Dear Ones, it’s WEDDING WEEK at Lightbearers as one of our team members who also happens to be my daughter, is getting married on Saturday! I also recently sent this article to my brothers who are developing a discipleship program based on the four purpose clauses in Ephesians 3:14-19. I thought you would enjoy it even if you have already read it. Its out of the ‘grooveyard of golden oldies’ literally first published almost twenty years ago. Try to figure out what level you are at… love you!
FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
To get anywhere, you must know two things: where you are, and where you want to go. Just understanding where you what to go will not enable you to get there. You must recognize where you are. If you don’t know where you are in your spiritual growth, you are just like that man who is out in an unfamiliar forest…you are lost, and you walk in circles.
Understanding where you are in your spiritual growth requires humility and honesty. As you read, let the Holy Spirit point out where you are in your growth, and where you need to go. Look up the verses that are referenced and take the time you need to understand these truths. Let the Holy Spirit teach you to use your map ( the Word of God ) and your compass ( the gifts of the Spirit ) so that you aren’t lost, but arrive at where you need to be.
Christian growth and development follows basically the same pattern as human growth and development. One starts out as a babe, then a young child, then an older child, then a full grown one and, finally, a parent. Although these stages of growth are almost automatic in a healthy human, it is not so in the spirit realm.
The new birth is a beautiful term describing the salvation experience. When a man is born ‘from above’ (ANOTHEN John 3:3), he becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus. His spirit is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is a new spiritual baby, a babe in Christ.
The term that describes this level of growth in the Greek New Testament is the word NEPIOS. The Word of God describes the new spiritual babe, the NEPIOS, as being carnally minded (1 Corinthians 3:1), tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), and unskilled in the Word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13). Yet, a babe can praise God (Matthew 21:16) and receive revelation (Matthew 11:25). Unlike a physical baby, spiritual babes can stay in this stage a lifetime.
The next stage of development is that of a young child, a PAIDION. The first thing we see about a PAIDION is that they are humble (Matthew 18:4). Indeed, this may be the characteristic that indicates a NEPIOS has begun to grow. They are to come unto their Lord (Matthew 9:24). They have begun to intimately know their Father (1 John 2:13). Think about a young physical child between two and ten years old. They are not ready for the world yet, but they learn to love and imitate their parents. PAIDION learn to ‘mimic’ their heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:1). PAIDION are, or should be, also under the tutelage of a spiritual father (PATER) in the Church. Jesus called His disciples PAIDION (John 21:5), thus indicating their level of spiritual growth.
Spiritual teenagers, the older children in the Body of Christ, are described by the word TEKNA or TEKNON. Here is where the training dramatically changes from just knowing God, to really dealing with the world. TEKNON children actively seek their Lord (John 13:33). This is a fundamental characteristic of this level of growth. They are commanded not to sin (1 John 2:1) and are not to be deceived (1 John 3:7). However, if they sin and confess them (1 John 1:9), they are to know their sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9, 2:12).
TEKNON children are told to abide in Him, that they may have boldness and not to be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28). They are instructed to honestly love (1 John 3:18). You do not expect this kind of love from a NEPIOS or a PAIDION. They are not mature enough yet.
TEKNON are still struggling to have Christ formed in their character, their personality, their life (Galatians 4:19). They must keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:18).
So we see as a NEPIOS the joy of new life in Christ. As a PAIDION, we begin to know God intimately. In the TEKNON stage of growth, we learn to deal with the world by dealing with sin, having Christ formed in us, and having real love for God, the Church and the world (John 3:16). Each stage builds upon the previous one.
Now we are ready to look at the HUIOS stage of growth. This is the word in the Greek NT for ‘son’ of God, as in Romans 8:14. The defining characteristic of a son of God is that they are led by the Spirit. Many Christians think they are at this ‘son’ lever because they receive revelation, including and especially babes (Matthew 11:25). You have to know your Father, actively seek your Lord, and have a pretty strong ‘handle’ on sin in your life before you can be considered at this HUIOS level of growth.
The first thing Jesus said about ‘sons of God’ is that they are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); not peaceful, or peacekeepers, but peacemakers. They go in and end fights. They love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:45). They are completely matured, lacking no basic requirement of godliness (Matthew 5:48).
They are the good seed, the sons of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:38). They are to be separate from unbelievers, iniquity, darkness and idols (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). They are heirs of God (Galatians 4:7) and are brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
They do not sleep spiritually, but put on the armor of God, exhorting and building each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:5-11). They are offered up (James 2:21, Romans 12:1, Philippians 2:17). They learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). They are chastened of the Lord (Hebrews 12:5). They are beloved of the Father (2 Peter 1:17). They are ‘as He is’ in this world, His perfect representatives (1 John 4:17).
They are led by the Spirit of God. This is their defining characteristic (Romans 8:14). When you see a Christian who says and does the right thing at the right time consistently, you can pretty well assess that you are in the presence of a HUIOS level believer.
Another word in the Greek NT that is closely related to HUIOS is NEANISKOI. The NEANISKOI are the ‘young men’. Perhaps this would be a category between the TEKNON and the HUIOS, because it would appear from Matthew 19:20 that NEANISKOI still lack the ‘perfection’ of the HUIOS. But NEANISKOI see visions (Acts 2:17) and serve leadership (Acts 5:10). Young men are strong, the Word of God abides in them, and they have overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13,14).
But a son of God is not the final stage of spiritual growth. There is one more growth phase that is absolutely necessary for the Church. A HUIOS needs to become a PATER- a father. The Church in Corinth suffered because it had ‘not many fathers’ (1 Corinthians 4:15). Children need fathers, both in the natural and spiritual. Children do the works of their fathers (John 8:39). Men of God are called PATERES, fathers (Luke 16:24, Acts 7:2). The NEPIOS, PAIDION, and TEKNON need the continual attention, comfort and edification of the PATERES. HUIOS need a PATER as a mentor. Paul and Timothy were a ‘father and son’ team in the ministry (Philippians 2:22).
Fathers charge, exhort, encourage and testify to the believers (1 Thessalonians 2:11) to the end they walk worthily of God. PAIDION know God as their Father, but the PATER intimately knows Him who was from the beginning- the Ancient of Days, Jehovah Elohim (1 John 2:13,14). This intimate knowledge of the Ancient of Days is the defining characteristic of a spiritual PATER.
These categories do not necessarily relate to physical age or ‘time in the Lord’. It seems that most believers regardless of their age do not reach the HUIOS level, let alone the PATER. This is the fault, I perceive, of the apostles, prophets and teachers in the Body, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the pastors and evangelists.
The fivefold ministries are charged with the perfecting of the saints (Colossians 1:28, Ephesians 4:12), which would mean taking them from the NEPIOS to the PATER level. The fivefold ministers must operate in ability that far exceeds their natural ability to produce this kind of fruit. A minister can be judged by the fruit in the peoples lives to whom he ministers. Is he taking them to the next level, or are they still babes, with the same revolving pattern of problems?
God wants us to grow up into Him in all things (Ephesians 4:15). Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will so move in each member of His Body that every member will be brought to full maturity in the Lord.
Remember, dear ones, we must be about our Father’s business…