Basket of Figs

Published 2001-03

Bud Powell

Trinity Covenant RCUS, Colorado Springs


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So You Thought It Was Easy?


For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  13 For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  –Heb. 5:12-14


The writer of Hebrews was really frustrated that his targeted readers [Jews] were unable to understand what he wanted to say about the man Melchizidec.  You would have thought that a man to whom Abraham paid tithes would have impressed the Jew.  Especially when later on David spoke of a priest arising after the order of Melchizidec (Psalm 110).  The Jew was so filled with pride of race, that they could not imagine someone greater than Abraham.  But that is not the subject of this article.


As the writer rebukes his readers for spiritual immaturity, he gives a formula for spiritual maturity.  His readers had been followers of the true faith long enough to become teachers, but instead they needed to be taught over and over the first principles.  He gives this formula:  “Strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Wow!


Discernment of good and evil is not automatic.  It is a skill that must be learned, and comes because of the exercise of the senses.  On this passage Calvin says,


Of full age, or perfect, etc. He calls those perfect who are adults; he mentions them in opposition to babes, as it is done in 1 Corinthians 2:6; 14:20; Ephesians 4:13. For the middle and manly age is the full age of human life; but he calls those by a figure men in Christ; who are spiritual. And such he would have all Christians to be, such as have attained by continual practice a habit to discern between good and evil. For he cannot have been otherwise taught aright in the truth, except we are fortified by his protection against all the falsehoods and delusions of Satan; for on this account it is called the sword of the Spirit. And Paul points out this benefit conferred by sound doctrine when he says, “That we may not be carried about by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14.) And truly what sort of faith is that which doubts, being suspended between truth and falsehood? Is it not in danger of coming to nothing every moment?


But not satisfied to mention in one word the mind, he mentions all the senses, in order to show that we are ever to strive until we be in every way furnished by God’s word, and be so armed for battle, that Satan may by no means steal upon us with his fallacies. It hence appears what sort of Christianity there is under the Papacy, where not only the grossest ignorance is commended under the name of simplicity, but where the people are also most rigidly prevented from seeking real knowledge; nay, it is easy to judge by what spirit they are influenced, who hardly allow that to be touched which the Apostle commands us to handle continually, who imagine that a laudable neglect which the Apostle here so severely reproves, who take away the word of God, the only rule of discerning rightly, which discerning he declares to be necessary for all Christians! But among those who are freed from this diabolical prohibition and enjoy the liberty of learning, there is yet often no less indifference both as to hearing and reading. When thus we exercise not our powers, we are stupidly ignorant and void of all discernment.


All of the senses must be exercised.  “Senses” means “faculties,” reason, will, affections.  The whole man must be trained and disciplined by the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture before a man can trust his ideas of right and wrong.  The Bible is a difficult book, and a great many sins have been committed in its name, by serious people who thought they were doing God service.  The muscles of the soul must be exercised in the Scriptures or we will do evil in the name of God. 


Don’t take right and wrong for granted.  A great deal of folly has been committed through the years in the name of simplicity.  We need to have muscles in our soul, trained and exercised in the Holy Scriptures.


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