Like an earthly father that wants it’s children to grow up and mature into healthy and responsible adults, so our heavenly Father desires to have a church that is mature.  In Ephesians 4, Paul is discussing gifts given to believers, which are known as the five-fold ministry gifts, which are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, in order to equip and edify believers for the work of ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-14 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. 

In the Greek, perfect is translated as mature. The five-fold ministry gifts are never supposed to be for selfish purposes, such as making a name for oneself, but should always bring believers closer to Jesus. We see that maturity is increasing in the experimental knowledge of Jesus, which has many facets, such as increasing in wisdom, character, faith, speech, etc. We should grow from being children, who are characterized as being shaken by the wind of adversity, to coming to a stature that cannot be shaken. In this study, I am going to examine character traits that are deemed mature. When we are babes in Christ, we need a lot of attention and care, just like a babe in the flesh. When there is any kind of inconvenience it cries or complains. Early on in our Christian walk, our flesh is more dominant in our thinking and our heart’s desires, but as we go through the fiery trials, where the Lord threshes out the flesh by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we grow in grace and the character of Christ. This is known as discipleship, where we are surrender more and more of our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit. I like to say, salvation is removing the power of sin, where discipleship is removing the power of self. Before we are saved, we are living for ourselves, where we treat ourselves as “little gods”, we are a very self-dedicated people. Jesus wants to put us on the narrow path that leads to life. The are many levels in the Christian walk. Think of in school, where there are various grades that span from preschool to graduate school. Maturity is a serious matter in the eyes of God, because we will receive rewards and crowns that will last throughout eternity. There is a cost involved in becoming a mature Christian. We have to be willing to suffer personal loss for Christ’s sake. Let’s look at a few verses by our Lord Jesus:

Matthew 7:13, 14 “Enter by the narrow gate (road for discipleship); for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few (Are qualified by the Lord) who find it.”

Matthew 22:14 “For many are called (saved), but few are chosen (Are qualified by the Lord).”

Luke 8:14. 15 “Now the ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

John 21:18, 19 “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old (mature), you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. “

For the first passage of scripture (Matthew 7:13, 14), we see that the road for discipleship is narrow. We often take this passage as contrasting between the saved and the lost, but I believe you can apply this verse to discipleship. The broad ways speaks of the popular way or the easy way through life, where we are still in control of our lives. It is a life that is still self-centered, which focuses around my wants and desires. The world is the center of my life, where I am doing my own thing and asking the Lord to bless my choices. Remember, salvation is a free gift from God to humanity, but discipleship that brings about maturity is one of personal loss and denial of our will for the will of God. If you seek to be a mature Christian you will be in a small minority, even among people who profess to be Christians. We see this same theme illustrated in the second passage (Matthew 22:14), where among Christians there are many called (saved), but few are chosen to be qualified or approved in the sight of God. See there is a difference between being accepted and being approved in the eyes of God. When we are saved we are accepted in the eyes of God, but to be approved is another story, it requires obedience and perseverance. Being approved in the eyes of God, is another word for being a mature Christian. The next passage (Luke 8:14, 15), is the parable of the soils, where we see each soil corresponds to a heart condition. We see that only the last soil is the one that brings fruit to maturity. Jesus did say that the first soil did not get saved, but the second and third soil did not patiently endure to become mature. Again, it does not mean that the second and third soil lost their salvation, but did not grow up to become mature disciples of Jesus. The last passage (John 21:18) is about Jesus speaking with Peter about when he was younger, meaning a child in the faith, he did his own pursuits or will, but there is going to come a time when he is mature in the Lord that he will have to follow the Lord through difficulty. Jesus will bring us to places in life, where our flesh does not want to go. Our flesh hates to suffer loss, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we will endure hardship and affliction to bring glory to God. This is the essence of maturity, we have switched our focus from self-interest to Jesus-interest. We see that in verse 19, where records show that Peter died by being hung upside down on a cross, thus he died a death to glorify God. Let’s look at the words of Paul and John about Christian maturity.

Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection.

Colossians 1:28 “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

1 John 2:13 “I write to you fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.”

The author of Hebrews is rebuking believers in that they have become dull in hearing, meaning their spiritual sensitivity is dull. That they have drifted away from being in tune with the Holy Spirit, which leads to being an immature believer. The writer is exhorting them to go beyond the milk of the word to partake of the solid food of the word of God. I am going to go in detail later of what it means to eat solid food of the word of God rather than the milk of the word. Moving to Paul in Colossians, we see that Paul is preaching Jesus to believers. This is great importance, because he is not drawing believers to his own ministry, but pointing believers to Christ. The Paul uses a heavy word, “warning”, to show the seriousness of the Christian walk. This is the same kind of language in Philippians 2:12, where believers should be working out their salvation with fear and trembling. There are no repeats in this life, meaning we can’t go back and fix our past. We need to take our Christian walk very serious, it should be the number #1 priority of our lives. The end goal of Paul’s ministry was to present a church that is mature. We see in 1 John 2:12 – 14, that John is making a distinction between different levels of believers, such as little children, young men, and fathers. John characterizes different features to each group, where we see that fathers are the most mature in the faith, which have obtained to a certain level of knowing the Lord. Knowing Jesus is the essence of spiritual growth, the more we see Him the more we will fall in love with His beauty, not only that but we will partake more of His divine nature. Before we go into the meat of our discussion, I want to go through some important text in the Book of Revelation about maturity.

Firstly, in Revelation 2 and 3 we see Jesus make mention of a group of believers, known as “overcomers”, which means to gain victory over a trouble or trial. There is a reward that is attached in being an overcomer. Secondly, in Revelation 14, we see a distinct group of believers on Mount Zion with the Lord. Let’s take a look at the text.

Revelations 14:4, 5 “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”

The one piece of text that sticks out is that these believers follow the Lamb wherever He goes. There chief desire is to live for Jesus, come hell or highwater, they have determined in their hearts that they are going to follow the Lord. The next piece of text I want to examine is over in Revelation 19:7-9:

Revelations 19:7-9 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

The is much preparation that goes on for a wedding in the natural. Picking out the right dress, makeup, shoes, hairstyle, etc. The bride wants everything to be perfect. The Lord also desires a church to be perfected in holiness at the marriage of the Lamb. What bridegroom would want to see his bride very lackadaisical about the wedding and dressed with old and spotted wedding garments. The same is true with the Lord, he desires a church that has made herself ready, such as kept herself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

Ephesians 5:26,27 “That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. “

I believe only those who meet certain qualification will be deemed approved by the Lord as being part of the marriage of the Lamb. That is why we are called to watch and to be sober for the coming of the Lord. The Lord supplied this same theme in Matthew, where He exhorted His disciples to keep watch and be sober for His coming. Notice the wedding garment of the wife is the righteous acts of the saints, not the righteousness of Christ. These are the fruits that come through being obedient to the Lord. The Lord desires fruit bearing disciples. This is essential the holy character that was formed into a believer during their lifetime.

 

 

 

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection.

Hebrews 6:1