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From the Winter 2005 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Maturity Can Be Measured

by J. Oswald Sanders
Reprinted by permission from his book In Pursuit of Maturity


he biblical writers frequently draw parallels between physical and spiritual life, and in many cases the parallels are close. The physical maturity of a child can be measured with the aid of a tape measure and scales; the child’s intellectual development can be gauged by examinations and tests. Likewise our own growth in maturity can be measured, and those most closely associated with us will be the best judges of our growth. Paul states the infallible standard of measurement—”the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
  This seems a daunting and unattainable standard; but then, could an infinitely holy and ethically perfect God entertain a standard any lower? Dr. A. T. Robertson, the eminent Greek scholar, throws light on this dilemma. In commenting on our Lord’s staggering demand, “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), he explains the significance of the word “perfect” in this context: “Here it is the goal set before us, the absolute standard of our heavenly Father. The word is also used for relative perfection, as of adults compared with children” (italics mine).1 We will know absolute maturity only when we see Christ and are like Him (see 1 John 3:2), but until then it is possible to attain a relative maturity, “continually progressing to maturity,”—the perfection of a child going on to maturity. Both aspects coalesce in Philippians 3:12-15, where Paul says,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.

  Paul here clearly disclaims having attained an absolute maturity, but he lays claim to a relative maturity in his experience.

How May We Gauge Our Degree of Maturity?

  Paul rules out the validity of comparing ourselves with ourselves. “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).
  In his book Christian Holiness Bishop Stephen Neill concurs with Paul’s dictum. Bishop Neill writes, “Is man once again to be the measure of all things? By what standard am I to be judged? Is my unaided capacity at any one moment to be the measure at that moment of Christian attainment and Christian expectation?”2
  The answer is, No! The measure of our maturity is seen when the “fullness of Christ”—the sum total of all the qualities that make Him what He is—is increasingly exhibited in our lives.
  The primary mark of a developing maturity is growth in personal and experiential knowledge of God, coupled with a strong aspiration to know Him better. This was well illustrated in the experience of Moses. As his intimacy with God developed, he had the temerity to ask of Him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you…” (Exod. 33:13). The readiness of the Lord’s response should encourage others to make the same request. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked…’” (Exod. 33:17a).

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