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Works of Arthur Pink: Pink, Arthur - An Exposition of Hebrews: 022. Christ Superior to Aaron. Hebrews 5:11-14
TOPIC: Pink, Arthur - An Exposition of Hebrews (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 022. Christ Superior to Aaron. Hebrews 5:11-14
Other Subjects in this Topic:
An Exposition of Hebrews
Christ Superior to Aaron.
At the close of our last article we pointed out that the 10th verse of Hebrews 5 forms the juncture of the two divisions of that chapter. In the first section, verses 1-9, the apostle has shown how Christ fulfilled that which was typified of Him by the Levitical high priests, and also how that He excels Aaron in His person, His office, and His work. The second section, which begins at verse 10 and extends, really, to the end of chapter 10, continues to display the superiority of Christ over Aaron, principally by showing that the Lord Jesus exercises a priesthood pertaining to a more excellent order than his. In substantiation of this the apostle, in verse 10, makes reference to Psalm 110:4. His purpose in so doing was twofold: first, to allow that Christ was not a high priest according to the constitution, law, and order of the Aaronic priesthood; second, to remind the Hebrews there was a priesthood antecedent unto and diverse from that of Aaron; which had also been appointed of God, and that for the very purpose of prefiguring the person of our great High Priest.
But at this point a difficulty has been presented to many students. We might state it thus: Seeing that this Epistle expressly declares, again and again, that Christ is priest "after the order of Melchizedek," how can it be true that Aaron, who belonged to a totally different order, could pre-figure His priestly office and work? This difficulty has largely resulted from failure to observe that the Holy Spirit has not said Christ is "an high priest of the order of Melchizedek," but, "alter the order of," etc. The difference between the two expressions is real and radical. The word "of" would have necessarily limited His priesthood to a certain order. For when we say, as we must, that Phineas and Eli were "high priests of the order of Aaron," we mean that they had the very same priesthood that Aaron had. But it is not so with Christ. His priesthood is not restricted to any human order, for no mere man could possibly sustain or perform the work which pertains to Christ’s priesthood.
As we have pointed out on previous occasions, it is of the very greatest importance, in order to a clear understanding of the priesthood of God’s Son, to perceive that both Aaron and Melchizedek were needed to foreshadow His sacerdotal office. The reason for this was, that the priestly work of Christ would be performed in two distinct stages: one in the days of His humiliation, the other during the time of His exaltation. Aaron prefigured the former, Melchizedek the latter. In perfect keeping with this fact Christ is not said to be a high priest "after the order of Melchizedek" in Hebrews 2:17; 3:1, or 4:15. It was not until after the apostle has shown in Hebrews 5:5-9 that Christ fulfilled that which Aaron typified (Heb. 5:1-4), that He is "saluted of God" as an high priest after the order of Melchizedek. And, we would here point out again that, this was wondrously and blessedly adumbrated in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek is seen coming to meet and greet the victorious Abraham.
There were various things, peculiar to the person of Melchizedek, above and beyond what appertained to Aaron, which rendered him an illustrious type of our great High Priest; and when Christ is designated Priest "after the order of Melchizedek," the meaning of that expression is, according to the things revealed in Scripture concerning that Old Testament character. "Because of the especial resemblance there was between what Melchizedek was and what Christ was to be, God called His priesthood Melchizedekecian" (Dr. Owen). "After the order of Melchizedek" does not mean a limitation of His priesthood to that order—else it had said "of the order of Melchizedek"—but points to the particulars in which his priesthood also prefigured that of Christ’s. The various details of which that resemblance consisted are developed in Hebrews 7; all that we would now call attention to is, that nowhere in Scripture is Melchizedek ever seen offering a sacrifice, instead, we read, he "brought forth bread and wine" (Gen. 14:18)—typically, the memorials of the great Sacrifice already offered, once for all.
It was in death that Christ fulfilled the Aaronic type, making a full and perfect atonement for the sins of His people. It is in resurrection that He assumed the character in which Melchizedek foreshadowed Him—a royal Priest. It was after He had been officially "perfected" and had become "the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" that the Lord Jesus announced, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). There was first the Cross and then the Crown: first He "offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:27), then He entered "into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24); and there He is seated "a Priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13).
"Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (verse 10). A most important point had now been reached in the apostle’s argument, the central design of which was to exhibit the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The very center of the Jewish economy was its temple and priesthood; so too, the outstanding glory of Christianity, is its Priest who ministers in the heavenly sanctuary, officiating there in fulfillment of the Melchizedek type. But though the apostle had now arrived at the most important point in this treatise, it was also one which required the most delicate handling, due to the fleshly prejudices of his readers. To declare that, following His exodus from the grave, God Himself had greeted Christ as priest "after the order of Melchizedek," was tantamount to saying that the Aaronic order was thus Divinely set aside, and with it, all the ordinances and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. This was the hardest thing of all for a Hebrew, even a converted one, to bow to; for it meant repudiating everything that was seen, and cleaving to that which was altogether invisible. It meant forsaking that which their fathers had honored for fifteen hundred years, and following that which the great majority of their brethren according to the flesh denounced as Satanic. In view of the difficulty created by this prejudice, the apostle interrupts the flow of his argument, and pauses to make a lengthy parenthesis.
"The apostle has scarcely entered on the central and most important part of his epistle, when he feels painfully the difficulty of explaining the doctrine of the heavenly and eternal priesthood of the Son, and this not merely on account of the grandeur and depth of the subject, but on account of the spiritual condition of the Hebrews, whom he is addressing. He had presented to their view the Lord Jesus, who after His sufferings was made perfect in His exaltation to be the High Priest in heaven. When he quotes again the 110th Psalm, ‘Thou art a priest, forever after the order of Melchizedek,’ the solemn and comprehensive words which are addressed by the Father to the Son, he has such a vivid and profound sense of the exceeding riches of this heavenly knowledge, of the treasures of wisdom and consolation which are hidden in the heavenly Priesthood of our ascended Lord, that he longs to unfold to the Hebrews his knowledge of the glorious mystery; especially as this was the truth which they most urgently needed. Here and here alone could they see their true position as worshippers in the true tabernacle, the heavenly sanctuary. Here and here alone was consolation for them in the trial which they felt on account of their excision from the temple and the earthly service in Jerusalem; while from the knowledge of Christ’s heavenly priesthood they would also derive light to avoid the insidious errors, and strength to overcome the difficulties which were besetting their path" (Adolph Saphir).
In the course of his parenthesis which we are now about to begin, the apostle strikes two distinct notes: first he sounds a solemn warning, and then he gives forth a gracious encouragement. The warning is found in Hebrews 5:11–6:8, the encouragement is contained in 6:9-20. Just so long as Christians have the flesh in them and are subject to the assaults of the Devil, do they need constant warning; and just so long as they are harassed by indwelling sin and are left in an hostile world, do they stand in need of heavenly encouragement. All effective ministry to the saints proceeds along these two lines, alternating from the one to the other. Preachers will do well to make a careful note of this fact, fully exemplified in all the Epistles of the apostles; and every Christian reader will do well to take to heart the solemn and searching passage we are now to take up.
"Of whom we have many things to say" (verse 11). "Of whom:" concerning Christ as the fulfiller of the Melchizedek type, the apostle had much in mind, much that he desired to bring before his brethren. There were many things pertaining to this order of priesthood which were of deep importance, of great value, and most necessary to know; things which concerned the glory of Christ, things which concerned the joy and consolation of His people. But these things were "hard to be uttered," or as the Revised Version has, "hard of interpretation.’ This does not mean that the apostle himself found it difficult to grasp them; nor does it mean they were of such a nature that he labored to find language for expressing himself clearly. No, it was because the things themselves were unpalatable to the Hebrews, that the spirit of the apostle was straitened. This is seen from the next clause.
"And hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing" (verse 11). "To be ‘dull of hearing’ is descriptive of that state of mind in which statements may be made without producing any corresponding impression, without being attended to, without being understood, without being felt. In a word, it is descriptive of mental listlessness. To a person in this state, it is very difficult to explain anything; for, nothing, however simple in itself, can be understood if it be not attended to" (Dr. J. Brown). The Revised Version is again preferable here; "ye are become dull of hearing." They were not always so. Time was when these Hebrews had listened to the Word with eagerness, and had made diligent application thereof. "When the Gospel was first preached to them, it aroused their attention, it exercised their thoughts; but now with many of them it had become a common thing. They flattered themselves that they knew all about it. It had become to them like a sound to which the ear had been long accustomed—the person is not conscious of it, pays no attention to it" (Dr. J. Brown).
