How do you know if you are spiritually mature?
Assurance of eternal salvation comes from believing Jesus’ promise of everlasting life (John 3:16). But knowing if you are spiritual mature is a different issue. It is not something you can easily decide for yourself, and maybe you shouldn’t decide for yourself. Instead, that seems to be a judgment made by the local church.
When the practical needs of the widows in the Jerusalem church were not being met, the apostles said:
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:3).
Notice the apostles did not ask for seven volunteers who decided they were mature enough for the job. Instead, the apostles asked the community to make that evaluation. Who has a good reputation? Who is wise? Who is full of the Spirit? That was for the body to acknowledge.
Similarly, when the apostles saw that every town needed elders, did they look for self-appointed leaders? No. Men were chosen for the task because they were recognized by the apostles as being spiritually fit for the task:
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:23).
Did those men know they were qualified (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9)? Did they think to themselves, “I know I am spiritually mature”? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, the deciding factor was not their self-evaluation, but the apostles’ recognition.
That kind of corporate judgment seems to work the other way, too. The church not only discerns who is spiritually mature, but also who is in rebellion.
For example, Paul recognized that the Corinthians were not spiritually mature, but carnal (1 Cor 3:1). Were they aware of their own spiritual condition? Apparently not. They needed to be told.
Nevertheless, Paul also called them to judge believers who needed correction within the assembly. In particular, there was an unnamed man having an affair with his father’s wife (1 Cor 5:1, hopefully his step-mother) that needed to experience church discipline.
However, don’t forget that church discipline has the goal of restoration (2 Cor 2:6-8; Gal 6:1). Therefore, the local church not only evaluates the offender’s state of rebellion, it also discerns his state of repentance and the time for official restoration. Does the disciplined member consciously know when he is ready to be restored? Apparently not. In fact, Paul referred to a situation with a believer who was so broken up about his sin that Paul called the church to console him:
forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him (2 Cor 2:7b-8).
In that case, the assembly’s objective evaluation of his spiritual condition came before his subjective assurance of it. “Brother, you are forgiven and loved!” He needed to come to believe what the community said about him.
The local church is so crucial to discipleship. You are born again individually, but you grow as part of a body.
Are you spiritually mature? If you want to know, try asking a few people in your congregation whom you regard as spiritually mature, and see what they say.