January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

Pauline Teaching on Maturity
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Pauline Teaching on Maturity

Dr. K. P. Mathew

In Paul’s writings Maturity entails several ideas related to the concept of fulfillment, reaching a goal or attaining perfection. In his thinking, that which is perfect or mature has fulfilled its intended goal. There are a few factors evident in Pauline writings regarding maturity deserving attention by the children of God at all times.

1. Life in Christ

Christian life is the life of union with Christ by faith. When the Lord Jesus Christ indwells us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we in turn become new beings, new creatures, a new society. ‘The Damascus experience’ became a turning point in his life and mission. He realized that life in Christ is the key concept as the root of Christian maturity. As to birth, pedigree, orthodoxy, zeal and personal righteousness, Saul of Tarsus was an outstanding man. But he renounced all these things in coming to Christ. He counted them worthless when compared to the excellence of knowledge  of Christ Jesus.

Life in Christ is built upon the principle of the Holy Spirit. The characteristic principle of sin drags a person down to death. It is like the law of gravity. When you throw a ball into the air, it comes down. When we toss up a living bird in the air it flies away. The law of life in the bird overcomes the law of gravity. So the Holy Spirit supplies the risen life of the Lord Jesus making the believer free from the law of sin and death. Victory is not in ourselves but the abundance of life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

2. Progress in Spiritual Life

Spiritual life is like swimm-ing. If one is not moving forward one is liable to sink. Sadhu Sunder Singh said, “Some think that when their sin is forgiven they are saved. If their sinful nature has not been cured, they are not saved." Progress in the spiritual life is essential. We do not live to gratify the desires of the corrupt nature. Those who live according to the spirit rise above flesh and blood and live for things that are eternal. They are occupied with the Word of God, prayer, worship and other activities.

In Ephesians 4:13, Paul compares Christians to growing children. We are to keep on growing in faith until we reach our full and proper stature, the stature of Christ. In other words, we are to become more and more Christ-like. Spiritual maturity is to be actualized in both personal and corporate levels.

Paul urges Christians who have been so greatly graced by God’s salvation to seek what is perfect (Romans 12:2). God’s will is perfect. By the renewing transformation of their minds, believers can know God’s will. So Apostle Paul insists that perfection or maturity derives only from living according to God’s will. We should present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy acceptable to God. Personal commitment is essential, and that is our reasonable service. Paul urges us not to be conformed to this world. When we come to the Kingdom of God every individual should abandon the thought pattern and styles of the world.

There are three keys for knowing God’s will – a yielded body, a separate life and a transformed mind. These are the keys for maturity. To become fully grown adults in all their ways, Paul calls not individuals but the entire church to God’s goal for its existence, the fullness of Christ. Maturity also entails the church’s corporate expression of unity characterized by faith and love. Though in Christ the church already exists as God’s new mature person, yet it must pursue these virtues with the help of the ministers Christ has given it (Ephesians 4:16).

So many are undeveloped in our congregations. Proper exercise is a daily need. So we read in scripture, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you.” (Hebrews 5:12) They were in a danger of spiritual fickleness. They become religious gypsies moving to and fro from one appealing fantasy to another. Most serious of dangers is the danger of deception. Those who are babes must grow in systematic teaching because they are unskillful in the Word of righteousness. Their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil.

Apostle Paul describes the proper process of mature growth in the body of Christ. There is the necessity of doctrinal adherence- “but speaking the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) There can be no compromise as to the fundamentals of the faith with the function of gifts.

The gifts equip the saints and as the saints engage in active service. They grow up in all things into Christ. The marvelous integration of the members of the body is described by the phrase “joined and knit together.” This means that every member is exactly designed for his own place and function and perfectly joined to make a complete living organism. As each member fulfills his proper role, the body grows as a harmonious well articulated unit. In addition to growth in size, there is a building up of itself in love. This speaks of the mutual concern of the members for one another. As Christians abide in Christ and fulfill their proper function in the church, they reflect maturity in growth.

3. Ultimate Stage of  Maturity

The absolute stage in maturity remains elusive because it belongs to the age to come. Everything is in the past until the perfect comes (1 Corinthians 13:10) He recognizes that he is not yet perfect, yet that consummate state serves to inspire his present life. With the coming of the Lord, the resurrection and rapture would take place and he would attain the prize. The Apostle Paul never envisions that Christians could achieve a state of sinlessness in this life, and he never claims it for himself. However, he clearly insists that resisting sin is not only possible but is the required response of those whom God has justified. Paul desires nothing less than to present every person mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). His ministry, whether exhorting, teaching or other means, serves that intended aim.

God separates us in this world with a goal. As a community of worship, fellowship, service and witness, maturity is to become evident in attitude, thought and action. Let Christ be glorified in our life and witness.

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