Spiritual Maturity Verses in the Bible with Commentary


Lord’s Library contributor Ron Shultz offers a detailed Bible study on spiritual maturity verses in the Bible. with commentary. Check out his ministry Maverick Ministries for additional Bible studies and resources. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeThis lesson can be a foundational block to begin or continue your Christian walk, to begin or increase your service to our Lord. Spiritual maturity and God’s use of you increase in direct proportion.

Fear of God: The Beginning of Spiritual Maturity

A God this powerful needs to be feared, but 1 John 4:18 teaches that perfect love casts out fear (or phobos): “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” This verse in 1 John, however, is describing debilitating fear, not the healthy fear we should always have of God. Some call it reverential awe, but sometimes fear is a better word.

We love our earthly fathers, but when we disobey them we have fear, or at least some of us do, and not reverential awe. We may speak in terms of “he is going to kill us,” but we really do not expect such an extreme response. However, we are anxious about what he will do. We know it will not be pleasant and we dread to see him come home. We may hide to try to delay the confrontation, but we know it will come eventually.

Christians will see their Father one day and some of us live in dread of it because we are disobedient, or because we have not been perfected in His love. Others need to have the fear of God put in them. See Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1:

  • Psalm 14:1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”
  • Psalm 53:1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.”

To say there is no God is the profession of a fool, someone having no fear of God (Psalm 14:1). A good example of such a person is presented in 1 Samuel 25:3-39. He was so much a fool that he was even named Nabal, which means fool in Hebrew. Talk about living up to your name!

The Gospel

Spiritual Maturity Verses in the Bible

When we think of such a person we think of a lost person. There are times, however, when God’s children act foolishly. They profess faith in Him and acknowledge His Lordship, but begin thinking they have wisdom apart from God and His Word. They believe they have arrived in the Christian faith, when really they have only become foolish. They have lost their fear of the Lord. See 1 Corinthians 8:2-3, Proverbs 1:7, and Job 28:28:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:2-3: “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.”
  • Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Job 28:28: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Paul says that we do not know things as we ought to because we are limited in our ability to see the complete picture. We have blind spots. Because of those blind spots, it is easier to see someone else’s faults or the answer to their problems than it is to see our own flaws. That is why there is safety in many counselors, according to Proverbs 24:6: “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

When you look that verse up, you might think it is only speaking about war. Well, we are in a spiritual warfare and God has given us many counselors for that war. The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, His Word, and mature saints are provided for our counsel. We just need to realize that we need them and then use them.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Until we fear the Lord enough to receive salvation, we can never know anything at all. All our vast human knowledge or wisdom does not even equate to the first day of Kindergarten in God’s School, see 1 Corinthians 1:25: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Indeed, He has said that He would use the weak and foolish of this world to confound the mighty and wise of this world, according to 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:”

Now, I am not saying that we should never study math, science, art, or other disciplines. We just need to start with the right foundation if we are to truly learn anything. If you start with anything other than a Theocentric/Christocentric worldview, your building of knowledge will be a house of cards and will not stand in eternity. An anthropocentric worldview will only lead to chaos and despair in this life and the next.

A perfect example of a Christocentric scientist would be George Washington Carver. Dr. Carver wanted to study the peanut. He asked God to show him how a peanut can be used. His beginning of knowledge began with the fear of the Lord. He had proper wisdom and God gave him hundreds of uses for the peanut, and as they say, it was all good.

Many current scientists come from an anthropocentric worldview or an evolutionary worldview. They use lab animals to create drugs to treat diseases. They assume that a mammal and a human are equal; thus believing that what works on a rat or ape should work just fine on a human. But God’s Word says all flesh is not the same flesh. The flesh of humans, beasts, birds, and fish are not the same. See 1 Corinthians 15:39: “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.”

Yes, there are similarities, but that only points to the same Creator as one can view many different pieces of art with different themes, but one can tell who the artist is by his strokes and use of color.

These scientists have some modicum of success, but often at the price of contraindications or side effects as bad or worse than the diseases they are treating. Listen to the ads for various medications. They glow about the one thing that it accomplishes and then give a list of things that could happen to you.

I find the one ad particularly strange about a birth control pill that brags about how it can give you a wonderful complexion but may cause a heart attack. That could kill you. Well, at least with this great complexion the mortician will have an easier time making you look natural comestically. The same types of side effects are possible from some weight control drugs. Again, the bright side must be that it will make life easier on your pallbearers.

