THE MILK AND THE MEAT
Rev. Anthony Martlew, L.Th., UK
"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 everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."- (Hebrews 5:11-14)
THERE can be little doubt as to the meaning of this text. However, some background information will make it even clearer. Firstly, who was Paul writing to? His
message was addressed to the Jewish converts to Christ in Jerusalem. Particularly to the 'so called' teachers in the churches who were not up to the required standard of knowledge. So what was the problem? To find the answer, we have to go back centuries before the birth of Messiah.The pure teaching of the Pentateuch had become corrupted. When the law was given to Israel at Sinai, the nation, collectively responded,
"All the words which the Lord hath said, will we do" - (Exodus 24:3)
For a time they did, but it wasn't long before they hankered after the religions of the Gentile nations. By the time Jesus was bom, the pure religion had become
corrupted, hence His outburst against the Scribes and Pharisees recorded in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. By then, they were teaching an amalgam of truth and error.
Paul was battling against generations of suc teaching.Because the Jewish converts had been brought up on such teaching, they found it hard to get their minds around what Paul was showing them. He had painstakingly showed them not only the new faith in Christ,but had also given them some strong meat. What could that have been? He would have referred them back to Old Testament prophecies showing them that Jesus was the Messiah, and that He fulfilled the Scriptures. But
because of the leaven of man-made teaching, many of the fundamental truths had become obscured. As a result, they found it hard to get their heads around all the facts which Paul so painstakingly tried to teach them. This was not Paul's only problem. Because the Jews had been brought up in the tradition that they were
Abraham's seed, they could not grasp the fact, that it was not only race that mattered, but also grace. He endeavoured to lead them on from the old order into the new, and they couldn't get it right. They hadn't grasped even the fundamentals, hence,
"Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God."
The oracles at that time were of course the Old Testament. And if they didn't even understand that, how could they grasp the new?
Thus we may appreciate that there is a vital message for us in the 21st Century. If we reflect that many Christians today are fed on the so called 'love gospel' then we can appreciate the reason forso much spiritual ignorance.
As Paul had taught the Jewish converts some strong meat to bite on, he expected that by then they should be teaching others. He must have been bitterly
disappointed. In this text, in Hebrews, there is a very significant truth which could easily be missed. Paul is not bemoaning that they are not up to being preachers,
but that they have failed as teachers. To the majority of Christians these mean the same, but not so. In a nutshell, preaching is to transform, and teaching is to inform.
There is a world of difference, and. the sooner the churches realise it, the sooner the laity might begin to leam some vital facts concerning God's great plan for the nations.
The first three verses of chapter six confirm without doubt what Paul was saying. He was simply reminding them that the doctrine of Christ is the foundation stone of our Christian faith, and that in order to grow it is necessary to be fed on the strong meat of the Word. One of the greatest dangers in the churches today is
spiritualising the prophecies. What the Holy Spirit revealed to the prophets concerns actual, earthly events. Many prophecies have been fulfilled, literally, exactly as
described. To put a spiritual meaning on the as yet unfulfilled prophecies, is to lead the congregations deliberately astray.
John was privileged to have been shown prophecy after prophecy conceming literal world events leading up to the coming of Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord
John closes with a dire warning that the ministers of our churches should heed,
"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." - (Revelation 22:19-21)
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