Hello! For those of you who don’t know me from around the comment threads, I’m Joe C! It’s really great to be helping out here on CRN.info and sharing what God is teaching me in my life with you all. I appreciate the opportunity Chris L and the other contributors have given me here. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”, and this is what I’m truly praying God can accomplish through me by writing for this site.
Very quickly, a little information about me: I’m a 20-something Sergeant in the Air Force, stationed in Oklahoma with my wife and 9 month old son. I lead a Bible Study focused on making disciple-makers (lol) on Friday nights at my house. I also help lead praise and worship at our local chapel congregation, and I’ll be teaching Sunday school starting in a few weeks. I’ve probably been a Christian for the least amount of time out of all the contributors on this site (so go easy on me!), and I grew up Atheist. I was saved when I came in to the military and started attending military chapel services. Ironically, it was the openness of the worship team at one of the chapels that put me in the position to hear and believe the Gospel. They allowed me to play piano for them, without even knowing if I was a Christian or not (I wasn’t, really). Now normally most of us would never allow a non-Christian to play worship music for a Christian worship service, and to this day I have no idea why they allowed me to play for them. But, it was through playing all of these Christian worship songs, and hearing the Chaplain preach, that I heard the Gospel and came to know Christ as the Savior that He is. So I thought that could be a quick lesson to teach us all that God uses the most interesting circumstances to reach out to us. Alright! Well enough about me…
On to the actual purpose found in the title of this post!
You Need Solid Food, Not Milk
I’ve overheard and participated in many conversations over the years concerning milk and solid food, as it pertains to the Bible and to Christian living. Recently the subject has been brought up in a few comment threads here on CRN.info, so I did a Bible study this week on the subject and I’d like to share it with everyone.
I’ve seen many different positions taken up by godly men and women, so I don’t claim to have the authoritative teaching on the subject. I’m just trying to share my thoughts from what I’ve seen in Scripture about this subject and also in the natural world which I think reveals a lot about God’s plan for our Christian lives, metaphorically speaking. If anyone has anything they think I’ve totally jacked up or if anyone has anything to add, please feel free to let me know, and we’ll talk about it. I’m on the same journey of learning more and more about Christ as anyone else is
Hebrews 5: 11-14:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 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.”
Looking at this section of Hebrews chapter 5 you can kind of emote with the writer, how many of us have been in this frustrating position before? Here the writer is speaking about all these deep theological teachings to the “Hebrews”, and then…STOP. Wait. Switch gears. It’s like carrying on a long conversation with someone and then just stopping and saying, “You know what? I could keep talking but you ain’t getting it pal…”
The writer then breaks in to commenting on how they’re not getting it because despite where they should be, they can’t be there because they’re still just infants in their faith. They need milk, not the big boy and big girl food. This is a failure of this church body on all sides, and I’ll get more in to why that is later. Let’s first define some terms here.
Milk can be described in a few ways. One, milk is a very basic, easy to stomach liquid that requires almost no effort on the drinker’s part to take in to them. All they have to do is swallow the milk. The diet of an infant consists mostly of milk, because an infant can’t handle anything more complicated. Spiritual milk for the Christian is the basic teachings of our faith, the fundamentals, and every baby needs the basic essentials after all. Two, an infant requires someone to feed the milk to them in some fashion; this lessens the load on the infant even more, making it easier for the milk to get in them. Three, milk is the springboard in to higher levels of food, without it, the infant never matures to the point of learning how to eat solid food. I want to look at a few verses here in the New Testament that deal with spiritual ‘milk’ for the Christian.
In 1 Peter 2: 2-3 we have a statement from Peter that is something to the effect of “Like infants scream for mom’s milk, you should be screaming for God’s Truth.” And then he says “since you’ve tasted that God is good.” There’s a funny thing about verse 3 and the metaphorical truth as it applies to life. Before my son was born my wife and I had long decided that if possible she would breast feed. Well the time came and sure enough everything worked just fine and the kid figured it out (thank God). Well one evening when he was about two months old my wife and I really wanted to go out on a date, just the two of us. So we left our son with close family friends and went off to our little slice of freedom . My wife had left bottled breast milk for our son to be fed at the appropriate times, but unfortunately the babysitters ran out and my son was still screaming for more. So being the responsible adults that they were, they decided to give him some of their youngest daughter’s baby formula. This did not go over well with him, to say the least. You see my son had tasted the real deal for too long and knew that it tasted good. This new stuff tasted funny to him and he didn’t like it nor did he want it. Needless to say our date ended early, but the point is that once you taste God, once you have that first saving grace experience with the Living God, there’s just nothing else that will do. And this is the point that Peter is trying to make here. Crave God, crave His Word, just like a little child screams for milk, because you’ve tasted Him and you know He’s good, this ‘other’ stuff just isn’t going to suffice. The other point Peter makes is that through this ‘pure milk of the Word’, we grow up in to our salvation, which seems to be a huge theme for Peter in his two letters of the Bible. However, milk is very basic, very simple, so can we live off just milk forever? Will that grow us in to full adults in Christ and sustain us at all ends? We’ll talk more about that in a second; let’s hit another verse shall we?
