“Seeking Maturity (vii)”

               One of the great insights into the Bible I was taught as a student was the occasional nature of the New Testament books/letters.  What this means is that the epistles of the NT (and to some extent, the other books as well) were written with a specific situation(s) in mind.  Paul did not just randomly fire off a letter to the Christians in Colossae, for instance.  Something was going on in Colossae that called forth the communication from the apostle.  Understanding what the occasion of the letter is can be greatly helpful in interpreting and applying the passages within.

               In the next use of the word “mature” (Grk. TELEIOS) in the NT, we see Paul explaining his missionary team’s goal among the Colossians.  Here is the passage with surrounding context:


               “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

                                                                                                         – Colossians 1:24-29


               We might think that a missionary’s goal might be to baptize as many people as possible and move on to the next town as quickly as possible to preach to others who had never heard of Jesus.  To some extent, that is true, and certainly Paul longed to preach Christ where He had never been heard before (Romans 15:20).

               However, here in his letter to Colossae, Paul indicates just getting people wet in a baptistery was not all he wished to do.  Here in our passage, Paul does not even mention baptism.  Here he says the goal is maturity – “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  How do they attempt to do so?  By proclaiming Jesus, by warning people, and by teaching everyone with wisdom.  He concludes by saying that this is what he puts all His energy into.  Notice the capital letter on “His.”  It is God’s energy and God’s power at work in Paul and his fellows attempting to present all their converts mature in Christ.

               Earlier in the paragraph, he is more specific in what this all involves, talking of making the word of God fully known to the saints.  So what do we learn about spiritual maturity here?  It is a goal of all good evangelism.  It comes after baptism, not at baptism, as the word of God is taught and applied to individual lives.  And it involves warning, not just general teaching.  Finally, it happens only if God’s power and energy is applied to the process.  The process of spiritual maturity is not man-made, but God-infused.