I’m ready to be done with the toddler years. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I love my toddler like crazy, but I’ve had a baby or toddler in the house for nearly 14 years now, and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m over fun surprises like a fire starting in the bottom of the oven because my toddler thought it would be neat to stuff crayons into those nifty holes down there. I don’t particularly relish finding pins scattered across my carpet after my toddler got into my sewing kit. I’m not keen on finding hot chocolate powder scattered all over the bed and floor during so-called “nap” time. I’m done with temper tantrums and potty training and sippy cups and inane conversations. It sometimes feels like my kids will be children forever.
Anyone who has ever felt this way about parenting might be able to relate to the frustration of the writer of Hebrews when he says, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:11-12) Just prior to these verses, he was speaking about Jesus as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He has more to say on the subject, but knows his readers won’t understand it because they haven’t gotten past spiritual infancy. Not that they were particularly new Christians, either. They ought to have been teachers by then, but they were still on spiritual milk, not nearly ready for solid food like the order of Melchizedek. The writer of Hebrews wants to have more mature conversations with them, but he can’t. Instead, he needs to keep reminding them of the basics of the Christian faith.
Looking ahead a few verses to Hebrews 6:1-2, we read, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” It appears that these believers still needed to hear the “elementary teachings about Christ,” as laid out in these verses. They wanted a simplistic faith, without anything terribly challenging. They were content to remain infants in the faith; content to be perpetual children.
Are we any different today? How many times has your pastor heard the complaint that his sermons are too technical or go over people’s heads? Don’t confuse us with all that theological jargon, Pastor. Just preach the basics; stuff we can understand. Oh. Maybe we aren’t all that different from the readers of Hebrews. Maybe we’re content with a simplistic faith too.
So what’s the solution? The answer lies in the verses between the two passages above. Hebrews 5:13-14 says, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (emphasis added). How can we get past spiritual milk and on to solid food? By constant use of the gifts God has given us–His Word, His Sacraments, prayer, and the fellowship of believers. I love the study note in The Lutheran Study Bible on this verse. It says, “Adults by experience have developed palates that can discern subtle differences in food and drink. Only spiritually mature people can properly discern and receive the ‘solid food’ of advanced teaching… [and] distinguish true teaching from false teaching, good behavior from wickedness.” Many a false teaching has crept into the church, leading those who are not spiritually mature into error. Brothers and sisters, don’t fall into that trap. Dig into God’s Word. Go beyond your favorite familiar passages. The Bible is so rich, so complex, that even biblical scholars like pastors admit they can’t fathom it all. You will never get to a point where you know everything there is to know about the Bible. Join a Bible study to get into the Word more and help you understand. Faithfully gather with fellow Christians around that Word in church. Feed on Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Remember your baptism. Pray that God would grant you wisdom and understanding in your faith. And trust His promise that He will indeed answer that prayer for wisdom and spiritual maturity.
After all, you’ll be His child forever.