Today’s readings are Ezekiel 17 and Hebrews 5:11-6:20. I will reflect only on the Hebrews passage in today’s article.
So far in Hebrews, the author has (among other things) focussed on presenting Jesus as both the supreme Son of God in His divinity, and the ultimate High Priest given his perfect humanity. Before moving into a more detailed explanation of Jesus’ role as ultimate High Priest in Hebrews 7, the letter now moves into a call to hold closely to the truth about Jesus. It does this by warning of the consequences of not maturing as believers, and offering true assurance to those who mature.
It starts with the metaphor of milk and solid food (5:11-14). Sadly the original recipients of the letter were spiritual “babies”. They were stuck on the “elementary truths” of the gospel but were not training themselves to distinguish good from evil. It seems that they had accepted Christ but were not really allowing his Spirit to transform their natural lives.
It is not explained precisely what the “solid food” that would come with proper “training” actually was. All we know is that it is more than the “elementary teachings about Christ” (6:1). Does this mean that only the “mature” somehow have accepted a “better” gospel than the immature have? I do not think so. Rather, I take it that those who go on to mature in their Christian faith would not only accept the gospel, but would understand it and apply it to discern God’s perfect will for their everyday lives.
Reading the passage in that context perhaps helps to understand verses 4-8. Those verses have been subject to vastly different interpretations, and understandably so. That is, do these verses assert that someone can truly be a Christian and then fall away? Are people able to turn to Christ but later become “un-saved”?
I think the answer to both questions is no. Rather, the people spoken of in verses 4-8 could be like the seed that falls on the rock in the parable of the sower. At first they accept the word but they have no root, and fall away. They have not even really accepted the “foundation” or “elementary truths” of Jesus spoken of earlier in this Hebrews passage.
Note that in verses 9-12, the author of the letter is writing to believers, albeit immature ones. The writer is confident that the recipients are not like those that fall away. They have already accepted the “foundation” that is Christ. Rather, at present they are unfruitful, like the seed that falls among thorns. In the words of Paul, they might be receiving salvation like ones escaping through the flames, or failing to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. However, in failing to mature they are placing themselves at greater risk of falling away.
The passage finishes with the promise of assurance. God does not overlook the work and love shown by those who are in His name. His promise is good for all time – for all those who are truly in the faith. Their salvation cannot be taken from them, should they remain in the faith. The more they mature, the more certain of God’s redemption they become. God is just as faithful to them in keeping his promise as he was to Abraham.
What a wonderful promise to meditate on and live an assured, thankful life for! May we seek to realise that our everyday decisions actually do matter, even after we have first come to know Jesus. God longs for us to mature and be fruitful by choosing daily to discern good from evil in living for Him. May our cravings from today forward not be to satisfy sinful desires, or even for the “spiritual milk” described in Hebrews, but rather to discern God’s perfect will for our lives daily. This will truly bear great fruit like the seed that falls in good soil, and great personal assurance of salvation.