“The Church: A People Who Build up One Another”

Have you ever been told to grow up? Paul, and the Holy Spirit, tell us that in Ephesians 4:14–16

Grow up! Don’t be babies. Infancy is normal–for a time. \Don’t forget that at the beginning of our Christian walk we all were infants. And being a baby Christian is far different from being an unbeliever. However, don’t be satisfied with spiritual immaturity. Christ has blessed his church with word gifts so that you can grow in maturity. Paul contrasts maturity with the weakness and lack of coordination of an infant. The immaturity is also compared to a small boat driven about and influenced, in this case not by the waves of a storm, but by the winds of false teaching. The cults are superb at concealing what they want to.

Live truthfully in love. Paul has in view not just physical maturity and coordination, but the development of character as well. Instead of being easily led and influenced, a maturing young person begins to look beyond the self-centeredness of infancy. Although “speaking the truth in love” may express the idea, don’t limit what Paul says to speech. He had ways of talking about speaking in love, see v. 25. Here action is included as well as speech. “Living in truth and love,” or “truthing in love” might express the idea. What Paul is describing involves a concern for union with Christ and for relationships with other believers. These need to be characterized by love. Don’t use Paul’s command as an excuse to avoid confronting falsehood–look at the context of v. 14. But also be careful in how you differ with those you believe may be in error. God is no less concerned with how we oppose error than he is with the fact that we do oppose it. John, in his first epistle, speaks of love as defining, not just Christian maturity, but Christianity itself. Paul comes back to love in v. 16.

Grow in Christ. Grow into Christ. How do you measure growth? Not by marks on a door frame, but by a person. While growth involves each of us as individuals, it is also something corporate. We together grow into the Head, that is Christ. If the image of the church as a strengthening body works, it is because central to the body is the head. Christian maturity involves a clearer, more self-conscious relationship with Christ. Union with Christ defines you. This growth in Christ affects all areas of your life. It happens “in all things.” Nothing that you are or do is not related to him.

Grow from Christ. Paul uses enough athletic imagery that you know that he appreciates what the body can do. Instead of early, wobbling steps, picture a young man running his heart out, or making a move on a basketball court. Picture a young woman performing a triple Lutz on the ice rink, or blocking a rifle shot of a volleyball. All of this activity is connected to the head. True, the athlete doesn’t stop to think, but the eye catches the flight of the line drive, the brain calculates location and timing, then orders the body into motion, leaping and stretching horizontally to make the catch–all faster than one can describe. The head is crucial to the process of growth, and coordinates how the body functions. Paul keeps pushing you back to the basics–Christ working through the Word that he has given his church. Christ working by his Spirit in enabling the preaching and teaching of that Word as the basic means of grace.

Build up one another. Grow as a body. God does not call us to isolate ourselves and work on sanctification. Rather, he unites us to our head, his Son, and united to him, we are connected to one another. There is a centrality to the proclamation of the Word, but it takes place in the context of the fellowship of the saints. We belong to one body. We build up one another. Does that seem like a challenge beyond you? It can start with something as simple as singing together, see Colossians 3:15–17. It means encouraging one another. It involves being willing to listen, to accept correction. It involves truth-speaking in love, Ephesians 4:29. The opposite of that involves grieving the Holy Spirit. (This passage is a powerful testimony to the personality of the Spirit.) “Christians who are already united to Christ and therefore to one another grow nearer to and more and more like Christ and correspondingly nearer to one another in his body, the church. Paul describes this with vivid imagery. Like a human body, the church is held together with joints. Only when every part is working properly does health growth take place. But where there is a wise and nurturing ministry of the Word it will happen. And it will do so almost like a youngster growing to maturity in his or her own body – which seems to ‘grow itself’: the body builds itself up in love.” (Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Ephesians, pp. 113–114).

Be the body of Christ. Notice that Paul, addressing the church at Ephesus, does not tell them to become the body of Christ. As they trust in him, as they have been united with him by faith, as they have been baptized into him. They are the body of Christ. And so are you, if you are part of his church. You need the church. That is where nurture takes place. “Paul’s image of the body of Christ offers profound insights for nurture: all members are needed; gifts are for the body as a whole, and isolation is tragic; and diversity of function produces, not division, but unity (Eph. 4:11–16).” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, p. 138). Take part in the life of the church. Don’t treat it as a fast food restaurant. The church is where you can celebrate in times of joy. It is, and should be, the place where you can find comfort in your grief. The other day I heard again of a young mother, wasting away from cancer, who came to church on Sunday, before passing away on Thursday. And the following Sunday her parents were in church, setting up chairs, because it was their rotation.

You need to build up one another because you are becoming, and are helping one another become, a fragrant offering to the Lord (Ephesians 5:1–2). Jesus Christ is working by his Word and Spirit—and he is using you, his body, to help make you what you will be in glory.

