↓Audio link to the sermon:
Hebrews 5:11 says 「We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.」
「In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!」
It has been harshly pointed out that people are deaf and they need someone to teach them the basics of the Word of God. The author of the Hebrews are asking the readers if their hearts are ready to hear about the work of Jesus as a high priest, and if they have tasted and believed in the salvation that Jesus gave them. So who were the readers of this letter? I will briefly explain the background. Since the quotation of the Old Testament is from the Septuagint translated into Greek, it seems that this letter was written for Jews who lived outside Israel. Perhaps it was written for the Jews in Italy (13:24). As you know, persecution within the Roman Empire has become more and more intense in Italy. Persecution of Christianity continued until 313 AD, but Judaism was an acnkowledeged religion within the Roman Empire. It is easy to imagine that the stronger the persecution got, the more believers were trying to return to their roots in Judaism. The author’s message can be understood by reading this passage with such an understanding. Of course, even though the roots of Christianity are Judaism, the content is very different. It seems that some believers did not fully understand the difference, and many were trying to return to Judaism to protect themselves. This passage was written for those who couldn’t fully believe in Christ, and those who have lost their faith. The expression of solid food in verse 12, those who cannot eat solid food means believers who cannot taste the gospel well, the author points out that they are like infants. Verse thirteen says “They are not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness”, the author points out there are those who don’t recognize that the new era of the New Testament has come, and they don’t know they are made righteous though faith in Jesus. Growing Christians can also taste solid food. They also have the joy of the gospel. It says they have trained to distinguish between good from evil. I believe that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can make wise decisions. Now, while writing this manuscript, the process of the US presidential election is being broadcast on TV. I pray that whoever is elected, the will of God will be manifested in this election. I believe that God will continue to work though the United States.
「Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…」
And the details are following “not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.」(Hebrews 6:2-3 NIV)
Actually, these contents are also taught in Judaism, so they are not the contents that only Christians learn. Deuteronomy 11: 26-32 contains a lesson on blessings and curses, beautifully recommending conversion from dead deeds. If you are interested, please open and read the passage. These contents of elementary teaching can also be learned a lot from the Old Testament. I would like to briefly talk on the content from a Christian point of view. We receive forgiveness of sins by believing in Christ. We no longer have to sacrifice animals. We can live a renewed life that is free from sins. Those who believe in Christ will be baptized. Cleansing rites is a term that widely refers to baptism. When Gentiles convert to Judaism, they get baptized, but we are baptized in the name of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rather than a sign of conversion, we get baptized as a testimony of following Jesus and added to the church. Acts 6: 1-6 states that seven believers, such as Stephen and Philip, were chosen and the apostles laid hands on them, and it was the first ordination in the church history. As leaders of the group, they got ordination by the apostles. This means that they were appointed to a special mission. They also laid their hands on people when they prayed for the sick and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Even now, our church denomination has ordination ceremony, and the appointment ceremony regularly. However, before having the ceremony, we examine the faith of the person whether he/she is suitable for the work by having an interview and reading a dissertation on several themes written by the person. Christ is the one who can give us eternal life. The resurrection of Christ confirms that, and we believe that one day we believers will stand before God and be judged. Christians will receive the forgiveness of their sins because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the eternal life will be given. In Judaism, I guess there is no hope of resurrection or teaching of eternal judgment that Christians are convinced of. The Pharisees and Sadducees have different understandings of the resurrection. Based on these teachings, it teaches us there is a way of life that aims for maturity. It’s possible with the help of the Lord.
Now, a harsh warning continues to Christians who are about to return to Judaism. Hebrews 6:4-6, 「It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.」
We must be careful to understand and interpret this word. Because the forgiveness of Christ is unlimited, even the most corrupted person can be brought back. Therefore, in some ways, this warning goes against some Bible principles. I think it should be understood that this warning is given specifically to those Christians who are returning to Judaism. At the same time, we should be aware that any Christians have a possibility to corrupt. Do not fall into legalism. Hold on to the gospel. Stop having self-centered life and try to live a life that loves God and loves your neighbors. It is important to aim for such a renewed way of life. It is also important to have a wider perspective, not just looking at the surface of things, but understanding the message that underlies the word. I believe that having these kind of perspective leads us to the way of life aiming for maturity.