The Difference Between Spiritual Maturity and Spiritual Intelligence

Old-NewIt says in Scripture to do your “best” when it comes to understanding and obeying God’s Word:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

But Paul talks about how knowledge can lead to arrogance and that’s not healthy:

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God. (1 Cor 8: 1-3)

That phrase in verse two: “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” How do you know something correctly?

Bottom line #1: Humility 

The more you learn, the more familiar you become with your own ignorance. Matthew Henry elaborates on this in his commentary:

The preference of charity to conceited knowledge. That is best which is fitted to do the greatest good. Knowledge, or at least a high conceit of it, is very apt to swell the mind, to fill it with wind, and so puff it up. This tends to no good to ourselves, but in many instances is much to the hurt of others. But true love, and tender regard to our brethren, will put us upon consulting their interest, and acting as may be for their edification…He that knows most best understands his own ignorance, and the imperfection of human knowledge. He that imagines himself a knowing man, and is vain and conceited on this imagination, has reason to suspect that he knows nothing aright, nothing as he ought to know it1

And in order for humility to be manifested in a way that is consistent with what God commands, it cannot be a “pose,” as much as it needs to be an authentic posture of “I get it!” Our knowledge is a cloudy interpretation of Truth as it really is, and it will be so until we get home (see I Cor 13:12). That’s not our cue to be less than confident in what we believe, rather it’s our prompt to fix our eyes on Who we believe in (see Psalm 36:9).

Bottom line #2: Service     

Whatever God teaches me is designed to be deployed in a way that serves others. It may be something that affects me specifically which, in turn, affects others generally. Or it may be something that equips me to better minister to someone else, but it’s never to be displayed as a self promoting credential. The target of His teaching is to glorify Him by serving others (1 Cor 10:31; 1 Peter 4:10).

Bottom line #3: Reverence

In order to be spiritually mature, I’ve got to be knowledgeable about God’s Word which requires discipline (2 Tim 2:2-4; 15). But the maturity I possesses is a result of God working through my sense of discipline, not because of it. It’s not my regimen that makes me more like Christ, it is His Power working in and through me.

If my car isn’t running right, I take it to a mechanic. Should I leave his shop with an engine that purrs, I give him the credit for the repairs that were made, not the fact that I chose to bring it in to get fixed.


Spiritual Maturity is facilitated by God and is designed to give glory to God. Spiritual Intelligence is an academic pursuit engaged by man in order to enhance the credibility of man. It’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge, Truth and facts and, ultimately, darkness and light.

And all God’s people said…


  1. Matthew Henry Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/1-corinthians/8.html, accessed March 4, 2014

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