The Maturation of the Christian

Part 1 Discerning Maturity


This article is not intended as a guide or program for the immature Christian to develop maturity. Though that may happen. It's really intended as a mature Christian's perspective regarding Christian maturity.

By This Time

Heb 5:11-14 
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

There apparently is a time frame associated with maturity, as there is in natural life, an expectation that the person would mature in a certain time frame, falling short of which would indicate the person is spiritually retarded. They need special education classes for slow learners.

Given that Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Mt 28:19,20, I take it that Jesus expected his disciples to go from being students to teachers in three years. To the Ephesian elders Paul said, "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:31,32 Notice he leaves them to God and God's Word only after three years of ministering to them. In one of his parables of Luke 13 Jesus said, "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ "’Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’" Luke 13:5-9 He expected fruit within three years. He gave them an additional year of special education classes in case they were spiritually retarded. But if they still didn't produce fruit, then to hell with them.

So there's a time frame associated with maturity and there's a role, or roles associated with maturity. Mature Christians teach. Granted they may not be teaching in some kind of institutional capacity, but they will be involved in teaching others.

Meat vs Milk

Notice also from the above passage in Hebrews, while the Word of God forms the substance of one's nourishment, not everyone is mature enough to handle all it says. "Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Maturity comes not by simply studying the Bible, nor even by simply meditating on it. Maturity comes by applying it, practicing it, exercising discernment as to its application. When you apply for a job they'll ask you not just what education you had, but what experience you had.

1Cor 3:1-4 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly— mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

If Christians are into the whole Christian celebrity obsession, as the world also obsesses over its celebrities, that's a sign of immaturity. They're not ready to be taught advanced concepts.

Majoring on the Minors

There's the saying, "Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill". Jesus said critically, "You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." Mt 23:24 Typical sign of immaturity is to overinflate minor things. Immature Christians obsess over things which have no application, like the timing of end times events, while neglecting living the Christian life. They divide over minor issues, while neglecting major ones.

An example is the Corinthian Charismatics. Like Charismatics today they obsess over speaking in tongues, and are divisive. 1Cor 11:18,19 "In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval." Since the immature cannot compete when it comes to major things, they overinflate the value of their participation in minor things so as to pretend they are better in God's eyes than others. Charismatics do this with tongues. Anyone, even a non-Christian, can fake the gift of tongues. And so Charismatics inflate that which can easily be fabricated and inflate their own view of themselves by it. Other Christians do much the same with religious ceremonies or even measuring their spirituality merely by their attendance. 

Much of 1Corinthians Paul devotes to giving them a proper perspective of that which they're divided about including putting tongues in its place. Concerning tongues, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort." 1Cor 14:1-3 In other words he's saying, "Why do you so obsess over a gift that doesn't edify others?" The immature are narcissistic.

But notice even the immaturity of the apostles in Acts 1:6-8 "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." They didn't ask what do you want us to do, Lord, but rather they asked him about end times events, just like many an immature today while the neglect the Great Commission. In Acts 1:4 Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, but they didn't wait. Instead they obsessed over choosing an apostle to replace Judas, usurping Jesus on the matter. For Jesus chooses his own apostles. They are not to chose apostles for him, and certainly not without guidance from the Holy Spirit who Jesus told them to wait for. So they inflated a minor issue as if it were too urgent to wait for the Lord, much like Saul in 1Samuel 15 who was too impatient to wait for Samuel and so God rejected him as king. Jesus ended up personally choosing Paul to replace Judas, and he effectively replaced the other apostles as God's primary spokesman. Paul wrote most of the New Testament Epistles.

Maturing in Love

And this leads to the subject of love. Babies and perhaps adolescents tend to think only about themselves, their own needs and desires. Actually there are plenty of adults how never grow up in this respect too. But the mature do their part to help others.

"Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:15,16

 As one matures one's motivations change from "What can I get out of it?" to "How can I serve?" Christian who are not involved in the work of the ministry are immature in the faith.

The Immature are Naive, Gullible.

Eph 4:14  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

The immature tend to not exercise much discernment and consequently are easily led astray into false doctrines and practices. Gaining a little bit of knowledge doesn't help much. They become "Sophomores" from the Greek words "Sophus" meaning meaning "wise" and "moros" meaning "morons". They simply become wise morons. The most dangerous drivers are not beginners, but rather those who have been driving about 6 months. They gain over confidence not equal to their competence. Einstein once said, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". In fact there's no record of Einstein saying that. But if you fell for it, that's an example of being gullible. Remember Abraham Lincoln once said, "Don't believe everything you read on the internet."

One area of growth is discernment. The mature scrutinize all things. In fact it's consider honorable to scrutinize everything in light of scripture. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11

Rom 16:17,18 "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."

