Milk and Solid Food (Meat) of God’s Word
Several places within the New Testament the Holy Spirit describes God’s Word (doctrine) as both “milk,” and “solid food” (meat). And since a new-born Christian is directed to grow to spiritual maturity, he or she should understand that it is necessary to transition from the “milk” to the “solid food” (“strong meat” in the King James Version [KJV]) of the Word. Such growth can occur no other way. Furthermore, it is only by “use” of the “solid food” (meat) of the Word that a Christian may fully discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
This being the case, an understanding of that which is “milk” and that which is “solid food” (meat) should be the focus of every Christian as he or she studies the Word. This rather brief article is offered to assist in calling attention to this endeavor.
(The following is a verbatim reproduction [with only minor grammatical and format corrections, the use of the NKJV instead of the KJV, the insertion of certain scriptural passages under consideration, and an occasional “editorial note”] of Chapter 7 (pages 140 to 146) of the book, Selected Writings of A. Edwin Wilson, which was edited by Arlen L. Chitwood and published by the Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc. of Hayesville, North Carolina. A final “editorial note” will then follow Wilson’s material.)
Failure to distinguish between eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens has resulted in a confusion of interpretation. To the majority of commentators eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens are used synonymously. There are still others who make eternal life, membership in the church, and participation in the coming kingdom of our Lord to be one and the same.
We have what might be called two major schools of interpretation: (1) The Arminian, whose philosophy is that if a Christian sins he loses or forfeits his salvation. (2) The other extreme is the Calvinist, who teaches that salvation is eternal and a believer can never be lost, and since the sins of Christians are under the blood, God pays no attention to theirs sins. However, Scripture does not uphold either view in its conclusion. Scripture does teach “once saved always saved,” but it also teaches that a Christian is accountable to God for his sins, and his sins must be judged.
Here is a Key to Scripture
To rightly divide the Word of Truth one must distinguish between the Scriptures that treat of eternal life and those that treat of the rewards to the faithful.
Gnosis and Epignosis
The Spirit of God being very God can make no mistake and does everything perfectly. Therefore, when we find Him using two different words, both of which the King James Version translates “knowledge,” we judge that the Spirit recognizes a difference between gnosis, which simply means “knowledge,” and epignosis, which means “deeper knowledge” or “superior knowledge,” since the prefix epi means “above,” “beyond,” “after” or “deeper.” Now I want to show in this article the difference between “knowledge” and “after-knowledge.”
To the unsaved person there is the possibility of getting a “knowledge” of the Lord Jesus Christ that brings salvation. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). A personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, which comes under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God, enables one to believe that Jesus is the Christ. To so believe in the heart and confess with the mouth brings salvation (Matthew 16:16-18; John 1:12, 13; Romans 10:8-10).
(Editorial Note: The specific point in time when a person is passed from spiritual death to spiritual [eternal] life comes when the willful decision is made to place one’s faith in Jesus Christ alone and His finished work on Calvary for one’s eternal salvation [Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8, 9])
Such knowledge, though fundamental and absolutely essential, is nonetheless elementary and belongs to the infancy and babyhood days of the individual Christian’s experience. Such Christians possessing only this gnosis (knowledge) are called by the Spirit of God “babes” who can digest only milk (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 5:11-14).
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge [Greek: epignosis] of Him, (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (20) that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, (21) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (22) And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23)
In Ephesians 1:15:23 we have the first prayer recorded that Paul offered on behalf of the Ephesians. I think that in the Holy Spirit’s recording of two of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians (this one and the one in Ephesians 3:12-21) we have a most significant revelation from God that merits our closest attention and deepest study. Since the Holy Spirit indites our prayers that are in harmony with the will of God, this prayer we are now considering (which deals with epignosis) is first of all given to Paul by the Holy Spirit; secondly, it is prayed and recorded by the apostle Paul, and thirdly, it is offered to and accepted by God.
Notice that in Ephesians 1:15, 16, Paul says that since he has heard that they have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and not only are saved but have grown in grace to the extent that they [have] “love for all the saints” (Would you care to judge your growth in grace according to your love for all the brethren?), he now prays for them without ceasing. I want you to get the significance of this before we continue. These Ephesian saints are already saved and are growing in grace, and now Paul begins to pray for them.
