Hebrews 5:11-6:8: Spiritual Maturity

Read: Hebrews 5:11-14, Hebrews 6:1-8

Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the more controversial set of verses in the New Testament. There are a couple of Christian doctrines that are at stake concerning this text. The first is called “perseverance of the saints”, which says that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end. The second, which is closely related to the first, is called “eternal security”. This doctrine teaches that those who are saved cannot lose his or her salivation. Some groups of Christians, however, believe that the loss of salvation is possible based on this text and Hebrews 10:26. Other groups see these texts as what would happen if such things discussed in the text were possible. In any case when one begins to consider any texts, it is important to not remove the text from the context in which they appear. It is also important to consider the whole witness of scripture to support one’s theological viewpoints. Hopefully, through a careful look at this text and others, one can draw a conclusion about what is going on here in the text.

Hebrews 6:4-6 appears in the midst of a discourse about spiritual maturity that starts at the end of chapter 5 and continues to the middle of chapter 6. The author of Hebrews is chastising the recipients of the letter because, as he sees it, they ought to be teachers when they are like children. He uses food as a metaphor to explain the fact they are like babies drinking milk when they ought to be as adults eating solid food. He wants them to move beyond the basic doctrines to deeper doctrines, and he gives a list. In verse 3, he declares that he wants “us” to move onto spiritual maturity, but in the warning, he switches to third person, talking about people who have who have been “enlightened” and have “partaken” and “tasted” the things of God (particularly the Holy Spirit), yet have fallen away, saying it is impossible to crucify Jesus again.

At the heart of the debate over this text is if one can be a partaker in the Holy Spirit and not have salvation. For some, only those who are saved can experience the Holy Spirit. For others, some see the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly through “enlightenment” in the life of a nonbeliever as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 2 talks about the role of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God. According to this chapter, the things of God are only comprehensible by the Spirit of God. The spirit of the “world”, “flesh”, and “man” cannot understand such things, therefore it is necessary to have enlightenment from the Holy Spirit in order to fully comprehend the things of God. By implication then, knowledge of the truth concerning salvation and all other doctrines can only come from the Holy Spirit. What appears to happening in Hebrews 6 is that some have experienced to some degree or this enlightenment and have rejected it to the point of apostasy.

The question here, however is whether or not these third person individuals in the text had responded in faith to this knowledge that resulted in salvation. Scripture does teach that those who believe belong to God and cannot be taken away. John describes this relationship using a shepherd and his sheep as a metaphor—the sheep know the shepherds voice and cannot be taken away. These are the ones who have eternal life, and it cannot be taken away (John 10:27-29).  Paul makes a beautiful doxology in Romans 8:33-39, where he is convinced that nothing can separate those who believe from Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation is that the Holy Spirit as a “seal” for salvation. The idea is that once the decree of redemption is given, it is sealed as a king seals a royal document by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Given the fact that salvation (and all true doctrine from that matter) requires enlighten from the Holy Spirit and the fact that those who are saved cannot be separated from God, it would appear that one is able to receive some sort of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, yet able to reject it through a “falling away” from sound doctrine prior to the point of salvation. To illustrated this, the author of Hebrews uses a metaphor of rain falling on the ground and bringing forth plant life – sometimes the plants are useful, sometimes the plants are weeds, thorns, and thistles. The Holy Spirit comes to some, and sometimes some believe and bring forth good doctrine, and sometimes some reject the Holy Spirit by rejecting, twisting and distorting the truth. Jesus describes the latter condition as a sin that is “unforgivable” which he calls “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31-32). The reason that the author of Hebrews is spurring the believers to move past basic doctrine to spiritual maturity is so that the deceptions of false teachers will not lead them astray. Paul encourages Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-4 to preach the word because a time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine rather will turn to myths.

Vigilance and aggressive pursuit of true doctrines resulting in spiritual maturity help defend against these deceptive teachings, but there does appear to be a point of no return for some. Rather than take chances, one would do well to believe the gospel and move towards spiritual maturity so they can help recognize and call out false doctrine when it does come about. Spiritual immaturity is not a place to stay, rather something to be left behind.

Lord, help me to become spiritual mature so I can help teach others your ways!

