Solid food is for the mature. Hebrews 5:14
In the seventh century, what is now called the United Kingdom was many kingdoms often at war. When one king, Oswald of Northumbria, became a believer in Jesus, he called for a missionary to bring the gospel to his region. A man named Corman was sent, but things didn’t go well. Finding the English “stubborn,” “barbarous,” and uninterested in his preaching, he returned home frustrated.
“I am of the opinion,” a monk named Aidan told Corman, “that you were more severe to your unlearned hearers than you ought to have been.” Instead of giving the Northumbrians “the milk of more easy doctrine,” Corman had given them teaching they couldn’t yet grasp. Aidan went to Northumbria, adapted his preaching to the people’s understanding, and thousands became believers in Jesus.
Aidan got this sensitive approach to mission from Scripture. “I gave you milk, not solid food,” Paul told the Corinthians, “for you were not yet ready for it” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Before right living can be expected from people, Hebrews says, basic teaching about Jesus, repentance, and baptism must be grasped (Hebrews 5:13–6:2). While maturity should follow (5:14), let’s not miss the order. Milk comes before meat. People can’t obey teaching they don’t understand.
The faith of the Northumbrians ultimately spread to the rest of the country and beyond. Like Aidan, when sharing the gospel with others, we meet people where they are.
In simple terms, how would you explain the gospel? How can you avoid expecting people who aren’t believers in Jesus to think or behave as you do?
Jesus, thank You for reaching me in ways I could understand.
It’s important for believers in Jesus to be able to explain their faith in easily understood terms, but the writer of Hebrews was in fact urging his readers to “move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (6:1). This section of the letter contains a hint of exasperation with these believers. They had stagnated. Yet there’s a strong thread of encouragement throughout Hebrews. The writer is laying out the case for Jesus as superior to everything else (chs. 1–5); now he wants to build up these believers. “We are convinced of better things in your case,” he wrote, “the things that have to do with salvation” (6:9). Later, he exhorts his readers to emulate the faithful who’d gone before them (ch. 11) and to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (12:1–2).