Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 4:15b “. . .may grow up into him. . .”
The proper state of a healthy Christian is an eagerness to grow “into” (more literally “unto”) Christ. This should ever be the passion of each believer. “We must make progress until death” (Calvin). Ever be seeking ways to make more headway. Self-satisfaction is unhealthy and curtails progress. I fear many of us see ourselves as more mature than we actually are. We may say with our own lips we are spiritually immature, but if someone agrees with us, it makes us furious. Honestly confessing our need for never ending growth unto Jesus is the believer’s only healthy choice.
Eph. 4:15c “. . .in all things,. . .”
Our growth “into him” is not to be limited to certain areas of our lives, but should occur “in all things.” We should grow unto Jesus in every way we can grow–in love, faith, knowledge, hope, etc. We are to spend our lives yielding to Jesus every facet of our being. No particle of our essence should be allowed to loiter in sin.
So shall no part of day or night
from sacredness be free,
But all my life, in every step,
be fellowship with thee. (Horatius Bonar)
Open every ounce of your being, every inch of your fiber, to intimacy with Jesus. Withhold no part. Let your total essence be knit with Him. This condition should be the norm in our lives. “The moment I make of myself and Christ two, I am all wrong. But when I see that we are one, all is rest and peace” (Luther).
Eph. 4:15d “. . .which is the head, even Christ:. . .”
As the head, Christ is the focal point of the body. The head is the most prominent and noticeable feature of a body. The head contains the face, the seat of identity and beauty. A part of “growing up into Him” is to detract less and less from the head’s beauty. God spare us from being an ugly embarrassment to our beautiful Head.
Eph. 4:16a “From whom the whole body. . .”
Verse 15 spoke of Christ our head as the object of growth. Paul now speaks of Christ our head as the source of growth. We grow “into” Jesus and “from” Him. As head, Christ is the beauty, the loveliness to which we aspire and from which we seek never to detract. As head, Jesus is also the authority, the leader, the controlling power, the source “from whom” all life and power in the body is derived. Christ provides all influence and nourishment. The body exists and acts because of Him.
Eph. 4:16b “. . .fitly joined together. . .”
This refers to the head’s ability to make all the body parts work together harmoniously. “Fitly joined together” translates one Greek word, a present participle. This process is ever going on. The Head is always helping each member of the body acquire a deeper and truer working relationship with other members of the body. They are working together ever more “fitly,” more harmoniously, with ever increasing poise and grace.
The Church is not a clumsy mechanical robot which lumbers along, yielding itself to happenstance. Its actions are controlled by a central nervous center, a command station, which directs every member to work with every other member in harmonious response to the Head.
“Many today think about the Church as one more organization in an overorganized society” (Blackwood). This is a bogus comparison, for church members are knit by a common life force which flows from God Himself.
Eph. 4:16c “. . .and compacted. . .”
This is another present participle and thus also denotes continuous action. The word refers to muscles being toned and tightened, all flab being trimmed away. Being “compacted” involves the removal from individual muscles everything which keeps the body from accomplishing the tasks assigned it. The head is ever compacting body members together, removing everything extraneous and superfluous. All fluff is being cut off the individual parts, resulting in an efficient, well-organized body.
At one time I was a member of the St. Louis African Violet Society. I love African Violets, but have always failed in my efforts to raise them because I never could figure out what a sucker was. My plants would have big leaves and be lusciously green, but few flowers ever blossomed. My failure to discern suckers allowed them to drain away vital nourishment which should have been going to the production of flowers.
God, though, knows the “suckers” in our lives. To make us ever more solid and stronger, to make us efficiently compact and help us flower for His glory, God works on us to remove the extraneous. For many the “suckers” are not what we commonly term sins, but rather clutter. We are often too busy doing good things to have time to do the best things.
We need to yield ourselves regularly to the Pruner’s hand. There is very little to gather in a garden but for the dresser’s knife. If growing into Jesus means anything, it certainly means to grow out of self. Pruning is worthwhile, for it is amazing how high we can fly once we escape from ourselves. Let the fluff be taken out. Let go the superfluous. Then in heart, mind, body, and spirit we can be closely blended to one another, be “compacted” as one efficient body.
Eph. 4:16d “. . .by that which every joint supplieth, according to
the effectual working in the measure of every part,. . .”
In other words, God is fitly joining us together and compacting us, increasing our harmony and efficiency, by nourishment which He supplies to the body through “every joint,” which refers to each member’s spiritual union with Christ. “Every part,” every individual believer, receives “effectual working,” operative energy. This is done according to “measure,” each part receives exactly what it needs to accomplish the task, the spiritual gift, God has assigned it (see 4:7). What God calls each member to do, He empowers to do. Find your ministry, your place of service. “Place yourself where the showers fall” (Vaughan, in B.I.), and for the believer, the showers fall primarily on his or her particular area of spiritual gifting.
The operative energy flowing from Christ to His Church is most effective when all the parts are in their proper place, doing what they are supposed to be doing. Then, and only then, does the church have what it ought to have–energized coordination.
In any body, the key to successful activity is operative energy flowing from the head through every part, every joint. Success hinges on the joints. Ask anyone who has arthritis if joints are unimportant. In a human body, when anything gets “out of joint” all goes awry. Joints make it possible for us to walk, eat, sing, kneel, move in any way.
Properly functioning joints are so essential to a body that they are ever a danger, ever a possible source of many disfigurements. I admonish each “joint” in our fellowship, each member, let the supply flow from Jesus through you to help our church achieve the tasks God has given us to do. If anyone cuts off the supply flowing through his or her individual life, the work of the whole church is hampered. A church’s members can be its own cripplers. The individuals can choke the group to sleep. Our church can function only by a supply which pulsates from Jesus to each part directly.
The body as a whole works harmoniously and efficiently only to the extent impulses from the Head are being received and implemented by individual members. Our personal connections with Jesus are meant to be a “joint” through which vitality is conveyed to help accomplish the deeds assigned to the whole body. The ceaseless circulation of life and power and energy within the body as a whole is dependent on ongoing intimate union of each part with the Head. Each member is a canal through which nourishment is conveyed to the body for particular functions. Each member is a channel through which the supply flows from the Head to the body.
Whenever a task has to be accomplished, the brain does not send one big signal to the body as a whole. It rather simultaneously sends scores of little signals to all parts involved. For instance, when a soldier sees a superior officer approaching, the brain does not shout, “Salute.” Instead, messages are sent to the shoulder region, the biceps area, the elbow, the forearm, the wrist, the fingers, the thumb. Each little part receives a message, and then working together they accomplish a salute.
Let us be in tune with Christ individually in order that the body may press forward collectively. The power for a church’s success lies not in interesting preachers, smart leaders, or in impressive organizational structure, but in vital union with Christ. Victory in a church is not the result of clever methods, but of every member being filled with the Spirit for the empowerment of their own spiritual gifts. The whole is dependent on the parts.