“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. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
In catechism class, we teach our young the six chief parts of Christian doctrine. It is not an end to learning, but a beginning. We expect them to continue in the Word, and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior. Christian faith is a lifelong process of learning and growing. However, the danger exists of becoming sluggish and cold—apathetic—in our approach to God’s Word. As a result, we no longer grow in our understanding. As a matter of fact, the opposite happens, and we begin to lose what we had. We do not absorb God’s Word by osmosis; rather, we must actively listen, ponder, read, and learn the Word in order to grow. Apathy is a killer of Christian faith.
We do not absorb God’s Word by osmosis; rather, we must actively listen, ponder, read, and learn the Word.
That was the situation the Jewish Christians were facing. The Gospel had been preached to them for more than a generation. By then they should have had no problem teaching to others the doctrines of the Christian faith. But instead of becoming teachers, many of them had stopped learning and had even allowed what they once knew to slip away. Now they themselves were in need of being taught again the basic doctrines of Christianity. They were only capable of receiving “milk,” and not “solid food.” Instead of growing to spiritual maturity, they were reverting to a “second childhood.” In so doing, they were allowing themselves to be robbed of great spiritual blessings. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
There is a terrible danger here for us, as well. Spiritual apathy and immaturity could make easy pickings for our adversary the devil, who “. . . walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Without the solid food of God’s Word, we could find ourselves unable to defend or teach the faith we hold so dear.
We see the effects of this problem in every church body. Many church members allow themselves to be spoon fed whatever is told them by their leaders, rather than being like the Bereans, who “. . . received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). No wonder we see such a lack of faith and understanding in the world.
Christians realize that going to church is a precious blessing. It is a time for spiritual strengthening for what lies ahead. Christians feel the need to be in church with like-minded believers, but we also understand that we need more than mere church attendance. We need to immerse ourselves in the Word in order to grow, in order that we may be “. . . complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
There is a saying: “Use it or lose it.” In our day, we see all too many losing it! We ourselves are not immune to this danger. It is one thing to say that we have the truth, but we must also know that truth. We want to gain spiritual maturity, to grow in grace and understanding, and to be able to put what we know to use in our day-to-day lives. Our Savior reminds us, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”(John 8:31-32).
Jay Hartmann is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Coloma, Michigan.