The writer of Hebrews encouraged us to “press on to maturity” (Heb.6:1). He used the Greek noun teleiotes, meaning “a state of moral and spiritual completeness.” As explained in my earlier blogs, spiritual maturity is not a state of sinlessness. It is a higher state of loving God and others. It is a state of more emotional stability and control of one’s tongue. Precisely, it is more and more putting one’s tongue under the control of God, the Holy Spirit. It is also a state of more consistently experiencing righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Finally, in spiritual maturity, we more consistently produce the fruit of the Spirit, which includes things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
The Apostle Paul taught, “do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). So, in addition to the agricultural analogy of producing fruit, the writers of Scripture used typical human maturation to explain spiritual maturation. We are all familiar with the broad general categories of infant, youth, adult, and elderly in the process of human maturation. The writers of Scripture borrowed these familiar categories to explain one’s advance in the spiritual life. For example, the Greek noun paidion can be used to describe an infant or a child. Paul warned us to not be like children (paidion) in our thinking. Paul then instructed his readers to be infants (nepiazo) in evil, but in our thinking to be mature (teleios) (1 Cor. 14:20).
The writer of Hebrews wrote,
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant [nepios, an infant or child]. But solid food is for the mature [teleios], who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.
Please notice that the Bible student must be educated by the lessons of the Bible, and he or she must practice to distinguish between good and evil. Spiritual maturity only happens if we attend the School of Christ. We must learn the principles of the Word of God and practice the application of those principles to the varied circumstances of our lives. Our primary teacher is the Holy Spirit, but along the way, other humans (both professional and lay teachers) will teach us many things. To be a student in the School of Christ, we must be humble and teachable.
Paul prayed that his students would become mature (2 Cor. 13:9). At 2 Corinthians 13:9, Paul used the Greek noun katartisis, which means a “strengthening or perfecting of one’s soul.” This strengthening happens over time as we learn the principles of the Word of God and practice our application of those principles. We will have some failures, but we must learn perseverance and grow in faith. Unfortunately, rather than persevere, many Christians will fall away from their walk of faith (Phil. 3:18; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12, 6:6).
Our goal is to be, more and more, like Christ (Eph. 4:13). Yes, He is the archetype, and yes, in one sense, being like Christ is an unreachable goal. He is the unique Son of God. However, the Apostle Paul taught us to be mature men and women “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Paul encouraged us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Paul taught us that all mature believers are required to share in this attitude and goal (Phil. 3:15).
At Philippians 3:11, Paul explained that he was pursuing the goal of the exanastasis from the dead, which is most often translated in every version of the Bible as simply “resurrection.” However, the noun anastasis is the typical Greek word translated as “resurrection.” Here, Paul added the preposition “ek,” which means “out of or from.” The Greek word exanastasis is used only this one time in the New Testament, and therefore, we cannot compare its usage to other passages in the New Testament. We do know that Paul used the typical word anastasis (resurrection) on eight other occasions. For example, Paul used the word anastasis at Philippians 3:10, when he said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection [anastasis].” In my opinion Paul used the Greek word exanastasis at Philippians 3:11 to describe the unique resurrection that will be experienced by mature believers. As a comparison, the writer of Hebrews wrote of a “better [kreitton] resurrection” (Heb. 11:35), and John, the Elder, wrote about the “first [protos] resurrection” in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 20: 5-6). The writer of Hebrews used the Greek adjective kreitton, which means “more excellent, better, nobler.” John, the Elder used the Greek word protos, which means “first in rank or honor,” to describe the better resurrection. It makes sense that Paul was pursuing the “better resurrection” from the dead. The “better resurrection” is a gift to mature believers, who remain faithful. In my opinion there is an equivalency between the exanastasis of Philippians 3:11, the “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11:35, and the “first resurrection” of Revelation 20:5-6.
In an epistle to one of his congregations, John, the Elder, used the analogy of different levels of human maturity to explain different levels of spiritual maturity (1 John). He described three different categories of believers in his congregation: 1) “little children” (teknion), 2) “young men” (neaniskos), and 3) “fathers” (pater) (1 John 2:12-14). Neaniskos describes someone as being a young man up to age 40. Humanly speaking, such a person is expected to be a mature adult, one who is stable and capable of providing for his or her family. It is interesting to note that the ancient Israelite warriors were numbered starting at age 20 (twenty) (Num. 1:3). The reader might also recall that I previously cited Professor Craig Keener, who stated that a young man (neaniskos) was probably between 24 to 40 years of age. On the other hand, the Greek noun pater was used to describe those advanced in age, the seniors. For example, pater was used to describe the elder members of the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2, 22:1). They were supposed to be leaders and men of wisdom. When John, the Elder, addressed these three categories of believers, he emphasized different characteristics and qualities. The “little children” (new, baby believers) were supposed to understand that their sins had been forgiven in Christ (1 John 2:12-14). Their slate had been wiped clean. They had a new beginning. However, they were not yet stable in their faith. On the other hand, the mature believers (“young men”) had reached a stage of stability and spiritual strength. They had overcome the instability of spiritual childhood. John called them “overcomers” (1 John 2:13-14). The pater (fathers) were at the top of the spiritual pyramid. They were expected to be spiritual leaders, who possessed wisdom. Most importantly, they were described as knowing Jesus Christ, who was from the beginning. The height of spiritual maturation is knowing, perceiving, and understanding God.
At Philippians 3:15, the Apostle Paul stated that he was a mature believer, but he also acknowledged that he was continuing to press forward (Phil. 3:11-12). He continued to maintain his humility. We, too, are challenged to remain faithful unto our death. We, too, must finish our journey. When Paul wrote Second Timothy, he was close to the end of his journey. Paul explained to Timothy that the time of his departure by execution had come (2 Tim. 4:6). He stated,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Tim. 4:8).
I think we can agree that the Apostle Paul was confident about His relationship with the Lord. When he wrote Philippians, he was still in the fight. At the end of his life, however, he was willing to speak even more boldly than several years earlier when he wrote Philippians. At the point of writing 2 Timothy, he had finished the fight. In my opinion, the Crown of Righteousness that Paul spoke of is awarded to all of those who achieve spiritual maturity and remain faithful until the end of their life. Specifically, such believers are described as loving the Lord’s appearance, which includes both the First and Second Advent. However, the epiphaneia (appearance) of the Lord includes even more. The Lord Jesus Christ has arrived to be a part of each individual human’s life. He has arrived to provide us help, encouragement, fellowship, and more. A mature believer loves the Lord’s appearance in human history and in his or her own, individual life.
 “G5047 – teleiotēs – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5047/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3813 – paidion – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3813/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3515 – nēpiazō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3515/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G5046 – teleios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5046/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3516 – nēpios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3516/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 G5046 – teleios
 “G2676 – katartisis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2676/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G1815 – exanastasis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1815/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G386 – anastasis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g386/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G1537 – ek – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1537/nasb20/tr/0-1/>.
 “G2909 – kreittōn – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2909/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G4413 – prōtos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4413/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G5040 – teknion – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5040/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3495 – neaniskos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3495/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3962 – patēr – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Apr, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3962/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament: Revised Edition. AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1993, pp. 105-1006.
 Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Second Ed. InterVarsity Press, 2014, p. 94.