Developmental delays

Developmental delays

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. – Hebrews 5:11-12

1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3

 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.

 16 For, “Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

 1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.

 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,

 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?

Children develop skills at different rates. However, some kids lag significantly behind their peers in one or more areas of emotional, mental, or physical growth. When they are consistently more than “a little behind” it is considered developmental delay.

Developmental delays are prevalent in childhood, occurring in 10%-15% of preschool children. Developmental delay takes place is seen when a child does not reach expected developmental milestones compared to peers of the same age range. Developmental delay is broken down into three categories based upon functional age when compared to chronological age.

  • Mild (functional age < 33% below chronological age)
  • Moderate (functional age 34%-66% of chronological age)
  • Severe (functional age < 66% of chronological age)

Developmental arrest occurs when children are unable to develop new skills. Sadly some actually regress, losing previously acquired skills. This can lead to severe, lifelong impairment.


Tragically many children of the King are get locked into spiritual developmental delays. Many refuse to grow up.

Father it is so easy to become content in our comfort zones. Give us a hunger and thirst to know Your Word and to grow to spiritual maturity.


Paul has a multifaceted, complex understanding of the human condition. There are subtle nuances in the Greek language, which when understood, reveal significant distinctions which are missed in English translations.

There are two Greek suffixes placed on the ends of four significant words in this section. The first is ikos which means characterized by. It connotes how someone or something acts or appears to be. The second is inos which means made of. That is, what something actually is.

We can be babies [inos made of flesh] which eventually grow up. But sadly, we can act like babies [ikos characterized by] that refuse to grow up. Paul is describing people who were babes in the faith. Sufficient time has passed for them to grow to spiritual maturity. But they have not. They are still acting like babies.

The Greek word that is translated as without the spirit, aren’t spiritual, natural man, soulish, unbeliever is psuchikos. Psuchikos has the sense of being characterized by merely soulish reasoning. It is often translated as natural, sensual, or soulish.

The Greek word that Paul uses for spiritual is pneumatikos. Pneumatikos means to be characterized by the spirit, that is, a spiritually mature person.

The Greek word that is translated as flesh [belonged to this world], is sarkinos. Sarkinos means to be made of flesh, people of the flesh, belonged to this world, worldly, carnal. In this context, it has the sense of a baby or infant. Paul refers to new believers as spiritual babies. They are similar to human babies that are weak, dependent, sinful, and transitory.

The Greek word translated as fleshly, of the flesh, influenced by the flesh,controlled by your sinful nature, worldly, carnal is sarkikos. Sarkikos means to be characterized by the flesh. “Although the Corinthians are Christians indwelt by the Spirit, their divisive behavior shows that they are acting like the unbelieving world around them” (ESV Study Bible).

Paul recognizes four categories of people:  soulish people (unbelievers), baby Christians (new children of the King), carnal or fleshly Christians (children of the King who have had time to grow up but still act like babies), and the spiritually mature (children of the King who growing to spiritual maturity in Christ).

There is another subtle danger. It is possible to grow and make progress toward spiritual maturity and then retrogress, that is, go backward. That is exactly what happened to the Jewish believers in referenced in Hebrews 5. They had become spiritually “dull of hearing.” They began their “backward journey” by drifting from the word (Hebrews 2:1-4) and then doubting it (Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13) (Wiersbe).

The Greek word translated as dull of hearing or spiritually dull is nothros. Nothros means slow to learn, understand, or react. It is only used twice in the New Testament (Hebrews 5:11, 6:12). “It means slow-moving in mind, sluggish in understanding, dull of hearing, stupidly forgetful. It can be used of the numbed limbs of an animal that is ill. It can be used of a person who has the imperceptive nature of a stone” (Barclay).

Hebrews 5:11-12

 11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.

 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

In the Father’s eyes, maturity is not the same as just getting older. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of the Father (Stanley). To pursue the Father we have to be in His Word. We have to handle it, and handle it accurately, being able to explain it clearly (2 Timothy 2:15). This requires practice, continued and repeated practice.

Spiritual developmental delay is the tragic condition of many children of the King. They have surrendered the dream that the Father them to pursue maturity. It is incumbent upon each of us to leave our childish trappings and practices behind and seek spiritual maturity. We will never completely arrive this side of eternity. It is not enough to merely know the Word and be able to explain it. We have to live it.

Many are stunted in their spiritual growth because of a lack of the spiritual nourishment of the milk of the Word. It must be part of our daily “diet.” Like physical babies, we are to outgrow milk and go on to solid food. Regrettably, both newborn children of the King and those who have been part of the Forever Family for a while still eat only spiritual baby food.


One thought on “Developmental delays

  1. Developmental Delays Post: I was smiling as I was reading what was written. The words I read were filled with light, truth and the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit. I now see why the words of the Bible are said to be divinely inspired and written. My spiritual awareness of how the scriptures come alive for me and for anyone else who are spirit-filled is this, It happens when My spirit connects to the Holy Spirit, who is my spiritual guide and my spiritual counselor.

    After that awareness, my spiritual heart became sad knowing that so many devoted Christians reading the Holy Scriptures only have access to the intellectual words and do not know how to connect and develop a personal relationship with their own spirit and thus making it difficult to develop a personal relationship and connect to the spirit of God. How do we help and encourage believers to connect to their spirit and to have a desire to work a spiritual program?

    Rev Billy Graham said in his book on the Holy Spirit. “Believers are indeed the dwelling place of the Spirit. Believers need to be quickened and given new life.” Rev Billy Graham also emphasized a need for the churches to train and teach more about the Holy Spirit. This reading has inspired me to revisit what happened in my life journey that set my spirit free to be able to connect to the Holy Spirit. I will pray about this and maybe even start writing about this and see what truth and revelations are revealed to my spirit, so I can pass that wisdom on to others and help them find their way on a spiritual journey. Esther Mae


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