What is the relationship between spiritual maturity and knowledge of things theological and biblical? This question could be addressed by way of a similar question in a different arena. What’s the relationship between knowledge about how to have good marriage and actually having a good marriage?
If asked in that way, I think a significant portion of the answer is immediately apparent. Can one have a good marriage without knowledge of how to have one? No. That knowledge can be attained from experience (as opposed to reading). What’s more, a person might have that knowledge from experience and not be able to formulate and articulate it. Even so, knowledge about having a good marriage is necessary to having a good marriage, but it is not sufficient to have a good marriage. Clearly, the knowledge must be applied.
Similarly, spiritual maturity is a divine grace that is never bereft of knowledge. In order to grow in Christ one must, to borrow from Calvin, increase knowledge of God and of oneself. Without this, one cannot become mature spiritually. See how knowledge and teaching factor into the Apostle Paul’s call for the Ephesians to grow into spiritual maturity.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:11-16
Note the pastors/teachers, the knowledge of the Son of God, winds of doctrine, and speaking the truth. All of these, one way or another, have to do with theological and biblical knowledge (or a lack of it). Growing in knowledge is one necessary component for spiritual maturity.
Theological and biblical knowledge, however, is not sufficient for spiritual maturity. As in the case of a good marriage, until the knowledge is applied, it will not generate a good marriage. What’s more, with spiritual maturity, it’s not just the “application” of knowledge but more of a subjection to Christ that is key. We must come to know more about Jesus, but even more we need to be overcome by Jesus. We need to be slaves of Jesus. It’s one thing to know and another thing to become. Both the knowledge and the applied reality of subjection to Jesus are of grace. May God continue to grant these to both the writer and the readers of this article.
Here’s a short video from Paul Tripp about the danger of mistaking theological knowledge for spiritual maturity. Enjoy!