3:1-4 The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have much doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many professors, and preachers also, show themselves to be yet carnal, by vain-glorious strife, eagerness for dispute, and readiness to despise and speak evil of others.
1Co 3:1-23. Paul Could Not Speak to Them of Deep Spiritual Truths, as They Were Carnal, Contending for Their Several Teachers; These Are Nothing but Workers for God, to Whom They Must Give Account in the Day of Fiery Judgment. The Hearers Are God's Temple, Which They Must Not Defile by Contentions for Teachers, Who, as Well as All Things, Are Theirs, Being Christ's.
1. And I—that is, as the natural (animal) man cannot receive, so I also could not speak unto you the deep things of God, as I would to the spiritual; but I was compelled to speak to you as I would to MEN OF FLESH. The oldest manuscripts read this for "carnal." The former (literally, "fleshy") implies men wholly of flesh, or natural. Carnal, or fleshly, implies not they were wholly natural or unregenerate (1Co 2:14), but that they had much of a carnal tendency; for example their divisions. Paul had to speak to them as he would to men wholly natural, inasmuch as they are still carnal (1Co 3:3) in many respects, notwithstanding their conversion (1Co 1:4-9).
babes—contrasted with the perfect (fully matured) in Christ (Col 1:28; compare Heb 5:13, 14). This implies they were not men wholly of flesh, though carnal in tendencies. They had life in Christ, but it was weak. He blames them for being still in a degree (not altogether, compare 1Co 1:5, 7; therefore he says as) babes in Christ, when by this time they ought to have "come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:13). In Ro 7:14, also the oldest manuscripts read, "I am a man of flesh."