Hebrews 5:12-14 For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you 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.
13 For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the Word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews is speaking to those Christians who should be mature enough to be teachers. But instead of being able to teach others, they are in need of being taught again the first principles of the oracles of God. The strong meat of the Word is for those who are of full age. Milk is for those who are unskillful (Greek: hath no experience) in the Word of righteousness. No one thinks anything about a baby in a crib sucking on a bottle, but a 40-year-old would look very ridiculous doing the same thing.
Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us
go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead
works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
There are six flavors of milk listed here. The first flavor is “repentance from dead works”; the second is “faith toward God”; the third, “the doctrine of baptisms”; the fourth, “laying on of hands”; fifth, “resurrection of the dead”; and sixth, “eternal judgment.” Now if you are still in the crib, it is permissible for you to have your bottles filled with these flavors of milk. But if you are ever going to come unto “full age” spiritually, your diet will have to consist of something more than milk.
Some churches only serve milk, and many times it is only skim milk. Nevertheless, it is your responsibility to be where you can receive the proper spiritual food for your growth. Shepherds who aren’t feeding the sheep properly will find themselves under God’s judgment (Ezekiel 34:1-10). It is their responsibility to give meat in due season (Matthew 24:45). It is also your responsibility to be where you can be properly fed. You are to worship where there is a revelation of the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:5; Matthew 18:20).
When Paul said, “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ…let us go on unto perfection,” he does not mean that we should forsake them. Rather, they are like a foundation to be built upon. We do not eliminate milk from our diets, we merely add the foods that are necessary for our bodies to receive the nutrients needed for proper growth.
What we must understand, though, is that these basic principles of Christ must be laid as a foundation by foundational ministries. And they are the apostles and prophets. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22. If the foundation is not laid properly, it will be like the house built upon the sand (Matthew 7:26-27). The reason the Early Church in the Book of Acts was such a strong church was because they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship (Acts 2:42).
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection (spiritual maturity)…and this will we do, if God permit. We know that it is God’s will to have a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, that is holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). So why would God not permit some to go on unto perfection? I’ve heard many Christians say they wanted to walk with God, that it was their desire to go on to perfection. Yet year after year passes, and they remain the same. Why does God not permit them to go on to perfection? Jesus said, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able (Luke 13:24). Why is this true? Why does God not permit them to enter in when it is what they are seeking?
Genesis 3:22-24 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us,
to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the
tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
There were two trees of great importance in the Garden of Eden. One was the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9), which speaks of the flesh nature. If Adam and Eve partook of that tree, they would die (Genesis 2:17). The other tree was the tree of life, which represents Christ. One who partakes of that tree partakes of eternal life (Genesis 3:22).
When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of good and evil, their nature was corrupted. The flesh nature, as we know it, was now theirs, and they were “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1). God could not allow them to partake of the tree of life in that sinful state of corruption, for then the flesh nature would be eternal. So God drove them out of the Garden and set Cherubim to guard the gate, lest they partake of the tree of life and live forever in carnality (Genesis 3:22,24).
I Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
God will not allow the corruption of the flesh nature to inherit incorruption. That is why He would not allow Adam and Eve to have access to the tree of life; and that is why God will not permit some to go on to perfection. He will not allow anyone to partake of His life that does not submit to the work of the cross. As we die to self we are allowed to partake of His nature. If any man will come after Me (partake of His nature), let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life (maintain his flesh nature) shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life (his flesh nature) for My sake shall find it. Matthew 16:24-25. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. II Corinthians 4:11.
Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me (John 14:6). “Coming unto the Father” is just another way of saying “coming unto sonship” or “unto full age.” There is a divine order that must be recognized and followed to become spiritually mature. Receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior is the first step to that goal; it is not an end in itself. After you receive Him as Savior and are forgiven of your sins, you still have a nature that is anti-Christ. That anti-Christ nature must be conquered and destroyed, and the nature of Christ take its place. For that to happen, we must follow the divine order that God has established.
There are many things involved in the course of spiritual progress toward sonship. In this message we are going to briefly discuss two major aspects, which are essential to spiritual growth. They are also the most overlooked and rejected.
(1) The work of the cross: The flesh nature of man is anti-Christ (Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5:17). We must put off the “old man” (our flesh nature – Colossians 3:9), and put on the “new man” (Christ’s nature – Colossians 2:10). This is more than just having Christ in your heart by faith; it is a change of nature. It is what Jesus spoke of when He told Nicodemas, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). This nature change does not take place when you become a Christian. It is a process that takes place as you die to self and appropriate the life of Christ. It is a dual process: an elimination of the self-life and an appropriation of divine life. The apostle James said it this way: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7. It is that devilish, anti-Christ nature of man that you must resist. At the same time, there must be a submission to God that appropriates His nature.
Many Christians have never experienced the work of the cross. If they had they wouldn’t still be under the dominion of their carnal nature. The work of the cross destroys the religious kingdoms of man. Denominations are man-made kingdoms; they are not of God. Do you understand what is being said? Denominationalism is under the rule of the flesh nature of man. It is the out-cropping of man’s wisdom. So just forsaking the denomination is not enough. The flesh nature that spawns denominationalism must die. The issue is “Who is your Lord – the wisdom of man or the Lord Jesus Christ?” The work of the cross is one aspect of the divine order that God has established so that we may partake of His divine nature. If we neglect this step, He will not permit us to go on to perfection.
(2) Commissioned ministries: The Lord has commissioned certain ministries for the perfecting of the Body of Christ. This is the divine order established by God. There is no other route to spiritual maturity.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ:
13 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:
14 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;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love.
These verses do not need a lot of explanation; they are self-explanatory. So we will be quite brief. The five-fold ministries listed in verse 11 are given to the Church by the Lord. Their responsibility is to perfect the saints for the work of ministry and for the edification of the Body of Christ. As a result of their ministry, the Body of Christ comes unto (1) a unity of faith, (2) a knowledge of the Son of God, (3) a perfect man, and (4) the fullness of Christ.
The one thing we must realize is that God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints and it won’t happen any other way. A church cannot grow spiritually without these ministries and most churches don’t have them. I visited a church recently that is part of one of the largest denominations. After reading a text concerning prophets, the minister made the statement that we do not have prophets or apostles today, that the ministry is now carried on solely by evangelists, pastors and teachers. That is exactly what Satan wants us to believe, for that keeps the church in a state of immaturity.
Pastors and teachers in churches that do not recognize apostles and prophets are not the pastors and teachers given by the Lord. They are pastors and teachers in name only. The pastors and teachers given by the Lord function with the apostles and prophets. It is impossible for the Church to go on to perfection without all of the ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11. God will not permit it. Any so-called evangelist, pastor or teacher that tells you that there are no apostles and prophets today is in error.
God’s divine order is a “narrow way,” but it is the path God has made available for those who really want to go on to “full age.” Many Christians take the “broad way”; only a few will take the “narrow way” that leads to life. Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14.
Copyright © 1997 by Henry DuBose