Milk, Meat & Potatoes and Christian Maturity

You’ve just been saved!  For the first time in your life the message that once seemed so foolish actually makes sense.  Jesus Christ died for your sins!  The guilt, heaviness, pain, shame and condemnation have just been shredded by a symbol of death, the cross.  It is as if you can actually take a breath of air without the pressure of eternal uncertainty pressing against your lungs.  You now believe that Jesus actually took your sins, paid the ransom with His own blood and has now given and credited you his A+ report card so that God is well pleased with you!

Now what?

The next thing that typically happens is that you join a church, for it was through the church that the message of Christ crucified came to you in the first place.  However, what happens next is all too common in American Christianity.  After some time in the local church you become wooed into the idea that now the real work begins.  “Christ saved you,” it is spoken to you, “but now you need to progress into maturity and obedience.”  The cross serves as your starting point, the beginning, but now the arena of the church becomes a place where rallying support is granted and you battle to live your best life now in a victorious manner.

Verses like Hebrews 5:12-6:1-3 are quoted as a chair passage to you,

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.”

You are instructed that, “you are to leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity!”  Christ saved you but now you need to progress into the living out of your Christian life!  It is not about creeds but it is about deeds!  You need solid food, man’s food, not mommy’s milk!

This example above is all too common in American Christianity.  Inadvertently the idea of Christian growth and maturity tends to take us away from the cross of Jesus Christ rather than towards and into the cross of Jesus Christ.  Salvation is perceived as a simple launching pad for Christian maturity and life; it becomes a means to another end.  Being saved is perceived as a simple base that needs to be rounded before you can travel on to greater and better things.

At first glance it also seems that the passage in Hebrews 6:1-3 supports this view of maturity.  However, is this so?

Let us take the opening phrase “let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” and eliminate the following, “let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”  Is that what the author of Hebrews wants us to do; to leave Christ?  This is hardly the case.  Rather, what the author is calling for is for Christians to leave the elementary doctrines of Christ.  He is calling believers to leave the milk, the basic teachings such as: contrition for sin and knowing that it is by grace alone we are saved so that believers can go on to solid food.  It isn’t that believers are to abandon these teachings but that believers are to know them, believe them and move on in maturity.[1]   

So, where is this maturity into the solid food to occur?  Where do we get some meat and potatoes to go with the cup of milk?  As we look to the context of this passage we see that maturity goes beyond the elementary doctrines of Christ ‘to’ the more doctrines of Christ.  Hebrews chapter 6 calls believers away from the elementary teachings to the mature teachings, both of which are in/of Christ.  The remainder of the Book of Hebrews plunges into the depths and riches of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the Old Testament.  Can we say, "Meat and potatoes, with extra gravy?"

What this all means is that you are saved by Christ, you are sustained by Christ, and you grow into Christ.  You are not an autonomous person in the church body striving to build your individual empire of piety with a spiritual legacy conducted through your own clever devises; this autonomous independence is not maturity.  Rather as a part of the church body of Christ; you are gathered to daily receive the cleansing Word and Sacraments for the stain of sin.  As a member of the church you are continually being crucified into Christ and raised in the hope of the Gospel.

We journey into Christ; we mature in Christ.  Believe upon the good news that you are continually crucified into Christ, you no longer live but Christ lives in you and that Christ is the one who is maturing you.

Praise Be To God.

[1] Thanks to Rev. Fisk for the idea to cross out the phrase ‘the elementary doctrine’ to illustrate some of the incorrect exegetical interpretations of Hebrews 6:1.  To see more, see his Video at: (January 11th of 2011)

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Paul said…
The elementary doctrines are "contrition for sin and knowing that it is by grace alone we are saved" I thought those were the doctrines I need to saturate in. What are the mature doctrines of Christ?