A number of years ago I had a grown woman literal do what the woman above in the photo is doing. I was directing traffic and I had to enforce the law. This was her response. The caption really nails it doesn’t it?
However, when it comes to spiritual matters, maturity is far more crucial to have isn’t it? So can I ask you, are you a mature Christian? How do you perceive yourself in your progress in the Christian walk? When you are examining the life of others to discern whether they are a mature Christian that you could look up to, how do you decide whether they are someone who ought to disciple you? Is maturity likened to one’s forwardness about their faith? Is it determined by how willing they are to serve in a church? Is it discerned by their level of zeal or fervor for responsibility?
Conversely, are you a baby Christian? What are the means given to discern whether you are or not? Is a baby Christian merely determined by how long someone has been a genuine believer? Or whether they are easily intimidated by others concerning their faith? It is determined by age?
I have heard all of these as ways that we can determine the maturity of a believer. So what I want to do in this post is take a step back from all of our experiences and preconceived notions and see what God’s word has to say about what a mature and baby believer looks like.
Before we dive into this topic, I want to make an important disclaimer. Being a baby Christian is not an insult. Whatever we discern concerning this topic, we should not be offended if the result is we realize we may be, Biblically speaking, a babe in the faith. However, both the Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews do use the term as a loving rebuke in certain cases.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (ESV): But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
This isn’t always the circumstance. But if you have been a believer for a long time yet have not progressed in the faith then that should be a rebuke that you have not been growing as you ought. The Apostle Paul attributes this to sin in the Corinthians case. In short, if you have been a Christian for some time and yet have not progressed the reason for that is sin. That being said, it will do us no good if we seek to suppress this reality in hopes of sparing ourselves the humiliation that we have not progressed in the faith. In the end, we will truly know we have not been growing as instructed and that will be a rebuke. Furthering the problem by suppressing it only acts as an indictment on our pride and danger of not truly believing (Hebrews 3:12-14).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE MATURE
When we examine every text of Scripture from the New Testament concerning a mature Christian there is a consistent pattern for what attribute distinguishes them; and in a word its “knowledge.”
Allow me to unpack this. Because the one word is not a sufficient explanation. “Knowledge of what?” you may ask. That is crucial point. When the Bible defines a mature Christian it is speaking of ones knowledge of God through the Scripture. Here’s a summary of what the New Testament says:
“Yet among the mature we impart wisdom…” (1 Corinthians 2:6a)
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:19-21)
“Until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:13-14)
“Let those who are mature think this way…” (Philippians 3:15a)
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ,” (Colossians 1:28)
“…that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4:12c)
“for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)
A tertiary glance at these text tells us clearly that maturity is directly linked with one’s knowledge and wisdom in accordance to the Word of God. In other words, a mature Christian will have a good handle on biblical doctrine, systematic theology, church history and the past errors that he or she may discern good from evil. The mature Christian is highly trained and proficient in discerning good teaching from false teaching. And the Bible (Ephesians 4 text above) makes it clear that this is the goal of every believer not just the super spiritual ones.
So in short, if you are one who is not interested in doctrine, having a firm grasp of the Scriptures in their entirety and the teaching that comes from them and seemed to be more concerned with emotional experiences primarily, then you are by biblical definition a baby Christian. Christian maturity is not depicted in the Bible by one: wearing Jesus shirts, listening to Christian radio, talking about Jesus a lot, being vocal about your faith, watching Christian films, going to Christian concerts, etc. None of those things are evil. Nor do I believe we should discourage any of those practices by any means. But we must not confuse what distinguishes a mature and maturing Christian from one who is merely entrenched in the Christian culture. Because the two are not the same thing. And we have no Biblical teaching that this is the basis for maturity in the faith.
Sadly, we live in a day where we automatically assume a Christian musical artist is a mature Christian, that public speakers for Christ are mature, that older people who are Christian are mature, that those who write Christian books are mature Christians, or that those who are in full-time ministry are mature Christians. But again, the Bible does not give these as attributes of a mature Christian. Would that all public figures within Christian culture were leaders because they were mature, but sadly, our Christian culture has not made this a prerequisite for being a Christian leader. Today, we have made two qualifications for discerning the mature: skill level and eagerness for leadership. But the Bible has another definition of maturity entirely.
ONE VERY IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION
The Bible does not equate Christian maturity with one’s retention of information from the Bible. Today, common vernacular uses information and knowledge interchangeably. However, the Bible would distinguish between the two.
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” (James 2:19)
James is distinguishing between merely being informed of good doctrine, “God is one,” and it having no change in one’s life and behavior, “demons,” from one who genuinely believes good doctrine and obeys (i.e. Abraham as seen in James 2:21). In other words, true Biblical knowledge is believing good doctrine resulting in good works! True knowledge of the Word is twofold, knowing what it teaches and experiencing its blessing because of one’s obedience to the Word. And it is this kind of knowledge that defines the maturity of a believer.
I would encourage you; in light of these scriptures, to examining your life to discern whether you have been pursuing and maturing in the faith or whether you have been stagnant in your walk. Good doctrine is intrinsically linked to one’s level of maturity according to the the Apostle’s teaching. We would do well to heed their authoritative teaching as they have received this instruction from our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us saints, pursue maturity by pursuing to know the Word of God and all that it has to teach us, that we may trust and obey all that it has for us!