Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? I Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV
This summer two new grandchildren were added to the Hunter family. In the past few weeks I have spent some time observing how infants eat. They can only digest milk, not solid food. Infants need adult supervision and help in every part of the eating process, including being held at the correct angle for swallowing and being burped to relieve gas. As babies grow and mature, they can start to eat soft foods, then more solid food, next finger foods, and finally pieces of meat and raw vegetables. The process is a gradual one, over several years, but for most children, it is a steady progression to independent eating of solid food.
Paul uses the analogy of a baby progressing from drinking milk to eating meat when he wrote to the Corinthian church. He is disappointed that many in the Corinthian church, though several years old in their Christian faith, are not maturing in their faith. He says they still need spiritual milk, not spiritual meat. And they are not feeding themselves. So what is spiritual milk? What is spiritual meat?
The writer of Hebrews says,
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us 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 of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Hebrews 5:12-6:2. NIV
This passage implies that an immature Christian hasn’t yet internalized Spiritual truth. He or she – doesn’t understand much of Christ dying for the sins of the world – still needing to repent of sin and putting more faith in God. A mature Christian (one who can eat spiritual meat), has trained himself to distinguish good from evil – because a mature Christian spends regular time in God’s presence, in God’s word and in prayer – feeding on spiritual meat.
In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy, he gave Timothy instructions on how to teach others:
And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him, he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, II Timothy 2:24-25. NIV
Paul often gave the churches with whom he had ministered, specific instructions on spiritual practices for them, and for each of us, to mature – to move beyond spiritual milk to spiritual meat. In each of these passages listed below, Paul encourages us to pray, to intercede for others, to study scripture, to meditate on God’s word, to sing, to worship, to help and teach others. This week, look at one or more of the following passages, and ask yourself and God, “what areas do I need to grow in? What type of ‘spiritual meat’ could I focus on this week, this month, this Fall?”
Colossians 3:1-17, 23, 4:2-6; Ephesians 4:2-6; I Timothy 2:1-4; Philippians 2:2-4; II Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 12; Philemon 4-7.