“…until we all attain to…mature manhood…” (Ephesians 4:13)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:13
The goal of the special ministries given by Christ to the church is to build up his body. In this verse, Paul details what that body will look like when it attains this goal.
It will show itself firstly, he says, in “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). Two things are suggested by these words – the church, as it matures, grows in its understanding of “the common faith” (the truth of the gospel – see Titus 1:4), and in its experiential “knowledge of the Son of God.” Both aspects are important.
When the New Testament writers speak of “the faith,” they are usually referring to the body of truth that had been passed down to it by the apostles (2 Timothy 1:13, 14). Jude, for example, speaks of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It is appropriately called “the faith” as it is the basis of what we as Christians believe, and the source of the way we live. The entire Christian life can be thought of as a life of faith based on revealed truth.
It is one thing to receive this truth, but another to be established in it (Colossians 2:2, 7). It is still another to hold fast to it without swerving (see, for example, 1 Timothy 1:6, 19, 6:9, 21). Even before the apostles died, there were false teachers leading people astray (2 Peter 2:1ff.). There were also those who, out of mistaken zeal for the Law of Moses, insisted that believers had to be circumcised and observe Jewish dietary laws (Acts 15:1).
These things were sources of disunity (division) in the early church, even as doctrinal errors are in the church today. That is what makes the ministry of shepherds and teachers so vital to the church’s health. There is no way the church can build itself up, and reach “mature manhood,” without solid instruction in the faith and the exposure and rejection of errors.
Along with that, to grow and become mature, the church also needs to be vitally united to the Lord Jesus Christ. True doctrine will always point us to Christ. But more is needed than simply correct teaching about him. Christians belong to the Lord Jesus and are living members of his body. It is crucial for the health of the church that, like Paul himself, every believer should seek “to know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
This is the pathway to spiritual maturity. It also leads us gradually, step by step, into a greater measure of likeness to the Lord Jesus himself. This is the ultimate goal of hearing and learning the Word of God – becoming like the Son of God, reaching “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13).
In days when fewer and fewer people seem to be reading their Bibles, let alone studying them and valuing doctrinal instruction, we cannot be reminded too frequently of these things.
- Do you recognise the importance of constantly seeking to understand “the faith” better?
- How would you respond to someone who insists that “doctrine only divides people”?
– Andrew Young