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Spiritual Growth & Maturity in Christ – Part 2

without good quality spiritual nutrition
there are many dangers that may lead to:
corruption, backsliding, sin, spiritual death!

It is good to have become a believer in Jesus Christ; but only a few believers have recognized the biblical mandate that we also need to grow up to maturity in Christ after we have believed. Even fewer have grasped the dangers of not growing up but remaining spiritual babies, which is “missing the mark” (=sin?) that God has set for His children.

In last week’s 1st Part of this teaching we focused on the call of God for people to become spiritually re-born from above (see John 3:1-8) through faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Link to that article:

In today’s 2nd Part of this teaching we are focusing on the call of God to grow up in all things in Christ, as last week we saw what Paul said, that we…

… “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head –Christ–”

The call to grow up in Christ is not just a nice thing, but a need for life and salvation. It is not only one of the biblical commandments for the New Testament believers, but in fact necessary for our survival!

Survival is all about staying alive! It is great when a baby is born to this world, but it is of equal importance for every baby that was born to also remain alive; to survive!

Apostle Paul gave the following exhortation to the Corinthian believers, which is the best way to grasp the message and concept of today’s teaching. The following Bible quotation was edited to best reflect the original text:

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be (like) children in your mind, but, in regards to evil be (like) infants, while in your mind (way of thinking and acting) become perfect (implying: grow up to adulthood).
Apostle Paul refers to infancy and childhood to communicate the need for innocence and purity, while at the same time stressing the need and the call to grow up to adulthood, meaning, maturity in Christ in this context.

It is good to be innocent and pure like infants; that safeguards against evil. At the same time, the inference is that all babies and children do not have a choice to remain forever at that level – God is using the example of young age to show us that we were designed by our Creator to be on a constant process of growth and development without which there is death! While maintaining the innocence and purity of the infants, we are called to grow up to spiritual maturity in regards to how we think and how we operate in life.

Apostle Peter also used the same analogy of infancy and call to growth on to maturity as Paul, and added one more important concept – the need for food!:

1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow up to salvation, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
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Important Notes:

may grow up to salvation– the last part of this sentence “eis sotirian” is absent in the Byzantine text (which by the way is lacking in many ways and seems to have been subject to editing in order to fit the prevailing theology of that time).

This paragraph is from ‘New English Translation’ NET NOTES:
-> The Byzantine text lacks εἰς σωτηρίαν (eiς swtεrian, “to salvation”), while the words are found in the earliest and best witnesses (Ì72 א A B C K P Ψ 33 81 630 1241 1505 1739 al latt sy co). Not only is the longer reading superior externally, but since the notion of growing up [in]to salvation would have seemed theologically objectionable, it is easy to see why some scribes would omit it.

Key Question about ‘Salvation

If through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus we were already saved from the grip of Death, and if we have already been saved from the dominion of Darkness and have become the holy possession of the Lord, have become children of God, sealed with the Holy Spirit until the Day of Redemption, seated in heavenly places with Jesus…

-> How and why would we need to “grow up to salvation“?

Because this is not an article on the doctrine of salvation, I will only provide a small glimpse into the subject, acknowledging the fact that theologians have been struggling and debating over this issue for centuries! It is not an easy theology to resolve with a few words or to fully grasp with our limited mindset.

My position is that the Bible provides plenty of evidence that:

– we were saved by faith in God’s grace

– we are being saved by how we live out our salvation

– we shall be saved if we remain faithful to the end and not draw back 

In fact this article on spiritual growth to maturity, is closely associated with the doctrine of salvation, in the sense that it stands on the following principles:

-> we were saved from the grip of Death when we were born-from-above in Christ

-> we are called to survive in this New Life that God gave us by grace, which depends on how we continue to feed the spiritual baby that was born in us

-> after we have become alive in Christ the enemy is making every effort possible to starve us, even to the point of (spiritual) death so that we do not complete our journey on earth for which we were born in Christ and became children of God

-> if the enemy succeeds in the effort to either kill us (ref. Sin leads to Death), or, to cause us to give up, or, to cause us to miss the mark (Sin), then we shall not complete the journey for which we were saved. The end of that journey, which is the final destination, is that we may eventually be saved from the wrath of God (Romans 2:5, Ephesians 5:6, Revelation 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15) and eternal damnation, and become alive on the Day of the first Resurrection of the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Revelation 20:5-6).

–> I have only made reference to the final destination of the journey here. I have NOT made any mention of the purpose of the journey which is a different subject – on which I have written several articles (ref. Psalm 110, Eph. 3:8-11, Mat. 16:18)

So Ap. Peter said that we should “desire the pure milk of the word”.

What we need to learn from his exhortation is that:

-> It is NOT ENOUGH to have become God’s children, by having believed in Jesus, and having been redeemed from the grip of Death.

-> God’s children must ALSO feed the spiritual “baby” that was born inside of us by God’s Spirit with spiritual food, to keep it alive and cause it to grow to maturity in Christ.

Spiritual milk is NOT good when we should have grown up!

The fact that Peter speaks about “milk” does not mean that we may continue to feed on “milk” for the rest of our life and walk in Christ; Apostle Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food;

for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;

3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 

In the context of the need and mandate to grow up in all things in Christ, Ap. Paul rebukes the Corinthians that they were not able to grow past the stage of spiritual infancy. He wanted to have been able to feed them with solid spiritual food, but they had remained underdeveloped spiritually.

So Paul was forced to continue feeding them with spiritual milk – and he considered that as something that was not good at all!

When we have just come to Christ and have only recently had the experience of having been spiritually re-born from above, we ought to desire the pure milk by which we may grow up to salvation.

