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VIII. Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16)

4:1-2 Paul begins the second half of his letter with the word therefore. In light of the gracious riches they have in Christ and the glorious reality of this new community called the church, there are now accompanying responsibilities.

4:7-10 To equip the church for unity and service, God graciously gives every believer a spiritual gift (4:7)—a spiritual ability to be used in service to God’s people for the expansion of his kingdom. Paul quotes from the Old Testament (4:8) to explain that before Jesus ascended far above all the heavens (4:10), he descended to the lower parts of the earth (4:9). After defeating Satan on the cross, Jesus’s spirit descended and declared victory to the demons (see 1 Pet 3:19). Then the conquering King took the captives captive and gave gifts to people (Eph 4:8). Behind those words is the picture of a Roman general who defeats the enemy and leads his captives in a triumphal procession. Those people who were formerly captives of Satan’s kingdom are now captives of God’s kingdom. And the victorious King distributes gifts to them.

4:11-12 These gifts include empowerment for the leaders: he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (4:11). Their purpose is for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ (4:12). Some people attend church only for their own benefit. But that’s not what being a church member looks like; that’s called being a leech. God saved and equipped you for the work of ministry, the work of service. Why? To build up the body.

To understand the church, all you have to do is understand your body. It’s a living organism composed of many parts working in harmony to contribute to the whole. Paul says the church is Christ’s body. And the church will only grow and mature when all the parts operate in harmony, in unity. If you have a Lone Ranger personality, you will be a feeble saint—and the body will suffer for it. Our relationship to the corporate body is crucial to our own spiritual development and the development of the church.

4:13-14 Only by growing into maturity will we no longer be little children. Children are unstable in their thinking, easily tossed to and fro. Christians need the right theological and spiritual foundation to keep from being blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning. We need to be stabilized by maturity, and maturity only comes when we’re connected to each other.

4:15 To mature, to grow in every way, we must be in an environment of speaking the truth in love. Truth is what God says about a matter. Truth must reign, and sometimes it isn’t pretty when the truth confronts our sin. That’s why the truth can’t be used like a destructive hammer. It must be spoken with love, which involves compassionately, righteously, and responsibly seeking the well-being of its recipient.

4:16 Paul says the body grows with the proper working of each individual part when it is fitted and knit together. The body is built up when the various parts contribute to the whole. California has some of the largest organisms on the planet: redwood trees. They grow massive in size and ancient in age. The secret to their stability and growth is that their roots intertwine. Underground, they’re all interconnected. You can’t mess with one without messing with the whole grove. When fierce winds blow, their connectedness allows them to borrow from one another and grow strong. So it is, Paul says, with the body of Christ.

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