In Ephesians 4:7-16, Paul tells us Jesus gives gifts to the church for the building up of the body. Jesus gives gifts to the individual members of the church. He also calls some men, to become Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor Teachers, and gives them as gifts to the church, in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The congregation, along with the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor Teachers, are to build up the body of Christ. They are to work toward a certain end. It is that end that I want to focus on today.
You do not start a building project without first understanding what you are building, nor do you start building up the body of Christ without first understanding the goal in mind. What is that goal? Where are we as a congregation supposed to be headed? Paul provides the answer in verses 13-14 when he says,
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, 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.
I believe we can pull three attributes out of these verses, which tell us where we are headed as a church, which is ultimately to maturity. Let’s look at the three characteristics of a mature church:
1. It is a church were everyone is unified because of a common faith and where everyone has a deep intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ
The first phrase Paul writes, “Unity of the Faith and the knowledge of the Son of God” has the idea that the entire congregation is united, they are one, because of their shared faith. As well as those in the congregation have an intimate and real knowledge of Christ, which is gained from seeing Him work in the body.
The psalmist is a good example of one who had an intimate knowledge of God. We often read of him crying out to God as his protector, comforter, and salvation. He sees God as a righteous judge and deliverer, as well as one who provides for the poor and the needy.
The psalmist does not know these things about God because he has studied them, even though he has, but he more so knows these things about God because he has experienced them first hand either in his life or in the life of those he knows.
Just like the Psalmist. As we see families in our congregation go through struggles and walk with them as Christ works in their lives, we come to know that Christ is faithful. As we see recent converts change their way of life, casting off addictions and clinging to the Savior, we come to know that Christ is better than our former way of life. As we see Christ work in the congregation, or in our own life, we develop a deep intimate knowledge of Him.
2. It is a church that resembles Christ in its thoughts, actions, and knowledge
Paul says we are to keep building up the body until we reach “mature manhood.” The idea is that we, as the body, are to become a well-built full grown man. What does a well-built full grown man look like? The next phrase tells us.
A well-build full grown man is one who, as Paul says, reaches the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, it is a church, where the entire congregation resembles Jesus in their thoughts, actions, and knowledge.
3. It is a church that is able to discern false doctrine and combat those who desire to destroy the church through deceitful schemes
In verse 14, Paul gives us the reason for why we should grow in maturity, which also serves to tell us what it looks like to be a mature man. He says,
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.
As we become unified and grow in our knowledge of Christ. And as we move toward being a full-grown man, one that resembles our glorified Savior, Jesus Christ, we should be able to discern false teaching and the schemes of those who seek to destroy the church.
Instead of being like children who are easily influenced, we are to be like full grown men capable of discerning what others are telling us. Instead of being like a rudderless boat that is tossed to and fro by every wave that comes by, we are to be like a stable ship, which is able to navigate rough waters with a clear path.
As we grow in our maturity, we, the entire church, are to be able to evaluate the latest doctrines and theological trends that try to pass themselves off as Christian teaching, as well as discover who it is that is trying to destroy the church. In doing so, we put ourselves in a position where we are able to protect the church.
The end product is three-fold:
(1) It is a church were everyone is unified because of a common faith and has a deep intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ.
(2) It is a church that resembles Christ in its thoughts, actions, and knowledge.
(3) It is a church that is able to discern false doctrine and combat those who desire to destroy the church through deceitful schemes.
To these ends, we, as a church, are to be building because they represent the final product of a mature church. In order to get there, it will take every member of the church exercising their God given gift. As well as we will need to speak the truth of God’s Word to each other in love (vs 15). May we, as a church, work together until we attain to this goal, knowing our work will not be fully complete until Jesus returns.