Maturity, a Christian Requirement
“He gave . . . with a view to the training of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Eph. 4:11-13.
1. What is the basic meaning of maturity?
MATURITY means, basically, perfection or completeness, full growth. On occasion Paul referred to those possessing it as “older men,” that is, older in the comprehension of God’s Word, having the quality of mature judgment. Such maturity is not a naturally inherited quality in an individual, but it is one that must be achieved.
2. How is physical maturity attained?
2 A physical maturing goes hand in hand with time and progresses according to time, normally taking about twenty years. During this entire period the body is developing and growing until it reaches its full-grown stature. Then this type of maturing physically has been accomplished.
3. (a) Of what value is physical maturity to the Christian? (b) Why is spiritual maturity of greater value than physical maturity? (c) What may hasten spiritual development?
3 Physical maturity, however, is not a quality imperative to spiritual maturity, nor the most important in life. In fact, Paul told the young man Timothy: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little.” It is helpful to a degree, but notice where he placed the emphasis, continuing in the same verse: “but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” Spiritual maturity is, therefore, all-important, as it involves, not only our present life, but our future destiny. It requires the maturing of the mind on proper spiritual food so as to develop proper motives, in order that one can develop the desired qualities that measure this maturity, such as devotion, loyalty, perspective, faith, dependability and spirituality or spiritual discernment. In order to proceed toward this goal, Jehovah has a wonderful, salutary program designed for these days. It contributes to the individual’s ability to stay alert to the dissimilarity between Jehovah’s life-sustaining program and the Devil’s death-dealing propaganda. It is not something that is obtained or received automatically with the passing of time, as physical growth, but it can be hastened and improved by using time wisely and profitably.—1 Tim. 4:8.
PROGRESS TO MATURITY, A CHRISTIAN REQUIREMENT
4. What is required if one expects to attain the position of being “full-grown” in powers of understanding?
4 It is interesting to notice what sterling counsel Paul gave to the Hebrews when he advised them not to go over the primary doctrines continually, but directed them to solid food that could be accrued through the training of perceptive powers. To train means work, and it is unquestionable that Paul’s intent was the disciplinary training of the mind to fill it with right thoughts so it could distinguish between right and wrong. He then urges: “Let us press on to maturity.” It is definite that the bent of mind and effort should be ever forward toward the goal of being “full-grown in powers of understanding.”—Heb. 6:1; 1 Cor. 14:20.
5. (a) What is the food for the “babe” physically and spiritually? (b) Why must a milk diet be forsaken for solid food?
5 It is true that immaturity is a normal starting point, whether this be in physical life, where the individual goes through infancy, a period of adolescence, then finally matures; or be from the spiritual aspect. Milk is the first food for the child, and then he begins to take more substantial food to build the body as time progresses. A similar situation exists where spiritual growth and discernment are concerned. In the beginning everyone naturally partakes of the milk of the Word, and is, of course, a babe. But he does not continue to partake of milk alone for very long, considering only the fundamental doctrines; he soon partakes of solid food such as belongs to mature people, after progressing to where such nourishment can be digested and made a part of his reservoir of spiritual information. Spiritually, just as physically, the younger person has a higher goal and a desire to “grow up.” As one goes through the adolescent or maturing period, it is fortunate when he can view it as Jesus stated: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” This naturally is a healthy spiritual outlook for future progress.—Matt. 5:3.
6. (a) What impeded spiritual maturity in the congregation at Corinth? Why? (b) Why must Christians be extremely vigilant of their course of action to avoid retrograding to immaturity?
6 The converse is true, too, and it could well indicate a deficiency in devotion when one is deterred by other things in life that would impede progress of spiritual growth. Recall how Paul established the congregation in Corinth on his second missionary journey, when he abode there a year and a half. Later he received a report from the ‘house of Chloe, that dissensions existed among them.’ Then in his counsel he mentioned: “Let no one be boasting in men,” so that all would look to God with honor and not to men. The spirit of excessive bitterness and faction was present. Later he calls attention to the fornication existing there and gave them counsel as to corrective measures. When they lost sight of the ‘spiritual man’ and became overreached by the ‘physical man,’ they lost their mature status before Jehovah and again became babes. On this Paul commented: “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to babes in Christ. I fed you milk, not something to eat, for you were not yet strong enough. In fact, neither are you strong enough now, for you are yet fleshly. For whereas there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do? . . . let no one be boasting in men.” “Let a man so appraise us as being subordinates of Christ and stewards of sacred secrets of God. . . . what is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.” How vigilant Christians must be so as not to be overcome by the deceitful course of looking to men, that is, to compare one with another and follow men rather than our perfect example, Christ Jesus! Never be overcome by materialism, desires of the flesh and other enticements of this old world! These bad things can make cancerous inroads on the spiritual man if permitted, and reduce even the spiritually full-grown Christian to spiritual infancy. The question may well be asked, What are the evidences of having maturity or at least working toward it?—1 Cor. 1:11; 3:21; 5:1; 3:1-3, 21; 4:1, 2.
EVIDENCES OF MATURITY—DO YOU HAVE THEM?
7. What mature quality did Jesus exhibit for which his Father anointed him?
7 Christ Jesus was the very essence of maturity, possessing all the characteristics of a mature Son of God. Not only did he always speak truth, but he demonstrated loyalty and truth in his actions and deeds. (Rev. 3:7; Acts 4:27) The ever-present quality of righteousness was exhibited by him, as recorded at Hebrews 1:9, where it states: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation.”
