"MATURITY AND GROWTH"
Rev. Anthony Martlew, L.Th.
MOST people are of the opinion that the scriptures were merely the writings of ignorant men, living thousands of years ago, who knew nothing of what life was
about. Many programmes on this theme are to be seen on television, mostly on Channel 4. No wonder that people today are confused and have no idea what to believe.
These accusations against God's Word are based on ignorance, and not on the scholarship that they claim for themselves. When criticism is based on knowledge
and experience, then what these people have to say could be worthy of consideration.
The usual accusations that are made against God's Word are to the effect that the writers of both Testaments were merely setting down some of their own thoughts and ideas about the meaning of life and the Creator.
If that were indeed the case, how is it that Daniel, when he came to the end of his writing, asked the Lord this question:
And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand (Daniel 12:8-10)
Does this sound to you like someone who had been writing down his own thoughts and ideas? If that is what he had been doing, why did he say, "I heard but I didn't understand"?
Is it not more reasonable to believe that he was given precise instructions on what to write? It would seem that Daniel was inquisitive and wanted to know what it all meant, so he asked the Lord. All he got was a mild rebuke:
"Go thy way, Daniel" for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end"
This text shows us that there is a correct time for all prophecy to be understood. All that Daniel wrote was most definitely not for his time period.
Interestingly, the key as to when the prophecies would be understood is given in verse 4:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased
I need hardly remind you that this is the time of the end. A comparison of all the prophets makes this abundantly clear.
One day, Jesus was talking to a multitude of people and giving them a few home truths to think about. Then He said this, as recorded in Matthew 11:25:
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Now, do you remember what the Lord said to Daniel about the Last Days? He said that "the wise shall understand." But in Matthew, our Lord said "Thou hast
hid these things from the wise."
The scoffers could make something of that! They could really go to town on that one, and would probably convince people what a load of rubbish the Bible is. One
cannot just take verses out of context and hope to understand. So what is the explanation?
In Daniel 12, distinction is made between the wicked not understanding and the wise understanding. Our Lord, on the other hand, was referring to the "worldly wise", and calling His own people "babes."
We see that to become spiritually wise, we must first become "babes."
How sad it is that so many Christians remain spiritual babes and never grow to full Christian maturity. I am afraid that this is true of the vast majority of Christians
today, who are quite content never to grow up, and remain ignorant of God's Word.
If we are going to be effectual in the Lord's business it is essential that we understand what Paul set down in Hebrews 6:4-6:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Notice here the four stages of Christian growth that we must have if we are going to be effective for the Lord.
"Once enlightened." That is the baby stage, the stage that most Christians never grow out of.
"Tasted the heavenly gift." These are the children. They have taken their Christianity a stage further and probably attend a place of worship from time to time, even reading their Bibles sometimes.
"Made partakers of the Holy Ghost." These are the young adults of the faith. Christianity means something to them. They are not simply Sunday Christians but they carry their faith into their daily lives.They are able to talk to others about their beliefs and are not ashamed of Christ.
Now we come to the fourth and final stage of Christian growth:
"Tasted of the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come." Our Christian has now become a mature adult.
It is significant to note the word "world" in verse 5:
"The powers of the world to come." It is from the Greek ''AlON'' which means "age" or "era."
So, at our fourth stage of growth we have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come. At this stage we have arrived at last at the ability to digest the strong meat of Hebrews 5:11-14:
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first prindples of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discem both good and evil.
The strong meat is those parts of the Scriptures that deal with prophecy. Most Christians fight shy of prophecy. Paul understood only too well the dullness of peoples' understanding, or, rather, their lack of understanding. He put it clearly in Hebrews 5:11-14.
We know what the strong meat is, but what is the milk? The answer may surprise you, but Christ is the milk of the Word. He is the first principle of the Oracles
of God. Without the first principles one cannot build. Christ is the foundation, the rock, and without firm foundations the whole edifice will collapse.
First things first, for Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:11:
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
This is our starting point. If we try to build on any other foundation than Christ we are in deep trouble from the outset. Christ is essential to the growth of the
spiritual babe, in the same way that milk is essential to the growth of a natural baby. But a baby eventually needs meat in order to grow, as does the Christian.
At the fourth stage of growth we have not merely "tasted" but have "swallowed" the Word of God. Every fibre of our being becomes alive, and the Lord has
imparted to us deep spiritual insight. The tasting must have included the study of prophecy, hence "the powers of the age to come."
As we battle through the final days of this present age, we, no doubt, think from time to time about what it will be like when our Lord has returned. These thoughts
help to keep us sane when we consider the stupid and insane things that our present government get up to.
Whilst we know that the Lord's reign will be a time of sound government, true justice, health and every blessing that the Lord will bestow, not all are looking
forward to this event. One of the reasons for peoples' misconceptions about the Second Coming is because of the mistranslation of just one word in Matthew 24:3:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
In fact, this is the same error that we found in Hebrews 6:5. Simply change "world" for "age" and it becomes a totally different concept!
Forget about the world being burnt up, and everything destroyed at Christ's coming, as most people imagine. This will be the commencement of something new, something that we have only dreamed about! All the promises of this New Age are "Yea and Amen in Christ" and cannot fail.
Just a final thought to end. It is in Acts 3:20-21:
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
This time of the "Restitution of all things" will surely come. It cannot fail.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)
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