Hebrews Lesson 56 June 1, 2006
NKJ Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
We are in Hebrews 5. I want you to go back to verse 12. We have been skirting around the basic message and application of this section from verse 10 down through verse 14 for the last two months. This is lesson 56 and I started this in lesson 45. This is about 11 weeks of this. We spent a lot of time dealing with what I would call applicational issues in relationship to discernment which is a major part of this particular passage. We got started because we were looking at the mechanics of becoming dull believers, those who are lazy, those who regress in their spiritual lives back in our study of verses 10 and 11. I only did a peripheral look at 12-14, but it is important to understand what is going on in 12-14 in order to understand what happens in chapter 6:1-8. Chapter 6:1-8 (specifically verses 4-8) are some of the most controversial verses in the Bible. They are difficult to understand and related to eternal security. Some people think that these verses refer to believers who lose their salvation, which isn't true. We have to look at this because it is foundational. The warning is serious. That's the core of the warning of this particular exhortation section that begins in 5:11 and extends through 6:20. The warning section is specifically in verses 4-8 of chapter 6. So what we do in the last three verses of chapter 5 sets up our understanding of these difficult passages in chapter 6.
So we will look at verse 12.
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
We could translate this "even". It is a concessive clause.
He is addressing his listeners, his audience. Remember they are Jews probably priests who had trusted Christ as the Messiah and had grown to a certain level of maturity and then they had come under pressure, adversity, persecution, hostility and opposition and began to doubt their faith. They began to regress spiritually so that now they are characterized as being dull and lazy. He uses even more condemning language in these verses.
When he uses the word "teachers" he is not talking about a spiritual gift. He is just talking about the fact that any believer at a certain point ought to be teachers. Let me get through the whole verse then we will come back and deal with the details.
We start off with the verb, "you ought to be teachers." This is a powerful concept in the Christian life. You ought to. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ there is an expectation that something ought to be present in your life. It is not a matter of I am saved and I can live however I want to and if I sin and am out of fellowship I can just confess my sin. There is an obligation that is placed upon each one of us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ because of what Christ did for us and because we are now members of the royal family of God. God has provided all of this for us and inherent with the grace gift of salvation is responsibility.
The verb here is the Greek verb opheilo which means an obligation to perform a duty. It is not legalism. We are not obligated in the sense that we are trying to gain the approval of God. We are not obligated in the sense that we are trying to merit salvation. It is not a works type of system. It is just the inherent responsibility or obligation of having something and of ownership of this new Christian life. If you have a house whether you bought it or whether you were given it or whether you rent it from somebody, there is an inherent obligation or responsibility to take care of the property. If you own a car you have an obligation to take care of it. If you don't, it will fall apart and it won't be of any value to you. That is what is true about the Christian life. If you don't live up to the obligations or inherent responsibilities in the Christian life to utilize the assets that God has given us, then we become a rusty old hulk and it doesn't do us any good.
By this time we ought to be teachers. The idea here is anyone who can instruct someone else regarding the Word of God. Anybody ought to be able to do that a certain level of maturity - sitting around the kitchen table, talking to a co-worker at lunch, discussing it with your children. At a certain level of maturity you ought to be able to teach other people what you have learned in the Christian life.
I have a lady in my class this semester at the college and she said everyday after she leaves the class she goes and has lunch with a friend of hers and tells her everything she learned in class that day. So anybody ought to be able to grow to a certain level and communicate what they are learning to other people. But if you are still a spiritual infant you can't do that because you don't know enough to say anything. That is the problem. They have regressed from the high water mark of their spiritual growth to a point where they even though chronologically they are 10 or 12 or 15 years old in their spiritual life; in terms of they way the act, they are acting like babies. We will see that concept brought out in a minute.
This is the Greek noun stoicheion. This was an important word in Greek vocabulary. It had a rich heritage in philosophy. It is used in a more general sense, not in a technical philosophical sense, in the New Testament. It has to do with the basic parts of something, the rudiments, the elements or the basic components of something. We might say that it refers to the ABC's of oracles of God. The basic doctrines of Scripture as it were. So he is reprimanding them.
"We have to go to basic doctrine all over again because you have obviously forgotten what those basics are and their implications for your spiritual life."
The word stoicheion is used in a couple of other interesting passages in the New Testament.
