Ephesians 4:13-16

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 7, 2006


Today we’re going to talk a bit about growing up …


All Grown UP

They say you’re not a kid anymore WHEN...

You quit trying to hold in your stomach, no matter who walks into the room.
You enjoy watching the news.
The only reason you’re still awake at 4 am is indigestion.
People ask what color your hair USED to be.
You start singing along with the elevator music.
You consider coffee one of the most important things in life.
8 AM is your idea of “sleeping in”.
You say the words “Turn that music down!”
You wear black socks with sandals.
You point out what buildings used to be where.
You know all the warning signs of a heart attack.

Today we’re going to talk about what it’s like to grow up as a Christian, and how to grow up.

Ephesians 4:13-16

:13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

the unity of the faith

In Paul’s day, the issue was the division between the Jews and the Gentiles within the church. One of the results of the ministry of apostles, prophets, etc. should be the unity of the church, the Jews and Gentiles accepting each other.

In our day, the ministry of pastor/teachers ought to be instructing us towards the unity of the church, not the dividing of the church.

to the measure of the stature … helikia – stature, i.e in height and comeliness of stature

The Body of Christ needs to grow up to be mature, like Jesus.


Something we do in our family from time to time is to have our kids stand behind us back to back to see how much they’ve grown. We see how close they are to being as tall as mom or as tall as dad.
The church needs to keep growing with the goal of being as “tall” as Jesus. To be as pure, as loving, as gracious, as forgiving as Jesus.


Growing up

Our goal as Christians and as a church is to grow up.
Paul called the Corinthians immature, “carnal”, “babes”.
(1 Cor 3:1-4 NKJV) And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. {2} I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;

Peter talks about the “pure milk of the Word” (1Pet. 2:2), but here the idea of “milk” is more like “baby food” in contrast with adult food. He’s calling them babies.

{3} for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? {4} For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal?

The thing that pointed to their immaturity was their inability to get along with each and how they were divided.

Sign of Immaturity #1:  Division.  Thinking your group is better than everyone else.

The writer to the Hebrews rebukes his readers because they too were immature.
(Heb 5:9-14 NKJV) And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, {10} called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," {11} of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. {12} For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. {13} For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. {14} But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

It seems that “milk” here would refer to the basics, like how be forgiven and find salvation.

“Solid food” or “meat” is what mature people eat as opposed to simply milk.

The person that is old enough to eat the “meat” of the word is a person who has learned by experience what is right and wrong, a person who has learned to walk in obedience to the Lord.

Sometimes we get to thinking that the “meat” is the “deep” things, something that makes you go “wow, I never saw that before …”. But the key to “meat” is obedience to the Lord. It may involve some “wow” things, but it really centers on whether or not you have learned to walk in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord.

Sign of Immaturity #2:  Disobedience.  You don’t take God seriously when He asks you to do something.

:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

The Greek words Paul uses here speak of violent storms that toss boats around on the ocean.

The thing that tosses immature Christians around is bad “doctrine”, bad “teaching”.


Strange winds

It seems that there’s always some “new” thing going through the churches.
Sometimes it’s things that come from inside the church

Years ago it was being “slain” in the Spirit where people would fall over when they were prayed for.

Then there were the years when the latest thing was to have “holy laughter” in the church where people were supposedly baptized with the Holy Spirit and they would break out into uncontrollable laughter. Then people started barking like dogs.

There was even a church in South America that claimed that when people were filled with the Holy Spirit, that they would get gold dust in their hair (which proved to be a hoax, it was just gold plastic).

Sometimes it’s things that come from outside the church.

This year we have this supposed new “gospel of Judas” which has popped up to tell us that Judas was really misunderstood and that he was really the good guy trying to help Jesus win freedom from his physical body.

In a few weeks we’ll be talking more and more about the silly ideas that are found in the book and upcoming movie, “The DaVinci Code”. Starting next week I’ll be giving two weeks to address the book and it’s problems.

