You wouldn’t expect a 30, 40 or 50-year-old person to drink milk out of a baby bottle, would you? Of course not! Adults shouldn’t be living on baby’s milk or infant formula, should they? We naturally expect babies to drink milk from their mother or a bottle and to graduate to baby food and eventually to solid food. The writer of Hebrews used this word picture when he was writing to believers, warning them that they need to keep on growing and maturing in their faith, rather than returning to a state of spiritual babyhood or losing their faith. The passage puts it this way:
Hebrews 5:12-14 (AMP) “For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”
He is strongly encouraging the believers to keep growing in their faith. He admonishes them not to stop at the elementary doctrines of the faith, and remain in immature or immoral behavior, but instead to grow in spiritual maturity. In his first letter, Peter uses a similar analogy when he encourages believers to grow from spiritual babyhood to spiritual maturity, He writes in 1 Peter 2:2-3, Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Peter exhorts believers to desire God’s word, which he refers to as pure milk, and that their behavior will mature in Christ as they do this. The Hebrews writer encourages believers to drink milk (the basic doctrines of the faith) and then move continually on toward spiritual maturity, likening spiritual growth to eating solid food or “meat” in some translations.
Jesus stated in John 3:3 that the way to salvation and eternal life is to be “born again.” Both the writer of Hebrews and Peter remind us that after we are born again, we need to grow up. Like a baby moves from milk to solid food in order to grow physically, once we are born into the Christian faith we need to progressively feed our spirits on ever-deeper spiritual nourishment from God’s word and practice spiritual disciplines in order to grow spiritually. Incidentally, physical age and spiritual age are not necessarily the same. For example, I was born again at age 36 when I came to faith in Jesus Christ, and then needed to grow from spiritual newborn to a grown up in Christ. Of course, I’m like all believers, a work in progress, but I’m growing up into the image and likeness of Christ!
How about you? After you’ve tasted the pure spiritual milk found in God’s Word, are you continually learning the deeper things of the Holy Spirit beyond the basics of your own salvation? Is your growing faith reflected in more spiritually mature behavior? Have you moved from spiritual milk to meat? You may sometimes be tempted to go back on the baby bottle and stop growing spiritually. Don’t do it! Keep eating His Word and practicing spiritual disciplines so that you might grow spiritually strong and mature. Then you can lead others to Christ and disciple them.
Following are disciplines Christians can practice to grow spiritually strong and mature:
1. Read God’s Word often:
Luke 4:4 “But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
2. Pray regularly:
Philippians 4:6 (NLT) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
3. Meet regularly with other Christians:
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Prayer: God, help me to grow up in the faith. I pray for a hunger and thirst after righteousness, because You promise in Your word that if I hunger and thirst after righteousness, I will be filled. Come, Holy Spirit, fill me with Your presence that I might be useful to you. I pray that I could win the lost to Christ and help to bring them to spiritual maturity, Amen.
* This article is an excerpt from the author’s upcoming devotional book, “A Slice of Life for Women: Recipes for Christian Growth.”