"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."
- Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
Honestly, I didn't even know there could be so many commas in one sentence, but once you dig through all of the pieces it's clear that Paul is calling the church in Ephesus to do one thing: Grow up into Christ. Paul isn't talking about merely becoming an adult, paying your bills, getting married and having kids, he's calling us to a maturity that is only found in Christ. It's the same maturity he outlines in Ephesians 4:13 where "we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..." but in verses 15-16 he builds upon this definition to show that this maturity can only be achieved when pursued in tandem with two things: love and community.
why love and community?
A big misconception about maturity is thinking that it’s synonymous with or directly correlated to gaining knowledge. However, the type of maturity that Paul is calling the Ephesians to isn’t based on knowledge, but rather he says it’s found in love. He says speaking the truth in love and the body (church) building itself up in love are crucial parts of becoming mature. In fact, Paul himself states earlier in Ephesians 3:19 that it’s “the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge.” You see, knowledge is a catalyst for growth, but is worthless if your life and relationship with Jesus are not rooted in and founded upon love. We need knowledge of who Jesus is in order to grow up into Him, but this can only happen once we understand His love for us and the love He has called us to have towards others.
Paul is also intentional in using his favorite metaphor, the body, to describe our pursuit of maturity. He calls Jesus Christ the head and everyone else in the church a body part connected by joints. Let’s be clear, the text says Jesus “makes the body grow” (4:16), but this growth only happens “when each part is working properly.” Think of the human body. When it’s functioning properly, each body part grows in harmony with the parts around it. When just one body part is injured, all of the surrounding parts are inflamed causing pain to the entire body. One of the most dangerous tactics that the enemy uses (especially in the American church) is isolation. That’s because he knows how vital it is to the health of the body of Christ that each part stay connected to each other and to the head. He used it on me my sophomore year of college and although I grew in my knowledge of God during that time, my lack of connection to other Christians put a very low ceiling on my growth.
so how do we get there?
I’ll leave you with three things to help you gauge your journey towards maturity and up into Christ.
1. Remember that Jesus Christ is the only person who can grow you to maturity. You must seek Him first and with all you’ve got.
2. As you seek the Lord, also pursue each other and find Christians you connect with. The way in which you pursue Jesus will affect those around you as you bring Heaven to earth. YOU HAVE POWER AND INFLUENCE IN THE LIVES OF YOUR FRIENDS!
3. If you do nothing else, answer the question: What is love? There is no faster path to maturity than growing in love for the Lord and for those around you. (Hint: Go read 1 Corinthians 13)
Come and change our perspective on what maturity is in your eyes. Send your Holy Spirit so that we can experience your love for ourselves and show us the people in our lives that you want us to be connected with. Humble us, so that we may recognize you as the head of the body, and pursue you and those around us in love.