1 Corinthians 3:1-5, Spiritual Infancy

"Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -- mere infants in Christ.  2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  3 You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?  4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?" (NIV)


Imagine that you are viewing a movie of a new born child.  You get to watch as the baby is delivered.  Its an exciting time.  You see the child be nurtured and coddled.  The film progresses and you get to see this baby get cuter and cuter with each day.  There are cute outfits, little, bows, rattles, and toys.  Then there are scenes of the child as it begins to crawl.  This baby stumbles a bit and can't quite get all four limbs working together, but soon enough after a little more viewing you see this baby finally begin to crawl.  This child seems to be developing normally.  You watch as this child's life unfolds and development and growth become more pronounced.  But something goes wrong.  The child stops developing. Though the child is growing physically, it isn't developing mentally and emotionally.  And it soon becomes evident that as it develops into that stage where crawling is left behind, that something isn't right.  It still crawls when it should walk.  The child still mumbles as an infant when it should be developing language skills.  It is stuck in the infant stage.  The situation is sad.

  1. During Paul's first stay in Corinth he could not address the Christians there as spiritually mature people.  Instead, he had to address them as infants, as those who had failed to mature properly in their walk with Christ.
    1. They were not "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
    2. What they were supposed to do was "...leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Heb. 6:1).  But they were not doing that.
  2. God's plan is birth, growth, and maturity.
  3. We recognize this immediately in the physical world He has created.
    1. We can see all around us the order of God's creation and His will that all things grow, develop, and mature, into that which God has purposed them -- they have purpose.
      1. The plants grow and mature and provide oxygen and food. -- they have purpose.
      2. Animals grow and mature and provide food and clothing. -- they have purpose.
      3. People, likewise grow, develop, and mature. -- and they too have purpose.
      4. This was even true of Christ.
        1. Jesus was God in flesh.  He was born; He was a child; He grew; He matured; and He fulfilled His purpose.  The purpose the Father had sent Him to accomplish.  He redeemed for Himself those whom the Father had elected into salvation.
  4. In this sense of birth and development, the spiritual realm is no different than the physical.  We need to be born spiritually just as we are born physically.
  5. Jesus explained the necessity of the new birth in John 3:1-7 "Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.  For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."  3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."  4 "How can a man be born when he is old?"  Nicodemus asked.  "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"  5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.'"
  6. We can see the importance of being born again.  We know the significance of regeneration.
  7. But the Corinthians had a problem: They were born again, but they were not growing.


  1. The Spiritual infant is concerned with self rather than service.
    1. Being born again should be a time of great rejoicing.
      1. And it is... in heaven and here
        1. Snatched from the burning.  Delivered from destruction.  The Angels sing, and Gods people rejoice.  All attention is on him.
      2. Sometimes, like a newborn, the spiritual newborn has all eyes on him.
        1. In the natural birth, all eyes are on the baby.
      3. The danger here is that the new convert can get accustomed to the attention.
        1. Pampering the baby and the results -- a spoiled, self willed child.
    2. Paul uses the word infant emphasis the level of spiritual maturity to which the Corinthians had attained.
      1. An infant is upset over the smallest things.
        1. You now how it is.  They cry when they want to be held or when they are hungry or when there is a sudden noise or even when their comfortable routine is threatened.
      2. Some Christians are like that.  They have to be handled with kid gloves.
        1. Their feelings are easily hurt.
      3. They remember wrongs suffered against them.
        1. In fact, I remember very well how a Christian father of teenagers boldly proclaimed to me how he would never shake the hand of another Christian who had wronged him 15 years ago. He boasted of his confidence that he was right and the other person was wrong.  To him there was no room for reconciliation.  Dare I say that this man's spiritual growth had stopped a long time ago.  He was not doing as the Scriptures command "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you," (Col. 3:13).
      4. Spiritual infants are like bombs... always ready to explode.
        1. At church they are extra nice, but at home explosive.
        2. At church she's ideal, but at home impossible.
        3. At church he's always praising, but at home always pouting.
        4. At church he's Mr. Good, but at home Mr. Grouch.
        5. At church she's an example, but at home she's exasperating.
        6. At church he/she is polite, but at home a gossip.
      5. An infant is a receiver... not a giver.
        1. The spiritual infant examines everything as a receiver.
          1. It is the spiritually immature who looks at the church, its people, and its programs through the eyes of a self centered child.
          2. What will it do for me?  What will I get out of this?  How does this effect me?  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
        2. The spiritual infant often fusses over rights, over the hoped apologies of another, over wrongs suffered, over all kinds of personal wants and desires.
    3. Paul compares spiritual infancy to worldly behavior.  He says in verse 3 that the Corinthians are still worldly.
      1. The mature in Christ are supposed to:
        1. be wronged rather than wrong another (1 Cor. 6:7).
        2. humbly consider others better than themselves (Phil. 2:3).
        3. be submissive one to another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).
        4. forgive as Christ has forgiven (Col. 3:13).
  2. The spiritual infant is concerned with argument rather than action.
    1. Look at verse 3 with me: "You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?"
    2. Envying, strife, divisions are the occupation of the spiritual baby.
    3. Have you ever watched children fight?
      1. They whine and cry over what they cannot have, cannot do, or what the must do, or even what they must have.
      2. One child intrudes out of rudeness and selfishness and the offended one strikes out.  There is much crying, much wailing, much complaint about their perceptions of having been wronged or not getting their way.
    4. Sometimes Christians are like that.
      1. It is easier to pry than pray.
      2. It is easier to accuse than lose.
      3. It is easier to grumble than to go.
      4. It is easier to argue than to act.
  3. The spiritual infant looks to human resources.
    1. The person who led him to Christ.
      1. Sometimes a new believer will attach himself to the one who led him to the Lord and look to that person for guidance and dependence.
    2. The evangelist who preached a special sermon.
      1. Sometimes a person will develop a loyalty to a particular preacher.  Loyalties are alright as long as it does not replace loyalty to Christ.
    3. Sometimes a person might travel many miles to hear a singer, or a preacher... but can't get even bend the knee to request of the Holy Lord.
      1. Great effort is sometimes spent in reading and driving and only a little time is given to prayer.
    4. Sometimes people trust in the resources of the church instead of God.
      1. It is not wrong to trust in human resources, unless that is all you trust.  Unless, your trust in them replaces your trust in Christ. Perhaps that is why we have troubles in our lives as Christians... so that we might learn to trust God more than anything or anyone else.
  4. The spiritual infant looks to people rather than to the Master.
    1. Again look with me at verse 4: "For when one says, 'I follow Paul, and another,' 'I follow Apollos..." (1 Cor. 3:4).
    2. Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
    3. Jesus is the only one we are supposed to follow.  The Word of God says that He is our Sovereign and Lord (Jude 1:4).
    4. The cross is the only reason we have any hope.  The Cross is the only reason we have of ever hoping to grow beyond the mere morality of the unsaved.
    5. With your eyes on Jesus, on what He did for you on the cross, on the great redemption bought and freely bestowed upon you, then and only then can you continue to grow as a Christian in all the areas that God wants you to grow in: forgiveness, patience, kindness, considering another more important than yourself, humility, endurance, faith, hope, and, of course, love.


What does the spiritual infant need to do?

  • He needs to look to Christ.
  • He needs to remember the cross of Christ.
  • He needs to begin building.
  • He needs to pray to be more concerned for others than Himself.
  • He needs to ask God to teach him patience, kindness, and maturity.

Are there areas in your life that have not developed properly?  Is it time for you to grow up?


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.