1 Corinthians 3.1-4 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 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. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
In chapter 2 of this letter, Paul divides all mankind into two classes. The natural man and the spiritual man. That division coincides with the division of mankind in chapter one, which was those who are saved and in Christ, those who are perishing and in Adam. But here in chapter three, Paul divides those who are saved into two classes as well. The babies in Christ, who he calls carnal. And the mature in Christ. The Corinthians were saved and gifted in a remarkable way, but they were carnal. Although the Greek word carnal can be used to describe an unregenerate person, in this context, it was referring to individuals who were governed by mere human nature not by the Spirit of God. Their behavior was governed by the flesh. They were jealous, envious, divisive and always striving with one another. To put it bluntly, they were grieving The Spirit of God.
Paul called them babes in Christ. Babies are cute, but they are very self centered. They are always dependent on others to take care of them. They do not care who is around if they want to throw a tantrum. They do not care how you are feeling, they are only concerned about how you take care of them. Now it is okay to behave like a baby for a season, but there is something wrong when a 30 year old is still fussing and crying over the fact that they did not get their way or somebody crossed them up.
Keep in mind that the Corinthian problem wasn’t one of teaching. They had Paul, Peter and Apollos as teachers. The problem was, they did not listen to what they were taught. In fact, another indication of spiritual babyhood was the fact that they were divided around their favorite teachers. Sound familiar? Bible knowledge alone is not the measure of spiritual maturity. Love and obedience to God are.
We read in Hebrews 5 these words, For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 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.
What is the distinction between a carnal and mature saint? Mature behavior and a life that manifests the love of Christ towards others that is unselfish, not divisive and gives God glory. He and He alone is their Hero, and He alone is Lord.