Surely the Lord is visiting His church to prepare her for His coming. His current work is to “sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27). He is fashioning her to shine light that draws the nations:
Phil. 2:15 ...that you may be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
Isa. 60:1-3 Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.
This preparation toward “holy and without blemish” comes by “the washing of water by the Word”. It is imperative to note that we are to long for this Word as a baby longs for milk that we might grow thereby (I Pt. 2:2). All Christian growth is related to God’s word because it, alone, both cleanses and nourishes us…
Eph 4:13-14 …till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
It is, of course, abnormal for newborns and infants not to grow. Likewise, it is abnormal for Christians not to grow or for the corporate church not to grow. Consider the following scriptures:
I Cor. 3:1-4 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
Gal. 4:1-3 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.
Heb. 5:11-13 ...of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
In each of the above references, the Greek word “nepios” is used to designate a very young child below the developmental level of using speech. This would be normal for new believers, but not older ones. The problem is not that the behavior of “nepios” is wrong but that remaining in that state is wrong. The characteristics of “nepios” should disappear over time, which is why the Hebrews passage above rebukes the condition.
The Galatians passage opens the context of warning of going backwards to being immature. The context continues:
Galatians 4:4-20 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. 12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? 17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
Clearly, Paul believed that those he nurtured as young believers ought to have grown up; he goes so far as to say he is like a pregnant mom who can’t wait until the birth occurs. Today, Jesus is maturing His church and spiritual growth is being accelerated. We are under powerful Spirit direction to “grow up into Him.” In order to yield most fully to this call we start with attitude and choice, making determined decision to grow individually and corporately until we can say with Paul:
I Cor. 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
With this firm decision, we can recognize some of the babyish characteristics these scriptures point out and call on the Lord to wash them away through our repentance from dead works and faith toward God.
• Jealousy, strife, envy
• Tossed about by changing conditions
• Running after new doctrine
• Need for re-education in basic truth
• Inability to instruct others
• Poor insight and judgment
• Party spirit
Amen! These traits are expected in babies but not in those who are maturing. Jesus is calling us out of these habits and conditions. In Gal. 4:4-6, adoption does not signify entrance to God’s family; being born-again sets you in God’s family. This Greek word is “weothesia”, a compound of “weos” meaning “son” and “thesia” meaning “to place”. This is the act of one’s Father removing the cloak of childhood and placing the “toga virilus” or cloak of manhood on His child, thereby establishing them publicly as sons or mature ones.
I urge you to press into this truth with all diligence, for the Spirit of Son Placement is in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Give Him all you’ve got.