Growing Up: Maturity in the Church

Ephesians 4:14-16

 

In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul declares that men gifted to proclaim the Word of God have been given to the Church specifically to equip the saints for the work of service. This equipping in turn is to lead toward (eis, into) the work of service meaning ministry. All of this is for the maturing of believers. Clearly, the teaching of the Word of God is essential for the health of the body of Christ.

Paul drives this point home even further, expressing the intended result of maturing in Christ. "We are no longer to be children" (4:14). The Greek term behind "no longer" has the idea of "absolutely not". We are in no way to be children, meaning infants-those incapable of reason and speech. Paul makes it clear that the mature believer, who is so due to the Word of God, will not be caught up in false doctrine. Mature believers are not "blown about by every wind of doctrine" or tricked by false teachers who are deceitful in their motives. The mature believer is one who recognizes the difference between the teaching of the Word of God and false doctrines which will cause "storms" in the lives of the immature.

How essential is the Word of God and true doctrine in our day and age? In any and every age? The Word of God is necessary for every believer for the sake of maturity leading to stability through the storms of life. Understanding and recognizing false teaching, and therefore enjoying stability, is certainly a blessing of maturity. Our foundation is the fact that we are "in Christ" (Eph 1-3). Now, as believers, we are called to "walk in a manner worthy" of our calling. This includes "growing in Christ." Paul makes it clear that, rather than being tossed about, tricked and or deceived, we should be "speaking the truth in love" (4:15), with the potential to grow up into Christ, who is the Head of the Church.

The word "grow" is really interesting. This is God's growth-we cannot grow anything, much less ourselves; God is the one who causes the growth. The word "grow" here uses the subjunctive case indicating the very real potential that every believer has of growing in Christ. Growing involves the will of the believer in maturing through the Word of God. God uses His Word in order to grow believers in maturity. Clearly, believers must avail themselves to the Word of God to experience the growth that He alone is able to accomplish within our lives. All of this is by God's grace. Each believer has this opportunity or potential in Christ to experience the ability that He has to mature and or grow us.

Paul doesn't stop with the maturing or growth of the individual believer, but moves on toward the building up of the entire Body in love. When believers are growing and maturing in Christ, then the Body of Believers also begins to build itself up in love. When each part of the body being fitted (equipped) and held together functions correctly, then the entire body begins to grow and builds itself up in love.

What an amazing truth the apostle expresses here for each believer as well as the whole Church. The Lord uses His Word through the gifted men given to the Body to mature the saints. In maturing, believers are not being tossed about by every false doctrine and are equipped for the work of service. As each member begins to serve or minister in the strength of Christ (who is the One growing us) love begins to be expressed in and through our lives toward other believer's with the end that the Body begins to properly function, building itself up in Christ's love.

It has been said that the Church is not an organization but rather an Organism. I would suggest that the church is a very organized Organism when submitted to Christ, as He is the One who does the organizing. He is the head. Christ's love not only changes us individually but also transforms entire churches. Are we experiencing the love of Christ in our own lives? Are we availing ourselves to the Lord through His Word, maturing in Christ? Are we grounded in the Word of God, understanding who we are in Christ because of what He has done on our behalf? Are we functioning properly in the role that He has for us helping to build up the rest of the body of Christ in love? As His Word transforms us, are we learning to follow Him in everything?

Erik Christensen is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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