Calvary Road Baptist Church

“MATURING AS A CHRISTIAN”

Second Peter 1.5-8

 

Turn in your Bible to Matthew 28.18-20:

 

18     And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20     Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Clearly, the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is divided into three easily identifiable parts. Referring to the Greek text, we find the verb has to do with making disciples. However, we also find three participles that describe the means by which disciples are made. One participle refers to going, another to baptizing, and the final participle refers to teaching all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. Thus, you see, our church’s responsibility is shown to be going forth to evangelize the lost, to baptize those who are hopefully converted, and then to provide instruction to those who have been baptized, with that process of instructing running the course of the Christian’s entire life here on earth.

If that is the church’s responsibility, let me now point out to you the pastor’s responsibility, which is partly described in Ephesians 4.11-16:

 

11     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12     For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13     Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14     That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15     But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16     From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

 

As you can see in this passage, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers like me, are charged with perfecting the saints, which to say equipping believers. My task as your pastor is to perfect you, to equip you, for the work of the ministry. That is, I am tasked by the Lord Jesus Christ teach you, to train you, to counsel you, to prepare you, to cajole you, to get you to do the work of the ministry.

For me to succeed at my job you, if you will notice in verse 14, need to progress beyond the spiritual stature of children. According to verse 15, you need to grow up unto Christ. This maturing process will become evident, verse 16, as you demonstrate unity and mutual interdependence in a loving manner that results in the congregation growing. The Christian who functions as a Lone Ranger and does not work with others in the congregation to fulfill the Great Commission is at least spiritually infantile, and may very likely not be a Christian at all.

To bolster this notice that Christians need to grow and mature spiritually, turn to First Corinthians 3.1-4:

 

1      And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

2      I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

3      For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

4      For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

 

In First Corinthians 3.1, the Apostle Paul clearly indicates being unspiritual, which is to say being carnal, is the same as being a spiritual babe. Thus, there are clearly Christians who are spiritually immature, with that immaturity manifesting itself by carnal behavior related to disunity in the congregation.

That is not all. Turn, now, to Hebrews 5.11-14:

 

11     Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

12     For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13     For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14     But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

The problem addressed in this passage is related, if you will notice in verse 11, to dullness of hearing. A. T. Robertson refers to this as being “slow and sluggish in mind as well as in the ears.”[1] So, Christians who do not pay attention as they ought to remain spiritually immature. The result? They are unskilled in using God’s Word, and they cannot discern good from evil.

Now turn to First John 2.12-14:

 

12     I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.

13     I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

14     I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

 

Though the aged Apostle John elsewhere in this epistle refers to all Christians as “Little children,” owing to their youth and inexperience compared to him (he is about 90 years old as he writes this), I am persuaded that in these three verses you will agree with me that he is being somewhat more specific.

In these three verses, John has grouped Christians into three levels of maturity, little children, young men, and fathers. The little children’s sins are forgiven and they know the Father, but not much more than that can be said for them. The young men have matured to the degree that they are spiritually strong, the Word of God abides in them, and they are twice described as having overcome the wicked one, who I take to be the devil. Being labeled young men suggests that these Christians are capable of reproduction, though they have not yet reproduced after their kind. In other words, they have not yet succeeded in bearing fruit as Christians. Fathers, the most mature, have known Him that is from the beginning. As well, by virtue of their being labeled fathers, they apparently already have spiritual offspring, which is to say they have born fruit as Christians who are instrumental in bringing others to Christ.

Collecting our thoughts, we now recognize that God’s Word shows that believers come into the Christian life as spiritually immature babes in Christ. Saved from their sins through faith in Christ and as justified in the sight of God as they will ever be, the new Christian still faces the challenges of growing and maturing.

It is with this need to grow firmly fixed in your mind that I want you to turn to Second Peter chapter 1. When you find that place in your Bible, stand and read along silently while I read aloud:

 

1      Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

2      Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

3      According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4      Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6      And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7      And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8      For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9      But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10     Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

11     For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

12     Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

13     Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;

14     Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

15     Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

 

The Apostle Peter is old and knows he will not live much longer, verses 14-15. Therefore, he writes these things to refresh the memories of his readers. I want you to focus your attention on verses 5-7, in which you might want to visualize the steps toward spiritual maturity that a Christian passes through from his conversion, mentioned in verses 3-4, to the spiritual maturity, fruitfulness, unwavering assurance of salvation, and even promotion to glory in heaven, that are referred to in verses 8-11.

