Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Let's Be Mature

Yes, I know that coming from me, the title is a bit ironic. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way. This post doesn't want to deal with a Christian's maturity level, though that is a reasonable topic to discuss though I for one am not qualified to do such, but instead it concerns Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church concerning the wisdom of God He taught there. To them, Paul wrote, "Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away" (I Cor 2:6). The question is, who are the mature? What is this special group of people that are able to receive God's Truth and apply it to their needs? There are at least five popular views on this, but are they all valid? In his commentary on I Corinthians, Gareth L. Reese looked at these five views and their validity and I want to do the same. I'm not going to copy and pate his words, but expound on his writings, giving him due credit.

To set up the context, Paul has been looking back to the first time he came to Corinth to preach. He did not come speaking in the popular style, or teaching the popular doctrines. Instead he came in weakness and fear(probably his physical condition at the time) teaching things that most were not teaching. He did come with the power of God though, and his preaching these words showed true results that resulted in saved souls. The saving Gospel, designed by God was what Paul presented to the mature Corinthians, but who are these mature people?

The American Standard Version translates "mature" as "fullgrown" and the King James Version translates it "perfect." Our word perfect usually speaks of some sort of absoluteness that one isn't going to find in the original Greek word, "telios." The best way to learn what this means is to look at the context.

One explanation is that it refers to the full-grown Christian as compared the babe in Christ. Reese explains that this is based off the beginning of chapter three with the discussion of milk and meat. These mature Christians would be those who have gone beyond the basics into the deeper issues of duties, privileges and blessings of Christianity. Clearly Christians learn more and grow in knowledge as they continue to walk with God, but as Paul continues to talk about this wisdom he is imparting, it seems to be more of the case that he is referring to the basic wisdom of God, the plan that God had to save mankind through Christ, which is the basic foundation for all Christianity. This isn't a teaching shared only with the well studied Christians, but to all of mankind who would hear it.

Another thought is that it has to do with the mystery religions of the time, in which one who was fully initiated at the time was said to be "perfect" that is, fully instructed in all of their teachings. In relation to Christianity, Reese writes that this would be one who had all knowledge of Christianity and were qualified to see it's beauty and wisdom. This does not seem to fit the context at all though. There was the idea of Gnosticism, that some Christians could receive the secret knowledge of God and know the TRUE teachings of Christianity yet there is no scripture that that indicates such a thing.

A third explanation is that it refers to those who had the Spirit of God and could speak in tongues, that is, different languages. Sometimes, in early Christian literature, the word "telios" meaning perfect or mature, was used in this way. I Corinthians 13:8-10 though uses the word "telios" to describe those living after the time that tongues had ended.

Some have taken this to mean that some Christians can get to the point where they are sinlessly perfect. As mentioned earlier though, this idea is not found in the word "telios" The Bible never teaches that one reaches the point of never sinning again (Phil 3:12; I John 1:9). There isn't an English that really catches the essence of reaching an end or reaching a goal that "telios" gives us so we must try and find the best word to fit, which can sometimes give us a bit of trouble.

The fifth, and the most likely, understanding takes a good look at the two classes we have before us (mature and immature) in the context they are given which is the wisdom of God verses the wisdom of man. The immature are those who rely on the wisdom of man, the wisdom, as Paul shows, changes in man's wisdom occurs over and over and never provides a real solution to problems. The mature are those who recognize the and rely on God's divine wisdom found in the Gospel. The setup of mankind being saved through a man dying on a cross seems foolish on the surface to many, but in the context of God's wisdom it makes perfect sense, but one must be willing to recognize and appreciate that sacrifice.

Are we mature? Whose wisdom do we put our trust in? Many times we cannot keep from turning on the news, turning to politicians, self help books or the latest in philosophy and psychology, but us there where true, lasting wisdom is found? Not at all. These sources cannot give us answers to the questions that matter most in our life about how to be happy, what is the point of living here, and what happens when I die. Only God can give those answers, so let us be mature and turn to Him.

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