Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away… 1 Cor. 2:6
The apostle Paul tells of a wisdom spoken to those who are mature. This is a recurring thought in his epistles. Some believers are matured, and some should therefore be, well, short of being matured. He speaks of milk and meat as referring to wisdom which certain levels of maturity in believers could handle (1 Cor 3:2).
The author of Hebrews also uses this analogy in chapter 5 where he described the immature as “one that uses milk (and is) unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” It is therefore a need for a Christian to discern if he is a babe in Christ or a mature servant. To be unsure of our status in the matters of wisdom may, in the picture of the meat analogy, cause indigestion.
How do we know if we are mature or not?
The immature are clearly described in 1 Corinthians 3:3, “for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” In the first verse of the chapter, the apostle calls these men “babes in Christ,” unspiritual and carnal. These names seem to describe the same group of believers.
The Bible says they envy. This is the first proof of immaturity. The Mosaic Law clearly forbids it and twice Israel was commanded not to covet. It is then logical to conclude that a mature believer has victory over envy. If we still experience an ill feeling when others have more than we do, it means we are still a babe in Christ. We are still carnal. It is unfortunate that some Christians label these young believers as unsaved. They are in Christ so therefore they are redeemed. They just have need for growth. As such they can only handle milk.
Unskillful in the Word
The immature are prone to quarrels and divisions and the Bible gives us the reason why. They are unskillful in the word of righteousness. We experience this all the time when there are disagreements in doctrine. Obviously, the quarrel is brought about by a wrong interpretation. It seems the mature will trust the Lord to heal the division and love the babies even if they are noisy, extremely selfish and smelly. The mature will take the duty of feeding them, changing their diapers and disciplining them when they are in error.
Walk like men
In all these, the mature will not give in to envy or quarrels or divisions; but what is really disturbing in Paul’s description of the immature is the phrase “you… walk like men.” This is an all-encompassing indictment that man without the Spirit of God is immature. It gives us the goal post to aim for if we ever want to be matured. We should be better than men. No wonder Paul said, “(When) we be beside ourselves, it is to God.” He is aware that when matured believers do the will of the Lord, they are seen as insane. They need to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees. They need to be disciples as the Lord demanded if they want to follow Him.
A matured disciple then is someone who has forsaken all. He loves the Lord in a way that his love for his family is almost equivalent to hate. He is seen by others as a servant of Christ and a steward of God’s mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1). These same mysteries are the wisdom that the natural man and the babes in Christ receiveth not (1 Cor. 2:14). A matured believer is faithful as that is required of any servant. He is the Luke 14:27 disciple. He willingly bears the Lord’s cross and has decided to live the rest of his life following the Lord. He has resolved to follow Paul as Paul followed the Lord. His true joy is to fellowship with the suffering of the Savior. He sees martyrdom as the only fitting proof of his faith.
How does one grow to maturity?
It seems logical to start with how one cannot grow into maturity. Paul tells us that it is not by human wisdom. It is entirely spiritual. As such, it is gained by faith. We come to maturity by trusting the Lord’s way. I am always amazed by the conversation that the Lord and John the Baptist had.
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan [coming] to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit [it] at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. Mt 3:13
John saw the human side of the predicament. Indeed, it was he who needed to be baptized by the Son of God but the Lord answered with an unexpected response. “Just allow it at this time.” Even the Lord understood the Baptist’s confusion. He knew that it could not be understood at that time. He gave John a command and even if the reason for the command was unclear, the Baptist obeyed. If John did not baptize the Lord, he would have not seen the Holy Spirit coming down on Him confirming the Lord’s identity as the Christ. That truth was not clear prior to the event. It only became evident after John obeyed. I am quite certain that event pushed the Baptist to an even higher level of faith. It led him to a point of maturity and knowledge of the Lord.
This is an essential step to maturity. Obedience. When things are unclear and illogical, the wisest thing to do is obey. The biggest enemy of maturity is pragmatism. John the Baptist saw the practical thing to do. Had he done it his way, we today would not have the story of the Trinity present in one single event. The Father speaking from Heaven, the Holy Spirit coming down and the Son of God in an act of humility. It seems when the Lord commands, it is more often than not a desire to teach a lesson.
Just like Israel, the apostles were tools to teach the Church. They were spectacles (1 Cor 4:9). It was essential that they obey. Our knowledge of God today is the result of their loyalty and blind obedience to the Master. Had the apostles insisted on their version of how things should have been done as pragmatists do, we would have been ignorant of who God is today.
The whole story of Israel’s kings starting from David to Solomon to the destruction of Jerusalem is a long narrative of the danger of pragmatism. Worship, as it was commanded by God, was replaced by counterfeit equivalents and the result was always the same – wrath and judgment. There was a repose only when at a very small gap in the history of the house of David that the Lord restored His favor. This was when Josiah rediscovered the Law of the Lord (2 Kings 22). When they obeyed what was prescribed in the Law, peace was restored in Israel. They gained knowledge from God. They advanced in their maturity.
There are many illogical things that the Lord may be asking from us. Things like “wives submit to your husbands” or “turn the other cheek.” It makes sense that these commands are necessary for us to see God. Hebrews 11 is a list of people who obeyed God and they were given “testimonies.”
Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the TESTIMONY that he was righteous… NASB
v6b…He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Obedience produces growth
Acts of obedience are confirmed by the Lord. That is His way of encouraging believers to put their faith in Him. As saints obey, they are encouraged and as they are encouraged, they continue to obey. As they grow in obedience, they grow in their knowledge of God’s righteousness which is quite different from the human version of what righteousness is. The moment we use the world’s measuring stick of what is good and bad, we grow further and further away from the Lord’s righteousness. In the process, we do not grow into maturity.
A matured saint is faithful. Faithful in what? Faithful in obeying God’s commandments. I believe this explains the early brethren movement. They saw how far Christianity had grown away from the Biblical ways. Their solution was simplicity. That meant that they had to get rid of everything that was not commanded and concentrated on what were explicitly instructed, and then they waited for God’s confirmation. This was brought about by the frustrating carnality of the high church. Layer upon layers of pragmatic and humanistic compromises left the church dead and carnal. They had to meet the Savior outside the camp.
This is also the reason why a large number of believers dismiss New Testament Principles. They are illogical and impractical. The problem with this frame of mind is it stunts maturity. It robs us of God’s lessons. The apostle Paul described the apostles who were actually the first ones who submitted to the Lord’s required way of life.
In 1 Cor 4, He described his fellow apostles:
v1 Servants of Christ and Stewards of the mysteries of God
vv3-5 Seek not the approval of men but the approval of God alone
v9 condemned to death; became a spectacle to both man and angels
v10 fools for Christ’s sake, weak and without honor.
v11 poor, hungry and homeless
v12 toil with our own hands; when reviled we bless; when persecuted we endure
v13 when slandered we conciliate; scums of the world; offscouring of all things.
Who would want to be an apostle?
This is the most demeaning kind of life. This is the worst position any person could be in, but the apostle Paul went on to say, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.” This was his message. Let us press on to maturity for there is a wisdom that only the mature can receive. These are the meat of Scripture. The wisdom they teach only to the perfect. The knowledge that the world rejects.
We will be discounting ourselves of the power of righteousness of God if we will not endeavor to be matured. We will have to be content with milk. Yes, we will go to Heaven when we die, but we will be amazed with the wisdom we will find there that many on earth have gained their strength from. We need to sit down and count our bricks if we are to build a tower. The tower will cost us ALL. Anything less than this is an embarrassing heap.