Hebrews Lesson 46 March 16, 2006
NKJ Psalm 106:15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.
We are going through our study of Hebrews. We are going to open with a little introduction on the structure of the book of Hebrews so far. Remember, I have set forth the thesis that I believe that the book was originally an oral message that was taken and edited and then maybe sent as a letter. It has a structure built around 5 basic points. Each point has a didactic section (a teaching section) that relies heavily upon Old Testament imagery. I just loved it last night when Charlie was talking at the conference about how important it is to tie these things together as you go through the Old Testament. The Old Testament imagery sets the stage for the doctrines that are developed in the New Testament. John Cross did the same thing in his talk yesterday morning. I find that to be so helpful.
This morning I was teaching Joshua in my class over at the college and was going through that again in the conquest tying it to sanctification. I have been following that methodology - not just teaching a dry OT survey type course but using a framework approach embedded within the way I teach each book. These students have never heard anything like it. It is showing how everything in the Old Testament is designed by God to set the stage so that later revelation is made clearer so that when we come to the incarnation and the cross, everything unfolds. Well the writer of Hebrews talks more about that than just about any author in the New Testament except perhaps Matthew who relies heavily on this Old Testament imagery.
So we saw that he began with an introductory prologue in the first four verses of the first chapter which introduces some of the main key ideas focusing on the present ascended Jesus Christ currently in session at the right hand of God the Father at work to prepare the saints of the Church Age to rule and reign with Him in the coming kingdom.
The first teaching section is found in the rest of chapter 1 in vs. 5-14 where there are 8 different Old Testament quotations that he uses to weave together the principles demonstrating that Jesus is the Son and that He is in His deity over the angels but in His humanity through His victorious life on the earth and in His humanity walking by means of the Spirit, He is qualified to go to the cross. He fulfills His mission. He is elevated over the angels in His humanity. The focus here is in His superiority over the angels in His humanity which was something that He earned through His spiritual life and completion of His mission during the First Advent.
Then out of that there is a four-verse challenge or warning section that is developed in 2:1-4 warning these recipients of the danger that is involved in the Christian life if we fall by the wayside and we don't stick with it and continue to press on to the high ground of spiritual maturity.
In chapter 2:5 he begins the second point. He builds out of some of the main ideas that he developed in the first chapter and he begins to extrapolate from that the doctrines related to Jesus Christ's high priesthood and His growth in sanctification during the First Advent. In His humanity He had to be matured through suffering. This then qualified Him to serve as our High Priest.
In 3:7-14 we have the next exhortation and warning section. The main idea there is the idea of a promise remaining to enter into God's rest. We talked about the different meanings of the word "rest" there. The rest can refer to God's Sabbatical rest on the seventh day of creation. That is creation week rest. Then the word rest is also used in the Old Testament to refer to the Jewish rest, the Promised Land rest, that they would enter into the Promised Land and there experience the rest of God but that rest is a picture or a foreshadowing of the future rest that comes in the Millennial Kingdom. So there is a challenge that as believers we aren't to fail like the Jews going through the wilderness who weren't allowed to enter the rest but we are to press on to spiritual maturity so that we are qualified to enter into that kingdom rest in the Millennial Kingdom. This goes from 3:7 to 4:13.
Then in 4:14 we enter the next didactic section, which is shorter than the previous one, 4:14-5:11 which goes back to the doctrine of the high priesthood of Christ which is developed in 4:17. This section also goes back to the sanctification and maturation process of the Lord Jesus Christ in 2:10-11. It weaves these together in a very short section. It goes from 4:15-5:10. It breaks at 5:10. It ends up pointing out that Jesus Christ has been identified, named as a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The whole present priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is built off of this very short image that you have back in the Old Testament related to this somewhat enigmatic royal priest, this Gentile priest Melchizedek. Not much is said about Him but that is God's plan. God could have said a whole lot more about Melchizedek, but He leaves out all of this information. He structures that narrative in Genesis 15 so that He can use that image of that historical personage to develop our understanding of the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ during the current age. So that is in 4:14-5:10. The reason I keep messing up on this is I am using the New King James and it breaks the paragraph at the wrong place. It breaks it between 11 and 12. The break comes between 10 and 11 in the Greek. The sentence ends with the end of verse 10 in the Greek.
