Got Solid Food? Preliminary Matters

Thank you, in advance, for taking a few moments to read this first weekly post; may our Lord cause or allow this series to be edifying – even if only a fraction of the excellence that has consistently been displayed by IDS folks including Geoff, Mike, and, of course, Steve. I’m an attorney; I’ve not pursued formal theological education. That said, my informal theological education – including, during the past year, extensive study of New Covenant Theology — will, prayerfully, be evident!

My intent is to limit weekly posts to five paragraphs or less; I want folks to read them (!) and to avail themselves of IDS resources such as the excellent articles you’ll find here and here (indeed, I intend to link to such at every opportunity!). Comments are not merely welcome, they’re desired! Please, though, don’t decrease the likelihood of your comments being read by writing dissertations! If you must needs write more than a few paragraphs, please consider submitting such for consideration as a separate post.

“Solid food” is [the English (Standard Version) translation of] our Lord’s term – He, via the Writer of Hebrews (hereinafter: “the Writer”), exhorts (at 5:14): “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Solid food is distinguished from “milk”, as, via the preceding two verses, our Lord laments: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (emphasis added).

Deo volente, we’ll consider these verses next week; for now, please observe that “the basic principles of the oracles of God” is what He deems to be “milk”(!). Via the subsequent two verses (6:1 and 2), our Lord (via the Writer) exhorts: “Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance … faith … resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (emphasis added). Whoa! “Repentance from dead works”, “faith toward God”, “the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” are “milk”?!

Okay: “God said it; that settles it”. So, if such doctrines which seem to be nothing less than weighty to us are “elementary” and for the immature, what does our Lord consider to be “solid food”? In other words, once we’ve mastered (as we must) the seemingly–weighty-but-nonetheless-elementary doctrines, what is it that we must “train” and “practice” to master? Please “stay tuned”; better yet, please participate in the study of the portion of Hebrews – indeed, the portion of all of Scripture – via which our Lord (via the Writer) delineates such: Chapters 5 through 10.

Melchizedek may seem obscure to us; to our Lord, he’s vital to our understanding. Melchizedek and Hebrews 7 – 10 are (figuratively speaking, of course) the thread which, when pulled, undoes the complex tapestries which system-driven theologies are. New Covenant Theology – the result of understanding the parts (as contrasted with system-driven theologies which understand the parts on the bases of theological presuppositions) – not only isn’t disintegrated by Hebrews 7 – 10 (the “solid food”), it is part-and-parcel of the “solid food”!

One additional preliminary consideration: The “warning passage” which is the essence of Hebrews 6 immediately follows the exhortation to “go on to maturity”. Since our Great High Priest is “able to save to the uttermost” (7:25), who is it that have “tasted the heavenly gift” (6:4) yet “fall away” (6:6)? Is it those who consider themselves to be satisfied with “milk”?!

16 thoughts on “Got Solid Food? Preliminary Matters

  1. An excellet start to an excellent series, i am sure! i have never considered (nor read anyone else consider) that the warning passage of Hebrews 6 was related to the admonition to get beyond the “elementary” doctrines of Christianity. The more i have thought about this propsect the more it makes sense to me. 2 Peter 1:5-10 would be in agreement…especially vs 9″he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” Which leads me to a semantical point in your post with which i must take issue: Teleioo: Greek for “perfect”: to complete; accomplish; consummate; consecrate; finish. You have used the ESV, NASB or NIV which (mistakenly) translates this word as “maturity” thereby implying a progressive sanctification meaning to it. This word is correctly translated by the NKJ (among others) as “perfect” or “perfection” which correctly applies the doctrine of “justification” to it. “Teleioo” is used 11 other times in Hebrews with a “justification” meaning and is never used in a progressive sanctification sense in the epistle. The separation of these 2 doctrines and the correct use of this word is notably present in this epistle in 10:14-” For by one offering He has “perfected” for all time those who are being sanctified.” This verse along with John 17:23 (which the NIV also butchers) comprise the essential “meat” of the entire NT: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made “perfect” in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” So, in 6:1 when the writer says “let us press on to “perfection” what he is implying is that he will begin to do an exposition of the process by which all men (11:39-40) from all times were/are justified by the blood of Christ and brought back into fellowship with God. He in fact does this over the subsequent chapters which are the deepest waters of the entire canon without which we would suffer a severe lack of understanding. If the entire bible could be reduced to one word it would be “teleioo” (“Jesus” would of course would be intrinsic.)

    Matthew 5:48-“Therefore you shall be “perfect”, just as your Father in heaven is “perfect.”

