So rich and varied is the Word of God that the Bible uses numerous figures to describe its character, purpose, and effect. Last week we noted that the Word is described as being like milk for the young—containing everything they need to grow and thrive and to be desired by believers above all else. This week we will glance at the Word of God under the figure of meat, specifically, the two passages that spring to mind most readily. “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 [“food”]: 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?” (I Cor. 3:1-3). “But strong meat [“solid food”] 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” (Heb. 5:14).
As the brackets above indicate, the correct renderings of the words translated as meat in the AV are food and solid food. But the contrast remains clear: there is food that is fit for babies, and there is different food that is fit for those who have matured beyond babyhood. The Word of God provides milk, all that is needed, for a “newborn babe” in Christ. But God intends us eventually to grow up and partake of the solid food of His Word.
Meat is not doctrine. Some would have us believe that spiritual maturity and the meat of the Word have to do primarily with the ability to understand doctrines that may escape a less trained or educated mind. Similar to the Gnostics of John’s day, they cling to the belief that only some are capable of understanding certain esoteric doctrines contained in the Word of God. If we are honest with ourselves we will acknowledge that many of us have pet doctrines by which we gauge our own “spirituality” and that of others. Those who adhere to these doctrinal “truths” are considered more mature than those who do not. However, the two passages cited above seem to suggest another meaning connected with the concepts of maturity and the meat of the Word.
Meat is discernment. While it is certainly true that there is absolutely a correlation between spiritual maturity and the ability to understand the doctrines of the Word of God, the ability to understand or express doctrinal truth is not the ultimate measure of maturity. The writer of the book of Hebrews links maturity and the ability to digest the meat of the Word with faithful practice (“by reason of use”) of what we have been taught, which trains (“exercises”) our senses to “discern both good and evil.” Surely this latter phrase incorporates the idea that a mature believer recognizes the difference between sound doctrine and error cloaked as sound doctrine as well as the idea that a mature saint, evincing wisdom, believes and obeys the whole counsel of God. In fact, earlier in the chapter (vv. 8, 9), the writer, speaking of Christ’s incarnation, links the idea of perfection (cf., maturity) with that of obedience. Maturity, discernment, and the meat of the Word all have more to do with practical obedience and submission to revealed truths than to intellectual comprehension of certain doctrines. That this is indeed the case is underscored by our Corinthian citation in which Paul excoriates those believers, for their carnality, not in terms of truths they had failed to comprehend mentally, but in terms of character they had failed to manifest experientially. The meat of the Word is for the mature. The mature are those who believe (cf., discern) and obey what God has revealed in His Word. Faith and obedience, rather than knowledge, are the hallmarks of the mature, and it is the faithful and obedient who enjoy the meat of the Word.
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