Friday, 19 October 2018
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:13
In the previous verse, the author said to his audience that “you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Building on that now, he says, “For everyone who partakes only of milk…” He said that they needed milk and not solid food, and now he says that there is a consequence of partaking only in milk. As noted in the content of verse 5:12, the “milk” being referred to is instruction on how the law only points to Christ. There were, for example, feast days, sabbaths, and the like. Each was a shadow, but the substance is found in Christ. Indeed, all of the Old Testament Scriptures merely pointed to Christ as Jesus said in John 5:39, 40 –
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
What the audience of Hebrews was doing was falling back on the Law of Moses in observing the things required there (such as feast days, temple rites, or whatever) instead of simply trusting in Jesus’ fulfillment of these things. This does not mean they were not true believers, saved by Christ, but that they had reverted to the milk of the Old Testament instead of the meat of the New. The author says of this that such a one who does this “is unskilled in the word of righteousness.”
The “word of righteousness” is that of Scripture interpreted through faith. It is a reliance on Christ as the fulfillment of those types and shadows. One who fails to rely on Christ as the fulfillment of them will be unskilled in handling Scripture properly. Paul states this in Romans 1:17 –
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
And again, Paul speaks of this in Romans 9, showing that the Gentiles had progressed to the meat while the Jews had gone back to the milk –
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.”
It is this very same concept which the author of Hebrews is now explaining to his Hebrew audience. Instead of being adult in their theology and dining on the meat found in Christ’s fulfilled work, they had become babes once again. As he says of any such person, “for he is a babe.” Instead of seeing Christ as the Lamb, they went to the temple to sacrifice a lamb. Instead of seeing Christ as the Atonement for sins, they observed the Day of Atonement according to the law, which only pointed to Him. On and on, they had stopped maturing in Christ through faith, and they had gone back to a lesser form of food, mere milk, found in the law.
Life application: What part of the Law of Moses are you secretly holding to? Are you living solely by faith in Christ and giving to your church out of a grateful heart, or are you trying to merit God’s favor by giving tithes to your church according to the law? Are you living out your rest in Christ, or are you observing a Sabbath according to the law? The list of the law’s requirements is long and burdensome. Holding to the fulfillment of them, as is found in Christ, is a light and easy yoke. The choice is yours. Are you a babe in need of milk, or are you ready for a diet of meat and potatoes?
Lord God – let us not squander the time You have given us, even from the moment we first believed in Jesus. Instead, prompt our hearts onward to an increase in the knowledge of who You are and how You have worked in human history to restore us to You through our Lord Jesus Christ. May You be the one who is glorified as we eagerly pursue You! Amen.