9. Hebrews 5:11-14 - Get Ready to Learn!

The author has mentioned Melchizedek, but he is not yet ready to get into the details. First, he wants to get the readers ready for a significant new teaching. “About this we have much to say that is hard to explain.” Why is it difficult to explain this doctrine? It is because the readers might not want to learn: “…since you have become dull in understanding.”

It is not that they could not learn, but because they were not interested in learning more about Jesus. Unfortunately, that happens to some Christians today: they are dull in their desire to learn more about the faith. They want Christianity to be intellectually easy – “easy enough for a 10-year-old child to understand.” Christianity is easy enough for children, but our author is saying that we should not be content to remain as children in our understanding. We should want to grow, not coast.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God.” The readers had been Christians for a long time; they should be active, not passive. With some exaggeration, the author says they need to start all over. He will list some of the “basic elements” in the next paragraph (6:1-3), but he also says that he will not rehearse them. The chief problem is their willingness to learn, not their lack of a foundation.

He uses a metaphor that other first-century teachers did: “You need milk, not solid food.” Although they should have been taking some initiative and seeking to understand more, they were acting like intellectual babies, and the food had to be brought to them in an easy-to-digest way. This was not meant to put the audience down, but to stir them up, to call them to listen more attentively.

“For everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” The author assumes that the readers want to be counted as mature; they want to know the difference between good and evil. Just as he does in 2:1-3, he is calling them to attention. He is drawing near to the heart of what he wants to say – the heart of the problem he is addressing – the key doctrine that will tell them why they should remain faithful to Christ rather than going into any other religious option.

Something to think about

  • If Christians today are tired of learning, what is the best way to encourage them to be interested again? (verse 11)

Author: Michael Morrison, PhD