Be brought to completion by the Spirit, part four

Posted: Thu. Oct, 20 2016

 

The mountaintop

Last week, we visited the mountaintop.

We saw God the Father summing up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (EPH 1:10).

He is doing this by reconciling all things to Himself through Christ, having made peace by the blood of His cross - things in heaven and things on earth. (COL 1:20)

So now it’s time to come down from the mountaintop, and resume our daily lives as Christians. Only we do so as changed people.

Now we will listen to Him as He directs our daily lives into the love of God.  This will contribute to God’s grand project of reconciling all things to Himself through the blood  of Christ’s cross.

 

The cross

Because the cross is where God dealt with all the opponents of His great reconciliation.

COL 2:13-15
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

The cross dealt the strategic blow, the death blow, to sin (ROM 8:3), hostile decrees, the rulers and authorities, and death itself (2TI 1:10).

And think of it!  While WE were His enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. That’s ROM 5:10.

 

The Spirit’s work

And so now, we are invited to be completed by the Spirit as Christ’s body, the church.

Now God is using the growing church to accomplish His great work of reconciling all things to Himself.

Given its immense significance, every detail of this  work deserves our closest attention.

The specific details are presented  in chapters 4 through 6 of the book of Ephesians.

These specifics govern our walk: our daily life as members of the body of Christ.

EPH 4:1-5
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is  one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.


We are called to preserve the unity that the Spirit forged when He placed us all in the Body of Christ, just as He desired (1CO 12:12-18). 

Establishing the unity in the body is the strategic part. The Spirit did that.

Preserving the unity is what we do.  This is tactical in nature.

Yet this tactical phase sends a powerful message about God’s wisdom, and about the power of God’s love. This message reaches the heavens, and impacts the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (EPH 3:10)

 

The commands

God’s wisdom and love are demonstrated, on earth and in heaven, as members of the body obediently submit to the commands found in EPH 4:17 - 6:19.

For instance, there is this command in chapter 5:

EPH 5:25-28
  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.

Christ’s activity is on behalf the church as a whole.

So husbands, when you love your wives, you are contributing to the building up of the body of Christ in love.  And this is part of how God is summing up all things in Christ.

What causes the growth of the body is the proper working of each individual part (EPH 4:15-16).  Those parts include husbands and wives.

There is a proper way for the husband to function, and that is to love his wife.

There is a proper way for the wife to function, and that is to be subject to their husbands in everything.

When both are functioning properly, there is growth in the body.

EPH 5:22-24
22  Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

 

How we grow

And that’s how we grow.

We don’t grow to completion, to full maturity, as individual Christians.

We grow to maturity as one body.

EPH 4:15-16
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Notice again that it is the whole body that grows.

We don’t grow individually; we grow corporately. We register our impact not as individuals but as members of the body.

 

No solo acts

There are no solo acts called for in the church.

In fact, the solo acts in the New Testament epistles are failures.

For example,there is  this man in the Corinthian church:

1CO 5:1-2
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. 2  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

Or Demas. As long as Demas was in the company of Paul and Luke and Mark, he functioned properly.

But as soon as he decided to step out he failed miserably (2TI 4:9-10).

And here is another solo act that completely failed:

2TH 3:14-15
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Here again, the individual functioning apart from the rest of the church  community  in Thessalonica is failing. Badly.

 

Growth occurs in the body

So again, the main point is that you cannot grow to maturity on your own.  You can only grow in the body.

We grow to maturity together. Not as separate individuals, but as one body together.

Growth for Christians occurs only in the body, and  not  alone, as individuals.

 

The evidence

This often comes as a great surprise to some people. But let’s examine the evidence.

Let’s take a look at “growth” passages in the epistles:

EPH 4:11-16
11 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 fullness of Christ. 14  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

We all attain to the unity of the faith as a group:  as one body.

We all grow up as the body in all aspects into one head, Christ.

The whole body is being fitted and held together, leading to the growth of the body.

The verses that talk about growth in the epistles are nearly always talking about us growing together, about the body growing.

There is no indication that we are to grow separately on our own - or that we even can.

 

Grow, y’all

The “growth” commands are second person PLURAL commands.  There is not one command related to growth in the New Testament epistles that is in the singular.

EPH 2:19-22
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,  21  in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you  [2nd person plural] also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

1CO 3:6-9
6  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you [ 2nd person plural]  are God's field, God's building.

Here again is a passage dealing with growth, and the growth is corporate.  One field, one building.

2CO 10:15-16
15 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors, but with the hope that as your[ 2nd person plural]    faith [singular]  grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you [ 2nd person plural]
   ,

Another fascinating verse, because here we have a plural “you” and a singular “faith”.  The one faith belonging to all of you grows.

COL 2:18-19
18 Let no one keep defrauding you [ 2nd person plural]     of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

This is a particularly instructive passage.  It speaks of one person defrauding the group by that one person delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels.  One individual taking his stand on visions, one individual inflating by his fleshly mind, and one individual not holding fast to the head.

But it is the entire group that is in danger of being defrauded of our prize.

Most significantly, it is the entire body that grows together with that growth from God.

2PE 3:17-18
17 You [ 2nd person plural]  therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow [ 2nd person plural]  in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Now the fact that the “you” is 2nd person plural does not necessarily always mean that the writer is addressing the people as one body concerning a joint action.

However, it is striking that none of the references to growth ever speak about people in the singular.

We ALL grow together into the ONE New Man which is Christ, Head and Body. 

We who are many are ONE body in Christ.

Well, we still have additional ground to cover in Ephesians, but that will have to wait until next week.

At that time,  we will continue our walk in chapters 4 to 6 to see more details of the Spirit’s work of completing the body.  We will see that there is an earthly aspect to the work, as well as a heavenly one.

 

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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