By Charles H. Welch

Babes. When making known the wonders of Dispensational Truth, the reader must remember the stultifying nature of prejudice and tradition, and act accordingly. It is manifestly unreasonable to attempt to erect ‘The Ephesian Temple’ without first being assured that the foundation stones of the great doctrinal epistle ‘To the Romans’ are well and truly laid. One element that has barred the way to fuller teaching, even from the days of the apostles themselves, has been that of spiritual immaturity. This immaturity is likened to infancy, and can be:

  1. the legitimate condition which attaches to the state of infancy and so must be allowed for both regarding method and subject matter; but the term is also applied to

  2. that state of infancy which is by no means synonymous with innocency, and is indeed the result of carnal-mindedness (1 Cor. 2,3), ‘dullness of hearing’ (Heb. 5) and spiritual obstinacy (Heb. 6).

Two words are used in the Greek New Testament for ‘babe’, brephos and nepios. Brephos occurs eight times, but one occurrence only has any bearing upon the subject before us, namely 1 Peter 2:2, where the apostle exhorts believers ‘as newborn babes’ to desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby. Here is infancy in its innocence and its charm, milk as its natural food, and growth the consequence. Nepios is composed of the negative ne and epo ‘to speak’ just as the Latin infans is from in ‘not’ and fans ‘speaking’. This word occurs fourteen times in the Greek New Testament and always in a figurative setting or sense.

(all references)
Matt. 11:25.
‘Thou ... hast revealed them unto babes’ (cf. Luke 10:21).
Matt. 21:16.
‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings’.
Rom. 2:20.
‘A teacher of babes’.
1 Cor. 3:1.
‘As unto babes in Christ’.
1 Cor. 13:11.
‘When I was a child ... child ... child ... child I put away childish things’.
Gal. 4:1.
‘As long as he is a child’.
Gal. 4:3.
‘When we were children’.
Eph 4:14.
‘No more children, tossed to and fro’.
Heb. 5:13.
‘He is a babe’.

This figure of the babe is placed over against ‘the spiritual’ (1 Cor. 3:1), ‘the perfect’ or adult (1 Cor. 2:6; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 5:14 margin). There is a marked parallel between the usage of the babe and the perfect in 1 Corinthians 2,3 and Hebrews 5,6 as the following will show:

1 Corinthians 2,3
Hebrews 5,6
5:14, margin.

Some things cannot be taught because the hour for their revelation may not have come. In this sense we understand the Lord’s words when He said:

‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now’ (John 16:12),

but this reservation was not because of any dullness or obduracy on the part of the apostles. The Lord Himself here recognized the legitimacy of ‘Dispensational Truth’. So, in measure, must the language of Paul be understood when he spoke of the period when miraculous gifts were enjoyed as compared with the day of perfect knowledge, saying:

‘Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail ... but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things’ (1 Cor. 13:8-11).

It should be noticed that the words in italics, are all translations of the one Greek word katargeo ‘to put away or to annul’. In 1 Corinthians 2,3 and Hebrews 5 there is a great stress upon the spiritual responsibility of those who were addressed as ‘babes’. The apostle says that the Corinthians were ‘carnal’, and consequently could only be fed on milk, although to the perfect or the full grown he had much deeper and richer teaching to give. So, the apostle found it well-nigh impossible to say all that he might have done concerning the Melchisedec priesthood of the Lord, not because of any failure or ignorance on his part, but because they had become dull of hearing.

It is impossible to respond to the exhortation ‘let us go on unto perfection’ if we remain babes and take only the milk of the Word, and many a Christian who objects to the advanced revelations of the Mystery, is but making it manifest that he still needs ‘the first principles of the oracles of God’, and cannot ‘leave the word of the beginning of Christ’ (Heb. 6:1 margin) and usually becomes entrenched in the four gospels, and looks with suspicion upon any attempt to take the Lord’s words of John 16:12 to heart, and to seek those other things of which He has now spoken since His Ascension and session at the right hand of God.

The goal before the Church of the Ephesians is that of the ‘perfect man’ as opposed to the spiritual condition of babes, who are easily deceived and tossed about with every wind of doctrine. Dispensational Truth settles and establishes rather than unsettles the believer and he is enabled thereby to comprehend with all saints, its breadth, length, height and depth, and be filled up to all the fulness of God.

An Alphabetical Analysis

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