1 Cor. 3: 1-3 shows us Paul being put in a shaky situation similar to the one the writer of Hebrews is in, as mentioned at the beginning of this post. He’s come to the point of frustration in addressing a few important subjects. He claims to have been unable to feed them anything but milk the first time he came to them, because they weren’t ready for anything else, and even at the time he was writing this letter to them they were still not ready for anything but milk. They were infants, or at least some of them were. And how were they acting? Like big babies. They were quarrelling, being jealous of one another, fighting with one another, and doing other immature things that are mentioned elsewhere in the letter. Basically, they were damaging the local body of believers around them, and ultimately the Body of Christ. Think about this: as amazing as it is for a baby to be born, for life to be given, and the joy of having a new life around you, it’s hard work. Babies, especially once they start moving around a lot, are inherently destructive and difficult to wrangle. They’re also not much good in the department of helping you out with the house or other things. They cause a lot of problems, and man you love them to death, but they’re just plain damaging to your household In the same way, these Christians being addressed here are acting like babies; they can only take in milk, only the simple teachings of Christ. The result of them being like this is the destruction they are causing. Paul is not happy with this and it’s apparent by how the rest of the letter goes that he wants them to GROW UP! But how can that happen? OK, it’s time to have a segue in this little shin-dig!
You can’t drink milk forever. In order to grow up and mature, an infant must become a child, and a child must become an adult. The raw materials necessary to affect this change can’t come from only milk; more complex foods must be introduced to fuel this transformation. Solid food must be given to the young one, and then they must be taught how to feed themselves if they are to survive at all. Anyone who still lives on milk, like the writer of Hebrews says, is obviously still an infant. Solid food can be thought of in a few ways from Scripture and practical application. One, solid food is complex, deep, and requires a more mature and ready ‘stomach’ to handle. It is the deeper teachings of the Christian faith; the things that help us grow up even more in to our salvation and bring us from infancy to maturity. They are the things that hopefully will transform us in to being more and more like Jesus, and more effective for Him in this world we live in. Without solid food this transformation cannot happen. Two, as a child grows they begin not only to have these more complicated foods, but they begin to learn to feed themselves as well. Anyone will tell you that this step is a normal and necessary step in the development of a child, so why not Christians? This is the other aspect of what it means to have solid food: self feeding. When you grow up in to an adult most of your food primarily comes from you ‘hunting’ down the food, cooking it, feeding it to yourself, chewing on it, digesting it, and then getting it back out of you (do the rough metaphor yourself lol). Christians need to do this very thing. We need to seek out the solid food of the Word, get it in to our spiritual mouths, and chew on it. This means we must think long and hard on it, meditate on it day and night (Josh 1:8), and hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11). We must let it become part of us as we ‘digest it’ in to ourselves, letting God’s Truth permeate us and become part of our very being, putting it in to practice, putting it in to “constant use”. This is the step we need to make, from milk to solid food, from babe to adult. If we just let someone else always teach us, then even if it is ‘solid food’ in the ‘deeper spiritual truths’ sense of the phrase, it’s still basically milk, i.e. spoon feeding. What happens when we learn to feed ourselves and mature in to adult Christians? I think these verses speak greatly to this question:
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
God gave out different gifts in the Church, so that we could get each other ready for the work that God has prepared for us to do. By doing this, Christians become more mature, gaining unity in the Son of God and knowledge of the Son of God, and we reach our full potential here on Earth in Christ. All of this is going on, this maturing, this gaining of knowledge of Jesus, and you know what? Now we’re no longer these little infants who get bashed around by every stupid thing someone says to us, and we’re no longer being those little ineffective and sometimes destructive babies who aren’t any good for practical work in the household. No, now we get to grow up to be like the head of our house, Jesus. We grow up to be like our Parent.
Hebrews 5: 14
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that everyone needs to grow up sometime. Every infant eventually shows interest in solid food, learns how to eat solid food, and learns to feed solid food to himself. It takes practice, months and even years of practice, but you have to start at some point and time. If an infant never does this, something is seriously wrong with the infant and they need help. Otherwise they will stay tiny forever and wither away. Who has ever heard of an adult who only drinks milk, and that from a bottle/breast being fed to them? You don’t, because you don’t ever get to the point of being an adult by milk alone. The mature Christian gets the solid food, the deep truths of Christ, and searches them out, feeding that truth to himself by God’s power. It’s by this, and the constant use of that solid food, that the mature Christian is able to tell the difference between what is good, and what is evil, which is basically the foundation for carrying out God’s will in our lives.
I want to note that even adults still drink in the milk sometimes. The fundamental truths of Christianity are great to always be learning about and remembering. It should also be said that having someone give you a glass of milk is never a bad thing (like a sermon on Sunday!), it’s just that you cannot survive on that alone. A pastor who is teaching and spoon feeding you the ‘simple milk’ all the time will never be enough fuel for you to continue to mature in Christ. True, at the outset you need a ‘parent’ to teach you these fundamentals of God, but if the kid never gets off the bottle, what will happen to them? There comes a time in every Christian’s life when it is no longer time for a diet of milk, but of solid food, which is for the mature. You can be taught more complex things by others, and with Christians this often happens, but that is also like an adult spoon feeding steak to another adult. It’s not necessarily the best thing for us and our relationship with God. I would argue that primarily, solid food must be sought out for, and self-fed. It would be a pastor’s job, and the mature Christians’ jobs, to get an infant to that point. Solid food is primarily a self-feeding endeavor because like it says in Hebrews 5:14, it is by constant (personal) ‘use’ of solid food that a mature Christian is able to distinguish good from evil. So now when a child becomes an adult, what do the adults do? They feed the children their milk so that they can move on to solid food, and guess what? They teach them how to get that solid food for themselves while they’re at it! It’s the adult’s job to teach the children how to feed themselves, so that they can grow and help mature others. In other words, you need solid food and not milk in order to grow in Christ to the point of becoming everything God desires for you to be in Him.
I hope this has been as helpful to you as it was for me to learn about. Have a fantastic day!
Grace and Peace,