Got Milk?

April 13, 2007

by Phillip M. Way

Hebrews 5:12-13

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

Were you aware that babies need milk? It’s true. Babies of every sort find nourishment for their growing bodies by drinking milk. God has designed mothers to produce milk for their babies. And no one ever found fault with a baby who needed and wanted milk as if that were some sort of an aberration.

Spiritually speaking we know that milk is used by writers in the Bible to refer to the simplest and most basic elements of the Christian life. Just as newborns need milk, so too, new believers need to be fed the milk of the Word – the simple, basic, foundational truths from God’s Word that will nourish their souls.

However, what is strange is the notion that a person who is grown would refuse to eat solid food and would instead only seek to drink milk. As we grow we learn to eat solid food. We outgrow the milk stage and while we as a grown up may enjoy milk (especially with Oreos) we know that milk is not enough to sustain us. We need solid food if we are to be nourished.

So think with me a minute about what the writer of Hebrews has written here. He has stated that there are those who are dull of hearing, they refuse to learn to discern, and as a result of this sinful behavior we are told that they have not grown, they have not been nourished by eating meat, but by some deformity and some irregularity they have come to need milk instead of solid food.

These people should by now know enough to be teaching the Word to each other (making disciples – Matt 28:19-20) and assisting each other in their spiritual growth and development. However, they are not teachers and instead need to be taught. And the real tragedy here is not that they need to be taught – for indeed we all need to be taught continually. The trouble is that they need to be taught the “first principles of the oracles of God”, that is, the foundational basic truths found in the Word of God.

These people, through the hardness of their hearts and the dullness of their hearing have forgotten the most basic things about God and His Word. They have come to need milk. It is not that they have failed to grow into eating solid food. No. They have fallen back into needing milk. They have lost ground! They have returned to an infantile state.

Now, we are to be childlike in our faith, but we are never to be childish. And here we see that one of the results of failing to discern is that we lose ground, we backslide. We miss the differences between right and wrong and slide back to the point that we actually need to have the simplest doctrines reiterated to us so that we might walk in the truth.

We cannot miss the point that milk is important. Babies need milk. Without it they will not be nourished, they will not grow, and they cannot live! However, what we have here are people who have outgrown this stage and yet have now fallen back into it. They are stunted and harmed in their lives because they have dulled their hearing. They have, in the words of our text, become unskilled when it comes to the Word of God.

As we grow out of our spiritual infancy and mature into “adulthood” we not only move beyond needing milk to needing solid food, but we also learn how to handle the Word of God. We learn to read, interpret, apply, and obey the Word. The goal for us all is that we be workers who need not be ashamed because we are able to rightly handle the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15). But if we slide back into infancy and immaturity then we will fail in our attempts to handle the Word of God. We will be unskilled.

How can we be unskilled in the Word and worship as we ought? How can we be unskilled and be pleasing to God? We can’t. If we fail to discern, harden our hearts, and backslide then we will fail in the Christian life and our duty to God and one another.

We are God’s children in that He has adopted us and made up part of His family. But we are not to find ourselves in a constant and unending state of infancy. Babies are cute. Grown men wearing diapers and drinking from a babies bottle are not cute but rather quite unnatural. There is nothing cute, admirable, or worthwhile to be found in a group of people who dull their hearing, fail to discern, and therefore cannot help but backslide and act like big babies.

We are to desire the meat of the Word. And just as every child wants to grow up we too must strive to grow in grace and mature in our walk with the Lord. Milk is good and necessary for nourishing babes. But we should be past that already.

Are we growing in our walk with the Lord? If not, what is holding us back? Are we only drinking milk? We know the phrase – Got milk? Well, if all we’ve got is milk then perhaps it is time we learned to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

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