Handling Spiritual Infants
The Apostle Paul exemplified the patience and grace of God in dealing with spiritual infants. Here are three ways we can be like him in our care of new and young believers.
[Note: This post is based on last week’s reading:1 Corinthians].
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth which he had established on his second missionary journey. We call it the "First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians" because it is the first one that we have in our Bibles. But this was not the very first letter between Paul and the church. There had been an earlier letter from Paul to them and an earlier letter from them to him (5:9; 7:1). Paul and the members of the church in Corinth knew each other well.
There were plenty of problems in the church in Corinth. They had deep divisions in the congregation, factions around their favorite teachers—Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Christ (1:11-12). They were spiritual infants, not able to digest a solid diet of truth (3:1-3). The congregation tolerated a case of incest that would have shocked even pagans (5:1). Some were bringing lawsuits against other members (6:1). Worship was disorderly and at the Lord’s Supper there was gluttony and drunkenness (11:20-21). Competitiveness--not love--characterized their church life. Some denied the resurrection, a foundational truth of the gospel (15:12).
Handling Spiritual Infants
This was no model congregation. How does Paul handle them?
- Gracious reassurance. He gives thanks to God for them and calls them “saints” because they are sanctified in Christ (1:2). He tells them that they belong to the fellowship of Jesus Christ and that He will sustain them guiltless to the end (1:3-9). They do not deserve this, but God is gracious and patient with His own. So is Paul.
- Firm but gentle correction. Paul tells them that they are still infants who need milk. He takes the time to point out their sins and to show them how they needed to change in order to fulfill their purpose of glorifying God (6:20; 10:31).
- Thorough instruction. On matters like spiritual gifts and the doctrine of the resurrection, the Apostle goes into great detail in explaining, arguing, and illustrating the truths he wants them to believe and obey (chapters 12-15).
Lessons for Us
What can we learn from Paul here? He showed the love of God to unlovely people (13:1-13). As their spiritual father, he patiently instructed them in the truth (4:15). He taught them that they ought not to allow their acceptance by God to diminish the urgency to live in a way worthy of His name, a way that glorifies Him in everything.
Fellow believer, God has been patient and merciful to you and me receiving us into the fellowship of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we reflect that patience and mercy toward others?
Should we not let Paul’s kindness be an example in our relationships with spiritual infants who are struggling to grasp truth and to grow in Him? Ask yourself if someone in your life needs gracious reassurance, gentle correction, and thorough instruction. Let this letter instruct us in truth and in service to others for God’s glory.
This week’s reading: 1 Samuel 1-20
© John A Carroll 2018 Used by permission.