One thing to point out before we look at these various levels of maturity: Verse 5 begins, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith. . . .” Okay, so now the sinner has come to Christ. He is born again. Though he is a spiritual infant, he may find himself in an adult body with a mature intellect. Everything in his experience tells him he is mature. However, the Word of God clearly shows him to be a babe in Christ with respect to his spiritual life and experience.

What must the babe in Christ now do? He needs to add to his faith. He has faith in Christ. He is saved. He has come to Christ, presumably after some time striving to enter in. So, now His sins are forgiven and he is a partaker of the divine nature. However, in order to grow spiritually he must realize that spiritual growth does not come as easily as physical growth, since physical growth toward maturity occurs automatically so long as there is sufficient intake of food and water.

Spiritual growth is not accidental. Rather, it is intentional, and simply does not occur apart from what Peter refers to as “diligence.” Fritz Rienecker describes this thing called “diligence” in this way: “to bring alongside of. Used idiomatically w. the word ‘effort’ to express the idea of bringing in every effort. We are to bring ‘into’ this relationship ‘alongside’ what God has done every ounce of determination we can muster.”[2]

Just an aside before we move on. Do you see what incredible damage has been done to the cause of Christ by decisionism? Not only do most people think that salvation is to be gained with no striving whatsoever before conversion, but then after that people are convinced that no effort is involved to grow as a Christian after conversion. May God give us grace to look to scripture for guidance in these areas. Let me emphasize that salvation is by grace through faith, apart from works of righteousness which we have done. However, there is a place for striving prior to conversion, according to the Savior Himself in Luke 13.24, and a place for diligent effort once in the Christian life, according to the Apostle Peter here in verse 5.

Now let us look to see what the child of God is to make every effort to add to his Christian life by God’s grace:

 

First, ADD TO YOUR FAITH VIRTUE

 

What should be added to the saving faith by which means you entered into the Christian life? What comes after you embrace the Savior and take Him as your own? Something called “virtue.” The Greek word translated “virtue” is related to “moral energy. In classical times the word meant the god-given power or ability to perform heroic deeds whether military deeds or athletic or artistic accomplishments or the conducting of one’s life. The basic meaning of the word indicated the quality by which one stands out as being excellent.”[3]

In other words, from the gitgo, God’s plan for your life as a Christian is for you to be a most excellent Christian, and anything short of a commitment to excellence will result in you falling short in your progress toward spiritual maturity and fruitfulness. Of course, fruitfulness is the real indication of salvation.

Thus, you may not end up being the greatest Christian that ever lived, but you will be the greatest Christian you can possibly be. This speaks of an attitude toward personal holiness and an attitude toward sinning that is not often found these days. Just stop the sinning and live a consecrated, holy life. Whatever it takes to get it done, get it done!

 

Next, ADD TO YOUR VIRTUE KNOWLEDGE

 

What is referred to as “knowledge”? I suspect that it is both the knowledge of God and a knowledge of God’s Word, since the two are actually inseparable. If you do not know God’s Word very well, you do not know God very well, because it is in His Word that God reveals Himself to His creatures. It is also important to notice that knowledge comes after virtue. This is because of what the Savior said in John 7.17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In other words, the key to knowledge is the commitment to obey. Likewise, the commitment to obey is connected to the moral excellence that accompanies this concept of virtue.

In other words, you do not seek to discover God’s will as it is revealed in God’s Word so you may then decide whether or not to obey. Rather, you first decide you will obey God, included in this thing called virtue, and then will come the knowledge by means of reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, learning God’s Word as you sit under preaching, and gaining the wisdom to properly apply God’s Word in answer to prayer. Thus, unless you become an eager reader of God’s Word, an eager student of God’s Word, an eager listener to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and someone who has already decided you are going to comply with God’s wishes before you know what His will for your life is, you are not going to grow much as a Christian.

 

Third, AND TO KNOWLEDGE TEMPERANCE

 

If you turn to Galatians 5.23, you will see that temperance is listed as one of the several aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we see that what the Spirit of God produces in the life and personality of a Christian is also something that the Christian is to diligently incorporate into his own life. What does this reveal? It shows us that the Spirit of God makes use of means, using a Christian’s efforts to produce in his life what only the Holy Spirit of God can accomplish. That understood, what is temperance? Temperance is self-control. The Greek word refers to literally holding yourself in.[4] How would temperance be seen in a Christian’s life? That is easy. Control of temper is a big one, the ability to exercise control over your emotions and your reactions to disappointment and discouragement.

