Bible Passage: Ephesians 4:1-16
Rise Up: The Family Goals
Check out our small group discussion guide: One Family.
There is nothing more stressful or more anger-inducing than a lazy or divisive family member. A family member who contributes nothing, or worse, only contributes discord and division. That family member is the one everyone says has never grown up. A sixth-grader who acts like a middle schooler is understandable. But a 30-year-old who acts like a middle schooler is annoying, to say the least!
On the other hand, nothing makes parents happier than seeing their children living in unity. Seeing their family gather together to join one another in life and working together to accomplish great things. This is fulfilling both for the parent and the child.
There is an unmistakable feeling of righteous pride, humble confidence, safety, and security. There’s a sense of belonging, an identity in the sense of “us, ” that is unlike any other that comes from truly living life as one with family.
Some of you have never had that with the people we would traditionally think of as family. Mother, father, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and etc. But you’ve had it with people in your neighborhood. Teammates, classmates, workmates. You’ve either had it there or you’ve longed for it.
There is something in us that wants and needs this sense of family. Without it, we are not whole. We know we are missing something, but we feel like a baseball glove left in an attic, a car that’s never driven, a horse that can never run.
So, it’s to no surprise that we find an abundance of passages in the Bible that sound just like the one we are going to look at today. Passages that highlight the family that God has created. The family God literally made mankind to thrive in but sin has separated him from. The family where the eternal life of God is known and experienced! The family we had no ability to be a part of, but through Christ, we have been graciously adopted into!
Today, we’re going to take a look at Ephesians 4. We are going to focus our attention on verses 13 – 16 but to properly understand them I need to walk you through verses 1-12.
Paul writes to the believers in a city called Ephesus.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager (a longing) to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul shows us how to treat one another as we obey Christ’s commands. That is, in obeying the commands to make disciples, to live moral-ethical lives, to proclaim the truth. As you obey, do so with humility and gentleness, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
In other words, this is to be something you really want. Something you truly cherish, anticipate, and value. It is in the front of your mind and never stops persisting in your motivation.
Paul then highlights why this is such a big deal.
4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. There is literally ONE church, ONE family of God because there is ONE Spirit who is in each of us, just as there is ONE equal HOPE for all who are saved, just as there is ONE LORD (Jesus), one FAITH (Gospel), one BAPTISM (our identity in CHRIST and not circumcision any other religious identification), ONE GOD and FATHER of all, who is over all and through all and in all. in the same way that is very clear, very exclusive and very uniquely ONE. in the same way ALL who are saved and redeemed by GOD are literally ONE BIG FAMILY! A bunch of brothers and sisters.
He then goes on to highlight how we are made brothers and sisters.
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
(Emphasis mine in the above verses.)
The contrast between verses 6 and 7 is striking. Verse 6 speaks of God as the Father of us all, who is above all, through all and in all. Verse 7, however, begins: But grace was given to each of us. Thus Paul turns from ‘all of us’ to ‘each of us’, and so from the unity to the diversity of the church.. For ‘grace’ is charis, and ‘gifts’ are charismata.1
Since Paul cites an Old Testament text at this point—Psalm 68:18—it is not at all difficult to know what he has in mind as he describes Jesus apportioning these gifts. Psalm 68 is a psalm of triumph, quite possibly written in celebration of the bringing of the ark of God (which symbolized the presence of God) to Jerusalem. It pictures God as having been victorious over his and Israel’s enemies and of now ascending his throne to receive gifts and homage from all men. By citing this psalm Paul puts the Lord Jesus Christ into that role, thereby affirming his deity. On the cross he defeated his and our enemies, and he has now ascended triumphantly to the right hand of the Father from which position he now dispenses the gifts about which this section speaks. The image speaks of Christ’s rule, authority, and power in the Christian church.2
I think this is the weight of the text. The grace given to us doesn’t come from the spoils of an earthly king and his accomplishments but from the eternal King that rescued us from our captivity to sin and brought us into the family of God!
We were once not in God’s family but now we as unique individuals have been brought into His family. As such, God expects us to act like we are.
Each one of us has become fully His child. All these different people from different places and different backgrounds and ethnic groups have been brought together forever as one family by the horrifying sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross! The grace we have received that made us his family is by that measure and accomplishment. No one has ever given us a gift from a reservoir of wealth that big!
So we have this huge statement of how we are a single body, adopted as children of God into His family. But, as with any family, being adopted in comes with the expectation of living to maintain what He has created. Specifically, that we put our unique gifts and talents to work to help the family!
This is no light matter. The unique gifts he gave us as individuals comes with the same weight that He gave us salvation. It is a gift from Christ enabled by his death, burial, and resurrection just as our adoption was! The gift to be God’s child and to fully function as one of the royal heirs to the throne.
You are one who has a role in the family and needs to eagerly and diligently function in the family.
