Summary: There are four maturity levels in the Christian life. John explores each level, the strengths and weaknesses of each in this delightful passage.
Levels of Maturity
Ill. The work of Japanese painter Hokusai spanned many years before his death in 1849 at age 89. But toward the end of his life, the artist dismissed as nothing all the work he had done before age 50. It was only after he reached 70 that he felt he was turning out anything worthy of note. On his deathbed Hokusai lamented, "If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter."
If I can live five more years, maybe I could become a mature Christian. How can we determine how mature we are spiritually?
Pro 20:11 Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
1Jn 2:12-14 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
This lesson is important for leaders of a Church to grasp. I hope our focus today is not on other people. The goal of this lesson is not to test your insight in putting names to each maturity level. It is best served if we each look within ourselves, focus on what we need, and grow a little.
It is also hoped that we see the maturing of believers as a task of the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit. We need to offer what these growing ones need at every level.
The Significance of the Rolls in the Kingdom: (In order of maturity)
1. Paidion: Infants, verse 13. "Because you know the Father."
New converts who are just learning, compared to babies who have just learned to recognize the father.
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
"I write to you, children, because you know the Father." These understand their parents, but not really their siblings. There are those in our congregation that don't know much theology. They cannot defend the faith, win over temptation, control their earthly passions. They are dependent upon others, need love and attention, but are helpless in the battle. But they believe their relationship with God is all they need, with no Church or little Church.
Gal 4:3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
John was very affectionate towards these. They typically represent new converts, but in reality, there are many long-time Christians who have not matured beyond this phase. The Hebrews writer pointed out the lack of growth in some believers.
Heb 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
This one has no spiritual teeth to sink into meaty teachings. In a Bible class, this one may say they got nothing from it, and that may be true.
Interesting enough, the Apostle Paul said something similar.
1Co 3:1-3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 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?
An infant clings to Christianity, but also holds to the natural, carnal ways of dealing with life and offenses, and is powerless to the passions of this world. (Whitney Houston may be an example).
John's desire for these infants was to grow up. That is our desire, but to help mature these infants, we must bear offenses, model supernatural living power, teach the truth, pray for these and trust the Holy Spirit to spur them along.
Our thanksgiving about this level is this, that you do not have to understand it all to experience it. Praise God, for we were once all infants in Christ.