For the past few days, we have seen how the Lord works through church officers to bring the church into “mature manhood” (Eph. 4:1–16). Thus, we have reached a good place to pause our study of Ephesians for two days and consider the importance of spiritual maturity, what hinders true growth, and the ways doctrinal understanding leads to mature faith. Dr. R.C. Sproul will help us consider these topics as we consult the introduction to his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.
In centuries past, the Christian church prized the diligent study of doctrine because pastors and laypeople alike followed Paul’s call to pursue the depths of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15). Yet this emphasis is largely absent today. Surveys repeatedly show that theological knowledge is shallow even among evangelicals. Vast numbers confess Jesus as their personal Savior, but only a tiny percentage have a grasp of what this profession means. Making matters worse, too many care too little to rectify the problem.
Immature understanding of biblical doctrine leads to immature thinking and living; thus, many believers do not live up to their calling in Christ to be salt and light to the world. There are numerous reasons for this immaturity. One of the most common is the failure of many churches to grasp the true meaning of childlike faith. When Jesus says we must become like children to receive the kingdom (Mark 10:15), He demands that we become like the typical child in our attitude toward Him, not in our knowledge. To be childlike in matters of faith does not mean that our knowledge of facts is as deficient as a small child’s; rather, it means that we are wholly dependent on the Lord, just as little children rely wholly on their parents. Unfortunately, many believers think childlike faith requires childlike knowledge when, in fact, the opposite is true. Only as we begin to understand the greatness of God do we realize our utter weakness, which prompts us to live as children absolutely dependent on our Father.
Another contributing factor to the pervasive immaturity we see in the church today is the antirational spirit of the current culture. The importance of critical thinking and the need for our minds to inform our feelings and emotions have all but fallen by the wayside. Yet Scripture places a premium on loving God with our minds, so Christians must never succumb to this antirationalist spirit (Mark 12:30).