“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.”Heb. 5:11-12 (NLT)
The opening chapters of Hebrews deal with comparing things, the superiority of Jesus over the prophets, over the angels, over Moses. And eventually it talks about the priesthood: the comparison between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Jesus. Along this analogy, Jesus is not of the Levitical line, but He’s of the line of Melchizedek. This is a very, very important Biblical concept especially to the Jews who have a problem about the priesthood of Jesus Christ, because He was not a Levite; He was of the tribe of Judah. It’s a very important Biblical concept that focuses in on the uniqueness and the superiority of Jesus over sacrificial system. Now the author knew, these Jews were going to have a problem with a very deep, and very involved subject like this. So, in chapter 5, verse 11, he stops his argument about Jesus is of the line of Melchizedek. He just stops it, and from verses 11 through 20 of chapter 5 is a giant parenthetical clause about the spiritual dullness of the Jewish Christians, that he’s writing. So, it’s kind of like he just stopped the argument and said, ‘I know you, that it’s going to be hard for you to understand this, but it’s important for you to understand it’. Thus, the need for this parenthesis number. It’s a very stern warning, and I think it’s the sternest warning anywhere in the New Testament, except possibly Matthew 7.
“There is much more we would like to say about this (subject of priesthood), but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.” – now, the verb tense here is perfect: they have become dull in the past, and the dullness that crept into their spiritual lives now abides as a settled condition. They have gradually become dull, and they have remained spiritually insensitive to the truth. We’re talking here about Jews who have become Christians, but who have not fully made a break with the synagogue. So, they have come to a certain standard, a certain level of Christian maturity, but they have not taken any position that would ‘ruffle the feathers’ of their Jewish friends. The author knew that when he brought up the issue of the ‘Melchizedek priesthood’, there’s going to be trouble, so he’s trying to prepare them for that. Now, the word ‘dull’ here is used for an animal whose limbs, arms, and legs have just gotten numb and unusable. It’s a picture of someone who has grown spiritually insensitive; incapable of understanding because of the prolonged non-use of the faculty. They have become dull in their spiritual senses. Notice in verse 12, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” (cf. 1Co 3:1-2) – now, what he’s saying is, there should be a co-relation between length of time knowing Jesus and maturity. There should be a link. The longer you’re a Christian, the more you read your Bible, the more years you’ve walked with the Lord, you ought to be more mature. So, it’s logical to say, that older Christians should be more mature Christians. However, the author seems to say that longevity and spirituality are not equated. It’s very possible for a very young Christian to be a mature Christian, and a very old Christian to be immature and dull spiritually. Therefore, length of time is not the primary criteria in spiritual maturity. It is an aggressive discipleship and follow-ship of Jesus. And the way He’s saying this is, ‘you’ve been Christians for a long, long time. And by the very length of your being in the faith, you ought to be teachers, but you still have needed someone to teach you after all these years”. It’s rather a poignant rebuke to these people, like slapping them in the face to wake them up. It seems like he’s saying, ‘you have to go back to kindergarten because you’ve failed kindergarten over and over, and you’re still in kindergarten, and someone’s got to teach you repeatedly about the ABCs of your faith, and unless you learn, it’s going to be hard for you to understand something here about the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ’.
I believe two-thirds of the Church of Jesus Christ today are baby Christians. And they come to church sucking from their feeding bottles. And they come Sunday after Sunday, and they’re content with that milk, and that’s all they want to drink, and all they want to deal is those ABCs and nothing more. That’s a tragedy, the Church of Jesus Christ for the most part, is an infant crawling around a sinful world, inept and ill-equipped to deal with the spiritual problems the world offers. That’s a tragedy! The author says, ‘you still need milk instead of solid food”. They have teeth now. They can eat meat. Their stomachs are ready, but they will not take it. It’s available, but they will not take it. And that’s the dismal spiritual picture of too many people in our churches today.