NKJ 2 Peter 3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
Elements is stoicheion, the core basic elements, the basic chemical structure of the present universe will melt away with a great noise.
This is an example of how stoicheion refers to the basic chemical elements that make up the universe, that table of elements that you were supposed to have memorized when you took chemistry in high school.
Galatians 4:3 uses it in a different sense. There Paul says…
NKJ Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.
This is the basic thinking in the world system, whatever that pagan system was, the culture out of which we come. Paul is saying that it put us in bondage. In this situation he is talking about as Jews they were in bondage under the law. The law communicated basic elements.
In Colossians 2:8 he deals with the basic principles of the Greek cosmic system.
NKJ Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
That would refer to the basic norms and standards are of cosmic thinking, the basic metaphysical approach, their ethical epistemology of the world, which would be rationalism or empiricism or mysticism. Don't be taken captive through those basic principles that are in opposition to Christ. That is the structure there.
So we see that there is 180-degree opposition between the basic principles of how the culture based on human viewpoint wants us to think, to live, to make decisions and values judgments and that related to Christ.
In Christianity there are also basics. That is the problem with these Jewish believers. They have to go back and relearn the basic doctrines of Christianity. Understanding that term will help us understand a few other things that come along as we go through this passage.
NKJ Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
This idea of coming to need milk instead of solid food is a perfect active indicative of the verb ginomai which means to become something that you were not before. It indicates that they had grown to a state where they didn't need milk. They were pushing into the deep things of God in the Scripture. They understood the more advanced doctrines in Scripture. But as a result of carnality in their lives and because they began to question and reject the teaching of grace in the New Testament, they began to reverse course in their spiritual lives. They became something that they weren't. First of all they started as new believers and they became something they weren't then. They were worldly, carnal. They were just barely saved and they became something they were not. That is advanced mature believers. Then when they became advance mature believers understanding doctrine and living on divine viewpoint then they went negative to doctrine. Then again they became something they weren't at that point which is carnal believers operating on human viewpoint instead of divine viewpoint. They became something that they were not and they began to need milk instead of solid food.
Now this concept of milk is one that we find in a number of important passages of Scripture. It is an analogy where the Scripture, the Word of God, is compared to food because the Word of God is what nourishes and strengthens our souls just as physical food and drink provide the nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy and strong producing growth. The analogy is developed in I Peter 2:2 that just as newborn babes we are...
NKJ 1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
That word desire is a command. In English it doesn't come across as an imperative. In the Greek it is an imperative. It is a command.
I think if I were to translate this I would switch the word order and say, "Desire the pure milk of the Word like a newborn baby."
If you have ever heard a newborn baby scream for milk, then you have some idea of what that is saying. It is saying that you as a newborn believer should be demanding to be fed. You should be throwing a little temper tantrum as a new baby demanding that somebody feed you.
I don't know if any of you have had the opportunity to go on a real fast for any length of time. I don't mean some of the silly fasts that you have today where they are going to go on a vegetable fast or they are going to go on a cookie fast or something where they take one thing and they aren't going to do that for two or three days. A real fast is where all you have is water for several days. When I was young (I was about 27 years old) I had one course left to take at Dallas Seminary. It was one I had dreaded taking. We were required to take a Christian Education elective. Those of us who were more doctrinally oriented and theologically astute (more oriented to the languages) just despised the Christian Education Department. These were the guys who walked around with a pocket full of colored pencils and they were doing all of this color- coding in their Bibles. They couldn't think their way out of a wet theological bag if they had to. But they learned all of these gimmicks for teaching and everything. So I found out that I could take the course somewhere else and have it transferred in. Wheaton College, which is up in Chicago, has a huge camping program that they run in the upper part of Wisconsin and into the upper peninsula of Michigan. They ran a program for two or three weeks that was like an outward-bound program. You went out and you backpacked and you canoed. It was a wilderness leadership-training course. I found out I could take that and transfer that back for a credit for my CE class.
I thought, "This is great. I get to get a two hour credit for doing what I love to do – camping and backpacking and canoeing white water."
So we did that. What I didn't know was the last three days of this trip they put everyone out on the shore of Lake Superior in a solo and you were isolated about 200 yards from the nearest person. You had your shelter half. You could drink all the water you wanted out of Lake Superior. The mean temperature is 32-33 degrees. It is very cold. Nothing bad can live there. So you have all the water you want. But they warned us not to sneak food. At 27 and I have been back packing for three days I could eat horses – hoof, tail, everything. Raw, it wouldn't matter. We were told not to take anything.
