believer's motivation to obey God
Walton said that the sermons at our church were full of "milk for baby
Christians," and that he would prefer more meat from the pulpit. The Dawsons
actually left our church because they wanted more meat. And even from the more
satisfied members of the congregation I've heard the comparison between Pastor
Chuck, who is meaty, and Pastor Glen, who is milky.
was aware, of course, that this milk-meat metaphor has a Biblical origin (as,
presumably, were most parishioners) but its exact meaning has never been clear
to me. And as one who has evidently perpetrated some of those sermons, I have
to confess that milk was not my intention. Usually I'm doing all I can to be
meaty. But sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between the two.
And I'm not alone in this confusion. When I've asked church members to explain
the difference their responses seemed to be based not on what "milk"
and "meat" were, but what they accomplished, in other words, on the
feeling one gets after a sermon. If listeners felt good, it was probably milk.
If it made them feel convicted of sin it was meat.
don't believe, however, that an emotional response to a sermon was the Biblical
authors' intent when drawing the comparison between milk and meat. Offering
an alternative explanation, one person told me that milk is the basic teachings
of Christianity, and meat the deeper stuff. This suggestion seemed helpful at
first, and indeed is supported by Scripture. I recalled Hebrews 6:1 where the
author encourages us to, "leave the elementary teachings about Christ and
go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that
lead to death, and faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of
hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Previously
he had said that his readers ought to have become teachers but were still infants.
They still needed milk; not solid food (Heb. 5:11-14). It seems that the author
has clearly indicated here that the elementary teachings are milk. But this
created further confusion — the six things he mentions as elementary seem to
exhaust much of my theology. If I have gained a good understanding of repentance,
resurrection, judgment, faith, baptism, and the laying on of hands, what else
is left? And if Hebrews 6:1 is a catalog of elementary teachings, then why didn't
the author speak with the same specificity regarding the non-elementary teachings,
so that I would have an easier time preparing meaty sermons?
different perspective was offered me when someone suggested that the sermons
delivered by Pastor John (at the large church down the road) are the essence
of meat. John is known for his Biblical knowledge, his apropos Greek and Hebrew
references, as well as extensive explanations of the geographical and historical
backgrounds of his messages. Preaching through Acts 14, for example, he mentioned
that Paul and Barnabas were hailed as gods in Iconium because the city was afraid
that they would repeat the mistake of their ancestors, who supposedly ignored
a visit from the gods. Throwing light on a passage like this was surely, this
person said, the epitome of a meaty sermon. But is it?