Church, Faith, God, Grace

Spiritual Nourishment for All Stages of Growth

In most large houses we shall find humanity in all its stages. We shall see the infant in its cradle, children laughing in their play, young men working with vigour, and the old man resting in peace. In such a mansion, if a careful Martha be in charge, provision will be made for all the different ages. There will be milk provided for the infants and young children, and the pantry will not be without solid food for the full grown men. Now in our Father’s great house His family is always so large that you will always find believers in all stages of growth. He opens His hands, and supplies the need of every living thing, and this is true, not only of the temporals which He gives to man and beast alike, but also of the spirituals which He dispenses liberally to all the new creatures in Christ Jesus! Now it were unfitting to give the milk to the man of full age, and equally improper to present the solid food to those who are but infants; our Lord has, therefore, been pleased to dictate directions as to the persons for whom the various provisions of His table are intended.

Let us take a look at Hebrews 5:12-14 to find out what are some of the directions our Lord has given through the Apostle Paul: “12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil”.

The apostle shows how the various doctrines of the gospel must be dispensed to different persons. There are in the church infants and persons of full age (v. 12-14), and there are in the gospel milk and solid food. Observe, 1. Those that are infants, unskillful in the word of righteousness, must be fed with milk; they must be entertained with the plainest truths, and these delivered in the plainest manner; there must be line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little (cf. Isa. 28:10). Christ despises not his babes; he has provided suitable food for them. It is good to be babes in Christ, but not always to continue in that childish state; we should endeavor to pass the infant state; we should always remain in malice children, but in understanding we should grow up to a manly maturity. 2. There is solid food for those that are of full age (v. 14). The deeper mysteries of religion belong to those that are of a higher standard in the school of Christ, who have learned the first principles and well improved them; so that by reason of use they have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, duty and sin, truth and error. Observe, (1.) There have been always in the Christian state children, young men, and fathers. (2.) Every true Christian, having received a principle of spiritual life from God, stands in need of nourishment to preserve that life. (3.) The word of God is food and nourishment to the life of grace: As new-born babies desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby. (4.) It is the wisdom of ministers rightly to divide the word of truth, and to give to everyone his portion-milk to babies, and solid food to those of full age. (5.) There are spiritual senses as well as those that are natural. There is a spiritual eye, a spiritual appetite, a spiritual taste; the soul has its sensations as well as the body; these are much depraved and lost by sin, but they are recovered by grace. (6.) It is by use and exercise that these senses are improved, made more quick and strong to taste the sweetness of what is good and true, and the bitterness of what is false and evil. Not only reason and faith, but spiritual sense, will teach men to distinguish between what is pleasing and what is provoking to God, between what is helpful and what is hurtful to our own souls.

What is the solid food mentioned in verse 14? Who are they meant for? Are we qualified to consume them?
A careful examination of the text will inform us that one form of solid food meant for full-grown Christians is the allegorical exposition of Scriptural history. The apostle was about to show that Melchizedek was a type of Jesus, who, as a priest, is without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of years, but is a priest forever according to the power of an endless life. But the apostle paused, for he felt that this allegory of Melchizedek was too strong a meat for those who were not full grown men. I believe that every book of Scripture has some special lesson beyond its historical import; and perhaps when the history of the world shall have been fully wrought out, we shall see that the books of the Bible were like a prophetic roll sealed to us, but yet fulfilled to the letter.

I feel persuaded that the apostle also more particularly referred to those mysterious truths which have respect to the relationships of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His complex person. The very simplest believer understands that Christ is God and man, that Christ stood as the sinner’s surety and paid his debt. But His complex person suggests a thousand thoughts, all of which are too high for comprehension or even consideration until our senses have been exercised. Our union to Christ, that wonderful doctrine of our being members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, is a mystery not to be trifled with by children. Even in Christ’s Second Advent there are lofty questions—mighty difficulties which need the full grown intellect of the believer to grapple with them.

The doctrines of grace are to be handled with caution, for there are some folks who are not of full age, and have not, by reason of use, had their senses exercised so that they can discern both good and evil. Many love high doctrine, but then they want it higher than the Bible! Some have so exaggerated free grace that they have denied the practical precepts. This is partly through wickedness, and partly through folly; it is the sure result of little minds losing their way in the great truths of God, and, slipping from the high road, and falling to flounder in the ditch of error! Oh, my dear brothers and sisters, I would sooner you would leave these doctrines alone, than that you should fall into Antinomianism! Among the most damnable things which Satan ever sent is that which shall lead you to deny the practical precepts, and to forget that, “without holiness, no one shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Unholy fatalism is a deep ditch, and the abhorred of the Lord shall fall in.

According to verse 14, solid food is meant for persons of full age. Understand that there is no reference here at all to the age of a person as to human life. Growth in grace does not run side by side with growth in years. The expression in the text, then, has no reference to age, but is used in a spiritual and metaphorical sense. But what is meant by men that are full-grown? Well, you know, a baby has the same parts as a man. The baby is perfect in its measure, but it is not perfectly perfect. Those limbs must expand; the little hand must get a wider grasp; the trembling feet must become strong pillars for ripening manhood; the man must swell, and grow, and expand, and enlarge, and be consolidated. Now when we are born to God we have all the parts of the advanced Christian. Faith, hope, love, patience — they are all there, but they are all little, and they must all grow; and he is of full age whose faith is vigorous, whose love is inflamed, whose patience is constant, whose hope is bright, and who has every grace, in full fashion. Nor is it only development. The full grown man is stronger than the baby. His sinews are knit; his bones have become fuller of solid material; they are no longer soft and cartilaginous, there is more solid matter in them. So with the advanced Christian; he is no longer to be bent about and twisted; his bones are as iron, and his muscles as steel; he moves himself in stately paces, not needing to lean on anyone. He can plough the soil, or reap the corn; deeds that were impossible to infancy are simplicities to the full-grown man. But then our text tells us that they have had their senses exercised. The soul has senses as well as the body. Men who have had their senses exercised know how to choose between good and evil. It is that the man, the eye of whose faith has been tried with bright visions and dark revelations, is qualified to discern between good and evil in those great mysteries which would be too high for unexercised believers.

The apostle says that the Hebrew saints ought to have been teachers, but that they still remained infants (v. 12). It is very pleasant to see the infant in the house. What joy there is in its tender cry? But suppose that our children were always to remain infants, that would be no happiness to the parent. How long have we been Christians? Are we still infants or have we matured over the years? Are we qualified to consume solid food or are we still living on milk? What will the Church be like if her members were always to remain infants? How can we fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith without eating solid food? Why not begin to search the Scriptures? Why not try to live nearer to God? Why not pant after a greater conformity to Christ’s image? Why, what a Christian we might then be!

Let us sing of the solid food Christ dished out during the Sermon on the Mount with the song “Blest Are They”:

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