  2. Hi Jim,

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And where I say something, i’ll be short! I wonder whether you’ve seen John MacArthur’s comments on the “not laying again the foundations of….”- I’m going to remind myself of what he says when I can get to his commentary. But if I remember rightly, he refers them as elements of the Old Covenant set-up which *typified* the realites of the New, not some realities of the New itself.

    I think it’s important that you’re careful not to equate knowledge of NCT with salvation itself. That would seem to be the thrust of your last statement. In a quick scanning of Patrick’s comment, what he says ties in with my point here…”maturity” referring to justification, or (as we get later) entering into the rest of salvation, as contrasted with some further knowledge, belonging to “sanctification”, through which someone doesn’t “fall away.” We are “complete in Christ” on justification.

    Phil

  3. Thanks, Pat, thanks Phil (and, thanks, Kerry; hopefully, your comment will “post”!).

    Phil ~

    You’re admonition is absolutely warranted if anyone read my comment as you’ve indicated it may be read; certainly, such is not my meaning (nor is it Pat’s — he understands quite well how our Lord saves us). We’ll “get there”; for now, I merely raise the issue whether “perseverance in good works” (which is concomitant to justification) includes having an “appetite” for “solid food” (assuming mental capacity for such).

    Gnosticism is, of course, heresy. Knowledge without faith saves no one. As James corroborates, though, faith manifests itself (to others) via works. I(/we) must wonder whether faith without appetite is dead.

    Pat ~

    I presume that you have/are about to, or, perhaps, are at this moment studying the greek as to the usages of the word in question; I look forward to further comment by you and study with you of this significant detail and of the other issues identified.

  4. Patrick makes some good comments about teleios and teleiotes meaning perfect and complete. I would like to suggest that with respect to teleios and teleiotes in Hebrews 5:14 and 6:1, that the translation teams of the NASB, ESV, NET, etc. are considering the legitimate semantic range in respect to an immediate qualifier in the pericope. “Babe” is used in the immediate context as the contrast, so this is why “mature” is used. This same pattern is seen in other passages in which the rendering is found:

    “Bretheren, do not be [children] in your thinking; yet in evil be [babes], but in your thinking be [mature]. 1 Corinthians 14:20.

    And then also in Ephesians 4:13 – 14,

    13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [mature man], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be [children], … . Ephesians 4:13 – 14.

    I hope this helps.

    Blessings in Christ the Covenant

    K Kinchen

    Isaiah 42:6, 49:8

  5. That’s exactly what we need, Kerry: Pat saliently honed my speculation, and you’ve further sharpened such! Your reference to “Christ the Covenant” and Isaiah 42:6, 49:8 indicates that you’re isopsuchos [like-minded] as to such concept. I look forward to further edification from you! May you and your San Antonio congregation continue to pursue Truth!

  6. Jim,

    Hebrews is a difficult epistle. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.

    My personal opinion on the tasters is that they are Hebrews who were not swallowers. I do not think they are saved, as the chapter in my book that deals with this section explains in exegetical format.

    Blessings in Christ the Covenant,
    K Kinchen
    Isaiah 42:6, 49:8

  7. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for your clarification. In view of the same, I understand you to make a good point where you say ” “perseverance in good works” (which is concomitant to justification) includes having an “appetite” for “solid food.” ”

    I think we have to bear in mind that you can have a real Christian, who’s appetite is diminished somewhat because of some doctrines he holds which stumble him. Such people who do not yet know their liberty need to be treated gently, as Paul does with weak Jewish believers in Romans 14. Thus to me, the strength of NCT, as much as it falls out of biblical exegesis, is that it will prove to hang together as drescriptive of the indivisible “doctrine of Christ.” Otherwise, I shouldn’t care for it a system in itself, lest I make a Christ out of doctrine. Also, as in this epistle, we need to catch the loving tone of the author, and the strength of his words as encouragement, rather than just bare text book theology.

    With respect to my comment on Pat’s comment- I wasn’t suggesting he didn’t “get it” at all…I thought that the truth of his comment just fitted very well with what I (evidently mistakenly) thought you may be saying. It also fits very well with John MacArthur’s take on the “milk” referring to the elements of the Old Covenant worship, such that to “go on to maturity,” is to embrace the realites to which they refer.

    Just some thoughts.

    Phil

  8. Thanks, Ken*. Kerry: Your BOOK which exegetes Hebrews?! Please tell me/us more (I didn’t know of it). I concur that those warned have professed but not “possessed” faith in Jesus. I concur with PHIL that the pastoral “tone” of the Writer is unmistakable.

