle Paul not only addressed them as babes in Christ, but he also declared unto them that they were unable to handle and bear the solid meat of the word of God. The apostle Paul emphatically wrote and declared unto them that he could not speak to and address them as spiritual, but carnal, for there was present among them envying, strife and divisions. It was this basis of that which is found among them that caused the apostle Paul to go on to write and declare unto them that they walked as mere men and were in fact carnal. Within this particular passage of Scripture the apostle Paul directly links and directly connects envying, strife and divisions with carnality and immaturity among the saints of God. I wrote earlier how we can decipher, and how we can determine whether or not we are spiritually mature in Christ, and upon reading the words contained within this passage of Scripture we are confronted with the reality that carnality and walking as men can in fact keep and prevent us from experiencing true maturity and growth in Christ. When writing unto the Corinthian saints and congregation the apostle Paul held nothing back when writing and declaring to them that rather than being spiritual, they were carnal, and were still babes in Christ. After spending eighteen months with the inhabitants of this city, and after spending eighteen months laboring and toiling among the church within this city, the apostle Paul wrote unto them, yet he wrote unto them as carnal rather than spiritual. Undoubtedly when writing this first epistle unto these saints, the apostle Paul wanted to address them as spiritual, yet he was prevented and prohibited from doing so because of their carnality and immaturity. I can’t help but be wonderfully and powerfully convinced that when we allow divisions, when we allow strive, when we allow contention, when we allow discord and chaos to be present and manifested among us within the house of the Lord, we are towing a dangerous line between maturity, perfection and true Christian spirituality.
Concerning that which the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews wrote, we find them beginning by speaking of still many things which they desired to write, say and speak unto them—things which are hard to be uttered—yet they could not do so because they were dull of hearing. This author would go on to write unto them that when the time came for them to be teachers, they had need that one teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God. The author of this epistle went on to declare unto and of them that they had become such which needed milk, and not strong meat. What’s more, is the author goes on to declare that every one who useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, and is in fact a babe in Christ. This particular chapter concludes with the apostle Paul declaring unto the readers and audience that strong meat belongs to them which are full of age, even by those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. There is within this passage of Scripture a powerful contrast between being able to handle the strong meat of the word versus only milk. We dare not be too quick to move on from this particular point, for to do so would be incredibly detrimental to our spiritual growth and our spiritual maturity. The author wrote unto the Hebrews that not only did they have need to once more be taught when they themselves should have been teachers, but the author also emphatically declared unto them that they needed milk and not the strong meat of the word. Thus, that which the author of this epistle was writing and declaring unto them was that they had not yet reached the point and place of spiritual maturity and growth before the Lord, but were still found in a place of spiritual immaturity before Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian saints and congregation which is found in the fourth chapter of the epistle. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the chapter we find the following words written by the apostle:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:12-24).
The apostle Paul in this particular portion and section of the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation writes and speaks to them of “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Please pay close attention to this, for in the preceding verse the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord giving some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. There are countless men and women among us who simply stop with these words, and focus solely and squarely on the reality and concept that the Lord has given unto the church such offices, such roles, and such functions as apostles, pastors, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and in all reality, such individual elevate such individuals and put them on a pedestal. The problem with this is that it completely neglects the entire purpose, role and function these particular offices have within the body of Christ, for these offices were given unto the body of Christ in order that the saints might be perfected, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. We tend to think that such roles and offices are the end goal, and ultimate means within the house of the Lord, and within the body of Christ, and yet this simply is not the case. If you truly take the time to read that which is found in this particular passage of Scripture you will find the entire purpose for the implementation of these offices is for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write and speak of us all coming in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Oh, it is true the Lord has given unto the body of Christ such roles and such offices as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, yet the body of Christ is not made up solely of these offices, roles and functions. In all reality, I would dare say that the pastor is not the sole reality within the body of Christ, and in the house of the Lord. There is so much more to the body of Christ than simply pastors, and teachers, and apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, for the body of Christ is made up of many members—each which serve their own unique purpose and function before the Lord. When the Lord established the body of Christ within the earth, He did so in order that the saints might be perfect, that the work of the ministry might be completed, and that the body of Christ might be edifies. The Lord’s desire for the body of Christ is not bigger buildings, better programs, larger offerings, better services, and that which we oftentimes deem as being necessary. In all reality, I would dare say that there might be a number of churches, a number of ministries and a number of organizations that may be growing in size, and might be growing their buildings, yet there is absolutely no growth and maturity in those areas which matter the most. What’s more, is that I would dare say that there are countless churches, ministries and organizations that are building large and grandiose buildings, and yet they aren’t growing internally and inwardly. I would dare say that there are countless churches, and countless ministries, and countless organizations that are focused solely and primarily on outward growth that they completely neglect and ignore the fact that there is an inward growth that is far more necessary, and far more vital than this.
