December 17, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I don’t know a single Christian who wants to be spiritually immature. If we’re at all serious about our faith, then we want to be mature in Christ. But how do we know if we are mature or not? What evidence might reveal the level of our spiritual maturity?
The Bible offers a variety of answers to these questions. One striking and challenging one appears in Ephesians 4:14. In this passage, we find a clear description of spiritual immaturity. Infants are those who are “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” In a mixed metaphor, a baby Christian is like a boat in a storm, helplessly tossed around, without mooring or direction.
The wind that causes the spiritual infant to be blown about takes two related forms: teaching and deception. Teaching, in this case, is that which is contrary to the basic truth of the Gospel, as the context for verse 14 makes clear. The purveyors of false teaching are innocently misguided. Rather, they are playing games for selfish benefit, perhaps seeking financial gain or power. Infants fall prey to their deceptions, and are thus blown about by their falsehoods. Paul does not specify whether the false teaching that harasses immature Christians comes from deceivers who claim to be Christian or whether he envisions pagan and secular teachers. It’s likely, given his use of the word “every,” that he envisions both sources of deception (see Colossians 2:22; 1 Timothy 4:1).
Therefore, Ephesians 4:14 answers the question “How do you know if you’re a baby?” by pointing to how you respond to false teaching and those who promulgate it. Infants are tossed to and fro. Spiritually mature believers remain firm and fixed in the Gospel.
Something to Think About:
As you consider your own faith, do you remain firm in faith when exposed to that which contradicts core Christian truth? Or do you find yourself tempted to abandon or twist the faith? Are you confident in the Gospel? Or do you doubt its validity?
Gracious God, like all other believers, I started as a spiritual infant. That’s okay for a season, but your desire for me is that I would grow up in the faith. I thank you for ways in which this is true. I’m grateful for what you have taught me and for the clarity and confidence that comes from knowing your truth.
But, Lord, I am aware of evident infancy in me, even though I’ve been a Christian for a long time. Sometimes I can be influenced by teachings that deny your truth, especially when they are so pervasive and popular in the world around me. Help me, Lord, to be solid in you. Help me to grow up so that I will not be a spiritual baby. Help me to be mature and maturing, so that you might be glorified in me and so that I might contribute to the growth of your body, the church. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
What’s the ‘Handling Fee’?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.