I would think, "Maybe I'll sneak something."
The problem is that the bears can smell it a half a mile away and if you have anything in your pack that smells like food or has touched food then the bears will come in and tear up your pack. They have had it happen. Even that week when the leadership team had put all of their packs together where the food was three or four bears got in and tore the heck out of those packs during the three-day solo that we had. So that was my one and only experiencing of fasting and trying to go 2 or 3 days without food. I had read this before but it was purely academic knowledge. Now it became epignosis knowledge.
After about 36 hours your appetite truly does go away. At first you are very hungry. That first day I thought I was going to eat the bark off the trees. By the afternoon of the second day the appetite diminished. I had been told that as you go through a true fast for 30 or 40 days (The Lord wasn't using His omnipotence to be able to go without food for 30-40 days and 40 nights. Any human being can do that) at about 40 days your appetite comes back with a vengeance because if you go much longer you will create serious health problems for yourself, if not die. I had been told that you can go all of that time and not have an appetite. All I can attest to from my own experience is that from about the middle of the second afternoon until the morning of the fourth day when I got to see food again, I didn't have an appetite. It just went away.
I often thought when I teach on this passage that what happens when baby believers don't demand to be fed is they don't get fed. What happens when you don't get fed is that your appetite goes away. So you don't have an appetite for doctrine anymore and are happy with praise and worship music. You feel real good about feel good sermons. You feel real good about motivational church. It has been so long since you have had any real biblical food that you are living on nothing and your appetite has gone away. That happens.
Afterwards when you start eating again that appetite comes back with a vengeance. I think the day after I got off of that fast, (Incidentally, the fast ended with a 12 mile run—that was a lot of fun—on no fuel) I think I had 6 meals in the next 8 hours. I got up the next morning at 5 o'clock with a friend of mine and we drove into town and had breakfast. We got to the airport and had breakfast again. There was an airplane problem so I got bumped up to first class coming out of O'Hare. They gave me a first class full breakfast again. So within 3 hours I had three full breakfasts and I was still hungry. Your appetite comes back with a vengeance.
I think that what happens is that young believers (new believers) who do not get fed so they lose their appetite for the Word. But if they get taught the Word somebody comes along and teaches them the Word then that appetite will come back and they will get hungry if there ever was a real interest in the Word.
I Peter 2:2 is a command that newborn babies should desire the pure milk of the Word so that they can grow. It is the milk of the Word that provides the nourishment to grow. It is not the singing. It is not prayer. It isn't fellowship. It is learning the Word of God that provides the mechanics, the tools, and the content that the Holy Spirit uses to produce growth.
Now another thing I want you to note here is that this is addressed to babes. Babes need milk. The word here for a babe is brephos. There are several words we are going to look at in a minute that describe the different stages of growth in the Christian life. A brephosrefers to a newborn child or a slightly older infant. It describes a chronologically new believer. This word is talking about somebody who just got saved. They are brand new babies. They need the milk of the Word. If you grow on milk, what do you need? Eventually you need to have that transferred to more solid food. You get off of the milk and you need to get on to eating a good steak or a good prime rib. You need to have all of your vegetables and everything else. That is what happens when you come to Bible class here. You get a bit of everything. Sometimes you get a tough steak and you have to learn to set that aside because you aren't ready to go through that doctrine and understand what is being taught. The more you hear it the more it will make sense. That is the growth process.
But this word brephoshere is the positive word that is used in the Word of God to describe a chronologically new believer. But there are other words that are used as well. So here I have a little chart on the growth nouns in the New Testament.
The first is brephos which we just looked at, a chronologically new believer.
The second word is teknon. Teknion is used for a little child. It is used in the New Testament. It is used positively and affectionately for young believers. Brephos looks at them in terms of chronology. So does teknion. It is a very positive term.
A third word that is used is paidion. It can refer to a slightly older child coming out of infancy. It can refer to a recently born child, baby or an infant. It is also a positively used word referring to this chronologically new infant.