In verse 17 he calls attention to the fact that he is praying that God will give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the “deeper knowledge” (epignosis). Today so few people are interested in the deeper knowledge of the Word of God. They are content to be babes in Christ throughout their Christian experience; they want none of the solid food (meat) of the Word; they care not for the after-knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is so much in the future for Christians, for the Lord Himself, and for the Jews and Gentiles that one cannot realize his Christian experience to the fullest extent without this after-knowledge (knowledge to be gained after one is saved).
The prayer of Paul is continued in verse 18 where he expresses the desire that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened.
(Editorial Note: Wilson uses the phrase, which is most likely in another translation, “eyes of their heart” instead of “eyes of their understanding” and continues with: “The heart is reckoned to be the seat of the affections, and Paul desires that the organ of the seat of their love life might be enlightened. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” [Proverb 23:7]. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [Matthew 6:21].)
This deepening of love on the part of Christians — which grows out of, as well as results in, the deeper knowledge of the Lord — culminates in one’s loving the appearing of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Instead of trying to keep his converts in ignorance of things pertaining to the kingdom, instead of discouraging them of thinking upon the return of the Lord, instead of telling them that the second coming of Christ is none of their business, Paul is actually praying under the leadership of the Holy Spirit that they may come to know these things are a certainty. Paul prays very definitely that they may have three things: “that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe . . . .”
What is the “hope of His calling”? We encounter three words that are frequently used together: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 we have “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “patience of hope.” In Revelation 2:2 the church in Ephesus had degenerated until they possessed only works, labor, and patience. The word “hope” occurs many, many times throughout the New Testament and invariably has to do with the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23), which is the blessed hope of the Christian (Titus 2:13). The hope of the Christian is to qualify to occupy a position of rulership with Christ in His kingdom.
How many Christians have this hope? Too many Christians are hoping for a quiet death, a good job of embalming, a lovely well-attended funeral, a final resting place in a beautiful cemetery surrounded with all kinds of idols and monuments, and having perpetual care, for which they save their money and for which they have paid. Not many hope to see the Lord alive. In fact, many modern missionaries, fundamental theological professors and Bible teachers try to tell us that none of the apostles or anybody else has had any Scriptural hope of being alive when the Lord returns. But Paul here in Ephesians 1:18 is praying that after they have been saved and have started to grow, they may come into the after-knowledge of the hope of His calling — an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ in that coming day.
Solid Food (Meat) in Due Season
And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food [KJV: meat] in due season”?
The expression “food (meat) in due season” has a specific reference to the Word that is to be ministered in the closing days of this age. The context of this verse reveals the fact that it has to do with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, we learn that the doctrine of Scripture is divided into two categories, milk for babes and food (meat) for adults. The carnal Christian can only bear the milk of the Word, whereas perfect (mature) Christians delight in the solid food (meat) of the Word.
The milk of the Word is that aspect that is apparent as a babe in Christ reads the Scripture. It is called by many the devotional characteristics of the Word. The solid food (meat) of the Word is the deeper meaning, and in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 we learn that the solid food (meat) of the Word has to do with rewards [or the suffering of loss] manifested in the coming kingdom of our Lord. These rewards are given out on the basis of faithfulness in the service of the Lord.
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, (10) called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (11) of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food [KJV: strong meat]. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (14) But solid food [KJV: strong meat] belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:9-14)
In Hebrews 5:9-14 we learn that the solid food (meat) of the Word is associated with the priesthood of Melchizedec. Melchizedec was the “king of righteousness” [the meaning of the Hebrew word] and the “king of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18), and as such, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ when He shall return to rule and reign for a thousand years. Again we have the truth emphasized that milk is for those who know little about the Word of the Lord, for they are still babes in Christ, but solid food (strong meat — truths pertaining to the coming rule and reign of our Lord) belongs to those who are fully grown spiritually because of their having fed upon the deep things of the Lord.
In Colossians 1:28 Paul gives expression to the fact that he warns and teaches every man in all wisdom, that they might be fully grown when they come to appear before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul admonishes Timothy, and it carries on to us also, to study the Word of God, that one may be able to divide aright the Word of Truth. In Ephesians 1:15-17, after Paul had learned of the faith of the Ephesian saints and of their love for all the saints, he began to pray for them without ceasing, that God, the Father of glory, would give to them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the deeper knowledge of the things that pertain to Him.
Paul had no desire to appear in the presence of the Lord with a bunch of babes in Christ, but he longed to be able to present them all to the Lord as adults, mature in their thinking pertaining to the things of God — which maturity comes only through the study of prophecy.