The Greek word for "dull" is translated "slothful" in Hebrews 6:12. It signifies a state of heaviness or inertia. These Hebrews had become mentally and spiritually what loafers are in the natural world—too indolent to bestir themselves, too lazy to make any effort at improvement. They were spiritual sluggards; slothful. Let the reader turn to Proverbs 12:27, 19:24, 21:25, 24:30-34, 26:13-16, and remember these passages all have a spiritual application. To become, "dull of hearing" or "slothful," is the reverse of "giving diligence" in 2 Peter 1:5, 10. In such a condition of soul, the apostle found it difficult to lead the Hebrews on to the apprehension of higher truth. He had many things to say unto them, but their coldness, lethargy, prejudice, restrained him. And this is recorded for our learning; it has a voice for us; may the Spirit grant us a hearing ear.
"Ye are become dull of hearing." Of how many Christians is this true today! "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" (Gal. 5:7). This is a cause of mourning unto all the true servants of God. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. Affections are set upon things below, rather than upon things above. Many who are deluded into thinking their eternal salvation is secure, evidence no concern over their present relationship to God. And Christians who mingle with these lifeless professors are injuriously affected, for "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33). There is little "reaching forth unto those things which are before" (Phil. 3:13) and, consequently, little growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. By the very law of our constitution, if we do not move forward, we slip backward.
There are few who seem to realize that truth has to be "bought" (Prov. 23:23), purchased at the cost of subordinating temporal interests to spiritual ones. If the Christian is to "increase in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10), he has to give himself whole-heartedly to the things of God. It is impossible to serve God and mammon. If the heart of the professing Christian be set, as the heart of the nominal professor is, upon earthly comforts, worldly prosperity, temporal riches, then the "true riches" will be missed—sold for "a mess of pottage" (Heb. 12:16). But if, by Divine grace, through the possession of a new nature, there is a longing and a hungering for spiritual things, that longing can only be attained and that hunger satisfied by giving ourselves entirely to their ceaseless quest. "The loins of our minds" (1 Pet. 1:13) have to be girded, the Word has to be "studied" (2 Tim. 2:15), the means of grace have to be used with "all diligence" (2 Pet. 1:5). It is the diligent soul which "shall be made fat" (Prov. 13:4).
How many who sit under the ministry of a true servant of God are "dull of hearing!" There is little waiting upon God, little real exercise of heart, before the service, to prepare them for receiving His message. Instead, the average hearer comes up to the house of God with a mind full of worldly concerns. We have to "lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness" if we are to "receive with meekness the engrafted Word" (James 1:21). We have to listen unto God’s Word with a right motive; not out of idle curiosity, not merely to fulfill a duty, still less for the purpose of criticizing; but that we "may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2)—grow in practical godliness. And, if what we have heard is not to be forgotten, if it is really to profit the soul, it must be meditated upon (Ps. 1:2), and accompanied with earnest prayer for grace to enable us to "heed" what has been heard.
"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" (verse 12). The opening "for" intimates that the apostle is here substantiating the charge which he had preferred against the believing Hebrews at the close of the preceding verse. His reproof was with the object of emphasizing the sad state into which their inertia had brought them. Their condition was to be deplored from three considerations. First, they had been converted long enough to be of help to others. Second, instead of being useful, they were useless, needing to be grounded afresh in the ABC’s of the Truth of God. Third, so far from having the capacity to masticate strong food, their condition called for that which was suited only to a stunted babyhood.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers." This, it seems to us, is only another way of saying, Consider how long you have been Christians, how long you have known the Truth, and what improvement of it ought to have been made! It was a rebuke for their having failed to "redeem the time" (Eph. 5:16). Most probably among these Hebrews were some who had been called during the days of Christ’s public ministry, others no doubt were among the three thousand saved on the day of Pentecost, since which, about thirty years had passed. During that time they had the Old Testament Scriptures which clearly testified to all they had been taught concerning Christ. The Gospel had been preached and "confirmed" unto them (Heb. 2:1-3). Moreover, as the book of Acts shows, the apostles had labored hard and long among them, and much of the New Testament was now in their hands. Hence, in Hebrews 6:7 they are likened to the earth which drinketh in the rain that "cometh oft upon it." Thus, every privilege and opportunity had been theirs.