Lk 21:8 Watch out that you are not deceived.
1Jo 3:7 Do not let anyone lead you astray.
Ga 6:7  Do not be deceived:

All these require the practice of discernment. "He who is spiritual judges all things" 1Cor 2:15 Ironically there are those who try to forbid Christians from practicing discernment by misconstruing what Jesus meant when he said, "Judge not and you shall not be judged" Mt 7:1 For by not practicing discernment false teachers can get away with anything.

Either/Or versus Both/And

The immature tend to opt unnecessarily for an either/or limited perspective on things. Again - just to "throw them under the bus again", take the apostles in Acts 6. "Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables." Acts 6:1,2 Really? Well maybe you don't desire it, but isn't that what Jesus did? "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded." John 13:3-5

So they went on to choose other people to do the job as they could not imagine doing both ministering the word and "waiting on tables" as they referred to in with contempt. It doesn't take much to read into the passage to realize the not only the Jerusalem church in general, but the apostles themselves reckoned the Hellenist widows with contempt, because they had been married to Gentiles. Such hatred they had for Gentiles. But anyway among those they chose to do this ministry was Stephen and Philip, the evangelist. Ironically Acts chapters 7 and 8 show that these men were some how able to do BOTH the ministry of waiting on tables AND the ministry of the Word. In fact the chapter after that, namely chapter 9, goes on to introduce Paul. It's like the Lord had enough of it with these apostles and turned to others to do the work. Their EITHER/OR mentality was just an expression of their prejudice.

This also comes up regarding getting paid for ministry, a mentality that you can EITHER become a professional minister getting paid for ministry OR you can be a lay Christian paying other to do the ministry for you. This in contrast to practice Paul advocated and practiced, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:32-35 One time at a church I was attending the pastor was giving his own farewell speech, quoting the Acts 20 passage which is Paul's farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, but had to stop before verse 32, because he got paid for his ministry. While in 1Cor 9 Paul acknowledges that professional ministers have a right to get paid, he goes on to say, "we did not use this right." 1Cor 9:12, but rather he advises that people do BOTH work AND ministry. 


One's involvement in evangelism is not a sign the person is mature in Christ. Rather it's a sign the person is alive in Christ. A baby crying is not a sign it is mature. It's a sign it's alive. Paul says in 2Co 4:13  It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."  With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak. If a person is genuinely a believer in Christ, he will not only be doing evangelism, he will persist in it in the midst of persecution. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you" 1Th 1:4 And he then goes on to speak of the evidence upon which he bases his conclusion that they are elect of God, like, "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia— your faith in God has become known everywhere." 1Th 1:6.7 What's the first thing the woman at the well did upon come to faith in Christ? She went and told others.

Maturing in the Method of Evangelism

However, as one matures so does one's style of evangelism. Often new believers limit themselves to trying to bring others to faith in Christ in the same way they were. Did they come to Christ by being invited to church to hear a pastor preach the gospel? They tend to view evangelism as inviting people to church. Did they come to Christ through someone giving them a tract? They tend to view evangelism as handing out Christian tracts. The apostle Paul is an interesting case. How did Paul come to Christ? By being blinded and rebuked for his opposition and hostility to the Christians community. And what do we observe in his early years of ministry? We observe his treatment of Elymas. "Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand." Acts 13:8-11 He probably figured, "Well, that's the way I came to faith in Christ." Yet we never see Paul repeating that kind of thing again. Why? Likely because he matured in his perspective on evangelism.

Maturing in the Scope of Evangelism

The immature tend to limit their scope of evangelism. They may limit it to their friends and family. They may limit it to their race, or to their country, their ethnic group. But as one matures so does one's view of the scope of evangelism.

The apostle Peter is an example. In fact the whole church of Jerusalem along with the apostles there had limited their scope of evangelism to Jews. This despite the fact that Jesus told them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8. But apparently they thought Jesus was just talking about Jews who happened to live in those places. It's wasn't any of the apostles who initiated the evangelism to the Samaritans. But rather it was Philip the Evangelist.

Peter was reluctant to preach to the Gentiles. Jesus had to give him a vision for him to comprehend that Gentiles were to be incorporated into the Christian community. Note what Peter said in his sermon to Cornelius, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism" Acts 10:34 Apparently prior to that Peter thought God did show favoritism. So Peter matured in his perspective on the scope of evangelism. However, notice what he says just after that, "but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." Acts 10:35 So he was thinking that God accepts Gentiles, but only Gentiles like Cornelius who were godly. Only "good" Gentiles. Apparently Peter still had room to mature in his perspective on evangelism.

And apparently Peter was a slow learner, not even embracing the implications of his present revelation, as a few chapters later there's this event of which Paul write"James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." Gal 2:9 Thus Peter, as well as the other Eleven, relinquished his ministry to the Gentiles and limited himself to the Jews.