Milk for Babes . . . Solid Food (Meat) for Adults
The Lord uses many descriptive words and phrases to characterize His Word. It is called the Sword of the Spirit, a mirror, a hammer, water, a lamp, and many other things; but the two that I want to discuss in this particular article are the ones set forth as milk and solid food (meat).
As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2)
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (Hebrews 5:13)
I fed you with milk and not with solid food (meat) . . . . (1 Corinthians 3:2a)
These scriptures are sufficient to introduce to our thinking the fact that the Spirit of God speaks of the elementary truths for newborn Christians as “milk;” and there is another set of truths for mature Christians that the Lord calls the “solid food” (meat) of the Word. Milk is an interesting food for babies. Actually, the milk upon which babies thrive and by which they begin to grow is solid food (meat) that another has eaten, digested, and converted into milk. That illustration can be carried into the realm of the spiritual. The milk of the Word is the solid food (meat) of the Word that others have read, studied, assimilated, and converted into elementary terms so an infant in the Lord can understand.
Another description of the sincere milk of the Word is that which has to do with truths pertaining to personal salvation: for instance, how to be saved, how to know you are saved, the first duties of a Christian toward the Lord, the importance of feeding on the Word and communing with the Lord in prayer, relationships one to another, and responsibilities relative to time and possessions. All such truths as these are necessary for young Christians if they are to grow. They are classed by the Lord in His Word as the sincere milk of the Word.
The Bible has much to say about the solid food (meat) of the Word — about strong doctrines for individuals who have grown and matured in the Lord. In Luke 12:42, we read: “And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food [KJV: meat] in due season?” Here the Lord is speaking of His faithful servants giving solid food (meat) in due season. Those who are faithful in so doing shall share in His millennial reign. Those who do not give solid food (meat) in due season not only shall be chastened of the Lord but will have no place of service in His kingdom, even though saved.
First of all we want to establish the meaning of the word translated solid food or meat as it is used by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Continuing in Luke 12, we note in verse 45 that the one who does not give solid food (meat) in due season simply says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming.” Here, evidently, solid food (meat) has to do with the teaching concerning the imminent return of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, 12-15, solid food (meat) is associated with the day of the manifestation of a Christian’s works and rewards (or loss of rewards) at the second coming of Christ.
In Hebrews 5:10, the Spirit is talking about Christ as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. In verses 11 and 12, the Spirit says there are many things relative to the type of Melchizedec that He wants to say, but cannot, because these Christians can only take milk and not solid food (KJV: strong meat). In verses 13 and 14, He emphasizes the fact that the milk is for babes and the solid food (meat) is for those who are full grown. In these verses in Hebrews, solid food (meat) has to do with the antitype of Melchizedec, the Lord Jesus Christ. Melchizedec was priest and king at the same time. He [as the type] brought gifts to Abraham, and reigned in peace, fulfilling the antitype of the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes to rule and reign on the earth. Christ will come as both Priest and King and will bring His rewards with Him, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
The above discussion is to establish the truth that the sincere milk of the Word is elementary and is for young Christians, while the solid food (meat) is the doctrine of the coming of our Lord, His ruling and reigning on the earth and all the varied events related to it.
Now let us turn again to Luke 12:42-48. Our Lord has been speaking to the disciples about having their loins girded and their lights burning as men waiting for their Lord (verses 35, 36). Then Peter asked the question, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” Jesus then asked the question, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward?” and answered His own question by saying that it is the one who gives to the household their portion of solid food (meat) in due season.
Two truths appear here in connection with the giving of solid food (meat) in due season. The first one is that soon after a person is saved he should be given some solid food (meat) — that is, he should be taught the truth relative to the second coming of Christ. The apostle Paul was with the church in Thessalonica three Sundays and the days intervening. During that brief time he gave them the simple gospel of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:5), and before the two weeks had expired, he had taught them practically every truth relative to the second coming of Christ and the end time. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10, three things are said of this group of newborn Christians: (1) they turned to God from idols; (2) they served the living and true God; and (3) they were waiting or watching for His Son from heaven.
Paul also taught the Christians in Thessalonica about the crowns they will receive for faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 2:19), and he taught them about the resurrection and the order of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Herein is the truth concerning the rapture of the saints into the presence of the Lord. In the fifth chapter of the same book he speaks of the times and the seasons — of the fact that Christians can know when the day is approaching.
