How can you be certain that your spiritual diet consists of more than milk? Most mature Christians would assume that they were consuming the solid food spoken about in Scripture. If we have been believers in Christ for a long time, doesn’t that automatically mean that we are digesting complex Biblical truths? According to Paul, not necessarily!
There are two passages in the New Testament, both written by Paul, where churches are scolded for immaturity. They are in Hebrews and I Corinthians. In Hebrews 5, Paul is concerned about Christians falling away. Part of his letter addresses warning signs that he is witnessing. In verses 11 to 14 he lists them;
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 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.”
Do we understand true righteousness, or are we comfortable with the basic do’s and don’ts of popular Christian culture?
Are all long-time Christians teachable? Are we submissive to those more knowledgable and wiser than us, or are we content with what we already know? Do we seek understanding of the more profound truths of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s deeper revelations? Do we desire to teach and encourage those who are younger than us in the faith? None of this was true of the church of Hebrews.
Do we understand and seek true righteousness, or are we comfortable with the basic do’s and don’ts of popular Christian culture? Are the sometimes less-obvious sins like pride, jealousy and judgment alive in our hearts and minds? Do we guard our homes from things that may glorify the enemy, accepting them because they are culturally popular? These things concerned Paul and were credited as spiritual immaturity.
Maturity lies in the hunger and thirst, not in feeling perpetually satiated.
According to this passages, even the more established Christians are not aware that they are still subsisting on milk! Matthew 5:6 promises, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Clearly, the hunger and thirst that results in blessing is absent in these Christians.
Conversely, some of the apparently less-mature believers in our midsts today are seeking and chomping on more complex truths. Maturity lies in the hunger and thirst, not in feeling perpetually satiated. Younger Christians today have many options outside of their church where they can be fed. While this is an amazing provision of the Holy Spirit for today’s worldwide church, this should not be necessary in a church where solid food is regularly served.
The Corinthian church of Paul’s day had some of the same problems as the Hebrew church did. Still, Paul did not give up on them. His letters to these believers sought to correct them in order to build them up. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 points out a basic problem; they, like the Hebrews, also had some growing up to do. Here is the passage;
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still 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 humans? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings? “
This passage is not written to just the newest converts in the church. It is written to the leaders, too! They were a “people who are still worldly-mere infants in Christ.” This may have come as a surprise to many of them. The opposite of worldly people, according to Paul, are people who “live by the Spirit.” Their worldliness manifest in “jealousy and quarreling among (them),” even in regard to the church leaders. Clearly, arrogance, disputes and other spiritually immature and dishonoring behaviors were common and accepted, and had elbowed out the Holy Spirit.
This passage is not written to just the newest converts in the church. It is written to the leaders, too!
What happens when mature Christians assume they are eating solid food, but they are really only digesting milk? There is an absence of spiritual growth. The Greek word in the Hebrews 5 passage is trophy (trephó), which means nourishment or food. Food may have been taken in, but if the mind and spirit could not digest it, there is little nutritional benefit from it.
Paul knew that these leaders’ behaviors shouldn’t be emulated, even if they cared to train the people that they were leading.
What would a church where solid food is a regular menu item look like? Hunger and thirst for righteousness would be standard. Teaching would permeate the church calendar. There would be intolerance of anything that Scripture condemns. Leaders would work together to build His kingdom peacefully. Egos would be checked at the door. The fruit of the spirit would be apparent in relationships. There would be individual personal growth, as well as church growth. The church would be thriving as Jesus’ Lordship was celebrated.
Spiritual vanity, arguments, slander, quarreling and jealousy choke a church’s growth. Without teachable spirits, the Holy Spirit’s leading, true righteousness, and spiritual hunger and thirst, Kingdom work can’t be done. In places where solid food can’t be digested, urgent prayer is needed. May we all hunger for greater truth and revelation, and may we nurture those still on milk so that they acquire an appetite for solid food.