Then starting in 5:11 you have the beginning of the next warning section, from 5:11 down through the end of chapter 6. This is a crucial warning section. Of course we will get into that fun passage in 6:1-8 where it says it is impossible to renew those who were once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit. A lot of people use that verse to say that you can lose your salvation. So we will get into that, but not tonight.
These are the first three points that the writer is developing in the structure of his message. There are two more major sections coming. The last one ends with two warning or two exhortation sections. So that is where we are. We are just starting this third warning section, this third exhortation section.
The previous section ends with Melchizedek in 5:10.
Hebrews 5:10 called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek,"
In 5:5 and 5:10 we are reminded that Jesus Christ is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. He is identified by God as the High Priest. The word there translated "called by God" is the Greek word prosagoreuo which means to refer to someone by name or some other term. It means to call, to name, to designate. It means to name or promote someone. They are identified in the sense of a glorified position. So this is an identification of Jesus Christ in His glorified position at the right hand of God the Father as a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The Old Testament priesthood was limited. That is going to be the main driving argument in the next section beginning in 7:1. He builds to this point, developing his point from 4:14 to 5:10 and then he just stops. He has to go back and almost reams out his readers because they are not ready to listen to the advanced doctrine based on the Old Testament understanding of the Melchizedekean priesthood. There are serious problems with his readers which is what we will get into tonight. These are the verses from 11-14 that describe the sluggish backslider believer. Prosagoreuo – Jesus Christ is promoted or identified as a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
Hebrews 5:11 begins a new sentence. In the English translations it doesn't look that way, but that is the way it is in the Greek. "Whom" refers to Melchizedek.
The first word in the Greek is the preposition peri. Used with the genitive it means on account of, with reference to something or concerning something. We could translate it about something or about a topic. I prefer that particular translation. That is followed by the relative masculine singular pronoun for whom. So the beginning of the sentence is "about whom". The subject shifts. About whom we have much to say, but. That is how it is going to go. "About whom (that is about Melchizedek) we have much to say." This phrase "we have much to say" is a very difficult Greek construction.
Literal Translation: About whom the message with reference to us is great or much.
That is how it would be literally translated. So you see it has a little different sense than what it reads in the English. The emphasis is on the word message because that is the noun that is in the nominative case. The nominative case is your subject case so that is the topic of the sentence. That is what the sentence is all about. The message is built off of Melchizedek. The message about Melchizedek has reference to us. It is a dative third person plural pronoun which means that it is in reference to us. The message about Melchizedek has direct application to every believer. He is telling the congregation that about Melchizedek, the message with reference to us is much. It's the Greek word polus. It means much or many. There is a tremendous amount of important doctrine that is based off of this.
Then he immediately goes on to say it is hard to explain. He uses the word dusermeneutos. That core word there ermeneutos is related to the English word hermeneutics which has to do with interpretation and explanation. So this word means with the prefix dus something that is hard or difficult to explain. Now it is not difficult to explain because the topic is difficult to explain. With the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit any believer who is walking by the Spirit and advancing in their understanding of doctrine is going to be able to understand it. All doctrine is available to every believer. That is God's grace package. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand these things. The reason that this is difficult for the writer to explain is given in the next clause. It is not because the topic is so difficult. It is because the sheep he has been talking to have become dull of hearing. They have become sluggish, lazy, back-slidden sheep. It is their spiritual condition that makes it difficult for him to explain this doctrine. So he has to stop a minute and reprimand them because they have become lazy in their spiritual growth.
