Monday, October 1, 2012

Reaching Maturity

Part 22 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 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 (4:13-16). 


The Church's Greatest Purpose

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 (v. 13).

In Ephesians, Paul repeatedly describes the church as the body of Christ (1:23; 2:3, 16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30).

God’s greatest purpose for the church is maturity. 

According to Paul, “God’s chief purpose for the church is that it might become full-grown and that each of its members might contribute to that maturity by becoming spiritual adults” (James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, 147).

To be spiritually mature is to be like Christ. 


Back to the Beginning 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27). The Hebrew words for “image” and “likeness” refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents (e.g, an image in a mirror). We were created to be a reflection of God.

But the image of God in humanity was distorted by the fall. Adam and Eve thought that eating the forbidden fruit would make them “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Actually, their disobedience made them like Satan, knowing evil and doing evil.

The only person to have imaged God perfectly was Jesus. “Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). “Whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

God’s plan is to restore his image in humanity by people being conformed to the image of Christ. “Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30). (We will be like Christ in his perfect humanity, not deity.)

In Scripture, there are four stages in the doctrine of the image of God: (1) We were originally created in God’s image. (2) Because of sin, there was a distortion of God’s image. (3) Presently, redemption in Christ provides a progressive recovery of God’s image. (4) Finally, at Christ’s return there will be a complete restoration of God’s image. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).

In Ephesians 4, Paul is not talking about something that will only happen in heaven. He’s talking about the church (Christ’s body) becoming more and more like Christ, its head.


Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (v. 15).

Though Paul is referring to the spiritual growth of the church, we can apply his words to our own personal growth. The is a responsibility for every Christian (“we all,” v. 13).

Paul emphasizes two characteristics that are evident in a mature believer’s life.

1. A spiritually mature person is stabilized by the truth. 

We are not to be like children who are easily deceived (v. 14). False teaching is detected by those who know the truth.

2. A spiritually mature person is motivated by love. 

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).


Privileges and Responsibilities

If you have received the blessings of salvation, don’t ignore your responsibilities (unity, ministry, and maturity).

Imagine that Jesus were physically present? You could see him. You could hear him. You could touch him. And he said to you, “I want you to have more patience with __________.” Or, “I want you bear with __________ in love.” Or, “I want you to minister to others by __________.” Or, “I want you to spend more time studying the Bible.” What would you say to Jesus?

How could you say no to him—the one who died for you?

But he is here. He is no less here than if you could see him and hear him and touch him. He is here right now, and he is speaking to you through his word.

What has he been asking you to do? Will you do what he says? How can you say no to Jesus?