What God Meant: “Like Newborn Infants, Long for the Pure Spiritual Milk”

Biblical writers use several different word pictures to help us understand the power and function of Scripture.

At different times, the Bible is compared to:

  • Light (Psalm 119:105)
  • A mirror (James 1:23)
  • Fire (Jeremiah 23:29)
  • A hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
  • A sword (Hebrews 4:12)
  • Milk (1 Peter 2:2)
  • Food (1 Corinthians 3:2)

It’s those last two that can be a little confusing. In 1 Peter 2:2, the comparison to milk seems to be a favorable one. Peter’s admonition is for the readers (and us) to preserve a singular focus on and childlike enthusiasm for God’s Word.

Then Paul uses a similar word picture in 1 Corinthians 3:2, but seems to indicate that at some point, we ought to graduate away from the “milk” of the Word.

So which is it? Is the Word of God like milk or like food? And is that good or bad?

While it’s almost always a good idea to compare Scripture with Scripture, literary devices like metaphors or similes remain effective only in their original contexts. The same metaphor used in a different way can illustrate a different point, and that’s what’s going on here.

Peter uses the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we ought to consume the Word of God, just like an infant consumes milk.

Paul is addressing a different group of people all together about an all together different idea. The Corinthians who received Paul’s letter did not lack eagerness—they lacked perseverance. They were rehearsing the same fundamental truths constantly, never moving beyond the basics, and were thus missing the richness of other, heavier, more substantial Scripture passages.

Peter and Paul are not arguing. They are standing back to back, defending the same idea from different directions.

As we read the Word of God, it’s important for us to keep in mind that it was written over a span of more than 1,500 years by more than 40 different individuals from all walks of life. They address different subjects for different audiences, from different perspectives, and yet not a single contradiction or error appears in its 66 books. Remarkable, no?

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The Faithlife Study Bible links Scripture passages that address the same topic, so you can make connections with just a click. Download the Faithlife Study Bible for free from your favorite app store, and take your Bible study to the next level.

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Written by
Ray Deck III

Born in WV, Ray escaped to North Carolina at a young age. He came to Logos after an 8 year stint at a faith-based nonprofit in New York. When he is not assembling sequences of words, he’s probably running, surfing or shooting skeet, but you should probably go look for him. He has a terrible sense of direction and is probably lost.

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Written by Ray Deck III