That next word in the next clause sets it up. It is the word epei. It means since, because, or for this reason. It is hard to explain for this reason. It is hard to explain because of the fact that you have become dull of hearing. The key word there is the verb become. They have become something. It is a perfect active indicative. I don't think that it is always necessary to refer to the Greek, but it is important when it brings out the sense and the meaning of the passage. It forces us to slow down a little bit and think about what the writer is saying. When you look at this verb and look at the parsing it is a perfect indicative. Now a perfect tense emphasizes an action that is completed. It emphasizes the present state that is the result of an already completed action. That means that they are not in the process of becoming dull of hearing. They have been dull of hearing and they are still dull of hearing. They have completed the process of becoming dullards and are still dullards. They are sluggish and lazy in their spiritual understanding. The verb here ginomai means to become something you were not before. So this indicates that previously they had grown to a higher or more advanced level of spiritual maturity and they had been able to understand these things. But, because of sin in their life and a variety of factors, because they were being tempted to throw out their Christianity and go back to Judaism these factors were dulling their spiritual senses and they were reversing their spiritual growth. So they have gone through a growth process up. Now they are regressing to spiritual infancy. So they have become something that they were not before. So it is important to look at different elements of the Greek syntax to emphasize this.
Now they have become dull. What does that word mean? That's the Greek word nothros. It means lazy, sluggish, dull, or hard of hearing. So they are sluggish backsliders. They are lazy Christians. They have become lazy in their spiritual lives. They reached the point where they are comfortable and then they began to slide backwards. When they began to slide backwards, their spiritual sensitivity was dull. All of a sudden they began to recognize that they were facing problems related to their stance for Christ as the Messiah, of the Old Testament and they began to realize that they were coming under persecution. Now they were tempted to go back under the law, to go back under the Judaist practices that were dominant in the first century. So the writer describes them as being lazy, dull, and hard of hearing.
The idea of being lazy means that you are adverse to activity or exertion. Now do we know of any Christians that are adverse to spiritual activity or exertion? That is the old nod to God crowd. They just show up on Sunday morning or they show up on Easter or they show up on Christmas. They just don't have a sense that in their Christian life that it is a priority to know the Word of God so that it completely overhauls their thinking. It is not just a matter of thinking biblical thoughts. To make it somewhat simple it's not just a matter when you become a Christian of realizing that you have certain thoughts in your mental attitude life. There are certain mental thoughts that are wrong – jealousy, envy, bitterness, anger, resentment. It is not just a matter of saying that you are not going to have those mental attitude sins because you can take those mental attitude sins out of the house of human viewpoint and fill that house of human viewpoint up with human good it is still a human viewpoint house. It is still a human viewpoint house with human good morality in it. It is not doing you a bit of good as a believer because you are just a pagan as before you were saved. It is that now you are a moral pagan. Now you are a self-righteous pagan. But you are still a pagan. You are not thinking biblically.
When I was a student at Dallas Seminary there was a professor of homiletics there. George had him. Bruce had him. His name was Robinson. Robinson used to poke fun at the guys who wanted to do any kind of exegesis in the pulpit. One of our other board members of Chafer Seminary is Todd Kennedy. He is the pastor of Spokane Bible Church. Todd told me that he got an F on a sermon because he used an overhead projector from Robinson. That's their mentality of teaching. But Robinson had a few things to say now and then.
"One thing that stuck with me was that it was hard enough to think, but it is really hard to think about how we think."
Think about that for awhile. It is hard enough to think. That is the reason most people don't want to go to doctrinal churches. You guys have a cerebral ministry. What it means is we are teaching people to think biblically. They just don't want to say that - a cerebral ministry as opposed to a heartfelt ministry. We are not emotional. We are teaching people to think biblically. But it is not just a matter of having the right thoughts. It is a matter of the structure of the thinking. The fancy word for that is epistemology. Charlie used that word a few times the last few nights where he talked about not being an epistemological pagan. That's what we are getting at here. When you still think like an unbeliever you are an epistemological pagan. You may have moral thoughts and you may have establishment principles in your thinking but the structure of your thinking is built on autonomous reason or autonomous experience or (dare I say it?) mysticism and subjective intuitiveness.
