So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
When we think about growing up, we tend to envision our own, individual growth. That’s only natural. Similarly, when we think about growing up as Christians, we also tend to focus on our own spiritual growth. That’s also only natural.
It’s good, but it isn’t enough. Yes, as individuals we should grow up in Christ. It turns out, however, that our individual growth turns out to be essentially connected to the growth of the Christian community. Ephesians 4:11-16 makes it abundantly clear that in the matter of Christian growth, it’s not just about you.
A quick walk through our passage reveals the corporate dimension of Christian maturity. In verses 11 and 12, Christ gives leaders to the church to equip all of God’s people for ministry, “so that the body of Christ may be built up” (corporate growth). Verse 13 adds, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” (more corporate growth). Moreover, the body of Christ is built up until we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (corporate growth, with a hint of individual growth). Verse 14 continues, “Then we will no longer be infants” (individual growth anticipated). Verse 15 adds: “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body” (corporate growth), “from whom the whole body… builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (corporate growth, with contribution from individuals). As you can see, the main emphasis of this passage is on the growth and maturity of the whole body of Christ.
Therefore, though we are right to want to grow up as individual Christians (see Colossians 1:28), full Christian maturity necessarily includes the growth of the body of Christ. Once again, when it comes to growing up in Christ, it’s not just about you. Your growth matters and so does that of the church. In fact, your growth in Christ is deeply entwined with the growth of your church and vice versa. You won’t grow to be all that God envisions you to be apart from Christian community. And the church won’t grow to be all that God envisions it to be apart from your contribution.
Something to Think About:
When you think of Christian growth and maturity, what comes to mind? Do you tend to think mainly of individual maturity? Or do you focus more on the growth of the church?
Do you see your maturity in Christ as necessarily connected to the growth of your church and vice versa? Why or why not?
Something to Do:
Make a short list of ways your Christian community has contributed to your growth in Christ. If possible, share this list with a friend or your small group.
Gracious God, I know that for me, I tend to think of Christian maturity in individualistic terms. I am not naturally inclined to think of my own maturity as connected to your body. Yet your Word is clear. So, I pray, help me to learn to think of my maturity in you as something that is part and parcel of the growth of your church. Give me a fresh perspective that leads to fresh action, so that I, along with your body, may grow up. Amen.