Arrested Development

Oct 8, 2011
Winfield, Mo.
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk; and not of solid food” (Heb 5:11, 13).

Those to whom the Apostle was writing were not simply ignorant of the truth, nor young in the faith—which are things that would not necessarily make it difficult to understand the teaching of Scripture. The real problem was they had “become dull of hearing.” Their spiritual growth had been arrested. The time had come when they should have been teachers. Alas, they needed to be again taught the elementary truths of the beginning of the oracles of God. They had become such as had need of milk instead of solid food. The Apostle does not at all slight the use of milk; but he says if milk is the proper diet it is clear proof that the soul is spiritually a babe needing to be established in the righteousness of God.

The Apostle proceeds to show the hindrances to spiritual growth. The Corinthian saints were hindered by the wisdom and philosophy of men (1Cor 1-3). These Hebrew believers were hindered by clinging to their traditional religion. As Darby said, “There is no greater hindrance to progress in spiritual life and intelligence than attachment to an ancient (or modern) form of religion which, being traditional and not simply personal faith in the truth, consists always in ordinances, and is consequently carnal (Heb 10:9) and earthly.”

As with the Hebrews believers, so in Christendom today, nowhere is the darkness and ignorance of God’s Word greater that amongst those who cling to tradition and religious ritual*. Occupied with mere forms and dazzled by a sensuous religion* that stirs the emotions, and ministers to the natural mind, people are blinded of the Gospel of grace* God unfolded in His Word. In order to meet this snare the Apostle’s exhorting is, “Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of the Christ, let us go on to what belongs to full growth” (Heb 6:1).

He then refers to certain fundamental truths known in Judaism before the Cross, and suited to a state of spiritual infancy. In contrast to these truths the Apostle presents the full truth of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, now revealed in Christianity, which he speaks of as perfection. By clinging to truths which were for the time before Christ’s coming, these believers hindered their growth in the full revelation of Christianity—that which is heavenly.

The Apostle speaks of repentance from dead works*, faith in God, of the doctrine of washings, of imposition of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. These things were all known before the incarnation of Christ. The faith he speaks of is faith in God, not personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The washings refer to Jewish purifications, not Christian baptism. The laying on of hands refers to the way by which the Israelite identified himself as the offerer with the victim he presented. Resurrection is of the dead, not from among the dead as in Christianity.

The Apostle does not ask us to deny any of the OT truths, but to leave the partial light and go on to the full light of Christianity—perfection (completeness). To go back to these things would be laying again “a foundation.” Not, indeed, “the foundation,” as if it were the foundation of Christianity, but rather “a foundation” of Jewish things.

- Hamilton Smith

Poster’s notes may or may not be of the author’s conclusion and are intended to promote understanding and correspondence in sharing the “Word of Truth”:

* “those who cling to traditional and religious ritual”: the issue concerning the practical use of the prior dispensational doctrines containing ordinances and statutes deriving from the “Law” are not necessarily attempted out of disregard to Scripture, but are rather out of ignorance concerning present doctrine related to its discontinuance (Heb 10:9). It should also be realized that even Israel, to whom only was the Law ever given, cannot presently practice its contents rightfully, it being “taken away.” Of course this does not include Jewish traditions which are not of the Law itself.

* “sensuous religion”: that relating directly to the senses (physical flesh) but not to the spirit or soul; not that this was wrong when in accordance with the Law’s statues and ordinances, which was required of the Jew at that time. That which existed in the prior dispensation (conditional forgiveness according to man’s works) was intended to promote that which is in the present dispensation (unconditional forgiveness according to God’s works); thus contrasting the two Covenants for clarification and understanding.

* ”blinded of the Gospel of grace”: the often attempts of the Judaizers to mix the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ produced confusion (“bewitched” i.e. Gal 3:1), which is often evidenced even in today’s Christendom (Judeo-Christian doctrine is a concept which attempts to produce an admixture of the two dispensations).

* “repentance from dead works”: that is, works of death for repentance, “a repentance which arose from and was signified by the sacrifices of slain beasts.” John Gill
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