Living and Serving in the Body of Christ (2): Maturity (Eph. 4:11-16)
Ephesians 4:11–16 - And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 4:16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Last week I emphasized from the early part of the text (4:11-13) that:
1) We need an authority greater than ourselves - the Gospel.
We need a cause greater than ourselves - serving others.
3) We need a community outside of ourselves - the Church.
This week I want to look at verses 13-16 more carefully. In these verses Maturity is the controlling idea. We “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature.” Growth to maturation is the image and metaphor.
In evangelical parlance when we speak of “spiritual maturity” this connotes very strongly the idea of individual spiritual achievement. How well does an individual know the Bible, exercise spiritual gifts, deals with sin and challenges, or in the words of Navigator background, “how many consecutive quiet-times have you had?” All of this is needed and good in many respects. We must ask ourselves whether we are spiritual babies or mature in the Lord. I would, as a pastor, press you to the specific disciplines of prayer, Bible study, maintaining spiritual fellowship, sharing your faith, etc. We need this.
However, in this passage (Eph. 4), the direct meaning is not individual maturity. Although individual maturity and spiritual discipline is certainly an excellent application. But it’s even harder than that. This maturity is not the individual acquisition of a spiritual super-power. There can be no superhero Christians, only a self-sacrificing Christ whose power is in humbling Himself to death. Fully considered this humbles us because we should realize how incapable we are to bring about a corporate maturity in the power of our own flesh. We can only plant and water, but it is God that causes the increase.
This leads to building up a community and so growth here is in the collective relationships within the Church resulting in our stability, sincerity and service in the Body of Christ.
1) We must mature in stability, not sensationalism. Stability is being sound-minded by knowing the Gospel. We must know Truth and not be duped by attractive false-hoods.
2) We must mature in sincerity, not cynicism. Sincerity keeps the balance between truth and love. Truth must be softened by love and love must be strengthened by truth.
3) We must mature in service, not selfishness. Service implies all of the responsibilities of each member to yield their resources to build the Body.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more