Christ takes seriously that His family functions in a manner worthy of what it took to form it. That it functions in a manner worthy of the head of the family.
He doesn’t just leave us to simply wander around and figure things out on accident. But rather Christ structures this family with an organization and goals that will help His church live in the awesome life He made for it. To live as the amazing family he created it to be. To experience all the unmistakable, irreplaceable, and unmatchable pride, confidence, safety, security, and belonging that comes at an eternally greater level in the family of God!
Watch how Paul takes us to the practical way the family is supposed to live and thrive in all this grace he has given us.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Those who have been given the gifts of teaching are to use those gifts to equip or “prepare ” the saints, so that, as a first objective,
Believers may do the work of “ministry ” or “service, ” and that, as an ultimate objective,
The church may be “built up, ” “reach unity in the faith, ” and “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. ”
This translation (the correct one) gives an immediate purpose to God’s giving of the teaching gifts: to equip the saints. It gives an ultimate purpose to God’s giving of these gifts: to build up the church. But it preserves the essential intermediate step which is an “every-member ministry. ” It follows that where this intermediate step is not taken, where the clergy try to do the whole work, there the church stagnates and divisions occur.3
As Robert Barclay pointed out in the seventeenth century and Elton Trueblood emphasizes so well in modern times, “the conventional modern distinction between the clergy and laity simply does not occur in the New Testament at all. ” There are indeed pastors, as distinct from other Christians. But the difference is one of spiritual gifts and service rather than of ministry versus non-ministry. Above all, it is not a matter of “priests ” versus those who can only serve a lesser function.4
To build up would involve both the quantitative expansion (the adding of new converts) of the family and the qualitative growth, or maturing, of the existing body.
Notice how the clergy and laity are all in the family of God equally. Also, notice the role of clergy is not to do the work of building the church up quantitatively or qualitatively but to equip the church to do the work!
The clergy certainly should equip, teach, and coach the church by doing it themselves. But it is not to the exclusion of the laity but rather for the purpose of participating with the laity in the very same work. The job of the clergy is not primarily the work but rather what all is involved in equipping the masses of the church to do the work. The work of quantitatively and qualitatively building up Christ’s family.
Here is where I want to focus. Clearly, quantitatively means to engage those far from God with the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can repent and believe in Him. We want others to join the family! But what are the goals to qualitatively build up the church? The goals for what we are supposed to be simultaneously laboring for within the family?
Paul points us to the three qualitative goals for the church. See if you can catch them in the verses of today’s passage,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:13-16)
3 Goals for Every Christian to Contribute to in the Church
Help each other become spiritual adults. (4:13)
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
“The faith ” – the EFFORT by which we all live our lives, that is the effort to live totally surrendered to and obedient to Christ, trusting in all He accomplished for us and has for us in our future. The faith that is based on.
“The knowledge of the Son of God ” – the effort to know and follow Christ is based on the knowledge of WHO CHRIST ACTUALLY IS. anything other than the actual knowledge of the Son of God leads to faith/following somebody other than the son of GOD!
“to mature manhood (ADULTHOOD. but what kind of adulthood. what measure of adulthood ? ?. well.), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
“stature ” – metaph. of an attained state fit for a thing. 2 stature, i.e in height and comeliness of stature.5
“The expression “the fulness of Christ, ” refers to the sum of the qualities which make Christ what He is. These are to be imaged in the Church (1:23), and when these are in us we shall have reached our maturity and attained to the goal set before us. Thus the whole idea will be this—‘the measure of the age, or (better) the stature, that brings with it the full possession on our side of that which Christ has to impart—the embodiment in us the members, of the graces and qualities which are in Him the Head.’ ” 6
“true and full unity of faith is then found, when all thoroughly know Christ, the object of faith, alike, and that in His highest dignity as the Son of God. ” 7
So the goal is to help each other to be an adult. To mature to a manliness or womanliness that equals all that Christ is.
Paul is certainly pointing to the completion of the process that will not occur until Christ Himself returns and we are fully glorified and made like Him. But this does not exclude us from stirring each other towards this.
In verse 12 to build up the body is to build it up in the direction that God wants it to grow. What God wills for it to grow up into is spiritual adulthood. Therefore every Christian is to be involved in the lives of other Christians in their local church. We need to be involved in a local gathering of the family of God in a manner that stirs each other to become, and keep becoming, spiritual adults. Adult children of God.
But what does that mean? Let me give you two important comparisons of childhood vs. adulthood.
Children have to be taught right and wrong and be motivated to do right. Adults know right from wrong and are self-motivated to do right.
Even the most well-behaved kids still have to be taught right from wrong and, equally important, be motivated to do right. There have to be real-time consequences to teach children that doing wrong has a bad outcome but doing right has a good outcome.
