JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…let us be carried on to completion…”
July 20, 2011, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

Chapters 5 and 6 of Hebrews describe the author’s rebuke and exhortation to move forward in Christ, to “go on to maturity” or more literally “to be carried on to completion.” In this section we have some difficult Greek constructions in which some have interpreted to mean many different things and tend to diverge into various doctrines, even towards a form of institutionalism. I will only go into the first few of this section. My goal is to hear from Christ and using a more literal translation see the sense that Christ in us would learn from.

In Chapter 5, Paul had begun to describe “the days of Jesus’ life on earth” and comparing Christ to the “high priest.” In so doing he begins to describe how Jesus is greater than Aaron because of being “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” but stops in order to make a point. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.” Here we have a difficult Greek construction if we interpret “logos” as a synonym for “learn” versus our indwelling Lord. A more literal translation is: “Concerning whom much to us to say the Word (logos), hard to explain, since dull you have become in hearings.” (1) Reading verse 11 from the NIV it seems to focus on slow in learning from the apostle. But the Greek seems to focus on not hearing the indwelling Christ and as a result they are unable to receive spiritual sight. The apostles lived from the life of Christ, it makes sense that the focus of the apostle would be for the believers to hear Him through them.

Because they are dull in hearing Christ, it appears Paul is bringing up his previous warning reference “Today, if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts.” This has a present application in their having not so learned Christ. Paul mentions that at this time, since it appears they received Christ in some distant past, they ought to be teaching one another Christ, sharing their measure of the gift of Christ within them to one another. But having lost their focus on Christ, they are relearning Christ from what they had been taught from the apostle when they first believed on the Lord, “the rudiments (or principles) of the beginning of the oracles of God.” (2) As a note those with an apostolic function would go to an area and share the Christ in them, and those who heard and believed Christ Jesus as Lord would be gathered to learn Jesus together, to live by His life. This was the first things that they began to do together in Christ. If in our gatherings we only share about those first things we learned of Christ that we heard from an apostle at the beginning of our life in Christ, then we have not so learned the Christ who is our life. These are those who can only have “milk” instead of “solid food.” They lack experience in Christ.

At this point the apostle writes another difficult Greek construction. The NIV translates it as: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” If we were to look at our modern form of “Christianity” this would seem to indicate that to go on to maturity is to have more preaching and more Bible teaching to learn more about Jesus from the Bible. Or at least this seems to be the tendency in the institutional churches.

A more literal translation is: “For every one partaking of milk is without experience of the Word (logou) of Righteousness, being still an infant; but those complete is the solid food, because of the condition of their senses, having been exercised, for distinguishing both the good and the bad. Wherefore leaving the of the beginning Christ the word (logon) on to completion let us be carried…” (3) I’m not sure if you see the difference but this is a tremendous statement! “The Word of Righteousness” is our indwelling Lord and we are called to experience Him! Knowing that Christ Jesus is now our life, we are to now live by His life organically together with our brothers and sisters. To experience the life of Christ in the body of Christ, those who are complete in Christ, is the solid food! As we live by His life in a shared life together we will learn Him, we will see that which is “good” from Him through one another, that which is “fair, beautiful, fruit, honorable, honest,” in contrast to that which is “bad” or that which “lacks character,” of the flesh. (4) The experience will entail putting off the flesh, the bad, and putting on Christ, the good. In Christ we have new spiritual senses that are meant to be exercised so that we can experience the life of Christ together. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet describe our new spiritual senses in chapter 3 of their excellent book “Jesus Manifesto” from a part of “If God Wrote Your Biography” (5):

“New birth means you were given a new consciousness. You are now conscious of another realm outside the physical one wherein you stand. You are also conscious of another life within you. That life contains a new nature, new desires, new interests, new instincts, new inclinations, new tendencies, a new intelligence, and a new motivation. That life is Christ Himself.
“So what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell with your new senses is My Son. He is the object of your spiritual senses. And it is through those senses that you come to know Me, who is Spirit and not flesh…As you develop your spiritual senses, you are weaned from milk to meat. Yet ‘meat’ is not just a tougher, more complex set of doctrines on which to masticate and ruminate. Meat is a greater apprehension and revelation of My Son, who embodies all truth and righteousness.”