That is what happens. You have to restructure your thinking according to biblical revelation. Most people don't want to do that because they are lazy. They don't want to restructure the priorities in their life so they are in Bible class three or four times a week and listening to tapes the rest of the time. When I get up in the morning I have all kinds of stuff on my iPod. My friend Tommy Ice loves to download stuff. When we get together he fills my iPod with all kinds of stuff. It will be the rest of my life before I can listen to all of this stuff. I get up and whenever I am doing anything – like this morning I was getting up and getting ready to go and I just turned on the iPod and put it in the external speakers and I was listening to a series on the history of Calvinism. I am constantly being hit with stuff that reminds you; bring back to your consciousness and learning doctrine where it is part of your life. One of these days in your spiritual life you realize that Christianity is not just something you do along with doing shopping and going to your job and ongoing continuing education with your career but that learning the Word of God and learning to think biblically becomes your life. It is what drives everything else in your life. It is at the center of life. That is the only way we can have real stability and real happiness in life. These believers have become lazy. They have become sluggish and slow to respond. They are not responsive at all. They are dull of hearing – of hearing the Word of God.
When the Bible talks about hearing the Word of God it is not just talking about sitting in class or listening to a tape and getting your auditory nerves vibrated and filling up your notebook with notes. It is talking about application. That is the whole message in the first point in James 3 point sermon. Don't just be hearers of the Word, but be appliers of the Word. Take what you learn and apply it to the way your think and the way interact with people and the way you conduct your life. It starts with thinking. All application starts with thinking. It doesn't start with external behavior.
So in Hebrews 5:11 we read.
NKJ Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
This is something that we find reinforced even in the Old Testament. You have several passages that describe this kind of laziness where the prophets challenge the Israelites. An example is Ezekiel 12:2. This is right before they go out under the fifth cycle of discipline
NKJ Ezekiel 12:2 "Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.
When a believer reverses course in his Christian growth then what happens is his spiritual seeing and his spiritual hearing and his spiritual perception start to become dull. He is not able to perceive things from that divine viewpoint framework. So he operates on a human viewpoint framework. As a result of that he starts to make bad decisions. He is operating on autonomous reason so he is making bad decisions from bad reasoning. He is operating on autonomous empiricism. So he is making bad decisions from bad interpretation of the experience. Or, if he is in our modern culture he is operating on some kind of intuitive mysticism. All mysticism is subjective. The problem with mysticism is there is no guard. There is no form of correction in mysticism because mysticism completely ends all discussion or evaluation.
"Why did you do that?"
"Because God told me to."
End of discussion. That is why it is so difficult to talk to somebody who is a mystic, who is a Pentecostal or a new age believer.
You say, "Well, how do you know that that is true?"
"It's true to me. I just know it is."
How can you talk about that? Well, you can't. You can't bring reason to bear on any kind of mystical decision making. Therefore mysticism always goes hand in hand with irrationalism. It is anti-rationalism. Mysticism has never been a good term to describe anything in the Christian life. In an older generation when mysticism was virtually dead (in the early part of the 20th century). There were Christians who used the term to describe the mysterious relationship of the Holy Spirit to the individual believer because it was difficult to articulate it. So they moved from that use of the word mysterious to the word mysticism. But, it is a poor use of the word mysticism.
NKJ Zechariah 7:11 "But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
This is another indication of the challenge from the prophets to the hardened spiritual hearts of the Jews. They refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders and they stopped their ears so that they could not hear. It is not that they stuck their fingers in their ears. They stopped them because of their negative volition and because of their rejection of the truth.
What causes a believer to become lazy, sluggish, and dull of hearing?
- The first thing that causes a believer to become lazy, sluggish or dull or hard of hearing is that the study and application of the Word of God is no longer important. Not just study, but the study and application! You can't separate the two in true biblical study. The study and application of the Word of God is no longer a priority. This doesn't happen overnight with most people. It happens gradually. All of a sudden what comes up is that business pressure or this event that my kids need to be in. They have got to get to soccer today. They have got to get to ballet tomorrow. They have to get to their piano lesson. All of a sudden the parents quite being parents and the scheduling of priorities of the spiritual life of the family starts to erode because of dictates from the children. One of the things that grate on me as a pastor is when I hear someone say, "I have decided to go to this church because that is where my kids want to go." Or, "I want to go to this church because they have this for my kids." Okay. Who runs the insane asylum at your address? The guards or the inmates? Obviously it is the inmates. You let your kids make the most important decision affecting the family. That is where you are going to go to get the Word of God. No! Parents say to kids, "This is where we are going to church." If there is no church youth group it doesn't matter. The Word of God is taught by a trained pastor. That is what matters and that is how you make the decision.
