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May 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 17, 2020


About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing Hebrews 5:11

Intro: I’m going to begin with a personal reflection

You won’t see the connection at first, but it will make sense later
– Friday I was reading in the Book of Acts
• Paul was under house arrest in Rome
◦ but he was given freedom to entertain visitors
◦ when people came, Paul’s spent his time
trying to convince them about Jesus, and so he,
welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:23 and 31)
– if you were going to have a conversation with Paul,
• you were going to hear about Jesus
◦ he never forgot their first encounter or what Jesus did for him
◦ for those who listened, his enthusiasm was contagious
• his drive to have a closer relationship with never diminished
I count everything loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his suffering . . . (Php. 3:8-10)

When I read the verses in Acts, they took me back to the Jesus Movement
– it really was about Jesus – hippie believers were “Jesus freaks”
• there were Jesus festivals, Jesus marches, Jesus concerts,
◦ a Jesus people newspaper
◦ Jesus even made the front cover of Time Magazine
• we talked about Jesus all the time
◦ everyone had a story about Jesus
◦ where they were when he found them, and how he saved them
– sadly, all that energy for Jesus gradually faded
• the movement went through a process of institutionalization:
◦ characterized by Paul Hiebert as a “stratification of hierarchy”
◦ and a “hardening of the categories” — “Religion, Inc.”
• for many years, even before the Jesus Movement,
◦ Calvary Chapel’s mission statement was printed on its weekly early
One paragraph in particular read, “We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of the doctrinal differences that have lead to the division of the Body of Christ.”
◦ within two years of my dad’s death, Calvary Chapel was divided into two denominations
(those who broke away from the “mothership” argued “doctrinal differences”)
– I don’t mean to generalize all Calvary Chapel churches or all of its pastors
• I’m thinking of those who claim to be carrying on my dad’s work,
• but have only adopted a method without understanding his vision

What changed?
There was a subtle shift from the person of Jesus to the word of God
– you may ask, “What’s wrong with that? Doesn’t the Bible refer to Jesus as “the Word”?
• that is true, and as we do not separate the Word from Jesus, nothing is wrong
◦ but when study of the Bible becomes an end in itself
◦ or the heart of our salvation, then we have become Pharisees
You, Jesus told them, do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (Jn. 5:38-40)
• going to the Bible for Jesus is a first stage
◦ the next stage is going through the Bible to Jesus
◦ God did not give us the Bible just so we could know the Bible
– it took me awhile to wake up to what had happened
• we were emphasizing the importance of knowing the Bible
◦ but not stressing enough the importance of godly character
• we were producing students of scripture who could quote lots of it
◦ and did so to justify their anger, malice, rudeness belligerence, and
other attitudes and behavior that were not at all Christ-like
◦ while some of our ministers, who showed little integrity, were competing for influence and recognition

The writer of Hebrews had witnessed a similar decline

His readers were second and third generation Christians
– they were becoming weary – their faith was giving out
• and they were in danger of falling away
– so the writer scolds them with a stern warning (Heb. 5:11 – 6:12)
• vv. 11-14, first, they were behind in their education
• 6:1-3, second, it was time to move beyond an introductory level faith
• 6:4-8, third, he warned of the severe danger in falling away
• 6:9-12, fourth, he encouraged them that forging ahead was doable

Last week we saw that Jesus is our high priest

That he fulfilled the necessary qualifications and obligations
– but now the writer of Hebrews is stuck
• first, he tells them he has much to say about Jesus being
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek
◦ this is surprising, because scripture has so little to say about Melchizedek
◦ he says it is hard to explain – the backstory of Melchizedek is not well known
• but that was not the only reason it was hard to explain
– the heart of the problem was they had become dull of hearing
• dull in 6:12 is “sluggish”–i.e., lethargic, even to the point of resistance
• have you ever started reading a book or article,
◦ and found it so technical or complex that you gave up?
◦ something like that was happening here with the readers

Evidence they were unprepared (or unwilling) to move on

For 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. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil Hebrews 5:12-14