    Phil ~

    As to your comments today (above and to Geoff’s A New Chapter post), again, they’re well-taken. As you asserted via your comment today to Geoff’s post, disunity surely can and does result from poor teaching of good doctrine. The “first cause”, though, is the dog-with-a-bone attitude of the one who won’t be taught.

    * It’s good that “traffic” has resumed (that’s a primary motivation of mine). I’ll wait to comment to today’s “post” until others have had opportunity to comment thereto.

  9. Jim, why do I get capitalized along with Kerry’s book?! Just a short comment-while I referred to the pastoral tone of Hebrews, I think Kerry is dead right-the author’s audience is wider than just believers, and the epistle reflects that. I think it’s very important to understanding the book. Also, I’ve just re-read that letter of John Newton that I put up,and it was well worth a few minutes. Promise me you’ll read it!

  10. Also Jim- I totally agree that having a mind closed to being taught, better and further, is incompatible with ‘being transformed by the renewing of your mind,’ true humility, and therefore growth in grace. The healthy justified hunger after Christ. I trust I’m benefitting from your efforts. I also like the succinctness. ‘Mr much words would appear to be Mr fewer words’ at present, Pat!

  11. May all read comment #11 (first sentence)! PHIL [capitalized merely to draw attention (kudos, Phil; brief, succint comments are incomparably preferable! I read the Newton letter; thanks!)].

    The Writer’s (God’s) audience from his shepherd’s perspective is those who have considered themselves to be satisfied with milk; the audience from his teacher’s perspective is those who have appetite for “solid food”. The CONTEXT of the “warning passage” which begins at 6:4 implies that lack of appetite for “solid food” is evidence of unbelief (assuming mental capacity).

  12. Jim, how do you think one’s view of the atonement effects their reading of Hebrews? I mean, I believe the atonement was universal, and particular as to its application; whereas I’m guessing that you believe in a “limited atonement,” or a strictly particularist one. That being the case, it will effect one’s view of faith, perseverance and assurance, and you will perhaps have the audience of the author “narrower” than me. Thus, the shepherd’s address is uniformly directed to all his hearers, in your case – he not knowing whom he’s addressing. Whereas in my case, it will particularly address different groups within the Hebrew community, including a definite group of “tasters and not swallowers,” to borrow Kerry’s phrase. I also think the distinction between a particular epistle (e.g. Hebrews) addressing a community, and a general epistle (e.g.1 John) addressing believers, is a valid one.

    Here’s a bit from something I’ve been writing that mentions this passage in Heb 6;

    “In chapter 5 and 6, the author restores the purpose of the Old Covenant elements of worship as testifying to the realities of the New, and confirms their identity to those of Hebrew heritage to whom they were delivered, as “elementary teachings,” or the “first principles of the oracles of God”(KJV) that were “milk” in such a testifying role, to lead them onto the “solid food” of the saving New Covenant revelation that brings the righteousness of life. One of those foundational elements mentioned (Heb 6v1), is “repentance from dead works (KJV),” or “repentance from acts that lead to death” (NIV). Such testified, in the Old Covenant, to the necessity of repentance, the nature of which repentance then was in keeping with how those elementary principles worked – a lining up of one’s behaviour with the standards mediated as demand on one’s conscience. But now, the writer exhorts his hearers to go on to maturity (or “completion,” namely the perfection of justification) and ties the nature of the “repentance unto life” (Act11v18) to entering in to the rest of grace in Christ (see chapter 4). Being enlightened, tasting of the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, are things peculiar to this gospel age, that the writer evidently is able to refer to unbelievers, as he warns that rejecting the realities which the Spirit thus testifies with is equivalent to not “entering into rest,” not going on to “solid food,” contenting oneself with “milk” and the “elementary principles,” rejecting him that speaks from heaven now [Christ in the New Covenant], rather than one [Moses] who before warned them on earth [Old Covenant]: all of which means there is no other revelation left, no other name under heaven, whereby people can be saved.”

    Phil

  13. It’s far more important that “one’s view of the atonement” be affected by Hebrews(Scripture, in general) than vice-versa, I’m sure you’ll agree, Phil! Wow … a 120 word sentence (I write ’em longer than most want to read, but … .)! Probably, I’ll address it as we go.

    Either the KJV (ESV, also) or NIV eviscerates the Truth which the Greek teaches; care to guess which?

  14. Jim,

    I’m enjoying reading your posts. Keep ’em coming! It’s amazing how someone in the Old Testament with so little ink given to them (Melchizedek) can play such a prominent role in understanding the cross. I’m looking forward to more good stuff from you as you work through these passages in Hebrews.