You know what babies do when they get angry, or when they are disappointed or discouraged about something? They cry. As the physically immature cry, the spiritually immature vent their anger with conniption fits. As one grows in spiritual maturity, however, several things happen: First, he realizes that temper tantrums are a very poor testimony. Second, he realizes that God’s plan for his life is not to get everything he wants. Third, he realizes that fits of temper do a great deal of damage.

Getting mad every time something happens you do not like is a tremendous impediment to spiritual growth. The Christian who is committed to growth is the Christian who gains self-control. After all, you simply cannot present to God as a living sacrifice a life that you have no control over.

 

Fourth, AND TO TEMPERANCE PATIENCE

 

This word “patience” translates the Greek word upomonh. The word refers to the ability to hold out or to bear up in the face of difficulty.[5] An example of this character trait would be Richard Wurmbrandt, holding out in a communist prison and refusing to deny Christ. This is rightly seen as related to the kind of mental toughness that good soldiers of Jesus Christ display when called upon.

I think of Adoniram Judson, who labored for so long in Burma with so few results.

I think of William Carey, standing fast in India when his wife lost her mind and attempted to kill him with a knife.

Those men did not waver. They stood fast for Christ’s sake.

This is what I think the Apostle Paul was urging upon his readers in First Corinthians 15.58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

 

Fifth, AND TO PATIENCE GODLINESS

 

What is godliness but devout feelings toward God, and constant regard for His authority? John Wesley observed, correctly, I think, that godliness is the proper support of patience, otherwise a man’s patience may be the result of pride and stoicism, which has nothing to do with Christianity.

How often do we see Christians who are truly godly? How often do we see Christians who display a constant regard for God’s authority in their lives? How often do we see Christians who walk before Him in fear and piety? The answer is “not very often.”

What surprised me, many years ago when I first studied this passage as a young Christian, was not the presence of godliness in a description of the character traits of those who are spiritually mature, but that such a thing as godliness typically surfaces so far along in the typical Christian’s process of maturing.

Thus, we not only see so few godly Christians because so few who profess Christ are truly converted, but also because among those who are converted there are so few who are very mature. Regardless of age or experience, only a truly godly Christian is fairly mature.

 

Sixth, AND TO GODLINESS BROTHERLY KINDNESS       

 

The Greek word translated “brotherly kindness” is the word Philadelphia. It refers to brotherly love, or love for the brethren.

In John 13.35, the Lord Jesus Christ said these words to His disciples: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Incredible, is it not, how late into this process of maturing as a Christian comes this trait called godliness, and then this characteristic of love for other Christians?

Why do you suppose it is that so few professing Christians are truly godly, or are loving toward their brothers and sisters in Christ? Can it be anything other than so few professing Christians being truly saved, and so little progress in maturity among those few who are truly saved?

 

Finally, AND TO BROTHERLY KINDNESS CHARITY

 

Turn to First Thessalonians 3.12, and note what Paul wrote to those members of the Thessalonian congregation: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.”

To those very immature, three-week-old Christians in that baby church, Paul set before them the goal of abounding in love toward one another, and toward everyone (not just Christians and church members). He concludes the verse, “even as we do toward you.” In other words, he wanted those new Christians to learn to love by imitating what he had done, how he had loved them.

What is revealed in First Thessalonians 3.12 is a vital component in this process of maturing as a Christian, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the conscious imitation of more mature Christians. Thus, how you are to become a truly charitable Christian, which is to say a genuinely loving Christian toward all men, is to imitate that same trait in the lives of more mature Christians around you.

 

Christian? You are supposed to mature and grow. In order for you to mature and grow you are going to have to put forth what at times will seem to be heroic efforts. However, if that is what it takes then that is what it takes, since it must be done. You must put into this process everything you have, knowing that only as God blesses your efforts will progress be made. However, progress is necessary, or else you will not mature into a godly Christian, will not mature into a Christian who loves Christians, and you will not mature into a Christian who loves all men.

Let us end this notion that once a sinner gets saved he can then sit around and wait for the second coming of Christ, or death, whichever comes first. That is nonsense.

We close by turning to Philippians 3.12-14, where we see Paul alluding to his own process of maturing as a Christian, thereby setting an example for us all to follow:

 

12     Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

13     Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14     I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

If Paul needed to diligently apply himself to progress toward maturity in his Christian life, surely you see the need for the same in your life.



[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1930), page 371.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 769.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 1039-1040.

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