Faithlife
Faithlife

Christian Maturity

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Growth

Synopsis
The process of development and maturing, used to refer to the progress of the kingdom of God and the spiritual development of believers. Scripture uses images of growth (such as seeds, plants and infants) to stress the dynamic nature of personal faith and the kingdom of God.
Images of growth
Infancy to maturity
Eph 4:13–15
(ESV) — 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 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. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
See also 1 Co 3:1–2; 1 Co 13:11; 1 Co 14:20; Heb 5:12–14; 1 Pe 2:2
(ESV) — 1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
(ESV) — 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
(ESV) — 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
(ESV) — 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(ESV) — 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
Can you list the natural stages of human development? Which stage do you think is most difficult? Do you see any spiritual similarities?
Seeds and plants
Seeda
Seeds and plants
Lk 8:14–15
Lk 8:14–15
What
Seeds And Plants
Luke 8:14-15
(ESV) — 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
See also 2 Co 9:10
(ESV) — 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
What is the Harvest of Righteousness?
The apostles worked and prayed for growth in believers
2 Co 13:9
(ESV) — 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
See also Col 1:28; Col 4:12
(ESV) — 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
(ESV) — 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
Dimensions of spiritual growth
In faith
2 Co 10:15–16
(ESV) — 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.
See also 2 Th 1:3
(ESV) — 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
In knowledge
2 Pe 3:18
(ESV) — 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
See also Eph 1:17–18; Eph 3:16–19; Col 1:10; 2 Pe 1:3; 2 Pe 1:6
(ESV) — 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(ESV) — 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(ESV) — 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
(ESV) — 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
(ESV) — 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
In love
1 Th 4:10
(ESV) — 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
See also Php 1:9; 1 Th 3:12; 2 Pe 1:7–8
(ESV) — 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
(ESV) — 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
(ESV) — 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Growth comes from God
Col 2:19
(ESV) — 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
See also 1 Co 3:6–7; 2 Co 9:10; Php 1:6
(ESV) — 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
(ESV) — 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
(ESV) — 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Growth comes through discipleship
Putting away the sinful self
1 Pe 2:1
(ESV) — 1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
See also Ro 8:13–14; 2 Co 7:1; Ga 5:24; Eph 4:22–24; Col 3:5–10
(ESV) — 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
(ESV) — 1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
(ESV) — 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(ESV) — 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
(ESV) — 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Moving on from basic teaching
Heb 6:1–2
(ESV) — 1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
See also Heb 5:11–14
(ESV) — 11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Maturing in thinking
1 Co 14:20
(ESV) — 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
See also Ro 12:1
(ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Persevering in faith
Jas 1:4
(ESV) — 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
See also Php 2:12; Php 3:12; 2 Pe 1:5–8
(ESV) — 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
(ESV) — 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(ESV) — 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Contributing to growth in the church by exercising gifts
Eph 4:11–12
(ESV) — 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
See also 1 Co 14:1–5; Eph 4:13–16
(ESV) — 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
(ESV) — 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 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. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Examples of spiritual growth in some of God’s servants
1 Sa 2:26; Lk 2:52
(ESV) — 26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.
(ESV) — 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
See also Lk 1:80; Ac 9:22
(ESV) — 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
(ESV) — 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
The growth of the kingdom of God
God promises that his kingdom will grow
Col 1:6
(ESV) — 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
See also Mt 13:31–33; Mk 4:26–29
(ESV) — 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(ESV) — 26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The early church experienced rapid numerical growth
Ac 4:4
(ESV) — 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
See also Ac 2:41; Ac 2:47; Ac 5:14; Ac 6:7; Ac 9:31; Ac 11:21; Ac 14:1; Ac 16:5
(ESV) — 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(ESV) — 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(ESV) — 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
(ESV) — 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(ESV) — 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
(ESV) — 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
(ESV) — 1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
(ESV) — 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
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