Life At Its Best – A Maturing Life

Title: Life At Its Best - A Maturing Life

Bible Book: Hebrews 5

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Christian Living; Maturity; Growing In Christ



We have been looking recently at some lessons from the book of Hebrews, and we’ve been dealing with the theme “Life At Its Best.”

Thus far, we have considered the idea of “A Focused Life” from some passages in Hebrews chapter one and two. Then we talked about “A Faithful Life” from certain portions of Hebrews chapter two and three. Today, it’s on my heart to preach on some verses from the last part of chapter five and the first part of chapter six. And I want to preach on the concept of “A Maturing Life.” Now when we talk about maturity, we’re not just talking about growing old.

I read that there are three signs of old age. The first is your loss of memory. And I forget the other two. Somebody said that middle age is when work is a lot less fun – and fun is a lot more work. Middle age is when it takes longer to rest than to get tired. A man has reached middle age when he is cautioned to slow down by his doctor instead of by the police. One person concluded that the aging process could be slowed down if it had to work its way through Congress.

You know you’re getting old…

When you’re sitting in a rocker and you can’t get it started.

When you wake up with that morning-after feeling, and you didn’t do anything the night before.

When you lean over to pick something up off the floor, and you ask yourself if there is anything else you need to do while you are down there.

When you find yourself in the middle of the stairway, and you can’t remember if you were downstairs going up or upstairs going down.

But growing old is not always synonymous with becoming mature. In fact, one novelist named Shirley Conran wrote, “You’re never too old to grow up.” The humorist Dave Barry said, “What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death.” Apparently, that is also the aspiration of many Christians.

Warren Wiersbe said…

Not everybody who grows old, grows up. Ideally, the older we are, the more mature we should be; but too often the ideal does not become the real. The result is problems – problems in personal lives, in homes, and in churches. As a pastor, I see more problems in these areas caused by immaturity  than by anything else. If Christians would just grow up, they would become victors instead of victims. (From The Book Be Mature)

Many Bible commentators have noted that Hebrews chapter 5, verse 11 thru chapter 6, verse 12 is a parenthetical section and that the writer digresses from the subject that he has been dealing with, namely Jesus as the great high priest.

This passage is also recognized by most commentators as a puzzling section that is difficult to interpret, especially chapter 6, verses 4 thru 6.

But let me mention that this passage is also a very powerful section as it encourages the spiritual maturity of believers. In fact, M. R. DeHaan indicated that “the theme of the whole Book of Hebrews” is found in Hebrews 6:1, “namely the admonition to … ‘go on unto perfection’.” And this word ‘perfection’ comes from the Greek word teleios, which has the idea of maturity and a state of completion.

“A Maturing Life” is our theme in this section. And when it comes to spiritual maturity there are some things we can learn.

I. These Believers Needed To Be Corrected

(Hebrews 5:11–14)

A. They Were Not Attentive To The Message

(Hebrews 5:11) Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

1. We Are Told That The Lessons Were Difficult

Marvin Vincent suggested that the literal rendering of the phrase “we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered” is “the discourse is abundant unto us” and “hard of interpretation to

speak.” (Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament)

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that the word “hard” (Greek NT:1421 dusermeeneutos) means “hard to interpret,” or “difficult of explanation.” The subject matter that he is referring to is Christ.

2. We Are Told That The Listening Was Dulled

Adam Clarke said of this phrase “dull of hearing” (?Noothroi ??tais ??akoais?)…

Your souls do not keep pace with the doctrines and exhortations delivered to you. As ? noothros ? (dull – noothroi) signifies a person who walks heavily and makes little speed, it is here elegantly applied to those who are called to the Christian race, have the road laid down plain before them, how to proceed specified, and the blessings to be obtained enumerated, and yet make no exertions to   get on.

It was A.T. Robertson who said that it means “slow and sluggish in mind as well as in the ears. He said that “Plato calls some students ? noothroi ?, ‘stupid’.”

This brings to mind the student who is preoccupied with other things and doesn’t listen while class is going on.