In the second epistle to the Thessalonians, we find a divinely developed system of truth in chapter two about the second coming. In verse 1, Paul speaks of our being caught up to be with the Lord, which is the day of Christ. He tells of the day of the Lord — the time when the judgments of God will be on the earth. In verse 3, he speaks of the great apostasy that shall precede the rapture. In the same verse he also begins to tell of the antichrist who is going to sit in the temple of God and be worshipped as God. In verse 8, he speaks of the conflict between the antichrist and Christ. In verse 9, he describes the great powers and signs of the antichrist. In verses 11 and 12, he tells of the strong delusion that shall be sent upon all individuals who hear the Word of Truth and will not believe.
In Hebrews 5:10-6:12, there is a very stern rebuke by the Spirit of God against all Christians who have refused to study the truth of the second coming of Christ. He also tells us in Hebrews 6:4-6, that if one has once learned the truth of the second coming and then gives it up or falls away from it, refusing to teach it, that one can never be renewed to this precious truth again. He also will have forfeited forever his rewards that would have been his during the thousand-year reign of Christ.
Now let us return to Luke 12 for some concluding observations. In verse 42, it is the faithful servant who gives solid food (meat) in due season. The due season refers to the time when it is supposed to be served, that is, as the end of this age approaches and as the coming of the Lord draws nigh, God’s servants are to teach more and more about the second coming of Christ with all of its related events. This is giving solid food (meat) in due season.
In verse 45, the Lord says if that servant (the same one mentioned in verse 42) says in his heart, my lord delays His coming, he not only shall lose his rewards but shall experience unparalleled suffering resulting from the revelation made known at the judgment seat of Christ. It is noticed in this verse (v. 45) that the servant does not say this out loud; he doesn’t preach and teach that the Lord delays His coming, but he simply says it in his heart. I have known pastors who affirmed orally before the church their belief in the truths pertaining to the second coming of Christ, but in their hearts they denied it, and their actions followed the convictions of their hearts rather than the profession of their mouths.
This servant in verse 42 (who in verse 45 has become unfaithful and mistreats and attacks the menservants and maidens who teach the truth), shall be cut in sunder and have his portion with unbelievers during the millennial reign of Christ (verse 46). This experience will have nothing to do whatsoever with his salvation. It is simply the chastisement that follows when he has to be judged (1 Corinthians 11:32). Also notice the specific words of our Lord in Luke 12:47 concerning the punishment of this unfaithful servant. Other similar passages of Scripture are to be found in Matthew 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25:1-13, 28-30; Luke 19:2-27; Galatians 5:17-21.
— End of Wilson’s Material —
Final Editorial Note:
Although it may be difficult to specify what doctrine(s) should be considered as the milk of the Word, a continual study of the Word confirms that (1) it has been given as spiritual food for Christians — not the lost, and (2) most of it pertains to the comprehensive plan of God for the redemption of mankind, otherwise known as the solid food (meat) of the Word.
It may be safely stated that the milk of God’s Word centers on the rudimentary truths surrounding Christ’s payment for mankind’s sin on the cross, the truth with which only the Holy Spirit can enlighten the lost toward eternal (spirit) salvation. And following this, it may be that one’s water baptism, participation in the “Lord’s Supper,” and communion with God in prayer and with other Christians in a local assembly (church) could further be considered as milk doctrines.
But since the preponderance of God’s Word has to do with solid food, which runs the gamut of Scripture, from the beginning verses in Genesis to the ending verses in Revelation, it may be suitably argued that a young Christ should almost immediately be introduced to such for his Christian growth. In fact, a young Christian, who has not been “programmed” over a period of time by an established Christian denomination, is far more ready to assimilate the solid food (meat) of the Word.
Yet so many conservative groups within Christendom use the services of the local church to feed the milk of the Word in hopes of evangelizing the lost (an activity that should be conducted by Christians outside of the local church), thereby ignoring their primary responsibility of disciplining (feeding) the flock of God.
The reader of this brief article is implored to feed solid food in due season — now — to all Christian contacts. Only be so doing will you be able to honor Christ’s imperative to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17) and to disciple all nations (Matthew 28:19), activities that will have a prominent place at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:10; Luke 12:42ff).
To understand the solid food (meat) of the Word, the reader is advised to read the articles and books presented on the homepage of www.bibleone.net.