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Hebrews 5:11–13

“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (vv. 12–13).

Hebrews 4:14–5:10 gives us a brief presentation on the high priestly office of Christ, focusing on the incarnation as qualifying Jesus to be our High Priest, on the choice of God the Father as appointing Jesus to be our High Priest, and on the suffering of Jesus as making Him a High Priest who can sympathize with us. Through suffering and death, He was perfected as our High Priest, thus becoming “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (v. 9). Here we see the close connection between faith and obedience, which we must distinguish but never separate. Faith in Christ alone brings us into salvation, but faith in Christ necessarily, inevitably, and unfailingly bears fruit in our obedience to the revealed will of God (Rom. 4; Phil. 1:6; James 2:14–26; 1 John 2:3). To put it another way, Jesus is not our Savior if He is not also our Lord.

The discussion of Jesus’ high priestly office is short in Hebrews 4:14–5:10, and the author will return to it in more detail in chapter 7. He pauses the argument from 5:11–6:20 to give a warning and exhortation. In 5:11, we sense the author’s frustration. At this point in the book, he wants to discuss the priestly work of Christ further, but he cannot because the audience is not ready. They have become “dull of hearing” (v. 11). Here the author refers to spiritual unpreparedness. Their equivocating on whether to remain followers of Jesus was impeding their advancement in the faith. This, then, warns us that growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) comes only to those who are ready for it. A lack of committed discipleship can dull our spiritual senses and even move us backward in the school of Christ.

Spiritual immaturity characterized the original audience of the book of Hebrews. As the author goes on to argue in Hebrews 5:12–13, the spiritual regression of the readers put them in a situation where they would need remedial education in the “basic principles of the oracles of God.” This should not have been. Although we do not know exactly how long the audience had been believers when the book of Hebrews was written, it was certainly long enough that their continuing immaturity was unacceptable. So it is for us. God expects Christians to grow. The Lord does not want us to be content with only the basics of the faith, the essential gospel that saves us. As we are able, we should seek to grow in the breadth and depth of our knowledge of the faith.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

It is good to know the basics of the faith, but growing Christians are never content with only the basics. As we advance in our Christian lives, the Spirit gives us a greater hunger for the truth of His Word and for the deep truths of the Christian faith. Let us seek to satisfy that hunger by growing in our understanding of the doctrines of the Word of God when and where we are able.


For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 10:12–16
  • Matthew 11:15

The Prayers and Suffering of Jesus

Petitioning for Others

Keep Reading The Twentieth Century

From the May 2020 Issue
May 2020 Issue