"Ye ought to be teachers." This tells us the improvement which should have been made of, and the use to which they ought to have put, the teaching they had received. The Gospel is given by God to the Christian, not only for his own individual edification and joy, but as a "pound" to be traded with for Christ’s glory (Luke 19:13), as a "light" for the illumination of others (Matthew 5:15, 16). "You ought to be teachers" shows that this was a duty required of them. How little is this perceived by Christians today! How few listen to the ministry of the Scriptures with an ear not only for their own soul’s profit, but also with the object of being equipped to help others. Instead, how many attend the preaching of the Word simply as a matter of custom, or to satisfy their conscience. Two aims should be prayerfully sought by every Christian auditor: his own edification, his usefulness to others.
"Ye ought to be teachers." Let not the searching point of this be blunted by saying, God does not want all His people to be public preachers. The New Testament does not limit "teaching" to the pulpit. One of the most important spheres is the home, and that should be a Christian seminary. Under the law God commanded the Israelite to give His words to the members of his household: "And Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:7). Does God require less from us now, in this dispensation of full light? No, indeed. Note, again, how in Titus 2:3-5, the older sisters are bidden to "teach the young women:" never was there a greater need for this than now. So in 2 Timothy 2:2, the brethren are to "teach others also." Yes, every Christian "ought to be" a teacher.
"Ye have need that one teach you again." The apostle continues his reproof of the listless Hebrews, and presses upon them the inevitable consequence of becoming "dull of hearing." Spiritual sloth not only prevents practical progress in the Christian’s life, but it produces retrogression. It was not that they had lost, absolutely, their knowledge of Divine truth, but they had failed to lay it to heart, and live in the power of it. In 2 Peter 1, Christians are called on to add to their faith "virtue, and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love;" and then the apostle adds, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." On the other hand, we are solemnly warned, "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." This was the condition of the Hebrews.
"Which be the first principles of the oracles of God." Because of their unresponsiveness of heart, they had gone back so far that they were only fit to be placed in the lowest form of learners; they needed to be re-taught their ABC’s. Clear proof was this of their dullness and lack of proficiency. The "first principles of the oracles of God" signify the rudiments of our faith, the first lessons presented to our learning, the elementary truths of Scripture. Until these are grasped by faith, and the heart and life are influenced by them, the disciple is not ready for further instructions in the things of God. In the case of the Hebrews, those "first principles" or elementary doctrines were, that the Old Testament economy was strictly a typical one, that its ordinances and ceremonies foreshadowed the person and work of God’s Son, who was to come here and make an atonement for the sins of His people. He had thus come: the types had given place to the great Antitype, and therefore the shadows were replaced by the Substance itself. True, he had left this scene, gone into heaven, itself, there to appear in the presence of God for His people. Thither their faith and affections should have followed Him. But instead, they wanted to go back again to the temple-services in Jerusalem. They were setting their hearts upon the now effete types and figures, which the apostle hesitated not to call "the weak and beggarly elements" (Gal. 4:9).
Instead of walking by faith, the Hebrews were influenced by the things of sight. Instead of looking forward to an ascended and glorified Savior, they were occupied with a system which had foreshadowed His work in the days of His humiliation. Thus they needed to be taught afresh the "first principles of the oracles of God." They needed to be reminded that that which is perfect had come, and therefore that which was in part had been done away. And what is the present-day application of this expression to Christians? This: the elementals of our faith are, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners; that His salvation is perfect and complete, leaving nothing for us to add to it; that the only fitness He requires from sinners is the Spirit’s discovery to them of their need of Him. The greater the sinner I know myself to be, the greater my need of Christ, and the more I am suited to Him, for He died for "the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6). It was the realization of my ruin and wretchedness which first drew me to Him. If I cast myself, in all my want and poverty, upon Him, then He has received me, for His declaration is, "him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." Believing this, I go on my way rejoicing, thanking Him, praising Him, living on Him and for Him.