Often, you take one kind of pill to protect you from the first pill, and then a third pill to protect you from that pill. They will always schedule you for a routine procedure that they say is a piece of cake and then make you sign papers acknowledging that you could die. If I went to a tire shop for a new set of tires and they made sign papers acknowledging that I might lose my engine or transmission, I would burn rubber leaving the place. Yet, we submit to the same concept because a doctor tells us to do so.

I wonder what kind of things they could find out if we practiced an ancient Chinese philosophy. The people paid their doctors a stipend while they were well, but stopped when they were sick. See the difference in motivation? Our medical people do better financially when we are sick or need surgery. Our health means less wealth for our doctor. Again, because many of their presuppositions are wrong, they practice and practice, but never learn the lesson. Legislators, please pass some laws that would change their motivation from wealth to health.

They would do better to listen to what God has to say about man’s flesh being different, that He made man from the earth. They might have a greater respect for the views of natural healing and herbs and such. If God provides a cure, it will not have harmful side effects. All His gifts are perfect. See James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Indeed, many of our diseases come from our diets. God has a few words on that. If both the food producers and us would listen, we might need fewer doctors. Our food is tainted by man’s chemical attempts to override God’s curse so that we can have more crops faster, bigger, and easier. In the end, the “stuff” that kills the bugs and matures livestock more quickly gives us cancer or heart disease.

Yep, an anthropocentric science really works wonders. However, be careful when you discuss anything with those folks. They will rail on you and curse you. Hmm, that would confirm Proverbs 1:7, would it not?

  • Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

It would be wise to depart from evil. When a lost person realizes his need of Christ and changes his mind about sin and self-dependence, he has started to have real knowledge. Christians also need to learn to depart from evil to prove that they have understanding and proper fear of the Lord.

Discernment: A Clear Indication of Spiritual Maturity

Now that we know that we need the fear of the Lord and His understanding or wisdom, we need to look at what spiritual maturity entails. If one thing clearly indicates spiritual maturity, it is discernment, something that is greatly lacking today. Too many Christians are feasting at a spiritual smorgasbord and becoming ill. Theologians seem to be grasping at straws instead of rightly dividing the Word.

What was condemned as worldly and ungodly only fifty years ago is embraced as good fruit of a liberated life of grace. Paul had the same problem in his day and the Holy Spirit addressed it. People who should have been able to have discernment lacked it and it made his ministry more difficult.

Hebrews 5:11-14: “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 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.”

Paul would have been kicked out of the average church today for being too blunt, even insulting. After five chapters of some extremely deep doctrinal study, he has to tell them that he has many things that he wants to say, but it would be too hard to do it because they were dull of hearing. He is literally saying that they were too lazy to hear. Ouch!

How does he define maturity here? First, a mature Christian is skilled in the Word. They are past being bottle-fed and are digging into the meat with their own knife and fork. They are able to feed themselves and are past the first principles of God’s teachings. Many Christians flunk this test. They are observers. After watching the preachers and teachers do their thing, they go home and criticize the performers while waiting for the next performance. If asked what they believe they may be able to parrot what they were told. If asked why they believe, they would stutter. If asked to show why they believe they would only stare blankly.

The second aspect of spiritual maturity rests on the first one; fear of God. Growth in the Word enables you to exercise your senses in discerning good from evil. Anyone studying the Word for head knowledge alone will fail this test. You may see them intently reading their Bible, but no real maturity is occurring. Many children and adults can rattle off scores of Scripture perfect in their quotations, but they could not tell you the full impact of the passage doctrinally. Truth without spirit is legalism and spirit without truth is emotionalism.

A correct understanding of grace and Christian liberty is also important for proper discernment. Some people believe that doctrine is not important. As long as you have shared the born-again experience then I am to accept anything you say or do in Christian love. I am not to be judgmental and suggest that an activity or teaching is error or sin. “Judge not that ye be not judged,” they would quote. Others would think me intolerant.

With an attitude like that, you can never discern good or evil because you do not believe that you should do so. You do not believe that there is a line drawn between good and evil, that absolute truth exists. Jesus and the Apostles had no trouble in this area, and they were the preachers of the Age of Grace. By our standards, they were rather crude and dogmatic about things and very intolerant.