B. They Were Not Advancing In Their Maturity
1. Maturity Is Evident In One’s Diet

(Hebrews 5:12-13) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. {13} For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

William Hendricksen and Simon Kistemaker tell us…

The author of Hebrews calls the reader of his epistle “an infant.” To him it is incredible that adults in the faith are still nurtured on spiritual milk, not solid food. He uses the word infant to put his readers to shame. As a pastor, he is not afraid to rebuke them, to admonish them, and to direct them to a higher level of development. They must realize that growth demands solid food. They will never advance on a diet of milk. (New Testament Commentary – Baker)

Paul and Peter both remind us that milk is the diet of infants…

(1 Corinthians 3:1-2) And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. {2} I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

(1 Peter 2:2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

2. Maturity Is Evident In One’s Discernment

(Hebrews 5:14) But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In his commentary on Hebrews, John MacArthur states…

The contrast here is simple. The one who continues to feed only on God’s elementary revelations is not going to grow, not going to have any discernment. A small child will stick almost anything into his mouth, touch anything he can reach, go anywhere he can manage to crawl – with no concept of what is good for him and what is bad, what is helpful and what is dangerous. The mature adult, on the other hand, has developed considerable discernment. He is careful about what he eats, what he does, where he goes. The same principle operates in the spiritual realm. The mature believer has discernment about what is right and wrong, true and false, helpful and harmful, righteous and unrighteous.

II. These Believers Needed To Be Complete

(Hebrews 6:1–3)

Andrew Murray said, “A builder, when he has laid his foundation, leaves working at it any more, and builds upon it. There are Christians who never get beyond the foundation. … ‘Perfect’ is that which corresponds to its ideal, which is as it should be, which answers to what its maker intended.”

A. Let’s Consider The Foundational Principles That Are Mentioned
1. The Basic Principles In The Transformation Of A Believer

He Refers To The Basic Principles Involved In The Transformation Of A Believer

(Hebrews 6:1) Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

2. The Basic Principles In The Teaching Of A Believer

He Refers To The Basic Principles Involved In The Teaching Of A Believer

(Hebrews 6:2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Though this is a lengthy excerpt, Ray Stedman explains the relevance of these principles in a very capable way as he says… The rudiments he asks them to leave consist of six matters under two heads: (1) the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God; and (2) instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. These transitional truths lead from Jewish beliefs and practices to a full sharing in Christ. Though Bruce takes them as a Jewish list and others as Christian, the truth is they are both, as Bruce concedes that each “acquires a new significance in a Christian context” (1964:112). The point is that they do not represent anything but the barest beginnings of Christian faith. … It is evident from the ministry of John the Baptist that Christian baptism emerged from the Jewish practice of ritual ablutions or washings. This would explain the unusual plural here (from baptismos used of Jewish ablutions, rather than from the more common baptisma which is employed for Christian baptisms). It may, however, be an oblique reference to John’s teaching in 1 John 5:7-8, “For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” which does tie water baptism with the Christian teachings of Spirit and blood. The point the writer wishes to make is that baptism is an initiatory rite and must not be regarded as fulfilling all that a Christian is expected to know or do. The laying on of hands was widely practiced in the early church, sometimes for the imparting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17), sometimes for healing (Acts 28:8), sometimes for ordaining or commissioning (Acts 13:3). Though borrowed from Judaism, its Christian usage would need to be explained to the new convert. It is an act of identification, tying the individual to either the activity of God or that of the body of Christ. This, too, represents a beginning and not an end. The doctrine of resurrection is central to Christianity though not to Judaism. It was taught in the Old Testament (Is 26:19; Dan 12:2) and was important to the Pharisees (Acts 23:6), but its central position in the New Testament demanded further instruction and repeated exposure to the testimony of apostles and other eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary suggests that the doctrine of “eternal judgment” refers to “eternal consequences either of joy or of woe.”

B. Let’s Consider The Further Progress That Is Mentioned
1. A Decision To Go On Is Encouraged

(Hebrews 6:1) Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

The Barnes’ Notes commentary says that “leaving” means “passing by the consideration of with a view to advance to something higher.” Barnes stated that Tyndale renders this statement as: “let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian man,” and Coverdale renders it: “let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian life.”

As Herschel Hobbs explained…

The phrase “let us go on” may aptly be rendered “let us be borne on.” … They are to be borne on by the river of God’s eternal purpose unto a full or perfect salvation. The word translated “perfection” is derived from a word meaning mature. It carries also the teleological (ultimate) idea of going forward to the achievement of a goal.

2. A Dependence Upon God Is Expressed

(Hebrews 6:3) And this will we do, if God permit.

