Commentary on Ephesians, 4:13-16

Ephesians 4:13-16

“12 for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to a measure of the maturity of the fullness of Christ,”  LEB

Jesus gave to the Church those whom He has gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Apostles and prophets were foundational, given for the purpose of establishing the Church. Now God is building upon that foundation through pastors, teachers, and evangelists. It’s primarily through these three gifts that the body of Christ is equipped to do the work that God has called us to do, both corporately, and as individual servants of Christ. It’s through these gifts that members of His body grow in spiritual maturity. 

There is also a sense that as we grow as individuals, the Church as a whole grows. The Church should be growing more and more. Corporately, as time passes, there should be more understanding and harmony regarding the doctrines of the Bible. There should be more love and unity between us, and less division. We should be becoming more pure, and less worldly. The gospel message should be spreading more. There should be a growing love for the Word of God, and a greater zeal to teach it without compromise. The Church should be growing in the discipline of prayer, and the fruit of it should be multiplying.

The Church of Christ should be known for all of these things. This should be our testimony before a lost world that needs what we have. I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing a growth of these things, but a deterioration. Christ has given us a mission to fulfill in this world, and I believe to a large extent, we are failing. Instead of becoming a greater influence on the world, I believe the world is becoming a greater influence on us.

That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of our Christian leaders. Leaders are so important, because people will follow. If they lead God’s people down a wrong path, they will follow, and they will do so because they trust that what the leaders are doing is biblical and according to God’s will. To a large degree, this is what I’m seeing today. We’re not where we should be as a whole. Furthermore, this path seems to be getting wider, and drawing more and more people away from the straight and narrow.

You may be a young believer, and have no idea what I’m talking about. I understand that, because this is all you’ve known. However, if you’ve been walking with Christ for a long time, perhaps you know exactly what I’m talking about, and share the same concern that I have. Pastors, and other Christians leaders, have been given a great responsibility, and each one of them will give an account of how well they led God’s people. So much of the body of Christ is being lead astray today, and those who are leading the way will answer for it.

On the other hand, those who are leading God’s people in the way of holiness and separation from the world, who are teaching the Word of God without compromise, who are committed to true discipleship, who are sincere in their love for Jesus, who are providing an example of Christ-likeness, will be rewarded for their faithfulness.

This growing of the body of Christ is to continue until “we all reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to a measure of the maturity of the fullness of Christ” LEB (vs. 13)

This is a reference to that time when God has fulfilled His plan for this world, and we are all out of this body of sin, and in His eternal presence. At that time the Church will be fully mature, fully like our Lord and Savior. At that time we will finally be united in the Christian faith. We will finally be united in knowledge and understanding. We will finally all see the truth the same way.

However, as I’ve already discussed, we are to now be growing into where we will someday be in Glory. We should be getting closer to this full maturity in Christ, not further away. I really believe that the Church needs some sort of Great Awakening, such as we’ve had at certain times in history. We need spiritual revival. We need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is always willing, but we must be sincerely open to it, sincerely seeking it. We need a group of Spirit-empowered men of God to lead the way. May God stir the hearts of many, and raise them up for His glory.

“14 so that we may no longer be infants, tossed about by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching, by the trickery of people, by craftiness with reference to the scheming of deceit.”  LEB

With maturity in Christ still in view, we are not to be children in doctrine or in our walk with Christ. Unless we are committed to teaching and learning the whole Bible, with a sincere desire to know the truth, we can be easily deceived both in doctrine, and in how the Christian life is to be lived out. 

Unless we are biblically sound, we will be tossed back and forth and whirled about by every wave and wind of doctrine. Unless we are firmly grounded in the truth, we leave ourselves open to the trickery and craftiness of men, who engage themselves in methodical systems of deception. Some of these deceivers may be deceived themselves, but others may know exactly what they’re doing, with the very purpose of leading people astray.

Many of these systems of deception are seen in the cults, who may use the bible, and use the same terms that Christians use, but the meanings they give to them are completely out of harmony with what historical Christianity teaches.

