What is the mark of a spiritual man or woman in the church? To set the stage a bit, in 1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3 Paul distinguishes between the carnal (immature) and the spiritual (mature). In 1 John, John presents three levels of spiritual maturity. The many exhortations to growth in the New Testament letters point to the reality that spiritual growth is like natural growth, it is a process. At the same time, while age is inevitable, both spiritually and naturally, maturity is optional. I am sure we have all met middle-aged adults who are emotionally immature. Maturity is not automatic.
So what marks spiritual maturity? Is it amazing revelatory experiences? A profound knowledge of the scriptures? How about neither? As a new believer Paul, for example, had both but if you carefully read his letters he was also somewhat arrogant as a young believer in spite of his great knowledge, or perhaps because of it. Having an apostolic anointing did not automatically make him mature. That required time and process.
What is the scriptural perspective on spiritual maturity? Look at the passages below.
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. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:1-4 (NKJV)
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NKJV)
Spiritual maturity is marked by discernment, emotional maturity, gentleness, deep respect and love for Jesus and His body, the church, and an awareness that we too are susceptible to falling. Given that, how are we doing?