How do we know when we are mature?
Clearly there is a difference between babes and adults, which is represented in the symbols of lambs and sheep.
Joh 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
Joh 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Notice that it is the SHEEP who hear the voice of the shepherd.
Joh 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
They hear his voice, because they can discern the voice of the shepherd from the voice of another. This is a symbol for discerning good from evil.
Heb 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age(mature), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Notice above how it says, “by reasons of use”, and “exercised”. Learning the voice of the shepherd, and being able to discern good from evil takes time and experience. These experiences are the trials which we suffer.
Heb 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
It also takes time to study and develop the skill of a workman that rightfully divides the word.
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Think about the difference between a person in medical school and a doctor. What is the difference? They both took the same courses and learned the same material. The difference is experience. A doctor has done a residency, treated many patients under the supervision of another more mature than they are at that time.
A good doctor has the ability to asses a situation on the spot and know what to do. In the same way, we come to understand how to try the spirits and know whether they are of God. We still do need help from others at times, and there is always wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22).
1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
The word used in the NT for mature believers is the Greek work below. This is the same word for “of full age” in Hebrews 5:14 above.
From G5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with G3588) completeness: – of full age, man, perfect.
Notice in the passage below that Paul is explaining how praying in unknown tongues is unfruitful for understanding. This is symbolic of going through religious activities, or cleaning the outside of the cup that do not change us within. He concludes with an admonishment about speaking and being men of understanding. This word men is G5046.
1Co 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
1Co 14:15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
1Co 14:16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned
say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
1Co 14:17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
1Co 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
1Co 14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
1Co 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding
Understanding is the first step to being mature, but to truly be mature we have to have good fruits (obedience) to accompany our understanding.
Luk 6:43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Luk 6:44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
Jas 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
1Jn 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
The final part to being mature is understanding that we are not yet perfect, or completed. We have not yet attained the fullness of redemption that we will experience one day. We are pressing on towards that prize. Those that are mature now have this view of themselves and others.
2Co 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest (down payment) of the Spirit in our hearts.
Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Php 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
I hope this answers your question,