Hebrews 5:12
(12) For the time.--Taking into account the time that had elapsed since they became Christians.

Ye have need.--Literally, ye have need that some one teach you again the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God (Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; 1Peter 4:11). These first rudiments, which they need to learn again (but which he himself is not about to teach), it may seem natural to identify with what the writer in Hebrews 6:1 calls "the doctrine of the first principles of Christ." If, however, we examine the usage of the New Testament, of Philo, and of other writers, we shall find good reason for regarding "the oracles of God" as synonymous with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. (See Hebrews 5:13.)

Of strong meat.--Better, of solid food. (See 1Corinthians 3:2.)

Verse 12. - For when, by reason of the time (i.e. the time that has elapsed since your conversion), ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that some one teach you (or, that one teach you which be) the first principles (literally, the elements of the beginning) of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. Τῆς ἀρχῆς in this verse seems best taken in union with τὰ στοιχεῖα, rather than with τῶν λογίων; the phrase, τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς, meaning "the initiatory elements" - the A, B, C of Christian teaching. The word λογία ("oracles"), is used elsewhere for the revelations of the Old Testament, as Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2. Here its meaning can hardly be taken as confined to them, since the first principles of the gospel are being spoken cf. Still, a word that includes them in its meaning may be purposely used by way of intimating that the elements intended are those of Judaism as well as Christianity, or of the latter only in its first emergence out of Judaism. And accordingly, vers. 1, 2 of Hebrews 6, where they are enumerated, are (as will be seen) so worded as to imply no more than this; nor are the first principles there mentioned beyond what an enlightened Jew might be expected to understand readily. Be it observed that the Hebrew Church need not be supposed to have actually lost sight of these first principles, so as to require a new indoctrination into them. There may be a vein of delicate irony in what is said, after the manner of St. Paul. All that is of necessity implied is that there had been such a failure in seeing what these principles led to as to suggest the necessity of their being learnt anew. The writer does not, in fact, as he goes on, require them to be learnt anew; for he bids his readers leave them behind, as though already known, and proceed from them to perfection, though still with some misgiving as to their capability for doing so. The figure of milk for babes and solid food for full-grown men, to illustrate the teaching suitable for neophytes and for advanced Christians, is found also in 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; and that of νήπιος in 1 Corinthians 14:20; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:14. This correspondence, though no proof of the Pauline authorship, is among the evidences of the Pauline character of the Epistle.

5:11-14 Dull hearers make the preaching of the gospel difficult, and even those who have some faith may be dull hearers, and slow to believe. Much is looked for from those to whom much is given. To be unskilful, denotes want of experience in the things of the gospel. Christian experience is a spiritual sense, taste, or relish of the goodness, sweetness, and excellence of the truths of the gospel. And no tongue can express the satisfaction which the soul receives, from a sense of Divine goodness, grace, and love to it in Christ.For when for the time ye ought to be teachers,.... These Hebrews had had great advantages; they were not only descended from Abraham, and had the law of Moses, and the writings of the Old Testament, but some of them had enjoyed the ministry of Christ, and however of his apostles; and it was now about thirty years from the day of Pentecost, in which the gifts of the Holy Ghost were bestowed in such an extraordinary manner, and a large number were converted, and a church state settled among them; and therefore considering the length of time, the opportunities and advantages they had enjoyed, it might have been expected, and indeed it is what should have been, that they would have been teachers of others, some in a private, and some in a public way: from whence it may be observed, that to have time for learning, and yet make no proficiency, is an aggravation of dulness; moreover, that men ought to be hearers, and make some good proficiency in hearing, before they are fit to be teachers of others; also, that persons are not only to hear for their own edification, but for the instruction of others, though all hearers are not designed for public teachers; for to be teachers of others, requires a considerable share of knowledge: to which may be added, that the churches of Christ are the proper seminaries of Gospel ministers. But this was so far from being the case of these Hebrews, that the apostle says of them,

ye have need that one teach on again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; by the oracles of God are meant the Scriptures, not the law of Moses only, but all the writings of the Old Testament, which were given by the respiration of God, and are authoritative and infallible; and by the "first principles" of them are intended, either the first promises in them, concerning the Messiah; or the institutions, rites, and ceremonies of the law, which are sometimes called elements, Galatians 4:3 where the same word is used as here; and which were the alphabet and rudiments of the Gospel to the Jews: or else the apostle designs the plain doctrines of the Gospel, which were at first preached unto them, in which they needed to be again instructed, as they were at first; so that instead of going forward, they had rather gone back:

and are become such as have need of milk; of the types, shadows, and figures of the law, which were suited to the infant state of the church, who by sensible objects were directed to the view of Gospel grace; or of the plain and easier parts of the Gospel, comparable to milk for their purity, sweetness, nourishing nature, and being easy of digestion:

and not of strong meat: such as the deep things of God, the mysteries of the Gospel; those which are more hard to he understood, received, and digested; such as the doctrines of the Trinity, of God's everlasting love, of eternal election and reprobation, of the person of Christ, the abrogation of the law, &c.

Hebrews 5:11
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