What about Paul? I think Jesus called Paul to replace Judas because he was fast a learner and unlike the other apostles he would embrace the calling God had given to him. "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." Acts 9:15 In fact Paul didn't limit himself to the Gentiles as the Jerusalem church demanded. For he preached both to Jew and Gentiles. Seems that Paul's attitude toward the decrees of the Jerusalem was like, "What a bunch of babies. I'm going to just ignore them.". He does the same thing regarding James' heretical decree of Acts 15. You never hear of it in his epistles, not even Galatians. He simply ignores them. And later when James brings it up, Paul says nothing. The only reason he went down to them in Acts 15 is because people from their church we're invading his arena preaching a false gospel. It's like they could care less about their people preaching a false gospel to Gentiles. They're just Gentiles, who cares about them?

Lesson: Don't let the immature hinder you from carrying out the ministry. Just ignore them.

Part 2 God's Maturation Method

As noted from the rhetoric the New Testament uses regarding Christian maturity, God does not mature people purely in a monergistic fashion, to use a theological term. That is God does not force maturity upon us in a puppet like fashion. Cooperation is involved. But God uses a number of things to influence us, suffering circumstances, other people, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.

Suffering Circumstances

Rom 5:3,4 We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Heb 12:11  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

2Cor 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

1Peter 5:10  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Some circumstances of suffering can be foreseen or expected, like persecution. ("In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12) Others may come by surprise. Some are the result of misjudgements or sin, others, such as 2Cor 12:7 are not due to something we did wrong, but  brought on by God to help us maintain and develop our character, convictions and testimony.

If the Christian responds to suffering with meekness, he grows. "Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time." Online Bible Greek Lexicon

Laboring in the Ministry

Besides circumstances involving suffering, there's also simply laboring in the ministry that brings experience resulting in maturity and the development of one's reputation. It's work experience. "For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." 1Tim 3:13 

In fact Paul restricts church leadership to the experienced. "not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil." 1Tim 3:6 You can't judge a person's reputation if they're a novice seeing as they have little experience upon which to base such a judgment. And if you do put a novice in charge you'll find they characteristically become megalomaniacs. It's not good for them and not good for others. Php 2:22  "But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel." As in secular life, novices develop reputation and experience by serving under the experienced. Subordination goes along with humility. For "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15 and "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Php 2:5-8


To develop socially you need social interactions. To develop spiritually you need spiritual interactions. And not just with other Christians.

Essential to developing evangelistic skills is to interact with unbelievers in the realm of ideas. Such interactions may challenge your own convictions. You will have to develop clear and convincing arguments because you're not talking with Christians who agree and understand everything you say. And you will develop social skills in dealing with those who oppose the gospel as well as social skills regarding those who are receptive. You'll find opportunities among many venues on social media, particularly convenient during the pandemic. But good for beginners, and my favorite is where you are just presented with questions that you can pick and choose to answer.

And then there's interaction with fellow Christians. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Eph 4:11-13 But there will also be negative interactions with fellow Christians, conflicts, through which you may also mature in your convictions and character.  In Galatians 2 Paul even rebuked Peter for his shortcoming and had to visit the church of Jerusalem to deal a serious matter they were overlooking.

The Word of God

2Peter 2:2 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" In the parable of the Sower the Word is described as a growing seed. "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God." Lk 8:11 How it grows depends largely on the soil, which is our part. We have to embrace the implications of the Word, lest we'll be like the seed sown in rocky soil. "It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow." Mt 13:5 These are shallow Christians who are unprepared to handle the implications of the Word. "When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Mt 13:21  Nor should we be like those among the thorns, where "the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful." Mt 13:22 Prioritize your Christian life. Consider the cost of discipleship. But even Christians will say God first, Family second, and ministry third. But to put God's ministry third is to put one's family first. Jesus said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me"  Mt 10:37, let alone those who put their career or the accumulation of wealth above God's ministry.

Devotion to Word does not simply incorporate reading it. If you expect to excel you need to think about it. "I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes." Ps 119:99 and apply it, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word." Ps 119:9

The Role of the Holy Spirit

 Unique to the New Covenant is the intimate relationship believers have with the Holy Spirit.  "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Gal 5:16 The Psalmist of 119:9 above only had the Word to live by. But the Christian not only has the Word, but the Spirit of God as well. "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." Rom 8:11

And not just in living, but interpreting the Bible and revealing applications to us as one matures in the faith. "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing." 1Cor 2:6

"However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ." 1Cor 2:9-16


Finally concerning all these matters, I would kind of take a page out of the good book saying, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Php 3:15-17

If you want to teach maturity, be an example of it.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Oct 13,2020