Maturity versus Immaturity – Ephesians 4:11-16
NIV Ephesians 4:11 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 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 men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 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.
How do you define maturity? When do we know if someone is “mature”? Just because a person is grown up into an adult body, doesn’t mean that person is mature. Have you ever heard, “that kid sure is mature for her age”? Or, “When will that person grow up?”. I don’t believe maturity really has anything to do with age. Of course, we should expect an 18year old to be more mature than a 10 year old, or an adult to be more mature than a child. But, many times, adults behave like children. Why is that? Our text today helps us understand what it means to be “mature”, especially spiritual maturity. Let’s have a look, verse by verse.
In verses 11 & 12, God has given us leaders to “prepare” or “equip” God’s people. The Greek word used literally means to mend broken nets, or set a broken bone – in other words, to fix something so it can be used for its intended purpose. Firstly, in this case, a sign of maturity is found in someone who allows themselves to be taught by the leadership of the church. An immature believer will not listen to sound teaching, nor submit to leadership, just like a stubborn teenager will not listen to his parents. They will not allow themselves to be “prepared” for “works of service”. Secondly, a mature believer wants to learn; Why? So they can serve people in the church. Unlike selfish teenagers, mature Christians have a view of serving the body of Christ, so the whole body can grow up. Maturity means one is not focussed on self, but on others. A child whines for what he or she wants; a mature believer wants to supply what another person needs to become mature. Let me some up the first two points: maturity is seen in someone who is teachable, has a servant attitude, and is “others” focussed. I know many people like this! Sadly, there are also many immature believers in the church, who don’t see themselves as serving others, but getting from people. Let’s check our hearts!
Verse 13 emphasizes the attitude of a mature believer who is not focussed on self, but on the health of the whole church community. Number one, they want everyone to grow together, guarding not only the “unity of the Spirit” (4:3), but desiring “unity in the faith”. See, mature people have the goal of the whole church becoming Jesus focussed, wanting everyone to know Christ, the Son of God. They want everyone else to become mature also, and attain the “fullness of Christ”. This is the reason for their service to others. Mature people are fixed on a common goal – the growth and maturity of the whole household of faith. They are, according to verse 15, willing to “speak the truth in love”. They say what needs to be said, warning, exhorting, admonishing, and correcting so that we all grow up in Christ together. Think about that! Mature Christians are so concerned for the welfare of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, that, out of love, they guide and instruct people to get closer to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the one who holds us all together! And as we get closer to Him, we will all grow in the love of God, and desire to serve one another (the meaning of vs. 16).
Do you want a really good picture of an immature believer? Look at verse 14! An immature believer is like the wave in the sea, tossed around by all kinds of bad teaching. They just go around from teacher to teacher trying to find what satisfies their own desires, prone to deception, and often falling victim to false teachers, and drifting from one deceiver to the next. They spend their time filling up on spiritual candy, never getting into the meat and potatoes of the word of God. They become confused, drifting from congregation to congregation, looking to satisfy their own appetites. Why? Because they are self-focussed, and do not have the view of the whole church growing up into Christ. These are usually the ones who chase experiences, and teachers who satisfy what their itching ears want to hear. Like a rebellious teenager who has run away from home, now living on the streets, putting into their bodies whatever they can find, because they just don’t want to submit to their parents and other leaders, nor do they want to grow up into Christ. Lord have mercy! Let us remember to pray for the prodigals!
Friends, immaturity has its consequences, but maturity has its blessings - Getting closer to Jesus; being an active, serving member of a local church body; experiencing the love of a healthy church community and family of God; growing in the grace and knowledge of God. Maturity means stability; it means belonging to something bigger than yourself; it means producing fruit for the Master; it means seeing the kingdom of God growing; it means participating in the mission of Jesus; it means experiencing life as it was intended to be. Lastly, and don’t miss this: maturity means responsibility. The mature person does their part. Without that part, the rest of the body can’t “grow and build itself up in love”. Maturity produces a loving community. Let us endeavor to participate in this mission of Jesus.
We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other.His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.(Eph.4:15-16 MSG)