Marks of Maturity

In the latter part of Galatians 5, the apostle Paul urges the Christians of Galatia, to practical godliness and he also warns against the snares of the false teachers. Paul wants to be clear. Christians are not to live by flesh. And they are not under law. Instead they are to live by love and live by the Spirit (v. 13-26). Paul wrote Galatians because Judiazers or Christian-Jews were coming in and teaching the churches in Galatia that in order to be saved, Christians must continue to follow the law. Paul’s main purposes in Galatians were to establish his authority as an apostle, re-establish the true meaning of the Gospel, warn against these Judiazers, and establish the place for the law.

Paul says that we are to love each other as ourselves. We can only do this by living by the Spirit. By the Spirit we are no longer under the works and desires of flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.” Instead we are filled with: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (v19-21).”

It is only through and because of Christ that we can live in the Spirit. For, “those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another” (v. 22-26).

I will examine three of these fruits more closely: Self-control, peace and patience. (I chose these three because they are most difficult for me.) Self-control is rendered from the Greek word, “ejgkravteia” and the Latin word, continenia. Self-control is a concept that is difficult to pin down and grasp exactly and completely. Self-control is the ability to restrain impulse, set up boundaries, or control actions. The only real “self-control” comes from the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is living in a Christian, then the Christian is able to resist temptation to sin, choose words wisely, and is able to control thoughts and actions that are fleshly or ungodly. Having self-control is a mark of spiritual maturity. Solomon writes in Proverbs five that “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness (v. 22, 23).”
According to this verse, evil and foolish men do not have self-control. Self-control is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and spiritual growth.
Peace is resting in relationship w God. In John 14:27, Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (NKJV).” Again in Matthew 11, Jesus speaks of the true source of peace, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (v. 28-30).” Jesus is saying that he gives peace. He wants you to find rest in Him. In our own power we will not be able to handle the stress and sins of this world, but in Christ we can.

The word “peace” comes from the Greek word “eirene”, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word “shalom”, (and Latin word, “ pax,”) which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. This peace is rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-wrecking, traumatic, or upsetting…Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing. This is a mark of maturity because it is a command by Paul and Jesus to let the peace be a part of our lives. Phil. 4:7, “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” It is also a mark of maturity because when outsiders of Christianity see our peace, they will be curious about it. They will want it. They will see Jesus in our lives.

This peace is difficult for me and many other Christians because we like control, or at least I do. I want to make sure I have everything under control. I want to do things my own way. So I try to do things on my own power. When I do things on my own power, I forfeit this peace that Christ offers. But when I let go of my own control and let Christ control everything, this is when I truly have peace!

Patience, which in some translations is “longsuffering” or “endurance,” is defined in Strong’s by two Greek words, “makrothumia” and “hupomone.” In Latin it is the word, “longanimitas.” Trying to give an English equivalent is a little more difficult. The words: lenience, forbearance, fortitude, patient endurance, forgiving tolerance, mercy, and longsuffering – come to mind. It describes a person who has the power to exercise revenge but instead exercises restraint. The person who is patient can endure suffering, stand during difficult circumstances, and tolerate unpleasant things, such as persecution or simply annoyances. Hebrews 10:36 says “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”

Patience is a mark of maturity in the same ways as peace is. In Eph. 4, Paul calls us to patience and tolerance towards each other as Christians to preserve unity in the Spirit. In 1 Tim. 1:16, Paul says, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” We are following Christ’s example when we have patience. We are following Paul’s example in Antioch and the prophets example of old (James 5:10, 2 Tim. 3:10). Ecc. 7:8, “Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.”

As Christians we are to live life in Spirit. Right before Jesus ascended into Heaven he spoke about the Holy Spirit, which he left for us. Act 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Both Paul and Jesus commanded us to live by the Spirit. When we surrender our fleshly will to God’s will in the Holy Spirit then all of the characteristics, marks of maturity or fruits written about in Galatians 5:22–26, Colossians 3:12–17, or Psalm 15 will be evident in our own lives. I would like to close with 2 Peter 1: 5-8. See how these fruits build on each other. We start with faith and we grow into creatures of love! “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately (NET).”

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