Weaned from the milk

July 11, 2012

The author of Hebrews contrasts milk and strong meat. The meaning of milk, and strong meat, as symbols representing elementary and advanced kinds of spiritual knowledge, is evident from the context. The milk of God’s word includes the accounts of the lives of men of faith, and the accounts of the history of Israel, the gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus, and the Acts of the apostles, all the events in the scriptures related in a straightforward manner.

Hebrews 5:9-14
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
For when for the 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 useth milk is unskilful 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.

Paul refers to the church as the mother of us all. [Galatians 4:26] As the mother, the church provides nourishment for those who are spiritually infants, and for newcomers to the faith. This basic teaching is described metaphorically as milk, and those who require milk are referred to as babes in Hebrews 5:13. Those involved in bringing people to faith are metaphorically represented as fathers. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul described himself as their father, as he was the one who had originally preached the gospel in their city.

1 Corinthians 4:15
For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

The ten thousand instructors mentioned by Paul are represented in prophetic terms as nursing mothers, who give suck to infants. Paul also identified himself as a mother, travailing in childbirth, as he explained the gospel and refuted those who were troubling the believers in Galatia, teaching that circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were necessary for salvation. He wrote:

Galatians 4:19
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

Jesus’ reference to “them that are with child” and “them that give suck” in the Olivet Discourse likely applies to those who provide spiritual nourishment for believers; that is, preachers and ministers. [Matthew 24:19]

In Hebrews 5, strong meat represents the mature teaching of the gospel. Newborn infants lack teeth, and so are unable to handle solid food that requires chewing. The scriptures contain mature information as well as basic, elementary teaching. Advanced, mature information about the gospel is contained in the prophetic sections of the Bible.

Just as strong meat or solid food requires chewing, and so is unfit for infants, the strong meat of scripture requires interpretation and includes things that require mental “chewing” to be understood.

Those to whom God teaches knowledge, Isaiah said, and those who he makes understand doctrine, are those who are “weaned from the milk.”

Isaiah 28:9
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

Although the basic kind of knowledge milk represents is necessary, and good for the believers, especially for newcomers to Christ, eventually there is a need for strong meat, which represents deeper, more profound understanding of the scriptures. Believers who are mature are capable of independent study of the Bible; they are “drawn from the breasts.” They no longer depend on their teachers; they can distinguish between true and false, the good and the bad.

Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 28:10-13
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

In verse 9, “those weaned from the milk and removed from the breasts” refers to those possessing spiritual understanding, who have over a period of time understood the scriptures, “precept upon precept,” and “line upon line, here a little, and there a little.”

The prophets are taught of God, not men. Isaiah said God would speak with “stammering lips,” as his revelations were typically given in the form of partial, incomplete prophecies, visions and parables. The whole message of the gospel was revealed over a period spanning many centuries.

Paul said prophecy is partial; generally no prophecy is complete in itself.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Paul said what we now understand is somewhat obscure, as if we were viewing “through a glass, darkly.” Compare Zechariah’s statement, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark.” [Zechariah 14:6]

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Isaiah said that God’s revelations were given in “another tongue,” which implies that the oracles of God need to be interpreted. Paul said that the word of truth must be rightly divided. Those who teach the word should know how to interpret correctly.

2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Jesus said, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” [Matthew 25:29]

Those who understand, the wise, are the ones who are taught by God. David wrote:

Psalm 71:17
O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.

Jesus said those who have heard and learned of the Father come to him.

John 6:45
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Paul said the spirit given to us is not the spirit of the world, but is of God.

1 Corinthians 2:12
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Paul also speaks of comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

1 Corinthians 2:13
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Paul said all scripture is profitable for the believer.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Peter encouraged the saints to take heed to prophecy.

2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote that some would depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits. Among their teachings was the commandment to abstain from meats.

1 Timothy 4:1-3
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Since Paul said these things were spoken by the Spirit, we should consider how this may be interpreted, because Isaiah said that the oracles of God are given in another tongue. Abstaining from meats, or solid food, implies restricting one’s diet to liquids, such as milk. An interpretation of “commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” would be that they set aside prophecy, along with its spiritual interpretation. Abstaining from prophecy, which contains strong meat, requiring chewing, or interpretation, implies one is limited to a spiritual diet of milk. The Marcionite heresy which arose in the second century A.D. was likely a fulfillment of the prophecy.

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  1. August 4, 2012 at 4:40 am
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