1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV)
One culprit of a weak faith is remaining spiritually undeveloped. Every Christian begins in this immature state as “babes in Christ” (v. 1). The problem of spiritual weakness is staying in that condition. Christ calls us to grow in Him by using God’s word in our lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Those who do are the “spiritual” ones; They use God’s revelation to decide their course of conduct (1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, the Corinthians had not grown; they were still carnal (“fleshy”) in thought and practice (v. 1). Such spiritual weakness quickly becomes anti-spiritual (as noted in verse 3). Now, the flesh controlled their minds and choices (see the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:15). We retain the traits and characteristics of the flesh (carnally minded) when we do not grow in our faith (Rom. 8:1, 5-8). Like the Corinthians (engulfed in “envy, strife, and divisions”), spiritual weakness devolves into sin unless arrested by renewing our minds and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24). Let us not yield to the weakness of the flesh (Matt. 26:41). Instead, be strong in the Lord, using each day to strengthen your faith, cleanse your actions and purify your heart from all defilement of flesh and spirit to grow up in Christ (Matt. 26:41; James 4:8; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:15).
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30–32, NKJV)
The spiritual condition of many of the Corinthian Christians was in jeopardy. The terms “weak,” “sick,” and “sleep” have spiritual (not physical) significance. These were without spiritual strength, some were spiritually ill, and some were already dead. (See John 11:11-13, where Jesus used “sleep” to mean Lazarus was dead.) We must judge our eating of the Lord’s supper in order to avoid such spiritual demise (which, by the way, shows Christians can indeed sin and be lost). This context shows we must judge our heart and our conduct in the Lord’s supper by using the Lord’s instructions about the supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 27-29). Such personal examination helps us avoid divine judgment, as well as condemnation with the world (v. 31, 32). Paul’s rebuke of their sin in this matter was the Lord’s discipline, to correct their error and preserve their souls. Eating the Lord’s supper is not a mindless ceremony. It is not a liturgical sacrament by which the mere partaking of it God grants sanctifying grace to the worshiper. It is a moment of solemn, proclamation and reverential remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Christians who turn it into anything else expose themselves to condemnation, not glory.
1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:1–3, NKJV)
The apostle teaches us to defer to the Christian who holds a conscientious doubt toward a personal scruple (a liberty that allowed by the Lord and that is non-sinful in nature, Romans 14:1-5). We are not to “destroy” a Christian for the sake of clinging to our personal preferences (liberties which, by definition, are pure, but not compulsory, Romans 14:20). We put a stumbling block before the weak (doubtful) brother when we will not forego our liberty to help him keep from violating his conscience (Romans 14:13, 15, 20, 22-23). When it comes to personal liberties we are not to please ourselves, but willingly decline to use our liberty to protect the doubtful (weak) brother. Jesus did not please Himself, but accepted our reproaches so we could be redeemed from sin. Similarly, we must not cling to non-sinful liberties when using them leads the weak (doubtful) Christian to violate his or her conscience (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). We must think more of others than we do ourselves. That would solve many problems, wouldn’t it?
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12–13, NKJV)
Isaiah described Zion (Messiah’s kingdom) as a time when weak hands are strengthened, and feeble knees made strong (Isaiah 35:3). In Zion, straight paths for our feet are established by God’s word, from which we must not to turn to the right or to the left to do evil (Proverbs 4:26-27). Since we have come to Mount Zion and are redeemed by the blood of the reigning Lamb of God, it is no wonder Christians are now exhorted to do these very things (Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 5:8-10). Let us lift a discouraged Christian by bearing his or her burden (Galatians 6:1-2). Let us exhort a disciple who has stumbled along the path to repent and return to the right way of truth (Acts 8:18-24). Let us refuse to compromise with sin by warning those who stray into paths of error and immorality (Revelation 2:20-23). Strength in the kingdom of Christ is measured by service, not by being served (Mark 10:42-45). So, commit yourself to strengthening your fellow Christians and being a blessing in their lives. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).