Growing Up Print
Church
Written by Ben Merkle   
Monday, 18 January 2010 14:41

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul describes how God has given to the church various ministries – apostles, prophets, etc. with the purpose of equipping the saints to grow. And he specifies what exactly this growth is supposed to look like in v. 13 when he says that we are coming to – “. . . the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Here we see both the means of our growth, namely the ministry of the church, and the final goal of our growth, namely the stature and fullness of Christ. Paul is teaching us how to grow up and what we will look like when we have grown up.

By giving us the final goal of our growth he provides us with a useful tape measure from which we can get a quick measurement of our current spiritual height. So how can we measure ourselves against Jesus Christ?

Well one significant point that Paul emphasizes throughout this passage is that Jesus Christ is only one body. We start to look like him when we have a united faith (v. 13) and when we are completely knit together like a human body (v. 16).

It’s a favorite Pauline image, the parts of the body representing the various members of the Church, and it’s a sweet sentiment to ponder. But the sweetness of the image goes sour as soon as you begin to attach the actual names and faces of real Christians to these body parts. Imagine taking a moment to list off ten to twenty names of fellow saints that worship alongside you in your local congregation. Then ask yourself has the unity and mutual edification between yourself and these fellow saints increased over the years or has a somewhat distant coolness set in? Have you been growing to be more like Christ or has your growth become stunted?

Christians who have grown mature (in a fleshly, rather than spiritual sense) are prone to deceive themselves by dressing up their own sin as a fruit of their own maturity. They grow lazy in the work of edifying one another, and they excuse their laziness by insisting that they have “outgrown” certain old friendships. They insist that the distance that has been put between themselves and the other saints is a result of their own maturity. The supposed maturity might be doctrinal or liturgical or cultural. But for one reason or another, they feel like they have outgrown those old friendships and they are happy to have a little distance between themselves and another part of Christ’s body. But this maturity is nothing other than self-delusion. There is only one measure for Christ’s people – the stature of the fullness of Christ, one perfect man.

Growing up into Christ means growing up into one another. To pretend that our animosity, unconfessed bitterness, pettiness, and general all-round snarkiness is actually some sort of sign of our own maturity is to hold the tape-measure upside down.

 



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Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2010 14:47