Spiritual Infancy

“…so that we may no longer be children…” (Ephesians 4:14)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:14

Paul has been speaking about the church growing up to “mature manhood.” A mark of that, he insists, is unity in the faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This contrasts with a state of spiritual infancy.

Two features of this state are instability and vulnerability. The apostle likens immature Christians to “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). What vivid images these are – first, the tossing waves of the sea, and then, the wafting currents of the wind. In both cases, the mental picture we are supposed to get is one of instability and liability to deception.

This is typically the state of children. They don’t have the life experience and knowledge to recognise and then resist error – nor avoid even worse abuses.  Their curiosity, love of novelty, and guilelessness make them prime candidates for deception.

That is the way we begin the Christian life. To begin with, just like children, we lack knowledge, wisdom, experience and insight. Consequently, we are prone to be misled. And sadly, there have always been people more than willing to mislead the innocent and unstable for their own purposes. Paul here speaks of such people as those well-skilled in the arts of cunning, craftiness, and deceit.

Again, it was precisely this sort of thing that he saw happening in the early church and warned Timothy to watch carefully against. “But understand this,” he wrote to his son in the faith, “that in the last days there will come times of difficulty… evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; see also 4:3; Titus 1:10ff.).

While it is inevitable that we should begin the Christian life as “children” – indeed, even as “newborn infants” (1 Peter 2:2) – there is no reason for us to remain in that condition. We are expected to grow in our understanding and discernment so that we are no longer prone to being misled. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”

I have already mentioned how relevant these warnings are to Christians today. Modern Christianity commonly panders to the self-centred, pleasure seeking-spirit of the age. It has been described as “consumer Christianity” – Christianity that serves our needs. Along with that, it is typically a Christianity that rejects serious thinking and spiritual learning.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3). This spirit is clearly being realised today, especially in Western Christianity:

I don’t want to be negative but can’t help but be concerned.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you find yourself easily taken in by “every wind of doctrine”?
  • Is it “negative” to be concerned about a lack of interest in sound doctrine?

– Andrew Young