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This topic is adapted from the Desiring God YouTube channel.

It is dangerous and potentially damaging to think that having biblical knowledge means that you possess spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is knowing God’s word and doing God’s word.

[Related Series: Spiritual Formation for Pastors]

The Danger of Thinking Because I know a Thing, I am That Thing

The interviewer asks Dr. Paul Tripp if there is a danger in the quest for biblical knowledge and the acquisition of that knowledge as the basis for spiritual maturity? Tripp answers, “Clearly, it’s dangerous to think that because I know a thing, I am that thing. Because I have communicated and idea, I have submitted myself to that idea, and I can live in the context of that idea.”

Knowing, reading, meditating, and memorizing scripture is critical to growing as a Christian. That is not in question here. The question is, by doing those spiritual practices, am I a mature Christian? Many Christians would describe spiritual maturity in terms of either how long you have been a follower of Jesus or how much of the Bible you know. It is fair to say that you can’t be mature as a Christian without being in God’s word, but does simply knowing God’s word make you mature? Tripp would argue no. Knowing something and being something are two different things.

Biblical Knowledge Doesn’t Equal Spiritual Maturity

A danger occurs when Bible knowledge is attached to maturity. Tripp states, “It is very clear that I can understand things that I am not living.” The scripture is clear that listening to and learning from something in the Bible is not the same as applying what we know and putting it into action.

James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

James warns us that we can deceive ourselves by equating biblical knowledge with spiritual maturity. Beware of this danger: The acquisition of biblical knowledge does not equal spiritual maturity. Paul Tripp warns us, “You can be theologically astute and be dramatically, spiritually immature.”

Tripp goes on to say that, “The idea that I am okay because I have mastered this body of truth is very, very dangerous. Really what I should be asking is to what degree has my life been mastered by this body of truth.”

You cannot equate theological knowledge with a level of maturity. Tripp tells the story of how he could have been more loving towards his wife as she dealt with a serious medical condition. Now, theologically speaking he knew the right answers on how to treat her during her time of need.  But practically speaking, he didn’t live in a spiritually mature way in that instance with his wife.

Spiritual Maturity Is Knowing God’s Word and Doing God’s Word

Hearing and doing what we know is a sign of spiritual maturity. Knowledge of God’s word is important but it is only half of the equation.  The other half is doing what you know. You may have heard the quote, “Most Christians are educated far beyond their level of obedience.” Listen to what James tells us,

James 1:25 (ESV) But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

God is not pleased with people who simply know the Bible, he is pleased with people who do what the Bible says. That is a mark of maturity.

[Related: The Maturity Myth]

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Why do you think it is dangerous to think that because you know a thing, you are that thing?
  4. Give some descriptions of spiritual maturity you have heard through the years.
  5. Explain why you think spiritual knowledge doesn’t equal spiritual maturity.
  6. Read James 1:22 Why do you think we deceive ourselves by equating simply knowing the Bible to maturity?
  7. If spiritual maturity involves both knowing and doing God’s Word how does that change  your view of maturity?
  8. Read James 1:25 and share examples of people you know who both know and do God’s Word.
  9. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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