by Rebecca Livermore
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal, and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NJKV).
Having grown up in the church and then moved around the country and world, I’ve attended various types of churches. The above passage in 1Corinthians, brought to mind a church I attended that strongly emphasized doctrine. In my view, emphasizing doctrine, and emphasizing the Bible, are two different things.
Churches or Christians who emphasize doctrine rather than the Bible often quote a particular writer, rather than the Bible, and often, even when they quote the Bible, may quote it not from their own study, but rather parrot what a pastor or a Christian writer of their particular “stripe” have said. They often align themselves with a particular denomination, or belief system. For instance, rather than saying, “I’m a Bible believing Christian,” they may say, “I’m a Calvinist,” or “I’m an Armenian.”
Paul said such people are carnal. The word carnal means the vain, fallen nature, a nature in which sin springs up and spreads. The word that I want to focus on for a minute is, “vain.” An unfortunate by product of aligning ones self with a particular niche of Christianity is spiritual smugness and often suggests that one’s beliefs are superior, that their particular “camp” holds a corner on the truth, and that those who disagree with their specific brand of Christianity at best are immature, and at worst, may not even be saved. These people, in their pride, consider themselves to be into the meat of the Word, but Paul makes it clear that those who in their carnality align themselves with a particular way of thinking, are only able to receive the milk of the Word. In spite of the length of time they have been Christians, they are mere babies.
Please don’t misunderstand; it isn’t wrong to belong to a particular denomination or to study the writings of others, but if you closely identify yourself with a denomination or particular doctrinal viewpoint, and thus follow man rather than God, you will never get beyond the baby stage in your walk with the Lord.
Father, we pray that you will help us to align ourselves with You and Your Word, rather than a particular doctrinal slant emphasized by man. Help us to be like the Bereans, as we filter all of our thinking through Your powerful Word. Remove any pride or spiritual smugness from our lives, and help us to dwell together in unity with Christians who may think differently than we do. Bring us into the place where we can feast on the meat of Your Word. Amen.
Thought: The question I have for you today is, “Who are you following?” Do you strongly identify yourself with a particular denomination or a particular doctrinal slant or do you identify yourself most strongly with Christ? Do you obtain most of your spiritual food from teachers and writers, or do you read and study the Bible on your own? Grapple with your feelings on the subject in your journal. (Note: If you don't like to journal, spend some time in prayer on this topic.)
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