Sunday, August 23, 2009

Milk or meat?

Hebrews 5

12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye 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. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 6

1Therefore 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, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 5:12-6:8)

In this passage of Scripture, several things are established:

1. It is the responsibility of the Teaching Elders of the Church to lay the foundations of the faith, here called "the first principles of the oracles of God", and in other translations called: (NLT) "the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures"; (NIV) "the elementary truths of God's word"; (ESV) "the basic principles of the oracles of God"; (RSV) "the first principles of God's word"; (ASV) "the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God"; (YNG) "the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God".

2. These elementary principles are the beginning of the Christian Faith, they are not the goal. The goal of the Christian Faith is to grow up and become (KJV) "perfect"; (NLT) "mature in our understanding"; (DBY) attain "to what belongs to full growth".

3. This maturity in the Faith arises out of learning what is good and evil, applying that knowledge to every area of life, and living consistently with that knowledge.

4. There is a possibility that these foundations, or first principles, are not laid; there is a possibility that the foundations are not exercised and as a consequence, there is no growth towards maturity.

5. When there is no growth towards maturity, there are serious consequences for individuals and the church: "rejection", "cursing", "burning". Jesus said it in this way: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." (Matthew 5:13) The Bible says that this is the end of Christians who will not grow. In this passage, it is not talking about the end of unbelievers.

Amongst the Warlpiri people, they have a ceremony called the Kurdiji Ceremony. This ceremony is the young men's initiation ceremony. It is a celebration of a boy's passage from being a milk drinker, to becoming a meat hunter. It is also where a young boy obtains permission to learn how to become a man. In recent days, young boys who complete the Kurdiji Ceremony walk around saying, "I am a man." But this is not true. They have not gone very far in their cultural knowledge and experience, due to Government requirements and restrictions. This was not always the case. Before government intervention, the young men, after Kurdiji, would embark upon a series of higher ceremonies, that took up to 10 years, of very tough discipline and learning of important knowledge in relation to hunting, reading the land, family and civil government, issues of law and justice, and many more things. Only after his long process of discipleship could a Warlpiri say that he was a man.

This mirrors Paul's comments in the above Hebrews passage: "(You) are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age." Paul equates the elementary principles with milk drinking, and a Christian who refuses to move on from this stage of growth is like a breast-fed baby. One year old breast-feeders are cute. Fifty year old breast-feeders are repulsive. On the other hand, those who come to grips with the elementary teachings of Christ realise that they need to practically apply His commandments to every area of life, so that "righteousness" may be outworked in every sphere of human endeavour. Paul said of Christians:

2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?(1 Corinthians 6:2-4)

There have been periods of history when Christians have been very influential in domestic and world affairs, changing the course of history, and reconstructing spheres of endeavour according to the righteousness of Christ. Today, to a very large extent, the Church has become irrelevant at best, and often times cast onto the road of life to be trodden under the feet of men. This is because: one, the elemental principles of the oracles of God are very rarely understood these days, and two, heaven is too often the goal of life, rather than maturity; that is, discipleship unto the full measure of the stature of Christ.

Elsewhere I am going to explore the elemental principles of the doctrine of Christ. But it must be remembered, these principles are merely milk. We must go on unto maturity, or there is a fearful judgement waiting for those who disdain the process of practically learning good from evil and fail to apply those lessons to every area of life.

Elsewhere I will write on:

1. Repentance from Dead Works

2. Faith Towards God

3. Doctrine of Baptisms

4. Laying on of Hands

5. Resurrection of the Dead

6. Eternal Judgements

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