Spiritual Senses in the Book of Hebrews

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

This verse is obviously not talking about the five physical senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling).  Rather, it refers to spiritual senses.  At various places in this epistle we can see references to spiritual senses which correspond to our physical senses.  Here are some of them [emphasis added, along with occasional comments]:

SIGHT

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

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Hebrews 11:27 …he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

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Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…

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SOUND

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

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Hebrews 3:15 while it is said,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

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Hebrews 4:7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”

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Hebrews 5:11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

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TASTE

Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

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Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

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Hebrews 6:4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
Hebrews 6:5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

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Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

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TOUCH

Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

“Coming to,” “receiving,” and “finding” all imply a “touching” or “coming in contact with.”

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Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind,
Hebrews 12:19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.
Hebrews 12:20 For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.”
Hebrews 12:21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,
Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Under the Old Covenant the “touching” had to do with a physical mountain; under the New Covenant it would have to do with spiritual mountain.

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SMELL

Although I can point to no specific verse in Hebrews which explicitly refers to “smelling” in a spiritual sense, it is a concept alluded to throughout the book.  I say this because of the frequent reference to sacrifice – both the prior Mosaic form and the new spiritual form through Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament made frequent references to the “aroma” or “fragrance” of a sacrifice which was well-pleasing to God.  Thus the references to sacrifice – especially ones to the great and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ – allude to spiritual smell.  Such a reference to the smell of spiritual sacrifice is made in explicit terms by the apostles Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14, 16; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18) – the man deemed either the author of Hebrews, an associate of the author of Hebrews, or the inspiration for the author of Hebrews by a significant number of scholars over the centuries.

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Perhaps you can find other mentions of or allusions to spiritual senses in Hebrews…or elsewhere in the Bible.

I’m not suggesting that we seek a rigid parallelism between a physical sense and its corresponding spiritual sense.  I am suggesting that we should recognize that as our bodies have the ability to sense, so also do our spirits.  Growing in our understanding and use of our spiritual sensory abilities is part and parcel of our maturation as disciples of Christ and sons of God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

7 Replies to “Spiritual Senses in the Book of Hebrews”

  1. This was helpful information for me. I WILL CONTINUALLY TO MEDITATE AND STUDY THIS SO THAT I WILL USE MY SPIRITUAL SENSE MORE AND BECOME AWARE THAT I am. As I think back I know that I have. IICor. 5:7.
    Jannie M. Edwards

    1. There are several places in the Bible where people received a word from God that tasted like honey (Revelation 10:10, Ezekiel 3:3, Jeremiah 15:16). Psalms 34:12 also tells us to experience God not just by sight, but also by taste. These are just a few examples.

  2. An example of the aroma of Christ in the scriptures:-
    Ps 45:6-8 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.8 All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.KJV

    It is absolutely possible to smell the aroma of Christ.

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