Have you ever been told to grow up? Paul, and the Holy Spirit, tell us that in Ephesians 4:14–16

Grow up! Don’t be babies. Infancy is normal–for a time. \Don’t forget that at the beginning of our Christian walk we all were infants. And being a baby Christian is far different from being an unbeliever. However, don’t be satisfied with spiritual immaturity. Christ has blessed his church with word gifts so that you can grow in maturity. Paul contrasts maturity with the weakness and lack of coordination of an infant. The immaturity is also compared to a small boat driven about and influenced, in this case not by the waves of a storm, but by the winds of false teaching. The cults are superb at concealing what they want to.

Live truthfully in love. Paul has in view not just physical maturity and coordination, but the development of character as well. Instead of being easily led and influenced, a maturing young person begins to look beyond the self-centeredness of infancy. Although “speaking the truth in love” may express the idea, don’t limit what Paul says to speech. He had ways of talking about speaking in love, see v. 25. Here action is included as well as speech. “Living in truth and love,” or “truthing in love” might express the idea. What Paul is describing involves a concern for union with Christ and for relationships with other believers. These need to be characterized by love. Don’t use Paul’s command as an excuse to avoid confronting falsehood–look at the context of v. 14. But also be careful in how you differ with those you believe may be in error. God is no less concerned with how we oppose error than he is with the fact that we do oppose it. John, in his first epistle, speaks of love as defining, not just Christian maturity, but Christianity itself. Paul comes back to love in v. 16.

Grow in Christ. Grow into Christ. How do you measure growth? Not by marks on a door frame, but by a person. While growth involves each of us as individuals, it is also something corporate. We together grow into the Head, that is Christ. If the image of the church as a strengthening body works, it is because central to the body is the head. Christian maturity involves a clearer, more self-conscious relationship with Christ. Union with Christ defines you. This growth in Christ affects all areas of your life. It happens “in all things.” Nothing that you are or do is not related to him.

Grow from Christ. Paul uses enough athletic imagery that you know that he appreciates what the body can do. Instead of early, wobbling steps, picture a young man running his heart out, or making a move on a basketball court. Picture a young woman performing a triple Lutz on the ice rink, or blocking a rifle shot of a volleyball. All of this activity is connected to the head. True, the athlete doesn’t stop to think, but the eye catches the flight of the line drive, the brain calculates location and timing, then orders the body into motion, leaping and stretching horizontally to make the catch–all faster than one can describe. The head is crucial to the process of growth, and coordinates how the body functions. Paul keeps pushing you back to the basics–Christ working through the Word that he has given his church. Christ working by his Spirit in enabling the preaching and teaching of that Word as the basic means of grace.

Build up one another. Grow as a body. God does not call us to isolate ourselves and work on sanctification. Rather, he unites us to our head, his Son, and united to him, we are connected to one another. There is a centrality to the proclamation of the Word, but it takes place in the context of the fellowship of the saints. We belong to one body. We build up one another. Does that seem like a challenge beyond you? It can start with something as simple as singing together, see Colossians 3:15–17. It means encouraging one another. It involves being willing to listen, to accept correction. It involves truth-speaking in love, Ephesians 4:29. The opposite of that involves grieving the Holy Spirit. (This passage is a powerful testimony to the personality of the Spirit.) “Christians who are already united to Christ and therefore to one another grow nearer to and more and more like Christ and correspondingly nearer to one another in his body, the church. Paul describes this with vivid imagery. Like a human body, the church is held together with joints. Only when every part is working properly does health growth take place. But where there is a wise and nurturing ministry of the Word it will happen. And it will do so almost like a youngster growing to maturity in his or her own body – which seems to ‘grow itself’: the body builds itself up in love.” (Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Ephesians, pp. 113–114).

Be the body of Christ. Notice that Paul, addressing the church at Ephesus, does not tell them to become the body of Christ. As they trust in him, as they have been united with him by faith, as they have been baptized into him. They are the body of Christ. And so are you, if you are part of his church. You need the church. That is where nurture takes place. “Paul’s image of the body of Christ offers profound insights for nurture: all members are needed; gifts are for the body as a whole, and isolation is tragic; and diversity of function produces, not division, but unity (Eph. 4:11–16).” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, p. 138). Take part in the life of the church. Don’t treat it as a fast food restaurant. The church is where you can celebrate in times of joy. It is, and should be, the place where you can find comfort in your grief. The other day I heard again of a young mother, wasting away from cancer, who came to church on Sunday, before passing away on Thursday. And the following Sunday her parents were in church, setting up chairs, because it was their rotation.

You need to build up one another because you are becoming, and are helping one another become, a fragrant offering to the Lord (Ephesians 5:1–2). Jesus Christ is working by his Word and Spirit—and he is using you, his body, to help make you what you will be in glory.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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