We cannot possibly conclude a discussion on maturity without touching on the core of the human being – the spirit. For some who do not recognize this aspect of the human entity, this might be a bore but I am certain that for most Christians, this would be quite interesting the reason being that for a long time, this question has been a common feature in question and answer sessions of all sorts, but quite especially in the area of romantic relationships.
The question usually arises when people are told to only allow themselves get involved with people who are mature and being Christians, we naturally emphasize on spiritual maturity and then here comes the inevitable question, “How do we know a spiritually mature Christian?” From here on, the discussion never quite fully answers the question for most people in most of the audiences I have encountered; it breaks down into a free-for-all volley and counter volley of opinions and counter opinions. I think the reason is that the subject has not been studied significantly amongst those of us who profess this faith and even less amongst those who seek to provide the answers. It is my hope that by the time we are done with this series, you would be able to answer the question easily and clearly but more importantly, you would be able to assess yourself.
So now, as we have been doing thus far, using babies as our standard of absolute immaturity, we shall continue along the same line of thought, to wit, “Who is spiritually immature or who is a spiritual baby?”
For the longest time, I had read the scriptures again and again but it never really hit me that the Bible clearly describes who a spiritual baby is. I think it was a few years ago while I was thinking about something else that it just flew into my mind. The illumination helped me solve a problem back then but the insight has stayed with me ever since.
Let’s look at the scripture.
1Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Speaking of the spirit, quite simply, spiritual immaturity is another expression for carnality. So, if you see someone walking and living with carnal principles rather than scriptural ones, that person is being a baby. This is as concise as it can get but so that I can drive home the point, let’s look at some other scriptures to highlight some of the things that often mislead us into thinking someone is spiritually mature.
- Reading the bible always
This is a very noble habit, very godly, but does it indicate maturity?
James 1:22-24 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
No it does not. You can spend all your time reading and hearing the word of God but unless you’re doing what it says, you’re not mature.
2. Praying frequently and loud
It’s quite common to respect folks who can lift their voices, when in corporate prayer, and pray eloquently. But does that mean they are mature?
Matthew 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
No; loud public prayer can also be a sign of hypocrisy.
3. “Walking” in the Spirit
I don’t know about you but I grew up around a time when walking in the spirit was thought to refer to walking gently and quietly in an unassuming manner with intent to portray ourselves as one who “can’t hurt a fly”. You walk around with a slight smile on your face, head slightly bowed, at a gentle pace and in shoes that would not make a sound. And if you were able, you would speak in King James Bible English language.
All this was to convey the impression of being a spiritually advanced Christian.
But is this what it means to walk in the spirit?
Galatians 5:24-25 And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.] –Amplified
Walking in the spirit refers to the spirit-led lifestyle of a believer and not a particular gait preference.
4. What about gifts of the spirit like praying in tongues?
This is perhaps one of the commonest considerations and the most misleading because we are likely thinking, the Holy Spirit would not dwell and manifest through an unholy person, right? So, if the person has spiritual gifts, he must be holy and by extension, mature. That begs a question, does holiness not equal maturity? We’ll touch that later but for now … concerning spiritual gifts… the Apostle Paul wrote about this particular congregation.
1Corinthians 1:4-7 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and [in] all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
This church did not lack any of the spiritual gifts, rather they had them in abundance but then it was to this same congregation that Paul wrote further.
1Cor 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
So … no. Having the gifts of the sprit in manifestation does not indicate spiritual maturity. It only indicates the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. If we understand properly that the gifts of the Spirit are actually gifts of the spirit and not gifts of the brother or sister, then we would realize that the presence of the gifts are not reflective of the saint but the Holy Spirit living in the saint. It is the Spirit’s special abilities displayed through the saint by faith and not a product of the saint’s special pursuit or acquisitions or height of spirituality.
So, how about the holiness bit? Is holiness not a requirement for the gifts of the spirit? The shocking answer is actually no. Personal holiness is not a requirement for the manifestation of the gifts of the spirit which is why Jesus warned thus,
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
But for the Holy Spirit to move into a person in the first place, holiness is a critical requirement. This is accomplished by the sanctifying blood of Christ upon a person as they believe in Jesus and trust him for their salvation. Remember, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in every believer at new birth even though He does not manifest his special gifts; this indwelling would not have been possible if the person was not first washed clean by God himself.
Bottom line, neither manifestations of the gifts of the spirit nor holiness marks spiritual maturity.
There is more to come on this subject so don’t go away.