They loved and drew sinners to them, but had no trouble rebuking and insulting those who held heretical viewpoints. Jesus said that you were either with Him or against Him in Matthew 12:30: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Paul said that anyone that did not love the Lord Jesus Christ should be excommunicated or not be associated with at all. See 1 Corinthians 16:22: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”

This puts a damper on the concept of ecumenism when there are those within the movement that are not Christians at all, or claim to be but do not hold Jesus to be God incarnate. My, my how intolerant Jesus and the Apostles are. John says to not even bid Godspeed to a person that knocks on your door and does not hold the true doctrine of Christ. He says that if you do so you are a partaker of their evil deeds. See 2 John 10-11: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

They obviously believed that doctrine was important and that there was a definable and discernable difference between good and evil. God is a jealous God and shares His glory with no one else. By today’s definitions, He is very intolerant. However, by the real meaning of the word, He is very tolerant in that He does not toast us the first time we sin after reaching an age of accountability. Were God to do that, we would not have to be concerned with overpopulation because there would not be any population at all.

Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 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: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

We have looked at this passage before, but I want to focus on verses 13-15 this time. All this perfecting, maturing, or equipping of the saints that is committed to the leaders is designed to create people that are unified in the faith. Unified in our belief and not in our love as is now touted. We are to be of one mind and to speak the same thing. See Romans 15:6, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 1:27, and 1 Peter 3:8:

  • Romans 15:6: “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
  • Philippians 1:27: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
  • 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:”

Now, if we have one mind, we should have the same love. See Philippians 2:2: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” This is why we are to speak the truth in love. We do not truly love if we do not speak the truth, and we are not speaking the truth correctly if we do not have love. They work in tandem.

God had to tell us the truth about our condition before we could be saved. His love provided the means of our salvation. If He told us the truth and did not love us, we would have been without hope. If Jesus had only spoke of God’s love without telling us the truth of our condition and the way of receiving that love, we would have slept peacefully until we died and went to Hell. We needed both. We need to be people of truth and love. That is the complete or mature message of the Word.

Just as there were many pagan religions when Christ came, there are many out there today. Some are just the same old ones with new names. Others have their roots in several other religions with a few new practices or catch phrases. Jesus also had to contend with heretics within the only true religion of His day. Judaism had become segmented with groups that had missed the whole point. There was a remnant, but as a whole Judaism was not what God had intended.

Even today, Christianity is fragmented into many groups. Some are fundamentally correct with the only differences being in some practices and viewpoints on eschatology. Others have left the teachings of the Word and even their founders, becoming like the virgins who ran out of oil, while others have literally become spiritual whores. And there are some that have never been part of the true Church. These people are either lost or heretics. They formulate and teach false doctrine to empower themselves and peddle their ideas under a banner of “New Christianity” or a supposed rebirth of it.

Ephesians 4:14 is in vivid display today, and the need for discerning and mature Christians is perhaps greater than it has ever been: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

We are in an age of apostasy: a forsaking or defection from the truth. We may well be in the great falling away period described as preceding the coming of the Rapture and the appearance of the anti-Christ. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”

I believe that our current age of apostasy started in the late 1800’s and has snowballed in the last fifty years. The avalanche may happen anytime. We must study and become mature Christians to withstand the deceitful evil around us. If this is the great apostasy that was predicted, then there may be only a small remnant of mature Christians left when He returns. Christ asked the question of whether there would be any faith left at all on the earth when He returned. Not a positive tone (see Luke 18:8). Let us strive to be part of that small remnant.

  • Luke 18:8: “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

You have to separate thoroughly like sheep from goats. You have to be able to tell the truth from a lie and withdraw from the lie. You have to oppose the lie. You have to be partial and judge. You need to make a difference between the truth and the lie, not be apathetic or congenial with the lie. It is good to have doubt when you hear “a new thing” and to be like the Bereans and hit the book! See Acts 17:11 and 21:

  • Acts 17:11: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
  • Acts 17:21: “(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”

How many times did Jesus say, “you have heard it said, but I say unto you,” or that same idea in different words? Many people are what they are because they were born into a particular group and have accepted what they have heard as true. They have never studied their own faith for confirmation of what they say they believe. Except for a few catchphrases or traditions, they have no clue as to what their “faith” is about.