Other systems of deception can be found within the Christian community itself. The teaching we find in these systems are more subtle. It’s more difficult to discern the errors of what they teach. The only way to protect ourselves from doctrinal error, the only way to discern between what is true and what is false, is to be totally committed to doctrinal purity. That means a total commitment to the study and to the learning of the Word of God. We must be intense and disciplined in our study. It takes a lot of hard work to learn the truth. But it pays off. It’s our protection. Furthermore, once we’ve aquired that discipline, it’s provides the most rewarding experience in life.

May I add, that in order to learn the truth of God’s Word, we must have a sincere desire to learn the truth. What I mean by that, is that we must approach God’s Word without personal bias. We must approach it without trying to fit what we read into a certain doctrinal position. We must be willing to follow the truth wherever it leads us. When we study the Word through the lens of a particular position, we have a tendency to be blinded to what we are reading. I believe that’s a major reason why we have so much doctrinal division within the Church.

“15 But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow into him [with reference to] all [things], who is the head, Christ,”  LEB

“But speaking the truth in love”

I realize that this is a phrase we use as personal instruction when dealing with others about doctrinal matters where we disagree. And we can apply it that way. However, within the context, I believe this is pointed directly at pastors and bible teachers.

Those who are in authority and teaching God’s people the Word of God, must do so in love. The question is, love for what? I believe it includes several things. It includes a love for Jesus, a love for the Word of God, a love for the truth, a love for the Church, a love for individual Christians and a concern for their spiritual welfare. It also includes a love for the will of God, and for the Kingdom of Christ (as opposed to the world).

If a pastors and bible teachers have a sincere love for all these things, then they will not be drawn into the philosophies of this world. They will not be tempted to sacrifice doctrinal purity for the sake of growing their church numerically. If the motives of their heart is in harmony with the heart of God, they will have a passion for the study, learning, and teaching of the Word of God. And, they will follow it wherever it leads, regardless of outside pressure to conform to a particular philosophy that may be popular at the time.

Note: The Greek word for “speaking,” is aletheuo. In the context of “speaking the truth in love,” Vincent translates this word as “being or walking in truth.” Literal rendering: truthing in love. Thus while the primary meaning is to speak, it also has the idea of expression, as the Amplified confirms:

“Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly].”

 Therefore, our whole life should be an expression of the love of Christ, both by what we say, and how we live our life.

‘we are to grow into him”

There’s our motive. This is the goal of every pastor and every bible teacher: That we may “grow into Him.” Ministry is not about numbers, it’s about Christ-likeness. It’s about carrying out the mission God has called us to do. The Church overall is to grow into Him, but that can only occur if we are growing into Him as individuals. And that can only occur widespread throughout the Church if pastors and all other bible teachers are teaching the Word of God faithfully.

“[with reference to] all [things], who is the head, Christ,”

Simply put, we are to grow into Him in every respect, into Christ ,who is the Head of the Church. We are to be conformed to Him in every detail of our lives and ministry. We are to be conformed to Him, not to the world. We must always keep our calling and purpose in clear view, or we can easily get off track.

“16 from whom the whole body, joined together and held together by every supporting ligament, according to the working by measure of each single part, the growth of the body makes for the building up of itself in love.”  LEB

Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the leader. Just as our human body moves according to the instructions given to it by our head (brain), so must we be careful that we as individuals, and as the Church as a whole, are living our lives and fulfilling what He has called us to do, according to His will, according to His instructions. It’s so easy to allow self to blind us to the path He wants us to follow.

We as a Church, the people of God, can only grow as each individual is fulfilling it’s God-ordained role. Just as each part of the human body moves in harmony with all the other parts of the body, and each dependent on the other, so must each one of us be faithful to fulfill the purpose for which God has placed us into the body. When all of us are living our lives and serving Christ according to His plan, and according to the gifts He has given to us, the body will grow and will accomplish the mission He has called us to in this world.

Each one of us must be doing its share in the body of Christ. In most local assemblies, you normally have the few doing the work for all the rest. That’s not the way God has designed the body of Christ to function. We are to serve God, and one another in love. When every individual is doing its part out of a heart of love for God, and for others, the result will be edification for the whole assembly. As each local church is doing its part, the Church worldwide in turn will fulfill its mission.

So the order is, each individual in each local church, and each local church within the Church worldwide, doing its part in order to carry out the will of God in this world.