The newborn converts to Christ from among the Jewish Dispersion to whom Peter wrote his First Epistle were to thirst for the pure milk of the Word, free from all admixture of plausible error and of those controversial matters that would sometimes occupy their minds when more mature.
As Paul has to tell the Corinthians, some in that church were still in spiritual childhood, and could not be fed with “meat” but continued in need of “milk.” They had not grown up. They loved to display their remarkable gifts, and were impressed by the sensational. “It is characteristic of the child to prefer the amusing to the useful, and the shining to the solid.” In spite of their gifts, the Corinthian believers, in many instances, remained immature.
They were marked, too, by jealousy and strife and sectarianism, all characteristics of the immature or unconsecrated Christian. Sectarianism is a pride disease that says arrogantly, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos,” and throws out the challenge, “Say now ‘Shibboleth.’” And if we cannot pronounce it aright, or if we speak in no particular ecclesiastical dialect, then we belong to the “lesser breeds without the law”!
Another feature of spiritual immaturity is the inability or unwillingness to distinguish between the more important and the less important, in spite of our Lord’s caution about attending to the “weightier matters.” It is pathetic to see gifted Christian men using their abilities to push some side-issue of little importance except to their personal tastes or opinions. It proves that some area in their life is not consecrated.
Those to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed were rebuked for still stumbling amid the alphabet of the Christian faith when they should have been teachers of others. They too had not got beyond the “milk” stage. They were in danger of returning to the Judaism which they had left, at all events in profession, and they are exhorted to “go on to perfection,” that is, the apprehension of full-orbed Christianity both in its doctrinal and its experimental aspects.
A child needs “sanctions,” rules and punishments and rewards; an adult should govern his life by principles. “In understanding be men,” urges Paul. One mark of Christian progress is a growing power of spiritual perception.
Through the study of the word, prayer, discipline and trial, soul-labour and inner toil, we shall advance from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity. God our Father is our Educator. We are in His school, and He delights to instruct us and to develop the new life He has put within us.
Augustine represents the Lord saying to him: “I am the food of the full-grown man. Be a man and thou shalt feed on Me.”
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