Spiritual infancy is the normal thing for a new Christian. When we first give our lives to Christ through an obedient faith in Him, we are supposed to be spiritual infants who are ready to grow, learn and develop in our faith and service to God. Most people who become Christians, do so while they are still very young. In a recent study it was said that 85% of the people who become Christians do so before the age of 15. With that being the case we should even more expect that new Christians would need to grow. But it should also be the case that as time goes by that one who started as a spiritual infant would grow up in their faith and become mature servants of Christ who are leading others to him. One of the greatest problems facing the church everywhere is the lack of spiritual maturity among the members. It isn’t a new thing. Jesus and the early church dealt with the same problem. Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, he said to the apostles that he had other things he needed to tell them but they were not ready for them yet. He promised to send another comforter who would be with them forever and he would guide them into all truth. He promised the Spirit would bring to their minds the things Jesus had said when he was among them.
In Hebrews 5:11-14 we read of a similar charge of spiritual immaturity in the church. “Concerning him (Melchizedek) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” It is unfortunate that a chapter break was made at this point because the writer moved immediately from this charge to a plea for them to leave the elementary principles and press on to maturity.
How can a person know if they are spiritually mature or if they have remained as infants or babies in Christ? Surely there isn’t anyone who wants to remain a spiritual infant all their lives. Even in the physical realm we want to grow up. Often we push to grow up too quickly. We may well think we are spiritually mature when we a not at all. When Paul wrote the church in Corinth in what we know as I Corinthians they thought of themselves as being very mature. But in chapter 3:1-4 he said, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says,’I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?” From this passage and from the one in Hebrews, lets see what he said was the best way to determine whether or not we were mature or still infants in Christ.
First, he said it was dependent on our ability to hear, learn and understand matters of some spiritual depth. Can we take in the solid food? Or must we be fed milk and soft foods to keep us from having problems. Understand milk isn’t a bad thing. The milk of the word has to do with the basics of God’s message to us. It is the teachings which bring us to faith in the Lord so we can commit our lives to him in obedience. The writer of Hebrews list some things he saw as milk of the word and challenged us to leave these basic matters to go on to maturity. Look at his list of teachings that are elementary. “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” Are the things he listed the same things you would have listed as matters we see as milk for infants. Truthfully, some of these seem to us as being matters of depth. Yet God’s inspired writer listed them as milk. Add to that the things that Paul mentioned as being things that demonstrate our infancy in Christ and our need for milk and not solid food. The fact there was envy and jealousy among them demonstrated to Paul that they hadn’t grown up as they should. Add to that the fact they were segmented the congregation by some claiming they were following Paul and others Apollos. So when church members divide up into little groups to follow some person they regard as their spiritual hero it demonstrates their spiritual immaturity. Their desperate need is to grow up.
Second, we can determine one’s spiritual depth or maturity by their ability and willingness to teach God’s word to others. The writer of Hebrews said they had been Christians long enough they ought to be teachers of the word and not just listeners. It is great to be one that is anxious to hear the word of God, to study and learn more of it’s teaching and see how we can apply it in our daily lives. But we aren’t intended to just be reservoirs of truth. If we are satisfied with just receiving we will become as dead as the Dead Sea which receives water constantly but doesn’t send any out. Mature Christians aren’t just receivers, they are givers, sharers and teachers of the word.
Third, in I Corinthians 13 the great love chapter of the Bible Paul lays down a comparison between the things that will cease or vanish away and the things that will abide. He ties the things that he said were passing away to his infancy or spiritual immaturity. He used the illustration of “When I was a child I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Notice what he ties to that time of childhood or the things that will cease. “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” (8-10) In verse 13 he gives the contrast. “But now faith, hope and love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” So when faith, hope and love dominate there is spiritual maturity and one is ready for solid food, they become spiritual grown ups. But when the miraculous signs are dominant in our lives we are holding on to what is passing away and we are still living in immaturity.
Using these matters as our standard, would you say that you are spiritually mature or that you are still a baby in Christ? No matter where you are at this point, you can grow, change and become a full grown Christian. In your mind draw a picture of a spiritually mature Christian who is filled with faith, hope and love, who studies and learns about the depths of God’s word and who teaches the things they learn to others as well. If you do these things you will be a spiritual grown up and God will be pleased and bless your life.