Laboring for Maturity


The Apostle Paul exerted significant energy to proclaim Christ. And he did so with an end, or telos, in mind. He wanted to form mature followers of Jesus for God’s glory and the joy of all people.

Consider Paul’s words to believers in Colossae:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col 1:28–29)

Note a few things about this verse. First, the “Him” at the beginning of verse 28 is a reference to Jesus. Paul is making mysteries known to the churches, one of which is this stunning mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v. 27). This indwelling Christ is who Paul proclaims. This proclaiming is explained by what follows. Paul is proclaiming by means of “warning” and “teaching.” That is, “with all wisdom,” Paul is warning everyone, which is perhaps a reference to telling his hearers about the bad news of sin and the impending judgment that will come. Then, having read Paul in other places, we can be sure he follows the bad news up with the good news of the gospel! And Paul is teaching everyone, which is likely a reference to him fulfilling the Great Commission, which includes a call to teach all that Christ commanded (Matt 18:28–29). All of this—the warning of coming judgment, the good news of the gospel of Christ, and teaching people to live in obedience to God’s commands—fleshes out what Paul likely means when he says he proclaims Christ.

Then Paul provides a purpose statement. It is as if he says, “Here is why I labor, toil, travel, and expose myself to possible imprisonment, beatings, jail, and hardship. Here is why I traverse the known world to talk about Jesus. I do it so that I might present everyone I can mature in Christ. I’m doing all this to form mature Christians!” Paul’s aim in his apostolic ministry was to see men and women turning from sin, embracing Christ as Lord and Savior, and learning what it means to live for the fame of Jesus’ name.

This passage has made a significant impact on how I viewed my role as a pastor and how I view my current vocation. It is true that I no longer pastor a church. I have stepped into the world of higher education. And yet the aim I had in shepherding God’s people and the aim I now have in serving in an institution of higher learning are one and the same. I want to see a generation shaped, formed, and molded into mature disciples of Christ. 

At Bethlehem College and Seminary, this is our great aim. We are not concerned with building our reputation for our own glory. We are not trying to make ourselves famous. We are first and foremost concerned with raising up an army of mature men and women who are rooted in Christ and ready for the world. In our college, that means we want our students to graduate as mature adults who are ready to witness for Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of their lives. In our seminary, we want men to graduate as mature leaders who are ready to shepherd God’s people with biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection for the rest of their lives. Those two promises are about one simple thing: presenting all our students mature in Christ for the glory of Christ.

If that, friends, is a compelling vision and a worthy endeavor, would you link arms with us by taking a few moments to pray for our school and our mission? We would be very grateful to have you take us to God in prayer.

Jonathon D. Woodyard
Dean of Admissions

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that the Lord would make us fruitful as we endeavor to raise up mature men and women for the sake of his name.
  2. Pray for our students and faculty as they approach midterms.
  3. Pray that the Lord would protect our leadership and faculty as many of them will be traveling to conferences in the next month.
  4. Pray that the Lord would provide the funds needed to support The Serious Joy Scholarship.