Last week we introduced spiritual maturity as a process, a pathway, or a goal. Regardless of the means of achieving spiritual maturity, the result is to be a believer whose faith is founded on the Gospel and who is committed to ongoing growth (transformation).
Faith and growth work together to develop spiritual maturity in the believer which is critical in moving God’s kingdom forward. Therein lies the urgency for a call to maturity by the writer of Hebrews.
Dull of hearing
It has been said that to make progress on a bike, you must keep moving forward. There is no reversal nor standing still. This is a good analogy in describing the dilemma the author of Hebrews faced.
Although these believers had been trained in the “elementary truths of God’s Word” (NIV, Heb. 5:12), they were not moving forward “on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1). They had become “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11).
Hearing is difficult, not only for this audience but also for any audience. Interestingly, the verb “to hear” (akouo) provides the root for the verb that means “to obey” (hypakouo) (Heb. 5:9; 13:17). There could be any number of reasons why this group had become “dull of hearing”.
Distractions, fear of persecution, or loss in confidence of their leaders. The writer of this letter does not say. However, we do know the outcome.
The readers had apparently pulled back from their bold witness to outsiders and from exhorting and encouraging one another. Through lack of use, faculties grow dull and the members regress to a former condition of immaturity.
The writer’s dilemma
In Hebrews 5:11-6:3, the writer contrasts immaturity with maturity. They use familiar “educational language” of that day to describe the believers’ lack of progress. The Apostle Paul uses similar language in 1 Cor. 3:1-3. “Milk” and “solid food” were common terms for referring to levels of educational development. Here “milk” is an image of the “elementary truths of the God’s Word” (v. 12), while “solid food” is the “word of righteousness” (v. 13) which is the believer’s capacity to distinguish between good and evil (v.14).
The writer’s dilemma is this. Although these believers have previously received adequate teaching for their ministry work and purpose (Heb. 6:1-2), their failure to grow spiritually hindered them from understanding more complex teachings about Jesus Christ. Specifically, Jesus’ excellency as High Priest. A more excellent priesthood than the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:9; 6:20).
Immaturity leads to failure
The exhortations found in Hebrews are appropriate for us today. Distractions and lack of spiritual discipline keep us stuck in the same position as when we first came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Statistics support the fact that believers today spend little to no time on spiritual formation. It should not be surprising that these behaviors have resulted in believers who are “unskilled in the word” (v. 13) and churches who feel ill equipped to lead new generations to Christ.
Our failure to be spiritually mature results in our inability to accomplish God’s purpose for our life and for His Kingdom. These include:
The ability to persevere. Lack of maturity impairs our ability to remain faithful to God’s purpose for our life. We are created specifically for God’s “good work” (Eph. 2:10). This is true whether we work in ministry or in the secular world. Our “stick-to-it-ness” is critical as we live in a world hostile to Jesus.
The ability to discern. When we become “sluggish” and “dull of hearing”, we risk becoming disobedient. In a postmodern world, it is difficult to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong (Is. 5:20-24; 2 Tim. 3:1, 3b, 5). Unable to discern, we become targets for Satan’s deception. “To think between vice and virtue is a line clear and unmistakable is to embrace an illusion.”
The ability to witness. We have a clear mandate from Jesus to witness to a dying world (Matt. 28:19-20). It would be impossible for believers to look around our world and not acknowledge that “the fields are ripe and ready for harvest” (John 4:35). An informed and bold witness is needed as much in the 21st century as it was in the 1st: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We are in a battle for the souls of men.
Go on to maturity
When we became Christians, we received everything we needed for life and godliness through the knowledge of God who called us to glory and virtue (2 Pet. 1:3). It is our responsibility to build upon the basics of that faith and move forward to maturity.
The Apostle Peter directs us to make every effort (with all diligence) to supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.” (2 Pet. 1:4-8)
Being effective and fruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus is the essence of spiritual maturity. God is our resource, and all growth comes by grace through Him, but we are responsible to “go on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1).
 Letter to the Hebrews, Fred B. Craddock