So we have the unity of the Spirit; we make every effort to keep the unity through the bond of peace; we understand the spiritual basis of unity; and realizing the gift of Christ, we all serve with diverse roles and positions.
But what do we actually do? What are we trying to achieve? What is the ultimate goal of all our services and ministries?
If we consider the universal Church with different local churches, organizations and individual believers each doing their part,1 there are a lot of activities going on. Hopefully we are not just busy bodies each doing our own mission but are doing what Christ wants us to do before his second coming.
Still, the question remains: what are we trying to achieve? What is the goal of our ministry?
The Ephesian passage clearly spells it for us. When Christ gave the gifts as he ascended to heaven,2 he has a purpose/direction in mind: we are to equip the saints until we all reach maturity (4:13).
The sense of purpose/direction can be seen by the prepositions used. A direct translation of verses 12-13 is
for the purpose of3 equipping the saints unto4 work of ministry, unto the building of the body of Christ, until we all may reach the unity of the faith and of the knowledge/understanding of the son of God, unto a mature person, unto the full/mature measure of the fullness of Christ.5
While different things are listed, we can easily see that all are related to the maturity of believers.
Sometimes there are confusions between long-term goal and short-term goals.6 Other times the confusion might be between means and goal.7 But the long-term and ultimate goal of the Universal Church, in conjunction with the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations (Mat 28:18-29), should be “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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.” (vv. 4:12-13)
May the Church of God continue to minister faithfully as called.
PS: I titled this article “Aim for Unity” as taken from v. 13, but it is clear from the context that this is not just the human bond that we usually think of when we talk about unity. Rather, it is a “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.” We will get into this in next article.
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.
- I am still not used to the idea of using plural form of personal pronouns for ‘each’ or ‘every’. I think if we really want to stay gender neutral, we should just create a new pronoun, but until then, I will use mixed gender when it makes sense in the context or occasionally use plural as in this case. ↩
- Eph 4:8. See the footnote from previous article. That is why I think it is important to understand the sense given here. It is not the general charisma that is in view in this passage but that Christ gave gifts to the Church as he ascended. ↩
- πρὸς (pros), see BDAG, entry 6247, 3,c, α ↩
- εἰς (eis); same as several occurrences following ↩
- Greek New Testament does not have punctuation, so it is hard to tell just from grammar whether each “unto phrase” comes as a result of the previous one or whether they are on the same level, but the consideration for different possibilities would be too detailed for an article like this. ↩
- A short-term goal could be to have a church building, for example, but having a building is obviously not the final goal of any ministry. ↩
- An example of a means would be having monthly meals so that people can interact better with one another, but the meals or even the good interaction is not our final goal either. The final goal is that people grow and become mature through these interactions or activities. ↩