“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”—Heb. 5:12–14.
There is nothing in which the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan are more opposed than that the one is characterized by light and the other by darkness. The cause of falsehood is itself a dark cause, and requires darkness to cover it; but truth is light, and cometh to the light, that it may be made manifest. Knowledge is every where encouraged in the Bible; our best interests are interwoven with it; and the spirituality of our minds, and the real enjoyment of our lives, depend upon its increase. “Grace and peace are multiplied through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Nor is it necessary for our own sakes only, but for the sake of others. It is a great encouragement to Christian ministers when those whom they teach possess a good understanding in the things of God. Indeed, none but those who are engaged in the work of teaching can tell how much the ardour of the mind is damped by the contrary. The truth of this remark is exemplified in the writer of this epistle. In the verses immediately preceding the text, you perceive him highly interested in his subject, and proceeding in a glorious career of reasoning; when, all on a sudden, he is stopped. He had many things to say of his Lord and Master; but which were “hard to be understood,” seeing those to whom he wrote were “dull of hearing.” It is on this occasion that he introduces the passage now before us, in which his object is to shame and provoke them, by comparing them with those who as to years were men, but as to knowledge children; and who, instead of having made advances in science, needed to be taught the alphabet over again. There are some things supposed and included in the passage which require a little previous attention.
First, It is here supposed that all Divine knowledge is to be derived from the oracles of God. It is a proper term by which the sacred Scriptures are here denominated, strongly expressive of their Divine inspiration and infallibility: in them God speaks; and to them it becomes us to hearken. We may learn other things from other quarters; and things, too, that may subserve the knowledge of God; but the knowledge of God itself must here be sought, for here only it can be found.
Much has been said on faith and reason, and the question has often been agitated whether the one, in any instance, can be contrary to the other. In the solution of this question, it is necessary, in the first place, to determine what is meant by reason. There is a great difference between reason and reasoning. Nothing which God reveals can contradict the former; but this is more than can be said of the latter. It is impossible for God to reveal any thing repugnant to what is fit and right; but that which is fit and right in one man’s estimation is preposterous and absurd in the esteem of another, which clearly proves that reason, as it exists in depraved creatures, is not a proper standard of truth; and hence arises the necessity of another and a better standard, “the oracles of God.” By studying these, a good man will gain more understanding than his teachers, if they live in the neglect of them.
Secondly, It is supposed that the oracles of God include a system of Divine truth. They contain the first principles, or rudiments of religion—the simple truths of the gospel, which require little or no investigation in order to their being understood; these are called “milk.” They also contain the “deep things of God,” things beyond the reach of a slight and cursory observation, and which require, if we would properly enter into them, close and repeated attention: this is “strong meat.” Those doctrines which the apostle enumerates in the following chapter, as things which he should “leave, and go on unto perfection,” have been thought to refer to the leading principles of Judaism: and it may be so; for Judaism itself contained the first principles of Christianity: it was introductory to it; or, as it is elsewhere expressed, it was “our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.”
Thirdly, it is intimated that Christians should not rest satisfied in having attained to a knowledge of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but should go on unto perfection; not only so as to obtain satisfaction for themselves, but that they may be able to teach others. It is true all are not to be teachers by office; but, in one form or other, all should aspire to communicate the knowledge of Christ. Every christian is required to be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear; and if all the members of our churches did but possess this readiness, besides the advantages that would accrue to themselves and others, there would be less scarcity than there is of able and evangelical ministers.
The leading sentiment which runs through the passage, and comprises the whole, is the importance of a deep and intimate knowledge of Divine truth
Excerpt from: “The Nature and Importance of an Intimate Knowledge of Divine Truth,” Sermon V, in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 160–161). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.