Ecclesias are for Growth
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the
saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and
fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth
in love may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from
whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every
joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every
part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love"
These verses are very impressive in underscoring the fact that
ecelesial life is mandatory to growth. Even when the spirit gifts were given,
nobody had all the abilities needed for the growth God wanted. Every believer,
even those having the greatest of gifts, was only partially equipped. They all
required what others had to offer and the community as a whole needed what they
as an individual could provide. God deliberately arranged His gifts so that the
necessity of ecclesial association would stand out for all to see.
The objective of growth through ecclesial association is made
clear in the emphasized phrases in the above quotation.
v.12 "perfecting" -- Greek is katartismos, "a
restoring, restoration: a making perfect, educating" (Liddell-Scott Greek
Lexicon). The basic idea is to improve the quality of something; here the word
has particular reference to improving ecclesial understanding of the word of
vs.12, 16 "edifying" -- Greek is oikodoniee,
"the act of building: a building, edifice. 2. metaphorically
edification, improvement, instruction" (L-S). As a building grows from the
initial foundation to its full size, so the body of Christ is to grow in size
and in quality.
v. 13 "unto a perfect man" -- Greek for "perfect" is
teleios, "complete, perfect, entire ... of animals, full-grown; a
full-grown man..." (L-S). The figure of a child growing into a man is prominent
in vs. 14 and 15; we are "to be no more children" but are to "grow up" into
mature disciples in Christ. Note how the figure of speech is based on the human
growth process of many individual body parts maturing, sometimes at different
rates, but eventually resulting in a single mature person.
Growth In knowledge
In these verses, one phrase after another underscores the need
for growth in knowledge.
V. 13 "...the unity of the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God..."
v.14 "...carried about with every wind of doctrine...
v. 15 "speaking the truth...
Everybody was dependent upon others for growth in knowledge.
Most needed to learn from those who were particularly blessed in this regard --
those who were apostles, prophets, teachers. If those with such gifts absented
themselves from the ecclesia, others would not be able to grow in knowledge as
God intended. Even those who were prophets needed to learn from those who were
teachers, and teachers from those who were prophets. God so designed the
situation that ecclesial association was a requisite to growth for each
Today we are blessed with the completed New Testament and we
may feel the principles that were true for ecclesial life in the first century
are not true today. But the sweeping language of Ephesians 4 surely persuades us
God's principles have not changed.
We may think we can not learn anything from somebody else or
we may think we can learn everything necessary from one person. Such is not the
case. The interchange of exposition and discussion of various points that is an
integral part of ecclesial life contributes to the growth in knowledge of even
those who know the most about scripture. The responses and questions of some
babes in Christ often help clarify points for everybody.
We need to be wise in this regard. A hasty stifling of a
question that may be new to us can shut off an area of consideration that would
eventually add to the growth of our own knowledge and that of the
We may wish that all wisdom could be garnered from one
teacher. We may find it disturbing to associate with those who approach things
differently from ourselves. But one of the reasons for ecclesial life is growth
in knowledge and this comes about by the various parts of the body contributing
as they are able.
Growth In numbers
Part of the "work of the ministry" and the 'Fulness of
Christ" (vs. 12, 13) relates to the quantity of people who are converted to the
Truth. While quality is more important than quantity, it remains true that
"blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles
be come in" (Rom. 11:25).
Rarely has someone learned the Truth without several ecelesial
members contributing to their instruction and conversion. Once baptized, the
ecclesia supplies the new member (or should do) with continued instruction,
family-type fellowship, social activities and sometimes financial
Without such support, many who turn to the Truth would not be
able to hold fast to the end. We are social creatures and we need the fellowship
of like-minded believers. In many cases, the Truth separates people from their
natural families. The ecclesia must step in and fill this gap. The fact of an
ecclesial community thus contributes to the growth in numbers of those who are
Growth in character
We are to speak the truth in love; the body is to increase
unto the edifying of itself in love.
There is to be more than growth in knowledge and in numbers
within ecclesial life. Our characters must increase and develop and our
personality traits often must be modified.
The ecclesia, with all its component parts, is supplied that
we, individually and collectively, might come "unto the measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ" (vs. 11- 13). Love and persistence, forgiveness,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, wisdom, judgment, holiness, justice,
integrity are all to improve for we are to "grow up into him in all things,
which is the head, even Christ" (v. 15).
This is a vital area of growth, for the saints of all ages are
to be joint rulers of the world with Christ.