But then we have the word that we run into in Hebrews. This is the noun nepios. It can in some contexts refer to a chronologically new believer. That is rare in the New Testament. Usually in the New Testament it is used in a negative way, a pejorative way, to describe believers who have regressed in their spiritual lives and act like spiritual babies. They should be spiritual adolescents. They should be spiritual adults but they are acting like whiny babies again because they have gotten off the Word of God. They have regressed spiritually. Or it is used to refer to believers who are no longer recent believers chronologically. They are no longer newborns but because they have refused to grow. They should be mature but they are still acting like whiny babies. It is a term that is used in several key passages to describe regressive carnal believers.
They should be mature, but they are not. In some cases they were mature already. It is used this way in I Corinthians 3:1-3.
There is a big debate whether you know it or not whether or not there is a carnal believer. Lordship salvation and certain forms of Calvinism insist that there is no such thing as a carnal believer. If you are truly saved, you will persevere. That is the fifth point in the acronym TULIP for Calvinism. P is for the perseverance of the saints. But when we look at I Corinthians 3:1, it is a contrast that is presented here between those who are living according to the flesh and those who are spiritual. So let's briefly examine it.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
Paul addresses the Corinthian believers as brethren. They are believers. Later on in the same chapter he will tell them that they are temples for the Holy Spirit. They are believers. There is no question about it. Are they acting like it? Not at all. They are full of arrogance. They are dividing themselves into factions.
One person says, "I was saved and taught by Apollos."
Another one says, "I was saved and taught by Peter."
Then the holiness crowd says, "I am better than y'all. I was saved by Jesus."
All of this division is going on and everybody is aligning themselves with different groups. They are emphasizing special knowledge about spiritual things coming out of some of the Gnostic-type teaching that was already present in Greek culture at that time.
Later on we find out a few chapters later that they are putting up with a man in the church that has committed a moral sin. It is not such a culture problem for us, but this guy had married his stepmother. That is not as culturally offensive to us, but it was so culturally offensive even to the unbelievers in Corinth that they could not understand how this Christian church could let this guy be a part of their assembly. So they are countenancing all manner of immorality. Plus when they get mad at each other they are dragging each other into courts and were suing one another. They were a lovely bunch of people! They had all kinds of problems. They weren't acting anything like a believer should act, but they were genuine believers.
That is those who are operating according to the sin nature, sarxz. The carnal here is the sarkikos.
Then he qualifies that. He doesn't use brephos. He doesn't use teknion. These would be positive terms of a newborn believer. They aren't newborns. They have been saved for at least 3 years.
This is an insult.
He is saying, "I have to address you as a whiny baby who knows better, who has been taught better, and who should be acting as if they are much older. You have regressed in your spiritual life."
He goes on to say…
NKJ 1 Corinthians 3:2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
This is a classification of those who should have grown because they chronologically had the time to grow but they hadn't because they were still operating on the flesh.
Why? Because they are walking according to the flesh which is what we studied the last two or three weeks in Romans 8 and Galatians 5.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
NKJ Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
NKJ Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
That's where you get your hermeneutical key here. They are acting like mere men without the aid of the Holy Spirit. They are still living on the basis of the sin nature and trying to live the Christian life apart from being in right relationship to God the Holy Spirit. So I Corinthians 3 sets up the same vocabulary that we will run into in our passage in Hebrews 5 - the same vocabulary dealing with milk and dealing with the nepios baby.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
That was the case with the Corinthian believers. They were only partaking of milk. They weren't getting beyond the basics. If you look at this passage, the problem that they have here is that they have to be taught again the first principles. They have come to need milk. Stoicheion is related to milk.
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
There is a contrast there.
NKJ Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Elementary is the word stoicheion again.
So the issue here is that they are still acting like babies and they just want to hear basic doctrine, if that. They want to have their ears tickled as Paul would say. They just want to be entertained.
It is stated here as a universal principle.
He is old enough chronologically to have matured, but he hasn't grown. So he is out of line. Thisnepios is a carnal believer who hasn't grown.
Let's look at a couple of key words in verse 13.
What's that word? Unskilled is the Greek word apeiros meaning inexperienced. He doesn't understand the skills that you have to have to grow as a believer. We have talked about these many times – the spiritual skills. We have to understand confession of sin. Whenever we sin, we confess our sin. As soon as you confess your sin, the flip side is that you are filled with the Spirit. You are in right relationship with the Spirit. You are back in fellowship. You don't do anything else to be in fellowship. You just confess your sin and you are back in fellowship. But that isn't enough. That just restores you to a place where growth can take place.