    Mike

  15. Hey Jim,

    I don’t understand what you mean in the last paragraph. Of course I would agree that the bible drives one’s view of the atonement – the bible read through a new testament lens. We have no scope outside of substitutionary atonement, but within that, understanding has never been monolithic, even in the Calvinist camp. In short, I think the holders of “limited atonement” perhaps err in dealing with the issue of payment of debt by quantifying it in pecuniary terms, rather than strictly penal. It tends to collapse the atonement onto itself, so that there is little to no medium between an atonement made, and an atonement applied. In theory, it has more than just the sinner’s depravity keeping them from Christ’s provision, and it tends to make the gospel just a transcript of election. It must constrain the “alls,” “whole worlds” and “whosoever wills” to fit such a transcription, whereas fair exegesis that let the texts breathe more easily clearly says otherwise. It necessarily can’t have the (objective) knowledge that “Christ has paid my debt” of the essence of faith, and so has to look for (subjective) evidences of works to see whether one was in fact atoned for, and thus tends to encourage people to look to themselves to persevere- as well as for assurance. Logically speaking, at least according to the system, it will never be strong on a sincere, free offer of the gospel, and will tend to make gospel preaching just a text-book description of what God does in salvation. I also think that part the reason so many “Calvinists” hold to it is because they’ve become so accustomed to defending the five points of the “TULIP” as a system that it’s become the grid through which scripture is read. That acronym, as far as I know (which isn‘t much), is not exactly representative of the Synod of Dordt’s reactionary response to proto-Arminianism. Indeed, as I understand it – the opinion at the Synod of Dordt was not uniform – contra the supralapsarians, was represented a “universal atonement, particular application” view. Also, its just twigged that the elements of that acronym are supposed to be in a logical order that is perhaps meant to reflect the “order of the decrees.” Apart from the question about being free to speculate on such, I understand that Dordt looked more like this; election from fallen masses, Christ’s atonement, effectual calling, perseverence. I read such here http://biblicalhorizons.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/the-synod-of-dort-and-the-complexities-of-being-reformed/

    via here

    http://responsivereiding.com/2008/02/01/on-the-complexities-of-being-reformed/#comments

    I think the “L” logically “closes the loop” on the others, when one defines substitution in pecuniary terms. I don’t know that there’s exegetical warrant to do that, and that it’s not rather reading in a “juris prudential”/simple mathematical “help” to understand justification. There’s no direct textual proof for a “limited atonement,” so its deduction will always depend on these other factors. That Christ had a definite purpose in purchasing his bride, and died so as to secure his bride isn’t disputed – just that that’s not all he did – and indeed, I think he had to buy the world so (in the provisional sense) so that he could buy the church (effectually). And of course, the elect are “the world” and heirs of wrath until the blood is applied through the vehicle of faith, anyway. None of this means that I think the other 4 points are wrong. Total depravity is true, in that all men are under the power of their sin without ability to come to Christ until the bondage of their will is removed in regeneration. Though that works in parallel to a sincere offer “should they come.” Unconditional election is a fact with textual proof. Irresistible grace comes to the elect sinner in irresistible love to secure his faith such that the full forgiveness of the atonement is applied to him. Though, I also believe in “resistible grace” to the non-elect. Perseverance is guaranteed on the basis of eternal security – though I think that often has a works tone about it in reformed theology as I mentioned before.

    I also think the term “limited atonement” is intrinsically offensive. Partly, it limits some to factoring out the sincerity of the “whosoever wills.” Second, it suggests a contraction on the merit of the atonement itself. But there’s nothing limited in the atonement itself! Christ died one death – his own – a death which has infinite worth. Third, it suggests a contraction on the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, rather than an expansion from provision to efficacy.

    I say all this just to raise some thought. I realize it’s perhaps a bit much raising such an issue in the middle of your blog series. But hey 😉 You may be interested to know I used to believe in a limited atonement, so it’s not like I haven’t “got there” yet!

    I’m open to better and further understanding things, whether it’s my present view or coming back round to yours if necessary. I can’t say I understand things as well as I may sound sure – but then the fact that there is famous disagreement on the issue ipso facto doesn’t harm me! Wecan have, for example, a JC Ryle on one side, and a Spurgeon (at least “systematically” on the other, and yet neither, if we must use such terms, would be called other than “Calvinist.” I understand from the first link I gave above, that the “moderate Calvinist” view was the mainstay in 19th century America among Calvinists, whereas it’s not any more – the “high Calvinist” view is.

    Phil

    PS. As to the long sentences, I’ll put it down to being brought up with the KJV, reading (proportionately) more Elizabethan english, and a particular bent of my mindset, given a chance…. 😉 and not much communication.

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