The Danger of Spiritual Infancy (Hebrews 5:11 - 6:12)
Have you met people who refuse to grow up? There are some adults who prefer to remain as children because they do not want to take on adult responsibilities. Not only is immature behaviour unpleasant to observe or deal with, the consequences are often destructive. In Hebrews 5:11-14, the writer expresses his frustration that some members of the church were refusing to grow into spiritual maturity.
They were no longer trying to understand God’s word (v 11). Instead of taking on the responsibility of teaching others as they themselves had been taught, they needed to be taught the basics all over again (v12). Therefore, they were unable to take on “solid food” which is for mature Christians, and they were not able to distinguish good from evil (v14) or to understand teaching about righteousness (v13).
Spiritual maturity is a necessary part of our walk with God. Remaining as a spiritual infant means that you are not good at discerning right from wrong and you will have a hard time maintaining your faith when you face challenges (Eph 4:14). Infants require milk because their bodies cannot digest solid food.
However, as they grow they need to be weaned onto solid food and they learn to feed themselves. A child who remains on a milk-only diet and who is unable to feed himself is vulnerable to malnutrition, stunted growth, illness and possibly death. However, some people in the church wanted to be fed milk over and over again as if they were infants.
All parents understand that young children need basic instructions in how to live. The growing child learns the basic rules and eventually takes on more responsibility. A child who seems unable to learn and move on from basic teaching, would cause the parents serious concerns regarding their development and eventual ability to take care of themselves. The situation in the Hebrew church appears to be that some of the members just did not want to develop at all. They wanted to remain as ‘children’ (Hebrews 6:1-3). You may wonder what is wrong with this? Why can’t you stay in the same comfortable and undemanding place as a Christian? Hebrews 6:4-8 gives us the answer. This is a challenging scripture to consider. Spiritual infancy appears to be related to the risk of falling away from God. There are people who have felt the elation and excitement of having an experience of God’s goodness and who may even have experienced the Holy Spirit’s power working in their lives, but who do not want to fully repent of their sins or make a commitment to living in God’s will. This is commonly observed in people who may come to church or Christian events for the “experience” of an encounter in God’s presence or as a sort of “insurance policy” against going to hell. They want to be fed and ministered to, but do not want to serve others or to be accountable to others. There may be people in the church who go through the motions and rituals of Christianity, who would call themselves Christians and who look to the world as Christians, but at the core of their hearts they have not been born again in Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. This is a warning against superficial Christianity. We cannot live carelessly and pay lip service to God’s instructions. God is not going to be fooled by our insincere hearts. Hebrews 6:4-8 is a chilling warning to those who might think that they can get away with this attitude. If you have tasted God’s mercy and power, but still do not commit to Christ then it is possible that you will be lost without redemption. Despite knowing the truth that Christ died for your sins, do you decide not to respond in full repentance but instead turn your back to Him?
This is ungratefulness to God and it has grave consequences (v8). The teaching here is similar toJesus’ parable of seed sown on rocky shallow ground where plants grew quickly but were scorched and withered by the sun because they had shallow roots (Matthew 9:5-6). We are warned in Hebrews 6:7-8, land that drinks in the rain often falling on it but produces thorns is worthless and in danger of being cursed and will be burned. However, land that produces a useful crop will be blessed. We cannot keep expecting to receive blessing and service from others. Spiritual maturity means that we also serve and bless others and learn accountability. There must be evidence of our spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:13- 26).
For those of you who may be feeling condemned by reading this, Hebrews 6: 9-11 clarifies that God is not unjust. He does not forget our work or the love we have shown him and the help we have given others. The falling away described in verses 4-8 is not the same as feeling you have let God down or temporarily ‘backslided’. It is a normal part of the Christian life to make mistakes because we are fighting a spiritual battle (Romans 7:15-20). We are not perfect in ourselves but justified by faith (Romans 5:1). However, living by faith does not mean living carelessly as we please. Instead, it means that we choose to allow God to transform our lives, to live by God’s Spirit and to serve one another humbly in love. We need to be sincere and diligent to the very end so that what we hope for may be fully realized (Hebrews 6:11). What do we hope for? Eternal life and God’s blessed assurance! (1 John 5:13-14).
Almighty God, help me to examine my heart for any disobedience or insincerity to you. Help me to identify areas of my life that I need to submit to you. Most of all, help me to be fully repentant and committed to you so that I will have the full reassurance of salvation through Christ Jesus. Amen.