Then the second skill is walking by the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:16. That is an imperative that is addressed to our volition. We have to walk by the Holy Spirit. We have to develop that skill, learn what it means to walk by the Spirit, to study the Word and apply it and be in moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Then we have the faith rest drill where we learn to trust the promises, the principles, and the provision of God in the Scripture. We have to learn what they are. We have to memorize different promises and understand the difference between promises related to Israel, promises related to Abraham, promises related to David, and promises related to Church Age believers. We learn to claim promises. In that process we are also orienting our thinking to the Word of God beginning to realize that we aren't oriented to the Word at all so we have to become doctrinally oriented.
At the same time we have to be grace oriented realizing that it is not based on who we are but on who God is and His provision for us. Those are the basic skills. Very few people ever learn about that. They learn about it in a general sense but it never really categorized and systematized and provided for most believers. They think all you need to do to grow as a Christian is go to church and be moral. That isn't good enough because Paul as we saw last time in Romans 7 was being moral. He was following the Mosaic Law. He was being as moral as he could.
He said, "Every time it ended up I would discover that I was lusting. I was committing sin. I ended up doing what I didn't want to do and I didn't do what I wanted to do. I was a mess."
He didn't understand the relationship of God the Holy Spirit as the key dynamic powerbase for the spiritual life in the Church Age. So we have to learn those skills. As these regressive believers who have become dull of hearing, lazy; they had lost the skill in the Christian life.
So the writer of Hebrews makes this universal statement.
They have lost the skills and it is related specifically to something. The next phrase says "to the word of righteousness." What exactly is this word of righteousness? It is an interesting phrase in the Greek. It is a basic genitive phrase. It should be taken as a genitive of content - a word or message. Logos is a word that is translated word here has a wide range of meaning; it can mean word, message, or thought. It can mean reason. If you look it up in a lexicon it has a column or two of different meanings and nuances to it. It is where we get our word logic. It is where we get our root for study like the word biology, which is the study of life or living things. We talk about zoology, which is the study of animals. Psychology is the study of the soul. That "logy" ending comes from the Greek word logos. So here it should be translated the message related to or consisting of righteousness.
The person who only partakes of milk is unskilled in the message related to righteousness. This is a foundational doctrine. That foundational doctrine relates to understanding how we have righteousness and the significance of that. If you don't understand the imputation of righteousness and its implication for your Christian life, then you are going to constantly going be dealing with guilt. You are never going to fully understand grace. You are constantly going to be trying to gain God's approval. You are constantly going to be slipping into legalistic activities because you do not understand the source of righteousness. So we have to go back to the basic doctrine related to imputation and righteousness. So we have to go back to some key passages in Corinthians in order to understand this.
Remember what is happening with the Hebrews. They have to rediscover in terms of their spiritual life the significance and the impact of imputation of righteousness not just for salvation, but what that means for their ongoing spiritual life. We find our first reference to this in I Corinthians 1:30.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption --
"Him" refers to God the Father who is the ultimate source of all things including our salvation.
You as an individual believer are in Christ. That is your position. At the instant of faith alone in Christ alone, God the Holy Spirit took you and identified (Romans 6:3) you with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. At that instant that it happened and you are identified with Christ, you are placed in Him. That is called the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit – that identification with the Holy Spirit that initiates you into your Christian life.
The "who" refers to Christ Jesus.
Now in the structure of the argument in I Corinthians 1:30, Paul has been castigating the Corinthians because they have been putting all of this emphasis on human viewpoint wisdom because of the influence from Greek culture. They have intellectualized everything. They have brought in all of their Aristotelian, Stoic and Platonic wisdom and are making an issue out of that. So Paul is contrasting the divine viewpoint wisdom of God as revealed in the Scripture versus all categories of human wisdom. He says that real wisdom starts at the cross. It is Jesus Christ who becomes for us wisdom from God. Then he expands on that.
So we can look at each one of these in this way. He became for us wisdom from God. He became for us righteousness. He became for us sanctification. He became for us redemption. In this passage we learn that He became for us righteousness.
