HOW TO USE THE SCRIPTURES TO MATURE BELIEVERS

PART I

 

Through the years, I have come to believe that there is nothing more important than the Scriptures to mature the Body of Christ.

The Purpose of the Word “to equip the saints”

It tells us the purpose of the Word of God to equip in Paul’s second letter to Timothy 3:15-17 when he said to Timothy,

“From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is [a] inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b] training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”.

Based on this passage, the Word of God is all encompassing when it comes to equipping and maturing the saints regarding their purpose and calling in Christ.

The purpose of the Word “to advance the Kingdom”

Furthermore, when Paul was describing the Armor of God in his letter to the Ephesian church, the Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit in 6:17 which means that it is an offensive weapon enabling us to conquer new territories for Kingdom advancement.

Primarily, the way the word equips us to conquer is through building up our faith. In Paul’s letter to the Roman church he said, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Hence, the Word of God is the primary impetus for inspiring faith in believers so they can obtain the promises of God.

The Word of God is also “a defensive weapon”

As we see in the gospel accounts of Luke and Matthew (chapter 4), Jesus quoted Scripture when the enemy tempted Him to sin.  Even though He is the Son of God, He had to depend upon the Scriptures while in human form on earth to defeat the devil. Hosea chapter 4:6 teaches us that God’s people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Hence, it does not matter how inspired a believer is on Sunday, if they are not skillful in the Word of God on Monday they can succumb to satanic temptations, deceptions and lies.

The Word of God “elevates discernment in the church “

Also, the Word of God is the key ingredient needed for the believer to grow in discernment. Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures would give him “wisdom” for salvation. Hebrews 4:12-14 says that the Word of God is sharper then any double-edged sword that pierces so deep it can divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and that there is nothing hidden from the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Thus, the Word of God gives the recipient the ability to discern what is of their soul and what is of His Spirit.  In the next chapter of Hebrews, the author says,

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

This profound passage teaches us that when a believer is chewing on the meat of the word their level of discernment gets higher. Contrariwise, when a congregation only hears disconnected “prophetic” exhortations week after week, chances are that particular assembly will not develop enough mature people to walk in discernment. I have found that unless there is a pattern of preaching and teaching, whether it is topical series of messages and/or expository teachings based on books or passages of the bible, that congregation will not mature even if it were growing in numbers. Many pastors have the gathering anointing of the Evangelist and can illicit great emotional responses and garner great crowds but fail to mature their congregations because they only preach the milk of the word as it says in Hebrews 5.

The Word of God “renews our patterns of thinking”

Along the lines of discernment, every believer needs to learn how to think God’s thoughts after Him. If we do not, we will be captive to the enemy’s thoughts, concepts, plans and strongholds even if we aren’t conscious of it. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul teaches them that the only way they can break strongholds in their mind is to have the knowledge of God that releases Christ to take control and disable destructive imaginations and patterns of thinking (Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Furthermore, in Paul’s letter to the Roman church (Chapter12: 2), Paul teaches the church that they have to experience transformation, which takes place when their mind and thoughts are renewed. Ephesians 5:26 allude to this when Paul says that Jesus washes His church with His Word.  In Jesus’s high priestly prayer, He prayed that His disciples would be sanctified (set apart-different from the world) with the truth, thy word is truth (John 17:17).  Of course, this means that, if a Christ follower is not regularly pouring over His Word then there are probably many areas in their thought life where they are in bondage and unredeemed.

Biblical Preaching and the maturing of the saints

Along the lines of maturing the saints in the Scriptures, perhaps there is nothing more important than Sunday preaching to provoke, inspire and educate believers in the Scriptures, since the majority of most congregations do not attend small group discipleship groups. Regarding this fact, I have found that there should be a pattern of preaching and teaching that systematically builds upon truths, line upon line and precept upon precept. When Sunday and small group teaching is discursive, disjointed, and merely motivated by impromptu inspiration, it fails to teach the congregation the whole council of God (Acts 20:27). Also, when the message preached is not focused but discursive, when the speaker preaches ten messages in one, it is difficult for the people to wrap their brain around the primary theme and their practical takeaway is probably only a nugget or two.

The early church seemed to follow a pattern of preaching as we see in Acts 2:42 where it says the people devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine. Doctrine is a system or pattern of concepts or truths that are strung together to create a way of thinking or a paradigm. The Word of God teaches us in Hebrews 6: 1-6 that there were first principles of doctrine new believers were expected to master before they can go on to maturity. This is perhaps the most important passage in the bible regarding the connection between spiritual maturity and mastering the Scriptures and doctrine.

Although many in the body of Christ today disparage doctrine, large portions of the New Testament are replete with doctrine (the whole book of Hebrews, Galatians, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians and more).Also, a comprehensive study I heard about recently showed that a person is more likely to be a committed Christ follower if they consistently read the Word of God daily, even more so then if they say they pray daily.