- The second thing that causes a believer to become lazy and sluggish is that the details of life distract them from their priorities - all of the various details of life, whatever they may be (friends, family) and we always have distractions. Some people get the idea that they have so many distractions. Point out one of us that doesn't. That is part of the test that James talks about in James 1:2-4. We don't see these things coming. Every test is a distraction. Didn't you know that? I mean you are going along and all of a sudden your parents are getting a little older and they look in the mirror and they don't know who they are. At the same time you have kids that are going through college and they are flunking out or they are getting involved in drugs. The next thing you know you have a parent doing one thing and you have got kids doing another and you have to be in four different places at one time. Those distractions are tests. You can't get rid of those things. That is what life is. The issue is how are we going to deal with the distractions without letting them destroy our priorities on the spiritual life?
- Third, sin and or human good become a distraction which begins to callous the soul to the truth. We get involved in sin. It can be very subtle. It can be overt sin. Usually by the time a Christian slips into overt carnality, they have been going there mentally for sometime and they just been spending more and more time out of fellowship and walking by the flesh. They are also producing human good at the same time.
- The result of this is that a person gets to the point where they become divided between two views, human viewpoint on one hand and divine viewpoint on the other. This is the person described in James 1 as the two-souled or double minded man. He wants to live his life according to two different systems of values. But you can't merge them. You either have paganism and pagan values on the one hand. No matter how good or establishment they may be, it is still paganism. On the other hand you have the Bible. You can't walk with one foot on each side. You have to make a decision at some point in your Christian life. Are you going to pursue consistent biblical thinking in your life or are you going to pursue living within your comfort zone around people you like and politicians you like and other things you like because that is where you are comfortable? The more you become biblical in your thinking and in your lifestyle, the more you are going to be at odds with the world around you. A lot of people just don't like that because it separates them from their friends or their family that they have known for a long time. All of a sudden they feel isolated.
This is what Elijah is challenging the people with in I Kings 18:21.
NKJ 1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word.
Most Christians never reach the point that they fully make the decision and decide to stick with it.
What are they dynamics of a backsliding believer?
- First of all it always begins with a decision to stop walking by the Holy Spirit.
NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Ou me, the double negative plus the subjunctive verb is the strongest negation is the Greek. So there is always a decision to stop walking by the Holy Spirit. So the default position for everybody is the flesh. You don't have to decide to sin, you just have to decide to stop walking by the Spirit and you automatically default to walking by the flesh.
- Then if you stay there and have continued carnality and continue to walk by the flesh it leads to an increased and heightened arrogance. You become more and more oriented to yourself, your own agenda, and your own desires rather than God's desires. It is your word rather than God's Word.
- Then we begin to refine those arrogance skills that we have talked about – self-absorption where we become more and more concerned with our own problems, our hurts and our emotions and how we feel.
You hear women in marriage counseling say, "He doesn't pay attention to how I feel."
The man comes in and he expresses it the same way. "Well, I have got this and I have got that."
Everybody is the same way. They are focusing on their own world and their own life and their own feelings and their own agendas. They are not coming out of themselves. It is just arrogance, arrogance, and arrogance. Arrogance is tenacious folks if you don't realize that. Self-absorption leads to self indulgence. The more you are absorbed with your own problems, your own heartaches, your own issues, the more begin to indulge yourself in that.
I remember when I was a kid and used to get sick my mother would say, "Don't indulge yourself in that. Get up, get dressed and go to school."
"Ah, but my throat hurts."
"Get dressed and go to school. Don't give into it."
