Summary: How do we come to a Christian mind?
Having the Mind of Christ
Paul had quite a challenge with the Corinthian church which he had founded. He had gone off to evangelize elsewhere, planting new churches. He had hoped that during his stay, he had instilled enough of the ABC’s of the faith for the church to mature. They had had an excellent teacher in Apollos. Yet they showed by their behavior that not enough of it had been caught. They in many respects were more like they were before becoming Christians than after. They were treating Christianity as a philosophy rather than a way of life. They really did not know what being a Christian meant. So when Paul received word of the problems there, he took time from his busy schedule to address them. After greeting them and reminding them of who they were, he went on to describe and diagnose the problem, In chapter three, he begins to offer a remedy.
When we look at the 3rd chapter of 1 Corinthians, we need first look back at the end of the 2nd. Verse 16 emphatically states that we have the mind of Christ. The extra “we” with the indicative mood in Greek makes this clear. It says “We have the mind of Christ” rather than “We should have the mind of Christ.” Considering what was going on at Corinth with all their divisions, it would seem that Paul should have used the subjunctive “should” to show a desirable result that has yet to come into reality. But we are forced to deal with what Paul says here. He knew how to use the subjunctive mood in Greek.
Paul does at the beginning of chapter 3 affirm that even though they have the mind of Christ, they Corinthians were thinking carnally. He wished he could share the spiritual things of Christ, but their thinking was still infantile. They still had not been weaned. When we look at an infant, we realize that it is notoriously selfish. This is not a bad thing for an infant as it is totally dependent upon others for care. It needs to be able to express and act out in an attempt to communicate. Learning is a miraculous process, but it takes time. The infant brain has enormous capacity to learn. If you want to teach a child something, the earlier one starts the better. The child also has a digestive system which has to develop. It has no teeth. It cannot chew. Its’ stomach cannot digest complex food. God has provided mothers with the ability to fee their infants milk, which is easily digested and is perfectly nutritious.
However, the expectation is that the infant will develop. It should come to the point that it is weaned from milk and goes on to eat solid food. This was a time of great joy in Israel, as important to them as potty training is to us. Abraham and Sarah had a great feast when Isaac was weaned, for example. It would be wrong at this point to continue nursing. The need for relatively bland milk is over, and the baby is ready to move on to the joys of solid food.
In the ancient world, the metaphor of mile and solid food relating to the development of the child as a whole is well-known. It is used frequently in the New Testament. In particular, it was used to describe intellectual development. The infant does not at first understand. He or she hears sounds. The infant then associates certain sounds to a certain person. Then it begins to associate single words to objects. It is always a day to celebrate when the infant utters the first simple word like “da-da” or “ma-ma.” Then the child learns the difference between objects and actions. Then comes simple sentences. And so on. Soon the child learns ABC’s and then more complex orders of thought. It is such a miraculous process. But is takes time, and parents have to be patient. The same is true with new Christians who have been born again. The new Christian probably has little content for their faith. It is good to recognize God as Father and Jesus as Savior. Development takes time. Augustin did not become a great theologian overnight.
At the same time, there is reason for concern if a child’s progress seems abnormally slow. We don’t expect a newborn to talk, but if he or she is not talking after one year, it becomes an increasing cause for concern. Intervention is required in an attempt to move progress forward. This is what Paul was facing in Corinth. He had spent 18 months in founding the church. Then the learned Apollos taught them. But after this time, the Corinthians were still infantile in their understanding of the Christian faith. By this time Paul expected a degree of Christian maturity. But he found them acting as babies instead. He needed to intervene. He shows them that their party spirit proved that they still did not have the mind of Christ. Instead they were still drinking milk. The difference between the first birth and the new birth is that in the former, the infant learns from nothing. It has a wired set of behaviors but does not think. The new Christian, on the other hand, has a past. We had all learned a way of thinking, a way patterned after the world. This way of thinking becomes a wired behavior. But this behavior has to be unlearned before the new and spiritual way of thinking is established. This was not happening fast enough at Corinth. The new way of thinking had yet to replace the old.