Growth, Dwarfishness, Second Childhood, and Deformity

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Growth is the natural advancement of the children of God from the state of babes to become “young men and fathers” in Christ. (1 John 2:12-1412I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 13I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:12‑14)) But this may be either hindered or unnatural, and the state consequently may become all wrong. The Corinthians were still remaining in the condition of babes when the apostle addressed his first epistle to them: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Corinthians 3:1,21And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:1‑2)) The word “hitherto” (οὔπω) in this passage shows that they had never yet been in any other condition; they had remained in the condition of babes. The Hebrews also, when the apostle addressed them, are somewhat similar. Only with this difference, the Hebrews had advanced, but had afterward returned to the state of babes. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.”
(Hebrews 5:12,1312For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (Hebrews 5:12‑13)) “Ye are become such” shows that they had gone back to it. “But call to remembrance the former days!” Ah, he says, “you have gone back from the days when you endured a great fight of afflictions;” you have forgotten the time when you “took joyfully the spoiling of your goods,” because you knew that you possessed “in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10) “Now the just shall live by faith.
There are three states of soul, or stages of growth, in the children of God to be found in Scripture; three states easily discernible too among Christians in our own day; and all three are evil, because they all arise from an arrested or unnatural growth. 1St, the dwarf state remaining in the condition of babes; 2nd, the state of second childhood, or returning to that condition; and 3rd, the result of both the hers—deformity.
I have referred to the first, as illustrated by the Corinthians, and say one thing more as to it ere passing on; namely, that Christians in this state are generally perfectly satisfied with themselves, and with what they know, and they are never found running in Paul’s company in 1 Corinthians 8:22And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2), and Philippians 3:12-1412Not 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. 13Brethren, 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, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12‑14). (As to this, see and contrast what they are doing in 1 Corinthians 3:21; 4:7, 8; 8:1; 9:24-27; 11:31; 14:3621Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; (1 Corinthians 3:21)
7For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 8Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. (1 Corinthians 4:7‑8)
1Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:24‑27)
31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31)
36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? (1 Corinthians 14:36)
; &c)
Second, there is the state of second childhood; this we see was the condition of the Hebrews. In this state you have not impeded growth, as at Corinth, but unnatural growth; the internal has not kept pace with the external; it is more difficult to detect, for there is all the outward appearance of wisdom and manhood, with the intellect and the power wanting. This is a sad condition. There is refreshment in looking upon the confiding fresh young life of a babe; internally and externally there is harmony in such a one. But it is sad indeed to be brought face to face with second childhood. The hoary head, that should have guided aright, or curbed the impetuosity of youth by its sage and prudent counsel, that should have encouraged the feeble steps of the tottering babe, what can be more touching than to see its utter impotency and helplessness? (It is interesting and profitable to compare Deuteronomy 34:77And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. (Deuteronomy 34:7); Joshua 14:10,1110And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. (Joshua 14:10‑11); Job 12:12; 32:6, 712With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. (Job 12:12)
6And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. 7I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. (Job 32:6‑7)
; with Titus 2:2,32That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; (Titus 2:2‑3); Philem. 1:99Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. (Philemon 9); in order to see that second childhood, whether in natural or spiritual things, is not part of God’s order)
I pass on to notice now the third state “deformity,” in which state something is manifested externally repulsive to the spiritual eye. I take as examples of those in this condition the saints addressed in 1 Corinthians and in the epistle to the Galatians. It is clear that in natural things deformity may be either mental or physical; that is, it may be that of the mind which is internal, but it does not therefore escape a spiritual eye, or that of the body which is external and more visible; this, too, is also true in the things of God, and both are illustrated in those addressed in these two epistles. Doctrine was wrong with the Galatians, practice with the Corinthians, the one internal, and far more serious and solemn than the other. Not to all the dreadful moral evil existing at Corinth does he address such solemn warnings and denunciations as he addresses to the Galatians. (Galatians 1:69; 3:4; 4:11, 20; 5:1, 4, 7, 12) No outward immorality is denounced by him as allowed among them, such as we find in 1 Corinthians, and it is possible that there was outwardly very little to complain of, the breaking of bread going on as usual, and those who attended at it not blamed. But they had gone back (Galatians 4:99But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? (Galatians 4:9)), had begun in the spirit, but were now hindered, “bewitched.” The “first works” (Revelation 2: 5) were no longer done, legal works adopted, and “the bondwoman and her son” being brought back to the house. (4: 30) But what had they done? In effect they had only neglected the teaching of the Word by the Spirit, a certain line of action not left to their judgment, but laid down for them, which is called “obeying the truth.” (Galatians 3:11O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Galatians 3:1)) This was the result of their bad state; but this was terrible to the apostle; for if the teaching of the Spirit and the Word are given up by saints, what is left?
