Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: August 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Is Spiritual Maturity?

What Is Spiritual Maturity?

          In Galatians 6:1, Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The “spiritual” Christian is the Spirit-filled and spiritually matured Christian.  The importance of this signification is that a believer ought to know if he is Spirit-filled and spiritually mature.  There are certainly simple manifestation in a believer’s life of being Spirit-filled and spiritually mature.

1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” (Ephesians 5:1-8).

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit(Galatians 5:13-25).

          Christ said He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  What does Christ mean by the statement, build His Church?  Was it His intent that the emphasis of Christianity was just to win as many souls as possible before His return?  Hardly!  He gave specific instructions for the partnership (“fellowship”) with Him in the building of His Church. 

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

          The evangelization of an individual is not completed until that individual becomes a spiritually mature believer.  Spiritual maturity will be evident when that individual had grown to the place where he is consistently and loving observing the teachings of Jesus.  

          The word “observe” in Matthew 28:20 is from the Greek word tereo (tay-reh'-o).  It means to watch over, guard or preserve.  This is to be accomplished through the incorporation of Jesus’ teachings into the lives of professing believers.  This process is called discipleship.  This is also what God refers to in Ephesians 4:12 by the words “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.”  A cycle must be created.  Truth must be translated into walk.  Yet that walk must have a spiritual motivation.

The central purpose of a local church (a local body of believers) is to be a hands on training center intent on teaching professing believers to “walk in the Spirit.”

          As individual Christians go into the world (sent by the local church), they are commanded to tell the lost about Christ Jesus and to seek to bring them to faith in His finished work of the Cross for their salvation.  Once a person confesses Christ and is saved, the job of the soul winner is to bring that individual to the Church assembly and teach him to commit to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ (a learner).  This commitment begins by following the Lord in believer’s baptism.  Through this ordinance, the committed disciple testifies to his commitment to bring his life under the Lordship of Christ and covenants together with the local assembly to live for Christ. 

          Once the professing believer is baptized and testifies to his commitment to live for Jesus, he begins his discipleship training as a covenant member of that local church as he learns to “walk in the Spirit.”  His training is evaluated and directed by the pastor of the local assembly.  The pastor may be directly involved in the individual’s training or he may delegate that training to another mature believer such as a deacon.  Although the pastor does much of the teaching, other individual Christians in the local church must be involved by doing much of the hands-on field training.  This is the focus of the local church as every member lives in “fellowship” (working partnership) with God in His operations in the spiritual growth of every believer in that local church.  In other words, discipleship is a cooperative venture in synergism with God and with every other believer in a local church.  

          Maintaining this working partnership with God in discipleship is often where a local church fails in its ministry objective.  The preaching and teaching of a local church can be sound, but if the spiritually mature individuals within a local church are not forming partnerships in ministry with those who are not yet spiritually mature, that local church is failing in creating the cycle it is supposed to create.  This involvement in working partnership with God in the discipleship of all those in a local church is what practically defines formal membership in a local church.  

          Who are the spiritually mature in a local church?  The spiritually mature believers in a local church are those who are living translations of the Word of God.  Because of that reality, they are forming partnerships in ministry with those who are not yet spiritually mature.  That is a major part of what spiritually mature believers have learned to do.  If the spiritually mature believer is a person who has learned to “observe” the teachings of Jesus, he will begin to do what Jesus did.  The word “observe” means the preservation of the teachings of Jesus through the practical application of those teachings in everyday life situations. 

          Jesus the Christ began His ministry (after He was baptized) by inviting twelve individuals to come to His side to be trained to be “fishers of men.”  Jesus was a carpenter Who trained people through involvement and participation.  That is the pattern all Christians should be following.  This fact means that you are either a disciple being trained or you are training someone to be a disciple.  If a middle ground exists between these two areas, it is there because of indifference (and that is just another word for sin). 

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

          If you are not being trained as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you need revival in your heart.  In other words, if you are not being trained as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you do not have a heart for God or a missional vision for ministry.  

          If you consider yourself to be among the spiritually mature (leaders in your local church) and you are not actively involved in training one or more disciples, you need revival in your heart.  In other words, you do not have a heart for God or a missional vision for ministry.  The teaching and preaching ministry of the local church or personal devotions will not be important to you when you are not working at growth and the gathering of truth for your own spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of others.

          “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).  This refers to all Christians, not just an elite few.  This is an evident reality in the lives of spiritually mature Christians.  If this reality is so definitive, what does it mean?  Spiritually mature believers are those who have learned to put their carnal natures to death along with their worldly passions and carnal desires.  This fact is characteristic of truly spiritually mature believers.

          You will never hear a truly spiritually mature believer arguing for the liberty (right) to participate in worldly practices.  The truly spiritually mature believer will be more concerned about being right with God than anything else because he understands that the empowering of his life by the Holy Spirit is dependant upon his being right with God (in “fellowship”).  Spiritually mature believers understand and apply the Law of Liberty to the everyday practices of their lives.  (This does not refer to the black and white things that we know are forbidden.)  I Corinthians 6:12 defines the Law of Liberty.

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (“I Corinthians 6:12).

          These verses establish the all encompassing criteria (outside of the Law) that should govern the believer’s life in making decisions regarding the things to which he gives his time.  The word “expedient” in I Corinthians 6:12 is from the Greek word sumphero (soom-fer'-o).  It means to contribute to the help of others.  The idea is that the believer should not become involved in anything that cannot be used to help another person come to Christ or to contribute to their spiritual growth.  Secondly, the words “I will not be brought under the power of any” in I Corinthians 6:12 refer to the idea of not allowing anything into our life that might dominate our attention or time.  My experience is that most Christians give their priority time to that which they enjoy.  If they enjoy something, they will find the time for it.  I Corinthians 10:23 gives us other details regarding the Law of Liberty.

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (I Corinthians 10:23).

          The word “edify in I Corinthians 10:23 is from the Greek word oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-eh'-o), which means to build or erect a building.  It is used metaphorically to describe that which promotes growth in spiritual wisdom, affection, grace, and virtues.  In other words, spiritually mature Christians will restrict their involvement in the things of this world to those activities that will best promote the spiritual growth of others.  These practices define a spiritual walk.  Professing Christians who do not live by these all-encompassing Laws of Liberty are in serious need of revival.

          There is a good reason why God used the word “crucified” regarding the continuing carnal emotions and desires of the Old Nature (Galatians 5:24).  “Crucified” is a word that defines our dedication to serving Christ through ministry.  The central qualification to becoming a spiritually mature disciple of Jesus Christ is the willingness to die to all personal ambitions that do not advance the cause of Christ.  If that is not the testimony of the practice of your life, you desperately need revival.  We can learn a great deal by the message of Christ to the seekers of His day. 

25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it” (Luke 14:25-28)?

          Luke 14:25-28 is not talking about salvation.  Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace.  This text is about the primary qualification defining your being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is a price many people are just not willing to pay.  The price of being a disciple is paid daily on the installment plan.  The price of discipleship is all that you are or can be which is given to God in the “work of the ministry” every single day of your life. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.