But when time has already passed since we first believed and experienced spiritual regeneration, God’s design and expectation is that we must have grown up spiritually.

If we are not continuing the process of growing up to salvation.. if we are not keeping up with God’s design for our spiritual growth according to the time since we first believed and came to the saving knowledge of God’s gift… THAT IS A PROBLEM!

Expectation for spiritual growth according to time

The Bible shows that if we have remained spiritual babies, rebuke is in order! Not only Paul rebuked those Corinthian believers, but the text that follows takes the rebuke one step further and goes so far as to give a serious warning of imminent danger!

The text that we shall now study is from Hebrews 5:8 through 6:8.

In fact, this portion of Scripture is the main text of this entire study. Everything that we have said till now was in preparation of the serious warning that is shown here.

Because the text is long and there is a lot of related, significant information, we need to break it into two parts. The warning of danger becomes clear in the second part. To make sure we do not miss the point, here is the message and warning that is contained in the following two portions of scripture in a summary, in my own words:

By this time you should have grown up spiritually to the point that you ought to have become teachers of the Word of God. Be very careful, because those who continue to feed on milk when according to time they should be eating solid spiritual food, are in danger of falling away and coming to a place where it is impossible for them to be renewed again to repentance.

Failure to grow up spiritually according to time may lead a person to a place where the Son of God cannot be crucified again a second time for them. That means that such people who failed to grow up and remained spiritual babies may be rejected, as a land that was cursed because it did not produce the fruit for which it was cultivated”.
WOW… THAT is SERIOUS!! Let’s read, as the same rebuke we read in 1 Corinthians 3, is repeated here to the Hebrews “you have come to need milk and not solid food“!
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and

-> you have come to need milk and not solid food (!!!)
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 

What are the main, key points of this text, which are related to this study?

-> Jesus, even though He was the Son of God, also needed to grow up in his natural manhood in the flesh; He also needed to become perfected.

-> If Jesus, in whom the fullness of Godhead dwelt in human form, needed to become perfected, how much more seriously should we take the call for us to grow up, and the Biblical mandate to become perfected?

-> “Jesus became perfected by the things which He suffered“… can it be that many of the sufferings that Christians go through are not really so much because the devil is attacking, but because it is God who positions us at a place of confrontation, so that through the suffering of the battles of faith, we may be perfected? Only God knows…

-> According to these words above, a sign of spiritual maturity is that a Christian has come to the place of being able to comprehend Jesus as God’s High Priest, and be taught in the matters pertaining to the Priesthood in the order of Melchizedek.

-> Spiritual growth leading to maturity is according to time that has passed since our spiritual re-birth from above. God has specific expectations of us according to how long we have been believing and practicing Christians. These expectations include that:

– we ought to be able to take solid food

– we ought to be skilled in the word of righteousness

– we ought to be able to teach others

-> Those who have reached spiritual maturity, which is “those who are of full age”, have come to a place that they “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”. The obvious inference here is that those who have remained spiritual babies are unable to discern between good and evil…

The entire subject of growth to reach spiritual maturity is tightly associated in the Bible with spiritual food, which is clearly shown here to be subject to teaching the Word of God! Our spiritual food is the Word of God, and more specifically, what we are being taught about it.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection,

not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;

8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned

We have already worked on the words of the Bible that instruct, invite and exhort us to continue to grow up so that we may attain to the final destination of salvation, which was a journey that started when we believed in Jesus, and a path on which we continue to walk if we continue to follow Jesus and continue to be eating spiritual food.

These words above to the Hebrews make known with full clarity and beyond any doubt to us that if we were spiritually re-born from above, that is if we “were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come“…

… but according to time we have remained at the level that we can only still take spiritual milk instead of solid food…

… that means that we are in grave danger to be found fruitless, in which case Jesus would say “cut off these dead branches and throw them to the fire to be burnt” (!!!)

The above text equates spiritual immaturity to falling away, and gives a grave warning that the Son of God cannot be crucified again a second time for such people who stopped growing up in spiritual maturity, which is a sure way to come to a place to fall away sooner or later – same as with real people;

-> if something goes wrong and people stop growing, they die!

A final note out of my heart …

What perplexes me beyond words, is that in spite of such clear teachings in the Bible as the one of Hebrews above, there are so many Bible teachers and preachers out there who are adamant in their belief that if a Christian has been saved once, he has been saved for ever and cannot lose his salvation.

I honestly cannot comprehend how they justify the words of Jesus about the fruitless branches, the foolish virgins who run out of oil, the unprofitable servant who did not reproduce the mina that Jesus gave him, the unfaithfull servant who did not complete the work that his Master gave him to do, and so many other scriptures and biblical teachings such as this subject of spiritual growth to maturity, or, falling away and becoming a cursed land…

Having being saved by grace is the same as having been born; continuing to walk in, working out our salvation, and growing up to salvation, is the same as real people who need to remain alive after we were born. And these scriptures that we studied today show us that if we stop growing up, we die…

-> that means, we do not make it to the end of our walk to salvation!

Of course a person who became alive can die. Of course a person spiritually re-born into ‘salvation” can lose his salvation, as a man loses his life!

That is why I said that this study on spiritual growth to maturity is so closely associated with the doctrine of salvation – so let me close with this: I believe that God is faithful from His side and will never reject anyone who truly loves Him. But there are certain principles of life and death which have nothing to do with whether God loves us or not – He loves us even in our weakest hour, even in our most terrible sin!

This study does NOT imply that God would ever reject anyone who wants to stay faithful to Him in spite of weaknesses, failures, sins…this study says that WE are in danger if we stop eating spiritual food – same as our children! They MUST eat their food or else…

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