That is what happens. The more you become self-absorbed, the more you give into it. You indulge your arrogance and eventually that leads to a distortion of reality, self-deception. As you go through self-deception, you begin to justify that self-deception. You build rationalizations that make a lot of sense to us. We justify our carnality. We justify our behavior. Deep down we know this is wrong. It is not what the Bible says. But, it is comfortable to us so we build these rationalizations that keep us in our comfort zone. After all, God understands. We are sinners. He understands, doesn't He? Then what we have done is replace God with ourselves. That leads to self- deification. This is an ongoing cycle that keeps going and going and going until ultimately we end up in self-destruction.
- In the midst of this there is vacillation in decision-making. This is what I referenced a few minutes ago in James 1:5. The dypseuchos believer, the two-souled believer is waffling between two different views.
- What happens then is we start seeking happiness in the details of life. God is no longer the source of our happiness and joy. We are going to find peace and happiness and success in money, friendship, marriage, sex, drugs, alcohol, partying, good times, good feelings or indulging our emotions. We get on a details-of-life roller coaster. This is the leeks and garlic syndrome of the Jews coming out of Egypt.
As soon as they started hitting hard times, they rejected doctrine and they said, "I don't want God's wonderful provision of manna."
Manna was a supernatural food, the angelic bread so to speak, that God provided for the Jews to give them complete sustenance as they were going through the wilderness. Every morning there it was – manna from the Hebrew word men, meaning what?
They looked at it and they went, "What it is."
It tasted like Shipley donuts. I am convinced. Hot Shipley donuts every morning. What a deal! They got tired of it after a while. You can get tired of anything. They had the same thing morning after morning after morning. But they got tired of God's grace so they said "We want the leeks and garlics of Egypt.
"We want to go get Mexican food – something with a little spice in it. We are tired of this. We want to go back and get the good Mexican food or Cajun food that they had over in Egypt."
- This leads to soul poverty. That is exactly what Psalm 106 is talking about. The wilderness generation in their rebelliousness wanted these different things for their life.
NKJ Psalm 106:15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.
Now that is a powerful verse. They got what they wanted, what they thought would make them happy. And it didn't. He sent leanness to their soul. They were empty. It is soul poverty. It reinforces unhappiness and then they have to go back on that frantic search for happiness and find something else. The more arrogant you are, the more carnal you are, the more you deteriorate in this downward spiral.
- Along with this what happens is previously learned doctrine begins to be ignored or lost or forgotten. You can't remember that promise. "Where is it? It is somewhere in the Old Testament. It had something to do with God. Yeah. I was supposed to trust Him. Yeah." You forget the doctrine that you learned. It is no longer there. Over and over and over again you build calluses in the soul to the Holy Spirit who is trying to bring the doctrine up for remembrance. So gradually doctrine is ignored, lost or forgotten. You become an adolescent believer, but now you are acting like a baby.
Remember when you were an adolescent and you threw a temper tantrum and your mom said, "Quit acting like a baby."
She didn't mean you were an infant chronologically. She meant you should have been acting more mature, but you were still acting like a baby. It was an insult. Of course the only words we have in the English for baby are baby and infant and maybe one other word and that is pretty much it. In the Greek there were four or five other words, which we will get into as we go through this passage.
- As we forget doctrine it creates a vacuum in the soul that sucks in paganism. It sucks in more and more human viewpoint. We start reading psychology.
"I am not happy. I need some help. Let me turn on Dr. Phil." So you watch Dr. Phil or you go down to the bookstore and you get "I am Okay, You are Okay." Or you decide to keep up the Christian façade and you go to the Christian book store and you get the Christian version of "I am Okay, You are Okay."
You go read Robert Schuler who said, "Your problem isn't sin. It's self-esteem. Jesus didn't die for sin. That is an antiquated concept. You need to have your self esteem pumped up. Jesus died to give you self-esteem. You knew that didn't you? Sin is not a problem. You need self-esteem."
The vacuum in the soul starts sucking in surrounding paganism.
