We continue our journey in the Letter to the Hebrews week by week here in Brisbane with a small group. Recently we looked at Hebrews 5:11—14.
In verses 11 and 12, our author says his readers have a lot to learn. He has solid food to give and some of it is hard to explain. But, like his readers, we too can become dull of hearing [NIV: slow to learn]. We can become apathetic, reluctant to progress further. This is a condition that is often fostered by institutional, industrialised religious practices, with a leader who does everything—acting as teacher, guide, pastor, priest, preacher, worship leader, administrator and CEO. The people are mere recipients, consumers. Leaders can be barriers to growth.
But under the New Covenant, God has designed us all to be participating in delivering the word of righteousness and helping one another in an open participatory setting. Scholars refer to this often as ‘body-ministry’. This amazing design by the great Architect, our Lord and Father God, is intended for our growth and maturity. God’s intention is that each of us receives a spiritual deposit or gifting of the Spirit to one another, share with our fellow brothers and sisters, and function as the Body of Christ, rather like the human body with many members as we read in Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth.
But instead, many believers in gatherings are merely an audience and inactive, spectators in what takes place ‘up front’ and as a consequence they remain in a sorry and feeble state, infants in understanding.
It is a fatal mistake to take the road of safety and contentment and apathy. Such a choice robs us, God’s people, of the blessings of conforming to Jesus and partnering with him, which bring God’s life to others. We are meant to be fully functioning members, literally, of a body, the body of Christ.
So, in fact he continues by now, you ought to be teachers, instead of staying like babies needing nursing, breast-feeding. Yes, teachers! Compare this to the Apostle Paul’s words (1 Cor 14:26, 31) ….
When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. …… For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.
So, this Hebrew community reflected common ideas with those of Paul as shown in his letters. Paul says each person in the Body of Christ can teach: exhort and share God’s word, with everyone present, and even prophesy (1 Cor 14). There is the freedom of the Holy Spirit. It is not the ministry of one or two, but of all.
In God’s New Covenant design, we are each born into the Body of Christ, one functioning alive member among many. Individualism (mere ‘going to church’) is contrary to our organic community life in the Body of Christ. The phrase ‘one another’ is used over 50 times in the New Testament.
Shall we continue to ignore the plain words of God, his superb design? Do we know better than our Lord?