“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 KJV
One of the first things that struck me as a young Christian is the diverse level of maturity in the church. Friends who become born again at the same time, experience divergent spiritual growth despite being exposed to the same teachings. This bordered me for a long time. How can this be, since God is not a respecter of persons.
Studying the word, I found out I was not alone in this mystification. The writer in Hebrews chapter five expressed the same frustration in verses 12 to 14. In fact, the whole of chapter six is a rebuke to those who are failing in their expected spiritual milestones. The unfortunate thing is that unlike physical growth, spiritual retardation is not as obvious. Church people are specialists in camouflage, failure of spiritual development is not always evident.
“But 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 KJV
For some reasons, particularly among the Pentecostal/Charismatic we confuse spiritual gifting, calling or ‘anointing’ with maturity. The truth is that, these are faulty yardsticks and it ought to be obvious even on cursory examination. The manifestation of the fruit of the spirit is a more appropriate assessment. Galatians 2:23 says, against these spiritual indices there is no law, meaning they make you blameless or beyond reproach.
In case you are wondering, 1 John 2:12-14 describes the three stages of Spiritual Growth: Children, often referred to as babes or new-born. Then young men or those who have come of age and lastly fathers or those who have attained maturity. These stages have nothing to do with chronological age or gender. They refer to levels of Spiritual maturity, levels to which the nature and character of God is expressed in individuals
“As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” 1 Peter 2:2 KJV
We all started as new-born in Christendom, the tragedy is if you remain a babe. Each one of us must continually locate ourselves, then make a conscious effort to make progress. The First epistle General of John was specifically written to the early church to present God’s love to people at the different levels of spiritual maturity. Milk for babes, meat for young men and strong meat for those have reached maturity. No one starts with strong meat; we all need milk to begin with.
Spiritual babes are self-centred, they throw tantrums when they cannot get their way, they want instant gratification. They lack spiritual experience and strength. Young men are full of zeal and are inpatient, they can get things done, they are passionate. But because they lack experience, they falter at the first obstacle. The fathers are concerned more with legacy, it is no longer about them but the next generation.
In conclusion, I have seen Pastors that are spiritual babes and ordinary church members that are fathers. There are extremely talented individuals in the church that are babes. Don’t be fooled, the title means nothing if there is no evidence of spiritual fruit to back it up. We all need to answer the first question God asked man, “where are you? “Not in terms of physical location but spiritual (Genesis 3:9).
Revd. Dr. ‘Femi Bosun Idowu
Lead Pastor, NCCStrongNation