Dull of Hearing
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (v.11, Hebrews 5:11–12).
The High Priesthood of Christ is one of the central themes of the book of Hebrews. Thus far, we have seen that Christ, like the priests of old, was appointed by the Father to the position of High Priest. However, unlike the priests of old, Christ as our great High Priest is the source of eternal salvation for all who follow Him (5:9–10).
This brings us to Hebrews 5:11, which begins with the clause “about this we have much to say.” The priesthood of Christ and Melchizedek is the subject in view here. There is indeed much that needs to be said about these two figures, but the author will not pick up this subject again until the very end of chapter 6.
Why does the author not immediately go on to develop the teaching about Christ and the Melchizedekian priesthood? The answer is that these things are “hard to explain” (5:11). This does not mean that these subjects are esoteric or deeply mysterious. Rather, as John Owen tells us, they are hard to explain because the understanding of the audience is “weak and imperfect.” This interpretation fits well with the rest of verse 11, which places the blame for the difficulty of these subjects not with the subjects themselves but with the readers and their “dullness of hearing.” Note that this dullness of hearing is not the original state of the readers. Rather, the audience has “become” dull of hearing. They started out all right, but they have made themselves unable to grasp the more complex aspects of the Word of God.
This is why the book of Hebrews was written. The original audience of this book made itself all but deaf to the new covenant, thinking that hearing the old covenant without hearing Christ could bring them to salvation. But they should have known better. Many in the audience should have been teachers by the time they received this letter, but because they had made themselves dull of hearing, they needed teachers to come in and lay again the basic principles — the basic milk of the Christian faith (5:12). Though they should have been able to handle the solid food that develops the meaning of the basics of the faith, they still needed to be taught these basics because they had forgotten them. Thus, instead of focusing on the High Priesthood of Christ immediately, the author now has to take a break to teach His audience the basics of the Christian faith again.
We must never forget the basic truths of the Christian faith because, if we do so, we will not go on to maturity. The cares of this world and confidence in our own wisdom can make us neglect these basics and in doing so we will forget them. Pray that in living in this world you will not neglect your study of the Word of God.
Passages for Further Study
Ps. 95; Prov. 28:14; 1 Cor. 3:1–3; 2 Peter 3:14–18
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