Now the way that this is structured in the language we have this phrase "wisdom from God." That is the wordsophia plus the Greek preposition apo and the genitive of God. The point that I am making is that you do a word substitution here because these four nouns -wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption - are interchangeable. Each one of them is from God. The Greek preposition apo indicates the place of ultimate origin of these four things. The ultimate origin for the wisdom is God. The origin of the righteousness is God. The origin of the sanctification is God. The origin of the redemption is God. He is the ultimate author. So righteousness comes from God. Here is the Greek preposition apo plus the genitive indicating the place of origin. The reason I make an issue of that is because when we come to this next verse we are going to see a similar concept but a slightly different Greek preposition. Now sometimes the Greek prepositions are interchangeable, but often when they are used in the same kind of context they indicate a slightly different perspective. Apo indicates the place of origin and with the preposition ek, which we will find in Philippians 3:9, that is that it comes from the source of God. So He is the place of origin. He is also the source. So it covers all the bases in terms of where that righteousness derives.
Let's look at II Corinthians 5:21. II Corinthians 5:21expresses how this righteousness gets to us.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
He is God the Father.
"Him" is Jesus Christ as impeccable. He knew no sin. He did not ever sin in His humanity.
Now He doesn't make Him sinful. Jesus never became sinful. He never sinned. What God the Father does is He imputes or credits to Jesus account our sins. Now I want you to think about that a minute because somebody asked a question a while back that was a good question.
"God doesn't share His glory with anybody. God doesn't share His other attributes with anybody. How can God share His righteousness with us?"
The key here is understanding that imputation is not sharing. We don't share our sin with Jesus because He would become a sinner. It is legally credited to His account. It is legal or an accounting transaction that occurs so that our sin is credited to Him so that He can pay the penalty for it as our substitute. That is brought out by the key "for us." He is a substitute for us.
Again we run into the same verb here for "become" that I talked about earlier. Ginomai indicates to become something we were not. We were unrighteous and now we have become something that we were not. Dikaiosunetheou. God is in the genitive. That could mean a god-type of righteousness. That would be using the genitive in an adjectival sense. It can also be a genitive of possession - the righteousness that God possesses. And it can mean a genitive of source - that God is the source of the righteousness. Now when you look at this phraseology it is a little bit ambiguous because it doesn't have the more specific preposition there. You can say the righteousness of God using a simple genitive or to make it more clear you would substitute source or origin either apo or ek. Now we have apo in I Corinthians 1:30 then we have ek over here in Philippians 3:9.
NKJ Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
It is never really my righteousness. It is always Christ's righteousness. It is imputed to us legally.
His own righteousness would be derived from the law - nothing more than human morality which isn't good enough.
That righteousness which is through faith, not because of faith. It never comes because of faith. We have the Greek preposition dia here. This is so important. I think I learned this in my first year of seminary. It was such a mind blowing concept that if God had wanted to say because of faith which would make faith the cause of our salvation which would make faith efficacious or meritorious, then the Scripture would have used the preposition dia with the accusative case for pistis. It would be diapisten. It's not accusative. It is genitive. Dia plus the genitive indicates means and not cause. It is a very simple change in one or two letters and it would change the whole concept. It is not saying that this is a righteousness that is because of faith. It is a righteousness that is through faith. The merit isn't in the faith. The faith that saves isn't a different kind of faith. The only thing that makes it different is the object of faith, which is Jesus Christ on the cross. The object of your faith is the work of Christ on the cross. That is what makes is salvific. It is not the kind of faith. Faith in and of itself is merely the channel through which you appropriate something else. It is the object of faith that is important.
The righteousness which is what? From God by faith. The word righteousness here is the word dikaiosune, a word that we have talked about many times. It is that quality of absolute perfection in God. It is the standard of His character. Our own righteousness that which relates to this standard is not adequate. It is only that righteousness which is from God that comes by faith. There we have the Greek phrase dia plus the genitive. Here it is epi plus the dative, which is on the basis of faith. It never says because of faith. It is either through faith or on the basis of faith. It is never because of faith. The preposition here for "from" is ek. It is the other preposition for source. Apo and ek overlapped. When both words are used in all of these contexts for righteousness, we understand that it is God's righteousness itself. The righteousness that is from God, that has its source from God, is that which is imputed or credited to us. It is never our righteousness. It never becomes our righteousness. It is always His righteousness. It is that righteousness that saves us.
The same thing is stated in Titus 3:5.
NKJ Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
Notice that salvation once again has a means. It is through regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. These are synonymous concepts here. It is the Holy Spirit that produces the regeneration and the rebirth at the time of faith in Christ.
