Verse 1: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 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: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building”.
‘Baby Christians’, a baby is a person, a little person who is utterly dependent upon another. It is a person who is amused, often times, by rubbish – you can give it the box of the toy and not the toy, and it will be more amused with the box than the toy. A baby is a creature that seems to put into its mouth anything that it finds lying on the ground. As that little baby gets older – and it doesn’t need to get too old, I can tell you, to go into little tantrums when it doesn’t get its way. When we look at the figure, or the metaphor, or the illustration, the analogy that Paul gives us of baby Christians, we see that he’s talking about people who are always dependent upon others, who never learn to have spiritual independence and growth individually. They are often amused by rubbish, by things that don’t really matter, they’ll put anything into their mouths, they’ll feed themselves on anything except the word of God, and they are often – within the church of Jesus Christ – prone to tantrums. That’s what a baby is like, and if you can imagine what an adult like that would be, you have now imagined what the Corinthians Christians were like in the days of Paul.
Imagine the tragedy of an adult, a grown man or woman, that behaves like a baby! A man who has never developed, a man who has never grown! There are several genetic and medical conditions that actually realize this awful tragedy and monstrosity of a nightmare for people, when they see children that do not age, that don’t appear to age at least – they are ageing in years, but they never grow, they never mature. It’s a tragedy to see. What is further a tragedy to see is if you went to China, and you see there parents who take their little children and they put shoes on their feet that are too small for them because they believe it’s great have small feet, something beautiful to have small feet – so they force their children not to grow by putting shoes on them that are too small so that they’ll have small feet. It’s a tragedy, isn’t it?
But imagine: not something genetic, not something that is forced upon you by another, but something that is actually an intelligent reasonable choice – to choose to stay a baby! To choose to never grow! Imagine, if you will, a 40-year-old man turning up for work with a dummy in his mouth and his favourite toy underneath his arm! Someone related to me today what it would be like to see a 70-year-old man in a play pen with a rattle in his mouth and toys around him. What would it be like? It seems absolutely ridiculous, and it is ridiculous! But what is more ridiculous than that human illustration, Paul is saying, is a Christian that has at his disposal all of the power and riches of God; yet he fails, willingly, to grow and to mature – he is still a babe in Christ.
The awful fact that we have to face is that there is a reality called ‘Baby Christians’. There is such a thing as an underdeveloped, immature Christian. Paul speaks to these people in verse 1 and he says: ‘Brethren’, he looks upon them as believers, brothers. This is the staggering thing about it, that he’s not saying, as he said at the end of chapter 2, that these people are natural, they’re not even saved, they’re not living like Christians so they’re not saved, that’s not what he’s saying! He says that they are babes in Christ, positionally they are in Christ, and he calls them brothers – they are real Christians yet they have never developed. I believe that he calls them brothers because he wants, as he did in chapter 1, to show them affection, to show them grace before he comes in very hard and rebukes them. He wants them to realize that his strong words of exhortation and rebuke are coming from a heart of strong affection and love and compassion towards them – and let me say before I go on any further that I hope you understand in some of the rebukes and exhortation and encouragement that I give to you, and I have been before the Lord, this is from a heart of love, it is from a heart of compassion toward you, it is from a heart of a minister – I hope – that wants God’s best for you, and wants you to enter into the joy of the Lord that He has prepared for you, and the maturity and the growth that He wants for you.
Some Christians get saved and they think, initially, that they’re going to live just as they lived before, in the same sort of way. When Paul first ministered to these believers in Corinth he realized that the process of sanctification had only started, and that there was a long road ahead of him – they had not yet naturally developed the way that the Holy Spirit would develop them one day. So I want you to see that: that when they were first converted they didn’t know everything about salvation and sanctification, and they brought with them much of the baggage of the world before their conversion. Then when we go into verse 2 – ‘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’. So when he first came to them and they were converted – and he realized that they could never be, right at conversion, fully spiritually developed – he knew that they couldn’t take the meat of God’s word, he had to feed them with milk, not solids. Like a baby, a baby would right away choke on solids if it was fed with them from birth – all that he could feed them with and all that they were able to receive and digest were the simple basic truths of the word of God.
