Ephesians 4:12-13: The goal of the church’s life, part 3.
Thursday January 6, 2022
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
Gifts are given to each believer for the sole purpose of equipping other believers for ministering work and thus the entire body of Christ is built up.
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
The second half of the sentence tells us that the process of equipping, serving, and building up the body will continue until all of us arrive at the faith, full knowledge, and maturity of Christ. Some think it will go on forever because Christ is infinite. That may be. No one really knows. It is known that coming to know Christ is the greatest journey there could ever be, therefore we should not be concerned if it never ends.
God is not going to allow any of us to lag behind or to be less than completely full of Christ.
If we just take what Paul writes plainly, every member of the body of Christ will arrive at the perfect fulness of Christ.
This is a difficult statement. It would mean that even the carnal believers in Corinth, even if they remained carnal until they died would have to one day be as perfectly mature as Jesus Christ. So then why should they bother changing their ways?
Do you want to know all about someone you love deeply in order to get something else or to avoid losing something else? Love for the Savior is the motivation of every maturing saint.
Expositor’s commentary on Eph 4:13 “The statement of the great object of Christ's gifts and provision made by Him for its fulfillment is now followed by a statement of the time this provision and the consequent service are to last, or the point at which the great end in view is to be realized. It is when the members of the Church have all come to their proper unity and maturity in their Head. ... Paul gives no clear indication of the time, and it may be, therefore, that he has in view only the goal itself and the attainment of it at whatever time that may take effect.”
Wuest adds that Paul has in mind the full spiritual maturity of each saint. I really don’t think that any of us can achieve this in this life. However, it is exactly what each of us are to be striving for – the maturity that equals the fulness of Christ, which is the sum of the qualities that make Christ what He is.
“The apostle has in mind the spiritual maturity of each saint. The words, "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," further define what Paul means by the mature saint. 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.” [Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament]
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.
Wuest, in his commentary, reaches ahead to the more profound thought, or rather question, of whether we will ever, even in eternity, arrive at the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ.
“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.'" The term, "spiritual maturity," as applied to a Christian, is ever a relative one, not an absolute one. Paul, in Phi 3:12 disclaims absolute spiritual maturity, while in Phi 3:15, he claims relative maturity of Christian experience. This process of conforming the saint to the image of Christ begins in this life in the work of the Spirit in sanctification and is never completed in eternity, for the finite can never equal the infinite nor even remotely approach to it. Christ's perfections are so wonderful that the saints will ever bear but a dim reflection of them. This is the distance between finiteness and infinity.” [Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament]
Wuest suspects that we can never completely equal the image of Christ, but he can only conjecture this idea.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
Unity of faith – all that is to be believed about the Trinity and His plan for the redemption, calling, predestination, and glorification of mankind.
What we are all attaining to is the rest of the sentence, which is all linked together in the Person of Christ. Unity of faith, all that is to be believed that is true and promised; full knowledge of the Son of God, knowing everything about Him which give us the status of maturity, and incredibly, as measured by the maturity of Christ.
The one faith that is a part of the church’s foundation:
… is also the church’s goal – to come to fully believe everything about the faith. All of our defects are, at bottom, deficiencies of faith. We fail to apprehend and appropriate the fulness of God in Christ. Faith is the essence of the heart’s life: it forms the common consciousness of the body of Christ.
And if faith is the central organ of the church’s life, the Son of God is its central object. Unfortunately, from the beginning of the church until now, many have believed in Christ and received blessing from Him, but whose knowledge of Him has been defective. They have been little instructed in the truth and so have been easily tossed about in the haze of philosophy and empty deceit, gaining only more erroneous or uncertain views of Christ. This great problem has led to a very divided church.
We may hold divergent opinions on church order (how many officers, how often we gather and for how long), or sacraments (water baptism, frequency of communion); the nature of the future judgment; the dialect we prefer to describe the spiritual life – and yet retain, not withstanding, a large measure of cordial unity and find ourselves able to co-operate with each other for many Christian purposes. But, if our differences concern the Person of Christ, it is felt at once to be fundamental. There is a gulf between those who know Him and worship Him and those who do not. Meet a believer from any other church or denomination who knows and loves the Lord and you find an instant kin. It is obvious that the division of faith comes from a lack of knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith, knowledge of Christ, and a comfortable grasp of them both is the experience that is wisdom. It must not be missed that this status will be of all in the body of Christ, and all of us united together.
All believers have faith, but not all have a clarity of faith in all aspects of Christ and their relationship to Him – not yet.
In this context “unity of the faith” would mean that every one of us together would have a full and completely unobscured faith in everything about the life, way, and truth of the Son of God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit (Christ is emphasized here); a faith that is perfect and unwavering in everything that God has revealed.
And until we all attain to the full knowledge of the Son of God.
“knowledge” – epignosis = full knowledge. It means knowing everything about Him. We all will either attain it or always be increasing in it in eternity.
The unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God is followed by a prepositional phrase with the preposition eis again – to a mature man. Mature comes from the Greek word meaning complete or perfect, and translated just right.
Jesus Christ was the perfect man. In Him our nature attained, without the least flaw, its true end – to be conformed to Him and to glorify God. In Christ’s fulness the plentitude of God is embodied; it is made human and therefore attainable by faith.
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge [full knowledge] of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
“In Jesus Christ, humanity rose to its ideal stature; and we see in Him the proper level of our nature, the dignity and worth to which we have to rise.” [Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians]