“Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (ASV)
The life of a faithful Christian is characterized by a constant growth process. When one becomes a Christian they are “born again” (John 3:7, 1 Peter 1:23), and they become a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This born again new creature is at that point a babe in Christ, (1 Corinthians 3:1). Just like a literal new born baby grows and matures so does the born again spiritual babe in Christ, feeding on spiritual milk of the word that they may grow, (1 Peter 2:2). The goal of every Christian should be to grow up into Christ, the head of the church, (Ephesians 4:15). See also Colossians 1:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
The full grown Christian is identified in scripture by a number of characteristics that when put together cause him or her to stand apart from the world. John wrote in 1 John 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The goal of every Christian is to strive to live a life as close to Christ as possible, using His life and the lives of the Apostles as our examples (Philippians 3:16-17). Thereby we grow and mature and become who God would have us to be. Shining our light and setting the example for others to see. The remainder of this study is going to focus on a number of the characteristics that all Christians should diligently strive to add to their own lives. This is not an overnight process, but one that requires a lifetime of diligent work and upkeep as the Christian grows and matures spiritually.
- First and foremost the full grown Christian is to be characterized by a life of love; To God (Mark 12:30, John 14:15, John 14:23-24); To other Christians, (John 15:11-17); to his fellow man, (Galatians 6:10); and to their enemies, (Matthew 5:44-48). This is not just the feel good, warm and fuzzy kind of love we feel on the inside. This is the self sacrificing “agape” love that is demonstrated by our actions. 1 John 3:16-18 “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? (My) Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.”
- The full-grown Christian is patient: quietly and steadily persevering. James 5:8, “Be Ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” See also
Galatians 5:22, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Hebrews 10:35-37. We are to be patient with each other, patient with those outside the body of Christ and patient in our hope for eternal life.
- Tender Hearted: soft-hearted; sympathetic; Ephesians 4:32, “and be Ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” See also Luke 1:78, James 5:11. Jesus was tender hearted and we are to follow His example, 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example , that you should follow His steps: ”
- Hospitable; characterized by or betokening warmth and generosity toward guests or strangers. Romans 12:13, “communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality.” See also Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:8-10.
- Not Striving with one another: to contend in opposition or resistance; 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing,” See also 1 Corinthians 3:3, 1 Timothy 6:4-6, James 3:14-16.
- Not a Brawler: someone who quarrels, squabbles or fights; Titus 3:2-3, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers , but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” (KJV) See also Romans 1:29-30, 2 Corinthians 12:20.
- Not a seeker of vain glory: being excessively proud of or concerned about one’s own appearance, qualities or achievements; Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another.” See also Luke 14:10-11, James 4:16. Not to be seen of men; Matthew 6:1, “Take heed that Ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else Ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” See also John 5:44, John 12:43, Luke 16:15, 2 Corinthians 10:18.
- Not easily angry; Colossians 3:8, “but now do Ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth:” See also Matthew 5:22, Ephesians 4:26, Ephesians 4:31-32, James 1:20.
- Blameless and harmless: Doing nothing deserving of guilt and without the desire to hurt; Philippians 2:15, “that Ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom Ye are seen as lights in the world,” See Also Luke 1:6, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 3:14.
- Righteous: living in an upright, spiritual way according to God ; Titus 2:12, “instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world;” See also 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:7, Romans 1:17, Acts 10:35.
- Steadfast and unmovable; 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be Ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as Ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.” See also Colossians 1:23, Colossians 2:5, Hebrews 3:14, 2 Peter 3:17.
- Not carried away by strange doctrine; Hebrews 13:9, “Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited.” See also Matthew 24:24, Acts 20:30, Romans 16:17-18, Galatians 1:6, Ephesians 4:14, Ephesians 5:6-7, 1 Timothy 4:1-3, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 1 Timothy 6:20-21, 1 John 4:1, Jude 3.
- Watchful: vigilant or alert; closely observant; 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch Ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” See also Matthew 24:42-51, Matthew 25:13, Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33, Luke 21:36, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Peter 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8.
- Sober; 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” See also 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, 1 Timothy 2:9, Titus 2:2-6, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 4:7.
- Not Drunken; Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit;” See also Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 5:11.
- Not given to foolishness nor foolish speech; Ephesians 5:4, “nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks.” See also Matthew 5:37, Mark 7:22-23, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:8, James 3:4-6, 2 Peter 2:7, Titus 2:8, Colossians 4:6.
- Putting to death the lust of the flesh; Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;” See also Romans 6:6, Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:24.
- Submissive to others: unresisting or humbly obedient; Ephesians 5:21, “subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.” See also 1 Peter 5:5-6, Philippians 2:3-4.
- Submissive to the laws of the land; Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the (powers) that be are ordained of God.” See also Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13. But where the laws of man conflict with the law of God, obey God, (Acts 5:29, Acts 4:19).
- Obedient to parents; Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” See also Matthew 15:4, Matthew 19:19, Ephesians 6:1-3.
- Obedient to those in authority; Colossians 3:22-23, “Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord: whatsoever Ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men;” See also Ephesians 6:5-7, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Timothy 6:1-2. 1 Peter 2:18-20, “Servants, (be) in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted (for it), ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer (for it), ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps:” Do we have masters today? What about those we work for and depend upon for our income?
- Growing in grace and knowledge; 2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. To him (be) the glory both now and for ever. Amen.” See also Colossians 1:10-11, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Peter 2:2.
- Rich in good works; 1 Timothy 6:18-19, “that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is (life) indeed.” See also Acts 9:36, 1 Timothy 5:10, Titus 2:14, Titus 3:8.
- Willing to give; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “But this (I say,) He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. (Let) each man (do) according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” See also Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:10, Galatians 6:7-10.
- No lover of money; 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” See also Titus 1:11, Acts 1:16, Acts 5:1-2.
- Able to teach others; 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” See also 1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 2:24, 1 Peter 3:15.
- Suffering hardship; 2 Timothy 2:3, “Suffer hardship with (me), as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” See also 2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:10, 2 Timothy 3:11, 2 Timothy 4:5, Hebrews 10:32, James 1:12.
- Proving themselves; 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Try your own selves, whether Ye are in the faith; prove your own selves. Or know Ye not as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed Ye be reprobate.” See also 1 Corinthians 11:28, Galatians 6:4, Hebrews 12:15.
- Forgiving; Colossians 3:13, “forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do Ye:” See also Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-22, Mark 11:25-26, Luke 17:3-4.
- Husbands the head of the wife; Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, (being) himself the saviour of the body.” See also Ephesians 5:25-28, 1 Corinthians 11:3.
- Wives in subjection to husbands; Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, (be in subjection) unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” See also Ephesians 5:24, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1.
- Women should dress modestly: free from showy extravagance with regard for decency; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”
- Rearing children in the nurture of the Lord; Ephesians 6:4, “And, Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” See also Colossians 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
As mentioned at first, a Christian does not emerge from the waters of baptism mature and full grown in the faith. It takes diligent work and perseverance.
Ephesians 4:13-15: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: