Milk and Meat Teachings
Believers in Christ are in various stages of their spiritual growth. While babes need to frequently drink the milk of the Word (foundational doctrines), those who are more mature in the faith need to carefully chew on the solid meat (deeper truths).
God expects all believers in Christ to lay the proper foundation with elementary yet essential milk lessons, but He also expects believers to move on to deeper and more nutritional meat lessons at the appropriate time in their spiritual development. "For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe"
(Hebrews 5:13). "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."
Milk is an introductory level of biblical understanding. Concepts are clear and concise and require no great spiritual insight.
The milk of the Word is appropriate for anyone, but it is especially meant for new Christians to help them grow and become established in the faith. Just as an infant needs fresh, wholesome milk to build a healthy physical body, the new disciple of Jesus needs to understand the Bible's fundamental teachings in order to begin developing a sound spiritual mind. The Bible says, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby"
(I Peter 2:2).
Basic introductory teachings should be taught by one who is mature in the faith. The apostle Paul, a nurturing spiritual father to the church at Corinth, wrote to them saying: "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
(I Corinthians 3:1-3). It is evident from this passage that Paul desired to see his spiritual children mature in the faith and grow up into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Galatians 4:19); however, Paul knew that these believers were not ready to move on to the rich, nutritious meat of the Word because they were not yet putting into practice the milk which he had already taught them. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [milk], let us go on unto perfection [meat]; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment"
Meat is an intermediate level of biblical understanding. Concepts are deep and often hidden in parables.
The meat of the Word is for Christians who are walking in obedience and are firmly grounded in the milk doctrines. Meat is the spiritual food necessary to become mature in applying the teachings of the Bible to everyday life; it is not a diet suitable for babes. Paul said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things"
(I Corinthians 13:11). Just as a child grows up physically, those who are maturing in the faith need the meat of the Word to recognize false doctrines and sustain them when trials and tribulations come their way. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive"
Feasting on the meat requires in-depth study and Scripture meditation. The deep truths of God are often hidden in allegories and parables, so it takes time and effort to unearth and assimilate these "nuggets of wisdom." The committed disciple of Jesus will find great delight in searching out God's treasures, and his whole being will be strengthened and nourished by the savory meat of the Word. "If thou seekest her [Wisdom] as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding"
Strong meat is an advanced level of biblical understanding; it is the doctrine of perfection (spiritual maturity). Concepts are often understood through experience and intense discipleship.
The strong meat of the Word is for Christians who have become skilled in righteousness, having exercised their spiritual senses to discern truth from error: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil"
(Hebrews 5:14). Strong meat is a deep level of biblical perception which is obtained through diligent study of the Word and is understood (assimilated) through real-life testings and spiritual battles. This kind of maturity is not always the result of years, for there are long-time church members who are still on the milk,
"ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth"
(II Timothy 3:7). On the other hand, there are youthful disciples who are more than ready to teach (see I Timothy 4:12) because they have feasted on the strong meat and obeyed the command to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth"
(II Timothy 2:15).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus nourished His inner man on strong meat. He studied the Scriptures, prayed long hours before dawn, and endured reproach and suffering. But as a result, He maintained a complete sensitivity to the Father's will. Indeed, intimacy with His Heavenly Father was
Jesus' spiritual meat: "I have meat to eat that ye know not of ... My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work"
(John 4:32-34). Disciples of Jesus who grow up to spiritual maturity will find sustenance in the strong meat of the Word, as Jesus did. Such maturity is, in fact, the perfection that Jesus described when He said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"
The milk of the Word (basic doctrine) is necessary for a new Christian to build a firm foundation of biblical understanding, whereas the meat of the Word (deeper truth) helps a Christian grow up to spiritual maturity. Paul told his spiritual son Timothy: "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works"
(II Timothy 3:15-17).
Sadly, many babes in Christ become fat and lazy on the milk because they depend on others to feed them a full spiritual diet, even after many years of hearing the Word. These immature Christians neglect to study the Scriptures for themselves and, as a result, are in danger of falling away
and being ensnared by the enemy. This is why believers in Christ must put the Word into practice and not be hearers of the Word only (see James 1:22).
Just as in the days of the New Testament church, the Body of Christ today consists of fathers
(such as Paul in I Corinthians 4:15), brothers
(such as Barnabas in Acts 15:25), and sons
(such as Timothy in I Timothy 1:2). When the fathers feed the flock of God with the pure Word, the young ones grow, the older ones stand firm, and the family of God thrives.