Romans 15:1-3: True Spiritual Maturity
What are the marks of true spiritual maturity? There are many who think themselves to be mature but who behave like children. Think of the Corinthian church. They thought that their maturity resided in the fact that they had the miraculous in their church and that they were well educated. But Paul calls them infants in Christ 1 Cor. 3:1. They were infants because they were full of divisions, they were full of sexual immorality, they were not serving one another with their spiritual gifts but using them in a war of one-upmanship. They were not considerate of the poor and disadvantaged when they ate the Lord’s Supper, and in the pursuit of their own rights they ate food offered to idols and those who had been saved from an idol worshipping background stumbled by their example. They had miracles and they had knowledge but they did not have love and so were babies in Christ.
Another example of those who thought themselves mature but weren’t were the Pharisees. They were orthodox in their theology of God, but their religion was made up of man-made rules that burdened the consciences of God’s people. Their ‘maturity’ consisted in the ability to be scrupulous, to think deep and hard about the ways rules could be applied and being able to discern who was clean or unclean. They made rules that contradicted love and became rules for their own sake. Jesus reveals that their religion was not about serving others but promoting themselves and doing all to be seen by men. They neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Let’s use a modern day example that is close to home. Have you ever heard of the Cagey Calvinist? Not a hyper-Calvinist but a Cagey Calvinist. This is someone who has realised that all he thought about God, the devil, himself, salvation etc is wrong and has come round to the historic beliefs on many matters. He now believes that God is sovereign in all things, and begins to see the many errors in his former theology and in many other Christians as well. He gets angry, and makes a whip to cleanse the Church of Christ and begins to beat on other Christians and traditions. He calls them names like Pelgians, Semi-Pelagians, Idolaters, blasphemers, and accuses them of worshipping a different God. Even other forms of Reformed churches are not good enough, and are not ‘Reformed’. The internet gets clogged with his rants and tirades as he engages in Facebook fencing, drive by twitter attacks, and blog trolling to sprinkle his new found insight in the faces of all who disagree. This loveless behaviour may have the correct doctrine, but it is possible to be right in a wrong way because we are not humble servants who serve in love.
In Romans 15:1-3 it is true spiritual maturity that Paul demands from the ‘strong’ Christians in Rome. ‘We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.2 Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”’ He is wanting these Christians who do have correct theology to be truly mature and serve the weak in love. This section falls into two main sections. Firstly Paul gives them three things they ought to do which we will see are marks of maturity. And then Secondly, he motivates us to do these three things by reminding us of the example of Christ.