Joshua 1:10-18: Recognizing Godly Leadership

Read Joshua 1:10-18

Joshua was Moses’ selected leader and was commissioned by God to lead the Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua had been commissioned in front of all of Israel while Moses was still yet alive in Deuteronomy 31:7-8. Moses commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous in the context of obeying the Law. God had said the same thing to Joshua in Joshua 1:1-9. Now, Joshua was taking up this task that he had been appointed to do. He gathers together the leadership and tells them to make ready their provisions to enter the Promised Land. Joshua tells them to be valiant and battle ready when they cross the Jordan, but reminds them it is God who is going to give them the land. The people respond, accepting Joshua’s leadership. They promise to follow his leadership as they followed Moses. And lastly, they commend Joshua to be bold and courageous too.

From Joshua’s recognition, some principles on how godly leaders are recognized:

  • Leaders are recognized by God. God recognized Joshua and appointed him as leader of the Israel, telling him the same sort of message Moses did: to be bold and courageous and obey the commandments of the law.
  • Leaders are recognized by their predecessors. Moses recognized Joshua saw in Joshua the qualities needed to be a leader of the people of Israel, and raised up Joshua to succeed him after he was parted. Moses tells Joshua to be bold and courageous and obey the commandments of the law.
  • Leaders are recognized by their followers. When a leader ascends to a leadership position, the followers pledge to obey and follow the leader. But even they ask their leader to be bold and courageous as God and Moses had done.

All those who recognize leaders want their leaders to be bold and courageous rather than lacking in principle and faith. Leaders who are bold and courageous are not necessarily brash and wild people, rather they are willing to do what is necessary in accordance with the principles of God to accomplish the mission of God, even if some of the decisions they make are not popular or otherwise.

Christian leaders should be recognized in the same manner that Joshua was recognized: by other Christian leaders, by God, and by those who will follow. The calling to lead the people of God is a high calling and the qualities of such people are steep. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 outlines the qualities Christian leaders ought to exhibit. In short, leaders are to be mature and wise believers. At the same time, Christians should be willing to stand behind their leaders and be obedient to their authority. Leadership is a consensual relationship that requires buy in from both the leader and the lead. Subversive action on the part of the leader or the follower is detrimental to not just one person, but the whole church. Ultimately, all are under the leadership of God, and it is God’s authority to whom everyone must submit. God will hold leaders accountable for their leadership and followers accountable for their obedience.

Lord, help me to recognize leadership whether I am leading or being lead!

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17: Maturity

Read: Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17

The Preacher again labels something a great evil, and in this case he sees foolishness and immaturity being exalted over wisdom and experience. Here the Preacher likens to a rich man in the place of a poor man, a prince in the place of a slave – this violates of the order of the way things ought. Later in the chapter, the Preacher pronounces woes on a country whose king is a boy (that is, a person who lacks experience) and whose princes celebrate before due time. A country whose ruler excels at folly will end up in ruin. And same is true whenever immaturity and foolishness are exalted above experience and wisdom in any situation.

Maturity is something the New Testament encourages Christians to strive for. Hebrews 5:12-6:1 uses the analogy of an infants and milk. The writer of Hebrews says that his readers are like infants who drink milk rather than adults who eat solid food. Their “milk” is analogous to elementary teachings while “solid food” is analogous to deeper teachings of the Christian faith. Hebrews encourages its readers to move beyond the elementary teachings to a deeper understanding. Paul uses the same analogy to describe Christian behavior in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. The Corinthian church had numerous problems, and Paul was saying that they were “fleshly” rather than “spiritual”. They were living as if they were carnal men rather than men who had received the Spirit and lived according to the spirit. The Corinthians thought that what they were doing was acceptable, but it was most certainly not and Paul makes this evident in the letter. Rather than act like children Paul encourages them to grow up in their faith, putting aside their carnal nature and take on a spiritual one.

One should not confuse this with what Jesus said concerning the nature of humility and coming to Christ. Jesus said that unless one becomes like a child, he or she cannot enter the kingdom  (Matthew 18:2-4). When Jesus says this, he is driving a wedge between people who think they know it all and those who are truly teachable. When one comes to Christ, the less he or she presumes to know about Jesus and God, the less one has to unlearn. In other words, one must first become first become humble in order to become mature in the faith. And one should remain humble as he or she grows too. What is now known as the “Golden Rule” encourages one to treat others as one would one to be treated (Matthew 7:11, Leviticus 19:18, Romans 13:9). One should honor others if one wants to be honored.

The Preacher is keen to note that foolishness and immaturity should not be exalted above wisdom and inexperience. Rather than extol folly and remain immature, Christians should pursue spiritual maturity in doctrine and deed. But in order to do this, Jesus says one should be humble, taking on the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:3-8). Through sound biblical teachings from mature believers and the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s own life, one can grow into a mature Christian who can teach others and live skillfully before God.

Lord, help me to become a mature believer!