So Paul is distinguishing that there are two different types of Christians. In chapter 2 he talked about the spiritual man and the natural man. The natural man is unconverted and does not perceive or discern spiritual things, and the spiritual man is a man who is regenerated by the Spirit of God and made alive to God, and made to be able to see the truths of God and see the Gospel as the power and wisdom of God – it no longer is foolishness. But now, as he’s coming into chapter 3, he’s not talking about the saved and the unsaved, but he’s talking about spiritual Christians as opposed to carnal Christians. So he says that not only are there two camps in humanity between those who are saved and are lost – those who are carnal and those who are spiritual. It’s not that you’re spiritual and then you stay spiritual the rest of your life, and it’s not that you’re carnal and you have to remain carnal – sometimes you can be spiritual one day and carnal the next day, and vice versa. You can go into bouts of each of these conditions: spiritual and carnal. But what I want you to see is that Paul sees those who are spiritual not as the ones who are extraordinary, he sees the Christians that are carnal and fleshly as the ones who are out of the ordinary because it was abnormal, unnatural development – they should have grown!
Carnality, to heap to ourselves some kind of a knowledge, and then we begin to believe and deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re spiritual because of what we know. We say: ‘Well, how else could I possibly know so many spiritual things unless I myself were spiritual?’. But that is not the touchstone of spirituality, rather it is: ‘How much do I know from life experience?’ – and if it’s only in the mind it is merely Corinthian, and it is the carnal product of the mind.
Some believers never grow up! They never mature! Now the Lord knows my heart, and if you are carnal I pity you – like a child gazing into a cage where there’s a stray puppy confined that can’t get out, and the child has pity on it. I pity you. I have been praying before God for a heart of grace and love, for you to realize that by remaining carnal and a babe in Christ just feeding upon milk, you limit your own spiritual capacity because you refuse to grow. You fit, you fit into this definition of a carnal Christian. Is that you?
Now listen, this is extremely important, because those who are never ready for meat, and those who thrive on strife and quarrels – essentially those who are carnal, they are babes in Christ – they have a camouflage so that others do not see, or at least they think they do not see, that they are only babes. They know deep down, they maybe don’t admit it, but they know that they are essentially unspiritual.
Let me ask you it in this simple question: you live in number 102, and next door to you in number 104 there’s a man who is not a believer, and his whole family aren’t believers. You’ve got a nice house and he has got a nice house; you’ve got a good job and he’s got a good job; you’ve lovely children and he has lovely children, they’re all going to good schools, they’ve got prospects ahead of them. You go to church because you’re a Christian, but he goes to church yet he’s not a Christian. Can I ask you a simple question: what’s the difference? You’re not going to tell me it’s because you’re saved, are you? Is that difference enough? Paul is saying: ‘No it’s not’ – it’s not different enough. You’ve got to be seen not to just walk as mere men – what makes us distinctive as believers? What are we living for? He’s saying your life will tell what you’re living for!
People come in and out of church, and they show their face once in a blue moon, and they don’t do anything in the assembly, and they watch others breaking their back working for Jesus, needing help and they won’t give any hand – and they think that they’re fooling everybody going in and out week after week! We can see where their priorities lie! You’re not fooling anybody!
I heard a story about a lovely old lady who was well past her threescore and ten, and she came to her Pastor’s door and knocked on it. He opened the door, and she had a big basket of fruit and vegetables, and she just handed it to him and said: ‘Pastor, something the Lord and I raised for you’ – something the Lord and I raised for you! Imagine being called fellow-labourers with God! God does all the work, but the mighty thing about it is that all His work that He does, a lot of it is through us.
How do you come from being a carnal Christian to a spiritual Christian? What’s the problem? The problem is the flesh. What can we do with the flesh? Maybe you’re a young Christian, and Christians struggle with the flesh, they try to beat the flesh and conquer the flesh and tame the flesh – but you can’t do it. The only answer for the flesh is? Crucifixion. Crucify the flesh, the lusts thereof. It’s irredeemable, you can’t make it better. Don’t pray for God to make you better, pray for God, and crucify the flesh, that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our bodies. Is it any wonder he said: ‘I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified’, because it’s the answer to everything.
Lord, let some soul ravaged with sin and temptation, read this: ‘Sin shall no longer have dominion over you’. Let us all move from our carnality into God’s spirituality, to the glory of Jesus Christ. Lord, mold us and make us into your image!
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
God bless you and your day!
Love and prayers to all of you!
Your Sister in Jesus Christ, Nella Rhea Dudley Sammons