“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?” (1 Corinthians 3:1–4, AV)
After babies are born, they need nutrition. This comes in the way of the mother’s milk. This is natural and vital for the early development of the child. Yet, at some point early in the development of the child, the baby is weaned off of a diet of just milk and begins to eat solid food. This is the normal process of physical growth for a child. If the child does not progress to eating solid food, there is some sort of developmental problem with the child.
Paul uses this truth as a metaphor to show the church at Corinth that they have a developmental problem in their congregation. Paul, during his tenure at Corinth fed them with spiritual nourishment. Here, he classified it as milk. He is referring to the basics of the faith leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. He is not undermining the importance of the basic truths of the gospel at all. He is saying that the church has not shown evidence of growing in the faith and thus, they were still not able to grasp anything beyond the basics.
He wrote to them that they were still operating in the flesh (carnal), as babes in Christ, in many ways just like unsaved people. He gave them the prime evidence of this as there were, “envying, and strife, and divisions” among them. Earlier in the letter he indicated this (1 Cor 1:12), and here he repeated the thought. There were divisions and strife based upon their favorite teachers. Divisions in a congregation are one of the most basic and prominent indications of spiritual immaturity. Unfortunately, they pop up all the time and truly hurt the work of the local church.
Regarding someone’s preferences for a preacher or teacher, it is not necessarily bad to have a teacher or teachers from whom one likes to hear the Bible taught. However, it can become problematic for a variety of reasons. First, it is problematic if it creates divisions in the congregation as mentioned here.
Secondly, it can also be a problem if the people trust everything that proceeds from the teacher without ever examining the truth of Scripture to verify the teaching. It is dangerous to follow a teacher saying, I believe it this way because brother so-in-so said so. We should always base truth on Scripture. Remember the Berean Christians were commended because they examined Paul’s teachings according to the Scriptures to see if what he was saying was true (Acts 17:10-11).
Third, it can undermine the pastor-teachers that the Lord has appointed to the church. I have seen this in churches where small factions will begin complaining about what the preacher is presenting based upon someone else’s writing or preaching. This can spread like gangrene and destroy the church and the ministry of a preacher. It is unbiblical to talk behind the back of another, especially those God has placed in positions of authority. If someone has a concern about what the pastor has taught, they have the biblical obligation to sit down with that teacher and discuss it. When I pastored, I experienced this on a couple occasions and the results of the discussions were always positive.
These and other problems are an indication of spiritual immaturity. The church must guard against this, for it weakens the body and hurts the members, especially the immature.