God calls us to come to Him as little children (Matthew 18:1-4). In one respect, He wants us to maintain childlike humility and dependence on Him throughout our lives. Actually, we can’t escape such dependence on Him because He controls all of life. Those who fancy themselves to be independent of Him may think they’re getting away with their rebellion, but ultimately He controls even their sin to bring about His purposes.
At the same time, Scripture also frowns upon spiritual immaturity. The apostle Paul made that very point in his letter to the Ephesians.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)
Precisely because children are humble and dependent, they easily believe everything people tell them. Thus, immature Christians eagerly embrace every idea that claims to be Christian. And they don’t particularly see any reason to grow up.
The passage before us, however, indicates that the Lord arranged His church in such a way that its leaders devote themselves to moving people towards spiritual maturity. The maturation process comes about as leaders teach God’s Word. Scripture, when rightly divided, brings discernment that guards us against false teaching as we understand the doctrines of the faith.
Along with solid doctrine, Scripture also teaches us practical applications of doctrine. It’s all good and well, for instance, to have an intellectual knowledge of God’s attributes, but if we fail to manifest His character (although imperfectly), we display an immaturity that grieves His Holy Spirit. Growing in Christ results in seeing good doctrine affect how we conduct ourselves in everyday life.
Christian maturity doesn’t mean perfection in this life. Unhappily, we’ll battle our sin natures until the Lord calls us Home. Yet as we grow in Christ, we experience increasing freedom from sin that proves us to be children of our Heavenly Father.