Metaphors of Maturity
Dr. Valson Abraham
As any good parent knows, raising children is never an easy task. Parents must take years to patiently raise their children to become fruitful human beings.
As believers in the Great Commission, we must never become content just with winning people to Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to “make disciples,” not just make converts. Discipleship must follow conversion or chaos will take place.
The church in Corinth is a good case study in how a new church should not run. The new believers lived in a pagan city with a bad reputation. Throughout the Roman Empire, the stereotype of the typical Corinthian was a drunkard or a harlot. Many new Corinthian Christians came out of this mold. They were not used to self-discipline. They had multiple bad habits to overcome.
Like young children, Corinthian Christians were divisive, loud, self-indulgent, disorderly, rude, selfish, manipulative and argumentative. They revealed a “me-first” attitude. They exhibited many impressive spiritual gifts, but they didn’t know how to use them wisely-like a ten-year-old boy behind the wheel of a car.
Paul indicates the Corinthian believers were truly Christ-followers, but they lacked maturity. Like a good father, Paul wrote to remind them that God is a God of order, not confusion. To remind them of their childish ways, Paul said, “Shall I come to you with a rod?”
The problem-filled Corinthian church is not unlike many churches today, and the new churches we plant in places where the gospel has never gone before. Whatever age or culture, many churches are often filled with disorder, threatening their ministries. In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul presents three metaphors to serve as models for a dynamic church:
1. The runner. How many churches dream about doing great things for God but never seem to get around to it? A major reason for this is a lack of desire for self-discipline.
Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) that believers must train themselves like runners-in-training. Runners organize their diets, sleep, exercise and habits to prepare their bodies and minds for the coming race. The race becomes their chief priority, and all other things become secondary. Good pastors and elders serve as coaches to prepare their congregations for the coming race.
Earthly races reward winners with perishable rewards. The final goal of the Christian’s race is resurrection and eternal life with an eternal God which is imperishable. Moving from perishable to imperishable goals requires putting aside old habits of thought and action that distract us from effective goal-setting.
2. The body of Christ. Just as the body has many parts that work together in unity, so the church is made up of many people with many gifts who must learn to work together in unity. Each person has a different but critical role to play. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ. When we listen to our Head and respect each other’s role, we will accomplish much for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom in the world around us. Together, we will do far more than we will ever do alone.
3. The virgin bride. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul likens the church to a virgin bride awaiting her husband (Jesus Christ), untainted by impure doctrines by false teachers. Pure doctrine is essential for a truly dynamic church that bears much fruit.
Whether we live in India or the West, we all face the challenge of immaturity and disorder in our churches. We have much to learn from the Corinthians.
Children become unruly, but they need discipline and actually want someone to help them to maturity. So it is with new believers. They welcome the patience of pastors and teachers who are not repulsed by their bad habits and boldly teach and guide them according to the truth of the Word of God.
Thank God for His patience with us! Let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Him, and learn to run the race together in unity and purity of doctrine, and the whole world will look on in wonder at His grace.
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Father God, help us as your children and your church to develop goals consistent with your Word, to train ourselves in unity, sound doctrine and an eternal mindset. Help us to put aside our own wisdom to trust your Son and our Head, Jesus Christ.
In HIS Name, Amen.