Let us be carried on to completion in the complete Man, living by His life in His body and experience the beauty and wonder of His life together, and grow to experience the fullness of Christ! Let is reorient what we thought about what it means to become mature in Christ and realize it is to live by His spiritual life with one another, by exercising our spiritual senses and not our flesh! Let us be carried on to completion!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 649
(2) Most translations interpret “oracles” (a word only used a couple times in the New Testament), as “word” but the Greek is “a diminutive of logos” and denotes “a divine response or utterance, an oracle.” (449) The word “truths” is used in most translations but in the Greek the word means nothing of the kind, the Greek word signifies “any first things” and “used of letters of the alphabet, as elements of speech” and it is better translated “principles or elements.” (196) Perhaps the author is pointing back to the very beginning of this letter, those original principles of how God had spoken in the past, perhaps referring to the Old Testament which was meant to lead us to Christ. Or as pointed out earlier the initial message of Christ they received from the apostle. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(3) Marshall, 649.
(4) Vine, 274 and 48-49 respectively.
(5) Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet, “Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ,” 2010, Thomas Nelson, 47-48.


4 Comments so far
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Surely you aren’t meaning that once we see, touch, taste, smell Christ we no longer go to His Word? That seems to be what happens in search of a “deeper life,” when moving into the realm of the experiential “Christianity” and no longer looking to the Word. That “seems” to be what you hear from those who have moved on.

Comment by Cheryl Lobo Kaster

Hi Cheryl,
actually to experience the Word of Righteousness, Christ in us together, is to share that measure of the gift of Christ that we have been given. That measure of the gift of Christ in us is a phrase used in Ephesians 4 and in 1 Cor and Rom 12 they are described as spiritual gifts. In reality when we share the gift of Christ in us to and through one another in love we share Christ’s life. Teaching is one of those gifts, but only one. Additionally, teaching can be more than just sharing something from the Bible that has inspired you about the Lord. We can all share what we have learned about Christ in our life with one another, which is also called teaching. Obviously it will conform to what we have in scripture. Too often though I have seen the tendency that the only thing that happens in a gathering is that each person shares a passage of scripture and then talk about it, a “deep” Bible study if you will, where everyone is focused on gaining knowledge, instead of actually sharing Christ. These groups will become great Bible study groups but they have neglected the rest of the spiritual gifts that can be in the body to display the fullness of Christ’s life. The lists in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12 are some of just a few gifts of Christ that the body can express in love. There is also the other extreme where the only thing that happens is sharing about nothing of Christ and no one is edified by Him. In both of these instances we can come away feeling excited and enthused but are left wholly dry. Also understand that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving behind the reading and studying of scripture, for those who desire to do so, obviously me being one of them, :). But is the reading and studying of scripture something every brother and sister are “suppose” to do in the body of Christ? Is that set in stone in the Bible? I know that for church planters, such as what we see in the letters to Timothy and Titus there is special significance for these workers in readying and studying the Bible. Because almost every home probably has a copy of the Bible it is a shame that not all believers actually read and study it, but I think that is where we have missed it, we have made the reading and studying of the Bible an individual endeavor instead of a community endeavor. We do not live a shared life in a community of believers, where everyone shares from Christ within them, more than just one day a week. Some will have the spiritual instinct because of their gifting to read and study the Bible and share what they have learned of Christ from it with others, but is every brother and sister suppose to or can we all share the different gift God has given us and express a beautiful robe of many colors of gifts within the body and so fully express Christ? Too often those who the “spiritual” persons are the ones who “know” the Bible, and it causes them to feel like second class citizens. I know, I’ve seen it happen before. So after all that I have said I hope you can glean that while I do not advocate no longer going into the Bible, I do advocate that every brother and sister have different gifts and we miss out on truly experiencing the fullness of Christ by not allowing others to share their gift of Christ, what they are learning from Christ, and at the same time allow Christ to use us in sharing what we have learned of Christ from scripture. We do not all have the same gifts but we do all have the same Gift, Christ. Blessings sis. Hope this help to clarify your question.

Comment by John Wilson

It made me think of Milt’s message on “feeding” with the pride at threshold. That was a new concept to me … I had always been taught to understand that came from the Bible instead of partaking of Christ and his body. I look forward to more of this experience.

Comment by Lee Newton

thanks Lee for commenting. I need to get the book that Milt’s wife wrote, :). It is definitely a community experience, so much of what we see in scripture is really about feeding on and drinking of Christ together. Amen, more experience of Christ’s life in His body!

Comment by John Wilson

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