“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 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 4:14–16, NASB95)
So, what does unity of faith look like? Paul continued from verse 13 instructions for growing toward maturity in Christ, or growing to our full stature in Him. In these next verses He speaks to how growth in instruction and practice leads to resulting maturity and unity. First, he pointed to what we move away from, which is the way the world does things. Having grown in our knowledge of Christ and His Word we are no longer subject to the words of those who promote other things. We know the truth, and from this we are able to distinguish falsehood. Beyond the leadership guarding the teaching in the church, we as individual members grow in such a way that we both individually and together can stand on that same truth and recognize and reject other teachings.
When you don’t know what something looks like it is much easier for someone to convince you that it is something other than what it really is. We are easily deceived when we are uninformed. But having grown in our own knowledge of the truth we can recognize situations of falsehood and even step in to speak to others when they might be showing signs of being deceived themselves, and the way we are to do this is by speaking the truth in love. Because we love one another, we in love exhort and encourage one another to listen to the truth and follow it with their whole hearts. It is not because obeying the Bible will save anyone, but because our God who sent His Son to save us also gave us His Word, and He has instructed us to hide His Word in our hearts and follow after it as our response of love. We speak the truth in love to others because in truth and grace Christ came to show us that same truth and then the Spirit moved men to record that truth for us even today.
In the last post I pointed to James 1:19 where we read that everyone is to be quick, slow to speak, and slow to anger. A few verses earlier in the same chapter we read, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5–8, NASB95) In these verses we see the same contrast. God has given us His Word and His wisdom so that we might listen to Him and move forward trusting Him by faith. But like the ones who are uninformed about the truth and who listen to various teachings, so is the man who comes to God for an answer but then also rushes off to others places as well. The Bible tells us that these people who listen to multiple voices are unstable in all of their ways, and the picture we are given is that they are like the surf of the sea being tossed about by the fierce winds. In other words, we set ourselves up for these internal storms when we neglect to align ourselves with God’s singular truth and listen to His voice.
And as we listen to Christ, we also read that we are to submit every aspect of our lives to His purview. I like this word “purview” because it speaks to the range of oversight, authority, influence and control over something or someone. Jesus Christ has full authority over our lives. We are no longer are our own. We have been bought with a price, and we belong to Him. There is no aspect of our lives that is outside of His oversight, authority, influence and control. Everything about us is to be submitted to Him, and then as we do that He is faithful such that we grow in every aspect into Him who is our head.
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and He is the head of every member. He is the head of the body and every element of His body is subject to His headship. He is the one through whom we were given access according to the will of the Father, and He is the one who holds it all together. I was sick for a couple of days. Tuesday was a day off and yesterday I had to call in. My body was yelling at me in a variety of ways and there were parts of my body that were not functioning as they normally should. This happens to us as we struggle in these bodies given to us. These bodies are subject to illness, disease, and even eventual decay. But the body that will not pass is the one we have been made a part of in Jesus Christ. He, in concert with the Father and the Spirit, have determined how it is to function and how each and every member is to contribute. This is what we read in 1 Corinthians 12 we read,
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, NASB95) … “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:11–13, NASB95)
We read that the Spirit does the fitting. Then with that fitting we are called to properly function. We can step into a lot of areas from time to time to do things which may not best suit who it might seem that God has made us to be, but over time as we grow in Christ as one body that body is to more and more reflect the properly functioning image of Christ. The reality is that here there is no perfect church and all of us are in different stages of growth. All of us have weakness and failings and we generally are pretty good at seeing them in others. But as we work together to build up and encourage one another, even stepping into those other areas to help the rest of the body and in turn ourselves, we get a real glimpse of exactly what Paul is writing about in these verses.
This is what a group of believers gathered together as a local body of believers do with and for one another as they live their lives loving one another out of their response of love for Christ. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Peter responded that he did. And, three times Jesus told Him to take care of His sheep. This was Peter’s call to ministry, but it is also our call as we respond in love by lovingly building into one another such that we all function optimally in His body—the church.