As in many of his letters, Paul encouraged the Colossian believers in their pursuit of spiritual maturity and faithfulness. At Colossians 1:28, Paul wrote, “We proclaim Him [Jesus Christ], admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.” Paul used the Greek word teleios, which means “complete, of full age, adult, mature.”
At Colossians 4:12, we read, “Epaphras, who is one of your own, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings, always striving earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand mature [teleios] and fully assured in the will of God.” A mature believer has reached a place of spiritual stability. It is like the difference between a thirteen-year old as compared to a mature man, twenty to forty years old. A spiritually mature believer should have much more emotional stability.
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature [teleios]” (1 Cor. 14:20). The writer of Hebrews wrote, “But solid food is for the mature [teleios], who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Please note the emphasis placed on knowing God’s will and learning a new way of “thinking.” Additionally, as we learn a new way of thinking, our new values must be put to the test. To be spiritually mature, we must learn to walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in Christ Jesus, while having no confidence in our fleshly capacity to live our new supernatural way of being.
Perhaps, the most important indicator of one’s spiritual maturity is his or her control of the tongue. James, the Lord’s brother, wrote, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect [teleios] man, able to reign in the whole body as well” (Jas. 3:2). As Christians, we must subordinate our tongue to the Spirit and Word. Our control of the tongue is best judged in our closest relationships. For example, how do we talk to our spouses? Do we control our temper? Are we too critical? Are we unduly harsh? Do we act reasonably and responsibly in the words we choose? How do we talk to our children and our parents? Further, how do we talk to our co-workers?
The Bible offers some important advice regarding the control of one’s tongue. In the Book of Proverbs, we can find much wisdom. In Proverbs, the righteous and wise person is often contrasted to the foolish and wicked person. For example, we read things like, “A righteous person hates a false statement” (Prov. 13:5). “From the fruit of a person’s mouth he enjoys good” (Prov. 13:2). “One who guards his mouth protects his life; One who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Prov. 13:3). “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Prov. 13: 14). “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise protect them” (Prov. 14:3). “A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness declares lies” (Prov. 14: 5). “Fools mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9). “A truthful witness saves lives, but one who declares lies is deceitful” (Prov. 14:25). “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge pleasant, but the mouth of fools spouts foolishness” (Prov. 15:2). “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so” (Prov. 15:7). “[T]he mouth of fools feeds on foolishness” (Prov. 15:14).
Continuing with the contrast between the righteous and wise versus the foolish and wicked, we read, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Prov. 15:28). “Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and one who speaks right is loved” (Prov. 16:13). “[The] one who spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18). In regard to the mouth of the wicked and foolish, we also read, “A worthless person digs up evil, while his words are like a scorching fire” (Prov. 16:27). “A perverse person spreads strife, and a slanderer separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28). “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince” (Prov. 17:7).
As to the timeliness and appropriateness of one’s words, we read, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken at the proper time” (Prov. 25:11). “A person has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word” (Prov.15:23). “Do not answer a fool according to his foolishness or you will be like him” (Prov. 26:4). “Answer a fool as his foolishness deserves, so that he will not be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5). “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring” (Prov. 27:1). “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth” (Prov. 27:2). “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov. 27:15). “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov. 16:24). “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips” (Prov. 16:23). “The plans of the heart belong to a person, but the answer of the tongue belongs to God” (Prov. 16:1). “[S]weetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Prov. 16:21).
As to the importance of avoiding quarrels and hateful speech, we read, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Prov. 17:14). “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute” (Prov. 15:18). [A]ny fool will quarrel” (Prov. 20:3). “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). “One who justifies the wicked and one who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 17:15). “One who loves wrongdoing loves strife” (Prov. 17:19). “[O]ne who is corrupted in his language falls into evil” (Prov. 17:20). “An arrogant person stirs up strife” (Prov. 28:25).
As to the wisdom of limiting one’s words, we read, “One who withholds his words has knowledge, and one who has a cool spirit is a person of understanding” (Prov. 17:27). “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent” (Prov. 17:28). “A fool does not delight in understanding but in revealing his own mind (Prov. 18:2). “A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth invites beatings” (Prov. 18:6). “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Prov. 18:7). “The words of a gossiper are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body” (Prov. 18:8). “[D]o not associate with a gossip” (Prov. 20:19). “One who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Prov. 21:23). “One who gives an answer before he hears; it is foolishness and shame to him” (Prov.18:13). Finally, at Ecclesiastes 5:2, we read, “Do not be quick with your mouth or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in Heaven and you are on the earth, therefore, let your words be few.”
In the process of growing to spiritual maturity and learning wisdom, we must, more and more, learn to control our tongues. Yes, even a wise unbeliever should learn to control his or her tongue. However, as believers, we must learn a very specific skill. We must, more and more, learn to subordinate our tongues to the Holy Spirit and Word of God.
 “G5046 – teleios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Jan, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5046/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.