Saturday, August 27, 2016

We are to grow up - Ephesians 4:15-16

"but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16)
The idea of speaking the truth in love goes far beyond just our words and how we speak to each other, it includes our whole manor of life; how we conduct ourselves in the truth and in love. It is a speaking that is done, not only with words, but with deeds and actions. It is a speaking that encompasses the whole conversation of our lives. Others have translated this verse as, "holding the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15 Darby) "being true in love" (Ephesians 4:15 YLT) "But doing the truth in charity" (Ephesians 4:15 Douay-Rheims) Our words are of little consequence if our deeds do not reflect the truth we confess.

Paul conflates the ideas of truth and love, showing them to be inseparably linked together. Truth without love degrades into legalism where we use the truth as a weapon to divide and condemn others. Love without truth is easily perverted into self serving emotions and the continual pursuit of self-love. Paul writes of the knowledge of the truth saying, "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies." (1 Corinthians 8:1) Knowledge is good but without love it lacks direction and purpose. Truth is only valuable when we are able to express it and speak it to one another in love. Similarly, Paul writes of the importance of loving according to knowledge, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:9-10) By truth we learn to love what is truly lovely and to abstain from what is base and corrupt. By truth we learn what love really is and that truth becomes a judge of our own thoughts, emotions, and intents; showing if they are truly according to love or by the deception of what the world calls love. It is by holding both of these, in equal portions, in our hearts that we find grace form God. As John said, "Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (2 John 3)

Paul also shows us that there are two fundamental aspects of our relationship with Christ; one being our individual relationship with Him and the other our corporate relationship with Him through the body. Our personal growth in Christ is our responsibility. It is not our parents, it's not our pastors, and it's not the church's responsibility to grow us up. Certainly God has given others within the Body of Christ to help us in this journey, but the final result is up to us. Speaking of the judgment at the end of the age, Jesus said, "I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:43-45) Notice He did not say, "Your church did not visit me" but rather, "you did not visit me." In the end, we alone will be called into account for what we did and did not do with the truth and love we've received from Christ. Did we use it to learn and grow in Christ or were we like the unfaithful servant who, "dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money." (Matthew 25:18) We are the ones who are responsible for our growth and the ones who should be diligent to put into practice the truth God has taught us through love.

The second aspect of our relationship with Christ is found in our relationship with His body. There are three key aspects to this relationship. First, we must always remember that it is Christ who is the head of His body and it is from Him that all things flow to her. The body is the body only to the extent that each individual member has a relationship with the head and comes under the lordship of the head. There are many good social and community groups that exist today but only the church has Jesus as its head. It is in our common fellowship with Jesus that we are drawn together as a body. We must always remember Paul's words, "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Colossians 2:18-19) The body is only the body when it holds fast to the head.

Secondly, the body is more than a collection of people, it is a connected group of people who have been brought together in Christ to represent Him to the world. The phrase, "fitted and held together" implies that the individual parts are driven together and form a compact unison of believers. A group of people attending a Sunday service together are not necessarily the Body of Christ. The Body has cohesion and connections with each other that hold us together as one. Furthermore, these connections are defined though the relationships we have with each other. A joint is the place where to parts meet and cooperate in common purpose for the movement and functioning of the body as a whole. You may not be connected to everyone within the Body of Christ but you must be connected to someone to be an effective member of the Body. These relationships become effective when each member if functioning properly towards each other member. We all have a part to play and it is only when we all do our part, serving one another with the gifts and graces God has given us, that the body is made whole and grows up in Christ.

Finally, the Body is to build itself up in love. There is that which God does in bringing us together and uniting us as one in Him, but there is that which we ourselves must do in growing up the Body of Christ. Without the participation of the Body in the work of Christ, the Body will not grow and will remain forever an infant, or worse, a scatters array of body parts. Through love we must all seek the growth and health of the Body, supplying to each other what God has given us. Many people are accustom to complaining about the state of their church and blaming others for its condition, but it is our responsibility to work together for the good of the body. It is only when we combine truth and love that the body will grow up into the fullness of Him who has called us together as one body.

David Robison

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