Ephesians 4:13 The grace that insures our full stature in Christ
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.
The purpose of God’s grace and the inter-working of the five-fold ministries is described in the above passage. Although individual ministers may not have full purview of the process of church growth. But the providence of God and His grace ensures that the church reach the stature of the fullness of Christ. Paul in this passage describes the four milestones of church growth towards Christ-likeness.
The function of the five-fold ministers is to bring the church to maturity and to equip her members for the work of ministry. Paul elaborates on the four milestones of church growth that reflects her maturity: unity of the faith; knowledge of the Son of God; mature manhood; and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Unity of faith represents oneness and camaraderie in the call to evangelize our world and to build God’s Kingdom. Hence, a church that is united in faith has passion for the ministry of Christ and practices sacrificial living. Such a church has a high proportion of their members serving as volunteers in the ministry; they can also be mobilised quickly for ministry work.
The knowledge of the Son of God concerns Christ’s position as the Son of God; Christ’s redemptive work through His death and resurrection; and the believer’s new identity in Christ. A church with a strong knowledge of the Son of God will be secure in their identity as sons. At the same time, through their identity they derive their high calling to reign over creation and possess the passion to do the works of Christ.
Mature manhood concerns the culture of maturity, where believers take personal responsibility for their own growth and to exercise authority over their circumstances that befits their new identity as sons. The opposite of this virtue is childishness, immaturity and self-centeredness. A church befitting the culture of maturity does not focus on the cares of life, but in doing the Father’s business. As such, her members are not needy requiring frequent pastoral attention, but develop a dependence on God through the discipline of reading and meditating on the word and prayer. In the culture of mature manhood, members learn to serve one another and put the interests of others above their own.
The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ represents the life stage of a church where she begins to function at the capacity of Christ in His wisdom, character and power in transforming the world. Here, we see power and miracles at work; we see the hard truths of Christ being preached and lived out; we see love and sacrificial giving among the members; and we see the passion to reach out to the community. At the same time, there is humility, gentleness and inclusiveness in the members. The church practices holy living and is gracious to include others who have different moral convictions, religious and cultural backgrounds.
As the church grows from having a correct knowledge of the Son of God, to acquiring a right culture of mature manhood towards the full stature of Christ, the church becomes more united in faith towards the calling of God to evangelize the world.
1. As the church endeavors to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, her members are nevertheless at various stages of maturity and commitment to God. More mature believers must never despise the less mature ones but understand that each person’s work will be judged by God and be rewarded by Him. Hence, they must continue to serve God and not be affected by others; serving willingly without complaining. In this way, more mature believers become enduring examples of sacrificial living that inspire others to follow.
2. Members must constantly be reminded of their identity and calling in Christ: the knowledge of the Son of God. The motivation to live godly lives and to fulfill their calling comes first and foremost from the knowledge of their identity. Many churchgoers who continue to live self-centered lives have its roots in the erroneous teachings concerning Christ and His calling. A correct teaching of the knowledge of the Son of God will inevitably lead to a culture of mature manhood. The culture of mature manhood stresses on putting the interests of others before their own and in growing in competence and authority. Excessive emphasis over dependence on God for everything and not taking responsibility for oneself leaves one stunted in growth and he remains as a child forever. For a child, the whole world revolves around him. But for the mature man, his whole life revolves around God and His business. As believers grow in maturity, the church attains the full stature of Christ, which is perfect obedience towards God (see figure below).
Understand your current stage of growth. Are you still struggling with self-esteem and life goal issues? Is the motive of your service to make yourself look good or is it out of love and gratitude? Do you find it difficult to submit to God in certain areas of your life? Seek out your mentor and discuss with him/her what you could do about it.
Dear Lord, I thank You for adopting me as Your son. Help me to understand with clarity my role in Your Kingdom building plans. Develop in me the extraordinary grace to give and to serve out of my need. Strengthen me in Your grace to obey You even though I do not fully understand Your ways. Make me like Jesus in His wisdom, character and power. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.