When most of us were called we were mere ‘babes in Christ’. We had a child-like faith in God and a willingness to learn. And like any father, God expected us not only to ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ but also to come to ‘the fullness of the stature of Christ’. Have we reached the fullness of his stature, or are we still ‘babes in Christ’?
Not far from Carnality
Paul suggested that ‘babes in Christ’ are not all that far removed from carnality, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:1). They have been called out of this world, but have only just begun their journey to becoming like Christ.
Remember the time when you so keen to drink the milk of God’s word, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). It gave you spiritual nourishment, “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). It revealed a whole new spiritual dimension that is hidden from the wise and clever of this world, “…thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Luke 10:21 see also Matthew 11:25). They were exciting times.
A Way of Life
We soon came to realise that it was not just about believing, it was a way of life, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). The Greek word translated ‘the way’ means a road, but also implies progress as in a journey. We were called to set out on a life-long journey, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” (Ephesians 4:1). A journey that leads us to the fullness of the stature of Christ. We can be confident that the one who invited us will do everything possible to ensure we reach that destination, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6).
At baptism we were given the Holy Spirit, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit)” (Acts 2:38). That Spirit came from God who is holy (Psalm 99:9) and who is comprised of spirit (John 4:24). He is Holy Spirit! And what He gave us was a portion of His very essence mind and nature. It is the same Spirit that is in his son Jesus Christ, “For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). He too is holy (Luke 4:34 and Mark 1:24) and having been raised from the dead - is spirit (II Corinthians 3:17, Acts 3:26 and 4:10).
The reason He gave us His Spirit is because He wants us to become holy, “…it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16). He wants our minds to be renewed by His Spirit, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23). So that in the fullness of time we can be raised to a spiritual existence in the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ, “So also is the resurrection of the dead... ….It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (I Corinthians 15:42-44). Christ will then be able, “…to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:” (Colossians 1:22, also Ephesians 1:4). As spirit beings that have become holy we will be part of the family of God, “…I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18). The Holy Spirit is not a third person - it is the essence, mind and nature of God which makes us like Him and part of His family.
The Holy Spirit gave us the same mind and nature that is in Jesus Christ, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” (Philippians 2:5-6). Being equal with God means that through the Holy Spirit Christ has the same spiritual mind and characteristics found in his Father, “Jesus saith… …he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). And with the Holy Spirit we can come to the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.
He gave us the Holy Spirit so we were able to understand things of a spiritual nature, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-12).
It has revealed hidden wisdom and knowledge about God and His plan for us, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:” (Ephesians 1:17).
Those who do not have God’s Spirit cannot understand these things, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14).
Remember those early stages when we were learning to walk by God’s word, we made mistakes and suffered frustration and pain, but as we continued to get to know God and our faith was strengthened we became established in His way of life, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10).
Having laid a foundation of basic doctrines so we were able to move on toward perfection, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.” (Hebrews 6:1-3).
As a result our faith grew stronger, “… for it (the gospel of Christ) is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).
It provided peace of mind as we saw that the Holy Spirit provided us with everything we needed to attain the eternal life, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 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: 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.” (II Peter 1:2-4).
Having received this wonderful gift it is down to us to make sure it is perfected within us, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 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.” (II Peter 1:5-8).
If we don’t make the effort we cannot progress from being ‘babes in Christ’ toward the fullness of his stature, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (II Peter 1:9).
If we put in the effort the result is assured, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:10-11).
We have to put aside the natural tendencies that are inherent in our human nature, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (I Peter 2:1). Perfection comes from living by God’s word, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected…” (1 John 2:5). We are to fulfil the law through love, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14). Especially through loving the brethren, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12).
We are expected to bear fruit, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9). These are characteristics that God expects to see maturing in us, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). If we do these things diligently we can be transformed into something that is accepted by God, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2).
But where are we now? Have we grown, “…in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”? (2 Peter 3:18). Are we, “…filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”? (Colossians 1:9). Have we grown up, “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:”? (Ephesians 4:13). After all these years have we grown, or are we still a ‘babes in Christ’?
The Apostle Paul had to admonish one congregation because they were still ‘babes in Christ’ when they should have been skilful in discerning good from evil and teaching others. Their failure to make progress was preventing them from understanding meatier spiritual subjects that Paul wanted to teach them, “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. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 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.” (Hebrews 5:12-14). They could not move on to perfection until they mastered the basics of the law.
He took another congregation to task who had not yet put aside the natural tendencies that are inherent in human nature, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 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. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:1-3).
Consequently they gave glory to men rather than God, “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:4-7).
Their faith had become misplaced in men, “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:5). It was something they should have resisted, “Therefore let no man glory in men.” (I Corinthians 3:21). But they had become puffed up about who they followed and it caused division among them, “…learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (I Corinthians 4:6).
Same Problems Today
The problems that prevented these ‘babes in Christ’ in these two congregations from moving on toward perfection are similar to problems that we face among the scattered churches today. Some are still struggling with some of the basics of the law, others are behaving badly toward each other with envying, strife and division, and some are still putting men between themselves and Christ.
We need to learn from these examples and put aside the things that are preventing us from coming to perfection and focus on the purpose of our calling which is to grow in grace and knowledge to the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.