Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16
A lot have been said about the maturity of believers and of the church. In 4:12 we have the threefold purposes of the church: to equip the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to build up to body of Christ1 Then v. 23 describes the three goals of the church: to reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, to become mature, and to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
But what do all these mean to us? What kind of manifestation of these purposes and goals could we see in the lives of believers and in a church?
Verses 14-16 give us further explanation of maturity. Specifically, we see these 3 manifestations of maturity:
Being rooted firmly in the truth. v. 14
The immature is described as lacking in spiritual direction or discernment (“tossed back and forth by the waves”) and susceptible to manipulation and error (“blown here and there by every wind of teaching”). The different winds of teaching could be Christian teaching but used in a perverted and manipulative way,2 or they could be wrong teachings from false teachers3 Both cases happen in real life, and believers are to be aware of them. Mature believers should be able to discern false teaching from true faith, according to this passage.
Since emphasis has been made on true knowledge of the Son of God, it follows that the stability in faith mentioned here is not stubborness that we may never listen to others; neither is it indifference that all different teachings may be accepted.
Speaking the truth in love. v.15
Speaking the truth and love can sometimes work harmoniously but not all the time. When we remind someone of his/her sin, we may be saying the truth in love with the hope of restoring the person;4 or we may be speaking the truth about his/her sin in the most judgmental tone or condemning attitude, completely forgetting the love side. On the other hand, using love as an excuse, sometimes we might conveniently choose not to speak the truth at all! Mature christians and the church are to speak the truth in love.
Continuing to Grow toward Christ. vv. 16-17
The stability in faith and speaking the truth in love should bring us to align ourselves to Christ,5 who is further described as the head of the Church, and from him the whole body grows.
So the force here is that all members of the body (i.e. the Church) are to grow and build itself up based on the unity in faith, the speaking of the truth in love, and on the exalting of Christ as the head. All ministries and serving should bring glory to Christ, and all members should subject themselves under the teaching of Christ and work harmoniously with each other.
May the true church of Christ continue to grow in the manner described!
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- Although some commentators divide the statement into “threefold purposes,” the original Greek actually says “for the equipping of the saints unto the work of ministry, unto the building up of the body of Christ.” The three mentioned purposes are certainly related, however. ↩
- Some take this view because of the article and singular number in Greek, “every wind of the teaching,” παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας (v. 14). ↩
- Others take this view because of the description that follows and also because of the parallel passage in Col 2:22 where false teaching is clearly the case. ↩
- Cf. Gal 6:1 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” ↩
- The grammatical mood for “to grow” is subjunctive, so it is “we may grow.” The nuance of subjunctive mood is lost in NIV’s translation “we will,” (but see, for example, NAS or ESV). Wallace thinks it is a hortatory subjunctive, hence an urging from Paul, “may we grow” or “let us grow.” See Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basic (Grand Rapids: Zondervan1996), 465. ↩