I am convinced that what we read and what we find in the fourth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation is a powerful and perfect vision for the Lord’s desire for the body of Christ within the earth. I believe with all my heart that the Lord didn’t merely desire the body of Christ be comprised of apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers, but implemented such roles and offices within the body of Christ for the sake of the body. If you are a pastor or teacher within the body of Christ and you exercise yourself not for the sake of the body of Christ, but for your own personal grain, desire and ambition, I would dare say that you are sorely and grossly mistaken. The apostle Paul wrote that such offices were given for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, and I am utterly and completely convinced that each and every saint within the body of Christ has a specific work, a specific role, a specific function within the body of Christ. The entire body of Christ has great need of being edified in order that we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. What’s more, is that in this particular portion of Scripture the apostle Paul goes on to write and declare that we are no longer to be children which are tossed to and fro—-children who are carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness. There is within this passage of Scripture—not only a strong sense of maturity within the saints of God and the body of Christ, but also a powerful sense of discernment that is needed as well. The apostle Paul holds nothing back when writing unto the saints in Ephesus in this particular epistle, for the apostle Paul declares unto them that the saints of God and the body of Christ be no loner children, which are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine—a reality which is expressed later on in the very same epistle. In the eleventh verse of the thirteenth chapter we begin reading the following words: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:11-13). Again in the fourteenth chapter the apostle Paul goes on to write these words: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: Howbeit in malice be. Ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1 Corinthians 14:20-25).
In the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we find the author of the epistle writing concerning a departure from the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and instructing and urging them to go on unto perfection. This reality reminds me of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Philippian saints and congregation. Beginning with the seventh verse of the third chapter the apostle Paul writes the following words:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, but thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).
Did you catch what was found and present within this particular passage, or did you miss it? There is within this passage of Scripture the mention of the reality of perfection, which was not only found in the epistle which was written unto the Ephesians, but was also written and found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. We dare not quickly move past that which is found in this passage of Scripture, for the reality and concept of Christian perfection must be carefully understood by us who are in fact the saints of God. When we speak and think of Christian maturity, and Christian growth and maturity, we must understand it in light of Christian perfection, and in light of that which our Lord declared in His Sermon on the Mount when He instructed us to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. The question I can’t help but ask when reading the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote is how many of us are actually perfect according to the standard that is set forth in Scripture. David Ravenhill—son of the beloved and late Leonard Ravenhill—wrote a book bearing the title “For God Sake, Grow Up,” and I can’t help but wonder how often this is the passionate plea of the very Spirit of God. I can’t help but wonder how many times the Holy Spirit of God pleads with the body of Christ to grow up and to press on toward Christian maturity and perfection. I can’t help but wonder how often the Holy Spirit examines many of our houses of worship and seas a whole lot of outward and upward growth, and yet He sees absolutely no inward growth. I would dare say that the very Spirit of God is not at all impressed with how large and grandiose our buildings are, how wonderful we believer our ministries to be, how large our offerings are, or anything else that we deem as being necessary and important. I am convinced the one thing the Spirit of the living God is concerned with is our pressing on toward a mature, a complete and a perfect man. The apostle Paul knew and understood that he had not already attained, and that he had not “arrived,” and yet what he did do was leave and forget those things which were behind him, and reach forth unto those things which were before. The apostle Paul transitioned from those things which were behind him in order that he might press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God which was in Christ Jesus, and then instructed those which were perfect to have the same mind in them. This idea of Christian perfection is directly linked and directly connected to the reality and concept of leaving those things which we once through were gain, and even the rudimentary and elementary principles of the oracles of God, and of the doctrine of Christ. There is within the Scripture a powerful call to Christian maturity, and Christian perfection, for the Lord never intended us to remain in a spiritually immature state before Him within the body of Christ. It is true the body of Christ is made up of many members, yet it is absolutely necessary and imperative that these many members of the body of Christ transition from a place of childish thinking and behavior to a place of real maturity and growth. There is a strong and powerful call in the Spirit that the saints of God leave those things which are behind—even the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ—in order that we might go on unto perfection and that we might not lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith toward God. Are you willing to leave that which is behind in order that you might attain unto the stature and measure of a perfect man that you would no longer be a child that is tossed to and fro by every sleight of man and every wind of doctrine. The ultimate goal is that the body of Christ attain unto the unity of the faith, and that we would transition to becoming a perfect man—full and complete before and in Christ within the earth.