But instead of living in the joyous assurance of their acceptance in the Beloved, many give way to doubting. They question their "interest in Christ;" they wonder, "Am I His, or am I not?" They are continually occupied with self, either their good self or their bad self. And thus their peace is at an end. Instead of affections set upon Christ, their attention is turned within, occupied with their faith or their lack of it. Instead of walking in the glorious sunshine of the conscious favor of God, they dwell in "Doubting Castle," or flounder in the "Slough of Despond." Thus, instead of themselves being teachers of others, they have need that one teach them again "which be the first principles of the oracles of God." They are fit only for the kindergarten. They require to be told once more that faith looks away from self, and is occupied entirely with Another. They need to be told that Christ, not faith, is the sinner’s Savior; that faith is simply the empty hand extended to receive from Him.
This clause is susceptible of various legitimate applications. Let us consider its bearing upon another class of Christians, among which may be numbers of our readers. Time was when, in the "far country," you sought to be filled with the husks which the swine fed on (Luke 15). But you found your quest was in vain. To change the figure, you sampled one after another of the world’s cisterns, only to find that "whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13). You discovered that the things of the world could not meet your deep need. Then, weary and heavy-laden, you were brought to Christ, and found in Him that "altogether lovely" One. O the joy that was now yours! "Thou O Christ art all I want," was your confession. But is this the language of your heart today? Alas, "thou hast left thy first love" (Rev. 2:4), and with it, peace and contentment are also largely a thing of the past. Like a sow that returns to her wallowing in the mire, many go back to the world for recreation, then for satisfaction. Ah, have not you, my reader, need to be taught again "which be the first principles of the oracles of God?" Do you not need reminding that nothing in this scene can minister to the new nature, a nature which has been created for heaven? Do you not need to relearn that Christ alone can satisfy your heart?
The "oracles of God" is one of many names given to the Holy Scriptures. Stephen called them the "living oracles" (Acts 7:38). "They are so in respect of their Author,—they are the oracles of ‘the living God;’ whereas the oracles with which Satan infatuated the world were most of them at the shrines and graves of dead men. They are so in respect of their use and efficacy: they are ‘living’ because life-giving oracles unto them that obey them (Deut. 32:47). Because they are ‘the oracles of God,’ they have supreme authority over the souls and consciences of us all. Therefore are they also infallible truth" (Dr. John Owen).
"And are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." Here the apostle continues to rebuke the Hebrews for their laxity, and sets before them their deteriorated condition under a figure designed to humble them: he likens them to infants. The same similitude is used in 1 Corinthians 3:1,2. "Milk" here signifies the same thing as the "first principles of the oracles of God." The "strong meat" had reference to the offices of Christ, especially His priesthood, as suited to our needs and affections. "Milk" is appropriate for babes, but Christians ought to grow and become strong in the Lord. They are exhorted to "be not children in understanding" (1 Cor. 14:20). They are bidden to "quit ye like men" (1 Cor. 15:13).
"For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe" (verse 13). "Useth milk" means, lives on nothing else. By the "word of righteousness" is meant the Gospel of God’s grace. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 it is termed "the Word of the Cross," because that is its principal subject. In Romans 10:8 it is designated "the Word of Faith," because that is its chief requirement from all who hear it. Here, the Word of Righteousness, because of its nature, use and end. In the Gospel is "the righteousness of God revealed" (Rom. 1:16, 17), for Christ is "the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). Now the Hebrews are not here said to be ignorant of or utterly without the Word of Righteousness, but "unskillful" or "inexperienced" in the use of it. They had failed to improve it to its proper end. Did they clearly apprehend the Gospel, they had perceived the needlessness for the perpetuation of the Levitical priesthood with its sacrifices.
The one unskilled in the Word of Righteousness is a "babe." This term is here used by way of reproach. A "babe" is weak, ignorant. A spiritual "babe" is one who has an inadequate knowledge of Christ, i.e. an experimental knowledge and heart-acquaintance with Him. Let the reader note that a state of infancy was what characterized God’s people of old under Judaism (Gal. 4:1-6). They were looking forward to the Christ that was to come, and whose person and work was represented to their eyes by typical pictures and persons. Such was the ground to which these Hebrews had well-nigh slipped back. Earthly things were engrossing their attention. So it is still. A person may have been a Christian twenty or thirty years, but if he is not forgetting the things which are behind, and constantly pressing to the things before, he is, in actual experience and spiritual stature, but "a babe."
