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Differing Uses of Metaphorical “Milk” in the Epistles (Hebrews 5)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Lesson 43:
Jesus Christ, “the Author of Eternal Salvation”




Sometimes the scriptures will use a particular idiom in an interesting way. In the case of the metaphor use of milk in the scriptures, part of what makes the usage interesting is that Peter and Paul use it completely opposite ways. To clarify: this is okay. It’s a metaphor. Milk has both good and bad attributes and it’s fine if different writers use these attributes to make different points. I will give three examples (2 negative and one positive) of the use of milk in the epistles:

In Hebrews 5, verses 13-14, we have,

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat 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.

Next, in 1 Corinthians 3, verses 1-4, we have Paul taking a similar approach,

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

So in the first of the negative uses of milk, in Hebrews, the issue is that they are spiritually immature. In the second example, Corinthians, the issue is that they are spiritually immature and carnal as manifested by their divisive elevation of earthly leaders over unity in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:1-3, we have a contrasting example in which Peter exhorts the Saints,

1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

The milk here is a lot sweeter than what Paul apparently was offered as an infant that made him so eager to move on to solids. The next time you hear someone say “milk before meat” then you may need to ask them whether they mean this in a Hebrews 5 sense, a 1 Corinthians 3 sense or a 1 Peter 2 sense so that you can be sure of exactly what they mean.

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