1 Corinthians 14:20
Brothers, be not children in understanding: however, in malice be you children, but in understanding be men.
I. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN CHILDISHNESS AND CHILDLIKENESS. "Be not children in mind: howbeit in malice be ye babes."
1. These two ideas are frequently confounded, especially by young Christians. At first awaking to the Divine life wonder largely takes the place of understanding, and feeling that of thought. Being simple in motives is easily mistaken for being simple in ideas and rudimentary in knowledge. In the newly converted the two simplicities are engagingly combined, and they may thus appear to be essentially connected. But this is not the case. The experience which does not strengthen and enrich itself by sanctified thinking and meditation will soon become unreal, unwholesome, and unsafe.
2. The childhood which is the ideal of Christian character is a moral and not an intellectual childhood. We are to "put away childish things" according to the general law of a healthy intellectual growth. "Leaving the first principles" we are to "go on unto perfection."
II. THE SUMMONS TO PERFECT OUR NATURE. This applies to every faculty we possess, in its relative and normally harmonious development.
1. "Muscular Christianity" has still its gospel to preach. The body has claims which are too much ignored. Flabbiness and effeminacy are not proofs of holiness. The qualities and accomplishments, too, by which men are enabled to fulfil their role as business men, members of society, citizens, etc., are well within the "calling" of the Christian, and demand his attention. They may be a "sign" to many who would fail to appreciate more esoteric doctrines or practices.
2. And so of knowledge, this most characteristic and ennobling faculty of man. Science, art, philosophy, and literature have all their place in providing us with a true understanding of life, and perfecting the mind for higher things. The true goal of all these studies is "Divine knowledge" or "wisdom," but they lead only to the threshold. Christ calls us to a higher school, and even identifies the knowledge of God and Himself with "eternal life."Conclusion: The following considerations may help to prove that Christianity, so far from stunting or stereotyping the thought of man, has a real need for its exercise, and makes the greatest demands upon it.
1. Christianity introduces its subjects to a great, suggestive, and stimulating experience.
2. It reveals the profoundest principles of life, and trains us in their application.
3. It demands the wisest and most skillful service.
4. It declares it as its purpose to perfect man's nature and character.
5. It proclaims every faculty sacred, and of the nature of a Divine stewardship.
(St. John A. Frere.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
WEB: Brothers, don't be children in thoughts, yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature.