Growing in the Knowledge of Christ (3)
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5.9-11
Dull of hearing
The Christians to whom the writer of Hebrews addressed his book had a serious problem. They were beginning to drift from the great salvation they had received from the Lord (Heb. 2.3). The pressure was on from the surrounding culture and society. It was easier to muffle their faith in Jesus and just go with the flow of life around them, than to hold fast their confession firmly to the end (Heb. 3.6, 14).
The problem was that people had begun to snipe at them for being Christians (Heb. 12.4); and, frankly, these early believers just weren’t up to suffering for Jesus. They’d lost sight of the purpose of their salvation, which is to bring the wholeness and newness of Christ to every aspect of life (Heb. 2.5-9). They were coasting in their faith, clinging to familiar and elementary teachings, rather than pressing on to know Jesus more (Heb. 6.1-3). They’d been Christians long enough so that they should have been outspoken teachers for the faith, bearing witness to Christ by their lives and words (Heb. 5.12). Instead, they were slinking back from full faith, and were conforming to the lifestyle of their contemporaries, rather than pressing on in the calling and promises of God. They were Christians, the writer believed, but he wanted them to get back into the fruitful life of seeking the promises and growing in the great salvation of the Lord (Heb. 6.9-12).
Their problem was that they had left off the disciplines of learning, so that they were no longer considering Jesus as earnestly or consistently as their calling demanded. They were sluggish and slow, and maybe even just plain lazy (all meanings of the Greek word, νωθροὶ nothroi – dull), about knowing and loving Jesus; consequently, their witness had dried up, and they were in danger of demonstrating that they’d never really known the Lord in the first place (Heb. 6.1-8).
The writer’s solution was to call them back to the Biblical foundations of their faith, and the promises their forebears sought so diligently. In the process, he urged them to concentrate on some very difficult matters, and to discover by concentrating, more of the greatness and singular significance of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
He called them to consider the greatness of Jesus. He is greater than angels, greater than Moses, greater than the Law of God and all its religious rituals. If they would just concentrate on what they knew about Jesus, and consider Him in His exalted glory, they would see how all those holy spiritual beings and familiar religious traditions found their fulfillment in Jesus. Why would they want to go back to that which was merely a shadow, when the reality that is our great salvation can be known only in Jesus?
At the apex of the writer’s argument, calling his readers to return to seeking the Lord, is his explanation of Melchizedek. This mysterious king is mentioned twice in the Old Testament. Just two mentions, yet the writer considers him the key to bringing his readers back to Jesus. In chapter 5, he wants to broach his argument about Melchizedek, but he says to his readers that it is “hard to explain”. So he detours from Hebrews 5.11 into a scathing rebuke of their laziness as learners – their disobedience as disciples, who had left off the work of considering and knowing Jesus, just to ease the pressure they were feeling from their unbelieving neighbors.
Jesus is a Priest after the order of Melchizedek. In chapter 7, the writer goes on to show how this pronouncement by God in Psalm 110 locks down the eternality of Christ, signifies His superiority over Abraham and the religious laws of Israel, secures the value of His work over that of the Levitical priesthood, and magnifies His greatness as the High Priest Who ever lives to make intercession for us.
If they would just concentrate on what the Bible taught about Melchizedek, they would not prefer their old religious and unbelieving ways to the greatness, majesty, perfections, compassion, power, and indestructibility of Jesus, our great High Priest and sovereign Lord. Because He is a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus has been “perfected forever” (Heb. 7.28). He is seated at God’s right hand, has obtained the more excellent ministry of interceding for us and mediating the New Covenant in His blood, is the Guarantee of better promises, and the fulfillment of all that has gone before (Heb. 8). Fix your concentration on Jesus, and you won’t drift from the great salvation He holds out to you.
Consider Jesus, the writer insists twice (Heb. 3.1; 12.2). Stop being lazy learners. Concentrate on what you know, and think about all this means for your salvation, faith, and life.
The lesson for us
The book of Hebrews is a timely epistle for us, as well. Many Christians today have left off fervently seeking to learn Jesus and are coasting along in an infantile faith, hoping not to rock any boats or churn any adverse waters. We have all the knowledge we need, thank you; and even though what we have, and what we’re content with, isn’t helping us to be holy unto the Lord, isn’t making us stand out from the rest of the world, and isn’t helping us redeem all of life for the glory of God, well, we’re content with it anyway.
We have become dull of hearing – sluggish, slow, and lazy learners. We like our Bible times light and quick, and our sermons too. We don’t want to dig deeply into the Word, to trace out all the paths that lead to Jesus, exalt Him in His glory, and demonstrate the overwhelming excellence of His Kingdom agenda. We find it a burdensome task to concentrate on spiritual matters, and we consider those who do to be overreaching if not outright mad.
The message to us is the same as it was to those first Christians: You who are lazy learners, covert Christians, and dull disciples, take heed, lest you drift so far from your great salvation, that it becomes evident you never had it in the first place. Consider Jesus! Concentrate on learning Him from every place in Scripture! Read! Study! Think! Think! Think about the infinite beauty, goodness, and truth that are in Jesus, and of how His transforming power can make all things new in your life!
We need to get serious about learning Jesus. And if the world mocks or scorns us, well, that’s nothing more than what Jesus experienced and taught us to expect. Wear it like a badge of courage, and press on!
We have the mind of Christ, and we use that mind as we should when we invest determined and consistent effort in searching the Scriptures to know the Lord (Acts 17.11), increasing in love for Him, and growing in our understanding of how we may serve Him boldly, faithfully, and fruitfully for His glory.
1. How can you tell when someone has become sluggish, slow, or lazy as a learner? Why must disciples of Jesus not allow this to describe them?
2. What does it mean to concentrate on something, or to consider it carefully? What kinds of practices or disciplines go into concentrating? Why should we devote more to concentrating on Scripture, that we might see Jesus throughout the Bible?
3. How would you counsel a new believer not to become “dull of hearing” as he begins his life in the Lord?
Next steps – Transformation: Have you become a little dull of hearing? What can you do to increase your concentration on learning Jesus? What do you need to do better in searching the Scriptures to learn Jesus? Share your thoughts with a Christian friend.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.