Editor’s Note: This transcribed excerpt is from a sermon delivered by Harry Pickup in October, 2004 in Fayetteville, Arkansas while I was preaching there. The power of brother Pickup’s delivery and the concise meaning of his message, is truly unmatched. Enjoy! – Berry Kercheville
by Harry Pickup
This audience [Hebrew Christians] is primarily made of people who have been once enlightened, who have received the knowledge of the truth, who have tasted and imbibed the gracious word of the Lord, who are participants of the Holy Spirit, who have been made partakers of his word of grace. Are none of you here in this audience struggling with personal issues in your life? Do you not know what it is to struggle with faith, which leads you to be what you always ought to be? Have there ever been times in your life when you doubted the facts revealed in this gracious revelation? Has the fleshly spirit of your old man not raised up ever again within yourselves, which are now new men in Christ, to tempt you to return again to the weak and beggarly elements of the world, or to say the least, act unbecoming to what you now are, a new man in Christ? As we read and look at the various circumstances of these people, we are reading about ourselves! And God is concerned about it, and he had a letter of exhortation written to us.
Now let’s move from a very brief description of the people to whom the letter is written, to the purpose of it. We have already said that the primary purpose is like a friend calling a friend off to the side, and because he fears something is overtaking this friend, there’s a flaw in his life, he seeks to correct that or give an answer to that, and give him a word of encouragement so that you hope and pray and do not believe he will fall victim to it. But let’s just look at a few of the things that they did. When he said that you ought to take heed, that you not drift away from the word of sobering truth (and I will speak more of that tomorrow evening); but what these people were facing is inattention, not to what the Bible says, but what it means and what it says. There is a difference between allegorically and entertainingly handling the scriptures. The kind of teaching and preaching that God wants done, is not merely allegory, it’s you tell the people what the writer says and what he meant by it. And that’s the kind of preaching that builds great strength. The vein of denominationalism is, that for centuries, not that the Bible has not been used, but that it has not been used as it was intended to be used. I’m not trying to give you a lesson that it is wrong to speak on topical subjects or use homilies and analogies, all of which are quite interesting. But the kind of preaching that builds faith, is analyzing what he said and finding out what the meaning is. And if you do not believe that is true, think in your minds about the people, friends or family members, who are struggling in their faith in the attempt to walk in the faith of Christ, and they almost have no perception of what the passages mean which were given by God to shore them up to faith of Jesus Christ.
These people were not only drifting or inattentive to the word of so great salvation. In chapter 3, their hearts had become so hardened, they were lessening in their faith in God because of the hardening of their hearts. Faith is that by which God seeks to make a deep impression upon our lives. He is telling us what we need to believe in him and ought to receive the full advantage of being a faithful Christian in Jesus Christ.
They were struggling with the issue of immaturity: “For when by reason of time you ought to be teachers…” He is not addressing the fact that everybody ought to be out teaching the gospel…that’s true, but this is not the passage that says that. “For when by reason of time, you ought to be teachers, you have need that someone teach you again of the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God and you are such as have need of milk and not solid food. For every one who partaketh of milk is a babe. But solid food is for full grown men who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good from evil.” Good and evil are not contrasted here in terms of morality and immorality. It is, he says, I want to talk to you about the priesthood of Christ, but I can’t do it because you are still on pap and milk when you ought to be on food that is for full grown men and you are not discriminating. Do you have any problem with discrimination in your lives? Are you able to discriminate truth from the lie in the rearing of your children? Does it come as quite a shock to you when you see and observe that you have lowered the barriers? Why does that happen? It does not happen because we have not memorized the books of the Bible and cannot say by rote the apostles, that we cannot memorize and say the kings and judges. What does the text mean, and how does it fit my life in this modern age? If you are not dealing and struggling with that your life, you are either not really sensible to your life or you are not being objectively honest with yourself. These people were struggling with that.
They were not merely struggling with that but they had forgotten. In Hebrews chapter 10, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which after you were enlightened, you endured a great conflict of suffering; partly, being made a gazingstock, and partly becoming partakers with them that were so used. For you took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.” They’d forgotten the past. Now there are some of us, old preachers particularly, who like to revere past days. Some of the younger ones like to walk on graveyards to show contempt with what’s happening. The better days of your life and of mine, are the days in which we meet and met the tempter face to face, and defeated him. It is not when we had the nicest buildings, or the most expert speakers, or the most academically trained lecturers, it is when we recognized we were in the trenches fighting the battle for our faith and on behalf of the faith of Jesus Christ.
If you and I do not recognize we are struggling with some of the same things, we are blind objectively to ourselves.