- As paganism dominates the soul you enter into cosmic or pagan degeneracy. You see the concept in the Bible of worldliness is really the idea of pagan culture – whatever the values are, whatever the ultimate view of reality, metaphysics. That is what metaphysics means. It is your ultimate view of reality - whatever the ultimate view of your surrounding culture is whether it is a polytheistic culture, Greek culture, Egyptian culture, Indian-Hindu culture, western American secular pragmatic culture – that is the cosmic thinking. It has a way of knowing, an epistemology. It has an ethics system. It has an aesthetic system. That is all the philosophy of the world. That is all in cosmic thinking. So we enter pagan degeneracy.
Now pagan degeneracy or cosmic degeneracy manifests itself two ways. Of course this relates to the trends of the sin nature. On the one hand it is related to immoral degeneracy. This is a term everybody can understand. We all know immoral degenerates. If you don't I can take you down to Montrose after class and I can show you a lot of them. They are involved in all kinds of things. It can be immoral degeneracy. It can be sexual immoral degeneracy. It can be ethical immoral degeneracy. Nobody has a problem with immoral degeneracy. It is the rejection of absolutes. It rejects the absolutes of reason and empiricism. It leads to irrationalism and mysticism. You get a rise of irrationalism and mysticism that dominates the culture at large. It sneaks into the church in all kinds of different ways. This leads to licentiousness. It is a rejection of values.
I was thinking in the Bible today, "What is a group would be a good illustration of this? A good biblical group that pictures licentiousness and immoral degeneracy." You have to go to the Old Testament.
On the other side you have moral degeneracy. Most people don't put those words together, moral degeneracy. How can you be a moral degenerate? We think of a degenerate as some kind of homosexual perverted deviant. But there are also moral degenerates. Moral degenerates operate on autonomous reasoning and empiricism. They have a lot of order and structure in their lives. They can be very moral. They trend towards asceticism and self-righteousness.
Who are the two groups in the Scriptures that manifest these two characteristics? The immoral degenerate is picture by the fertility worshippers in the Old Testament. These were the ones going down to the temple of Baal and Canaan and they got involved with ritual prostititutes in the ritual temples. What were they worshipping? They were worshipping fertility and productivity and prosperity. We have the same thing today. It may not be as sexual, but it is prosperity theology. It is the health and wealth gospel. That is just the modern version of the old fertility worship. Go down to Lakewood and you will find all kinds of fertility worship there. That's what it is. It is the health and wealth gospel. They are immoral degenerates.
"Oh, but they are such good people."
But they combine it with moral degeneracy like the Pharisees.
Jesus said, "You are just a whitewashed bunch of sepulchers. You have whitewashed the outside so you look good, but inside are dead men's bones." It's rotten. You have all kinds of maggots crawling around inside of you. On the outside you look real good. But on the insides the soul is just a mess."
So a backsliding believer can imitate this because he as he deteriorates he picks up the paganism of the culture around him. Paganism always tends (just like the old sin nature) to go to either one of these two trends.
So the result that the writer of Hebrews says is, "I can't talk about what I want to talk about now because you have become lazy and hard of hearing spiritually." This is the dynamic that produced this.
He is going to go on to say in verse in verses 12 -13.
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
He uses the word napios. If you go over to I Corinthians 3 he uses the word napios for a babe there. Most people want to take that as an infant Christian. But in both passages you are dealing with a group of believers that should have been more mature but have reversed course due to carnality. Instead of portraying their adolescent status as a believer they are acting like a baby. That Greek word napios was often used as an insult, as a pejorative, as a form of ridicule. It is somebody who had been more mature and they are acting like a baby. It is not talking about being a baby in terms of spiritual infancy. It is talking about somebody who should have been older and was more mature, but they are acting like a baby. Why? Because they are walking according to the sin nature and have reversed course in the spiritual life.
So here we have a description of what happens when you have a sluggish backslider. You fall apart in your priorities and your value system. The Word of God is no longer the centerpiece of your life. It may take ten, twenty or thirty years before it gets exposed; but it always gets exposed and it always destroys your life.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.