Sign of Immaturity #3:  Easily swayed.  You find yourself looking for the latest “thing” in spiritual things.


The danger of the “new thing”

I think that one of the aspects of being human that gets us into trouble is our love for the “new thing”.
I imagine that it’s not a bad thing to put a sticker that says “new” on a product, I imagine it helps things sell better. Most of us are always looking for the new or updated version of the thing we want.

There’s a commercial where a guy is on his morning jog through the park. He passes a couple of folks who are also on their morning run. They all have their ipods or headsets on as they run. But this guy is carrying a big boombox on his shoulder as he runs.

There’s another commercial where everyone is sitting around in a place like Starbucks with their Blackberries and laptops, hard at work. But in the background you hear an old, familiar sound. It’s the tap, tap, tap of an old IBM typewriter. Then you see the guy at the table in the middle of the store typing away on an old Selectric.

The tagline on both commercials is, “Time to upgrade?” Then they want you to buy a new car …

“New and improved” may be a good idea with things like tires and cell phones, but there are some things where “new” isn’t necessarily “improved”.
Getting a “new” wife or a “improved” husband is not what you think it is. It’s best to stay where you are and work on things.
The same goes for areas of “doctrine” in the church.
That doesn’t mean that we have to sing the same old boring hymns with the pipe organ every week. That’s church “practice”, not “doctrine”.
But when it comes to what the Bible teaches, you ought to be careful with someone who thinks they can do better than what the Bible says.
Over the years, a good test for the things that go blowing through the church is to ask three questions: Is it taught in the Gospels? Is it practiced in the book of Acts? Is it explained in the Epistles?

If it’s not, then it just might be another one of those “winds”.

I guess you could say that a mark of a “mature” believer is one who is in the Word enough to recognize these silly “winds”.

:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;

We’ll talk more about this in a minute.

:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

We are all a part of the body of Christ.

And if I’m following Paul correctly here, he is saying that two things cause the growth of the body.

Jesus –He’s the “head”, the one from whom the whole body is grown up from.

You – you are a part of the body, and the body needs each of us to do our part to grow up.


Growth Tip #1:  Be a part

You and I are all parts of the Body of Christ.  We all have different functions, but we’re all important for the Body to work properly.
A while ago I had my silly accident where I fell off the back of a truck and injured my arm.  At first I was pretty satisfied that it was only my left arm that was injured.  I’m right handed.  But as time has worn on, I’ve become more and more aware of how much I need and use my left arm/wrist/hand.  Silly little things like how I put my shirt on in the morning, how I brush my teeth, even how I blow my nose.  I found that it started taking me three times the amount of time just to get ready in the morning.  Then there’s things like lifting boxes, moving furniture, things that are important when it comes to moving an office. 
Saying it was “just my left arm” wasn’t enough to fix the problem of missing it.
You and I are all important to the church.  It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re “just a left arm”, God wants to use you.  The church functions much better when you’re around.  God has things for you to do.  Be a part of it.

:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;

Here’s where Paul gives us some solid guidance on what helps us to grow up. There are two important words here: Truth. Love.


Growth Tip #2:  Truth

We have lots of things that we will call “the Truth”.  Jesus is the “Truth” (John 14:6).  The gospel - that Jesus died for our sins and that we can be forgiven and receive eternal life if we will trust in Jesus – that too is “the Truth”.
But I think it’s much broader than that.
I think that speaking the truth is a key to growing up.
speaking the truthaletheuo – to speak, tell, teach, or profess the truth. This word is based on the word for “true”, alethes, which literally means “not hidden”.
Sometimes we have the notion that we can cover up the truth and that would be okay, just as long as we don’t blatantly tell a lie.
I’m not sure that floats with this idea of “truth”, “not being hidden”.

Emperor's New Clothes

It was Hans Christian Andersen that told the story of the Emperor and his new clothes. The great emperor was a man who liked to impress people with his clothes. He wanted to have a new suit, the finest in the world. A pair of swindlers told him they would make a suit out of a rare, invisible cloth and only those lacking wisdom could not see the cloth. The emperor commissioned the new wardrobe.

