When the Church is unified and diverse, the Church begins to experience spiritual maturity. Ephesians 4:13-16 moves us into the picture of a mature man verses a child. Paul’s purpose in the metaphor is to encourage believers to grow up.
Spiritual maturity, or sanctification, isn’t a paint-by-numbers model. Each believer has a different story, a different journey that God has them on. When Jesus brings you from death to life, He doesn’t give you a step-by-step check list to follow. However, there are a few principles outlined in Scripture to help us move forward in our sanctification.
The one thing to keep in mind is that we never arrive. We will never experience perfection on this side of heaven, but that shouldn’t discourage our pursuit of Jesus and becoming more like Him.
BE LIKE JESUS
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. Ephesians 4:13
To be a mature man or spiritually mature, we must look to Jesus, our ultimate example. “The fullness of Christ” means to be perfected or completed in Jesus. If the goal is to be like Jesus, then we should long for the characteristics that are reflected by Jesus.
What are these characteristics? Well, that takes us back to the beginning of the chapter. We are to walk worthy of our calling with all humility, gentleness, patience, love, unity and peace (4:2).
When we pursue Jesus individually, how much more will we reflect Him corporately?
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. Ephesians 4:14
Paul wants all believers to understand that part of being spiritually mature is to know what you believe. To no longer be “tossed to and fro” by different doctrines.
You don’t have to be a parent to know that children are gullible. It is easy to convince them of things that aren’t true.
When I was little, I had a bad habit of swallowing my gum. I’m not sure why, when I could have easily spit it out. So my mom, knowing that it couldn’t be good for me, convinced me of the unfortunate outcome if I kept swallowing my gum. She told me that if I kept doing it, that a bubble gum tree would start to grow in my stomach. It would grow through the center of my body and eventually branches would grow out of my ears and nose. I was so scared of having leaves poke out of my nose that I stopped swallowing my gum! That is what Paul is saying, children or the spiritually immature, are easily fooled.
Christian, you will easily be deceived when you don’t know what you believe.
False teachers look for the weak and gullible. They twist the truth so slightly that it still sounds true, but it’s not (2 Peter 2:1-4). False teachings can look like:
- You’ll go to heaven if you’re a good person
- All religions are the same
- You deserve to be blessed
- When you have faith, you will never experience sickness or pain
- If you give financially, God will give you even more financially
- You have the ability to claim blessings for your life
All of these things may not sound false at first glance, but when you compare these ideas to the ideas presented in Scripture, they are unsupported.
That is why being grounded in doctrine and Scripture is vital to spiritual maturity. Part of the Christian life is to be continually growing (1 Peter 2:2).
But, don’t be overwhelmed, it is a process. The important thing is that you remain dedicated to knowing and understanding truth rather than someone else’s commentary or thoughts.
How do you do this? Check what people say. Whether it’s a family member, friend or favorite pastor, always compare their words to the Word of God.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ Ephesians 4:15
So many times, our understanding of doctrine creates a haughtiness in us. Instead of a deeper understanding of God leading to humility and awe, it often leads to pride or a judgmental spirit. That’s why this verse is so important.
Yes, we need to be grounded in our doctrine. Yes, we need to be constantly seeking truth. But, this understanding of truth should lead us to have a greater love for God and a greater love for people.
When we learn more about God, it should lead us to love God more. The more we love God, the less we look at and to ourselves. Learning about God gives us a greater understanding of who we are. This should cause us to speak truth in a way that draws people to Jesus, not make them want to run away.
All we do should be done in love, if not it’s all in vain (1 Corinthians 13). A mark of a spiritually mature person is someone who can speak truth in love. And in return, when you truly love someone, you will speak truth to them.
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 4:16
Our need for Jesus is very evident. We need His help to become more like Him. We also need one another.
Paul again alludes to the Church being a body, each believer contributing to the overall function and health of the body. Serving as the head of the body is Jesus, to which all believers submit and follow. Just think about your body, it starts at the head to determine what movements to do or words to say.
In the same way, Jesus determines the mission and direction of the Church. Each person matters in the body of Christ and plays a role in the mission of the Church. From the greeter to the worship leader, every person has a specific set of gifts given by God that strengthens the church.
As we mature in our faith individually, the Church gets healthier corporately. Together, we function as people with a greater hope to a watching world.
When you get involved in the Church, you begin to make an impact in the world around you. We need Jesus and we need one another.
God has each of us on a journey. The route may look a little different for each of us, but the destination is the same. Our sanctification brings us closer to God and molds us to look more like Jesus.
So, long to reflect Jesus, be grounded in your doctrine, speak truth in love and involve yourself in the mission of the Church.
The more you look like Jesus, the more the Church will look like Jesus.
by Emily LaGrone