When we begin to learn and know the Word of God, the first mark of Christ’s maturing disciple, we then should be led to action. Knowing should lead us to growing. One simply cannot be maturing if they are not growing. What we are talking about is heart and life change. James 1:22 warns, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” There is a spiritual danger in simply knowing God’s Word but not doing it. Case in point, it is critical that a disciple must also grow in the Word.
Ephesians 4:17-24 and Galatians 5:16-26 shed much light on this area. Both deal with the change that occurs because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work He has done. His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension call for our response to repent and trust in Him. Ephesians 4 pictures this as the “put off/put on” paradigm. We are to put off our former and old self, who we were before Christ, and be changed and renewed, putting on the new self. This is all to make us more Christlike (Ephesians 4:22-24). Likewise, Galatians 5 calls for us to “walk by the Spirit and…not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). We are to live by the Spirit (5:25) and to be led by Him (5:19). This is to say we do not desire the ungodly sinful things, but when this heart and life change does occur, we should desire and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
One major aspect cannot be undermined in this growth in God’s Word. It is simply this: we are not called to go about the Christian and discipleship life on our own. To be a disciple means to make disciples. You cannot make disciples unless somebody else is involved. Moreover, the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, use the phrase “one another” in speaking commands for the church. Even Jesus’ command to His disciples was for them to “love one another” (John 13:34-35). The fellowship and community view is in full array here.
The Book of Hebrews also touches on this subject. Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This is why there is an emphasis on commitment to church membership and involvement in a body of believers such as a small group. Sin is deceitful and we all have our blind spots. We need the help, encouragement, and exhortation of our brothers and sisters in Christ to take notice of the sin, to overcome and put it off, and to put on Christ. Hebrews 10:24-25 sums up the church’s purpose well when the author says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
To state this succinctly, the second mark of a maturing disciple is they grow in the Word. This includes applying and doing what God’s Word says. This leads to heart and life change, whereby we leave our former ways of life and the sins we gratify and turn to Christ, walking by His Spirit and learning to be more like Him by putting on the new self. This can only be accomplished well in the context of an authentic community of Christ-followers. Indeed, this is what it means to grow in the Word.