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Coming to Unity of the Faith

(Ephesians 4:1-16)

Lesson 9 -- fourth quarter 2008
November 2, 2008

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2008

What makes a church grow?

When I read of a congregation that is growing in numerical size, I almost always wonder if corresponding spiritual growth is taking place. I have to wonder, though, if I'm not also inclined to excuse my congregation's lack of growth in numbers by saying we are growing in spirituality.

I believe that a congregation's spiritual growth will naturally and inevitably lead to its numerical growth. So what causes a church to grow spiritually? Let's notice some factors from today's text.

Gifts (11-14). In His desire and work to see His church grow, God has given her gifts. These gifts take the form of members, every member! I believe the Scriptures teach clearly that God has purposefully placed each member in each congregation to enable it to grow toward fulness and completeness in Christ. Furthermore, God gives gifts to each of these members. And the proper use of these gifts will bring spiritual growth to the church.

Truth (15). Truth alone will likely do little to cause spiritual growth. Truth must be expressed before it can effectively do its work. Interestingly, though, for truth to be effective it must be communicated in love. So where does truth fit in your life and in the life of your congregation? May each of us stand on, walk in, and live by truth.

Head (15,16). Here you have an amazing truth: the Head of the church enables all the members to work together. And when we all work together, we grow -- and grow up -- together in Him! Without the Head as the source of and reason for unity in the church, we would never grow spiritually. Is Christ truly the Head of your church? Remember, for Him to be so, He must be the Head of every individual member . . . including you. (By the way, just what does it mean for Christ to be the Head of a congregation or of an individual?!)

Members (16). As we already noted earlier, God has gifted every member in such a way as to bring to the body what it needs for growth and development. For such spiritual growth to take place, each member must faithfully supply its part and effectually do its assigned task. Nobody is along for the ride! These verses behoove us to be faithful stewards of the gift and position God has given us in -- and for -- the church.

I believe that each of these four elements is so important to spiritual growth and maturity that we cannot do without any. Ultimately, of course, three of these depend totally on the other one -- without Him we can do nothing.

Follow the leader?

But how difficult it has been at times to accept the fact that God wants to lead me...by using other men to do so! I want to look into the Lord's eye myself; I don't always want to submit to "mere men" for direction from the Lord. I need to be wary lest I take the doctrine of the priesthood of believers and "stretch" it to include an insubordinate, independent spirit. I do not wish to fall into the error of some in the past who have declared: "Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (Numbers 12:2).

I want to remember God has given ordained brethren as gifts to the church. He chose these men so He might use them "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12). God has put me under the influence and leadership of my congregation's ministry so He might guide me with His eye! In Hebrews 13:7, God very plainly establishes my duty to emulate the proven faith of my leaders: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."

However, not all leaders are faithful leaders who are safe to follow. And not all faithful leaders always lead in the right direction in every area. Even the Apostle Paul qualified his statement, "Be ye followers of me" with this one: "even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Other Chewables from the Text

If we fail to achieve verses two and three, we are not walking worthy of our vocation (1).
      Oh, and by the way -- vocation here translates the same Greek word as calling in verse 4.

"And he gave...apostles...prophets...evangelists...pastors and teachers...for the perfecting of the saints...for the edifying of the body of Christ" (11,12). Listen to the teaching and follow the example of the godly leaders and teachers God has brought into your life. Study their writings. Apply their precepts. Then you will avoid deception.
      God has given these men to the church to help Him accomplish His plan for the church!

Maturity is attainable (13) so don't give up!

What do others learn about God from you? (13)

When we interact with one another in truth and love, we experience growth in Christ in all things (15).

My Spanish Bible says "following" instead of "speaking" in verse 15!

We need to remember that "God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." We must not forget that it is God Himself that has "tempered the body together." And He did it so the whole body might be "fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part" (16).

I cannot hope to develop and mature spiritually on my own. God, in His mercy, has placed me in His body (the Church) so that I might benefit from the contributions of every other member of that body. I have available all the resources to become what God wishes me to be! (16)

Body questions

How many members does it take to make a body?

Who or what unites the body?

What are the three "unity of" statements in this passage? What do you make of each?

Which is more important, the eye or the hand?

What is wrong with that question?

Who put you in your congregation? Who put So-and-So there? What are the implications to these answers?

EXPLAIN: When I look down on a brother or question the body's need of him, I do so at my own peril and to my own detriment.

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