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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Hebrews 5

Verses 1-14

Hebrews 5:8

God had but one Son free from sin; but none of all His sonnes free from correction.

Herrick.

Contrast the erroneous view of the Theologia Germanica (xxx), which affirms that Christ's 'words and works and ways, His doings and refrainings, His speech and silence, His sufferings, and whatsoever happened to Him, were not forced upon Him, neither did He need them, neither were they of any profit to Himself".

References. V. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2722. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 193. Archbishop Cosmo Lang, ibid. vol. lv. p. 235. V. 8, 9. A. T. Guttery, ibid. vol. lvi. p. 317. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 34; ibid. vol. ii. p. 16. V. 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1172. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 74. V. 9, 10. R. M. Benson, Redemption, p. 152.

Christian Growth

Hebrews 5:11

This writer addresses the Hebrews in very plain language. He calls them babes. He upbraids them with being content with a milk diet. They had been some time alive, but they had not grown; and no wonder, for they had never discovered that they had teeth. They ate no solid food; they preferred what others had digested for them; they preferred being dandled in the arms of others, and shrank from using their own limbs. That is to say, they were content with rudimentary knowledge of Christian truth and with traditional teaching, and made no effort to think for themselves and to advance into the infinite of spiritual realities.

I. In correction of this common fault of backwardness and indisposition to learn, this writer bids us observe two facts: (1) That growth is expected in the Christian. In fact, he tells us that if we are not growing we are dying. There is no third condition: he has in view only the alternative, either we are going on to perfection, or we are falling away. 'Let us go on unto perfection, for it is impossible to renew those who fall away.' This is the law of all life. Nothing is born mature. It passes through a period of growth, and it must grow or die. The parent who is delighted with the innocent helplessness of his child, and rejoices in its efforts at speech, becomes seriously alarmed if this lisping, tottering, help-requiring state threatens to become permanent.

II. The second fact regarding the Christian life which this writer wishes us to observe is that this growth, which is essential, depends on the truth we receive. He compares Christian truth to food; that is, Christian teaching does for the inner man what food does for the body. The body cannot grow without food; neither can the spirit come to maturity save by the reception of spiritual truth. But he divides Christian truth into two grand kinds, and these he represents by milk and solid food. Milk represents traditional teaching; it is the product of that which has been received and digested by others, and is suitable for those who have no teeth of their own and no sufficiently strong powers of digestion. Like infants, they can only receive what others have thought, having no independent power of their own to investigate for themselves and form their own opinion about things. This milk, or traditional teaching, is admirably adapted to the first stage of Christian life, but cannot form mature Christians. The other kind of teaching he compares to solid food, which the individual must chew and digest for himself. It is true, physically, that poor and thin diet makes poor and thin blood; that if a man is to spend much strength he must eat heartily. Spiritually it is equally true. Growth comes by nutrition. Without partaking of sound and wholesome truth the spirit cannot grow or be strong.

If we are not to be spiritual imbeciles, if we are to be strong and helpful men in Christ, we must seek nutriment in Christian truth. The vigorous and healthy soul does not need to be told this, as little as the strong, hard-working man needs to take tonics or be directed what to eat. But many of us do need, and most urgently, the direction here given us, to keep the mind feeling about for new ideas. The sea anemone is the emblem of the healthy Christian, fixed firmly to the rock, but with many feelers freely floating around to apprehend all that can be used.

What nutrition, then, are you giving to your spirit? Is it such as is likely to secure your growth? What do you read? Tell me what a man reads and I will tell you his spiritual condition. Newspapers and magazines admirably serve their ends, but these ends are not spiritual nutrition. The Bible read carelessly and formally, so many verses a day, will work no charm any more than any other book so read. But the Bible read with expectation, interest, thought and personal application will yield nutriment of the most various and stimulating kind.

No language in the whole Bible is more stringent or alarming than that which this writer uses of those who fall away. So alarming is it, so firm in its prediction of inevitable perdition, that men have striven in every way to turn its edge. But in vain. The fact is, there are conditions of spiritual growth and health as there are conditions of physical growth; and carelessness in the one case is as certainly followed by disaster or by death as carelessness in the other.

Marcus Dods, Christ and Man, p. 214.

Hebrews 5:11

'I am at present,' says James Smetham in his Letters (p. 170), 'on the Epistle to the Hebrews. The great difference of such a subject from all others is that all the interests of Time and Eternity are wrapped up in it. The scrutiny of a title-deed to £100,000 a year is nothing to it How should it be? Is there a Christ? Is He the heir of all things? Was He made flesh? Did He offer an all perfect sacrifice? Did He supersede the old order of priests? Is He the Mediator of a new and better Covenant? What are the terms of that Covenant? There are no questions like these. They raise, in their very investigation, the whole soul into the Empyrean. All other interests seem low, trivial, petty, momentary.... I am astonished at the imperative tone of this Epistle, and the element of holy scorn against those who refuse to go into those great questions carefully.'

References. V. 11, 12. Marcus Dods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 139. V. 11-14. Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 119.

Hebrews 5:12

'The wisdom from above has not ceased for us,' says Coleridge in the introduction to his Lay Sermon; '"the principles of the oracles of God" are still uttered from before the altar! Oracles, which we may consult without cost! Before an altar, where no sacrifice is required, but of the vices which unman us! no victims demanded, but the unclean and animal passions, which we may have suffered to house within us, forgetful of our baptismal dedication no victim, but the spiritual sloth, or goat, or fox, or hog, which lay waste the vineyard that the Lord had fenced and planted for Himself.'

References. V. 12-14. Archbishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 148. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 31. V. 13, 14. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. i. p. 386. V. 14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 506. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 268.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/hebrews-5.html. 1910.