It needed no great spiritual discernment to detect the deformity at Corinth. That which was allowed among them was a “common scandal,” and such as was “not so much as named,” even among the Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 5)
To remain, then, in the condition of babes is dwarfishness, and produces external deformity; while to return to this condition, having known better, is second childhood, and provokes this solemn condemnation of the apostle, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” (Galatians 4:1111I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. (Galatians 4:11)) Doubtless the Hebrews were exposed to the danger of falling into the same state, though not so far advanced as the Galatians in it. But what strikes one is the overwhelming danger of this state, that it produces inaction of the Word by the Spirit. The soul is slumbering and content with itself, and no human power, nothing but the solemn voice of the Lord by the apostle, can arouse it. He was not, and He cannot now be, indifferent to such a state.
It is a matter of comfort to the servants of the Lord, that souls in the three evil states we have been considering are not beyond recovery through the application of the Word in the power of the Spirit of God, for we have all three of them addressed in the passages we have had before us. Nothing but divine wisdom can help us in dealing with such souls now, for by ignoring their state we are but continuing them in it, and by ignoring them because of their state we deprive ourselves of the duty and privilege of helping them to recovery.
In 1 Peter 2:22As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2) (which does not in any way militate against what we have been saying) we find the means of growth: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” We have been looking at growth arrested, and have considered a little what we have termed unnatural growth; we have seen that deformity follows each, but our view would not be complete were it not also to embrace what true growth is, and how it is manifested, and for this we must turn again to John’s first epistle.
I believe we learn there and everywhere in Scripture, as well as in walking up and down in service among the saints, that true growth always manifests itself in increased occupation of the soul with the person of Christ. When John is there writing of the “fathers,” he says that he has written and still writes to them because they have “known Him from the beginning.” This is all he has to say of them, and he adds no further counsel to them, gives them no further occupation. He does to the young men. (vv. 15-17) He does also to the babes (vv. 18-27), but to the fathers nothing, save in a general way. (vv. 28, &c) But the omission is full of instruction, for the few words he does say of them are in effect, “You have already begun, while yet upon earth, the occupation of heaven and eternity, and I know of nothing beyond it.” Thus true growth was manifested. For in the day of Revelation 5, a day swiftly approaching for us, “Jesus only” fills the scene, and occupies the whole of the surrounding companies, “every family in heaven,” and that, whatever their intelligence, or however varied their comprehension of Him and His ways may be. But if this is true in heaven, and we are growing now upon earth, it will manifest itself in more caring for Him and His approval, pleasing the Lord at all cost (2 Corinthians 5:99Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (2 Corinthians 5:9)), and how but in ministering to those who are His, those so dear to Him, and those for whom He died? (1 John 5:11Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1))
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13) And, says the apostle Peter, “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:1818But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)) May we see that there is no growth but by the Word, and the dangerous condition of those who are not obeying it, that “word of God which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1313For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)) If at first it gave me life, it must effectually work now in me if I am to grow; and may it be thus with us increasingly to the praise and to the glory of His grace.
H. C. A.