However, adults don’t need that. A sign of adulthood is that you now know right from wrong and you are self-motivated to do right. As a child of God that clearly means you not only understand Christ’s commands but you are self-motivated to obey Jesus.
Children are consumers who generally don’t take responsibility. Adults are contributors who take responsibility.
Children don’t even take responsibility for themselves. They won’t brush their teeth, take a bath, go to bed, or do their homework unless you tell them. They won’t offer to clean the house, cook the food, wash the dishes, or pay the electric bill.
Why? Because they are children!
Children have to be taught to think and act like adults. It doesn’t simply happen. But one of the signs they have become adults is that they start taking responsibility for their own needs. Even more importantly, they start taking on the responsibility of contributing to the needs of others.
This comes first and foremost with their own family. Adults see what their family needs, initiate contributing to those needs, and take responsibility that those needs are met.
Adults are consumers (we all are!) but they are also self-motivated contributors. Adults don’t first look to consume. They first look to contribute.
In the body of Christ, the leaders of the Church are supposed to provide tools to all those in the church. These tools equip believers to encourage one another, teach one another, challenge one another and help one another become spiritual adults who:
- know right from wrong,
- are motivated to do right because it’s right, and
- take responsibility to contribute to the needs of the family.
Especially their local family: their local church!
Christians work to not only obey Christ themselves but they take responsibility to help others learn to obey Christ – to be spiritual adults!
Help each other become spiritually wise. (4:14)
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
The primary cause of drama in any family is foolish living. Emotional, financial, or relational foolishness all contribute to a family that has no peace because it is in constant drama. And a family in constant drama is the wish of nobody!
In contrast, spiritual wisdom is the ability to rightly understand the faith and make life decisions based on that. To emotionally live from that knowledge. To recognize when things are being said or done that move the church away from the awesome life and mission we have in Christ to a religious replica.
Two weeks ago, I gave the illustration of God using trials to form us into ships who are able to point themselves into the waves of life and continue forward towards the destination of living. God’s will is to grow you into the stature of Christ so that you can be a ship that knows its destination and takes responsibility to accomplish the things to get there. For you to find the joy of accomplishing things that move you toward a place that is worth laboring to get to!
But, as long as a church is Biblically ignorant and lacks spiritual adulthood, it will be caught up in every fad of doctrine that comes along. We’ll be nothing more than a group of people stranded on a raft in the ocean.
Too many churches are made up of people on rafts. They can’t accomplish anything other than exist in drama. And if you are stranded on a raft it’s understandable why there would be some drama!
Churches end up on these rafts because they are not laboring together to grow each other up. They are not laboring together to truly know the truth and be shaped by it. They do not take responsibility to grow each other up.
The result is that they are simply afloat at sea together being tossed about by every wind of doctrine, every storm of life, every human and worldly distraction disguised as something to do with Jesus. Every wind that blows across the ocean of life knocks them all over the place.
Because you can’t really direct where you’re going on a raft. You just get taken somewhere on it.
Help each other exist in the context of love! (4:15-16)
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The key word in verses 15 and 16 is a two-letter word. “In” expresses the location of something, which defines your context.
In real estate, the phrase is “location, location, location.” If you have a 5,000 square-foot house with marble countertops and all the latest expensive flooring, fixtures, and finishings, but the house is located in the middle of a neighborhood run by gangs and meth labs, then your house is worthless! On the other hand, you can go to Charlotte and find a tiny 1,000 square-foot house that is worth a fortune because it’s located near all the cool restaurants and entertainment venues!
Location, location, location!
The goal of every Christian is to be involved in the lives of other people in the church. To help them grow up in the knowledge of God and of the faith. To become spiritual adults who live not as fools but with Biblical wisdom so that this third goal can be accomplished.
We should all contribute to each other in a way that creates the reality of love as what we are living in! That the context of our lives would be love. That the location of our lives would be love. That we would all contribute to this gathering of the family of God called Venture so that the reality of the existence of this family is the same love that God is.
God is love. And there is literally nothing that creates a righteous sense of pride, confidence, security, clarity and belonging more gloriously than the perfect pure love of God.
The leadership of the church is supposed to equip every person to contribute to the effort that makes love the reality of our existence together.
We live our lives in love. We teach each other to be adults in the reality of love. We teach each other to live wisely in the reality of LOVE. We work to make the dwelling place of our family love.
Every member of the family should actively contribute to what makes that reality happen.
How are you helping people in Venture become spiritual adults and how are you allowing others to do the same with you?
Focus on in-person and/or virtual spaces. Be in both if you want but be in one at least!
I’m not talking about simply watching worship but rather connecting with people. Be challenged by people, encouraging people, laboring to serve, and open to being served.
- Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (pp. 155–156). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 134–135). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.
- Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 140–141). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.
- Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 141). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.
- Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
- Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 102). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 102). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.