By Evan Blackmore
There is nothing wrong with being a child, when you are the right age to be a child. The Bible never says that children are to be blamed for being children; in fact, it says quite the opposite (Matt. 19:14; Rom. 7:9). But if time passes, and you are no longer a child, but you are still trying to act like a child, then there is something wrong. Just imagine what the assemblies of your congregation would look like, if all the members were crawling along the floor with plastic trucks, or rushing around the building making whirring noises like dilapidated airplanes.
It is true that there are some characteristics of childhood, such as humility (Matt. 18:3-4) and innocence (1 Cor. 14:20), which every adult should strive to possess. But there are other characteristics, like childish ways of thinking (1 Cor. 14:20) and gullibility (Eph. 4:14), which should be left behind, when people become adults; and if they are not left behind, then something has gone wrong. God does not blame children for thinking like children; but if people have grown up and become adult, and if they are still thinking like children, then something has gone wrong. Every child needs to grow up.
Being a Christian is much the same. God’s people need to grow up spiritually, just as all people need to grow up physically; and if we are still acting like spiritual children when God expects us to be grown up, then there is something wrong.
Consider three ways in which God expects us to grow up.
(1) Growing Up from the Law of Moses. The law of Moses was given, in a sense, for the “childhood” of mankind; but now, mankind has grown up and become adult, and God expects us to act like adults, instead of trying to return to the law of Moses.
In Galatians 4, Paul talks about God’s people, who were the heirs of the promises. “So long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bond servant, though he is lord of all: but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father” (Gal. 4:1-2). Somebody who inherits a fortune while he is a child, is still under the rule of guardians until he becomes an adult; until that time, he has to abide by the commands and decisions of his guardians, just as a slave would do.
“So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world” (Gal. 4:3). “Before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:23-24). Under the old covenant (“when we were children”), people had to abide by the commands of the law (and the law that Paul is talking about is the law of Moses, Gal. 3:17), just as a child has to abide by the commands of his tutor or guardian.
“But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:25-26). “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).
Now that Jesus has died to redeem people by faith, “the fullness of time” has come. People are no longer children, under the law of Moses, and therefore people should not behave like children any more.
Before Jesus came, God’s people were “children,” held in bondage under the law of Moses, and they were expected to behave like children, by obeying the law of Moses. But now that Jesus has come, God’s people have grown up; and if we are still trying to behave like children, if we are still trying to keep parts of the law of Moses, such as circumcision, or special days and seasons, then something has gone wrong; we “are severed from Christ,” we “are fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). The person who is still trying to keep the law of Moses, now that Jesus has come, needs to be told to grow up.
(2) Growing Up from Miraculous Gifts. The miraculous spiritual gifts which some Christians possessed in the first century – gifts of healing, and prophecy, and speaking in tongues, and so on – were given for the “childhood” of Christianity; but now, Christianity has grown up and become adult, and God expects us to behave like adults, instead of trying to return to miraculous gifts which we no longer possess anyway.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes, from the viewpoint of the first century: “Whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: and the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:8-13).
At the time when Paul was writing, Christians were like children, knowing in part, and prophesying in part; but now that the perfect, or complete, knowledge and prophecy contained in the completed New Testament has arrived, Christianity has grown up; and if we have not “put away childish things,” then something has gone wrong. The person who is still trying to exercise miraculous spiritual gifts, now that perfect knowledge has come, needs to be told to grow up.
(3) Growing Up from the First Principles. When we have just become Christians, and are “babes in Christ,” God expects us to be nourished by the milk of His word; but when we grow up and become “mature,” God expects us to behave like adults, instead of trying to be nourished exclusively by milk.
The writer of Hebrews had “many things to say” to his readers about the fact that Christ was “a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” But he told his readers that these things were “hard of interpretation, seeing that ye are become dull of hearing. For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For everyone that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; or he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Heb.5:11-14).
And such “solid food” was precisely what his readers ought to have been consuming. “Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation- of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit” (Heb. 6:1-3).
When the readers of Hebrews had first become Christians, they were babes, and needed to be nourished by “milk” -that is, by “the doctrine of the first principles of Christ,” such as repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection and eternal judgment. But now that they were “fullgrown men,”they should have left the first principles and pressed on “unto perfection,” being nourished by solid food, and “not laying again a foundation of” first principles.
The person who is still trying to feed on the first principles alone when he has been a Christian for a while and ought to be pressing on to solid food, needs to be told to grow up.
Many of the difficulties which arise in the religious world today, occur because people are still trying to behave like children when they ought to be fullgrown. Nobody today should be trying to return to the law of Moses or the miraculous spiritual gifts; all of these things were outgrown nearly two thousand years ago. And nobody who has been a Christian for a while should be trying to return to the first principles alone. If we are adults, let us act like adults.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 30, pp. 491-492
August 2, 1979