Albert Barnes said of this phrase “if God permit” that…

This is not to be interpreted as if God was “unwilling” that they should make such advances, or as if it were “doubtful” whether he would allow it if they made an honest effort, and their lives were spared; but it is a phrase used to denote their “dependence” on him. It is equivalent to saying, “if he would spare their lives, their health, and their reason; if he would continue the means of grace, and would impart his Holy Spirit; if he would favor their efforts and crown them with success, they would make these advances.” In reference to anything that we undertake, however pleasing to God in itself, it is proper to recognize our entire dependence on God;

III. These Believers Needed To Be Challenged

(Hebrews 6:9–12)

Hebrews chapter 6, verses 4 thru 6 is admittedly a difficult passage to interpret, and virtually every commentator has a different perspective on what the verses mean. However, there are a few basic schools of interpretation concerning this passage. (1) One suggests that the passage speaks of those who have been saved but have now “fallen away” and have lost their salvation. Let us rely upon truth that is revealed elsewhere in the New Testament and discard that approach immediately. (2) Another suggestion is that the passage speaks of those who had been exposed to truth but had ultimately rejected it and were therefore never saved. (3) A third approach is that the “falling away” applies to those who had been saved, but it speaks, not of losing one’s salvation, but of backsliding.

(4) Yet another approach is to view this “falling away” as a hypothetical scenario that would never actually happen.

I believe that the passage does present a possible (though perhaps not hypothetical) scenario, and that it speaks of those who are saved but have failed to enter into spiritual victory, like the Israelites at Kadeshbarnea in Numbers 13 and 14. They didn’t need to get saved again (for to do so would be “impossible”) – they needed to move forward. “Falling away” means to deviate or turn aside from the prescribed path. And the lack of spiritual maturity and the deviation from truth that is attributed to those discussed in verses 4 thru 6 has finally and fatally hindered their progress and their productivity (as seen in the contrast in vs. 7-8 between the herbs that are blessed and the thorns and briers that should be burned).

But the writer of Hebrews said that he is “persuaded better things of” those to whom he is writing.

A. Optimism For These Believers

Notice How The Writer Shares His Optimism For These Believers

(Hebrews 6:9-10) But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. {10} For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

1. His Optimism About How Their Faith Will Be Manifested

“Though we thus speak,” in other words, though I am giving you this warning, I do trust that you will not fall into this condition that I have described. I would like to believe that you will exhibit spiritual maturity and stay on the right track and that there will be in your life “things that accompany salvation,” or things that are consistent with being saved.

2. His Optimism About How Their Focus Is On Ministry

(Hebrews 6:10) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

The “work” refers to the full spectrum of the believers’ involvement in ministry. The “labour of love” refers to the specific manifestations of their ministry.

Marvin Vincent says that the word “labour” could be omitted so that the phrase is rendered “your work and the love which ye showed.”

B. Objective For These Believers

Notice How The Writer Shares His Objective For These Believers

(Hebrews 6:11-12) And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: {12} That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

desire – Greek 1937. epithumeo, ep-ee-thoo-meh'-o; from G1909 and G2372; to set the heart upon,

i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise):--covet, desire, would fain, lust (after).

1. He Expresses His Desire Concerning Their Diligence

diligence – Greek 4710. spoude, spoo-day’; from G4692; “speed”, i.e. (by impl.) despatch, eagerness, earnestness:--business, (earnest) care (-fulness), diligence forwardness, haste.

The same enthusiasm that they had shown in practical ministry, he desired that they would show in pursuing spiritual completeness.

2. He Expresses his Desire Concerning Their Direction

followers – Greek 3402. mimetes, mim-ay-tace'; from G3401; an imitator:--follower.

Rather than be like those who were defeated by doubt at Kadeshbarnea, he would have them follow the example of those like Joshua and Caleb “who through faith and patience inherited the promises” (vs. 12). The inspired penman wanted his readers to experience the full realization of what God has in mind for every believer.

In conclusion, to describe this spiritual immaturity, the writer of Hebrews used the analogy of a building that didn’t go beyond the foundation and a baby that didn’t get beyond infancy.

My wife, who grew up in a foster home, had a foster sister whose first baby was a girl with cerebral palsy. It was sad to know that her emotional and mental development would never progress beyond that of a 3 or 4 year old. Similarly, it is sad to see Christians who have progressed chronologically but not spiritually. May God deliver us from growing older without growing up!

Posted in


Scroll to Top