Thursday, August 18, 2016

Until we all - Ephesians 4:13

"until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)
God has placed certain men and women within the Body of Christ as gifts to the Body to equip and build us up in order that we might attain to all that God has called us to. These gifts exist in and for the Body and will continue to exist until we all arrive at the perfection of Christ. Specifically, these ministries exist to achieve four specific outcomes within the Body.

First is that we might all attain, or arrive at, the unity of the faith. This does not mean that we all arrive at a unanimous agreement on specific formulas of faith, but that our faith leads us to unity with one another. The NIV translates this verse as, "until we all reach unity in the faith." (Ephesians 4:13 NIV) What unites us is not our common agreement on creeds, formulas, and dogmas, but our common faith and trust in Jesus and His Gospel. It is our faith in who Jesus is, our faith in what He did for us on the cross, and our faith in the promises of Christ yet to come that unites us all as one. Polycarp wrote to the Philippian church reminding them of faith "which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, 'is the mother of us all.'" (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3) He calls faith the "mother of us all." We are all born again by a common faith and it is this common faith that makes us all part of the universal Body of Christ. When we come to the place where we recognize that we are all His through common faith, then we will also recognize that we are all one in Him.

Second is that we might all come to the knowledge of Christ. It is not the knowledge of theology that transforms us but the knowledge of Christ. Theology is important, but it lacks the ability to show us how we ought to live. Later, Paul will speak of the difference between the Gentiles and the believers when he reminds the Ephesians, "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:20-21 NKJV) To learn Christ is to learn to be like Him. God spoke to the Israelites saying, "'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?' Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16) It is God who is just and righteous, it is God who pleads the case of the afflicted and needy, and when we do these things too, then we demonstrate that we know God. To know God is to be like God, to be conformed to His image and His likeness. When we all come to the knowledge of Christ then we will all begin to reflect His life, His character, and His image.

Third is that we might all obtain to the mature man. Darby translates this as, "[the] full-grown man." (Ephesians 4:13 Darby) This particular Greek word means to arrive at a goal or to hit the mark. It is the bulls-eye in the middle of the target we are aiming at. It represents a journey from one place to another; the leaving of a lower place to arrive at a higher place. This journey and destination that Paul is talking about is a journey from childishness to maturity. Paul, speaking of himself, says, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) When we are born again, we are born as babes in Christ. Much of what we knew prior to our new birth we still retain. Many of our previous habits and ways of thinking remain and are not immediately obliterated by our conversion in Christ. However, as we grow in Christ we learn new patterns of behavior and new ways of thinking and, gradually, these new ways replace the old ways in our lives. As we grow we transition from childhood to maturity in Christ. With each passing day we are called in greater ways to leave behind childishness and to become mature in Christ.

Finally, these gifts to the Body are given to help us attain to the full stature of Christ. Stature refers to our standing before men. It was said of Jesus, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52) Stature speaks of a man height but can also refer to his estimation among men. It was said of the early church, "But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number," (Acts 5:13-14) The people recognized the change in the lives of the new believers and, even though they were reticent to associate with them, they held them in esteem because of the quality of life and character they saw in them. Though they did not agree with them and may not have even wanted to be like them, they respected them for the new life they were living. We are all called to the full measure of the fullness of Christ. To have the fullness of Christ is to express and reveal the life and light of Christ through our daily lives. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." (Matthew 5:14-15) We are not only called to an inward maturity but also to an outward radiance by which we show forth the life of Christ. Our stature in this world is not defined by our own personal achievements and abilities but by the quality of life we live before others. When we live the life of Christ before men, then we have truly arrived at the full stature of Christ.

David Robison

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