Vol. 4, No. 10
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Mother and father are sitting down to a steak dinner. They cut, chew and swallow with ease. Between these young parents sits a baby in a high chair. That baby cannot walk, talk or care for himself. He relies on others for protection, shelter, clothing, warmth and FOOD. Because he must digest for himself, this baby is not expected nor allowed to eat a slab of beef. Everyone knows infants are fed with the lightest food. So, that tiny child will settle for milk or another food easily digested. As he grows, the diet will solidify.
New Testament writers describe the spiritual diet of "babes in Christ" as milk. When this word is used in the metaphor, we should recognize the point being made. New converts stand in need of understanding the simple and elementary doctrines of Christianity. The goal of all new creatures is to "go on unto perfection," and there is not a shortcut to spiritual maturity. The Bible relays three thoughts concerning spiritual milk and the recipients of such.
"MILK AND FEEDING." Paul, to the Corinthian church drowning in the sea of worldly influence, writes, "I have fed you with milk and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able for ye are yet carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:2-3a). Recall the background of the Corinthians: persons with a history of fornication (1 Corinthians 6), incest (5:1-8), idolatry (6:9) and all manner of unrighteous behavior (6:9-10). These sins were washed away by baptism (cf. 6:11). The spiritual junk food just mentioned had to be replaced by spiritual food appropriate for running the Christian race (9:24-27), laboring as good stewards (2 Corinthians 7-9), fleeing fornication (1 Corinthians 6:12) and resisting temptations (10:13). Let us not forget about 1 Corinthians 3:2. Paul did the feeding and not the Corinthians. New converts rely on the teaching and guidance of more mature Christians. Hence, we must not offend by our lifestyle and example (Luke 17:1ff). We must teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). We must encourage them to grow to the point that they will teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). Young Christians need the nurturing attention of other Christians. Paul taught the basics. Young Christians need an understanding of grace, works, faith, love, justice, mercy and sin. First principles must be cut up and fed in a simple way and with patience. If the one doing the feeding administers the right diet, the babe has an excellent chance to grow up and understand weightier matters.
"MILK AND NEEDING." Feeding is the responsibility of the teacher. And, feeding is only half the job. If there are digestion problems, the fed will starve or be malnourished. The taught must take initiative to grow toward a more mature diet. The Hebrew writer exclaims, "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 unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe" (Hebrews 5:12-13).
A preacher touring a nursing home was particularly disturbed at the case of a grown man he encountered. A 30-year-old man, wearing only diapers, was crawling around on the floor of the sunroom. Drool ran down his face. The minister asked one of the nurses there what misfortune had befallen the man. She explained, "He never matured mentally beyond the stage of infancy." How sad! Sadder still is the spiritual condition of men and women who were immersed 10, 20 or more years ago and are still unskilled in the Word. How unnatural a picture is painted before a God who is disgusted by the spiritual retardation of such Christians. When the Bible school has to suffer from a lack of teachers and when the pews are filled with individuals who are like the ones in Hebrews 5, so much talent is wasted!
"MILK AND BREEDING." Peter alludes to the simplicity of the Gospel in 1 Peter 2:1-2, using a familiar theme: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." Notice the process of spiritual breeding in the new birth.
One taught the unadulterated, pure Gospel of Christ (1 Peter 1:19-20): He bled and died on the cross (1 Peter 1:18-19), his blood redeems us (1 Peter 1:19), he was raised from the grave (1 Peter 1:21), and such gives us hope for eternal life (1 Peter 1:21). The whole Gospel message teaches spiritual purity, obedience to God and unfeigned love (1 Peter 1:22).
One acts on his faith and is born again by baptism (1 Peter 1:23; Romans 6:1-4). One lays aside the old manner of living (1 Peter 2:1). What he decided in his heart in responding to the invitation he immediately practices by turning away from the world. One desires the milk of the word and grows by it (1 Peter 2:2). One realizes he is a spiritual priest in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). Hence, he feels the responsibility to be a soul-winner. He wins the lost to Christ, who are taught the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Christ, and so the process perpetuates. Notice the substances of spiritual breeding in the new birth. Babes in Christ are to desire the pure milk of the Word. Again, a simple diet free of the impurities of false doctrine, negativism and extremism will aid in the spiritual growth of young members.