Where they ought to be: by this time you ought to be teachers
– if we hear someone’s been playing guitar for thirty years,
• we expect that person to be able to play really well
• these believers should have known enough to be able to help others;
to . . . exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13)
◦ as Paul told the believers in Rome,
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers [and sisters], that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Ro. 15:14)

Where they were: you need someone to teach you
basic principles – the literal Greek is, fundamentals of the beginning
• such fundamentals would have included learning the ABC’s
of the oracles of God – “oracle” is the word of God delivered or spoken
Ken Shenk, “Hebrews has no explicitly stated theology of the Scriptures. . . . What Hebrews does have is a pervasive sense of God speaking and, thus, of God’s word, his [logos].”
Timothy Johnson, “. . . in Hebrews Scripture is always a matter of God’s speech . . . .”
– God makes this clear through his prophets
For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jer. 7:22-23)
• it is always about God speaking to us in the here and now
• whether it is through his written word or direct communication

The writer gives them an analogy that paints a clear picture
– we don’t feed infants solid food
• we introduce it in stages
◦ liquid, then soft, mushy food
◦ and later, chewable food when they they have teeth
• Paul used the same analogy
But I, brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it (1 Cor. 3:1-2)
unskilled suggests a lack of experience
word of righteousness is an unusual way to refer to scripture
In the Scriptures, righteous is a relational term. It refers to the right way to respond to God and treat other people. Here in the United States, we have become a little confused about this. Instead of having to do with how we treat others, we have made it about ourselves, how we should be treated by God and others. Too often we hear believers say, “Well, what about my rights?” When the writer uses the term word of righteousness, he is referring to a specific function of the Scriptures; namely, its value in the formation of our sense of right and wrong when it comes to serving him and caring for others.
• God’s concern is not with how much scripture we memorize
◦ it’s about his word transforming us – changing us

How does the writer characterize a mature believer?
– someone who has undergone lots of intense training
• “power” does not refer to might or force, but capability
(specifically, “the mind’s ability to perceive”–our internal and external senses)
◦ it is possible to develop senses for discerning right and wrong
◦ it is not always right to be right (sometimes it’s right to be silent)
• immature judgment is black and white; what we teach children
◦ black and white judgment would have stoned the woman Jesus forgave (Jn. 8:1-11)
◦ mature indicates a more complex judgment that includes disciplined intuition
– let’s take a moment with the following words
Trained: we acquire new skills by exercising them, like tying our shoes,
teaching our bodies to balance on a bicycle or skateboard, or
learning to float and swim in water. The brain requires enough
experience with these activities to wire them into our brain so they
become as familiar to us as walking.
Constant: not haphazard, but self-disciplined constancy.
Practice: go over something repeatedly until we own it, like practicing
musical scales or the basics required for athletic performance.

Conclusion: Can you see what the writer is doing?

He is telling us there’s a prerequisite to fulfill before taking the next course
– he confronts us without condemning us (cf. the role of discipline in Heb. 12:7-11)
• what worries him can happen to:
◦ any Christian, church, or Bible college
◦ any pastor, movement, or denomination
• it can happen to me or to you
◦ the temptation comes to every believer
◦ to slack off – or get fixated on other things

This is the reason we were told earlier to “Consider Jesus”
Consider him, and keep on considering and contemplating him
The only way to develop a close friendship,
is by spending time together
Talk to Jesus–around the house,
while driving your car,
when you find yourself thinking anxious thougts

We cannot allow ourselves to lose our “first love”
It’s okay if the romance wears off,
but we dare not lose our passion
Romance is sitting on the beach staring at the waves
Passion is riding them


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  1. Kate Garvey / May 23 2020

    Hope it’s ok to post a prayer request here. My nephew Sean Garvey is hospitalized in Wisconsin with covid-19. He’s not a healthy guy. Prayers for a swift and full recovery are greatly appreciated. He’s a man of faith.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / May 23 2020

    Yes, of course Kate. We are here to be with you in prayer for your nephew, Sean.

  3. Kate Garvey / May 26 2020

    My nephew is recovering remarkably well. Thank you for your prayers.

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