In a previous article we looked at how God gave gifts to His body of believers [the church] to help build up the body of Christ. Among those gifts, were people with gifts for various ministries. That was seen in Ephesians 4:11-12, “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.” In this article we go on to consider what was the ultimate purpose of God in doing so.
Paul is saying that when every part of the body of Christ is playing their part as God intended them to do, then changes take place. His goal for the church is capable of being achieved. These are his words, “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 4:13-16. What did he mean?
- THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.Verse 13. “until we all attain to the unity of the faith”.
Paul had already instructed earlier in this chapter, that believers were to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph 4:3.He infers that unity of the faith is a present reality and proceeds from the unity that the Spirit inspires. So why does he now [in verse 13] seem to indicate that the unity of the faith is something that still has to be attained? The answer seems to lie in the difference between the desired and possible potential made available by the Holy Spirit and what is the present reality in the body of Christ.
We can see the difference as we look at the words of Jesus when He said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mat 5:48. The goal of every believer should be to aim at perfection in living for the Lord, whilst knowing that none except Jesus ever achieved or will ever achieve that goal. But the goal of perfection is never to be neglected nor ignored. We should always aim to be the best and do the best we can possibly can. Then we need to repent before the Lord for all failures to meet those goals. It means then that we should recognise and seek to deepen the unity we have in Christ, and to break down any apparent barriers to unity we discover in the attempt to achieve our goal.
- THE GOAL OF KNOWING CHRIST MORE DEEPLY.Verse 13. “and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
This is another goal we are to seek to attain. It means much more than knowing about Jesus, though that is an absolute necessity. It means seeking to attain a more personal and intimate knowledge of Him. Indeed, that is what Paul prayed for the Ephesians in chapter 1 of this letter, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Eph 1:17. There is only one thing better than knowing Christ. That is, knowing Him better! That cannot be experienced in isolation.As we join in the unity of fellowship with others in Christ we can learn from each other what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus and thus gain an even deeper understanding, or a more personal knowledge of Jesus. It is a goal that can never be perfectly achieved, but it is a goal that has to be relentlessly pursed. A deepening and more personal knowledge of Jesus will be a desired result.
- THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY.Verses 13-14. “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.”
Adulthood and childhood. The contrast is made in these verses between believers who are characterised as being immature children and other believers who are characterised as being mature adults. The former are described here as “children” where the word is [nēpios; νήπιος]. This is close enough in sound for me to call them “nappy” believers. The word can refer to young children or infants, but it can also be used to describe an inability or an unwillingness of those older in years to grow in maturity, especially in the faith. [NOTE 1]
The mark of these immature believers is that they were easily influenced. Paul here writes of them being “tossed to and fro by the waves.” They were not spiritually stable. Nor did their faith rest on a stable foundation. They were“carried about by every wind of doctrine, These are very negative statements about them. They were influenced by every new “teaching“ similar in a way some women were influenced in 2Tim 3:7 “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” They were prone to deception by human cunning and by “craftiness in deceitful schemes.”Eph. 4:14. [NOTE 2].
It is sad to see the combination of these words, cunning, craftiness, deceitful and schemes as factors at work in the lives of immature or childish Christians. However, Paul goes on immediately to speak about how maturity, the desired goal, could be obtained. In verse 13 he describes that maturity as being “mature manhood” and to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
- THE GOAL OF BECOMING MORE CHRISTLIKE IN SPEECH AND IN CHARACTER.Verses 15-16
How? By speaking truthfully to one another. 4:15. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Paul explained that concept later in the same chapter.“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29. The speech proceeding from our lips should always be good for building up the other person or people. [NOTE 3].
It also has to be appropriate, “As fits the occasion.” Its purpose should be to give grace to all who hear it. So Christian speech should simply be giving the right word to the right person at the right time from the right motivation [love].
By learning to live as the body of Christ, “growing up together in Him, 16. from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each partis working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” The church is a body made up of many members. Each member has a God-given purpose in contributing to the body. When all are encouraged to express their insights and to lovingly share their gifts in the body, the body grows in love.
A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON THIS PASSAGE
“Heavenly Father, We thank You that You have called us to belong to You and to one another in Your body the church. Help us to live out that unity as we grow closer to Jesus Your Son. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we remain true to You and to Your word, as we seek to speak in love and to encourage other members of Your body to grow to maturity. Enable us all to play our part in Your kingdom purposes so that Jesus may be exalted among Your people. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”
[NOTE 1]. Some examples indicating some degree of censure are the following.
1 Cor. 3:1. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”
Gal. 4:3. “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.”
[From our passage in this article.]Eph. 4:14. “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.”
[NOTE 2]. “Schemes” [methodeia, μεθοδεία compare English word “method”] is found only here and in Eph 6:11. It too has the sense of deception.
[NOTE 3]. “Building up.” Here the word is [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. This has the meaning, to make strong by building up [for example, the other person]. It also has the meaning to “edify.” So true Christian speech spoken in love should aim to strengthen and to edify the other person or people to whom it is addressed.
Blog No.325. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 6thSeptember 2019