Stages of Spiritual Growth

Salvation is only the beginning of God’s plan for man. After salvation, the believer’s objective is to advance through the stages of spiritual growth on the path from the cross to the crown. At each stage the believer faces increasingly intense tests that can only be passed through faith. Paul in Rom 1:17 says that believers progress “from faith to faith.” The five Hebrew words for faith illustrate the five stages of growth described in the New Testament.

  1. The Babe (1Pe. 2:2) All believers enter the family of God as infants when they exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. After the tremendous stress of birth, of being cast from the realm of darkness to the light, every infant’s first impulse is to nurse. The objective is nourishment, but the baby receives great comfort in feeding. God’s objective for the spiritual infant is growth, but He begins the process with comfort. Not much is expected of the child in his first years. Babies eat, sleep, cry, and mess, and parents do not get upset about the fact that their babies cannot change their own diapers or fix their own meals. Spiritual infants are just as helpless and need a great deal of nurturing, encouragement, and patient instruction. Spiritual infancy is illustrated by amen, the leaning faith of Gen 15:6.
  2. The Adolescent (1Jo. 2:13-14) The apostle John describes adolescent believers as the young, the strong, the eager. These are believers who have grown to the point at which they understand some principles of truth and are beginning to apply them to life. But, like most adolescents, they have the growing pains of arrogance and rebellion against authority; they are sometimes too eager to act on their own, and this often gets them into trouble. They have knowledge, which they mistake for wisdom, but they lack experience. Their tendency is to want to apply the truth to other people’s lives. Adolescents may be troublesome, but they are at least not apathetic. They must be patiently trained and encouraged to channel their energies. No one makes it to maturity without passing through adolescence. Spiritual adolescence is illustrated by batach, the wrestling faith of Psa. 37:3.
  3. The Mature (Heb. 5:14, Heb 6:1) The mature believer is able to take meat, the advanced doctrine of the Word. A Christian who has arrived at spiritual maturity knows enough about the Bible to take responsibility for his own life. He knows how to apply the Word of God to himself, so instead of airing all his problems, he figures out how to solve them. He is not ready to take on everyone else’s problems, but he can take control of his own life. He understands that God has a plan for his life, and he becomes occupied with fulfilling that plan. He gives himself to training and discipline, exercising himself and building spiritual muscle. Spiritual maturity is illustrated by chasah, the confident faith of Psa. 57:1 that takes refuge in the Lord.
  4. The Hero of Faith (Isa. 53:12; Heb. 11) Heroes of faith are men and women who have gone beyond maturity and have learned to fight the good fight. They have advanced beyond simply taking responsibility for their own lives to becoming responsible for the lives of other people. They are always ready to pick up fallen comrades, to treat their wounds, to encourage them and supply their needs. Heroes of faith still make mistakes and they still fall, but they always stand back up and go back into battle. Hero of faith status is illustrated by yachal, the healing faith of Job 13:15.
  5. The Friend of God (Jam 2:23-25) The highest of all possible achievements in life is to become a friend of God. Every believer has the potential and the assets necessary to reach this point, but very few Christians do. It takes persistence and tenacity. The only people who make it this far are the people who absolutely refuse to quit. Friend of God status is illustrated by qawah, the enduring faith of Isa. 40:31.

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