Going for the goal of Christian maturity: a biblical and theological understanding of God’s goals for his people in the New Testament era, with pastoral applications for churches in the Twenty-First Century

Yeulett, Paul (2017) Going for the goal of Christian maturity: a biblical and theological understanding of God’s goals for his people in the New Testament era, with pastoral applications for churches in the Twenty-First Century. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3281424


The subject of my research is ‘Paul’s doctrine of Christian maturity’, which is approached from an exegetical-theological perspective with the intention of drawing pastoral and contemporary applications. In the course of this research I address four questions, which I have listed below along with respective summaries of the main points.

1. On the basis of Paul’s writings, what is his understanding of God’s intended goals for his people in the New Testament era?

God’s goals for his people are intimately related to his goals for the whole cosmos: he will restore everything to a state of perfection in a new creation, in which his people will participate. The concept of ‘maturity’ is explored by an examination of several Pauline uses of τέλειος, in particular Eph. 4:10-16, Phil. 3:12-16 and Col. 1:27-2:3. The ultimate goal of creation I have labelled ‘Future Maturity’, but additionally God intends that his people should achieve a level of maturity (which I have designated ‘Present Maturity’) which can be identified with a mind-set or attitude which results from understanding the narrative of God’s plan of redemption. This narrative furnishes the world-view of believers. Christians now live in the eschatological ‘last days’ in which they not only anticipate the end of this present age, but live lives which are directed and transformed by the Holy Spirit.

2. In what ways might Paul have defined mature believers in the light of God’s intended goals for his people?

The relationship between maturity and fruitfulness is explored, with a particular focus on Galatians 5:16-26. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the lives of believers, but always in such a way that believers are responsible agents: there is a ‘passive-active’ aspect to the mature Christian life. Present Maturity can be gauged both in terms of attitude and accomplishment. It is especially witnessed in the church as a community and is encouraged and developed through the practice of imitation as well as by precept. It is also true that maturity consists in identification with the suffering and dying of Christ so that the perspective on suffering is transformed as compared to the perspective of an unbeliever.

3. How is this description of Christian maturity expressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, especially in Gal. 3:1-18?

The historical background to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians explains why Paul needs to remonstrate with the Galatians, because they have been theologically misled. They need to attain to an accurate understanding of the significance of Christ’s death in order to achieve maturity. The gospel Paul preaches is a message, a body of doctrine which needs to be heard, but which also needs to be appropriated by faith. Abraham is set before the Galatians as a pattern of faith for them to follow, not simply because he was circumcised but because he trusted in the promises of God which culminate in the work of Christ. The essential conflict between the law and faith in 3:10-13 is examined carefully. Upon believing the Galatians received the Holy Spirit: this reception of the Spirit, it is argued (in agreement) with J. L. Martyn (2010), is to be co-ordinated with the ‘blessing of Abraham’ in Gal. 3:14. One vital consequence of this blessing is the inclusion of believing Gentiles with believing Jews as fellow-heirs of God’s promise.

4. What implications does Paul’s teaching on Christian maturity have for the twenty-first century Christian community in terms of its worldview and practice?

The distinction between ‘Present Maturity’ and ‘Future Maturity’ is summarised and amplified. There should be, in the church of Jesus Christ, a pastoral necessity to facilitate ‘Present Maturity’ in believers. This process is discussed in relation to Romans 12:2 in particular, and the ‘renewal of the mind’ is placed in the context of continually learning and reinforcing believers’ present participation in the narrative of redemption. This is carried on by moral and spiritual exhortation which is appropriate to the level of maturity which believers have attained. This ongoing renewal of the mind is examined in connection with N. T. Wright’s study of virtue (2010). Additionally, it is seen how ‘Present Maturity’ joins with the present creation in longing for fulfilment and perfection in ‘Future Maturity’. The importance of community and the radical understanding of suffering, in the light of this world-view, are again explored and described.

The apostle Paul, as a pastor, rejoices when he witnesses this Present Maturity, as described and defined in this thesis, in all the churches in which he labours, and the longing and desire of Paul is to be experienced by today’s pastors, and indeed all Christians.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Maturity, Paul, theology, Christian, faith, Galatians, eschatology, church.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: MacLeod, Professor John Angus
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Mr Paul Yeulett
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8251
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2017 10:11
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2017 11:46
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/8251

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