Finally the day came for the emperor to show off his new clothes, and he began to parade himself around the streets, naked. The people of the city didn’t have the courage to tell the emperor the truth. It was a small child who was brave enough to remark, “The emperor’s naked!”

It’s bad enough to be lied to by swindlers, but it seems just as bad when good people hide the truth as well
I think that sometimes we get the idea that telling the truth could get us into trouble:

Tonto and son

The Tonto says to his son, “Son, you push-um outhouse off-um cliff?” The kid says, “No, me no push-um outhouse off-um cliff.” Tonto says, “Son, me tell-um you story of Great White Father, George Washington. Many moons ago, when Great White Father was young boy, him chop-um down cherry tree. Him father ask-um, ‘Georgie, you chop-um down cherry tree?’ George say-um, ‘Cannot tell lie, Father. Me chop-um down cherry tree.’ Him father say, ‘Georgie bad, but Georgie honest, so you no get-um punishment.’ Now I ask-um you again...you push-um outhouse off-um cliff?” The kid says, “Yes, Father, me push-um outhouse off-um cliff.” Then Tonto grabs the kid and beats the tar out of him. The kid says, “Father, Great White Father tell truth and get-um off scott-free. I tell-um truth...why you beat-um tar out of me?” Tonto says, “George Washington’s father not in cherry tree when George chop-um down.”

Warren Wiersbe writes,
Little children do not know how to blend truth and love. They think that if you love someone, you must shield him from the truth if knowing the truth will hurt him. It is a mark of maturity when we are able to share the truth with our fellow Christians, and do it in love[1]
(Prov 27:6 NKJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Doctors – I know that some people do whatever they can to avoid going to the doctor or the dentist. I think that some have the mentality that what they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t enjoy going to the doctor. Or the dentist. But knowing my family’s history of heart disease, I feel like I owe it to my wife and boys as well as you all to make sure I head things off at the pass. I may not be thrilled to know that my cholesterol is sky high, I may not like being told that I’m overweight, I may not like knowing that my blood pressure is too high. But if I know about it, at least I can choose whether or not I’m going to do something about it. If I didn’t go to the doctor, who knows how much longer I’d be around.

Truth is a key to me growing up … for all of us to grow up.


Growth Tip #3:  Love

Some people are good at speaking the truth. And they’re constantly in your face reminding you of everything you’ve ever done or said that was wrong. They seem to find it their calling in life to criticize and belittle everyone and everything around them.
Paul uses that strange Greek word, agape, for “love”. The Greeks had other words for “love”, some describing human sexual love, others describing the love for family, another word describing the love of emotions and friendship. but none of these words quite described the kind of love that God has for us and that we ought to have for one another. And so we believe that Jesus and His disciples took an unknown word and gave it a depth of meaning to describe this love of God, and they used the word agape. Paul gave us the fullest definition:
(1 Cor 13:1-8 NKJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
You may be good at speaking the truth. You may be good at speaking your mind, but if you don’t do it in love, it doesn’t do anyone any good.
People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.
So what is “love”? Is it having a physical attraction to someone? Is it having a warm feeling in your heart, a “sentimental” feeling about a person? Is it “feeling good” about a person? No. Paul then goes on to define what he means by “love”.
{4} Love suffers long (or, “is patient”) and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; {5} does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil (or, “doesn’t keep a record of wrongs”); {6} does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; {7} bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. {8} Love never fails…
We might think that some people are good at telling it like it is, but they do not communicate it with love.
We might look at others and think that they’re good at “loving” people, but they don’t always tell us what they need to tell us.
Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.
Would you rather have your surgeon use a serrated bread knife or a sharp scalpel?  Which one leaves a scar?
Sometimes we might think that it doesn’t matter how we say it as long as we say it.  That’s wrong.  It does matter how we say it.
The key to growing up is both – speaking the truth in love.

[1]Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989. Eph 4:12.