That is somewhat my testimony. I grew up in a mainline denomination. Had you asked me, I would have said that I was a Christian because I was a Methodist. Yet, I believed that Christ came in on a UFO and practiced nominal Buddhism for awhile because it appeared that a Buddhist prayer and ritual caused my military orders to be changed.

I did not even know who the founder of my denomination was until I received Christ at 22 and went off to Bible College at 26. When I heard what he taught, I completely realized how I would have gone to Hell as a good Methodist because they no longer preached the Gospel that Wesley did. My wife was the same way. As long as she was baptized as an infant, she was OK. I studied Luther as well and he would have had a throwing fit at that idea, but that is what she was taught. We had no discernment because we had no fear of the Lord, only a tradition.

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us we are to study: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We are to judge, not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment. See John 7:24: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

We are to be careful about what we call good or evil as well. See Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

We are to reprove and rebuke. See 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” We are not to cozy up to the works of darkness, but rather reprove them. See Ephesians 5:11: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

We are not to be tolerant in the current definition. We are to love people but to be committed to the truth at all costs. This course was designed to not only provide you with some basic doctrinal teaching, but also to invite, excite, and incite you to study and stand for the truth.

Trials, Temptations, Tribulations & Spiritual Maturity

How long does it take to become mature/perfect? That varies with the individual just like physical growth and maturity. Some seem to mature overnight, and others never seem to grow up. Some do not mature because there is another aspect to maturity that most American Christians seek to avoid like the plague: temptations, trials, and tribulations.

James 1:2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Want to be perfect, complete, or mature? Well, then do not fuss and moan about tribulation and trials. They will mold you and test your faith. James and Paul agree that those things bring about patience. Compare the patience of a two-year-old and a thirty-two-year-old. If the man has matured properly, his patience level has increased dramatically since he was two. A two-year-old cannot wait a couple of minutes for a drink of water. The thirty-two-year-old may have been working for a promotion for the last ten years and is still waiting, but he is still working.

In the spiritual realm, it should work the same. Many new Christians want to be spiritual giants in the first year and have trouble waiting for God to answer a specific prayer. Someone thirty-two years in the Lord has learned that it takes a while to grow, that sometimes you find out you have grown more than you thought.

Sometimes, however, you find out that you’ve grown less. You also learn that God does not punch a clock. His project list may be a tad different than yours. I said that it should work the same. Sometimes the older Christian has not matured. He has sat, soaked, and soured and still has temper tantrums. Sometimes the younger Christian grasps a spiritual truth more quickly and experiences a deeper relationship with God than someone twice his spiritual age.

All we can know for sure is that if we glory in those tribulations and allow God to work, we will experience His awesome love and power. That experience will give us more patience and will generate hope when the next trial comes. He has promised that hope in Him will never cause us shame. Rejoice! If you are a new Christian and times seem rough, remember He scourges every son that He receives, but it is all a part of making you a mature Son that can work fruitfully in His field. See Hebrews 12:5-9 and Philippians 2:15:

  • Hebrews 12:5-9: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”
  • Philippians 2:15: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;”

If you are an “old” Christian, by now you should have some patience and experience in the Lord. You should have hope because he has brought you safe thus far. That same loving Father will bring you safely out of your current trouble and safely home someday. If you have been playing around with the world and not seeking His face for strength and maturity, it is time to stop.

1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

You are called to be a mature son or daughter and to serve Him. How is your fear of Him? Do you think He will not spank a disobedient or lazy child? We live in a world where we cannot afford to be lazy or disobedient. We cannot afford to stay babies. Some young Christian is looking up to you. If you fail, you are human and that can be explained. If you are apathetic or just pew warming, that is harder to explain.

You could cause a babe in Christ to stumble. Put away the toys and get to work for Jesus! You do not know when He is coming or when you are going home. Redeem the time! Learn to discern and stay out of the pig slop! Do not be foolish! May we all grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and become the mature children he desires. Let’s make Him proud!

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Ronald Shultz
Ronald Shultz

Ronald Shultz

Ron is a Chaplain, Bible teacher, author, poet, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather whose life verses and call to ministry are Luke 22:31-32. He is retired military and always seeking to minister to Veterans and all people around the world through sermons on SermonCentral and other platforms.

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