NKJ Galatians 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
This is the foundational message of justification. It is justification related to salvation. What does that mean for your spiritual life? What it means for your spiritual life is that after you are saved what you possess is perfect righteousness. God is never looking at your experiential righteousness as the cause of His blessing.
Here we have the righteousness and justice of God. The righteousness is the standard. Justice is the application of that standard to His creatures. But in the box we have every one of us. We have minus R. We don't meet that standard. We have the cross of Christ. Christ is perfectly righteous. When He is crucified on the cross, the Father imputes to Him our unrighteousness and Christ's perfect righteousness is imputed to us at salvation so that we are declared righteous. That is everything that I have said up to this point.
God the Father in His righteousness looks at the righteousness that we have from Christ and declares us to be righteous. Now He blesses us with eternal salvation. Why? Not because of anything we have done but because we possess Christ's righteousness. As God the Father gives and distributes to us the blessings that He has already decided upon, it is not because of our righteousness. It never is. That would be legalism. We are good enough now that we are going to get what God is giving us. God distributes it according to our maturity not because of what we do. He is not going to give us blessings that we can't handle because we aren't spiritually mature enough to handle it. You won't give some things to your 3 and 4 year old children because you know that they can't handle it. They would kill themselves if they had those things. As you grow and mature you understand in grace and as a result of justification what you have at salvation (that imputation of righteousness) is the basis for every blessing that you get for the rest of your life. It is not because you pray regularly. It is not because you go to church regularly. It is not because you memorize 50 verses every year. That is great and we should do those things because it is part of developing and maturing our priesthood. But, that is not the cause of God's blessing. We are never ever going to be able to produce the kind of righteousness that we have from Jesus Christ. That is the basis of our righteousness. If we skip ahead to Hebrews 6:1 we realize that this is a fundamental issue for them, the Jews who are tempted to go back under the Law. Galatians 2:16
It is not by the works of the law that we are justified.
That is what most Christians are trying to produce, works so that they can merit blessing from God. We have to change our thinking. That is what the writer is talking about here. This repentance from dead is works is trying to do good deeds in order to impress God to get more blessing. That is what most people are trying to do. They don't understand that they have all that they need in Jesus Christ. You just have to grow up a little bit so that those blessing can be distributed.
Now we come to our last verse.
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The word there for full age is teleios, maturity – those who are of full age, those who are mature or complete. They have grown up. That is where real life begins – in maturity. That is where you really start enjoying all the privileges of your priesthood and your ambassadorship and all of the assets that God gave you. Once you get to maturity, you understand what they are and how to use them.
The word hexis means skill, proficiency. That is the repetition and successful practice of spiritual skills. It is the opposite of those who are unskilled and haven't been applying doctrine in their lives. The mature are those who repeatedly and successfully practice the spiritual skills and have their senses exercised or disciplined.
It is the Greek verb gumnazo, to train naked. That is to remove all distractions, everything that would hinder you in your spiritual growth. It is the same word used in I Timothy 4:7.
NKJ 1 Timothy 4:7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
Fables are things like evolution and all the kinds of motivational speaking that you get from most pulpits.
That is discipline yourself, gumnazo.
That is toward spiritual maturity.
Hebrews 12:11 says the same thing in a slightly different way.
NKJ Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Chastening is divine discipline.
Afterward it yields that process of gumnazo.
As you go through this process you are trained to discern the difference between that which is good (kalos) - the good constitutionally good - and that which is evil (kakos) - that which is worthless, bad and morally evil. So we learn to discern the difference between good doctrine and false doctrine. You learn to make good decisions from a position of strength. That position of strength is because you have a reservoir of doctrine in your soul that produces wisdom. It is on the basis of wisdom that you make good decisions. If you regress, what happens? That wisdom gets lost. You lose the advance of doctrine. You are no longer making good decisions and now there is an accumulation of bad decisions and life begins to fall apart again. As a result of this they are in that state. They have become dull of hearing. They have regressed.
But there is still hope. That is the hope that he challenges them with in verses 1-3 of chapter 6.
This we will do if God permits. There is a hold out there because God may not permit it. That is the serious warning of the next few verses. You can get so regressed is your spiritual life that nothing is going to pull you back apart from an act from God. God can still do it, but nothing else will. You can get yourself is such a position of spiritual regression that there is no recovery and then you are going to die the sin unto death. That is the warning of chapter 6. We will get there next time.
Let's close in prayer.