Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Paul was encouraging those who had come to know Christ in Ephesus to grow in their faith. He needed to speak the truth to them, both by his words and his actions. Just as a living human being must continue to grow to remain alive, so a living spiritual being must grow. If we stop feeding ourselves physically, we will die and the same is true spiritually. Every follower of Jesus Christ must continue on their spiritual journey and grow.
This growth doesn’t occur in a vacuum but within the context of a community of faith. As we grow up into Christ we are also “joined and knit together” with others in the community of faith. It is when Christ is leading the “joining and knitting” that things will come together nicely and become what he has in mind. When we begin to take into our own hands the “joining and the knitting” — who knows what the final product will look like! The entire pattern will be lost and will no longer function the way in which God had planned. There will be a loss of growth.
These consequences are not what God intends for his children and therefore we come back to the admonition to listen to the words of truth spoken to us and grow up into Christ. When we all, as a community, are sensitive to his leading, then the body will be beautifully knit together, will be filled with the Spirit and will work properly. This is God’s desire for his people so let us join with him, and grow up!
I’m afraid that we have not always been intentional about helping one another “grow up” in our faith. John Wesley’s Methodist Societies were places of discipleship and accountability. The questions that they asked one another were to be spoken in truth and love. The result was a group of individuals who were growing radically in their faith.
The Sunday School was patterned after the work of Wesley. I find it interesting that somewhere along the way we shifted from accountability to Bible Study. I think we are much more comfortable with quietly sitting and listening to a lesson than answering difficult questions of accountability in front of one another.
Questions in the Methodist societies used to include:
1) How does your soul prosper?
2) What means of grace have you attended in the past week?
3) What opportunities have you had for ministry and how have you availed yourself of them?
4) What temptations have you faced and how did you respond?
Can you imagine what would happen in our small groups if we took time to ask one another these kinds of questions — and if we truthfully answered!
Paul knew that this type of accountability was necessary for there to be spiritual growth among the people of Ephesus. I think that we have to look at what Paul sees as the intended result of this type of honesty and growth and that is a beautifully knit together community of faith that functions well and produces fruit. If we are part of a community that does not function well, is not producing fruit and looks a tad mismatched — maybe we ought to back up and see whether we are growing spiritually. More than likely that is the root cause of the dysfunction. There is still time for us to speak truth to one another and grow in God’s grace. The dysfunction can be replaced with function as God carefully rejoins us together in his beautiful pattern.
Lord, thank you for your patient love that graciously leads us in growth. Amen.
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