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Milk of the Word

If you study the Scriptures closely, you will discover how the Lord uses the things we see, feel, smell, and touch in order to teach us how to understand spiritual things. This natural world is how our Heavenly Father is able to relate to us. If it weren’t for parabolic teachings, how would we understand that He is like a consuming fire (Heb 12:29), without having experienced the attributes of fire ourselves?

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, and when you begin to understand the language, you will see that Hebraic thought is much different than our Western understanding. In Hebrew thought, names speak of character and function. When looking at something, rather than see it by its identifier, they see it by the function of that thing. When we search through the Scriptures and see “fire”, we should be asking, what is the function of fire that the Lord is trying to reveal? 

The function of fire is to burn and consume. The Lord desires to consume us with His Spirit, just as He did with the Apostles in the upper room (Acts 2). The fire will burn you, and it can hurt you, but the Apostle Paul says that it is the old you that is wasting away (2 Corinthians 4:16). God wants to burn the way you used to think, act, feel and, in exchange, He will bring beauty from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3). That is also why the Lord is like a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:2-3) because you purify gold by sending it through the fire. Another attribute of fire is to produce light; Jesus said, He “is the light of the world” (John 8:12). 

Matthew 3:11 talks about the baptism of fire that is coming; but, before we can go through it, the Lord must send us through a process, so we don’t get destroyed by the fire of God. In the Book of Genesis, God sent down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah because they were living in rebellion and opposed to the things of God (Genesis 19:24). They had no fire for God, therefore, when the fire fell it destroyed them. The only way that fire will not destroy a thing is if it is already burning. The Apostles in the upper room were all pressing in one accord; they were persistent and endured until the end. Prior to the fire falling, there were many in the upper room; but, as time went on, they decreased in numbers and only those who really had a passion and fire for God were consumed by Him on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).

Just as there are many stages in life, there are many stages the Lord wants to take us through. We can understand spiritual principles by looking at the natural things around us (ref 1 Corinthians 15:46). When we begin to walk with God, we all start at a place of being babies in the faith. A parent would never give a baby a box of matches, as a baby needs to grow and mature before they are able to come anywhere close to fire. The same applies with God, He does not give us anything we are not ready for. We must go through a maturing process first. So, how does a baby grow and mature in the faith? 

Let’s look at another parable to understand our growth process. Our natural bodies need to be fed, but are you aware that we also need to feed our Spirit? You wouldn’t feed a baby just anything as they don’t have teeth to chew; their bodies require milk, which contains the nutrients for them to grow. The milk of the Word is the first food necessary for our development as believers. It is  important and is the foundation of our ability to understand the deeper things of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). 

This is something that the Early Church believed and implemented when they were teaching new converts. The Early Church, which was the first 325 years of the Church after the resurrection of Christ, implemented and taught a succession on how to run and teach the Church. This instruction was passed down for hundreds of years, coming straight from the Apostles that were instructed by Jesus Himself. They refer to milk of the Word of God as catechetical instruction. Clement of Alexandra (Early Church Father) says this: 

“For a long time, all who have to be instructed in the higher disciplines consider as annoying the effort involved in learning the rudiments, as long as they ignore(do not understand) the goal and the benefit of the instruction to which they are being introduced. But when the perfection of the discipline has been attained in order, then it will delight the initiates to have endured the trouble of the elementary instruction. Well, in holy and divine matters, there are also certain primary elements to which those who are striving for the perfection of blessedness are introduced.” [1]

As important as the milk is for us to grow, we are encouraged not to stay there but to move on to more mature things, as Paul addressed the Church of Corinth. This does not disregard the importance of the milk, as every child needs it in order to advance. When the Bible speaks about feeding your Spirit, it is referring to the Word of God and your ability to understand. We can feed it with milk, bread, or meat: all speak of different levels of understanding Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:20). The Early Church taught that milk is the simple doctrine, which focuses on moral instruction. 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, your morals show you the difference between right and wrong behavior. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword, which can rightly divide what is of the Spirit and what is of the flesh (Hebrews 4:12). The milk helps us gain discernment in the Word of God on how to understand things through the Spirit of God. Apostle Paul said that there are two ways that we can interpret Scripture: the letter, which kills, or the Spirit, which gives life (2 Corinthians 3:16). 

As a child cannot survive on their own, needing a father to guide them, it is the same way in the body of Christ. We need the Apostles, or fathers in the faith, to instruct us and show us how to interpret the Word of God. As we grow in our relationship with Christ and build up more moral character, or discernment through the Word of God, only then are we enabled to search out the Scriptures in a more deeper manner.

References:

1. Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Father; The Stromata, BK V, Ch 10


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