Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NKJV)
Whether the topic is politics, social issues, or religion, reasoned discussion is too often drowned out by vitriol and venom in the public square these days. Whatever happened to the time when those with opposing viewpoints could disagree without being disagreeable? I suppose some never learned could. We pray for and long for a return to such dispositions, for any society whose citizens cannot calmly communicate is headed for tension, turmoil, and trouble (Prov. 14:34). The same is true of the Lord’s church. Can you to talk with someone who has fallen away? And if you can, how do you do that? The goal is to “restore” the soul overtaken in sin – any other aim is beneath this worthy objective. Spiritual maturity is essential when approaching a Christian who has fallen into sin. Such maturity will be reflected by the spirit of gentleness used when talking with the sinning saint about his or her sin. Approaching a fallen Christian with an air of disgust or superiority is the height of arrogance, and is sure to fail. Mature (spiritual) Christians remember sin also tempts them. And so, with meek compassion the effort is made to turn a sinner from error and save a soul from death (Jas. 5:19-20). Yes, the “spiritual” disagree with the one overtaken by sin. But, to have a spirit of antagonism only aggravates and hinders the effort to save the lost. Furthermore, to do so is also sin.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, NKJV)
The devil is delighted when Christians do not love one another. He also takes delight when Christians do not love their enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God is “perfect” in verse 48 because He does precisely that – He loves His enemies. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The word “perfect” in today’s passage (verse 48) conveys completeness, being of full age or maturity. Our love is not complete if we do not love our enemies. We love our enemies by showing them active goodwill, even though they are actively showing ill will toward us (see Matthew 5:44). Loving only those who love us is the world’s model of love. Loving your enemies is what God does toward the whole world. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven model themselves after God’s love, not the world’s incomplete, immature love.
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— (Ephesians 4:14–15, NKJV)
Maturity in Christ equips us to achieve and maintain the “the unity of the faith” to which we have been called by the gospel. Christ gave the work of inspired men (through which that gospel came to earth from heaven), and the work of uninspired men (who continue to proclaim and teach the gospel) to thoroughly equip us to serve the will of God as the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). In today’s text, our spiritual maturity prevents us from being tossed about like children by the prevailing winds of false doctrine. The “trickery of men” describes the sleight of hand by which one defrauds another. False doctrine defrauds and plunders the unsuspecting of their spiritual treasure (Colossians 2:8). The “cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” describes the deceptive method of sophistry that attacks the simplicity of the gospel of Christ (Romans 16:17-18). As our maturity in Christ protects us, it also enables us to speak the truth in love. God’s truth equips us to grow in Christ, while protecting us from spiritual danger, and securing our standing with Christ (the Head of the church). Let us determine to grow up in Christ by becoming strong in the truth.
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; (Ephesians 4:12–13, NKJV)
After He ascended into heaven, Christ gave gifts to the world, (Ephesians 4:11, see Sword Tips #1213). The work of these inspired men produced the New Testament. These uninspired men help us know and follow them. According to verse 12, these gifts were given to equip or complete the saints of God, in order to 1) do the work of service given by the Lord, and to 2) edify or strengthen the church. Please notice, it is the word of God that gives us the necessary tools to serve, and to be spiritually strengthened. The goal of our spiritual ministry and strength is stated in verse 13: That we will attain to the maturity and unity to which we have been called in Christ. This is where Paul began this fourth chapter of Ephesians, as he urges Christians to walk worthy of our calling, carefully guarding “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, 1-6). Churches have strayed far from this spiritual work Jesus intended. The word of God is hardly preached, rarely studied, and viewed as opinions and traditions, rendered irrelevant by time and humanity’s progress. Let us return to honoring Christ’s gifts, by which the saving gospel is known and used, enabling us to be what Christ wants of His people.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2–4, NKJV)
The ability to endure the trials and pressures of life with joy and not be frustrated (or even become despondent) is a clear mark of spiritual maturity. When you are “having a bad day,” do not let it overwhelm you. Refocus your attention on the joy of being a child of God. Make a deliberate decision to be patient in the moment of trial. Choose hope over despair, and a growing, maturing faith instead of discouraging doubt. Meet the trials that challenge your faith with unyielding endurance. Allow your hope to anchor your soul in the hour of trial. Patience will work in you to complete your faith and embolden your joy.
10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10–11, NKJV)
Peter has previously urged Christians to be humble before God, casting our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Now, he reminds us this does not mean our faith will not be tried and tested. God’s care does not remove the suffering that comes from being faithful to Him. There will always be faithless foes who try to foil your faith. The devil is always trying to deceive you into choosing sin and death. Enduring these present trials will help mature you as you remain faithful. Keep living for heaven in the midst of the storm. You will be strengthened by adversity, grounded and guarded by His grace. Never give up. Always rely on the Lord and live by faith. He has powerful control over all things. He has called you to eternal glory by Christ Jesus; He will not forsake you. Honor God for His great power and grace. Be faithful and true to Him.