"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (verse 14). Here the apostle completes the antithesis begun in the preceding verse, and describes the character of those to whom strong meat is suited. By necessary implication his statement explains to us why the Hebrews had become "dull of hearing." There is much here of deep practical importance. "Strong meat" is contrasted from "milk" or the "first principles" of God’s Word, which we have defined above. This "strong meat" is the appropriate portion of those who have left infancy behind, who have so assimilated the "milk" of babyhood they have "grown thereby," grown in faith and love. This growth is produced and promoted by using our spiritual "senses" or faculties. Infants have "senses," but they know not how to exercise them to advantage. The proper use of our spiritual faculties enables us to distinguish between "good and evil". It was here the Hebrews had failed so lamentably.
"A child is easily imposed upon as to its food. Its nurse may easily induce it to swallow even palatable poison. But a man, ‘by reason of use,’ has learned so to employ his senses as to distinguish between what is deleterious and what is nourishing" (Dr. J. Brown). The same holds good in the spiritual realm. There is in the new man that which corresponds to our "five senses" naturally, namely, understanding, conscience, affections. But these have to be trained and developed. It is only by the constant and assiduous exercise of minds upon spiritual things, by the diligent study of the Word, by daily meditation thereon, by the exercise of faith therein, by earnestly supplicating the Spirit for light, that we acquire the all-important discernment to distinguish between good and evil, Truth and error. "Senses exercised" means ability or fitness acquired, as a disciplined soldier is equipped for his duty, or a trained athlete is for his work. Such capacity is only attained by the Christian through a constant and sedulous application of himself to the things of God. "By reason of use" refers not to spasmodic effort, but to a regular practice, a confirmed habit. The outcome is a spiritual ability to judge rightly of all that is presented to his notice.
It was here the Hebrews had failed, as, alas, so many Christians do now. "Their senses had not been exercised; that is, they had not walked closely with God, they had not followed the Master, listening earnestly to His voice, and proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. They had not conscientiously applied the knowledge which they had, but allowed it to remain dead and unused. If they had really and truly partaken of the milk, they would not have remained babes" (Adolph Saphir). Because of their slothfulness, they were unable to distinguish between "good and evil," i.e., between Truth and error, the promptings of the Spirit and the solicitations of Satan, the desires of the new nature and the lustings of the old. They were like babes are in the natural world, unable to discriminate between what is wholesome and what is hurtful; therefore were they unable to see the difference between what was right under the Judaic economy, and what was now suited to Christianity.
"Senses trained to discern both good and evil" has reference to what is set before a believer as food for his soul. The "good" is that which is nutritious and suited to his nourishment, "evil" is that which tends not to his edification, but to his destruction. Scripture itself is "evil" when wrongly divided and misapplied. This is seen in Satan’s misuse of Scripture with Christ (Matthew 4:6). Truth becomes "evil" when it is not presented in its due and Divine proportions. The enemies of the Hebrews were appealing to the Old Testament Scriptures, as Romanists now do to favor their elaborate form of worship and priesthood. In many other ways is Satan active today in setting before God’s people both "good and evil," and unless their spiritual faculties have been diligently trained, through much waiting upon God, they fall easy victims to his half-lies.
"If people really loved and cherished what they so fondly called ‘the simple gospel,’ their knowledge and Christian character would deepen, and all the truths which are centered in Christ crucified would become the object of their investigation and delight, and enrich and elevate their experience There are no doctrines more profound than those which are proclaimed when Christ’s salvation is declared. All our progress consists in learning more fully the doctrine which at first is preached unto us" (Adolph Saphir). It is using the light we already have, putting into practice the truth already received, which fits us for more. Unless this is done, we retrograde, and the light which is in us becomes darkness. Manna not used breeds worms (Ex. 16:20)! Milk undigested—not taken up into our system—ferments. A backslidden state deprives us of a sound judgment. The secret of "senses trained to discern good and evil" is revealed in Hosea 6:3, "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." May His grace stir us up so to do.