“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 RSV).
One of the primary characteristics of every living thing is growth. Synonyms for growth are: “development, increase, growing, maturation.”
When any living thing is not growing or developing as it should, something is definitely wrong somewhere. Similarly, when a believer is not growing spiritually, there is a problem somewhere.
It is God’s plan and expectation that all His children will grow up in every way into the full stature of Christ. This is one of the primary God-ordained purposes or responsibilities of church leaders.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 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;
14 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,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ-
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (NKJV).
This is God’s ultimate purpose for all His children in this world!
The general but wrong concept of spiritual growth in the Church today is that the believers are born again into God’s kingdom as spiritual babes or infants, who then grow up into maturity as they feed regularly on God’s Word, fellowship daily with God in prayer, and participate in diverse spiritual activities in the church.
This concept of spiritual growth presupposes that at the point of spiritual generation the born-again believers, the new creations, are not perfectly like Christ in their born-again spirit, or at best just “a miniature Christ”.
Therefore the emphasis of this wrong concept of spiritual growth is on the growth, increase, development or maturity of the inward man, the believer’s born-again spirit.
All the spiritual exercises that those who hold or embrace this wrong concept of spiritual growth do is therefore consider as a means of increasing the size, power, strength, anointing or knowledge of their born-again spirits.
Though this concept may seem logical or sensible to our natural mind; it is totally inconsistent with the New Testament’s concept of spiritual growth!
The New Testament clearly teaches that the product of the New or Spiritual Birth is a New Creation, who is fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and not a miniature of Christ.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined (to be) conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV).
2 Corinthians 5:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV).
This Scripture is speaking about the believer’s recreated or born-again spirit (the inward man), and not about his soul or his body (the outward or physical man).
What does the Scripture teach or reveal about the believer’s new spirit, the regenerated inward man or the new creation?
First, The Scripture teaches that the new creation was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:24 RSV). What does this imply?
It implies that the believer’s recreated spirit has God’s kind of righteousness and holiness as his nature at the new birth. He is perfectly like Christ, who is the express image of God (I John 4:17, Heb. 1:1-3).
The believer’s born-again spirit cannot sin or be contaminated or defiled by sin.
1 John 3:
9 No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. (RSV).
The believer’s recreated spirit is one with Christ!
1 Corinthians 6:
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (NKJV).
Therefore, the believer’s regenerated or recreated spirit cannot be made to become more righteous, perfect or holier than he is at the point of regeneration; “because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17 NKJV).
True spiritual growth is therefore not increasing in godliness, holiness or righteousness!
Second, the Scripture teaches that the believer’s inward man is complete in Christ.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (NKJV).
What is this scripture saying?
It is saying that just as the fullness of God dwells in Christ, the fullness of Christ now dwells in the believer’s spirit. What does this imply?
It implies that the new creation lacks nothing that Christ has!
As a new creation, your recreated inward man has all things that pertain to life and godliness.
Peter testifies to this truth.
2 Peter 1:
1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (NKJV).
As a new creation, your recreated inward man is blessed with all things in Christ.
Paul aptly states this truth.
1 Corinthians 3:
21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:
22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come–all are yours.
23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (NKJV).
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (NKJV).
As a new creation, your recreated inward man is anointed.
Paul bears witness to this truth.
2 Corinthians 1:
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,
22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (NKJV).
John the beloved also testifies to this truth.
1 John 2:
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (NKJV).
As a new creation, you are now a joint-heir with Christ.
Paul clearly states this truth.
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (NKJV).
Therefore, your inward man or recreated spirit does not need to grow or increase by any spiritual means in anything, for he already has the fullness of Christ at the new birth.
True spiritual growth therefore is not increasing in anointing, wealth, riches, possessions or blessings!
Third, the New Testament also teaches that at the point of spiritual regeneration the believer’s inward man or born-again spirit has the mind of Christ and he is renewed in knowledge.
1 Corinthians 2:
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (RSV).
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (NKJV).
The New Testament believers already have God’s Word engrained or implanted in their new spirits or hearts.
The Hebrew writer clearly presents this truth.
10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
11 “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. (NKJV).
What do all these scriptures imply?
They imply that the believer’s born-again spirit does not need to be taught God’s Word; he already has God’s Word implanted in him and thus he knows the truth (1 John 2:20-21)!
Therefore, true spiritual growth is not increasing in acquisition of the knowledge of God’s Word!
What then is true spiritual growth?
Find out in the next part of this piece!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for recreating in me a new spirit at the New Birth. My Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to begin to understand and appropriate the truths about my new born-again spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.