8. Discuss characteristics of Jesus manifesting the “full-grown man.”
8 He certainly possessed the qualities of truth, as stated further: “He was full of undeserved kindness and truth.” (John 1:14) He was unselfish in every respect because he never sought his own glory but sought the glory of the one who sent him, and he was unequivocally loyal and there was not an unrighteous thought in him. (John 7:18) He was without guile or fault, regardless of what happened to him or what charge was placed against him. He was harmless as well. (Isa. 53:9; 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 7:26) He was fully obedient to Almighty God in every respect, because he said he loved to do his Father’s will. He was the perfect example of love because he was willing to lay down his life for his friends, as stated at John 15:13, 14: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” He performed an act of unequaled undeserved kindness, above that of every other creature that ever lived. Paul mentioned that, though he (Jesus) was rich, he became poor for your sake so you might become rich through his poverty. (2 Cor. 8:9) In addition to these qualities, he displayed patience, long-suffering, compassion, benevolence and was self-denying.—Heb. 2:17; Isa. 53:7; 1 Tim. 1:16; Luke 19:41; Matt. 4:23, 24.
9. (a) What course did Solomon recommend that would be profitable for the Christian to pursue? (b) What questions could we ask ourselves in this regard? (c) What warning did Paul give so as not to neglect a forward course?
9 The way to maturity is made plain by Bible writer Solomon, when he shows some primary requisites and attitudes for making progress toward maturity. He advises: “Listen, O sons, to the discipline of a father and pay attention, so as to know understanding. . . . Keep my commandments and continue living. Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding. Do not forget, and do not turn aside from the sayings of my mouth. Do not leave it, and it will keep you. Love it, and it will safeguard you. Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding. . . . and it will exalt you. . . . To your head it will give a wreath of charm.” (Prov. 4:1-9) We recognize immediately in those words the forward and progressive attitude toward maturity and what is necessary to gain possession of it. Bringing it down to a personal basis, we may ask ourselves, Are we diligently enhancing our knowledge of Jehovah’s Word, doing so progressively? Are we taking in accurate knowledge, pressing on to the goal of being a full-grown man? Are we heeding the caution of Paul when he warns against the resulting weaknesses if we neglect a forward course? “In order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.”—Eph. 4:13, 14.
10. Why is the “new personality” so valuable to a Christian, and how may we grow up?
10 It is this new information that we take in continually that activates our minds and enables us to put on the “new personality,” which is actually a creation of God’s will, through his Word. (Col. 3:10) We can see from the apostle Paul’s expression that spiritual strength is essential. Therefore, nothing should deter us from the progressive course, ever mindful of the goal of maturity. We notice how apropos are Paul’s words when he states: “But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things.” Paul in this statement is urging the Ephesians to stimulate growth and to let their course ever be forward.—Eph. 4:15.
11. What questions may we ponder upon regarding our spirituality?
11 Many questions arise in our minds regarding spirituality. Are we pursuing toward the goal of maturity, which leads to everlasting life? Are we constantly aroused with the heartfelt desire to improve our ministry? Do Kingdom interests dominate our thinking and activity? Is our field ministry productive and are we assisting others toward being productive ministers of Jehovah God? Can we say as did the apostle Paul concerning persons he helped see the truth: “You yourselves are our letter, inscribed on our hearts and known and being read by all mankind. . . . a letter . . . inscribed not with ink but with spirit . . . on fleshly . . . hearts”?—2 Cor. 3:2, 3.
12. (a) Why is The Watchtower of so much value to Christian ministers and others? (b) What should not be neglected?
12 What about our personal study? Do we allot a certain amount of time to adequately cover all the articles in The Watchtower? Do we ever overlook or skip some articles of this main organ of communication that Jehovah God is using today? Do we recognize that the instructions given through this channel are so vital that our very lives depend upon our heeding them?
13. How can we determine whether we are maturing or not?
13 Another way in which we can prove to ourselves whether we are augmenting our maturity is if we can find and work out answers to problems. Can we reason on principles and arrive at right conclusions? When asked questions, can we give Scriptural answers to them? Can we and do we work out problems of our own and those in connection with our ministerial duties? If so, we come within the proper understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.”
14. What characteristics should we manifest in our relationship with our fellow Christians?
14 Are we patient and slow to wrath? Are we free from complaint about our fellow Christians? Are we kind to some and not to others? Are our discussions about others or with others upbuilding, that is, discussions with those of our families, members of the congregation, and newly interested ones? Are we of a good, cheerful disposition? Are we not readily depressed? When talking to people in our ministry are we easily offended and slow to forgive? Do we heed the admonition of the apostle Paul where he states: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also”?—Col. 3:13.
15. (a) Why is it necessary for a Christian to guard his course carefully? (b) What should a Christian minister work to attain?
15 Do we easily succumb to temptations, or are we able to resist them? Do we recognize that it is advisable to watch the pathway of our feet so as not to be ensnared? We must keep in mind that Satan is ever aware of the weaknesses of the flesh and ever a foe, walking up and down to see whom he can devour. The course of wisdom concurs with Proverbs 4:14, 15: “Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones. Shun it, do not pass along by it; turn aside from it, and pass along.” It is readily discernible that the pathway of the mature Christian is straight, and deviation from it might lead to lamentable consequences. Avoid temptations by exercising good, strong judgment, that of a mature mind. When we thus continually examine ourselves (not others), we can observe what a wonderful thing it is for a Christian to have maturity, the stature of a full-grown man.