By Stan Adams
In Hebrews 5:12-14 we read of a condition that can afflict a Christian spiritually. The condition is spiritual stunted growth. The writer says, “For when by reason of 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. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 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.”
The writer wants us to know that it is normal for Christians to grow and is indeed expected. No Christian can please God and stay at the same level of growth. But, sadly, we see many in the body of Christ who have been members a long time, but have not become teachers, but have rather regressed into infancy and stopped growing. How sad and pitiful it is to view stunted growth physically. How much more pitiful it is to see elders, deacons, preachers, and other members who cannot discern good and evil. I have always labored under the impression that the qualifications of elders and deacons demand a level of understanding and maturity in the gospel that is above the average. Why is it then that elders and deacons are sometimes the weakest sort when it comes to spiritual knowledge and discernment? It is sad but true that many who should be leading Israel have need of going back and establishing the first principles of Truth in their minds. Take a glance at some of the things that are going on, brethren.
1. Preachers teaching that there is no Hadean realm (see Luke 16).
2. Elders allowing a Christian lady to teach men in a class (see 1 Tim. 2:12)
3. Deacons condoning worldly behaviors like social drinking, dancing, and immodesty (see Gal. 5:19; 1 Pet. 4:3 and 1 Tim. 2:9).
Brethren, these things ought not to be! Many times the only leadership ability some seem to have is their desire for it. Paul told Timothy of this sort in 1 Timothy 1:7: “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” Preachers are to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2), study (2 Tim. 2:15), and commit the things learned to faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2).
Elders are to be “apt to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and not a novice (1 Tim. 3:6). They are to be able with sound words to “exhort and convince the gainsayer” (Tit. 1:9). Deacons are to “hold the mystery of faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9) and be blameless and proved (1 Tim. 3:10). Elders and deacons are to be men who “watch” for dangers and ward them off before they become issues in the flock. What reason is there for a sentinel or watchman who stands on the wall and watches the enemy come right to the front gate before he sounds an alarm? Dangers must be watched for and brethren armed before errors become an issue among the flock they rule over. This is all part of ruling well. All of these qualifications indicate that those who would serve the Lord in the role of elders and deacons need to have a level of spiritual knowledge and maturity beyond the new convert and average member. Sadly, this is not the case everywhere.
One of the reasons for the downfall of God’s beloved Israel was the fact that the leadership (priests, prophets, kings), did not take seriously the grave responsibility God had entrusted to them. Malachi 1:10-14; 2:17 and 3:8, 13 tell of this sad time in Israel. From the time the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea and awaited Moses on the mount, there has been a challenge to God’s leaders to stand firm. Aaron did not. He bowed to the wishes of the masses, which is the path of least resistance, but certainly sinful in his case. Bowing to the masses by God’s leaders is still going on. Too often we hear of brethren placing more emphasis on “growing the church” than on sound, faithful teaching and preaching. Churches are not strong because of how many attend. They are not strong because of the number of committees and groups they have organized into. They are not strong because of how much the contribution is, or how many baptisms and restorations they have had. Churches are strong only when they abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). When every Christian realizes that growth is expected by God and that lazy, apathetic, dormant Christianity will not please, then growth in a local congregation can commence effectively.
Brethren, we need to know the Word. We are told to study it (2 Tim. 2:15) and that it is able to “furnish us completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). The gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Ignorance will destroy the Lord’s work (Hos. 4:6). Let’s resolve to study, learn, and root ourselves, so that we are not like those of Hebrews 5 who have no firmness in Christ. Root and ground yourself in the basics of God’s word, so you can graduate to the strong meat of the gospel. Do not be a spiritual baby. Grow up in knowledge, especially if you intend to preach or lead.
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