Are You Mature in Your Faith?

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in an attempt to restore the Corinthian church to its foundation – Jesus Christ.

First Corinthians chapter 14 has a discussion of the relative value of tongues and prophesying, which seem to have been the two gifts most valued.

Corinthian infatuation with tongues blunted their maturity in Christ.

But in 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul told the Christians in Corinth that they should be like babies in their lack of experience of evil things. They should have a simple attitude toward anything evil: evil things are wrong, and people should avoid them. However, to completely understand Paul’s message, we have to examine several slightly different Bible translations.

1 Corinthians 14:20 in Multiple Translations

1 Corinthians 14:20 – Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. (NASB)

Paul began verse 20 using the word “brethren” and uses it as punctuation throughout chapter 14 (14:6, 20, 26, 39). He appealed to the Corinthians as members of the family of God to consider what he had to say about the relative value of tongues when there was no translator. This softened the rebuke of calling them infantile in the next phrase. “Brethren” also indicates a change in the subject.

Paul said, “Just as in the case of infants, have no evil desires or wrong motives in wanting to excel in spiritual gifts (such as speaking in tongues) as an end in itself.” 1

We should not be selfish immature children in our understanding of Jesus Christ.

In their selfish desire to edify themselves at the expense of others, the Corinthians showed themselves to be children and selfishly immature. Paul points them to a higher call.

The word “children” means “infants.” Preoccupation with tongues is infantile. Christians can be “children in understanding.” Twice Paul used the word “understanding” in this verse. Mature spirituality stresses reasoning power over the subjective. The Corinthians took a childish delight in using this very unusual gift; in doing so, they were immature.

The King James Version of 1 Corinthians 14:20 says, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” (KJV)

However, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. The word “malice” refers to general wrong. It can refer to evil, wickedness, or depravity, or it can mean badness, difficulties.

Anything that distracts the believer from maturity dislocates movement towards maturity. We live in a day when evangelical Christians are “adults” in their understanding of the world. They have allowed their hearts to be distracted from growth in Christ. Christians expose themselves to evil without any attempt to purge it out of their lives.

The Apostle Peter said, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

God always puts the priority on cognition and understanding. A central objective of the worship service is to teach doctrine. Any other form of worship is infantile. We cannot measure our spirituality on experience without exposition. 

Think in a Mature Manner.

At the same time, Paul urged Christians to think maturely. He did not consider the Christians in Corinth to be mature Christians yet (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). They cared too much about their own thoughts and desires. The result was constant arguments between them. When they became mature, they would care about other people. Then, an attitude of love would guide them in everything that they did (1 Corinthians chapter 13).

Corinthian infatuation with tongues blunted their maturity in Christ.

After verse 20, in chapter 14, there is a transition regarding the purpose of tongues (14:21-22). All gifts have sign value and content value. The gift of tongues focuses on the sign aspect: It arouses attention. Prophecy focuses on content, though in some instances it has great sign value. It confronts people with God’s Word and invites repentance. 2

Tongues serve as an indicator; prophecy serves as a communicator.  Tongues call attention to the mighty acts of God; prophecy calls to repentance and faith in response to the mighty acts of God. 3

So, as the NIV translation put it:

1 Corinthians 14:20 – Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (NIV)

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In conclusion, consider the Daily Bread email message sent on 1/12/2009 and 7/20/2023 says,

1 Corin 14:20

1 Corinthians 14:20 – Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. (NASB)

Have no evil desires or wrong motives in practicing or wanting to excel in spiritual gifts as an end in itself. In this letter, Paul specifically talks about speaking in tongues, but the application is to all spiritual gifts: preaching, teaching, praying, giving, loving, etc. Grow up! Use your spiritual gifts to honor and glorify God and not for your own edification.

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